Apaches, Seminoles, and al Qaeda

As I noted several weeks ago (and as Carol Rosenberg has reported in depth), the government pissed off the Seminole tribe earlier this year by claiming that Seminoles defending themselves in territory held by the Spanish during the early 19th century fought like al Qaeda (and not, for example, American rebels using guerrilla tactics).

Further, not only was the Seminole belligerency unlawful, but, much like modern-day al Qaeda, the very way in which the Seminoles waged war against U.S. targets itself violated the customs and usages of war.

But it turns out that’s not the only analogy our government has made between Native American tribes defending themselves and al Qaeda. According to Chuck Todd, the code name we used for Osama bin Laden was Geronimo. (h/t zunguzungu)

How did special forces relay the news to commanders that OBL was dead? Code name was “Geronimo”; call came in as “Geronimo is KIA”

Of course, presumably he got that name during the Administration of the grandson of the guy alleged to have stolen Geronimo’s skull as a Skull and Bones prank, not under Obama.

Still, for the sake of the legitimacy of our fight against terrorists–and for the sake of some historical humility and shame–don’t you think it’s time we stop analogizing al Qaeda to tribes that were defending their homeland against our imperialism?

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    defending their homeland against our imperialism?

    I thought that was part of our DEFINITION of terrorist: Anybody who tries to keep us from taking anything we aren’t given.

    Boxturtle (They may not want to look too deeply at some of the tactics we used in 1776)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      We despised their rapidity, effectiveness and lethality. Musketeers stood and shot in formation because their weapons were painfully inaccurate. In effect, they were a hive shotgun.

      We adapted quickly, the English and French offered bounties for scalps. We had our Green Mountain boys and Swamp Fox and his wolf pack. In his decades of fighting Indians in order to take their lands, Andy Jackson acquired a few of their techniques. He bowed to no one in his tenacity and ruthlessness.

      Ironically, today’s best spec ops people learn not just Asian, Russian or Israeli martial arts; they learn Indian close combat techniques, too.

  2. bobschacht says:

    Good catch, EW, albeit a disgusting one. I realized within a month after 9/11 that Bush was going to have trouble distinguishing between “terrorists” and “freedom fighters,” and sure enough, his effort to maintain the distinction collapsed not long after that.

    Many of the “terrorists” that we’re now fighting in Afghanistan were the “freedom fighters” that we supported when Russian troops were trying to control the country (remember “Charlie Wilson’s War”?).

    My first wife was Navajo. Her dad’s ancestors were hunted down by Kit Carson for resisting America’s “Manifest Destiny”. So we know what this is all about.

    Bob in AZ

  3. DWBartoo says:

    “… historical humility and shame …”

    WE don’t “do” that, it would require nuanced consideration, EW.

    WE are always the Cowboys and THEY are always the Injuns.

    Won’t WE be surprized to find ourselves on the receiving “end”?

    Hey, we’re ALL General Custer … on our way to the Little Bighorn.

    (Them thar Injuns are going to get help from everybody whom we harm or threaten, from now on …)

    However, what’s a “little miscalculation” among the Exceptionals?


    • nextstopchicago says:

      It’s worth pointing out there was always a great deal of opposition to our Indian policies, and they did change from administration to administration. It doesn’t make what you said about WE and THEY wrong, but there’s more to it. And by the time of Pres. Grant there were natives in high positions in government trying to change things.

      • DWBartoo says:

        Which “natives” might that have been, nextstopchicago? Were they “wild” or were they “tame”.

        And the tale of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is, as I”m certain you will agree, a sad and miserable one.

        BTW, during Grant’s tenure in office were there, to your knowledge, any genocidal actions committed against essentially defenseless native American tribes or villages?


        • nextstopchicago says:

          The head of Indian Affairs in the latter part of Grant’s first term, among others. No need to patronize. I know plenty about the evil that was done. People are people. The powerful have their ways, and the weak too often suffer what they must. But there are always dissenters. Some things do change for the better as well as for the worst. Pretending any of those things aren’t true, as comments like the ones I was responding to do, is also damaging to any effort to make things better. Skepticism is always warranted. Cynicism is generally destructive.

