One Little, Two Little, Three Little Eichmanns

No, this is not a rehash of the Ward Churchill/Little Eichmann witch-hunt. But I have been contemplating the sentiment behind Churchill’s original essay. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt wrote, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.” She wrote of a “new type of criminal,” who “commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.” Raise your hand if this sounds frighteningly familiar. The time is long overdue for all of us to be actively and relentlessly reminding the criminals that they are criminals. Until we do, they have the freedom to live in denial.

I sent the above paragraph to Rosemarie Jackowski to start a conversation.

Rosemarie Jackowski: All over the United States people are working at jobs that result in the deaths of innocent people. There are military contracts and sub-contracts in small towns and villages, big cities, etc. Any job that supports the war machine is a real problem. I understand why people take jobs like that, but it would be a much better world if everyone just made the decision to do no harm.

Mickey Z.: You know what that line will provoke… the inevitable “so what can we do?” question.

RMJ: I am not sure what we can do. Sometimes I feel that it is hopeless. A big part of the problem is “the system.” Ever since the Black Budget was created by Congress in the 40s, we have had a secret government operating. Individual citizens can try to do as little harm as possible. As I say often, even buying a pair of socks does some harm because it supports the war economy. Think of it as a moral continuum. The shopper who buys the socks is doing a slight harm. The voter who votes for a member of Congress who votes to finance the war, well that voter might be closer to the maximum on the scale of evil. The military sharpshooter who kills a civilian and the guard who tortures a prisoner are enabled by irresponsible, uninformed voters. Are we becoming a culture that is totally devoid of compassion and empathy?

MZ: Becoming? Our culture views compassion and empathy as nothing more than masks, disguises to hide the harm we’re all guilty of.

RMJ: Yes, it would be a big help if the average US citizen had an accurate understanding of history. Teachers could play an important role. Too many teach that the pursuit of war is an honorable career option. All students should see the Fisk War photos before they graduate from high school. The sanitized view of history that is taught leads to a culture of entitlement — “it is our oil under their sand.” The perfect formula for creating a killer is to teach him that the US never does anything wrong, expose him to a lot of violence in the media, video games, etc., and then apply peer pressure. After that, it only takes a few weeks of basic training.

MZ: So we agree: Little Eichmanns do exist. But I’ll bet if Ward Churchill had used a different term, he would have remained as obscure as ever. The way I usually phrase it in articles or talks is that with few exceptions, there are no innocent bystanders in America. Any closing thoughts?

RMJ: Well, I disagree that Ward Churchill was obscure before, but the “E-word” did bring a lot of additional attention. I knew about him because he is a fellow member of Veterans for Peace. Churchill’s use of the “E-word” and the controversy that resulted was a valuable national learning opportunity that was missed. The media attention was misdirected from the facts of history and what Churchill really said. Instead the media focus was directed toward ad hominem attacks on Churchill. It just happened again when Rev. Jeremiah Wright made his comments about US history. Instead of having a national discussion on the merits or flaws in what Wright said, the media was consumed with ad hominem attacks on him. Basically it boils down to this — in the US if you speak the truth you will pay a high price. Mickey, you make an important point. There are no innocent bystanders in the US. We are all complicit — every one of us.

MZ: And that goes double for anyone who has fallen for the Obama hype.

Mickey Z. is the creator of a podcast called Post-Woke. You can subscribe here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on New York City streets. Spread the word. Read other articles by Mickey.

22 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on July 25th, 2008 at 12:36pm #

    nature, of which we, apes, biota r parts, is infinitely- valued.
    but only humans know that.
    but do all humans know that? and if not, why not?
    thus every human being that ever existed or will ever exist will do as things stand much evil and some/much good.
    this knowledge,the knowledge that we r part of nature and capable of any deed, can lead us to discovery that w can lessen and do fewer evil acts and more good deeds.
    it wd be helpful to teach children this knowledge. i believe i wd have benefited much had i been thought that also i will definitely do bad deeds no matter how i tried not to.
    and especially in the world where deceiving, cheating, lying, hating, thieving, warring for other peoples land/resources is so widespread.
    broadly, the more powerful people r, the more evil they do
    thank u

  2. Jim Klingbeil said on July 25th, 2008 at 12:39pm #

    Yes, we are all complicit in the decline of this nation and the planet. Some much more than others. Try as we might, those of us on the left are really just a voice in the wilderness in the face of the death culture’s mass media sleaze machine.

