[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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