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February 07, 2005

I am Ward Churchill

So Ward Churchill is the latest target of right-wing outrage, and all over the online punditosphere liberals are taking up the banners of free inquiry and leaping to his defense.

Oh, wait. No they're not.

I've read the specific instance of Churchill's writing that has prompted all the outrage, and the most I can say about it is that it is too imprecisely worded and rather inflammatory. Churchill addressed the imprecision to my satisfaction in a subsequent clarification. As for the flamethrowing, well, I interviewed Churchill a dozen years ago, and have read much of his writing since then, and I'll just say the incendiariness comes as no surprise.

And as far as I can tell, there isn't any phrase in the First Amendment that says anything like "unless, of course, you're impolite."

Others have addressed the nature of what Churchill actually said in the piece at issue, an ironic (if ham-handed) attempt to extend the accepted logic of wartime to the events of September 11, 2001. I would observe that no matter how liberals may object to the notion of American exceptionalism, nothing makes them angrier than pointing out that the American standard of living has less to do with democracy than it does with empire. My house, and most likely yours, sits on land that was stolen at gunpoint. I can drive to the train station as cheaply as I do because people are tortured and enslaved on the Arabian peninsula.

Quick definition of an American liberal: someone who opposes torture when it makes page one of the New York Times.

Did you know that September 11 had a profound meaning for millions of people before 2001? That the date was a symbol of the relationship between the United States of America and the rest of the world? That it commemorated the brutal deaths of thousands of people? If you can name the country I'm thinking of, you are probably either a leftist or a non-American.

Taking the advice of some of the commenters here, I've continued to listen to Randi Rhodes. She asked the other night whether her listeners knew anything about Iran. It was a rhetorical question. No one called to answer. No one said, for instance, that Iran had lived through a CIA-backed coup that deposed the country's democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and saw the return of the despotic Shah, or that the coup had happened shortly after Mossadegh embarked on a plan to nationalize Iran's oil fields. No one called to recall the demonstrations of the 1970s, in which Iranian students in the US and other countries wore masks for fear of repercussions from SAVAK, the Shah's US-sponsored and -trained secret police. Here's a passage from the Federation of American Scientists' website describing SAVAK's historic activities paid for by your (or your parents') tax dollars:

Over the years, SAVAK became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest and detain suspected persons indefinitely. SAVAK operated its own prisons in Tehran (the Komiteh and Evin facilities) and, many suspected, throughout the country as well. SAVAK's torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails.

Quick definition of an American liberal: someone opposed to all torture not done by a subcontractor.

Bush is certainly the worst president, the most callous and murderous president, this country has had in a very long time. But he has not betrayed the country. He has merely ripped off the mask. America has not jumped the shark: it is the shark. The America that Bush describes is not a new perversion of a shining ideal. Bush's America was there in 1971, 1968, 1954, in 1848. Iraq is not the new Vietnam: it is just another in a long string of Kentuckys, Massachusettses, Colorados. America's history of wars of expropriation goes back all the way to the beginning of European encroachment on the North American continent. In his life's work, Churchill's has limned the Colonialist American Through-Story. I strongly dislike his throw-away characterization of CIA and Raytheon employees as "little Eichmanns," though I find I cannot refute it. But he is right about most other things, and for what it is worth I stand with Ward Churchill.

Of course, Churchill is not at all important here. Not really. We could be talking about Chomsky here, or Sontag, or any number of articulate leftists whom liberals decry without actually reading their work. What is important here is the mechanism by which these things work; the identification of the right's demon of the moment, and the inevitable liberal rush to condemn.

It will help to remember that it is not the liberals' function to oppose the right. An actual opposition would have programs, positions, ideologies and strategies that stood on their own. And yet when we look at the canonical core values of present-day American liberalism, we find not a single one that was not taken from the left and watered down, or adopted once the tide of public opinion had turned. Not a single one was initially supported by the liberals of the day. Social Security, a neutered version of the socialist guaranteed income, was FDR's way of deflating an increasingly militant poor people's movement in the 1930s. Access to contracepton and abortion was pioneered by radical feminists, and condemned by liberals until the 1960s or later. Martin Luther King, who is dead and therefore safe for adoption as a liberal icon, told a group of liberals of his day (then called "moderates"):

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Students of Hegel will point out the dialectical inevitability of all this. Ideas are first ridiculed, then violently opposed, then accepted. And this works in more than just one direction. Who would have thought, twenty years ago, that a mainstream free trade advocate like Paul Krugman, whose politics diverge not too far from those of Nelson Rockefeller, would be vilified as a representative of the hard left? Or that Bill Clinton, a handsbreadth to the right of Eisenhower, would be smeared as a socialist? Little wonder that liberals take such pains to distance themselves from any vestiges of the actual left.