  3. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 25th, 2008 at 3:40pm #

    So what are writers?
    Fifty years after Howl, aren’t all our poets
    Still mad artists?
    But mainly MZ
    And RMJ,
    How can you conceive of yourselves

    As two little
    Failed Dietrich Bonhoeffers?

  4. Michael Dawson said on July 25th, 2008 at 4:13pm #

    This article buries the main point, which is that Churchill called everybody in those buildings LEs. By doing so, he ensured that the shitstorm he conjured would be mis-focused, and also that the concept of LEs would be further out-of-bounds than ever.

    If Churchill isn’t an FBI agent, they ought to be paying him anyway. He does their work for them.

  5. Brian Koontz said on July 25th, 2008 at 5:27pm #

    The United States, like all other imperialist societies, is a criminal society. Virtually the entire population is criminal. Normality in such a society is criminal. “Normality” is acquiescence, complicity with that society. We don’t need to turn on the TV or visit the local corporate multinational headquarters to see criminals – just look in the mirror.

    Hitler was sexy – the blood flowed in great quantity. But Hitler killed far less and enslaved a fraction of what America has managed. How many books are written about the German people and how few are written about the American people. Mirrors are never in fashion.

    I am a criminal. That is to say, I happily accept the benefits of imperialism – benefits that lead me to gain in an hour what 2 billion workers in the world gain in a week. Benefits that lead me, a “poor” person in America, to comforts and a diet rich in protein while many starve and many more barely subsist on cheap carbohydrates.

    I am a criminal precisely because I want a happy life and I’m not willing to give up that rich life so that others may live. So I eat my protein, I watch my movies, I am “frugal”, and I congratulate myself as do so many others on my “moral superiority” to the mob bosses of America, the capitalists. That’s little consolation to a typical global citizen whose son just died from war or starvation due to American domination and exploitation of his economy.

    It’s this gazing at the elite, this comparison of the “moral American” to monsters like George Bush, that is the undoing of the left. The left simply will not come to grips with the fact that the United States is an imperial society, TOP TO BOTTOM.

    The left pontificates on the “failure of the left in America”, thinking of every reason but the true one – there is no left in America. There’s no left because the “far left” is made up of people like me, who refuse to give up their imperial benefits and thus maintain complicity with the imperial regime. So we endlessly talk and talk and talk about what we’d like the world to be like while actually not wanting the world to be like that at all.

    As Henry Louis-Gates said, (paraphrased) – “I’m not giving up MY money”.

  6. Michael Dawson said on July 26th, 2008 at 1:20pm #

    Balderdash, Brian. The USA is an extremely stratified society in which almost all the important decisions are far beyond the reach of ordinary individuals. I am not a criminal. My son is not a criminal. My mother and grandmother are not criminals. The majority of Americans are not criminals, even by your ridiculous terrorist standard.

    If you need to see why not, read the second half of Chomsky’s _Failed States_, which throughly explains the chasm between what we want and what we get.

    You yourself are certainly flirting with criminality, however. Collective punishment is one of the greatest of all possible crimes. You might try thinking your way out of condoning it.

    And, btw, it is not a crime to fail to stop criminal behavior over which you have no reasonable amount of control.

    Our criminals are our national politicians and the Richistanis whose interests they serve.

  7. bozhidar balkas said on July 26th, 2008 at 2:48pm #

    perhaps brian cd have said that also all amers r infinitely valued: from being near saintly to almost devilish. thanks

  8. rosemarie jackowski said on July 27th, 2008 at 9:49am #

    Michael Dawson… 90%+ are supporting a War Party candidate. It is their votes that will enable the evil of the Empire to continue. They are complicit. You seem to be using the “but everybody else is doing it” or “don’t blame me, it’s not my fault” argument. The ultimate responsibility is with the voter – also every consumer who supports the war economy. The US sniper who killed the woman at the checkpoint and said, “But the chick was in the way”, was enabled by the taxpayer, the factory worker who made the weapon, etc.

    Collective punishment is the US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  9. James Benjamin said on July 27th, 2008 at 11:29am #

    I have written on why I find the characterization of “little Eichmanns” perfectly understandable elsewhere. To the extent that many working for the corporations housed in the WTC were unreflective careerists who had given nary a thought to the impact that they and their employers were having on those affected by their decisions, I find the term to be dead-on accurate. I would say the same for the technocrats working for the IMF, to the extent that many unreflectively pursue actions that lead to starvation, disease, displacement, and social death for many in the Global South, as well as to those working for the US government and those in the academic and punditry classes who give them intellectual cover.

    From Eichmann in Manhattan, Part One.

