3 February 2005
Ward Churchill academic website: http://www.colorado.edu/EthnicStudies/faculty/w_churchill.html
“Some People Push Back”
On the Justice of Roosting Chickens
By Ward Churchill
When queried by reporters concerning his views on the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm X famously – and quite charitably, all things considered – replied that it was merely a case of “chickens coming home to roost.”
On the morning of September 11, 2001, a few more chickens – along with some half-million dead Iraqi children – came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well.
The Iraqi youngsters, all of them under 12, died as a predictable – in fact, widely predicted – result of the 1991 US “surgical” bombing of their country’s water purification and sewage facilities, as well as other “infrastructural” targets upon which Iraq’s civilian population depends for its very survival.
If the nature of the bombing were not already bad enough – and it should be noted that this sort of “aerial warfare” constitutes a Class I Crime Against humanity, entailing myriad gross violations of international law, as well as every conceivable standard of “civilized” behavior – the death toll has been steadily ratcheted up by US-imposed sanctions for a full decade now. Enforced all the while by a massive military presence and periodic bombing raids, the embargo has greatly impaired the victims’ ability to import the nutrients, medicines and other materials necessary to saving the lives of even their toddlers.
All told, Iraq has a population of about 18 million. The 500,000 kids lost to date thus represent something on the order of 25 percent of their age group. Indisputably, the rest have suffered – are still suffering – a combination of physical debilitation and psychological trauma severe enough to prevent their ever fully recovering. In effect, an entire generation has been obliterated.
The reason for this holocaust was/is rather simple, and stated quite straightforwardly by President George Bush, the 41st “freedom-loving” father of the freedom-lover currently filling the Oval Office, George the 43rd: “The world must learn that what we say, goes,” intoned George the Elder to the enthusiastic applause of freedom-loving Americans everywhere. How Old George conveyed his message was certainly no mystery to the US public. One need only recall the 24-hour-per-day dissemination of bombardment videos on every available TV channel, and the exceedingly high ratings of these telecasts, to gain a sense of how much they knew.
In trying to affix a meaning to such things, we would do well to remember the wave of elation that swept America at reports of what was happening along the so-called Highway of Death: perhaps 100,000 “towel-heads” and “camel jockeys” – or was it “sand niggers” that week? – in full retreat, routed and effectively defenseless, many of them conscripted civilian laborers, slaughtered in a single day by jets firing the most hyper-lethal types of ordnance. It was a performance worthy of the nazis during the early months of their drive into Russia. And it should be borne in mind that Good Germans gleefully cheered that butchery, too. Indeed, support for Hitler suffered no serious erosion among Germany’s “innocent civilians” until the defeat at Stalingrad in 1943.
There may be a real utility to reflecting further, this time upon the fact that it was pious Americans who led the way in assigning the onus of collective guilt to the German people as a whole, not for things they as individuals had done, bur for what they had allowed – nay, empowered – their leaders and their soldiers to do in their name.
If the principle was valid then, it remains so now, as applicable to Good Americans as it was the Good Germans. And the price exacted from the Germans for the faultiness of their moral fiber was truly ghastly. Returning now to the children, and to the effects of the post-Gulf War embargo – continued bull force by Bush the Elder’s successors in the Clinton administration as a gesture of its “resolve” to finalize what George himself had dubbed the “New World Order” of American military/economic domination – it should be noted that not one but two high United Nations officials attempting to coordinate delivery of humanitarian aid to Iraq resigned in succession as protests against US policy.
One of them, former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Denis Halladay, repeatedly denounced what was happening as “a systematic program . . . of deliberate genocide.” His statements appeared in the New York Times and other papers during the fall of 1998, so it can hardly be contended that the American public was “unaware” of them. Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Madeline Albright openly confirmed Halladay’s assessment. Asked during the widely-viewed TV program Meet the Press to respond to his “allegations,” she calmly announced that she’d decided it was “worth the price” to see that U.S. objectives were achieved.
The Politics of a Perpetrator Population
As a whole, the American public greeted these revelations with yawns.. There were, after all, far more pressing things than the unrelenting misery/death of a few hundred thousand Iraqi tikes to be concerned with. Getting “Jeremy” and “Ellington” to their weekly soccer game, for instance, or seeing to it that little “Tiffany” an “Ashley” had just the right roll-neck sweaters to go with their new cords. And, to be sure, there was the yuppie holy war against ashtrays – for “our kids,” no less – as an all-absorbing point of political focus.
In fairness, it must be admitted that there was an infinitesimally small segment of the body politic who expressed opposition to what was/is being done to the children of Iraq. It must also be conceded, however, that those involved by-and-large contented themselves with signing petitions and conducting candle-lit prayer vigils, bearing “moral witness” as vast legions of brown-skinned five-year-olds sat shivering in the dark, wide-eyed in horror, whimpering as they expired in the most agonizing ways imaginable.
Be it said as well, and this is really the crux of it, that the “resistance” expended the bulk of its time and energy harnessed to the systemically-useful task of trying to ensure, as “a principle of moral virtue” that nobody went further than waving signs as a means of “challenging” the patently exterminatory pursuit of Pax Americana. So pure of principle were these “dissidents,” in fact, that they began literally to supplant the police in protecting corporations profiting by the carnage against suffering such retaliatory “violence” as having their windows broken by persons less “enlightened” – or perhaps more outraged – than the self-anointed “peacekeepers.”
Property before people, it seems – or at least the equation of property to people – is a value by no means restricted to America’s boardrooms. And the sanctimony with which such putrid sentiments are enunciated turns out to be nauseatingly similar, whether mouthed by the CEO of Standard Oil or any of the swarm of comfort zone “pacifists” queuing up to condemn the black block after it ever so slightly disturbed the functioning of business-as-usual in Seattle.
Small wonder, all-in-all, that people elsewhere in the world – the Mideast, for instance – began to wonder where, exactly, aside from the streets of the US itself, one was to find the peace America’s purportedly oppositional peacekeepers claimed they were keeping.
The answer, surely, was plain enough to anyone unblinded by the kind of delusions engendered by sheer vanity and self-absorption. So, too, were the implications in terms of anything changing, out there, in America’s free-fire zones.
Tellingly, it was at precisely this point – with the genocide in Iraq officially admitted and a public response demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were virtually no Americans, including most of those professing otherwise, doing anything tangible to stop it – that the combat teams which eventually commandeered the aircraft used on September 11 began to infiltrate the United States.
Meet the “Terrorists”
Of the men who came, there are a few things demanding to be said in the face of the unending torrent of disinformational drivel unleashed by George Junior and the corporate “news” media immediately following their successful operation on September 11.
They did not, for starters, “initiate” a war with the US, much less commit “the first acts of war of the new millennium.”
A good case could be made that the war in which they were combatants has been waged more-or-less continuously by the “Christian West” – now proudly emblematized by the United States – against the “Islamic East” since the time of the First Crusade, about 1,000 years ago. More recently, one could argue that the war began when Lyndon Johnson first lent significant support to Israel’s dispossession/displacement of Palestinians during the 1960s, or when George the Elder ordered “Desert Shield” in 1990, or at any of several points in between. Any way you slice it, however, if what the combat teams did to the WTC and the Pentagon can be understood as acts of war – and they can – then the same is true of every US “overflight’ of Iraqi territory since day one. The first acts of war during the current millennium thus occurred on its very first day, and were carried out by U.S. aviators acting under orders from their then-commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton. The most that can honestly be said of those involved on September 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course.