          • hotdog says:

            “Pretending any of those things aren’t true, as comments like the ones I was responding to do, is also damaging to any effort to make things better.”

            “He raised an Indian orphan.” You’ve got to be kidding me.

            A man responsible for the slaughter and horrible pain imposed on thousands of other human beings took in an “orphan” and you hold this up as some kind of balance? I hear Hitler was a vegetarian who loved animals, how’s that?

            My point is that an image of the man who was responsible for untold suffering, is deliberately put on the most commonly used legal tender in the United States. If you want to avoid “damaging any effort to make things better,” one way to do that would be to point out the profanity of such a practice. “Pretending” would be ignoring that for the blatant insult or lack of sensitivity that it is. That lack of sensitivity and ignorance is what I’m characterizing with my dig at “American values.” Cynicism may be destructive, but not nearly so as ignorance.

          • DWBartoo says:

            Frankly, nsc, it was your use of the term “natives”, with all which that implies in the world of empire, which caused me to respond.

            I agree, balance and reason.

            Yet would we both agree that the powerful have a special need of restraint, humility, and humanity?

            Else power becomes unrestrained tyranny.

            And, in that process, THE issue becomes the loss of humanity and reason on the part of the powerful.

            Yet the deeper issue, underlying it all, is the question that our species finds itself either unwilling or un-moved to frame for themselves. Which question is this; how shall our species survive in any decent fashion unless we all change our ways?

            America has chosen, for far too long, to ignore the lessons of its own history, to embrase myths of exceptionalism and conquest.

            How is the chain to be broken unless some dare to try something different?

            You may say, as you did, that “people are people”, as if to excuse or mitigate, but do you not imagine that when, not if, the balance of things changes … that we may expect treatment different from the example we set?

            The opportunity of suggesting different and better possibilities is fleeting, at best, and when we say that we are not as bad as the worst, it is still not inspiring company with whom we choose to place ourselves.

            It is my contention that our nation, yours amd mine, is the principal instrument of terror in this world today.

            Which ought to give us pause, since such behavior will not long be tolerated except as it is “ramped-up” and expanded to no good end … unless, we choose deliberately, to change OUR ways before WE are forced to do so.

            Our understanding of war, for example, will not be complete until, and perhaps, unless it is brought home to us, here, in all of its horror and destruction.

            That too, is a lesson from history which we would do well to heed.

            For it is part of our mythology that we are immune from such lessons.

            That, in a nutshell, is our most deadly conceit. For others, but most especially, for ourselves.


            • nextstopchicago says:

              Sorry. My use of natives was just a bad typist’s shortcut for native americans, which is what my head was thinking. But it’s a dumb shortcut that I wouldn’t have taken if I’d thought about it. And when you posted I sort of knew subconsciously that was partly what set you off, but wanted to avoid the issue because I was embarrassed it came out that way.

              I’d say that sure, I think we should hold ourselves to a different standard. I also think it’s worth acknowledging that there have always been Americans who did try to hold us to different standards. Much of the country hated Jackson for the Removal, for instance.

              In a small irony about the way this comment thread has progressed, I’ll mention that when the Dept. of Homeland Security was first announced, my reaction was “Homeland”? What’s a “homeland”? Isn’t that one of those mini-territories the Apartheidists set aside for “natives” in South Africa?

  4. CharlesII says:

    Marcy, off-topic: As you know, Thomas Tamm gave an interview on the ending of his pursuit by DoJ in which he said that he was in deep financial water due to his legal bills. The Bank of Georgetown informs me that his account there is closed. Do you know which Paul Kemp is representing him?

  5. behindthefall says:

    I glanced at the headline and thought the post was going to be about helicopters. Well, the first two items. Not the third.

  6. hotdog says:

    Take out a twenty from your wallet (if you’re either lucky enough to have a spare one, or crazy enough to carry cash). That “American Hero” used Native American human skin to fashion reins for his horse, according to “The American Holocaust.” We put his image on our money so we can pay him respect – good old ‘maircun values. What a screwed up society.

    • nextstopchicago says:

      Hotdog, I wouldn’t even begin to make a hero of him, but he also raised an Indian orphan. It’s more complicated than just pretending that skinning natives because they’re natives is “good old ‘maircun values”. That’s as false to history as the people who would call Jackson a hero.