And little wonder that they have proven so singularly ineffective in their attempts to defeat the right: for almost a century, the function of American liberalism has been to defeat the left, to adopt just those tenets of the left program necessary to keep Americans content in their jobs, and then to vilify the people whose ideas they stole as crumbs to sate the masses. Now that the old left is in tatters, an array of sects and ego-driven posturing, liberalism has little reason to exist.

The left is in tatters organizationally, but there are more leftists than at any point in US history. We are diverse. The left is irreducibly complex, comprising social democrats and anarchists, union socialists and environmental decentralists, anti-globalization activists and ethnic studies professors and millions of others. And complex as we may be, our core ideas can be summed up rather succinctly: Tyrants should not be given support. No one should go without when others have more than enough. People should be free to express themselves and to love whomever they want.

Contrast that with the camps on either side of the great divide now rending American politics. On one side are those who would put US foreign policy in the service of corporations, the spoils of the world's resources going to further enrich those already engorged with wealth. On the other side are the liberals. Outraged, they demand that more of the take be given to the middle class.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 7, 2005 06:31 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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I was very supportive of this argument until you brought Hegel into the mix. Now I just knee-jerk, reactionarily hate it. But could you expect any less of a spoiled college liberal?

Posted by: Allison at February 7, 2005 07:59 PM
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Huh, I thought you were Chris Clarke. That's too bad.

Posted by: Jon Christensen at February 7, 2005 09:24 PM
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Thank you.

Not least for pointing out that "liberal" and "left" are many times not the same.

Posted by: Rana at February 8, 2005 10:23 AM
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Chile. (Okay, not fair - Sept. 11 is my birthday and I'm an Hispanophile, pues lo sé. As for leftist, I dunno. I thought I was a centrist until this administration. Now I'm just powerless and un-American. And a dropout.)

Posted by: leslee at February 8, 2005 10:40 AM
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Leslee: I think Bush is making leftists out of a number of former centrists. Anyway: I need to write about Victor Jara here sometime soon.

Allison: Hegel Hegel Hegel.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 8, 2005 12:06 PM
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At first you say "online punditosphere liberals", and then just use "liberals". Are you attacking published/newpaper/popular blog "liberals", or anyone who calls himself a "liberal"?

Do you equate MLK's "white moderate" with "liberals"?

I'm just wondering about your definition of "liberal" besides the two given about torture. I think people are not as active or informed as they should be, but to me you are using the term "liberal" in such away as to get rid of it by making a lot of associations with it. (One guy did it, so they all must be doing it -- the article you linked to was an article about one "liberal" writer's opinion, and MLK's "white moderates")

Posted by: Rambuncle at February 9, 2005 12:07 PM
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Rambuncle: good catch. Yeah, you caught me in a generalization. Obviously there are people who decry US policy who call themselves liberal, and who sincerely believe that the US can reform its foreign policy into that of an ethical actor on the world stage. And I have no particular quarrel with those folks. Depending on the context, I call myself a liberal every now and then.

I was talking specifically about those people who feel the best way to defend their position against the right is to disavow those on the left.

I do, by the way, equate the "white moderate" of MLK's day with today's "liberals." Look at the gay marriage issue and the current talk about opening the Dem tent to pro-lifers, and you will see a congruence with those who counseled King to "go slow."

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 9, 2005 12:14 PM
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Chris - Okay. I agree with that sentiment about those "liberals". I wouldn't call them "liberals" though, and would focus on how they are just empty-minded centrists with no actual policy beliefs.

Posted by: Rambuncle at February 10, 2005 06:24 AM
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Note: I've deleted a comment that consisted entirely of a long article on Ward Churchill written by Ann Coulter.

