i haven’t been following ward churchill’s trial as closely as i would have liked to, but i am so happy to know that justice was finally served in the case of churchill v. colorado university. there were a few issues at stake in the trial, but one of the most significant ones was in relation to academic freedom. specifically it was in relation to ward churchill’s essay, which he wrote after 9/11 entitled “some people push back: on the justice of roosting chickens.” here is how it begins:
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.
for those of you who read my post earlier today you already know what i think about such propositions. and we can look at any place or time in history to see this same phenomenon repeat itself. the website following the trial reported this upon hearing learning of his victory:
A jury found on Thursday that the University of Colorado had wrongfully dismissed a professor who drew national attention for an essay in which he called some victims of the Sept. 11 attacks “little Eichmanns.”
There’s some inside scuttlebutt here. David Lane got to talk to the jurors after the case, and word has it they had the following couple of salient points to offer:
1. Up until the reading of the final instructions by the judge, the jurors thought they were to be deliberating on whether or not Ward had committed academic fraud, pure and simple. It’s an understandable error, given the nature of the witnesses. Their unanimous finding was that Ward hadn’t committed any fraud worthy of the name.
2. The jurors were disgusted by the repetition of Ward’s protected speech by O’Rourke, including the quotes from the audio that Craig Silverman kept pushing at O’Rourke; they felt this clearly showed the nature of CU’s witchhunt.
As to the award, Ward Churchill never asked for money. In fact he told the jury repeatedly he didn’t want a cent. What he does want is his job back. And given the nature of this verdict, one has to ask how justice could be served if he doesn’t get it. More to come.
max forte’s open anthropology blog has been covering the trial regularly, too, and there are great detailed reports there. here is what he posted about the meaning of this victory:
It is not at all a situation where a lawyer lost the case for CU: all of the Big Eichmanns who ran the university, and the Little Eichmanns who served on the faculty committees, paraded through the court, are the ones who lost the case for CU, because it never had more than a political case to begin with. Their statements were weak, contradictory, often mendacious, and most importantly, validations of Churchill’s case. As the news reports below said:
1. Were Ward Churchill’s freedom of speech rights violated and did the University act inappropriately? YES.
2. Was Ward Churchill wrongfully fired? YES.
3. Did the University have enough reason [i.e., “research misconduct”] to fire Churchill otherwise? NO.
What Ward Churchill has done for all of us is to send a powerful message to each and every university: You are not entitled to determine what is acceptable expression on the part of faculty, thereby curtailing their rights as public citizens who are free to engage in dissent and opposition. Ward Churchill, thanks to his relentless pursuit of what is right and just, thanks to his sheer stamina and courage, has smashed a gigantic hole in the Wall of Silence, that national security wall of the militarized state, where power is abused in order to enforce the orthodox doctrines of the Western “master race.”
Churchill’s resistance was successful and efficacious resistance. He forced his many persecutors to face their own lies, their violations of the truth, their own fraud in misappropriating academic values in order to further sinister, extremist political goals. The result is that CU is rendered, in public, and as a matter of judicial fact, a fraud: an academic fraud that will prostitute the academy for the sake of the pet political projects of bankrupt neo-conservatives, and a political fraud whose actions speak volumes of the real nature of freedom in a so-called “liberal democracy.” Churchill has fought the neo-fascist, fear-based political order, and recuperated his dignity and integrity, and not just in his name. And so we are left to tally the ruins of the system that he, along with many others, has challenged so tenaciously:
* A failed ideology of neo-conservativism and of the New American Century (which lasted for less than a decade);
* Failed imperial wars of conquest;
* A broken-down and failed capitalist economic system.
there are a number of news clips max has posted as well, but here are two worth watching. the first is of churchill’s own testimony and the second is a report on justice being served from local colorado television news:
justice has been served, but only in some small way. but the core of what churchill argued in that original essay still seems to fall upon deaf ears. having a new administration is no help, either. the obama administration is continuing with the empire that bush began. for instance, what of the u.s. military installations in iraq and afghanistan (and is suspect we’ll be seeing some in pakistan soon). jeremy scahill reports on this as well as other issues addressed in a gao report released this week. tellingly, the issue of water that churchill addressed in his essay is still an issue in iraq:
Perhaps the saddest portion of the GAO report relates to what should be done to address the massive suffering in Iraq and what the U.S. responsibility should be for paying for the tremendous devastation of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure over the past 20 years.