That they waited so long to do so is, notwithstanding the 1993 action at the WTC, more than anything a testament to their patience and restraint.
They did not license themselves to “target innocent civilians.”
There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . .
Well, really. Let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. 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 – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” – a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.
The men who flew the missions against the WTC and Pentagon were not “cowards.” That distinction properly belongs to the “firm-jawed lads” who delighted in flying stealth aircraft through the undefended airspace of Baghdad, dropping payload after payload of bombs on anyone unfortunate enough to be below – including tens of thousands of genuinely innocent civilians – while themselves incurring all the risk one might expect during a visit to the local video arcade. Still more, the word describes all those “fighting men and women” who sat at computer consoles aboard ships in the Persian Gulf, enjoying air-conditioned comfort while launching cruise missiles into neighborhoods filled with random human beings. Whatever else can be said of them, the men who struck on September 11 manifested the courage of their convictions, willingly expending their own lives in attaining their objectives.
Nor were they “fanatics” devoted to “Islamic fundamentalism.”
One might rightly describe their actions as “desperate.” Feelings of desperation, however, are a perfectly reasonable – one is tempted to say “normal” – emotional response among persons confronted by the mass murder of their children, particularly when it appears that nobody else really gives a damn (ask a Jewish survivor about this one, or, even more poignantly, for all the attention paid them, a Gypsy).
That desperate circumstances generate desperate responses is no mysterious or irrational principle, of the sort motivating fanatics. Less is it one peculiar to Islam. Indeed, even the FBI’s investigative reports on the combat teams’ activities during the months leading up to September 11 make it clear that the members were not fundamentalist Muslims. Rather, it’s pretty obvious at this point that they were secular activists – soldiers, really – who, while undoubtedly enjoying cordial relations with the clerics of their countries, were motivated far more by the grisly realities of the U.S. war against them than by a set of religious beliefs.
And still less were they/their acts “insane.”
Insanity is a condition readily associable with the very American idea that one – or one’s country – holds what amounts to a “divine right” to commit genocide, and thus to forever do so with impunity. The term might also be reasonably applied to anyone suffering genocide without attempting in some material way to bring the process to a halt. Sanity itself, in this frame of reference, might be defined by a willingness to try and destroy the perpetrators and/or the sources of their ability to commit their crimes. (Shall we now discuss the US “strategic bombing campaign” against Germany during World War II, and the mental health of those involved in it?)
Which takes us to official characterizations of the combat teams as an embodiment of “evil.”
Evil – for those inclined to embrace the banality of such a concept – was perfectly incarnated in that malignant toad known as Madeline Albright, squatting in her studio chair like Jaba the Hutt, blandly spewing the news that she’d imposed a collective death sentence upon the unoffending youth of Iraq. Evil was to be heard in that great American hero “Stormin’ Norman” Schwartzkopf’s utterly dehumanizing dismissal of their systematic torture and annihilation as mere “collateral damage.” Evil, moreover, is a term appropriate to describing the mentality of a public that finds such perspectives and the policies attending them acceptable, or even momentarily tolerable.
Had it not been for these evils, the counterattacks of September 11 would never have occurred. And unless “the world is rid of such evil,” to lift a line from George Junior, September 11 may well end up looking like a lark.
There is no reason, after all, to believe that the teams deployed in the assaults on the WTC and the Pentagon were the only such, that the others are composed of “Arabic-looking individuals” – America’s indiscriminately lethal arrogance and psychotic sense of self-entitlement have long since given the great majority of the world’s peoples ample cause to be at war with it – or that they are in any way dependent upon the seizure of civilian airliners to complete their missions.
To the contrary, there is every reason to expect that there are many other teams in place, tasked to employ altogether different tactics in executing operational plans at least as well-crafted as those evident on September 11, and very well equipped for their jobs. This is to say that, since the assaults on the WTC and Pentagon were act of war – not “terrorist incidents” – they must be understood as components in a much broader strategy designed to achieve specific results. From this, it can only be adduced that there are plenty of other components ready to go, and that they will be used, should this become necessary in the eyes of the strategists. It also seems a safe bet that each component is calibrated to inflict damage at a level incrementally higher than the one before (during the 1960s, the Johnson administration employed a similar policy against Vietnam, referred to as “escalation”).
Since implementation of the overall plan began with the WTC/Pentagon assaults, it takes no rocket scientist to decipher what is likely to happen next, should the U.S. attempt a response of the inexcusable variety to which it has long entitled itself.
About Those Boys (and Girls) in the Bureau
There’s another matter begging for comment at this point. The idea that the FBI’s “counterterrorism task forces” can do a thing to prevent what will happen is yet another dimension of America’s delusional pathology.. The fact is that, for all its publicly-financed “image-building” exercises, the Bureau has never shown the least aptitude for anything of the sort.
Oh, yeah, FBI counterintelligence personnel have proven quite adept at framing anarchists, communists and Black Panthers, sometimes murdering them in their beds or the electric chair. The Bureau’s SWAT units have displayed their ability to combat child abuse in Waco by burning babies alive, and its vaunted Crime Lab has been shown to pad its “crime-fighting’ statistics by fabricating evidence against many an alleged car thief. But actual “heavy-duty bad guys” of the sort at issue now? This isn’t a Bruce Willis/Chuck Norris/Sly Stallone movie, after all.. And J. Edgar Hoover doesn’t get to approve either the script or the casting.
The number of spies, saboteurs and bona fide terrorists apprehended, or even detected by the FBI in the course of its long and slimy history could be counted on one’s fingers and toes. On occasion, its agents have even turned out to be the spies, and, in many instances, the terrorists as well.
To be fair once again, if the Bureau functions as at best a carnival of clowns where its “domestic security responsibilities” are concerned, this is because – regardless of official hype – it has none. It is now, as it’s always been, the national political police force, and instrument created and perfected to ensure that all Americans, not just the consenting mass, are “free” to do exactly as they’re told.
The FBI and “cooperating agencies” can be thus relied upon to set about “protecting freedom” by destroying whatever rights and liberties were left to U.S. citizens before September 11 (in fact, they’ve already received authorization to begin). Sheeplike, the great majority of Americans can also be counted upon to bleat their approval, at least in the short run, believing as they always do that the nasty implications of what they’re doing will pertain only to others.
Oh Yeah, and “The Company,” Too
A possibly even sicker joke is the notion, suddenly in vogue, that the CIA will be able to pinpoint “terrorist threats,” “rooting out their infrastructure” where it exists and/or “terminating” it before it can materialize, if only it’s allowed to beef up its “human intelligence gathering capacity” in an unrestrained manner (including full-bore operations inside the US, of course).
Since America has a collective attention-span of about 15 minutes, a little refresher seems in order: “The Company” had something like a quarter-million people serving as “intelligence assets” by feeding it information in Vietnam in 1968, and it couldn’t even predict the Tet Offensive. God knows how many spies it was fielding against the USSR at the height of Ronald Reagan’s version of the Cold War, and it was still caught flatfooted by the collapse of the Soviet Union. As to destroying “terrorist infrastructures,” one would do well to remember Operation Phoenix, another product of its open season in Vietnam. In that one, the CIA enlisted elite US units like the Navy Seals and Army Special Forces, as well as those of friendly countries – the south Vietnamese Rangers, for example, and Australian SAS – to run around “neutralizing” folks targeted by The Company’s legion of snitches as “guerrillas” (as those now known as “terrorists” were then called).