  10. Michael Dawson said on July 27th, 2008 at 11:34am #

    So, let’s restate your position, shall we Rosemarie?

    1. More than 90 percent of Americans are going to vote.

    2. All those who are going to vote for Obama are doing so because they support war crimes.

    3. Not knowing about the real history of the country and its major institutions is a crime, no matter who you are, despite the extreme difficulty of finding the information, and the extremely high correlation of finding it with higher educational attendance.

    4. All complicity — from 100 percent to .0001 percent — is criminal.

    5. The word “consumer” is a valid, neutral word. (Prosecutor prosecute thyself.)

    6. Buying groceries is a crime.

    7. Because the U.S. Army uses collective punishment, then collective punishment is OK against any and all US residents.

    8. You accept collective punishment when it’s done as you like it.

    9. Being outraged about events relieves you of the obligation to have any intellectual or ethical principles.

  11. James Benjamin said on July 27th, 2008 at 12:14pm #

    Michael, you sure like to play a lot of word games. I suspect you know that Rosemarie was not saying that 90% of all Americans are going to vote. That 90% of those who do vote will vote for a War Party candidate is more to the point. Whether or not those voting for Obama explicitly support war crimes is hard to say, but the consequence of their doing so will be that war crimes continue: communities will continue to be firebombed in Iraq and Afghanistan (and who knows where else before all is said and done) in the name of some lofty rhetoric about “hope” and “change.” As for the bit about complicity, I guess it comes down to one’s perspective – from the perspective of the victims of war crimes or the victims of neoliberal economic policies, I suspect that the degree of complicity won’t matter a whole lot. From the perspective of perpetrators, maybe one has the luxury of pondering percentages of complicity.

  12. rosemarie jackowski said on July 27th, 2008 at 2:17pm #

    Michael…What you heard is not exactly what I said.
    1. No, fewer than 90% will vote – but more than 90% of those who do, will vote for a War Party candidate.
    2. Not what I said – but ignorance is no excuse. It would be like someone saying, “Oh, I didn’t know that when I pulled the trigger a bullet would emerge from the gun and kill someone.” OR, “I didn’t know that the napalm that I was making in the factory would hurt anyone.”
    7 + 8. I don’t recall advocating any specific punishment. I do not support collective punishment anywhere.
    9. Your comment there is borderline ad hominem.

  13. rosemarie jackowski said on July 27th, 2008 at 3:53pm #

    Anyone who votes for a War Party candidate either supports war crimes, or else he/she supports ignorance. Either way a lot of innocent people end up dead. Ignorance is no excuse.

  14. Gary said on July 27th, 2008 at 6:23pm #

    One Eichmann, Two Eichmann, three Eichmanns…. we are all in prison and we have all been taught to love our enslavement. For those not in denial how many would be able to to make their own clothes, shear sheep, grow all of their own food,, etc.? That’s really the point as I see it.

    nice article.

  15. Michael Dawson said on July 27th, 2008 at 10:35pm #

    “Ignorance is no excuse.”

    Why not?

    If you really meant this silly statement, then why aren’t you out stopping all the rapes and murders in your town? Sure, you’re ignorant of the plans, but that’s no excuse, according to you. And there you sit, doing nothing.

    Meanwhile, if you don’t support collective punishment, then a) why are you calling all US residents complicit, and b) why, in the above context, did you mention that the US uses collective punishment in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    Aren’t those who are complicit in crimes criminals themselves? Don’t criminals need and get punishment?

    And there is no logical reason to mention the US use of collective punishment in Iraq and Afghanistan the way you did, other than that you were saying what goes around comes around, an eye for an eye, huzzah for the Code of Hammurabi — just like Churchill did. You were not mentioning it to say you oppose it everywhere.

    Think about the other side of your own argument, too: You say it’s all innocence over there and all guilt over here, because we — all of us — fail to understand and stop the leading criminals among us.

    Well, how does that differ from the argument that Middle Easterners are harboring bin Laden and failed to overthrow Saddam, hence deserve what they’re getting.

    Answer: It doesn’t differ at all. It’s a mere reversal of the same terrorist logic. Instead of “We need to punish them,” you simply say “They need to punish us.”

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. And blaming everybody is also blaming nobody. How in the world do you ever expect to recruit ordinary residents of this society to your cause if you start by telling them they’re as guilty as Dick Cheney, and that the WTC was full of Little Eichmanns?

    P.S. What have I said that’s ad hominem?

