A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Book Review: Chiva - A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade By Chellis Glendinning Reviewed by Kay Matthews
The Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit: an Early History By David Correia
La Jicarita News: In the last presidential election we found it disturbing that much of northern New Mexico, which has always been solidly Democratic, voted for George Bush. To what do you attribute this erosion in Democratic support?
Tom Udall: First off, let me generally explain that New Mexico has, since statehood, usually gone with the winner. I think there's something there that is predictive of what happens nationally. In the strong Democratic counties this time we did very well. Why, then did New Mexico go for Bush? I think the answer is that traditionally conservative counties had very large turnout and the margin of victory for Bush was much, much larger in those counties than we've seen in recent times. I think in northern New Mexico, the reasons for the larger Republican vote were security issues, the war, and military service, because the Hispanic and Native American communities have traditionally served in wartime in disproportionately large numbers. Much of the New Mexican National Guard Reserve has been called up. What it tells me is that we've got to be better organizers, we've got to get to the grassroots and build the Democratic organization in those counties where we were badly beaten.
LJN: One of the issues our neighbors raised was that Kerry was too strongly environmental, and what that means to them is being cut off from forest resources upon which our communities depend.
TU: That doesn't surprise me. Rural communities all over the west are very wary about the environmental movement. I represent a district that has great diversity in thoughts about the environment, from Santa Fe to small northern New Mexico communities to places like Clovis, Clayton and Farmington, oil and gas country. People who live in urban areas have a more preservationist attitude. This is an oversimplification, but their primary concern is to keep our wild areas beautiful and make them wilderness. In rural areas the approach is more toward the conservation side, which means using resources in a sustainable way, being good stewards of the land. So right off the bat there's friction there, between a city dweller and a rural dweller. It's something I have to deal with every day in the legislature, like when we're proposing the Ojito Wilderness we need to really work with rural people, ranchers, Indian pueblos, to get people to the table. It takes longer to achieve your objective because there is some distrust out there. But that's just a fact of life.
LJN: The norteño community has a long history of fighting corporate exploitation of natural resources and is able to identify that kind of exploitation with the Republican agenda. How do you express that with your constituency and make those connections?
TU: If we go back a long time in New Mexico history we know that some of the larger corporate interests were the ones that played a role in our land grant history. People remember that it was often timber companies that were pushing, with the assistance of lawyers, to find ways to get the land. Rural people understand the need for utilizing the land in a wise way because they've been out there doing it for many many years. One of my big tasks is to try and bring both sides, the environmental community and the rural communities, to the table and get them to work together as natural allies so we can all move forward.
LJN: Another issue that came up with our primarily Hispano, Catholic neighbors was that Kerry "supported abortion."
TU: I think, first of all, there was a mischaracterization of Kerry's position. My understanding is that he was personally opposed to abortion, the position that most Catholic public office holders take. That was the first thing he always said: "I am personally opposed to abortion. But I'm not going to impose my religious views on others. I'm pro-choice, and I'm in favor of a woman being able to make decisions about her reproductive choices." I think the Republicans deliberately tried to mischaracterize his position.
LJN: We think this issue of mischaracterization carried over into issues of homeland security as well.
TU: I think when historians actually go back and analyze this period they'll find that we could have done things to increase our security and protect our nation in a much more cooperative way with the rest of the world. We didn't need to create such chasms and rifts with the Muslim world. When this issue came before the Congress I thought we should do everything diplomatically that we could to contain Saddam Hussein. I thought we should go through the United Nations to keep weapons inspectors in Iraq to determine if there were weapons of mass destruction, without going to war. In my opinion, we rushed to war and I think that will be history's conclusion, too. None of us knows how it's going to turn out. While we all hope for the best, there are very troubling signs right now. That doesn't discount the fact that we are at war right now and we've never turned out a war-time president during an election. That was part of the dynamic. There was a great deal of fear and uncertainty, people didn't know the true facts, and it was very hard to find out the truth because the two sides were so diametrically apart. Even with regard to the weapons of mass destruction, it was clear, way before the election, that Saddam Hussein didn't have any weapons, he wasn't reconstituting them, and that he was weaker than he was before the first Gulf war.
