CU Prof's Appearance In New York Canceled

CU Prof: Controversial 9/11 Statements Out Of Context

A controversial professor at the University of Colorado won't be speaking at a central New York college after all.

CU Professor Ward Churchill came under fire for an essay he wrote about the the World Trade Center attacks.

Officials at Hamilton College, near Utica, N.Y., say they've received death threats and are canceling a panel discussion that was to include Ward Churchill, the ethnic studies professor at the University of Colorado who provoked a furor when he compared victims of Sept. 11, 2001 to Nazis.

Hamilton officials say death threats were made against both college officials and Churchill, who resigned Monday as chairman of the ethnic studies department at CU.

The essay attracted little attention until Churchill was invited to speak Thursday at Hamilton, where the news outraged some students and faculty.

Even though he's no longer speaking and is no longer department chair, some are still calling for him to leave the university.

Gov. Bill Owens on Tuesday said Churchill should resign his faculty position.

"No one wants to infringe on Mr. Churchill's right to express himself. But we are not compelled to accept his pro-terrorist views at state taxpayer subsidy nor under the banner of the University of Colorado. Ward Churchill besmirches the university and the excellent teaching, writing and research of its faculty," Owens wrote in a letter sent to CU's College Republicans, which was holding a campus protest Tuesday.

"Ideas have consequences, and words have meaning. If there is one lesson that we hope that all Coloradans take from this sad case -- and especially our students -- it is that civility and appropriate conduct are important. Mr. Churchill's views are not simply anti-American. They are at odds with simple decency, and antagonistic to the beliefs and conduct of civilized people around the world. His views are far outside the mainstream of civil discourse and useful academic work," Owens said. (Read Owens' Full Letter Calling For Resignation )

The Department of Ethnic Studies held a 5:30 p.m. news conference Tuesday to issue a statement on the issue, but didn't take questions. Churchill was expected to take questions about the growing controversy, but failed to show.

The College Republicans are demanding that Churchill step down, and on Tuesday held a protest that included a march from the university memorial fountain to Churchill's classroom. The group's protest was met by a counter-protest by Churchill supporters.

Since he is a tenured professor, Churchill cannot be fired.

CU officials have said that although they find his essay reprehensible, they believe he has a right to free speech. CU regents plan to take up that issue and whether or not Churchill should remain tenured at a special meeting on Thursday.

New York Gov. George Pataki said although he's happy that Churchill is no longer speaking, he reprimanded college officials for inviting him to speak on campus.

"I am appalled first that this person with such a warped sense of right and wrong and of humanity teaches at a higher education institution anywhere in America," Pataki said. "But I am equally, or perhaps even more, appalled that Hamilton College in this state has invited that person to participate in a forum. It is wrong. There is a difference between freedom of speech and inviting a bigoted terrorist supporter."

In the essay, "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," Churchill compared the victims of the terrorist attacks to Nazis. He hailed the "gallant sacrifices" of the "combat teams" that struck America and argued that the victims were not innocent.

"True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break," Churchill wrote. "They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire -- the 'mighty engine of profit' to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved."

He also argued that the terrorists who carried out the attacks "manifested the courage of their convictions" and "when you push people around, some people push back. There is justice in such symmetry."

Churchill went on to describe the Trade Center victims as "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's plan to exterminate Europe's Jews. (Read Churchill's complete essay,"Some People Push Back." )

However, Churchill said Monday that the media is misrepresenting him, quoting him out of context and that he doesn't defend the Sept. 11 attacks.

"In the last few days there has been widespread and grossly inaccurate media coverage concerning my analysis of the Sept. 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," he said. (Read Churchill's Entire Statement )

"I am not a defender of the Sept. 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 Sept. 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 Sept. 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," he said.

"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 9/11 attack. According to Pentagon logic, they 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," Churchill said.

Additional Information:

  • To read Churchill's complete essay, "Some People Push Back," click here
  • To read what Churchill has to say in his defense, click here.
  • To read Gov. Owens' letter, click here.

Previous Stories: