Students and faculty members at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., have been protesting a speaking appearance on Feb. 3 by Ward L. Churchill, chairman of the CU Ethnic Studies Department....The first thing I thought of was yesterday's post regarding intellectual honesty and ideological freedom. Are Churchill's ideas beyond consideration?
They are upset over an essay Churchill wrote....
Churchill's essay argues that the Sept. 11 attacks were in retaliation for the Iraqi children killed in a 1991 U.S. bombing raid and by economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the Persian Gulf War.....
The essay contends the hijackers who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 were "combat teams," not terrorists.
Let me begin by stating the obvious: the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks are just that--victims of a brutal and disgusting crime. And innocent victims at that--just as innocent as the Iraqi children Churchill mourns. Furthermore, we should seek out the hideous people responsible for this act--and kill them.
However, is it such a bad thing to also ask the question: why did they do it? Mind you, not to justify the act--it is categorically unjustifiable--but to understand it, and maybe prevent it from happening again. I have been unable to swallow the notion that the terrorists are simply murderous psychopaths akin to the Charles Mansons and Ted Bundys of the world. I can't help but think there is some underlying cause or "method to their madness." Again, not a justification, but an explanation. And if we could discern the reason, maybe we could ameliorate the situation. Not appease the terrorists--they should be killed--but change the underlying issues that beget terrorists.
Just as one avenue to fighting crime is eliminating poverty, there are undoubtedly other ways of combating terrorism that should also be explored. And maybe fostering democracy is one. However, there are plenty of non-democratic regimes in the world who aren't out to kill us--what makes the Middle East different?
Terrorism, like any kind of crime, is never going to be completely eliminated. Our hope is that, like crime, we can get it "under control" and continue to live in an open and free society. But to reach that point, I believe we need to get beyond the outrage and hurt, and face these questions with honesty and courage.