LJN. What about the media's role in this misrepresentation?
TU: I'm a critic, and not just on this issue, of how the media has covered these things we're speaking about. I think the media has become very corporatized: these large media entities are now mixed in with companies that are trying to make money in a variety of other areas. When that happens, when corporations like Kraft Foods own a media operation, you have huge conflicts of interest that come up in your news reporting on a daily basis. They can claim there's a firewall between the corporate entities but I believe the top people in the news know the reality: they're owned by this other company and I think they've trimmed their sails on many of the issues. The current administration has encouraged that. The FCC wants to let consolidation occur, which I've opposed. I believe our strength is in the diversity of our media and we need to do everything we can to prevent it from being monopolized. The best example of monopolization is talk radio. What I would describe as the right wing point of view is overwhelmingly the voice that people hear. Bill Moyers has researched this issue and found that for every 130 hours of right wing talk there's maybe five hours of what you would call the progressive point of view. That's a completely unbalanced situation that's grown up very quickly and it's very troublesome.
LJN: Yet there's a perception that the media is liberal? How do you combat that?
TU: There's extensive documentation out there that that's a tactic the Republicans use to put the media on the defensive. And they've been very successful.
LJN: The main concern of those who define themselves as progressives is that the Democractic Party shouldn't abandon its traditional progressive position and move towards the middle.
TU: I share that concern. I don't think Democrats should abandon the solid, progressive values that we've stood for over time. You can go back and look at American history and the significant programs where large numbers of people have moved forward in society have been the result of these Democratic values. One of these values is creating opportunity for everyone, in jobs, housing, or voting rights, and we've stood by this even when it meant large constituencies would vote against us. I remember Lyndon Johnson saying after he signed the Civil Rights Act that "we're going to lose the south for a generation." He was right. The south now has moved from when my father was in Congress in the fifties and sixties. Then, most southern elected officials were Democrat. Now they're Republican. Getting back to Democratic values, we've tried to provide a safety net for people. Franklin Roosevelt created social security, and now it's under attack. The real crisis is that the president wants to dismantle it. There isn't a crisis in the program itself. The people in power want to privatize it and head it in a completely different direction. I think we shouldn't retreat from these values, we should stand strong, we should get a party chairman who will speak out for these values over the next two years, and I think those of us in elected office need to do the same. We may not win every election, but if we focus on this message I think it will resonate with people far more than this kind of go it alone approach. As Abraham Lincoln said, have government do the things that people can't do for themselves.
After a few months of silence EcoVersity is re-emerging in great spirits, eager to see you all at our campus celebrating life, community and sustainability. This winter we accomplished a lot; restructuring our educational programs, making improvements on our campus, and nestling in to enjoy friendship and mutual excitement about the future of EcoVersity. This spring we will begin working to convert two of our buildings to solar electricity. We also hope to see our 240-foot well retrofitted for solar water pumping. As we become less reliant on the grid, we will also be plant-ing our garden with medicinal herbs, cosmetic & natural dye plants and edible flowers. Our dream of a permaculture forest garden will also begin realization this spring. All of this information - and more - is in our catalog; please come by and pick one up, or look for it in stores and public places. For more information contact EcoVersity at 2639 Agua Fria, 424-9797, www.ecoversity.org.
