Churchill's Finest Hour?

In January of 2005, I publicly confronted Professor Ward Churchill for his outrageous allegation from a September 12, 2001 essay that the victims of the world trade center were "little Eichmanns."  At the time, my questions and concerns were not meet with respect or encouragement.  In fact, university authorities where I worked in Ohio took the microphone away from me during the question and answer period of the forum and told me that my questions were "inappropriate."  A jury has now said that Professor Ward Churchill had his first amendment rights violated by the university procedures at The University of Colorado, Boulder.  Ironically, I agree with the jury and the First Amendment rights of Churchill.  Nonetheless, I do not think Professor Churchill respects the First Amendment since he considers the United States to be a complete moral fraud. 

When challenged in January of 2005 about this essay, Professor Churchill told me I probably did not know who Adolf Eichmann was.  He then told me his interpretation of how Eichmann was merely pushing papers as a technocrat in the Third Reich. Churchill describes World Trade Center 9-11 victims as "little Eichmanns."  This is not a reciprocal term for rhetoric such as "collateral damage" used by American war planners.  American war planners do not utilize language designed to impugn the motives of non-combatant victims of military attacks. 

Churchill's language clearly associates even the small children in the twin towers as participants comparable to Adolf Eichmann's extensive involvement in the genocide of Jews and other non-Aryans under Hitler.  Churchill describes Eichmann as a "technocrat"-- substantially divorced from the literal force of violence used against the Jews.  In contrast to Churchill's characterization, Eichmann was in fact an SS Lieutenant Colonel and Chief of the Jewish Office of the Gestapo.  Eichmann visited Auschwitz in 1941 as part of his development of the "Final solution."  In March of 1944 Eichmann refused an order by Himmler to stop gassing the Jews.  In August of 1944 Eichmann was able to report that he had killed 4 million Jews in death camps and 2 million more in mobile death camps. Eichmann's intimate involvement with the slaughter of the Jews profoundly differentiates him from the passive "technocrat" that Churchill seeks to represent him as.  Churchill's words demean not only victims of the 9-11 tragedy but trivialize the Holocaust by reducing the profound actions of Eichmann to mere motion.

The profound anti-American bigotry that animates the thinking and writing of Professor Churchill is a normative fixture of American academic life.  Professors like Churchill, Ayres, Chomsky, and Zinn travel in the orbit of American freedom for the purpose of denouncing American life as a profound moral fraud.  It is appropriate that at the same time the American jury was finding for Professor Churchill, an American President was bowing deeply and possibly even kissing the ring of a Saudi Royal whose society unleashed 15 of the 19 hijackers to complete the vicious retributive justice envisioned by men like Professor Churchill.  The more than 2000 human beings who died in the towers were, for hard leftists, global elitists, receiving their just desserts consequent to their common participation in the 'evil vice of capitalism.'  Today angry American mobs incited by such deluded rhetoric publicly fantasize about killing AIG executives with piano wire.  The President confirmed recently the "new tone" in his visit to Europe that emphasizes America's culpability and necessarily apologetic stature in world affairs. 

The transparent misrepresentation by Professor Churchill of Eichmann and the victims of the World Trade Center attack is designed to make global injustice defensible and compelling.  It is a call for more genocide.  If Professor Churchill is reasonably correct about the WTC victims, then there is no such thing as unjust violence against an American.  By reversing the terms of victim and perpetrator, Churchill and others are deliberately trying to confuse the important moral question of genocide. 

The international community has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Bashir for his direct role in genocides in Sudan.  His role as the sovereign leader of Sudan makes him directly culpable for the deaths of more than 2 million human beings in his sovereign space.  Rhetorical reversals like Churchill's confuse the matter quite deliberately so that the victims of genocidal rage are depicted as deserving victims. 

This confusion plays an integral part in the historic immobilization of global communities in the face of brutality like the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge, Rwanda and Sudan.  The confusion allows victims to be further fed to the outrageous appetites of the genocidaires and it promotes the prosecution of those who disrupt genocidaires in their profitable consumption of human life. 

There is greater public willingness to prosecute President Bush for genocide in the court of global public opinion than the President of Sudan Omar Bashir.  The reason for this willingness is twofold: 

1) President Bush disrupted the genocidal activities of the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and Charles Taylor; and

2) the larger community of international sovereigns have a kinship in human injustice that they seek to defend together. 

Ironically, Professor Churchill's hate speech against Americans was exonerated by a jury of Americans.  His right of trial by jury was not accorded to the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, or the World Trade Center.  That right of trial is accorded to far too few victims of human injustice that continue to dominate the so called sphere of "international law." 

The American notion of "innocent until proven guilty" is also not widely held in the global public sphere.  So for an instant, perhaps Professor Churchill was able to look into the eyes of an American juror and not see one of the most profound agents of evil in human history -- Adolf Eichmann -- but instead see his fellow human beings under the aegis of American freedom dispensing that concept he seems to so poorly understand -- Justice. 

Ben Voth is an associate professor of Communication at Southern Methodist University and Director of Speech and Debate programs.
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