By a contributor February 17, 2005
Many "socialists" and even "communists" in the united $nakes have been strangely silent about Ward Churchill, which is an expression of the fact that their lines are really bourgeois. But some who have opened their mouths to "defend" him have seen fit to undermine him with the other hand.
Certain so-called leftists and socialists have been contributing to Ward Churchill's detractors' distortion of his ideas, while claiming to support Churchill in his struggle with the Colorado governor and legislators, and the Colorado University regents. Not content with making simplistic Liberal arguments in defense of Churchill's Constitutional "free speech" rights, some have gone as far as calling Churchill's arguments "reactionary," presumably to distance themselves from Churchill's unpopular ideas. Yet, they claim to be supporting Churchill as a matter of principle.
But these "leftists" aren't just trying to distance themselves from Churchill's ideas; many actually mean what they say. This is a recent example from the World Socialist Web Site:
"This [Churchill's argument about the "technocratic corps" as being little Eichmanns] is a wrongheaded and deeply reactionary argument, whether it refers to top officials of investment firms or immigrant maintenance workers. The crimes of US imperialism are manifold, and seen from the perspective of a Native American, American history must appear a particularly bloody spectacle. Nonetheless, to identify the American people, from whom virtually all knowledge about the consequences of the Persian Gulf war and sanctions has been withheld, with the US war machine is a terrible political mistake and writes off the possibility of profound social change in America. Moreover, the essential callousness of Churchillís response to the bombings works in the opposite direction of cultivating humanitarian and generous impulses in the population." (David Walsh, "The new McCarthyism: the witch-hunting of Ward Churchill," http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/feb2005/chur-f11.shtml)
What this particular example shows is that Trotskyists are worse than nothing. They are also worse than Liberals, like the ACLU, who do not claim to be socialist, yet still manage to support Ward Churchill without strongly attacking him with the other hand. David Walsh conflates the "technocratic corps" with the "American people" and repeats the vague bullshit about Churchill being "callous" toward the Trade Center victims (without mentioning how callous Madeline Albright was). And he deliberately misreads Ward Churchill as saying there is no opportunity for any Amerikans to change, when Churchill clearly acknowledges the existence of a minority of Amerikans (albeit tiny) who opposed the Iraq sanctions in more effective ways than those who either did nothing or too little to oppose the sanctions.
David Walsh also attributes Churchill's observations on Amerikan genocide to Churchill's being an American Indian: "seen from the perspective of a Native American, American history must appear a particularly bloody spectacle." However, it is David Walsh and other Trotskyists who practice identity politics by quickly opposing any line that locates the bulk of the revolutionary forces outside the "American people." Also, David Walsh lies about Amerikans not knowing the effects of the sanctions before 9/11. It's as if David Walsh did not even read Churchill's essay. As Churchill points out, Madeline Albright herself admitted on 60 Minutes in 1996 that half a million children died as a result of the sanctions. Peer-reviewed research on the child mortality effects of the sanctions appeared as early as 1992. David Walsh's obnoxious nihilism with regard to what the Amerikan population could have known about the sanctions is exactly what Ward Churchill is talking about. And what could the Amerikan population have known, a decade before 9/11? Just looking at the Iraq sanctions:
On November 4, 1992, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported James Grant as saying Iraqi "children are in the greatest crisis, and 3 million people suffer from U.N. sanctions. He spoke of raw sewage and broken pumps, malnutrition and deaths from measles in a situation he called 'very fragile'." On September 24, 1992, The Toronto Star (Reuters) reported: "An international team of researchers estimated 46,900 children under age 5 died in Iraq between January and August, 1991, as an indirect effect of the bombing, civilian uprisings and a U.N. ordered economic embargo." On September 24, 1992, USA TODAY reported: "Air attacks on Iraq during the Persian Gulf war, and subsequent trade sanctions, increased by threefold the number of war-related infant and child deaths, a postwar study suggests." On December 23, 1991, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri) editorial reported: "The sanctions have indeed been choking Iraqis to death. According to surveys, food prices in Iraq have risen more than 2,000 percent, per capita calorie intake has dropped to 1,500 calories from 3,000 before the war; cholera, typhoid, meningitis and diarrhea are epidemic; infant morality has quadrupled and 118,000 children are at risk of death."
On November 25, 1991, The Washington Post reported: "After more than a year of U.N.-imposed economic sanctions, Iraqis are accustomed to such shortages. But in what diplomats here say could become a major obstacle to U.S. efforts to sway Iraqi public opinion and influence government policy, Iraqis are expressing growing anger and resentment toward the United States for maintaining the economic blockade, now that Iraqi forces are out of Kuwait. . . . [Ayad Ramadhani, surgeon in Mosul, Iraq, said] 'Your country is punishing our people. What the United States is doing is starving our children and depriving people of drugs and telling them to overthrow the government. This is torture, inhumane torture'." On November 5, 1991, a St. Petersburg Times (Florida) editorial reported "George Bush repeatedly said we had no quarrel with the people of Iraq, but they are suffering from the continued economic sanctions imposed on them by the West and from the consequences of the air war. Eighty-eight thousand tons of bombs were dropped on the country, causing devastation that imperils the lives of thousands of children. . . . A group of Harvard doctors and public health workers visited Iraq last month and brought back harrowing statistics. After visiting 9,034 households in every region in Iraq, the team reached these conclusions: 900,000 Iraqi children are malnourished. The mortality rate for children is 380 percent greater than it was before the war."