May 21st - June 3rd - Permaculture Design Certification Course
March 14th - May 16th - Biodynamic Farming and Gardening , Mondays, 6 pm - 8 pm
March 17th - April 28th - Enlivening the Capacities, Thursdays, 7 pm - 9 pm
March 18th & 19th - Becoming Better Stewards of Our Bodies, 6 pm - 9 pm & 10 am - 5 pm
March 19th & 20th - Practical Permaculture & Water on the Land, 9 am - 3 pm
March 26th - Easter Eggs with Natural Dyes , 9 am - 12 noon
March 26th & 27th - Permaculture Intensive, 10 am - 5 pm
March 29th & 30th - Environmental Educator's Outdoor Experience, 10 am - 4 pm
March 29th - April 14th - Pueblo Pottery, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 6 pm - 8:30 pm & Saturdays
April 2nd & 3rd - Introduction to Solar Electricity, 9 am - 5 pm
April 2nd - Introduction to Beekeeping, 10 am - 4 pm
April 2nd - Orchard Planning & Management, 9 am - 4 pm
April 6th - May 25th - The Wild Herbs of Spring, Wednesdays, 6 pm - 8 pm
April 9th - Spring Chicken, 9 am - 4 pm
April 9th - Drought Gardening, 10 am - 4 pm
April 16th & April 30th- Mindful Business from the Ground Up, 10 am - 5 pm
April 16th & 17th - Permaculture Intensive, 10 am - 5 pm
April 24th - Community Drumming, 7 pm
April 30th - Coming Home to Earth, 10 am - 5 pm
By Chellis Glendinning
Reviewed by Kay Matthews
The story of chiva (slang for heroin) addiction has to be told from the bottom up and the top down, and that's just what Chellis Glendinning does in Chiva, A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade. She knows you cannot tell the personal story -the demand - of a heroin addict, in this case Joaquin Cruz, a Chimayoso whose troubled life is all too tragic to those of us who know him, without the political - the supply. The political is both the global story of drug cartels and government complicity as well as the cultural content of community.
As in her previous book, Off the Map, An Expedition Deep into Imperialism, the Global Economy, and Other Earthly Whereabouts, Glendinning weaves these levels of storytelling together from her vantage point as a member of the Chimayó community where she has lived for 13 years (20 in northern New Mexico). In Chiva, however, in keeping with the chilling material, a new, postmodern way of interweaving defines her style: staccato language, juxtaposed settings, vivid descriptions of mixing and injecting chiva.
Glendinning's Chimayó neighborhood sat right in the middle of the notorious heroin trafficking Barelas and Gallegos family compounds - that is, until the 1999 infamous drug bust that shut-down not only their operations but the Daniel Franco, Fat José Martinez, and Dora Martinez houses as well. While it moved the main heroin trafficking out of Chimayó - at least for awhile - it migrated to other parts of the Española Valley, to fill the continued demand.
That, of course, is the story of heroin or any kind of addictive drug: migration of both supply and demand. Throughout the book Glendinning documents the history of heroin production and supply routes from Mexico to Turkey to Southeast Asia to Afghanistan to Columbia and back to Mexico. It is a route that parallels the history of colonialism and empire building, beginning with the British and European colonization that led to control of 85% of the world's landmass by 1914: "Their Golden Triangle became the most popular route to amass capital for an empire in the history of the world - and it all began with opium." In India, "the Queen's forces forced the locals to disband small-scale food and cotton farming to grow the commodity crop." The British East India Company transported balls of opium sap to the shores of China where "they pioneered what became the accepted method for creating consumption: they gave the drug away in the streets and, to service the made-to-order population of addicts, connived with local businessmen to establish special dens for sales and use, what we call shooting galleries."
This scenario was subsequently used as a template in other colonizations and imperial wars: anti-communist efforts in Marseilles by the US government supported Corsican drug lords; the Vietnamization of Southeast Asia supported heroin production that supplied American GIs; the US alliance with Afghanistan's Taliban produced "70 percent of the world's opiates"; and last but not least, Columbian "nation-building", a euphemism for western corporate control, where paramilitary groups and rebels alike are funded by cocaine and heroin. In the most chilling of all these stories Glendinning tells how during the 1970s, while the FBI was engaged in efforts to "wipe out" the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, and La Raza Unida, the CIA was delivering cocaine to black neighborhoods in east LA to pay for the covert war in Nicaragua (this story was broken by reporter Gary Webb, whose journalism career was ruined by a backlash against him, even though everything he reported was later substantiated).