Upwards of 40,000 people – mostly bystanders, as it turns out – were murdered by Phoenix hit teams before the guerrillas, stronger than ever, ran the US and its collaborators out of their country altogether. And these are the guys who are gonna save the day, if unleashed to do their thing in North America?
The net impact of all this “counterterrorism” activity upon the combat teams’ ability to do what they came to do, of course, will be nil.
Instead, it’s likely to make it easier for them to operate (it’s worked that way in places like Northern Ireland). And, since denying Americans the luxury of reaping the benefits of genocide in comfort was self-evidently a key objective of the WTC/Pentagon assaults, it can be stated unequivocally that a more overt display of the police state mentality already pervading this country simply confirms the magnitude of their victory.
On Matters of Proportion and Intent
As things stand, including the 1993 detonation at the WTC, “Arab terrorists” have responded to the massive and sustained American terror bombing of Iraq with a total of four assaults by explosives inside the US. That’s about 1% of the 50,000 bombs the Pentagon announced were rained on Baghdad alone during the Gulf War (add in Oklahoma City and you’ll get something nearer an actual 1%).
They’ve managed in the process to kill about 5,000 Americans, or roughly 1% of the dead Iraqi children (the percentage is far smaller if you factor in the killing of adult Iraqi civilians, not to mention troops butchered as/after they’d surrendered and/or after the “war-ending” ceasefire had been announced).
In terms undoubtedly more meaningful to the property/profit-minded American mainstream, they’ve knocked down a half-dozen buildings – albeit some very well-chosen ones – as opposed to the “strategic devastation” visited upon the whole of Iraq, and punched a $100 billion hole in the earnings outlook of major corporate shareholders, as opposed to the U.S. obliteration of Iraq’s entire economy.
With that, they’ve given Americans a tiny dose of their own medicine.. 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.
The problem is that vengeance is usually framed in terms of “getting even,” a concept which is plainly inapplicable in this instance. As the above data indicate, it would require another 49,996 detonations killing 495,000 more Americans, for the “terrorists” to “break even” for the bombing of Baghdad/extermination of Iraqi children alone. And that’s to achieve “real number” parity. To attain an actual proportional parity of damage – the US is about 15 times as large as Iraq in terms of population, even more in terms of territory – they would, at a minimum, have to blow up about 300,000 more buildings and kill something on the order of 7.5 million people.
Were this the intent of those who’ve entered the US to wage war against it, it would remain no less true that America and Americans were only receiving the bill for what they’d already done. Payback, as they say, can be a real motherfucker (ask the Germans). There is, however, no reason to believe that retributive parity is necessarily an item on the agenda of those who planned the WTC/Pentagon operation. If it were, given the virtual certainty that they possessed the capacity to have inflicted far more damage than they did, there would be a lot more American bodies lying about right now.
Hence, it can be concluded that ravings carried by the “news” media since September 11 have contained at least one grain of truth: The peoples of the Mideast “aren’t like” Americans, not least because they don’t “value life’ in the same way. By this, it should be understood that Middle-Easterners, unlike Americans, have no history of exterminating others purely for profit, or on the basis of racial animus. Thus, we can appreciate the fact that they value life – all lives, not just their own – far more highly than do their U.S. counterparts.
The Makings of a Humanitarian Strategy
In sum one can discern a certain optimism – it might even be call humanitarianism – imbedded in the thinking of those who presided over the very limited actions conducted on September 11.
Their logic seems to have devolved upon the notion that the American people have condoned what has been/is being done in their name – indeed, are to a significant extent actively complicit in it – mainly because they have no idea what it feels like to be on the receiving end.
Now they do.
That was the “medicinal” aspect of the attacks.
To all appearances, the idea is now to give the tonic a little time to take effect, jolting Americans into the realization that the sort of pain they’re now experiencing first-hand is no different from – or the least bit more excruciating than – that which they’ve been so cavalier in causing others, and thus to respond appropriately.
More bluntly, the hope was – and maybe still is – that Americans, stripped of their presumed immunity from incurring any real consequences for their behavior, would comprehend and act upon a formulation as uncomplicated as “stop killing our kids, if you want your own to be safe.”
Either way, it’s a kind of “reality therapy” approach, designed to afford the American people a chance to finally “do the right thing” on their own, without further coaxing.
Were the opportunity acted upon in some reasonably good faith fashion – a sufficiently large number of Americans rising up and doing whatever is necessary to force an immediate lifting of the sanctions on Iraq, for instance, or maybe hanging a few of America’s abundant supply of major war criminals (Henry Kissinger comes quickly to mind, as do Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and George the Elder) – there is every reason to expect that military operations against the US on its domestic front would be immediately suspended.
Whether they would remain so would of course be contingent upon follow-up. By that, it may be assumed that American acceptance of onsite inspections by international observers to verify destruction of its weapons of mass destruction (as well as dismantlement of all facilities in which more might be manufactured), Nuremberg-style trials in which a few thousand US military/corporate personnel could be properly adjudicated and punished for their Crimes Against humanity, and payment of reparations to the array of nations/peoples whose assets the US has plundered over the years, would suffice.
Since they’ve shown no sign of being unreasonable or vindictive, it may even be anticipated that, after a suitable period of adjustment and reeducation (mainly to allow them to acquire the skills necessary to living within their means), those restored to control over their own destinies by the gallant sacrifices of the combat teams the WTC and Pentagon will eventually (re)admit Americans to the global circle of civilized societies. Stranger things have happened.
In the Alternative
Unfortunately, noble as they may have been, such humanitarian aspirations were always doomed to remain unfulfilled. 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. Perhaps the strategists underestimated the impact a couple of generations-worth of media indoctrination can produce in terms of demolishing the capacity of human beings to form coherent thoughts. Maybe they forgot to factor in the mind-numbing effects of the indoctrination passed off as education in the US. Then, again, it’s entirely possible they were aware that a decisive majority of American adults have been reduced by this point to a level much closer to the kind of immediate self-gratification entailed in Pavlovian stimulus/response patterns than anything accessible by appeals to higher logic, and still felt morally obliged to offer the dolts an option to quit while they were ahead.
What the hell? It was worth a try.
But 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.
Already, they’ve desecrated the temporary tomb of those killed in the WTC, staging a veritable pep rally atop the mangled remains of those they profess to honor, treating the whole affair as if it were some bizarre breed of contact sport. And, of course, there are the inevitable pom-poms shaped like American flags, the school colors worn as little red-white-and-blue ribbons affixed to labels, sportscasters in the form of “counterterrorism experts” drooling mindless color commentary during the pregame warm-up.
Refusing the realization that the world has suddenly shifted its axis, and that they are therefore no longer “in charge,” they have by-and-large reverted instantly to type, working themselves into their usual bloodlust on the now obsolete premise that the bloodletting will “naturally” occur elsewhere and to someone else.
“Patriotism,” a wise man once observed, “is the last refuge of scoundrels.”
And the braided, he might of added.
Braided Scoundrel-in-Chief, George Junior, lacking even the sense to be careful what he wished for, has teamed up with a gaggle of fundamentalist Christian clerics like Billy Graham to proclaim a “New Crusade” called “Infinite Justice” aimed at “ridding the world of evil.”
One could easily make light of such rhetoric, remarking upon how unseemly it is for a son to threaten his father in such fashion – or a president to so publicly contemplate the murder/suicide of himself and his cabinet – but the matter is deadly serious.
They are preparing once again to sally forth for the purpose of roasting brown-skinned children by the scores of thousands. Already, the B-1 bombers and the aircraft carriers and the missile frigates are en route, the airborne divisions are gearing up to go.
To where? Afghanistan?
