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Who’s The Terrorist?


Once again what I have said has been turned into the opposite of itself.

First, Dan Caplis, Craig Silverman and numerous other right-wing media spinmeisters asserted that I “advocated” terrorist attacks on the United States in my Op-Ed piece of Sept. 12, 2001. Even a casual reading of that piece, as well as the 300-page book On the Justice of Roosting Chickens in which I more fully explicated and documented my argument, reveals that I did not advocate such attacks. Rather, I pointed out that they were and will continue to be the inevitable result of a U.S. foreign policy that disregards the rule of law and results in massive death and destruction abroad.

Next, the dynamic duo and their colleagues attempted to discredit me through an endless stream of personal attacks. These have failed because the facts, even though not reported in the media, do not support their assertions.

Now, in both a paid ad and a prominently featured Op-Ed piece March 5 in the News (“Churchill’s active advocacy of violence demands his firing”), Caplis and Silverman have resorted to the outright lie that I have actively sought to incite “violent revolution.”

I have done no such thing. To the contrary, what I have consistently advocated over the years is the rule of law.

The great bulk of my scholarly work has been devoted to documenting the United States’ disregard for law and the resulting violence it has perpetrated both domestically and internationally. I believe that such practices inevitably breed violence in response, and that the most effective way to ensure the security of all peoples is adherence to the Constitution and international law, particularly the laws of war and fundamental human rights law.

As citizens, it is our collective responsibility to ensure such compliance with law. This is the actual meaning of the quote on Arabs misrepresented by Caplis and Silverman in both their ad and their Op-Ed. My point was that it is our job to halt the criminal conduct of the U.S. government, rather than leaving the task to those from other countries who suffer the consequences of its illegalities.

Following the position articulated by Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson at Nuremberg in 1945, I believe that we have not only the right but the legal obligation to compel lawful behavior from the government that is acting in our name.

I document the systemic violence perpetrated by the U.S. government in the hope that Americans will take this responsibility to heart and use political means to change government policy. I would vastly prefer that this happen through nonviolent means. However, I cannot say that nonviolence is the only legitimate response to systemic violence.

The principle of self-defense is not mysterious: When one is subjected to aggression, it is the perpetrator, not the victim, who dictates the terms of engagement.

Although I am plainly no pacifist, I have never advocated terrorist attacks on Wall Street, downtown Seattle, or anywhere else. To make it appear otherwise, Caplis and Silverman have taken material out of context and turned it on its head. My comments in this regard, made to a small group of young anarchists gathered in a Seattle bookstore, went to the idea that they would not accomplish anything useful by marginalizing themselves and engaging in random acts of sabotage along the social periphery.

Drawing upon German theorist Rudi Dutschke’s concept of “a long march through the institutions,” I therefore proposed the alternative that they attempt to work from within the institutional setting, as I myself have done. The “weapons” I referred to were young people’s own consciousness and capacity to transmit it. Along the way, I also pointed out that as relatively privileged Euro-Americans, they were ideally situated to undertake such a project.

Caplis and Silverman are seeking for their own reasons to con the public into believing that I am an active proponent of terrorism. This is not only false, it is extraordinarily dangerous. By framing my statements as they have, and then repeatedly broadcasting their spin to a broad audience, there is an obvious possibility that they might actually precipitate an act of terror by some unbalanced individual. Should this turn out to be the case, the responsibility will be theirs, not mine.

Ward Churchill is a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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