Glendinning brings all of these tragic tales home through the persona of Joaquin Cruz, whom she met at Española's Chamisa Lounge, where many norteños used to go to dance and network. Cruz's family is from northern New Mexico, but he grew up in an abusive household in Los Angeles and by the time he was in his early twenties was a bank robber and heroin addict. His is a complicated story, full of pain (post traumatic stress syndrome, Glendinning believes), music (he plays the guitar), jail time, parole, and politics, as well as a complicated relationship with Glendinning, who, when a fellow Anglo told her, "You should have seen it coming [Glendinning and Cruz split up when he again succumbed to his addiction] responded: "for one glorious year and a half I was given an opportunity to share in the vital presence of a man unfolding into what was for him a new life, a life that celebrated the elegant beauty of the inseparability of suffering from joy."
Many people in the community of Chimayó also want to "celebrate a new life" with family members and friends who are addicted and they look to their past for solutions: to land-based culture and to faith. Glendinning quotes Ben Tafoya, director of Hoy Recovery Program, a longtime substance abuse center in the Española Valley: "When I grew up in Taos everyone was poor, maaaybe a neighbor had a television. 'Poor' in the sense that we didn't have the same material wealth the rest of the world had. In my era a lot of what we dealt with was racism. But for the kids today, they don't experience that so much. It's different. They are in a struggle with the material-wealth world and are forced into constant competition. They find themselves in stress and confusion: do I give up the values of my culture for the world of wealth? At the base of any addiction is a sense of stress and confusion - and not feeling good about yourself."
After the Hermanos (Penitentes) and Linda Pedro, a longtime norteño activist, led the Interfaith Procession to End Violence from Drugs and Alcohol down the state highway through the village neighborhoods to the Santuario de Chimayó, groups like Hoy Recovery and Rio Arriba Family Care Network joined together to begin a healing process rooted in tradition and respect. The interfaith community also came together to "address not only people's spiritual needs, but their temporal needs as well."
Glendinning writes: " . . . manage the symptoms that express the suffering, yes - stop the dealers, administer the Narcan, try with all your heart to work with the addicts - but ultimately, excavate to the original cause of trauma": the loss of land, water, sovereignty, traditional values, cultural memory, language, self-understanding, and self-esteem.
"A radical assault on fixed hierarchies of value merged effortlessly with that revolutionary levelling of all values known as the marketplace. . . . Those left-wing theorists who had dreamed of a classless social order had only to open their eyes to see that it had already arrived and was known as the shopping mall."
By David Correia
Editor's Note: In the last issue of La Jicarita News we interviewed El Rito District Ranger Diana Trujillo, who is charged with revitalizing the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit. The following article by David Correia addresses the early history of the Unit and is taken from his PhD dissertation. Correia encourages anyone interested in the history and management of the Unit to get in touch with him in El Rito: his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 581-0012. We think it's an important part of the story of community forestry in northern New Mexico.
In 1948, the Forest Service established the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit (VFSYU) on the El Rito Ranger District. The entire 73,000 acre unit is comprised of large portions of two land grants, the Petaca and Town of Vallecitos de Lovato. Neither grant was fairly adjudicated as required by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo - all of the upland commons was lost, eventually to be controlled and managed by the United States Forest Service. When the forest rangers in New Mexico planned for the Sustained Yield Unit, they premised the need on their claim that locals "[had] caused surrounding national forest ranges to become depleted of vegetative cover to such an extent that a reduction in permitted grazing use is necessary." The District feared that restricting grazing permits would anger local sheep and cattle ranchers. They proposed to make up for more restrictions by increasing timber-related jobs through the creation of this special sustained yield timber production unit. By stripping people of their subsistence base, and imposing a wage labor economy, the Forest Service radically restructured life in the villages of Vallecitos, Cañon Plaza, La Madera and La Petaca.