Iraq, again (or still)?
How about Grenada (that was fun)?
Any of them or all. It doesn’t matter.
The desire to pummel the helpless runs rabid as ever.
Only, this time it’s different.
The time the helpless aren’t, or at least are not so helpless as they were.
This time, somewhere, perhaps in an Afghani mountain cave, possibly in a Brooklyn basement, maybe another local altogether – but somewhere, all the same – there’s a grim-visaged (wo)man wearing a Clint Eastwood smile.
“Go ahead, punks,” s/he’s saying, “Make my day.”
And when they do, when they launch these airstrikes abroad – or may a little later; it will be at a time conforming to the “terrorists”‘ own schedule, and at a place of their choosing – the next more intensive dose of medicine administered here “at home.”
Of what will it consist this time? Anthrax? Mustard gas? Sarin? A tactical nuclear device?
That, too, is their choice to make.
Looking back, it will seem to future generations inexplicable why Americans were unable on their own, and in time to save themselves, to accept a rule of nature so basic that it could be mouthed by an actor, Lawrence Fishburn, in a movie, The Cotton Club.
“You’ve got to learn, ” the line went, “that when you push people around, some people push back.”
As they should.
As they must.
And as they undoubtedly will.
There is justice in such symmetry.
The preceding was a “first take” reading, more a stream-of-consciousness interpretive reaction to the September 11 counterattack than a finished piece on the topic. Hence, I’ll readily admit that I’ve been far less than thorough, and quite likely wrong about a number of things.
For instance, it may not have been (only) the ghosts of Iraqi children who made their appearance that day. It could as easily have been some or all of their butchered Palestinian cousins.
Or maybe it was some or all of the at least 3.2 million Indochinese who perished as a result of America’s sustained and genocidal assault on Southeast Asia (1959-1975), not to mention the millions more who’ve died because of the sanctions imposed thereafter.
Perhaps there were a few of the Korean civilians massacred by US troops at places like No Gun Ri during the early ‘50s, or the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians ruthlessly incinerated in the ghastly fire raids of World War II (only at Dresden did America bomb Germany in a similar manner).
And, of course, it could have been those vaporized in the militarily pointless nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There are others, as well, a vast and silent queue of faceless victims, stretching from the million-odd Filipinos slaughtered during America’s “Indian War” in their islands at the beginning of the twentieth century, through the real Indians, America’s own, massacred wholesale at places like Horseshoe Bend and the Bad Axe, Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, the Washita, Bear River, and the Marias.
Was it those who expired along the Cherokee Trial of Tears of the Long Walk of the Navajo?
Those murdered by smallpox at Fort Clark in 1836?
Starved to death in the concentration camp at Bosque Redondo during the 1860s?
Maybe those native people claimed for scalp bounty in all 48 of the continental US states? Or the Raritans whose severed heads were kicked for sport along the streets of what was then called New Amsterdam, at the very site where the WTC once stood?
One hears, too, the whispers of those lost on the Middle Passage, and of those whose very flesh was sold in the slave market outside the human kennel from whence Wall Street takes its name. And of coolie laborers, imported by the gross-dozen to lay the tracks of empire across scorching desert sands, none of them allotted “a Chinaman’s chance” of surviving.
The list is too long, too awful to go on.
No matter what its eventual fate, America will have gotten off very, very cheap.
The full measure of its guilt can never be fully balanced or atoned for.
Ward Churchill (Keetoowah Band Cherokee) is one of the most outspoken of Native American activists. In his lectures and numerous published works, he explores the themes of genocide in the Americas, historical and legal (re)interpretation of conquest and colonization, literary and cinematic criticism, and indigenist alternatives to the status quo. Churchill is a Professor of Ethnic Studies and Coordinator of American Indian Studies. He is also a past national spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. His books include Agents of Repression, Fantasies of the Master Race, From a Native Son and A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas.
Date: Thu, 03 Feb 2005 12:26:35 -0500
From: Paul Wolf <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Ward Churchill becomes lightning rod for 911 grief
A media frenzy has developed surrounding a 2001 Ward Churchill article
entitled “Some People Push Back: On the Justice Of Roosting Chickens,”
in which Dr. Churchill compares the World Trade Center victims to nazis,
and suggests that if there was any better way to punish them for their
complicity in the 1991 gulf war, he’d like to hear about it. This was
indeed a foolish and unscholarly theme for an essay, dismissing the
distinction between civilians and combatants set out in the Geneva
Conventions half a century ago. By Churchill’s logic, his own death in
such an attack would be justified.
But that’s beside the point. Churchill’s article was obviously intended
to be offensive. What’s amazing is the ability of Bill O’Reilly to pull
this scandal out of the dustbin. It must have been a slow news day at
Fox for Mr O’Reilly to have seized on this three year old article.
O’Reilly is an expert character assassin, and should be held accountable
in a court of law for the death threats and other harms Churchill has
suffered. He’s been doing this a long time and is well aware of the
reprecussions of his work. While the media has seized on Churchill’s
“hate speech”, how else can we classify a show like “The O’Reilly Factor”?
I had some dealings with Dr Churchill a few years ago when we agreed I’d
promote his book, The COINTELPRO Papers, on my website. I soon learned
of the bizarre and conspiratorial world of the largely-defunct American
Indian Movement. On its website, AIM’s leaders accuse Ward Churchill of
working as a counterintelligence agent in the Vietnam war, of recruiting
mercenaries for the contras in the 80’s, of working for Soldier of
Fortune Magazine (a CIA-connected publication, back issues of which have
been purged from all libraries near Washington DC), and of sabotaging
AIM’s negotiations with Saddam Hussein. (see
http://www.aimovement.org/csi/index.html, and BBrown_Rmeans memo for
AIM-Baath Party negotiations). AIM is also upset about Churchill’s AIM
splinter group in Colorado. In return, Colorado Autonomous AIM accuses
the AIM leadership of espionage, drug dealing, and complicy in the
murder of Anna Mae Aquash. (http://www.coloradoaim.org/history.htm) Arlo
Looking Cloud was recently convicted of complicity in the Aquash murder,
but Leonard Peltier insists he was framed. John Graham may soon be
extradicted from Canada to face charges for the same murder, on the
barest of evidence, much like Peltier was. AIM’s politics are
incomprehensible to me, except to conclude that the fight is to the death.
Those unimpressed by media frenzies and ultra-radical death politics
make skip immediately to article #7 below. Ed Lazarus has the unique
ability to see what is happening and put it into historical, if somewhat
lawyerly, perspective. Here he explains the 911 paradigm shift and
wonders where our legal system is heading.
1. Churchill a lightning rod
2. Professor Is Assailed by Legislature and Vandals
3. American Indian Movement Press Release
4. CU prof affirms Indian heritage
5. New Republic Calls for Death and Torture of Arundhati Roy and Stan Goff
6. Graham Defense Update, Feb. 2, 2005
7. Did September 11 Cause a Constitutional Paradigm Shift?
Churchill a lightning rod
CU prof at center of 9/11 dispute has been there before
By Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News, January 28, 2005
So, people are mad at Ward Churchill. What else is new?
For a man who has weathered anonymous death threats telephoned to his
home, the latest turmoil is comparatively tame.
Churchill, chairman of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University
of Colorado, is at the center of controversy – again. This time it’s
students at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., upset about his scheduled
appearance there next week.
They are disturbed by an essay Churchill wrote in the wake of the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks suggesting they were justified.
