[Marxism] re:Jim Craven on Ward Churchill
M. Junaid Alam
mjunaidalam at msalam.net
Tue Mar 22 23:00:01 MST 2005
I am forced to disagree with Comrade Craven here.
I think the debate over the Churchill affair is one that brings into
sharp relief the importance of national and racial factors in shaping
the precise contours of the class question as it exists in actual
reality. Is it mere coincidence that it is Churchill, an American
Indian, who has issued the most blunt, most strident and grisly
observation of 9-11? Is it further coincidence that Jim Craven, another
member of another indigenous nation, takes up Churchill's defense in the
most unconditional and active manner? Doubtless there is a strong
element of identification here - identification with the victims of
Americanism abroad, by those who have been victims of Americanism at home.
There are a couple problems with the way 9-11 has been framed. In broad
historical terms, we are really talking about blowback from imperialism,
we are talking about a tiny fraction of the total number of people who
have been killed by the world-historical process of imperialism. If
these 3,000 had died anywhere else as part of any murderous assault
wrapped up in the rhetoric of sanctions, embargoes, collateral damage,
cruise missiles, carpet bombing, or an IMF privatization scheme, we
would not even be discussing the issue. They would be dead. Some of us
would read about them in one of Chomsky's books. Which would then be
skewered in The Nation. And then we would move on.
But that is not the context of the 3,000 dead. The 3,000 died in
America, in the country which is the citadel of the system that
literally deals out death in every external direction on a daily basis.
Because of this very process American lives, as national lives, are
endowed with a higher worth, a higher value, than others. It is in the
name of these national lives that the lives of international lives have
been snuffed out in the first place. The entire moral thrust behind
Churchill's specific use of the term "little Eichmanns" lies with the
notion that X number of those 3,000 were priviliged and complicit in a
*larger* crime which should take moral *precedence* by humane standards
- the killing of 500,000 Iraqi children.
The tragedy is that the way the event is framed, it pits the 3,000
American victims against the 500,000 Iraqi victims. The attack is
depicted , directly and indirectly, as a response of the latter against
the former, as vengeace for what the former did to the latter. Granted,
it is not clear if it could be posited in another way, given the method,
nature, and political and historical context of the attacks and the
sanctions which preceded them, but it remains tragic. It remains tragic
because the ineluctable truth is that the people of any nation are going
to rally around the defense of their own countrymen before they display
concern for foreigners. It will be true in any country and in any time.
That is why this whole event has to be reframed. When you talk about not
sanitizing things, not dressing them up politically, what you mean to
say is that it is wrong to focus on the scars incurred by the rapist
while excluding from view the wounds endured by his victim, that is
creates a false sense of sympathy for the rapist. This is all very well
and true in its own right, but these kinds of metaphors are problematic
in reality because America as a whole cannot be treated as a rapist. It
has to be treated more like a neurotic patient with tendencies toward
rape forced by select parts of the whole. We have to believe there is a
redeemable component here and approach it with the intention of
redemption. Otherwise the whole project is hopeless because the patient
is deemed incurable.
With this objective and this understanding in mind, the approach to
Churchill should be unconditional defense of his right to express his
views, unflinching attack on conservative hypocrisies, and a critical
reformulation of ideas on how to adopt tactics of persuasion to win
people to our cause.
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