A Ward Churchill Kind of Day
In the midst of errands today, I made the mistake of turning on the car radio twice. Both times somebody was ranting about Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor about to lose his job for telling the truth.
First, it was Sean Hannity on the radio. Hannity mentioned several violent incidents, most notably the Florida couple accused of torturing and starving five of their seven children, and then felt compelled to throw Ward Churchill in there, calling him an "idiot," and then asked "what the heck is going in this country?"
I cursed, snapped off the radio.
Second, later in the afternoon, it was a caller to Bill O’Reilly’s radio program. Close down all the ethnic studies programs, the caller snarled, and study programs about women, labor, and the environment because they’re all infested with hate America types like Ward Churchill.
Once again, I punched the radio off.
As I moved through traffic, surrounded by cars, SUVS, and big fat pickup trucks with "Support Our Troops" magnetic ribbons attached, I thought about what happened to the last "hate America" prof who had the misfortune of talking with Bill O’Reilly — Sami al-Arian of the University of South Florida.
Sami now wastes away in solitary confinement for the crime of defending the Palestinians, a mortal sin punishable by life imprisonment in America. He’s not allowed phone calls, is allowed out of his cell but for one hour a day, endures repeated strip searches, cannot talk with his attorney in private, his case files have been seized, it is even forbidden for him to hug his wife and kids when they visit the prison. Sami al-Arian, thanks mostly to a hateful and self-aggrandizing TV and radio host who likes to make dirty phone calls to conservative female co-workers, is treated like a serial rapist or murderer, even though he has yet to be convicted of a crime, let alone have his day in court.
It was much like this, I thought, when the Nazis purged the universities in Germany.
As an American, I have this lame propensity to connect things to movies I have seen. For instance, when I think of Sami and Ward, I am reminded of a scene in Fred Zinnemann’s Julia, a horrific scene where Nazi brownshirts invade a university, beat up professors, and cheerily throw them from high balconies, presumably to their deaths. Of course, we are a long way from that sort of behavior in America … or are we?
Ward Churchill has received numerous death threats.
Millions of people wanted to do harm to John Walker Lindh, the pathetic and confused convert to Islam who made the mistake of going to Afghanistan. Lindh, an obviously emotionally under-developed lad from a broken home, was made-over, thanks to Fox News and the corporate media, into an evil follower of the Taliban and potential killer of kind-hearted American soldiers (who were at the time kind-heartedly invading a sovereign nation).
For writing an article critical of Pat Tillman, the "all-American" NFL football player who gave up his career to kill Afghans, and was subsequently killed by his fellow soldiers, I received an email from a person who expressed a strong desire to take a baseball bat to my head.
Of course, this sort of behavior is a long way from the organized brutality of Hitler’s brownshirts, but the mentality is there, waiting to be groomed.
Four more years of Bush, and another war, this time in Iran, complete with the now standard round of Orwellian hate sessions via Fox News and "conservative" radio, complete with unrestrained xenophobia and Muslim-bashing, and who knows, a new brand of brownshirts may emerge.
It can be argued — considering the odious and violent articles now appearing more and more frequently in neocon-infested venues such as the New Republic and Horowitz’s FrontPage web site — it really wouldn’t take much for the "all-Americans" to hit the streets with shotguns and pikes and go after the "America haters" who, we are incessantly told, are in Osama’s corner, salivating hungrily for the destruction of America.
Later in the afternoon, since I am an incurable news junkie and devoted blogger, I made the rounds on the web and found an article about Ward Churchill that actually attempted a degree of objectivity. "Churchill has been the subject of a firestorm of controversy since concerns were raised last week about an essay he wrote on Sept. 11, 2001, in which he compared ‘technocrats’ working in the World Trade Center to notorious Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann and said the United States invited the terrorist attacks through a long history of violent domination of other cultures," Charlie Brennan writes for the Rocky Mountain News.
Although I am certain to receive the customary round of hate email, maybe containing threats of bodily harm by way of Louisville slugger, I must say that I agree with Churchill: the financial and government institutions housed in the WTC, including the CIA, most certainly did employ "technocrats" comparable to Adolf Eichmann, although I believe Eichmann is an inappropriate comparison, mostly because the Nazi metaphor does not fit when we are talking about neoliberal globalists who are not necessarily racist or specifically genocidal, but rather money-grubbing rich bastards who don’t care what happens to millions of people after water and hospitals are "privatized," that is to say stolen for personal gain, or nations invaded to corner the market on precious natural resources.
Eichmann and the Nazis are a somewhat better fit for the CIA and the Pentagon, even though they, as well, do not embrace a specifically racist ideology. More to the point, as General Smedley Butler once said, the Pentagon (and the CIA) are nothing more than hit men "for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers," in short, "racketeers for Capitalism."
The Joint Chiefs and the DCI don’t want to shove Jews in ovens, but simply clear the way for the bottom line and stockholder profit, no matter the cost in human life or, for that matter, the price exacted from our shared biosphere. Or, as Robert Redford’s character in Pieter Jan Brugge’s The Clearing said to the unemployed character played by Willem Dafoe, unemployment and downsizing and its inevitable privation is nothing personal, it’s just business (and there I go with the lame movie comparisons again).
Likewise, I’m sure, Osama bin Laden, if indeed Osama had anything to do with those planes smacking into the WTC and the Pentagon, would also say it was nothing personal, just a natural if knee-jerk reaction to decades of the United States propping up Saudi, Iranian, Egyptian, and Jordanian dictators and monarchs — and let’s not forget Reagan and Poppy Bush’s friendly relationship with Saddam Hussein — and supporting Zionist settlers, to the tune of billions of dollars over the years, who seem to actually like murdering Palestinian school children. Nothing personal, just a strike against the institutions and military-industrial-banking infrastructure that not only makes such possible, but profits plentifully from it as well.
For Roger Ailes and the Fox pundits, in fact for much of the corporate media, this sort of reasoning does not compute. It’s heretical, evil, and demonstrates outright hatred for America. According to Bush and Fox, Osama came out of nowhere — no mention he was essentially a creation of the CIA — and is motivated entirely by an irrational hatred for America of the sort shared by Ward Churchill. For history began on September 12, 2001, and all that came after — the invasions, the mass murder, the violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions, Bush’s torture and rape gulag, the occupations and stage-managed elections — all of it is a noble and moral response to Islamic evil.
History, as Henry Ford averred, is bunk.
It will go on like this until the machine breaks down and the American people are forced to squarely face reality — for, as Ward Churchill tells us, the American empire is built on the corpses of incalculable victims over the span of several hundred years.
9/11, by way of comparison, is essentially an exercise in minor league murder and mayhem, the clumsy stuff of amateurs.
No doubt tomorrow will be another Ward Churchill day.
As I make my rounds, I will invariably, as a news junkie looking for his fix, hit that radio button once again. Since tomorrow is Saturday, the morning radio here in southern New Mexico will be filled with the malevolent shrieking Michael "Savage" Weiner, who will no doubt call for Ward Churchill to be roasted alive.
As all of us co-existing together in this nation travel down our collectively shared lunatic path, headed ultimately for disaster, it appears, in lieu of actual roasting, the Ward Churchills of academe will eventually share the fate of Sami al-Arian, as mandated by the Patriot Act.
Having accomplished that mission, dear reader, the incipient brownshirts may come for you.
KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at www.kurtnimmo.com/ . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org