In an essay written the day after the attacks, Some People Push Back: On
the Justice Of Roosting Chickens, he said America was merely reaping
what it had sown through a long history of violent domination and
assault upon indigenous people.
“There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel
killed on September 11 fill that bill” as innocent victims, Churchill wrote.
“The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and
simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . . Well, really.
“Let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians, of a
sort. But innocent? Gimme a break.”
Among those spitting mad is Debra Burlingame of Westchester, N.Y.,
sister of a pilot who died on Sept. 11. She said the CU professor’s
remarks are “beyond the pale.”
To find himself outside the mainstream is not a novel experience for
Churchill; this is the same man who, in an interview last year, said “it
may be that more 9/11s are necessary.”
U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., has called for Churchill’s resignation
because of his 3-year-old Sept. 11 essay. And U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, an
Eldorado Springs Democrat whose district includes Boulder, said
Churchill’s essay “grossly defames those who were murdered in the attack
on the World Trade Center. Mr. Churchill owes the 9/11 families an apology.”
Churchill, 57, was one of eight defendants acquitted in Denver on Jan.
20 for blocking the Oct. 9 Columbus Day parade, which he and his
co-defendants consider an act of hate speech and ethnic intimidation.
He also was arrested in a 1991 Columbus Day parade protest, but the
charges in that case were dismissed a few months later.
This semester, Churchill is teaching three classes at CU: Topical Issues
in Native North America, American Indians in Film, and Indian/
He is currently out of state on a speaking tour. But his wife, fellow CU
ethnic studies professor Natsu Saito – also one of those acquitted in
the Columbus Day parade trial – spoke highly of her husband as an academic.
“Students love him. His classes are always filled to overflowing, and he
sets a standard for teaching and scholarship that is inspiring for all
of us,” she said.
“He has written more books than most academics even think about writing.
I think he inspires the students with respect to how to put one’s
teachings into practice, and applies it to the world.”
This is not the first time Churchill has come under fire for his
alternative viewpoint on Sept. 11.
He stirred a hornet’s nest of opposition during a visit on Dec. 1, 2001
– less than three months after nearly 3,000 were killed in the attacks –
to the University of Vermont.
Situated in the liberal enclave of Burlington, Vt., the university lost
13 alumni in the attacks.
“The stuff was so outrageous and the timing was so bad because it (the
Sept. 11 trauma) was so fresh,” said Sam Hemingway, a columnist for the
Burlington Free Press who wrote about Churchill’s visit. “Everybody was
so worked up.”
Many still are.
Debra Burlingame is the sister of Charles “Chick” Burlingame III, the
captain of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon
the day before his 52nd birthday.
Using the same argument Churchill has used against the Columbus Day
parade, she said of his writings: “I consider it hate speech, which
isn’t protected at all by the First Amendment.
“What (Hamilton College) is doing is paying him money, sponsoring him,
an individual who is calling for the murder of innocent people. That is
Saito said those who have read her husband’s writings – which include at
least 15 books – should have a good sense of who he is.
“I think the part that a lot of people miss – because he says things in
a way that makes people uncomfortable, because he forces people to
confront truths they don’t want to deal with, that they would rather
ignore – is why he does it,” said Saito.
On Thursday, interim CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano issued a statement
emphasizing that Churchill’s views are his own and not representative of
“While I may personally find his views offensive, I also must support
his right (guaranteed by the First Amendment) as an American citizen to
hold and express his views, no matter how repugnant,” he said.
Professor at the center of controversy
• Name: Ward Churchill (which he terms his “colonial” name;
Keezjunnahbeh, meaning “kind-hearted man.” is his given Native American
• Age: 57
• Education: Bachelor’s degree (1974) and master’s degree (1975) from
Sangamon State University, which is now the University of
• Employment: Chairman of the Ethnic Studies Department, University of
• Personal: Married, with one stepdaughter; lives in unincorporated
Professor Is Assailed by Legislature and Vandals
By Michelle York, The New York Times, February 3, 2005
Colorado lawmakers yesterday denounced an embattled professor whose
scheduled appearance at an upstate New York college was canceled amid
protests over his writings on the Sept. 11 attacks, in which he compared
the victims to Nazis.
The professor, Ward Churchill, meanwhile, rebuffed calls to resign and
said yesterday that his truck had been painted with swastikas overnight
as it sat in his driveway. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Department said
it was investigating.
Calling his written remarks an “evil and inflammatory blow to the
healing process,” the Colorado House of Representatives unanimously
approved a resolution condemning Professor Churchill. “The victims of
the World Trade Center were innocent in every sense of the word and
should always be remembered as innocent,” the resolution states.
The uproar concerns a three-year-old essay by Professor Churchill, who
teaches ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In it,
he called the workers killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11
“little Eichmanns,” technocrats who had a role in their country’s
economic power and its foreign policy, which included the 1991 gulf war.
The Colorado governor, Bill Owens, has called for the university to fire
Professor Churchill, but yesterday, Michael Carrigan, a newly elected
member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, said it was
unlikely that any action would be taken when the board holds an
emergency meeting today. “He can be fired, but not tomorrow,” Mr.
Carrigan said yesterday.
Professor Churchill said in an interview yesterday that he would sue if
fired. “I am on firm legal ground,” he said, adding that several lawyers
who specialize in free speech have already contacted him. He said he had
received more than 100 death threats.
The essay surfaced only after Professor Churchill accepted an invitation
to speak at Hamilton College, near Utica, N.Y., about his area of
expertise, American Indian activism.
After the essay was brought to light, Hamilton College said it had to
honor its invitation in the interests of free speech, though the college
president, Joan Hinde Stewart, said she found the remarks personally
The college received thousands of e-mail messages and telephone calls
protesting the planned panel discussion. On Tuesday, it abruptly
canceled the discussion, which had been scheduled for tonight, after a
caller threatened to bring a gun to the event and the local police said
they could not guarantee Professor Churchill’s safety.
At the University of Colorado, Professor Churchill resigned as chairman
of the ethnic studies department on Monday but remains a teacher. Some
students have protested his remarks, though he said more support him.
In his essay, Professor Churchill wrote of what he saw as the tie
between the trade center victims and the deaths of Iraqis in the 1991
war, and after. “They were too busy braying, incessantly and
self-importantly, into their cellphones, arranging power lunches and
stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight,
mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of
infants,” he wrote.
“If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of
visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little
Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d
really be interested in hearing about it,” he added.
Some Colorado lawmakers called on the Legislature yesterday to cut
financing for the ethnic studies department at the university, saying
that Professor Churchill has a right to free speech but that taxpayers
do not have to subsidize his views.
The conservative news commentator Bill O’Reilly, who repeatedly urged
viewers to send e-mail protests to Hamilton College, was running a poll
on his Web site yesterday asking viewers if Professor Churchill should
be fired. On his program last night, Mr. O’Reilly called the vandalism
and death threats an “unfortunate plight.”
At Hamilton, students scheduled a meeting called “Academic Freedom” for
next Wednesday to discuss all the issues that swirled around campus,
said a spokeswoman, Vige Barrie.
AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT GRAND GOVERNING COUNCIL
MINISTRY FOR INFORMATION
P.O. Box 13521
Minneapolis MN 55414
612/ 721-3914 . fax 612/ 721-7826
Web Address: www.aimovement.org
Ward Churchill was scheduled to speak at Hamilton College in Clinton,
New York on February 3, 2005. His appearance was canceled by the college
after he caused a public furor over his loathsome remarks about the 9-11
tragedy in New York. AIM’s Grand Governing Council has been dealing with
Churchill’s hateful attitude and rip-off of Indian people for years.
