Blogs > Cliopatria > Hamilton College Controversy Over an Invited Speaker Who Compared America's Policy in Iraq to Policies Pursued by the Nazis

Nov 16, 2006 1:56 am

Hamilton College Controversy Over an Invited Speaker Who Compared America's Policy in Iraq to Policies Pursued by the Nazis

Hamilton College ... is embroiled in a controversy. An invited speaker - Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder - has compared American policy in Iraq to that of Nazi Germany. He also referred to Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Nazis' plan to exterminate the Jews, when he called the trade center victims "little Eichmanns."

For Nancy Rabinowitz, the Hamilton professor who invited Professor Churchill, the larger issue has become one of free speech

For the college president, Joan Hinde Stewart, another issue has become the national reputation of Hamilton and the future of its $175 million capital campaign, which The Wall Street Journal in a recent editorial urged people to boycott.

For Professor Churchill, the issue has become his career. He has spoken for years in relative obscurity. Now, he said, the Board of Regents in Colorado plans to meet on Thursday, the day of his appearance at Hamilton, to discuss disciplinary action.

All of this began last summer, when Professor Rabinowitz - who teaches comparative literature and directs Hamilton's Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society and Culture - asked Professor Churchill to talk about American Indian activism, his area of expertise. He accepted and agreed to a speaking fee of $3,500.

The Kirkland Project also invited the writer Dorothy Allison, the Appalachian fiddler Dirk Powell and others as part of the theme, "The Intersections of Class, Race, Gender, Sexuality and Nationality."

Later, Professor Rabinowitz began receiving e-mail messages from colleagues who had learned that Professor Churchill had written in a published essay that those killed in the trade center had ignored their role in American foreign policy. "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....

... Professor Churchill said in an interview, "My reaction is astonishment [at the controversy over his comments]. This is a three-year-old piece that has been spun mercilessly and distorted. The comparison was of technocrats. Eichmann is someone who, after all, killed no one. He made the trains run on time."

"Of course I have sympathy for the World Trade Center victims," he added, "the same sympathy I have for victims who are Iraqi and Palestinians."...

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