Editor’s note: The following commentary is excerpted from Jack Cashill’s eye-opening new book, “Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture,” where he shows how, over the last century, “progressive” writers and producers have been using falsehood and fraud as their primary weapons in their attack on America.
In December 1997, representatives from France and eight other countries – as well as a few local street gangs – were among the 1,200 enlightened souls who attended the “The People’s International Tribunal for Justice” for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal in his native Philadelphia. After a spirited performance by Swarthmore’s “Mumia Abu-Jamal Singers,” the attendees got down to business. They had less interest in debating Mumia’s guilt or innocence – that was a foregone conclusion – than in indicting the system that imprisoned him.
Of those present, none served up a more forceful indictment than a “Keetowah Cherokee” writer by the name of Ward Churchill. The University of Colorado professor was not at all shy in his accusations. He boldly charged that the U.S. government targeted “key agitators” like Mumia based not on their guilt or innocence, but on their ability “to communicate ideas.” Although little known outside of radical circles, Churchill showed a feel for the stage that would one day make him even more of a household word than Mumia.
Churchill’s day in the sun came with the widespread distribution of an essay written on Sept. 12, 2001, titled “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” Churchill’s essay hailed the “gallant sacrifices” of the 9-11 terrorists and mocked the deaths of the victims. “If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers,” wrote Churchill from his own tenured sanctuary in Colorado, “I’d really be interested in hearing about it.”
Churchill derived his moral power by pretending to be something he wasn’t, an American Indian. He identifies himself on the infamous “Some People Push Back” essay as a “Keetoowah Band Cherokee” and “one of the most outspoken of Native American activists.” In his book, “A Little Matter of Genocide,” Churchill describes himself as “an American Indian, as a 25-year member of the American Indian movement.” Perhaps more telling is the promotion of his book, “From A Native Son.” The cover is all Churchill: large sunglasses, long dark hair parted in the middle, shaded face, and slouching insouciance. He is the “native son.”
His long hair and sunglasses, however, did not impress his fellow Indians. “The American Indian Movement doesn’t need whitemen [sic] wannabes claiming to be Indians, claiming to be AIM directors running around representing the movement” said AIM leader Vern Bellecourt in 1994, asking prophetically, “Who is Ward Churchill?”
The Rocky Mountain News did a little fact checking on Churchill and discovered that he was at most 1/64 Indian, and probably not even that. Not surprisingly, Churchill’s scholarship is as dubious as his identity. One area where he has had considerable influence is on the subject of genocide. The primary thesis of his book, “A Little Matter of Genocide,” is that “we” native Americans are “one of the most victimized groups in the history of humanity” and that the “settler population” has and continues to shoot, stab, beat, burn alive, scalp and “deliberately” infect Indians with infectious diseases “when deemed expedient.”
If, in academic circles, it is taboo to blame homosexuals for spreading AIDS, it is entirely acceptable to blame Europeans for spreading disease. To make a case for “genocide,” scholars like Churchill are at pains to present the infection of American Indians as purposeful. Given the crude state of medical knowledge five centuries ago, this is not an easy case to make.
If one dispenses with facts, however, the going is a good deal easier. In “A Little Matter” Churchill asserts that the deliberate infection of the native population in North America may have begun with Captain John Smith and continued in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but he cannot provide anything resembling evidence for either claim. He takes particular glee, however, in being able to lay a specific charge of willful biological infection against the U.S. Army.
Churchill claims that in June 1837, the U.S. Army took blankets from a smallpox-infested infirmary in St. Louis, sent them up the Missouri on a steamboat, and gave them to the Mandan Indians gathered at Fort Clark in present-day North Dakota. Churchill first proposed this tale in 1992 as part of a legal brief justifying his disruption of a Columbus Day parade in Denver.
“Although the medical practice of the day required the precise opposite procedure,” reads the brief, “Army doctors ordered the Mandans to disperse once they exhibited symptoms of infection. The result was a pandemic among the Plains Indian nations which claimed at least 125,000 lives, and may have reached a toll several times that number.”
In his original drafts, the only source Churchill cites is Russell Thornton, author of “American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492.” In Thornton’s version, there is no mention of soldiers or blankets or a St. Louis infirmary or even a hint of intentional infection. Thornton also claims no more than 30,000 deaths.
The fatal steamboat stop in Thornton’s version is not at the fort, but at the Mandan village. “Some aboard the steamer had smallpox when the boat docked,” writes Thornton. “It soon was spread to the Mandan, perhaps by deckhands who unloaded merchandise, perhaps by chiefs who went aboard a few days later, or perhaps by women and children who went aboard at the same time.”
“If Churchill has sources that say otherwise, I’d like to see them,” Thornton told the Los Angeles Times. “But right now I’m his source for this, and it’s wrong.” In fact, the epidemic horrified the white traders who worked through Fort Clark, and their letters communicated the same. Many of them lost their Indian wives and children as well as the trading partners upon whom they depended for a living. Some contracted the disease themselves. Other than pure evil, Churchill can suggest no motive for the elimination of an economically useful population many hundreds of miles away from white settlements.
Students are propagandized to believe that “pure evil” is an acceptable answer. Given this indoctrination, professors and students are all but alone among their fellow citizens in willingly ceding the moral high ground to countries like Saddam’s Iraq.
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