Throughout this process, challenges to the ecological legitimacy of the local agropastoral economy served to justify economic restructuring. As the early history of the VFSYU reveals, sustained yield hasn't benefited the people and forests of northern New Mexico, but instead forced locals into a dependent relationship with outside, profit-taking timber companies. Resources, both human and natural, were managed to meet the economic demands of outside commercial timber operators. Although the Unit is still active, it has yet to achieve any of its goals of community stability or sustained timber yield. The Forest Service is currently evaluating the future of the VFSYU. This case study offers a view of the early history of the Unit in the hopes that the mistakes of the past can be avoided in the design of a sustained yield capable of benefiting the economy and ecology of Rio Arriba.
On a December night in 1947, Carson Forest rangers pitched their plan to locals at a public meeting held in Vallecitos. They explained their plan to produce jobs for local people by restricting their livestock permits and attracting outside timber companies. They claimed grasslands were overgrazed, and their plan would heal the land and improve the economy. Yet their claims of overgrazing appear curious. At the time of the public meeting, 141 permittees averaged only seven head of cattle on over a quarter of a million acres.
One resident at the meeting refused to allow the Forest Service to make these claims unchallenged. Drawing enthusiastic applause from his neighbors, a local rancher bitterly condemned the Forest Service for constantly restricting access to their land grants. Instead of admitting that the Unit was in fact a direct result of the planned grazing restrictions, the Forest Supervisor in attendance lied to locals by claiming "this was a question aside from the purpose of the meeting." Local residents feared that access to the forest was being further restricted. They had reason to worry.
In establishing the Unit, foresters set the annual yield at 1.5 million board feet (mmbf). On March 17, 1948, the Vallecitos Lumber Company requested the designation of Approved Responsible Operator, a category that allowed them non-competitive access to timber sales. In return for this advantage, the operator was required to send at least 40% of all timber to the local mill, and maintain a workforce no less than 90% local labor. The Vallecitos Lumber Company, however, only agreed "to employ, in other than supervisory position, at least 90% local labor." Two weeks later, the Forest Service issued a special clause appended to VFSYU sale agreements wholly adopting this language. This policy change was a significant one for the future of the Unit in Vallecitos. Vallecitos Lumber Company never hired a single local resident. The president of the Vallecitos Lumber Company disappeared before ever entering into a sale agreement with the Forest Service. Until the arrival of the Jackson Lumber Company in 1952, the unit was idle; grazing restrictions, however, remained in place.
In 1952, the District responded to requests from Jackson Lumber and more than doubled the annual sustained yield from 1.5 to 3.5 mmbf. Within two months of Jackson's tenure, complaints regarding hiring practices surfaced. Jackson repeatedly asked for exemptions from the 90% labor standards, once arguing that "competent men are not available locally". And the Forest Service frequently allowed exemptions to labor standards, arguing that it just "took time to get the local people accustomed to the regular routine of going to work at an industrial plant every working day." Frequently Jackson requested exemptions for positions they described, rather illogically, as "untrainable specialists", while the employment office in Española held applications by local, experienced workers for just these positions. By 1955, even the District Ranger began to believe Jackson "rigged" the labor lists.
In 1955, woods and mill workers formed the Lumber & Sawmill Workers Local Union and went out on strike. Rather than bargain in good faith with the union, however, the company continued to circumvent labor requirements by "mixing" timber purchased outside the unit with local timber, a practice they believed allowed them to employ non-local men. In 1957, the District Forester admitted: "timber inspectors from the Washington Office have expressed some amasement (sic) when they learned our purchaser was permitted to bid competitively outside the Unit and haul the timber into said unit."
