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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Outspoken prof critical of U.S.

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

A crowd of about 800 heard controversial Colorado professor Ward Churchill indict the United States last night for what he called a century of wars and humanitarian abuses around the globe, applauding repeatedly as he challenged his critics and explained what he meant by comparing victims of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center to a Nazi war criminal.

Colorado professor Ward Churchill has set off a furor by calling victims of the World Trade Center terror attack "little Eichmanns."

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It was dynamic," said Christopher Arsenault, a nurse from the Leeward coast who'd come to hear Churchill because of the controversy. "Nobody was going to tell me who I was going to listen to or not. This was an issue of freedom of speech and that's what was important."

"I think he's right," said retired social worker and veteran James Tanabe. "We have not gone back into history to see how we have affected the rest of the world. We made enemies. Buddhism teaches that the cycle of revenge must be cut off somewhere."

As 400 people crowded into the Art Auditorium at the University of Hawai'i and another 400 jostled outside to hear an audio feed of his remarks and to buy his books, Churchill laid out a litany of international abuses by the United States and said the investment bankers and other "technocrats" of our society were akin to master Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann, who made trains run on time, knowing they carried victims to gas chambers.

"I did not justify the events of 9/11," he said. "I did not advocate the events. One doesn't advocate for a volcano. One points to it and tries to make sense of it."

Churchill, who has raised ire for calling 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns" and been vilified by such opponents as conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly, said he was trying to understand why "the chickens came home to roost" with the terrorist attack.

"The malignancy of Eichmann is that anyone could be a Nazi, could do the same thing. That's the truly horrifying aspect of it. If you embrace the system, you are not innocent. You may not be singularly responsible, but you are not innocent."

Before Churchill spoke, a protest by campus student Republicans bearing signs such as "Stand With the Victims, Not the Terrorists" and "The 9/11 Victims Were Heroes," was capped by a news conference by Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai), who denounced what he called a "hate speech."

As students, community members, faculty and others waited to get into the auditorium, Rujunko Pugh, 34, who recently earned a master's degree in molecular bioscience and bioengineering, said she was "very proud to be a student at the University of Hawai'i right now."

"What Churchill says is very provocative and aggressive," Pugh said. "It's the type of language that needs to be used to get the attention of the average person, because opinions like this wouldn't be heard."

But Reid Hoshide, a 21-year-old UH senior in chemistry, said, "He's not an American citizen if he's going to talk about his country like that."

UH assistant professor of American studies Robert Perkinson, one of the organizers, said he was expecting "shouting, maybe some insulting and certainly vigorous argument ... but all that is par for the course when you're dealing with provocative ideas."

While Churchill attacked those who have made issues of questioning the validity of his Native American bloodlines and academic credentials, Perkinson said organizers have no position on those points.

Also yesterday, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to condemn Churchill's "little Eichmanns" remark and urged the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to cancel his speech scheduled for next week. But university officials said the speech is still on.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.