On December 19, 1990, The Herald Sun (Reuters) reported: "Iraq claimed today UN sanctions had killed 2042 Iraqi children under the age of five years since August because of shortages of food and medicine." On the same day, The Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA) (Reuters) reported the same thing.
There are hundred of other examples like these (not only before September 2001, but before 1996!), and these reactionary jokers like David Walsh have the nerve to claim the "American people" could not know have known anything about the consequences of the sanctions long before 9/11?
Robert Jensen, in an essay ("Ward Churchill: Right to Speak Out; Right About 9/11," http://www.counterpunch.com/jensen02142005.html) posted in several places on the Internet, also misrepresents the content of Ward Churchill's "Some People Push Back" essay. This may be even more damaging than the foul WSWS trash because Robert Jensen, unlike David Walsh, purports to give Ward Churchill's main argument "firm" support.
What Robert Jensen does which is so devastating is to interpret Churchill as supporting the Trade Center attacks as a matter of strategy, when Churchill is only counseling readers on how to avoid similar attacks in the future. Robert Jensen: "It's hard to read that as anything other than an endorsement of the use of deadly force against all those involved in "the mighty engine of profit' to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved," apparently at the level of stock traders and above." Jensen proceeds to discuss why "the attacks of 9/11 don't meet the test" of necessary and justified violence. However, Ward Churchill never said the attacks were effective. On the contrary, Churchill said: "For it to have been otherwise, a far higher quality of character and intellect would have to prevail among average Americans than is actually the case. . . . it's becoming increasingly apparent that the dosage of medicine administered was entirely insufficient to accomplish its purpose. Although there are undoubtedly exceptions, Americans for the most part still don't get it."
Also, Churchill only said the "little Eichmanns" had it coming morally from the viewpoint of those who carried out the Trade Center attacks (thus Churchill's use of the word "penalty," which has a punitive connotation), and in the sense that it was predictable based on a long history of Amerikan militarism and genocide. How much clearer can it get? Churchill said: "This might be seen as merely a matter of 'vengeance' or 'retribution,' and, unquestionably, America has earned it, even if it were to add up only to something so ultimately petty." Read that again: "petty."
Petty, like Robert Jensen's pathetic attempts to fabricate distinctions between stock traders on the exchange floor and higher-up brokers and portfolio managers, as if these people weren't all parasites, as well as cogs in the machine, and didn't have similar career goals and political aims. Petty, like Jensen's claim that "high-level traders" bear more responsibility simply because their actions have more powerful immediate financial consequences. It's as if Jensen were holding the high-level employees to a higher standard--perhaps because they are aware of the evil they are perpetrating (which reduces responsibility to a matter of subjective intentions). Jensen's whole point about differing levels of responsibility covers up the fact that the low-level stock traders are also parasites and easily had the leisure time to participate in the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle. It obscures the fact that the low-level stock traders were just as aware of the consequences of the Iraq sanctions for Iraqi children, or did they not read newspapers or watch the news on TV? The bourgeoisie themselves were talking and worried about the consequences, more for pragmatic reasons, but still.
Straight up, executives do not have more responsibility than lower-level employees. On the contrary, the exploited and oppressed cannot rely on the most powerful, and therefore most "responsible" parasites, like executives and the best-paid professionals, for change. The fact that the less "responsible" labor aristocracy who aren't executives haven't overthrown capitalism is an indictment on its own, but with a material basis in the labor aristocracy's role in parasitism. Jensen is wrong to distance not only the Amerikan labor aristocracy, but also the stock traders, from "collective responsibility." Totaled up, the labor aristocracy may have even more responsibility than the executives. To say they have less responsibility in comparison to parasites higher on the ladder is misleading. There is no end to this kind of logic. Eventually, we would just be holding a handful of individuals in the White House responsible. Even within the dominator's own logic about "democracy" and elections, the people in the White House are the choice of the Amerikans.
Ward Churchill is right; the Amerikan population as a whole (but particularly the white oppressor nation) has had more than enough opportunity to be informed about imperialism, and more than enough opportunity to act, but they have not acted. Granted, many are too busy being decadent to be very well-informed. Yet, most were aware of the Iraq sanctions, for instance, but did absolutely nothing about them. For Jensen to speak of degree of responsibility here is ridiculous because Amerikan parasites hardly exhibit degrees of action in the first place. What it comes down to is that Jensen, under the pretext of "disagreeing" with Churchill's writing in order to "demonstrate [true] solidarity," portrays Churchill as have an unrefined terroristic mentality incapable of discriminating between different Amerikan parasites. But Churchill was not proposing terrorism as a strategy in the first place, so Jensen's "disagreement" is just the same slander about Churchill's supposed ulterior motives.