[Marxism] Cockburn on Churchill and Alam

Charlie Parks jcparks5550 at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 4 00:43:22 MST 2005

The Nation
column | Posted February 3, 2005
BEAT THE DEVIL by Alexander Cockburn
Ward Churchill and the Mad Dogs of the Right

When it comes to left and right, meaning the contrapuntal voices of sanity 
and dementia, we're meant to keep two sets of books.

Start with sanity, in the form of Ward Churchill, a prof at the University 
of Colorado. Churchill is known as a fiery historian and writer, often on 
Indian topics. Back in 2001, after 9/11, Churchill wrote an essay called 
"Some People Push Back," making the simple point, in a later summary, that 
"if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we 
cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned."

That piece was developed into a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. 
About those killed in the 9/11 attacks, Churchill wrote recently, "It is not 
disputed that the Pentagon was a military target, or that a CIA office was 
situated in the World Trade Center. Following the logic by which U.S. 
Defense Department spokespersons have consistently sought to justify target 
selection in places like Baghdad, this placement of an element of the 
American 'command and control infrastructure' in an ostensibly civilian 
facility converted the Trade Center itself into a 'legitimate' target."

At this point Churchill could have specifically mentioned the infamous 
bombing of the Amariya civilian shelter in Baghdad in January 1991, with 400 
deaths, almost all women and children, all subsequently identified and named 
by the Iraqis. To this day the US government says it was an OK target.

Churchill concludes, "If the U.S. public is prepared to accept these 
'standards' when they are routinely applied to other people, they should not 
be surprised when the same standards are applied to them. It should be 
emphasized that I applied the 'little Eichmanns' characterization only to 
those [World Trade Center workers] described as 'technicians.' Thus, it was 
obviously not directed to the children, janitors, food service workers, 
firemen and random passers-by killed in the 9-1-1 attack. According to 
Pentagon logic, [they] were simply part of the collateral damage. Ugly? Yes. 
Hurtful? Yes. And that's my point. It's no less ugly, painful or 
dehumanizing a description when applied to Iraqis, Palestinians, or anyone 
else." I'm glad he puts that gloss in about the targets, thus clarifying 
what did read to some like a blanket stigmatization of the WTC inhabitants 
in his original paper.

A storm has burst over Churchill's head, with protests by Governor Pataki 
and others at his scheduled participation in a panel at Hamilton College 
called "Limits of Dissent?" In Colorado he's resigned his chairmanship of 
the department of ethnic studies, and politicians, fired up by the mad dogs 
on the Wall Street Journal editorial page and by Lord O'Reilly of the Loofah 
on Fox, are howling for his eviction from his job (Loofah? See O'Reilly's 
lewd fantasies: www.counterpunch.org/cockburn11272004.html).

Why should Churchill apologize for anything? Is it a crime to say that 
chickens can come home to roost and that the way to protect American lives 
from terrorism is to respect international law? I don't think he should have 
resigned as department chair. Let them drag him out by main force.

So much for the voice of sanity. Now for the dementia of the right. The New 
Republic's Tom Frank (not the Frank, please note, who just wrote a book 
about Kansas) describes in TNR how he recently sat in on an antiwar panel in 

Frank listened to Stan Goff, a former Delta Force soldier and current 
organizer for Military Families Speak Out, who duly moved Frank to write 
that "what I needed was a Republican like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] who would 
walk up to [Goff] and punch him in the face." Then upon Frank's outraged 
ears fell the views of International Socialist Review editorial board member 
Sherry Wolf, who asserted that Iraqis had a "right" to rebel against 
occupation, prompting TNR's man to confide to his readers that "these 
weren't harmless lefties. I didn't want Nancy Pelosi talking sense to them; 
I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through the wall with a submachine 
gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner 
on hand for interrogation." After Wolf quoted Booker Prize-winning author 
Arundhati Roy's defense of the right to resist, Frank mused, "Maybe 
sometimes you just want to be on the side of whoever is more likely to take 
a bunker buster to Arundhati Roy."

Now suppose Churchill had talked about Schwarzenegger's war on the poor in 
California and called on someone to punch the guv in the face, or have a 
jovial Graner force Pataki to masturbate what remain of Schwarzenegger's 
steroid-shriveled genitals, or have Ann Coulter rub her knickers in his face 
or get blown up by a bomb? He'd be out of his job in a minute.

Right-wing mad dogs are licensed to write anything, and in our 
Coulter-culture they do, just so they can burnish their profiles and get 
invited on Fox or CNN talk shows. Why else would Tony Blankley call on the 
Washington Times editorial page for Hersh to be imprisoned or shot for 
treason? But it's a PR game only right-wingers are allowed to play.

After savaging Churchill, the mad dogs of the right turned their sights on 
Shahid Alam, a professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston. 
Alam, author of the excellent Poverty From the Wealth of Nations, wrote a 
column for the CounterPunch website in December in which he argued that the 
9/11 attacks were an Islamist insurgency, the attackers believing that they 
were fighting--as the American revolutionaries did, in the 1770s--for their 
freedom and dignity against foreign occupation/control of their lands. 
Second, he argued that these attacks were the result of the political 
failure of Muslims to resist their tyrannies locally. It was a mistake, Alam 
said, to attack the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Now he has been labeled 
"an un-American" professor by Fox News, and there's an Internet campaign to 
have him stripped of his faculty position. So write to all the appropriate 
names, defending Churchill and Alam; and if you feel like an outing to 
execrate Frank and The New Republic, there'll be a demonstration sponsored 
by the DC Anti-War Network, the DC chapter of the ISO and others at 5 pm on 
Friday, February 11, outside TNR's DC editorial offices at 1331 H Street NW.

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