Churchill: 9/11 "wasn't senseless"

The Associated Press

Special to the Post / Andy Manis
Wendy Sveom, right, joins others in a candlelight vigil at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater to protest Tuesday’s appearance by University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. The signs they are holding read: “In Memory of the 9/11 Victims.”

Whitewater, Wis. - A University of Colorado professor Tuesday night defended his essay that compared people who died in the World Trade Center to Nazis, saying he wrote it from his gut the afternoon of 9/11 in an attempt to explain what motivated the attackers.

But he insisted the United States has only its own international polices to blame for the attacks.

Ward Churchill said he was spurred to write the essay after TV networks "spun" the attacks as senseless and government officials labeled the attackers as evil freedom-haters.

Nowhere in his essay did he advocate the attacks or say they were justified, he said.

"You point to the phenomenon and you try to understand it," he told a crowd of about 300 people at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. "It wasn't senseless."

He then launched into a litany of U.S. policies that may have figured in al-Qaeda's motives, including sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s that Churchill said left more than 500,000 Iraqi children dead, and the killings of Palestinian children for throwing stones at Israelis.

"Somebody might be upset at that," Churchill said.

He focused his speech largely on his essay, saying the United States has bent international law so often to serve its own purposes that attacks such as 9/11 are inevitable.

He said America has sanctioned torture and invaded two countries, generating massive collateral damage.

"You're going to generate a response that what you put out you'll get back. The term is blowback," he said.

During the question-and-answer period, he said the United States had become a fascist nation, though not as blatantly as Nazi Germany, and urged Wisconsinites to recognize American Indian tribes as members of sovereign nations with rights equal to their own.

He insisted he was one-sixteenth Cherokee, adding, "Who the hell's business is it who my grandmother was?" He challenged people of European descent to defend their genealogy.

He wrapped up by criticizing white journalists, telling them to leave him alone and start addressing problems in their own profession. Terrorist attacks against Americans will continue, he said, until the media teaches people that, "Those brown babies ... count just as much as those white babies over here."

The crowd gave him a standing ovation.