Views expressed in comments here need not coincide with mine. But violations of copyright will be deleted, as will most expressions of hatred. The deleted comment fit into both categories.

Please at least do the work to come up with your own opinion. This isn't the damn Free Republic.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 10, 2005 07:43 AM
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Hey is the AIM's statement regarding your latest leftist hero...Mr. Sitting Bull-s-, Ward Churchill (his last name is probably fake too, denigrating such a fine name in the history of the world)....
And speaking of your last post, "comments of hatred"???? You liberals are such hypocrites, you spew "peace and tolerance" yet you show neither for our president or conservative viewpoints.
Instead of moving to Canada (my friends up there really don't want you leftists, as they are trying to free themselves of leftism) move to Iran...that way you can get a taste of how the people of Iraq suffered under Saddam. I have to laugh every time I see a "Free Tibet" sticker on a hippie's are ya gonna free Tibet hippie, offer the Chinese a joint?? LOL!
Well, here is your chance leftists, Kim Jong Il has just announced he has nukes, so I will be patiently waiting for you all to go hit the streets of P'yongyang and protest...(but I won't hold my breath)....

The American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council representing the National and International leadership of the American Indian Movement once again is vehemently and emphatically repudiating and condemning the outrageous statements made by academic literary and Indian fraud, Ward Churchill in relationship to the 9-11 tragedy in New York City that claimed thousands of innocent people’s lives.

Churchill’s statement that these people deserved what happened to them, and calling them little Eichmanns, comparing them to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who implemented Adolf Hitler’s plan to exterminate European Jews and others, should be condemned by all.

The sorry part of this is Ward Churchill has fraudulently represented himself as an Indian, and a member of the American Indian Movement, a situation that has lifted him into the position of a lecturer on Indian activism. He has used the American Indian Movement’s chapter in Denver to attack the leadership of the official American Indian Movement with his misinformation and propaganda campaigns.

Ward Churchill has been masquerading as an Indian for years behind his dark glasses and beaded headband. He waves around an honorary membership card that at one time was issued to anyone by the Keetoowah Tribe of Oklahoma. Former President Bill Clinton and many others received these cards, but these cards do not qualify the holder a member of any tribe. He has deceitfully and treacherously fooled innocent and naďve Indian community members in Denver, Colorado, as well as many other people worldwide. Churchill does not represent, nor does he speak on behalf of the American Indian Movement.

New York’s Hamilton College Kirklands Project should be aware that in their search for truth and justice, the idea that they have hired a fraud to speak on Indian activism is in itself a betrayal of their goals.

Dennis J. Banks, Ojibwa Nation
Chairman of the Board
American Indian Movement
Phone: 218-654-5885

Nee Gon Nway Wee Dung, aka, Clyde H. Bellecourt, Ojibwa Nation
National Executive Director
American Indian Movement
Cell: 612-251-5836
Office: 612-724-3129

Press Contact:
WaBun-Inini, aka, Vernon Bellecourt, Ojibwa Nation
Executive Committee Member
Director Council on Foreign Relations
American Indian Movement
Office: 612-721-3914
Cell: 612-889-0796

See the following:

Us vs AIM

Us vs AIM Backgound

The Public's Response

For more information regarding Churchill’s fraudulent enrollment:

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma
Enrollment officer: 918-431-0385 or 918-456-8698

Posted by: SpecOp at February 10, 2005 01:08 PM
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Oh, and better gather all your libbie friends and hurry on over and and protest to avert war...GW will soon be sending us and our Raptors over to take Kim Jong's toys away....

Posted by: SpecOP at February 10, 2005 02:01 PM
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Posted by: SpecOP at February 10, 2005 02:03 PM
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I'm honored that the President of the United States would take time out from his busy schedule to read my blog.

However, anyone who would take at face value comment from one faction of the Native Rights movement is a complete fool. I have a lot of respect for Dennis Banks - in fact, I drove his Buddha statue cross-country for him when he had to move from California to New York under threat of extradition. But the Native Rights movement is replete with infighting and nasty personal politics, and there are good people on almost all sides who spew nasty invective at each other.