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 naïve 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
Nee Gon Nway Wee Dung, aka, Clyde H. Bellecourt, Ojibwa Nation
National Executive Director
American Indian Movement
WaBun-Inini, aka, Vernon Bellecourt, Ojibwa Nation
Executive Committee Member
Director Council on Foreign Relations
American Indian Movement
See the following:
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
CU prof affirms Indian heritage
Tribe says he’s not full member
By Howard Pankratz, Denver Post, Feb 3, 2005
The Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians said Wednesday that University of
Colorado professor Ward Churchill is an associate member of the tribe
but not a full member, which requires a person to have at least
one-fourth Cherokee blood.
“He was trying to get recognized as an Indian. He could not prove he was
an Indian (Cherokee) at all,” said Ernestine Berry, who was on the
tribe’s enrollment committee and served on the tribal council for four
Churchill, who resigned as chairman of CU’s ethnic studies department on
Monday, has been condemned for comparing victims of the 2001 terrorist
attacks to Nazis.
He has described himself as an Indian and has said that shaped many of
his opinions. But over the last week, as Churchill’s comments made news,
his critics have claimed he is a fraud.
On Wednesday, Churchill steadfastly maintained that he is an Indian,
claiming he is three-sixteenths Cherokee. But he acknowledged that he is
an associate member, not a full member, of the Keetoowah.
“I don’t vote, I don’t hold office, I don’t collect benefits,” Churchill
said. He said he was enrolled as an associate member of the Keetoowah
after a genealogical investigation showed his Cherokee lineage.
Click here to see Ward Churchill’s essay, “Some People Push Back: On the
Justice of Roosting Chickens,” as posted on a third-party website. Todd
Gleeson, dean of the University of Colorado’s College of Arts and
Sciences, which oversees Churchill’s department, has indicated to The
Denver Post that this posting is an authentic copy of Churchill’s essay.
He said he could have become a full member of the larger, 240,000-member
Cherokee Nation because it has no “blood quantum threshold.” But he
chose the Keetoowah because they are a more “hard- line” group.
Berry, of the Keetoowah Band, said Churchill was given an associate
membership in the 10,000-member tribe, based in Tahlequah, Okla., in the
“Mr. Churchill started coming around in 1992 or 1993, said he wrote some
books and was a big-time author, and convinced us he could help our
people,” Berry said.
On that basis, he was given an associate membership, said Berry, who was
on the tribe’s enrollment committee and has served on the tribal council.
Berry said Churchill never fulfilled his promise to help the tribe,
which she said is an extremely poor offshoot of the Cherokee Nation.
“After he received his associate card, we never heard from him again,”
The tribe no longer offers associate memberships, although it didn’t
revoke any existing memberships, Berry said.
In addition to questioning Churchill’s Indian heritage, some people have
raised questions about his duties in Vietnam, where he said he fought in
that country’s highlands and then moved to coastal regions, where he was
assigned to “gun trucks” similar to today’s Humvees.
One of the skeptics is Vernon Bellecourt, director of the Council on
Foreign Relations for the American Indian Movement.
Bellecourt says he believes Churchill worked counter-intelligence in
Vietnam while also claiming to be an “information specialist” there.
“According to research by one of our people, he has had two military
records. There is something very strange which we have not been able to
get into,” Bellecourt said.
In 1995, News From Indian Country, an Indian-owned, reservation-based
Wisconsin newspaper for Native Americans, said it had “observed many
interesting things about (Churchill) including contrary military
records. … ”
Churchill’s service record was not available from the Pentagon. But one
private group that tracks Vietnam veterans has obtained some data.
Mary Schantag, a researcher for the POW Network, said Department of
Defense records that she has show Churchill was a “heavy-vehicle driver.”
But she acknowledged that those records indicate only his last assignment.
The POW Network is dedicated to compiling the biographies of prisoners
of war and those missing in action from the Vietnam conflict. In recent
years, it has also exposed people making phony claims about Vietnam service.
Mr. Frank’s Fatwah
New Republic Calls for Death and Torture of Arundhati Roy and Stan Goff
By Dave Zirin, counterpunch, Jan 31, 2005
The words “libelous” and ‘the New Republic” have a proud history of
walking arm-in-arm. Now, in the esteemed tradition of [former TNR writer
who passed fiction as fact] Stephen Glass, The New Republic has stooped
to a new low, publishing a piece that calls for violence, torture, and
even death for leading leftists who dare oppose Bush’s war on terror and
the slaughter in Iraq.
Author Tom Frank — clearly from the Glass School of Journalism the New
Republic has made famous — described sitting in on an anti-war panel
sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, the Washington
Peace Center, the DC Anti-War Network and other groups.
After having heard the 100 plus attendees cheer sentiments like “Money
for Jobs and Education Not For War and Occupation,” Frank became so
riled up, he unloaded a deranged harangue about the suffering he would
like to rain upon people daring to organize against this war. After Stan
Goff, a former Delta Forces soldier and current organizer for Military
Families Speak Out, expressed sentiments like “We ain’t never resolved
nothing through an election,” Frank’s jag began. Clearly too doughy to
do it himself, Frank started to fantasize about a Teutonic strongman who
could shut Goff up.
Frank writes, “What I needed was a Republican like Arnold
[Schwarzenegger] who would walk up to [Goff] and punch him in the face.”
As the panel continued, every cheer and standing ovation seemed to set
Frank deeper down a path of psychosis. After International Socialist
Review editorial board member Sherry Wolf asserted that Iraqis had a
“right” to rebel against occupation, Frank upped the ante in his efforts
to intimidate anyone considering entry into the anti-war movement.
He wrote, “these weren’t harmless lefties. I didn’t want Nancy Pelosi
talking sense to them; I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through
the wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate
trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation.”
Later, when Wolf quoted Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy’s
defense of the right to resist, Frank was sent into such a state of
panic, he once again dreamed of the mighty hand of state repression,
writing, “Maybe sometimes you just want to be on the side of whoever is
more likely to take a bunker buster to Arundhati Roy.”
Interestingly, Frank didn’t have the guts to slander another one of the
panel speakers, exonerated death row inmate Shujaa Graham. Graham, who
has been moved to speak out against the torture of Iraqi prisoners by
intimately connecting their pain with his own experience of torture in
California’s death row, escaped Frank’s pen. I guess it’s hard to pose
fantasy threats of torture and death toward someone who has actually
looked it in the face.
We can write this piece off as just another one of the smarmy New
Republic 20-something writers getting his jollies slamming the left. We
can say that Frank — his entire piece an exercise in poorly executed
humor, ill-written grammar, and awkward phrasing — just forgot to break
his Prozac in half that morning. But there is something far more
insidious at work here.
This piece is yet another effort to intimidate and silence people who
aren’t willing to toe the “party line” espoused by Democrats and
Republicans alike that the death of 1,400 US troops and 100,000 Iraqi
civilians is somehow justified. Frank’s piece is an exercise in hate and
intimidation. To be quiet in its face is to give ground in a period when
we have precious little to give.
Therefore, this is a call for people to e-mail The New Republic and let
them know what you think about humorous musings on killing Arundhati Roy
or torturing Stan Goff. Let them know that a disgraced magazine will not
intimidate us, especially one with the credibility of The National
Enquirer. Let them know that we will publicly debate Tom Frank or any of
their 20 something post-graduate hacks on the merits of this war anytime
and any place. This is the only way to deal with darkness: shine as
bright a light as possible — right in it’s face.
