Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Since everyone is writing about the Ward Churchill controversy, why should I let my lack of original ideas stop me? Surely my blog needs an official position on the matter.

1. Nobody should have to lose his job because of his personal views. The efforts by Gov. Bill Owens to get Churchill to resign need to be denounced and fought.

2. The fact that Churchill was regularly invited to speak at universities is disturbing and highlights a dangerous politicization of the humanities departments. The academic freedom argument does not fly here; should universities invite KKK members to speak? Neo-nazis? War criminals?

Universities as institutions are uniquely capable of judging the quality of people's scholarship and commentary. Why bother to invite figures whose scholarship is so terrible?

The low quality of Churchill's scholarship is rather obvious: his ignorance of international law (he claims that Gulf War I violated it), his misuse of the word "genocide" (he is unaware it means the planned extermination of a national, ethnic, or racial group), or his inaccurate portrayal of the final battle of Gulf War I (he describes a battle between U.S. and Iraqi armed forces as "slaughter,...worthy of the Nazis," treating the deaths of soldiers as if they were civilians), or his evidence-less imputations of racist ideas to the American public: "...100,000 "towel-heads" and "camel jockeys" -- or was it "sand niggers" that week?"

Why in the world would a university committed to scholarly research and debate invite Churchill to give a speech?

3. I find that there are many mischaracterizations of Churchill's point on the deaths in WTC. When Churchill referred to them as "little Eichmanns" he was making a very precise point. Eichmann, during his trial, argued that he could not be held responsible for the deaths in the Nazi concentration camps: he "only" helped to streamline transportation to and from the camps. Churchill was arguing that because America creates so many deaths and so much pain and suffering, and because the WTC formed the "technocratic core" of America, referring to WTC casualties as innocent is equivalent to the Eichmann defense: they are not innocent because they "only" did their part of the system.

4. The only thing I find more annoying that Churchill is the conservative response to Churchill. There is very little engagement with his ideas. Mostly, responses I have seen tended alternate between exasperated outrage and claims that Churchill represents the "true face" of the left (ha).

As far as the claims of America causing pain and deaths in the world, there is the ostrich-like desire to stick your head in the sand. Rail at the media for not reporting good news from Iraq, describe this or that school that U.S. troops helped renovate, post pictures of smiling Iraqi children, and so on. Its quite obvious that the U.S. does cause some suffering, does start wars on blatantly false pretexes, does quite a bit of the things that Churchill attributes to it (Abu Ghraib anyone? deaths squads in El Salvador?); but that it also does quite a bit of good. I obviously believe it does a lot more good than bad but I find the stick-your-head-in-the-sand and pretend everything is rosy attitude to be unhelpful. If anyone knows of a conservative commentator that genuinly tries to grapple with these issues, weighing the good versus the bad without denying or belittling the bad, do let me know.


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