[News] Churchill interview with Newsweek
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Sat Jul 28 10:59:12 EDT 2007
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Ward Churchill Reacts to His Firing
This week, the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to oust
controversial academic Ward Churchill, who famously called 9/11 victims
'little Eichmanns.' His reactionand his defense of those remarks.
By Jim Moscou
Updated: 2:58 p.m. PT July 27, 2007
July 27, 2007 - He will go down in history as the guy who called the
victims of September 11 little Eichmannsa reference to the notorious
Nazi bureaucrat who helped ship hundreds of thousands of Jews to
concentration camps. Ward Churchills comment, included in a
long-forgotten essay dug up by an enterprising journalism student, stirred
a national debate about the power of unpopular wordsand the proper
consequences for those who use them.
But the saga of the tenured University of Colorado ethnic studies
professor grew more complicated in 2006, after allegations surfaced that
Churchill had plagiarized, falsified or misrepresented some of his other
scholarly work (Churchill denies any wrongdoing). An investigation was
launched, and a panel of peers pored over his work. By May 2006, the panel
had reached some damning conclusions, saying some of Churchills
questionable writings fell into the category of academic misconduct. But
the five-person panel was split on whether Churchill should be fired. That
didnt stop University of Colorado President Hank Brown from recommending
to the schools elected Board of Regents that Churchill, an extremely
popular teacher on campus, be terminated. On Tuesday, the Board voted 8 to
1 to do just that.
Churchill calls his dismissal nothing short of a free-speech witch hunt.
Brown calls Churchills criticism a smoke screen. The battle isnt over.
The morning after his firing, the professor filed a lawsuit in Denver
district court, saying his dismissal was retaliatoryand a violation of
his free speech. He spoke with NEWSWEEKs Jim Moscou about what he calls
the conspiracy against himand explains why he still stands by the
phrase that struck hard at the countrys soul.
NEWSWEEK: Any regrets over calling 9/11 victims little Eichmanns?
Ward Churchill: No. I never have any particular regrets about calling
things by their right name. And its about time we stop pretending that
Americans are in a completely different analytical category from everyone
else in the world, and are somehow exempt from the consequences of their
Lets be clear for a moment: how do you define a little Eichmann?
Exactly as Hannah Arendt did. [Arendt was a German-Jewish political
theorist whose work included coverage of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial in
Israel. She coined the phrase banality of evil, suggesting great evil
emerges from ordinary people accepting and participating in misguided
premises of the state, rather than driven by sociopaths and fanatics.]
And how do you think she defined it?
Well, thats a scholar, a Jewish scholar
who very self-consciously
(considered) the aftermath of what happened to the Jewish people in the
hands of the Nazis. She attended the Eichmann trial. And she probably
intimated as much that she intended in confronting a monster. And what she
confronted was a little, nondescript mouse of man, a consummate
bureaucrat, petty individual, who didnt even necessarily agree with some
of the policies he had been in a position to implement, but who took his
identity, who took his sense of self-esteem, prestige, possibility of
advancementall which is fairly important to peoplefrom discharging his
organizational responsibilities in a superior manner.
(The public backlash) was just a visceral reaction. .
What Eichmann did
was arrange train schedules, the logistic structure for the delivery of
Jews and materials to the camps, and the transport from the camps, things
like the gold fillings from teeth. Were talking ugly business here. But
he wasnt handling the gold. He wasnt killing the Jews. Not even the
Israelis accused him of that. He was absolutely instrumental in a
technocratic, bureaucratic, very sterile-organization sense for rendering
the process efficient.
But how can you possibly compare the victims of 9/11 to that of a man
shipping the gold fillings from murdered Jews?
Those (9/11 victims) who were engaged in the international-financial
operations, which were the motive cause for U.S. policy
knowledge of what effects were on juvenile populations, sweatshops, and so
forththats the anchor there. Implement policy for profit, to maximize
profit, to increase dividends, blah, blah, blah. Which also, by the way,
increases their commission, establishes their stature, leads to their
promotion trajectory, leads to their quality of life, and in full
knowledgethey may suppress itof the carnage that is induced in this
Basically, I said you are accountable for
what you do in the world. And
if you are profiting from carnage
are the moral and philosophical equivalent of Adolf Eichmann. You dont
like that, change the behavior. Thats not who you want to be, stop acting
So the behavior of every 9/11 victim is a moral equivalency to Eichmanns
support of the Holocaust?
I dont know. Why dont you ask what the moral equivalency would be of the
half-million Iraqi children that died in Iraq from U.S. sanctions? Those
children were reduced to less than no value. Now if you were the parent of
one of those children
how are you going to ultimately respond? You want
security from that kind of retaliation, stop killing their kids. Stop
acting like your kids are important and theirs are utterly irrelevant.