E-mail email@example.com to let them know what you think. We are also
considering a picket of the New Republic Offices, for those interested.
Graham Defense Update, Feb. 2, 2005
By Matthew Lien, John Graham Defense Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org
Update Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Dear friends and supporters,
John’s defence attorneys submitted their final arguments today, and
Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett announced she would deliver her
final decision on Monday, February 21.
In closing, John’s attorney Terry LaLiberte discussed two points: one,
that the certified evidence has been shown to be unreliable, and two,
that the U.S. has not established the identification of John Graham as
the perpetrator of the murder of Anna Mae Aquash.
Mr. LaLiberte said the certified evidence of identification is “full of
holes” in describing the person the U.S. is looking for, and does not
match the booking sheet from John’s arrest in Vancouver. The U.S.
information as certified by U.S. Attorney Robert Mandel, states that
they are looking for a Caucasian, 188cm tall, weighing 87 kg.
“They cannot get around the fundamental fact,” said LaLiberte, “that the
guy they want is six inches taller than Mr. Graham,” said LaLiberte,
“and there is a problem with the weight and the racial description.”
The U.S. claims John was also known as John Boy Patton. “Also known by
whom?” asked LaLiberte. “We have requested that they clarify these
points, and they have not proffered that evidence.”
Mr. LaLiberte stated that “there is no link” between the witnesses’
identification of a “John Boy Patton” and the photos of John Graham.
“This is totally inadequate,” said Mr. LaLiberte. “Witness John Trudell
claims a John Boy Patton shot Aquash, but identifies Mr. Graham’s photo
as John Graham. There is nothing to link our citizen in Canada to this
person in South Dakota.”
“They have not proven the identity,” said LaLiberte, “and that should be
the end of it.”
John’s co-counsel Gregory DelBigio, also spoke to the issue of the
photographs. He pointed out that the certified summary of evidence
attributes testimony to witnesses “by saying, for example, the witness
‘is able’ to identify a photo. They do not say that the witness actually
identified the photo.” Mr. DelBigio pointed out that this is
significant, because it appears the U.S. Attorney is speaking on behalf
of witnesses by claiming they are able to provide evidence that they
have not actually provided. “It is not a concrete assertion,” said Mr.
DelBigio. “They do not even say the witness made the testimony to the
investigators, they only say the witness is able to make the
Mr. DelBigio argued that on the critical point of identifying a suspect,
“There should be evidence that witnesses have positively identified the
Mr. LaLiberte pointed out again that U.S. Attorney Mandel certified
evidence that does not exist. He argued that the body of evidence is
inadequate, since one alleged witness, Al Gates, was dead for nine
months when he was certified as being “available to testify;” another
witness, Frank Dillon, has said he did not make the statements
attributed to him; and the only alleged eyewitness, Arlo Looking Cloud,
has stated he will not testify against Graham, as the U.S. claims.
“We have provided cogent evidence that he will not testify against
Graham,” said LaLiberte. “His lawyer says he will not testify. And the
proof is in the pudding. In a recent Grand Jury investigation, Mr.
Looking Cloud did not testify against Mr. Graham, and even refused
Mr. LaLiberte also stated that evidence submitted is not attributed to
anyone. “Some of this appears to be speculation by Mr. Mandel,” said Mr.
LaLiberte, referring to the U.S. Attorney who certified the evidence.
“We want to believe our neighbour,” said LaLiberte, referring to the
U.S., “but there is some threshold at which so many holes have been
punched in the certified evidence, that we can no longer presume it is
Gregory DelBigio addressed the impact of the erosion of evidence, the
dead witness, recanted testimony, and the failure to identify John
Graham. He pointed out that whenever John’s attorneys demonstrated that
evidence was not available as originally claimed by the U.S., they
respond that they “did not rely on that piece of evidence.” Regarding
witness Al Gates, who is dead, Mr. DelBigio said, “They now say they
don’t rely on the Gates testimony.” But he said the court must consider
the entire body of evidence together. “The certification refers to the
entire package of evidence,” said Mr. DelBigio. “The Court can no longer
be sure the evidence is sufficient for committal.”
Mr. DelBigio said the Court has a duty to impose some minimum
requirements on the quality of evidence from the U.S. “This is not a
rubber stamp or meaningless ritual,” he told Justice Bennett. “There is
some bare minimum of protection for a Canadian citizen.”
Mr. LaLiberte agreed. “There is no due process here,” he said. “We’ve
shown big holes in the evidence. They say ‘trust me, I’m an Attorney
General.’ The certified evidence is totally inadequate. They are hiding
behind the law, making bold assertions that are not true. The process is
flawed. Who are these people – the Ecoffeys and Alonzos and Graff –
these people who are claiming witnesses are able to testify to these
“Whenever we show their evidence is wrong,” said Mr. LaLiberte, “they
say it doesn’t matter. Well, it does matter.”
Crown Attorney Deborah Strachan, representing the U.S. said, “The
extradition judge is not to be concerned about reliability of evidence.”
She insisted the Extradition Act requires the court to presume the
evidence supplied is accurate and presented in good faith. “Fairness of
the process is irrelevant,” she told the court.
Justice Bennett recessed the hearing, announcing that her final decision
will be read at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, February 21. If she does commit
John Graham for extradition, he will appeal.
John’s case is very similar to the 2003 case of U.K. vs. Tarantino, in
which the Court stayed the proceedings due to the unreliability of the
evidence supplied by the U.K. As in John’s case, a witnesses was shown
to have died, another witness had absconded, and a third witness was
shown to be unreliable. The Judge in that case ruled that although our
Extradition Act requires courts to trust the foreign state, there is
some minimum threshold of reliability that the Canadian courts must uphold.
“The court has the power to control its own process,” the judge ruled.
“It is for the court to guard its own integrity.” This certainly would
sound like the Court of a sovereign nation.
If the order to extradite is issued, John’s final appeal will be to the
Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, which will commence promptly.
We thank you once again from deep within our hearts, for your interest
and support of John Graham in this struggle for truth and justice. We
will keep you informed as we prepare ourselves for the coming developments.
John Graham Defense Committee
Did September 11 Cause a Constitutional Paradigm Shift?
Why Conservatives Argue that It Did, and Why Their Views Are Likely to
Have Some Lasting Effect
By Edward Lazarus, email@example.com, Feb. 03, 2005
Recently, a former member of Alberto Gonzales’s White House staff
described to the press the incredible “sense of mission” he and others
felt post-9/11. They believed they were serving their country, to the
best of their abilities, as they strained to find legalistic
justifications for using extreme interrogation techniques against
Now, the Administration is backing away from the so-called “torture
memos.” A new memo has been publicly revealed, which expressly
supersedes the old. And in his confirmation hearings, incoming Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales bobbed and weaved before the Senate Judiciary
Committee to avoid taking responsibility for the memos. But it was not
At the time the memos were written, talented young, conservative lawyers
felt they were merely responding to the necessities of a post-9/11 world
by trying to liberate the Executive branch from the legal constraints of
anti-torture laws and international human rights conventions.
Their zeal feels completely foreign to me – enthusiasm for enabling
torture is a hard emotion to imagine. But in some sense, in their view,
that was the point: It was supposed to feel foreign: The world had
changed – their memos made that very explicit – and the law needed to
change with it. They would now be the agents of that necessary change,
using their talents to protect the nation by stripping away the legal
constraints on what it could do to, and with, enemies of the state.