As for Churchill denigrating the memory of the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, I think old Winston does that just fine himself:

"I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

Given my choice of Churchills, I'll take the horse's ass in Colorado over the dead UK racist.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 10, 2005 02:27 PM
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You seem to live in a fantasy world of "can't we all just get along," the immortal words of Rodney King (speaking of racism) the Rodney King who now has been re-arrested many times over for drugs, protitution, robbery, you name it...poor Rodney...those cops were so "racist" to arrest him for being a druggie.
And speaking of racism, your leftist hero Jesse Jackson is quite the hero of yours, I am sure. Jesse's modus operandi is to keep crying racism, to keep black America in poverty, for that is how Jesse keeps rolling in the dough (and Democrats get votes). The true black American patriots are men like J.C. Watts, Colin Powell and Condi Rice, who prove that one can achieve at the highest levels without crying about long- past "injustices." Of course you Democrats would never get any votes if you allowed the balcks to achieve, would ya now?
Oh BTW, if it weren't for Winston and Roosevelt, you would be speaking German now; and if it wasn't for GW, you would eventually be praying to Allah.

Posted by: SpecOP at February 10, 2005 03:09 PM
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Who you calling a Democrat?

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 10, 2005 04:16 PM
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As I read about the Ward Churchill uproar I find some real problems. Without question, today, it's nearly impossible to have a civil debate on any social, political or religious issue. We know the right led by Fox News and their ilk are impossible but now the left seems to be going the same route. They can't stand Ward, he's not a Native American etc,etc. The left should try reading some of his books.
A good starter is "A Little Matter of Genocide," where Ward contends that the United States committed genocide on the Natives Americans. Let's face it there are many actions committed and being committed by the United States that we don't talk, think and in some cases know about. But they are there. And they will always be.
Jean-Paul Sartre admonished the French intelligentsia in the midst of France's brutal war in Algeria. He wrote:
"It is not right, my fellow-countrymen, you who know well all the crimes committed in our name. It's not at all right that you do not breathe a word about them to anyone, not even to your own soul, for fear of having to stand in judgement of yourself. I am willing to believe that at the beginning you did not realize what was happening; later, you doubted whether such things could be true; but now you know, and still you hold your tongues."
True during the Algerian war and true today in the United States. Many of us know but we hold our tongues.

Posted by: Hal at February 10, 2005 04:48 PM
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Stop whining about the Indians...crissakes, they are making LOADS of money now, TAX FREE on casino gambling. Fact is, it wouldn't even have come to pass that they could get into casinos if we had not conquered them and upped their standard of living...they would still be trying to invent the wheel....
GENOCIDE? Let's talk about the "Little Matter of Scalping" women and children settlers every time whites tried to "make Peace" with the've been watchin' too much "Dances with Wolves."
Ya know, Hal, if you are not happy with America, there are many, many countries you could move to. All you liberals wanna do is bitch...try living in Mexico for awhile with their unemployment, try Canada, where 50% of what you make goes to the govt. Or better yet, try Iran, where you'll get you head lopped off for saying anything negative about the govt.
Fact is, America is the greatest country on the face of the planet, just ask all the Mexicans crossing the border or Cubans risking their lives on rickety boats...WAKE UP liberal, and have a nice cup of STFU...or LEAVE!
Oh, and BTW, thank God for Fox News...we had to listen for years the lies of (Bl)ather, Canuck Jennings and CNN (commie news network). And lets not forget "And that's the way it is(n't)" from Cronkite. No wonder we had trouble keeping the nation together thru 'Nam....

Posted by: SpecOP at February 10, 2005 05:07 PM
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OK, no one can really be as illiterate, bigoted and just plain stupid as "SpecOP" pretends to be. Which one of my regular readers is posing as this guy? What did I tell you all about pandering to liberal stereotypes about benighted red-staters? For your sock-puppet wingnuts to be believable, they need to be a little less slack-jawed and mouth-breathing.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 10, 2005 05:17 PM
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Oh, and Hal, thanks for that Sartres quote. I'm going to move that to a more prominent spot here in the next day or so.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 10, 2005 05:23 PM
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Is that all you can do, call me bigoted, etc? Typical liberal..can't handle the truth about the "native Americans?" Ya got any idea how much they pull in from tourism and trinkets? And look pretty white european to me, give up some of your money for "reparations!" Obviously, you haven't had to tolerate their reverse racism...and my they are so good to the earth...spray painting "native pride" on rocks on the once pristine coast of Washington....

