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Home » People » Joe Braunwarth » Ward Churchill’s Press Release

Ward Churchill’s Press Release

The following is the press release we discussed in class and is offered here as an example of the danger of silencing unpopular opinions as discussed by J.S. Mill

Ward Churchill’s Press Release:
 January 31, 2005
 In the last few days there has been widespread and grossly inaccurate media 
 coverage concerning my analysis of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the 
 World Trade Center and the Pentagon, coverage that has resulted in 
 defamation of my character and threats against my life. What I actually 
 said has been lost, indeed turned into the opposite of itself, and I hope 
 the following facts will be reported at least to the same extent that the 
 fabrications have been.
 * The piece circulating on the internet was developed into a book, On the 
 Justice of Roosting Chickens. Most of the book is a detailed chronology of 
 U.S. military interventions since 1776 and U.S. violations of international 
 law since World War II. My point is that we cannot allow the U.S. 
 government, acting in our name, to engage in massive violations of 
 international law and fundamental human rights and not expect to reap the 
 * I am not a “defender”of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out 
 that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction 
 abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is 
 returned. I have never said that people “should” engage in armed attacks on 
 the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable 
 consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert 
 F. Kennedy, said, “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent 
 change inevitable.”
 * This is not to say that I advocate violence; as a U.S. soldier in Vietnam 
 I witnessed and participated in more violence than I ever wish to see. What 
 I am saying is that if we want an end to violence, especially that 
 perpetrated against civilians, we must take the responsibility for halting 
 the slaughter perpetrated by the United States around the world. My 
 feelings are reflected in Dr. King’s April 1967 Riverside speech, where, 
 when asked about the wave of urban rebellions in U.S. cities, he said, “I 
 could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed . . 
 . without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence 
 in the world today - my own government.”
 * In 1996 Madeleine Albright, then Ambassador to the UN and soon to be U.S. 
 Secretary of State, did not dispute that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as 
 a result of economic sanctions, but stated on national television that “we” 
 had decided it was “worth the cost.” I mourn the victims of the September 
 11 attacks, just as I mourn the deaths of those Iraqi children, the more 
 than 3 million people killed in the war in Indochina, those who died in the 
 U.S. invasions of Grenada, Panama and elsewhere in Central America, the 
 victims of the transatlantic slave trade, and the indigenous peoples still 
 subjected to genocidal policies. If we respond with callous disregard to 
 the deaths of others, we can only expect equal callousness to American deaths.
 * Finally, I have never characterized all the September 11 victims as 
 “Nazis.” What I said was that the “technocrats of empire” working in the 
 World Trade Center were the equivalent of “little Eichmanns.” Adolf 
 Eichmann was not charged with direct killing but with ensuring the smooth 
 running of the infrastructure that enabled the Nazi genocide. Similarly, 
 German industrialists were legitimately targeted by the Allies.
 * 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. 
 Again following U.S. military doctrine, as announced in briefing after 
 briefing, those who did not work for the CIA but were nonetheless killed in 
 the attack amounted to no more than “collateral damage.” If the U.S. public 
 is prepared to accept these “standards” when the are routinely applied to 
 other people, they should be 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 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, 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. If we ourselves do not want to be treated in this fashion, we must 
 refuse to allow others to be similarly devalued and dehumanized in our name.
 * The bottom line of my argument is that the best and perhaps only way to 
 prevent 9-1-1-style attacks on the U.S. is for American citizens to compel 
 their government to comply with the rule of law. The lesson of Nuremberg is 
 that this is not only our right, but our obligation. To the extent we shirk 
 this responsibility, we, like the “Good Germans” of the 1930s and ‘40s, are 
 complicit in its actions and have no legitimate basis for complaint when we 
 suffer the consequences. This, of course, includes me, personally, as well 
 as my family, no less than anyone else.
 * These points are clearly stated and documented in my book, On the Justice 
 of Roosting Chickens, which recently won Honorary Mention for the Gustavus 
 Myer Human Rights Award. for best writing on human rights. Some people 
 will, of course, disagree with my analysis, but it presents questions that 
 must be addressed in academic and public debate if we are to find a real 
 solution to the violence that pervades today’s world. The gross distortions 
 of what I actually said can only be viewed as an attempt to distract the 
 public from the real issues at hand and to further stifle freedom of speech 
 and academic debate in this country.
 Ward Churchill
 Boulder, Colorado
 January 31, 2005

Last Updated: 11/16/2014
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