Stop acting, as [former secretary of State Madeleine] Albright put it,
that we have decided that its worth the cost of their pre-12-year-old
children to convey what George Bush the first said, What we say, goes.
The University of Colorado Regents voted 8 to 1 to fire you. Your reaction?
You saw it coming?
Oh, since about February 2005. I was teaching when [the little Eichmann
essay revelation] occurred, in the spring of 2005the spring I was voted
the best undergraduate teacher on campus by all the students.
2006), I was placed on administrative leave.
What have you been doing since then?
Ive been doing research and work. Thats my life, man.
Were you surprised to see a lone vote against your dismal?
Somewhat. I actually figured there may be as many as two votes of
purported liberals who, in full knowledge of how it was going to turn out,
could then posture. ... Im not saying thats totally cynical on Cindy
Carlisles part [the C.U. regent who cast the sole vote not to dismiss
Churchill]. I think she actually believed what it was she believed; that
the penalty was too severe.
Being a regent doesnt qualify you for any
scholarly authority and frankly being a former Republican senator and
professional administratorjust like [being C.U. president and former
Colorado senator] Hank Brown doesnt qualify you for having a particular
But it was essentially a 2006 review of your work by facultya committee
of your peersthat the regents based their decision on.
Lets cut to the heart of this. They spent over two years building up this
illusion that there is a competent, scholarly authority, which was the
basis of this set of investigative findings; that I engaged in falsifying,
misrepresentation, blah blah blah. ... Well, it seems that there is a
whole litany of research-misconduct complaints that have begun to emerge
about the nature of the report itself, which begins with the fact they
have not made any of the primary evidence available so it can be compared
to their interpretation of it.
The committees review of your work was unflinching. They said they found
deliberate examples of plagiarism and fabrications that were not a matter
of occasional careless error.
They can say whatever they want.
They will not let it be subjected to
scholarly scrutiny, which means its vacuous assertions.
Setting aside your issue with the committee, as an academic, dont you
believe the committees conclusions amount to a dismissible offense?
No, no, no, no, no. Were not going to play that game. These are not my
(What) they are saying
will be held to the same scholarly
standard and scholarly integrity that they say they are enforcing, or it
is an absolute sham. Thats not my issue.
So you question the scholarly integrity of the committee review?
What Im saying is you can say whatever you want. Anybody can. Including
people with PhDs. It either passes scholarly muster or not. Its either
true or its not.
If thats true, it should be subject to the same
scrutiny as any other scholarship. If not, then its not scholarly and
its a sham, because they have presented it as scholarship.
Are you saying there is fraud?
Im saying its fraudulent. Ive been saying it since day one.
about time someone mentions the fact they will not allow scholarly
scrutiny of the supposedly ironclad positions that they have advanced as
facts to the public.
Do you believe was there a conspiracy to fire you?
I believe there was literally a conspiracy within the administration, a
strategy that was hatched by virtue of devising a plan to create certain
Im not simply tossing out rhetoric when I say sham and
How could the administration control the findings of your peers?
This was as much of a jury of my peers as the (1950s) all-white juries in
the southeastern states in regard to black defendants.
These were not my
peers and they were handpicked. Youve got the chair of the committee who
was writing to peopleand Ive got the e-mailsreferring to me as a most
unpleasant individual, although we have never met; comparing me, and this
is a quote, to celebrity-male wrong doers, are your ready for this, O.J.
Simpson, Michael Jackson and horror-of-horrors, Bill Clinton.
not peers. Im saying the committee was handpicked.
On Tuesdays high-profile hearing you wore an American Indian Movement T
shirt. Why are you connecting your firing on misconduct charges with the
Native American struggle?
Do you know anything about my work?
I dont understand your question then. Virtually everything I write about,
the whole focus of the scholarship, has to do with American Indians. Im
an American Indians professor.
Are you saying that they fired you because of your Native American work
Because I reflect a native understanding of the nature of the interactions
that have occurred since a lost Italian seamen washed up on a beach in the
Caribbean half a world away from where he thought he was, and was called a
great navigator. We dont say that was necessarily a great navigational
accomplishment. Weve got a different understanding in our histories, in
our societies, in our communities. Those are reflected in my writings.
Thats my job.
Does that also reflect in what happened to you?
They are looking to repeal the whole interpretive line that Ive advanced!
Im consideredrightly, wrongly or indifferentat the forefront of this
particular line of historical interpretations of indigenous understanding.
That is to be completely discredited.
Will you stay in teaching?
Ive been teaching all my life. And I guess you can say in a way that Im
engaged in teaching right now.
Do you think you did anything wrong at all, or are you just a victim?
Im not a victim. Never, ever call me a victim. OK? Dont call me
embattled either. Im beginning to think thats my first name (from its
use in press reports). Its ridiculous. Im a target, not a victim. And
you may notice, I dont tend to roll over and get stepped on.
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