In their eyes, the terrorist attacks had created a “paradigm shift” –
one that rendered obsolete a host of accepted wisdom regarding the scope
of Executive Power, and the balance between liberty and national
security. Certain legal constraints on governmental conduct, they
thought, had been rendered, at best, quaint and, at worst,
counterproductive given the new exigencies facing the government.
Whatever the merits view, there can be no doubt that it is sincerely
felt by many people inside and outside the government. Nor can there be
doubt that the “9/11 effect,” as it might be called, will exercise a
grip on the law – in particular, on constitutional law — for some time
With 9/11 and its aftermath, a new generational perspective may well be
taking hold. And it would be foolhardy for any of us – even those who
wish it were not so — to ignore this development.
How Generations Reshape Constitutional Law: The “Greatest Generation”
Every generation of judges, scholars, and lawyers tries to bequeath to
the next generation in line its own understanding of legal traditions
and necessities. But, inevitably, they are only partially successful.
The next generation inevitably revises the traditions it receives, and
constructs new ones, in light of the experiences that have formed the
new generation’s world view. And so it goes.
Consider the generation of lawyers that counted among its leaders
Alexander Bickel, who championed a modest and pragmatic approach to
judging. As Yale Law professor Robert Burt has explained in a tribute to
Bickel, Bickel’s views of the legal world were constantly informed by
two experiences — both arising from the history that shaped the
generation to which he belonged.
In 1939, a fourteen-year-old Bickel emigrated to the United States from
Romania. Within five years, the Nazis had killed 60% of the Romanian
Jews. The whole world Bickel, who was Jewish, had grown up in, had been
destroyed by the repellent ideology of Mein Kampf.
The 1930s had also seen the epochal clash between FDR and the Supreme
Court over New Deal Legislation. The Court’s old guard had tried to
squelch President Roosevelt’s economic reforms in the name of freedom of
contract; for a time, they were successful, but eventually, Roosevelt
prevailed. But in the eyes of Bickel, and many others, “freedom of
contract” ideology had delayed recovery from the Great Depression,
causing terrible human suffering along the way.
As Burt describes it, Bickel, like many judges, scholars, and lawyers of
his generation, derived a single overarching lesson from the disparate
phenomena of World War II and the New Deal Court: They came to despise
sweeping abstractions and ideologies as the engines of policy-making,
whether legal or political.
To them, high principles were potential tools of oppression, the stuff
that drove courts to rule by fiat or, even more important, gave a moral
force to totalitarianism. For the Bickelian generation, the proper
purpose of law and of courts was not to definitively adjudicate right
from wrong, or to otherwise impose their will. It was much more modest –
and more specific – than that.
Instead, Bickel urged courts to simply do their jobs of mediating
between contesting litigants to solve particular disputes. Through legal
diplomacy and pragmatic thinking, Bickel believed, courts could promote
the ability of society to find political accommodations to solve large
legal problems – but in many cases, to do this, court had to step aside
to let legislatures and executives do their work.
Based on these ideas, Bickel would craft one of the most important
constitutional law books ever written, The Least Dangerous Branch.
There, he explained the virtues of a “passive” judiciary. Such a
judiciary, as he described it, would decide even great issues – such as
the issue of race discrimination encountered in Brown v. Board of
Education — in small steps.
Another Generation Reshapes the Law: The Civil Rights Era
No wonder, then, that the 1960s generation – which sought the very kind
of sweeping, ideological change that frightened Bickel – dissented
strongly from Bickel’s approach.
For them, Brown v. Board of Education changed everything. Bickel’s
generation may have crafted the decision as an incremental blow against
the ideology of racism – one that did not force the executive to act in
any special hurry. But the next generation of lawyers received Brown as
a triumphant statement of legal morality – focusing on its broad right,
and not its problematic remedies.
If the courts were the least dangerous branch, this generation thought,
then they ought to get a lot more dangerous, fast. How else could they
counter pernicious foes like racism?
These lawyers optimistically placed their faith in the power of courts
and of law to right old wrongs and impose a new moral order on the
nation. And in a host of Warren Court era decisions, they were not
Ultimately, though, their optimism was challenged – even eclipsed – by
Vietnam and Watergate. In a way, the skepticism that these scandals
spawned has been with many of us who grew up during that time – and with
lawyers, especially – ever since.
The Next Generation: Shaped by a Blizzard of Political Scandals
Just this week, I happened to catch “All the President’s Men” on cable.
Lots of things about the movie felt dated: the clothes, the cars, the
ridiculous sideburns and, oh yes, the idea of two obscure metro
reporters breaking a government scandal of unprecedented proportion
without computers or cellphones.
But to someone of my vintage, lots about the movie still feels deeply
important and relevant. I came of political age in an era marked by
dirty tricks and campaign slush funds, a secret war in Cambodia and
Laos, COINTELPRO and other illegal domestic spying, enemies lists,
shredded documents, widespread obstructions of justice, and a slew of
Executive branch denials — all of which turned out to be false.
In my house, as in millions of others, the world was divided into the
heroes (Sam Ervin, Sam Dash, Liz Holtzman, Judge Sirica, the Supreme
Court) and the villains (Richard Nixon, H.R. Haldeman, John Mitchell,
Chuck Colson, G. Gordon Liddy). Bred into my bones was the idea that
governments, even democratic ones, are capable of enormous wrongs and
enormous lies — and that subverting democratic governance requires
neither an army nor particular genius, but simply the concentration of
power into the hands of too many true believers of one stripe or another.
My memories of the Watergate era and the impressions indelibly etched
then inevitably shaped my view of politics and of the law. They have
bequeathed to me a presumptive skepticism towards claims of executive
power and privilege; they have made me wary of government’s increasing
power to surveil its own citizens; and they have led me to a belief in
the possibility (and necessity) of an activist, principled, non-partisan
judiciary – to reign in executive excesses, among other things.
Naturally, other historical events – the fall of the Berlin Wall, Bush
v. Gore, September 11 – have influenced my world view, sometimes
considerably. But these events stick to a template of
perspective-shaping experience where Watergate and the end of the
Vietnam War reside at the first and deepest level.
The New Generation’s World View: How Much Will It Reshape Constitutional
For the current generation of young lawyers, Vietnam and Watergate are
intellectual abstractions, not lived experience – just as Brown was for
me, and just as the New Deal fights were for the generation that grew up
in Brown’s glow.
This generation saw scandal, but it was sexual, not political, scandal
(though it had high political stakes). Remember, those attorneys who are
in their early thirties today probably have no personal memories
relating to Vietnam or Watergate to look back on. But they were in high
school or college when Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings,
with Anita Hill’s accusations, occurred. And they were in their twenties
when the Paula Jones/Lewinsky scandal broke, leading to President
Clinton’s impeachment and ultimate acquittal.
This generation didn’t learn from lived experience to fear excessive,
and abusive presidential power. Instead, it learned, perhaps, to worry a
bit about sexual harassment claims, and to distrust special prosecutors.
But special prosecutors are now a thing of the past, and we are
increasingly more comfortable with, and less alarmist about, the law of
So what did this generation distrust and fear? The answer may be:
Nothing, until September 11. They grew up in peace and prosperity.
September 11 shattered it. How could they view it as anything but
profoundly transformative? How could they not be tempted to use the law
to protect themselves, and their country, by any means necessary? Their
experience testified to the damage terrorists can do to America – but
not to the damage America, and its Presidents, can do to people in and
outside our country.
It is too soon to know whether the events of September 11 will have the
power deeply and broadly to shape the next generation’s view of the law.
But as the torture memo incident brought starkly home, there is a new
world view in the making.