Posted by: SpecOp at February 10, 2005 05:29 PM
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Oh, look! You have your own troll! EEE! Can I play with it?

Actually, on second thought, I think I won't. The Neighbor's Cat wouldn't forgive me if I brought home another pet.

Posted by: Rana at February 10, 2005 05:30 PM
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me: "illiterate, bigoted and stupid!"
him: "I am not bigoted!"

Funny stuff.

I do have a piece of writing in me somewhere about how it's now considered worse to call a bigot a bigot than it is to actually be a bigot.

SpecOp, you're getting to be kinda boring. How about finding some place to play where your spelling errors and logical fallacies won't be noticed? Don't they miss you over at freerepublic? or

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 10, 2005 05:40 PM
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Watsa matter, Chris Clarke, too hot for ya? Can't defend your liberalism? Figures. You are disappointing your vocal minority.

Posted by: SpecOp at February 10, 2005 05:46 PM
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Oh, hell. I can't resist.

SpecOp: Chris doesn't need to defend himself to you. You don't matter. You're an idiot. Trying to rebut your "arguments" would be a waste of pixels.

You're accomplishing nothing here.

We DON'T CARE what you think. We think you are a lost cause, fit only for making fun of.

None of us here are offended by you. None of us are impressed by you. We are LAUGHING at you.


Posted by: Rana at February 10, 2005 06:08 PM
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CC: Which one of my regular readers is posing as this guy?

Man... I totally would have done something like that had the notion occured to me.

SpecEd is comedy gold incarnate.

Posted by: the_bone at February 11, 2005 04:21 AM
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You and I both needed help from Dr. Linda Reinburg for our Vietnam issues. most of my "issues" were due to the treatment I received when I got back Home from Liberals then called Hippies.
Its funny I still have that signed lithograph of the sailing ship you gave and dedicated to me it hangs in a place of honor in my home in Fl. But when I was living in Ct. I never could dance to the steps of the blue states. I did not get it together till I moved South you know to the "FLY OVER STATES".
I feel sorry for you because with all your intellectualizing of the RIGHT and LEFT and LIberal Vs. Consecrative.and what happened or did not happen in the past. The bottom line is Ever since VietNam we as a nation have been trying to balance taking care of the Nation and What does the rest of the world think of us. we were afraid to even defend ourselves, and what did it get us ? 9/11 that is what it got us. When I was a young man we had simple rules If you hurt me I hurt you back twice as hard so the next time you thought twice about trying to hurt me. None of this touchy feel sh*t . Sadly You and All your LIberal buds have been living in a vacuum and over intellectualizing all of this stuff. While The rest of MY country is RED states who live in reality. WE LOVE AMERICA not like That piece of Crap Ward Churchill who makes his money in my country . A country which is still here today due to the BLOOD of our Veterans and Patriots who loved this country Not the likes Of Ward Churchill and Michael Moor.

Posted by: H.A. Horseman at February 12, 2005 09:39 AM
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Fabulous post, Chris. I especially like the definition of an American liberal. Regards,

Posted by: Idelber at February 16, 2005 02:28 PM
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If ..."there are more leftists than at any point in US history before...", why can't they win an election? Must be the black helicopters. The problem is that leftists are incapable of working well with others. They are only tolerant of those who agree with them. WC is free to be an idiot. It is not what he says or how he says it that is important. It is the fact that he can say it. I am happy Air America and the internet allows leftist ideology to finally be exposed. I wish everyone could hear your message 24 hours a day for a week. So thanks for getting GW re elected.
You just don't get it do you?

Posted by: foundingfathersfan at February 22, 2005 01:23 PM
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Gosh, you certainly told me.

Next time try to do it in your own words though: it doesn't count to just parrot Limbaugh's catchphrases.

(Oh, and you might try actually reading the post you're responding to. Or have someone read it to you if you have trouble. we all need help from time to time: that's the liberal credo, isn't it?)

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 22, 2005 01:36 PM
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