Just take the issue of water. As of now, according to the report, “many Iraqis are without water or have access to water that puts them at risk of diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as evidenced by outbreaks in 2007 and 2008. According to the United Nations, only 40 percent of children have reliable access to safe drinking water; with water-treatment plants operating at only 17 percent capacity, large volumes of untreated waste are discharged into Iraq’s waterways. The health risks associated with a lack of access to potable water and proper sewage treatment are compounded by the shortage of medical professionals in Iraq’s health care system.”
According to the World Bank, it would cost $14.4 billion to rebuild the Iraqi public works and water system. In other words, about five weeks of the overall cost of the U.S. occupation.
Instead of discussing U.S. reparations or restitution, as groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War have demanded, the report asks the Obama administration what more the Iraqi government can do to fund reconstruction projects. “We’ve just spent $700 billion to bail out Wall Street,” says IPS’ Erik Leaver. “While the report notes that the U.S. spent $9.5 billion and Iraq budgeted for $17.2 billion for reconstruction of a war torn society. The scale of what we’ve done on the civilian end is absurd.”
Before one more cent is spent on bailing out corrupt corporations that destroyed the U.S. economy, Iraqis should have clean drinking water. After all, it was the illegal U.S. wars that took it from them in the first place. And that is not logic based on lies.
scahill was also on democracy now! yesterday and offered some important and interesting analysis on the american mercenaries working in iraq and who their war crimes partners are:
JEREMY SCAHILL: It was founded by former Special Forces operatives from the US Army. They were minor contributors to the Bush/Cheney campaign, but not real big political players. They clearly started the company as a result of the US invasion in Iraq. They started it in 2003. By 2004, they got one of the primary contracts in Iraq.
An interesting fact about Triple Canopy is that it was one of the big three US companies. Triple Canopy, DynCorp, and Blackwater shared this mother contract. Blackwater had the biggest share of it, to guard US officials in the Baghdad area. DynCorp had the north of Iraq. Triple Canopy had the south of Iraq.
Triple Canopy also, though, did a very lucrative business servicing other war contractors like KBR, and Triple Canopy was also known for being the company that brought in the largest number of so-called third country nationals, non-Iraqis, non-Americans. They hired, for instance, former Salvadoran commandos who were veterans of the bloody counterinsurgency war in El Salvador that took the lives of 75,000 Salvadorans, minimum. Chileans—they used the same recruiter, Jose Miguel Pizarro Ovalle, that Blackwater used when they hired Chileans. This was a former Pinochet military officer.
And this company has been around, you know, for five or six years. The Obama administration has hired them in Iraq, and many of the Blackwater guys are believed to be jumping over to Triple Canopy to continue working on in Iraq. Obama, though, is keeping Blackwater on, and the State Department has not ruled out that they’re going to stay on for much longer, the aviation division of Blackwater in Iraq, and also Blackwater is on the US government payroll in Afghanistan, also working for the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The news that I’m breaking on Triple Canopy, though, is that I obtained federal contracts that were signed in February and March by the Obama administration with Triple Canopy to act as a private paramilitary force operating out of Jerusalem. And this is also part of a very secretive State Department program called the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which was started under the Clinton administration as a privatized wing of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security division. Triple Canopy was paid $5 million in February, March by the Obama administration to provide, quote, “security services” in Israel.
In congressional testimony in 2007, Ambassador David Satterfield, who was an Under Secretary of State, said that he had been guarded by private security companies when he traveled in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Triple Canopy had the contract, has had this contract since 2005, the Obama administration continuing it.
I think that the Obama administration should be required to explain to US taxpayers, particularly with the atrocious human rights abuses that we’ve been seeing in Israel, why he’s using a US mercenary company to protect US officials when they potentially come in contact with civilians. And we’ve seen how deadly that’s been in Iraq. And before May 7th, his administration should be required to explain to the American people why he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are continuing the Bush administration’s policy of using deadly paramilitary forces in Iraq.
you can watch his interview with amy goodman here:
clearly, we have not learned our lessons. expect even more chickens coming home to roost.