Food for Thought in the Widening Battle Centered on Professor Ward Churchill

Who Vets Who, And for What Purpose

by Chace Sueños

Revolutionary Worker #1272, March 27, 2005, posted at

"vet: to examine, investigate, or evaluate in a thorough or expert way."

Max Boot, author, editor, columnist, lecturer, and Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, briefly shifted his attention recently from affairs military and international to turn his guns on embattled University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill, and the bigger target of university tenure. Boot is one of those up and coming young turks, one of the right wing's "best and brightest"— named by the World Affairs Councils of America one of "the 500 most influential people in the United States in the field of foreign policy." He's lectured at the Army and Navy War Colleges, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School, and the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He's written a book on the Marine Corps, and is now writing on the history of "revolutions" in military affairs over the past 500 years. In his March 17 Los Angeles Times column, "When Tenure Jumps the Track," Boot chronicles the "gobsmacking litany of accusations leveled against [Professor Ward] Churchill. He has been accused of plagiarism, of falsely claiming Indian ancestry and a Vietnam War combat record, of threatening faculty members and punishing students who disagreed with him, of fabricating historical evidence and of getting tenure under suspicious circumstances (he lacks a PhD).If even a tenth of the allegations are true ," says Boot, "Churchill deserves to be thrown out on his ear—not for his pro-terrorist remarks but for all his other transgressions ." (emphasis added)

Of course it remains to be seen whether any of these accusations will stand the light of day, since they have overwhelmingly been hurled by the very forces who want to destroy Ward Churchill and make an example out of him for tenured faculty anywhere who might think of radically critiquing U.S. history or policy in the future. What a clever method, to heave all manor of slander on someone and then to say that if only a fraction of it sticks, that's plenty. But let's pose the question back to Mr. Boot and his powerful friends: what do they think would be the result if they applied their own standards to the real proven liars in the land—President Bush and his crew? And why don't they do that? As we write, the UC regents are "vetting" Professor Churchill, examining his entire body of work and scholarship to see whether there are any faulty footnotes or other technical errors that can be pounced on to justify firing him "for cause." Well, why doesn't Mr. Boot apply his "10% rule" to the President of the United States, his vice President, his former and current Secretaries of State, the Secretary of Defense, and their "body of work"0? What does Mr. Boot think would be the result if he applied his high scholarly standards, which he insists be applied to Professor Churchill, to "vet" the President and his pack of cronies?

Does Mr. Boot think he might find more than an errant footnote, or misquote among this crew? Let's give him some help—how about George Bush's lie, repeated over and over, that there was overwhelming evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that were the justification for the invasion? How about Condoleezza Rice's invocation of a dreaded "mushroom cloud" being the "smoking gun" to terrorize people into thinking Iraq had nuclear weapons and were about to give them to terrorists? Or what about Cheney's constant, repeated claims of (non-existent) evidence of a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden as justification for linking the invasion of Iraq to the so-called "war on terror"? How about the notorious presentation that Colin Powell gave before the entire world in September 2002, where he presented lie after lie, in meticulous detail, about evidence of weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's supposed developing rocket delivery systems? How about Rumsfeld's proven lies of having no responsibility for the policies that have led to torture and death in prisons from Afghanistan to Iraq? How about their administration's systematic altering of scientific findings and reports from their own government agencies, that have endangered the health of millions and millions of people to fit their political and ideological agenda, including satisfying the growing demands of their Christian fascist social base?

Where was Mr. Boot when all of these lies were being carried out by the most powerful people on the planet, and used to cause great harm to present and future generations? Why didn't he apply the same standards in "vetting" this regime in power that he insists be so scrupulously adhered to with respect to Ward Churchill? And if he had, how could any rational person not conclude, just as he has already concluded with respect to Professor Churchill, that Bush and his crew "deserve to be thrown out on their ears"?

Hence the question: Who gets to decide who gets evaluated, investigated, and examined—and who doesn't? Why is it that huge lies by those in power that justify untold carnage in the interests of greater empire are routinely allowed to be declared reality and never challenged by the likes of Mr. Boot? While those who dare to criticize, on the basis of reason and rationality, the history and whole direction the country is taking, are being threatened and investigated by those in power and those who do their bidding? And why is the whole university system, which continues to be a place where people who know the truth about U.S. society dare to speak up and tell their students about it and publish books about it, now coming under the most concentrated, systematic assault by rabid right-wing attack dogs, and by government officials on every level?

Who gets to vet who? And for what purpose? A little food for thought.