Wednesday, March 30, 2005


The goose and the gander want to break some eggs

Last Friday the Washington Post interviewed Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The previous day Colorado University's Chancellor Phil DeSteffano released the preliminary report, authored by him and two deans, of their investigation into Ward Churchill, the Ethnic Studies professor who has put academic freedom to the test by writing an article in which he used "the term 'little Eichmanns' in the 9/11 Essay to refer to the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks."

Since Churchill's "Eichmann" statement is clearly protected by the First Amendment, CU has had to look elsewhere for a line of attack. The Chancellor's committee therefore considered whether other of Professor Churchill's writings and speeches exceeded "the boundaries of a public employee's constitutionally protected speech" and looked at portions of four statements. Here are two of them [emphasis added]—

  • In an interview published in the April 2004 edition of Satya magazine, Professor Churchill spoke of the elimination of the United States government:
  • If I defined the state as being the problem, just what happens to the state. I've never fashioned myself to be a revolutionary, but it's part and parcel of what I'm talking about. You can create through consciousness a situation of flux, perhaps, in which something better can replace it. In instability there's potential. That's about as far as I go with revolutionary consciousness. I'm actually de-evolutionary. I don't want other people in charge of the apparatus of the state as the outcome of a socially transformative process that replicates oppression. I want the state gone: transform the situation to U.S out of North America. U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether.

  • In an essay written in 2001, Professor Churchill stated: "Those committed to achieving fundamental change rather than cosmetic tweakings of the existing system are thus left with no viable alternative but to include the realities of state violence as an integral part of our political calculus."

The Chancellor's report found that—

While some of his [Churchill's] statements advocate violence as a means to a political end in an abstract way, they do not rise to the level of inciting imminent and concrete violence as that line has been drawn by the United States Supreme Court. Therefore, the nature and content of Professor Churchill's speech does not exceed the boundaries of a public employee's protected speech.

Condoleeza Rice has been thinking about "the state" along lines in some ways similar (and in other ways not so similar) to Ward Churchill's—

Q: Is there any country in the region in which you worry about things progressing too rapidly, or what could happen if the lid came off too fast?

SECRETARY RICE: I really believe that once these things are in motion it is not possible to try and almost thermostat-like dial them up and back. They take on a life of their own.

Q: So you're not concerned about a rapid rise of Islamic fundamentatalism in many of these countries, particularly Saudi Arabia or even as Iraq that started out?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh sure. Nobody wants to see the rise of greater fundamentalism or greater – let me use extremism. But it is really as opposed to what at this point? It isn't as if the status quo was stable the way that it was. What we really learned on September 11 as you really started to look underneath what was going on there, is that the Middle East is a place that's badly in need of change, ... but when you recognize that you can say, all right well now I'll try and design the perfect counter to that. Or you can say, the United States is not going to be able to design the perfect counter to that; the only thing the United States can do is to speak out for the values that have been absent, liberty and freedom there, and it will have to take its own course.

And then you have to have some confidence that democratic institutions and people's desire not to live in violence and not to be kind of constantly sending their children off to be suicide bombers, is going to have a moderating effect on the region.

Can we be certain of that? No. But do I think there's a strong certainty that the Middle East was not going to stay stable anyway? Yes. And when you know that the status quo is no longer defensible, then you have to be willing to move in another direction.

I also think there's some argument to be made that America's association with the freedom deficit was a problem for the United States in the region.... And, of course, they were right because this was the decision that stability trumped everything, and what we were getting was neither stability nor democracy.

As reported by Jonathan Wright of Reuters, Condi's radicalism has upset more than a few—

"This a very dangerous scheme. Anarchy will be out of control," said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University and an advocate of gradual change.

A liberal Arab diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: "They seem to be supporting chaos and instability as a pretext for bringing democracy. But people would rather live under undemocratic rule than in the chaotic atmosphere of Iraq, for example, which the Americans tout as a model."

Mohamed el-Sayed Said, a liberal who has challenged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to his face over authoritarian government, said Arab societies were too fragile for the kind of rapid and unchecked change that Rice appears to welcome.

Apart from the danger of extremists coming to power, the Arab world would face the threat that societies and states could collapse completely, he told Reuters.

Wright explains how essential this view is to the U.S.' policy in the Middle East—

The Bush administration has argued that political violence and hostility to the United States in the Middle East are the result of internal repression, rather than of U.S. policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the main Arab grievance.

That argument is at the core of President Bush's campaign for domestic political change in Arab countries, which has had a mixed reception even among Arab liberals.

But where could Condi be getting such ideas?

Helena Cobban, a writer on Middle East affairs based in the United States, said: "She (Rice) reveals a totally cavalier attitude to the whole non-trivial concept of social-political stability in Middle Eastern countries."

"So it looks as though Arc of Instability may now actually be the goal of U.S. policy, rather than its diagnosis of an existing problem," she added.

Mohamed el-Sayed Said said Rice's approach appeared to have links with a trend in right-wing Israeli thinking that favors destabilising Arab governments and societies.

"We see an emphasis on destruction and we see that Israel is willing to push Arab societies to the abyss without caring for stability. We suspect these ideas came from Israel," he added.

Perhaps we should refer Dr. Rice's statements to a committee.

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