  7. MyLeftMind says:

    Historical humility and shame?

    … for the sake of the legitimacy of our fight against terrorists–and for the sake of some historical humility and shame–don’t you think it’s time we stop analogizing al Qaeda to tribes that were defending their homeland against our imperialism?

    Who exactly is the “we” who should be ashamed of themselves over events that occurred hundreds of years ago? Aside from the silly analogy between al Qaeda and Seminoles, there is the deeper issue of perpetual guilt trips over historical events. How can we ever deal with contemporary racism and “tribalism” in its many current variations when we’re still obsessed over cowboys and Indians (or in this case, Spaniards and native Americans)?

    So who is this nebulous “we” who should feel shame, and why should we be embarrassed. Like the silly concept of national retribution for blacks because of slavery, it’s useless to continue berating white skinned people for what other people did hundreds of years ago who happen to have the same skin color as today’s Caucasian Americans. I have ancestors who fought for the North in the civil war. Should I be required to pay tax money to “African Americans” to appease the guilt I’m supposed to feel? Should dark skinned Americans from the Caribbean receive those retribution payments as well? What about contemporary Africans who immigrate to the US? Should they get retribution for having the same skin color and nation origins of slaves that were brought here hundreds of years ago? I have black people in my family, and white people. Should the white siblings pay retribution to the black members of our family?

    What about the native Americans who fought tribal wars and/or raped, maimed, tortured and murdered other native Americans for thousands of years before Europeans came to this continent? Should contemporary native Americans pay other native Americans for the actions of their warlike ancestors? Oh, wait, they wiped out entire tribes so there’s no one left to pay retribution to. What about the Caucasians who were wiped out by dark skinned migrants who came from the south up through North America more than 10,000 years ago? (See Kenewick man.)

    My point is that anytime the issue of native Americans come up, there’s an automatic, knee-jerk response from liberals that implies whites are bad, and people of color always got screwed. Yet even this article admits that it was the Spaniards who were at fault at that time. So why then do descendents of those Spanish explorers now get to claim they were oppressed by the big bad white people (eg: Mexican Hispanics demanding amnesty for illegal aliens)?

    White guilt. What a silly, useless idea. People have hurt other people ever since we could make rock knives & spears. People will always take advantage of and hurt other people, especially those in groups that look or act different from their own group (tribalism). It’s human nature. If we want to move forward into a world where we can prevent that kind of thing from happening, the best way is to stop pretending it’s as simple as “white people are bad, dark skinned people get picked on.” Historically, the amount of violence within races is much, much greater than that between races. In sheer numbers, conflict throughout history has been more about power and resources than about racial differences.

    We need to recognize that every group can and/ or has hurt other groups, and the way to prevent that is to halt contemporary racism and tribalism, not to fall into silly white guilt.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s not a contest. If it were, giving Columbus’ men syphilis wouldn’t make up for the smallpox, retroviruses and other diseases we gave North American Indians, which decimated their populations.

      The $24 worth of trinkets paid for Manhattan Island, even accounting for inflation, wouldn’t make up for the USG having broken every peace treaty it ever signed with an Indian tribe, or for the genocide practiced against the native population of a continent.

      Buffalo hunters weren’t looking for meat or hides or to clear the railroad tracks. Those were useful, though at their peak, carcasses weren’t even stripped of hides, let alone meat. They were slaughtered to deprive a people of their food, clothing, shelter and independence.

      While whites were doing it, they managed to kill 600,000 of their own during the unCivil War. Is that a discount or add-on in comparison rankings?

      White apologia is a form of denial on par with claiming that slaves adored their masters and wanted to be slaves.