Against charges of improper firings, Jackson claimed workers were "habitual drinkers." Further, Jackson attempted to deflect attention on their record by challenging the authority of local labor leaders. Jackson never met the 90% local hiring rule. As the lumber company lawyer complained in defense of their illegal actions, "if we are now told that even though the individuals are available, and that we have to go to them, and have to employ them on their terms, then we are being told that we have to enter into a contract with the union specifying wage rates and hours of work that the union dictates; in other words, we have no free choice, and the men themselves have no free choice."
The primary issue in the strike was the use of outside labor and discrepancies in wage scales. The company offered the union a five cent raise on top of the basic wage of $1.05 an hour, but the offer came only if workers quit the union. Meanwhile Jackson paid $1.50 an hour to non-union labor, absurdly arguing that the use of outside labor actually benefited local people: "now these lumber stackers cruised timber we were getting from private lands and roughly at $1.00 a thousand they made about twice as much wage per day as the [local] lumber stackers working by the hour, so after that the lumber stackers that had refused to stack by the thousand then went on the thousand rate and they jumped their wages from $8.40 a day to where they were making $12.00 and $15.00 a day, and Jackson's lumber that had formerly cost him $1.50 a thousand to stack was getting stacked for a $1.00 a thousand, so both the local people and the company benefited from the importation of the lumber stackers." The union's lawyer was not convinced by this rhetoric: "Mr. Jackson is one of very few people in this country who is fortunate to have a sustained yield unit contract, and he is enjoying privileges under that contract that no private operator enjoys and here he is bringing in this foreign labor from Texas to work in New Mexico in his mill to save 50 cents on the thousand in piling lumber. I think that's very absurd."
Local opposition to Jackson Lumber culminated in 1957, when Jackson's mill in Vallecitos burned down under suspicious circumstances and the company asked the Forest Service to end its designation as Approved Responsible Operator.
The Unit was without an operator for 15 years. Despite the lack of jobs, rangers continued to reduce livestock permits on the Unit and even considered decommissioning it. In a 1967 Forest Service plan for the abandonment of the Unit, local rangers prepared a confidential strategy to produce local support for closing it. In the plan they recognized their precarious position: "It is expected that the Federal Alliance of Land Grants (Alianza Federal de las Mercedes) will see this as an opportunity to move in and try to stir up support for their program. We will attempt to keep the proposal for abandonment of the sustained yield unit separate from the grazing problem which is now under consideration. However, from past experience, it has been shown that the local people will be inclined to associate the two."
The impetus to shut down the Unit, however, likely came from an offer by Albuquerque-based logging company Duke City Lumber to hire local people: "Assuming that we could successfully terminate the VFSYU, we would be very agreeable to making a long term logging contract with local people from Vallecitos [or] Cañon Plaza."
But plans for the abandonment of the Unit stalled when, on June 5, 1967, armed members of La Alianza raided the Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. Following the raid, a memo from Regional Forester William Hurst put an end to plans for shutting down the unit: "if we propose the elimination, many people will automatically be against it It will also appear that we are taking something more away from the 'poor people of Rio Arriba County'." Yet, despite rhetoric to help locals, requests to establish a local, cooperative timber outfit were denied by the USFS. And by 1972, the Forest Service had all but forgotten their promises and designated Duke City Lumber, a subsidiary of a transnational conglomerate, the approved operator.