  16. rosemarie jackowski said on July 28th, 2008 at 10:37am #

    Michael…You ask why I’m not out there trying to stop the evil. I have tried to stop the war. I was arrested, booked, fingerprinted, photographed, indicted, Tried by a jury, found guilty, sentenced, appealed to the State Supreme Court, conviction was overturned – then the government announced plans to retry me. I have been a little busy. What are you doing?
    And almost forgot to add, I am currently a candidate for State Attorney General. Like I said, ‘what are you doing’?

  17. Hue Longer said on July 28th, 2008 at 6:51pm #

    Hey Rosemarie,

    Since it came up in conversation, maybe you (or Micky) should submit a piece explaining your candidacy?

  18. rosemarie jackowski said on July 29th, 2008 at 5:22am #

    Hue…thanks for asking. Here is a link to a new site. It has 3 of my articles. Many more are on the MWC site. Just Google my name and MWC.

  19. Michael Dawson said on July 29th, 2008 at 9:57am #

    Rosemarie, you haven’t answered my question. Why aren’t you stopping all the crimes in which you’re complicit, which, by your terrorist definition, is all those occurring in any political jurisdiction in which you carry rights? Why are you merely running for office, particularly since your chance of winning is probably zero? Why aren’t you doing what the Buddhist monks did in Saigon?

    I’m doing what I can to stop the war, which admittedly isn’t enough to come close to making me feel good about it. But then I recognize the collective conditions and the power structure, so I hope to retain a balanced realistic view of things. How does one force one’s views onto the nightly news? How does one concoct a mass movement through sheer personal will?

    Answers: One doesn’t, because one can’t.

    I repeat: I’m not complicit and neither is my 12-year-old son, nor the vast majority of my fellow US residents.

  20. Michael Dawson said on July 29th, 2008 at 10:11am #

    P.S. You actually lie, big-time, on your campaign website, Rosemarie. You in fact have tremendous and naked contempt for the law. Are you telling your prospective vote-givers that you view them as complicit criminals? That you might arrest them or choose not to prosecute people who blow them up for their “complicity”?

    Or is your complicity talk just hot air?

    Either way, one would hope you’d think about what you’re actually doing to our efforts to stop the war and save the world. This isn’t a game. We can’t afford flippancy.

  21. James Benjamin said on July 29th, 2008 at 8:10pm #

    You have a problem with civil disobedience, Michael? That’s the only thing from her page that struck me as a possible basis for those remarks – her being one of the Bennington Twelve. So what are we supposed to do, vote for Obama and Democrats and pray that they will slightly reduce troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan & and in the meantime remain quietly in the free speech zones that have been designated to us? What’s the plan?

  22. Brian Koontz said on July 30th, 2008 at 6:43am #

    In reply to Michael Dawson:

    “Balderdash, Brian. The USA is an extremely stratified society in which almost all the important decisions are far beyond the reach of ordinary individuals. I am not a criminal. My son is not a criminal. My mother and grandmother are not criminals. The majority of Americans are not criminals, even by your ridiculous terrorist standard.”

    Participation in a criminal society is a criminal act. The mob underling may console himself with “I don’t make the decisions” but his actions benefit the mob and the mob boss.

    Let’s take a typical American, a corporate worker-drone. He allows himself to be exploited because to him it’s the best alternative – it’s never the only alternative. Within this choice is a matrix of values. One value might be “honoring of the American constitution”. Another might be “knowledge of the English language”. Another might be “belief in America’s superiority”. Probably the most important is “desire for (material) imperial benefits”.

    From this set of values emerges the reality that this person adds to the profitability of the American state as well as transnational capital.

    Even if some of the values are honorable or at least value-neutral, the overall context amounts to aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise, which is what the American state and transnational capital are.

    Mob underlings have any number of excuses, the most common of which is “feeding my family”. That’s all they amount to – excuses.

    The excuse the left gives for the actions of Americans is “they are ignorant” or “they are propagandized”, but none of that is true – Americans *choose* to be ignorant, they *choose* to be propagandized because they accept the system they live under – they are complicit. Imperial benefits are a powerful force for controlling a population – as every imperial society in history understands.

    “If you need to see why not, read the second half of Chomsky’s _Failed States_, which throughly explains the chasm between what we want and what we get.”

    Chomsky is delusional insofar as he seems to believe that Americans are innocents who are duped by the ruling class.

    There are aspects of coercive rather than consensual domination by the ruling class in America – but for the most part the domination is consensual.

    “And, btw, it is not a crime to fail to stop criminal behavior over which you have no reasonable amount of control.”

    It’s a crime to participate in (and provide profit to) a criminal enterprise – or do you not think the mob underling is a criminal?