      • frisbee says:

        Just to be more accurate —you have quoted the 600,000 dead for Civil War. If you repeat an FACT often enfu it becomes a fact.. This is the count of soldiers killed (the number of Confederate dead continues to be adjusted upward-300,000 is commomly used number). Example– unknown dead offically 1 at Lookout Point POW camp—internet users have added 800+ names of POWs known to have died in the camp. Camp Douglas (Chicago’s POW camp) offical count 4200– reburied after the war 7200…Civilian deaths (Southern) somehow too difficult to count..I have seen (I assume it is correct) that an invading army will kill 7 times (roughly)civilians as soldiers..Use that formula gives you 2,100,000 .. plus 600,000 soldiers
        for rougeducedh total 2,700,000..The Feds reduced the number of Plains Indians from the 1860 level of 300,000 to the 1890 level of 50,000…
        On TV just in last couple weeks Chris Matthews and Kerns (author of “Team of Rivals”) both repeated the 600,000 number..How can these experts repeat such large miscount?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I was referring to combatant figures, not total deaths. You make an important point that we’ve often made about Iraq: deaths of combatants are often far exceeded by deaths of civilians, something governments and their militaries don’t track for obvious political reasons.

          In the pre-antibiotic, pre-sterile surgery world, total deaths off the battlefield of both soldiers and civilians often exceeded those on the battlefield, something Farewell to Arms explored in the lingering, painful deaths due to sepsis.

          Revolutions often follow wars and create their own killing fields; Cambodia after the SE Asian conflicts, Russia during and after the First World War.

          As was true of other wars, but not so well-documented, the First World War was followed by a pandemic, flu in this case. Owing to exhaustion of people, governments, infrastructure, the number of vulnerable people that succumb before effective aid can reach them was in the tens of millions worldwide. Like SARS, the transmissibility was enhanced owing to greatly expanded international travel during and after the war.

          As you point out, the costs of war are always much higher than official statistics admit.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Still my favorite pop art, a picture of Geronimo and three armed comrades, captioned,

    “The original Department of Homeland Security: Fighting terrorists since 1492.”

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    @12, 18, 19, 20, 22 — Don’t y’all think this code name is a Homeland Security joke? Like Cheney’s name was Edgar as in Edgar Bergen the ventriloquist, and the squirrely informant’s name was Curveball, like screwball? That’s what I thought of right away, and then I see everybody here knows (and loves I hope) that T-shirt.

    Here is a different image I cherish: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4066/4601475651_3f78a04324.jpg

    Man, I wish.

  10. potsdam602 says:

    thatvisionthing–Yes. Agree. The name Dept. of ‘Homeland’ Security is a crock. I figured W. Bush was afraid to use the name American Security because he did not want to offend Mexico and all the other NAFTA or ‘free trade’ nations screwing the US. I really did not and do not believe W. Bush has much love for America or for Americans. Obama also seems to have no problem with the name or word ‘Homeland’–hate the term. We are the U.S. of America. Other countries are on the N. or S. American continents, however, they don’t have the name ‘America’ in their name as we do. Homeland seems to be a word used fascists. Obama could change the name to American Security. He was prolly born here, but he seems indifferent to really promoting the US domestically for our own good. Homeland is an anti-American word.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      As is your screen name, Homeland Security seems intentionally Germanic. Fitting, given our current addiction to verschaerfte Verhnehmungen.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      I wondered if it was the kind of bully joke that stunted psychoneocons and sadistic boys who stick firecrackers up frog’s behinds to blow them up think is funny. America, homeland, don’t look over there at America empire, it’s our secret and you do what we say, snicker snicker. Or maybe it was like when Prince Harry wore the Nazi costume at Halloween and got the big PC trouble. I can’t decide. Totally disloves America, that’s for sure.

      “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” — Mark Twain

  11. potsdam602 says:

    earl at 29–don’t know if I’m a fan of ‘verschaerfte Verhnehmungen’, however, Studio Babelsberg is a neat place in Potsdam. I’m pretty sure the name of the city IS intentionally Germanic. The city and surroundings are beautiful and notably historic.

  12. frisbee says:

    Simple question…Why is it the media is still reporting the cost of the civil war at 550,00 to 600,000?????? What does it say about under counting off 2,100,000 plus or minus
    Have you learned nothing??? or just repeated the party line (Republicans-Lincoln greatest president)

  13. frisbee says:

    Game is the same..
    Lincoln support was railroads ( truely dumbf***ks), banking ( You know their friends that just transfer their losses to you ( tax payer /goverment) (If