Duke City made it a practice to violate labor agreements and contractual obligations, usually hiring less than 50% local labor. The local foresters ignored legitimate complaints by workers and "explained to the people the mutual responsibility in the operation of the mill and woods job. The people have a responsibility to come to work on time and on a regular basis." A local labor leader argued worker absence was not a result of laziness: "local people left the woods because of late payment, and in some cases non-payment of wages." Duke City argued that absences and poor work performance attributed to the low percentages. Residents, however, claimed that local men were made to look bad as a means to avoid hiring them. Duke City's subcontractors gave out faulty equipment and then fired local workers when they couldn't maintain production quotas. Throughout its tenure, Duke City never met local labor standards and frequently demanded a larger allowable annual cut. In 1980 the annual cut was increased from 4 to 4.2 mmbf. In 1985, a Carson National Forest draft plan proposed increasing the cut to 8.0 mmbf. The furor that erupted over the plan, led by local loggers and residents who argued that the plan exceeded the sustained yield of the area and represented a gift to a company that had made it a practice to routinely violate labor standards, resulted in a negotiated process that reduced the proposed annual cut offered to Duke City to 5.5 mmbf, and set aside an additional 1.0 mmbf of timber and 1.1 mmbf of small forest products for locally-owned operators. Unfortunately, the successes of the local operators were limited by constant conflict with Duke City Lumber, the Forest Service, and environmental organizations. Despite the eventual departure by Duke City Lumber, and successful lawsuits that forced the Forest Service to offer timber to local loggers, appeals and lawsuits by environmental organizations of planned timber sales bankrupted two locally-owned operations and have all but shut down the Unit.
From the very beginning of the VFSYU locals recognized that it didn't represent an opportunity but another in a series of attempts to "put a yoke" around their necks. By 1948, when the Unit began, the theft of the land grants had already cut locals off from forest resources; the Unit further curtailed access to the former commons. The VFSYU did not benefit locals. Local rangers merely guaranteed timber and an available workforce to industrial timber operators under the illusion that this radical restructuring of the local economy would produce benefits that would somehow trickle down to local people. Far from benefiting the people and lands of northern New Mexico, the early history of the VFSYU shows that the forests were managed in response to the economic demands of outside commercial timber operators.
As editors of a newspaper that addresses issues of social and environmental justice we are very disturbed by the treatment Ward Churchill, University of Colorado professor and longtime Co-director of the Colorado Chapter of the American Indian Movement, has received from the press and portions of the supposedly "progressive" community.
The University of Colorado is considering revoking Professor Churchill's tenure because of an article he wrote three years ago analyzing why some members of the Arab world believe that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were legitimate military targets. Churchill based his critique on widely respected scholar Hannah Arendt's analysis of the 1960 trial of Nazi SS officer Adolf Eichmann for war crimes, in which she stated that technocrats like Eichmann who didn't physically participate in the the extermination of Jews and other minorities still bore responsibility for those crimes because they helped make them possible. In his article Churchill pointed out that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks viewed the Pentagon as the military center and the World Trade Center as the financial center of United States imperialism, which is responsible for war crimes against the Arab world: arming Israel to occupy Palestine and imposing sanctions on Iraq that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children and other civilians. Therefore the "technocrats" who facilitate these agendas bear responsibility for their outcomes. In a January 31 press release Churchill stated: "I mourn the victims of the September 11 attacks, just as I mourn the deaths of those Iraqi children, the more than 3 million people killed in the war in Indochina, those who died in the U.S. invasions of Grenada, Panama and elsewhere in central America, the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, and the indigenous peoples still subjected to genocidal policies. If we respond with callous disregard to the deaths of others, we can only expect equal callousness to American deaths."
Other western intellectuals, including Susan Sontag, made similar analyses after 9/11 without significant backlash. Why then, three years later, is Churchill being viciously attacked? Unfortunately, the attacks seem to have little to do with his critique and much more to do with political agendas. The university's failure to defend Churchill reflects the current administration's desire to limit intellectual freedom. The state stands ready to use the controversy as an excuse do away with tenure altogether. Members of the Native American and academic communities who choose to question Churchill's "Indianess", after he has represented that community for twenty-five years, are complicit in attempts to distract the public from addressing the vital issues he raises. And the corporate media, of course, is the mouthpiece for an administration that calls anyone who questions U.S. foreign policy "unpatriotic." It is not unpatriotic to investigate why there is backlash against the course this country pursues, both abroad and at home: it is our duty as citizens of the world to make that critique, as Ward Churchill has courageously done
Copyright 1996-2002 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.