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Saturday, June 03, 2006

other great american massacres we can compare haditha to

World War II has certainly been turned into the strangest referent. Like Baptists figuring out where they stand on witches by looking at Leviticus, the war party feels better if they can invoke, in the most ridiculous ways, WWII.

Recently, Bill O’Reilly tried to justify Haditha by referring to Americans slaughtering Nazis at Malmedy. He had that a bit wrong – it was the Nazis who were slaughtering the Americans. The tonier purlieus of the WAPO op ed page shows how to right the big Fox guy’s blunder, publishing a heartwarming tale by the father of a GI, Frank Schaeffer. Schaeffer comes out of the gate a bit ahead of O’Reilly: for instance, he claims to have read a book. The book is Norman Lewis’ Naples ’44. This is a book that is foreign to the O'reilly fan base. In this book, there are no Clancy like descriptions of the latest secret American weaponry; there are no muscular Navy Seals; and there is no obligatory sex scene – by which I mean using high tech weaponry to blow suitable enemies limb from limb, while hopefully maintaining the level of pain along their nervous system for as long as possible. Thus, we can differentiate between the audience of B.R. and the audience of Schaeffer. I would call Schaeffer’s audience the decent. The centrists. The muscular liberals.

Schaeffer quotes the following passage from Lewis' book:
“"I saw an ugly sight: a British officer interrogating a civilian, and repeatedly hitting him about the head with the chair; treatment which the [civilian], his face a mask of blood, suffered with stoicism. At the end of the interrogation, which had not been considered successful, the officer called on a private and asked him in a pleasant, conversational sort of manner, 'Would you like to take this man away, and shoot him?' The private's reply was to spit on his hands, and say, 'I don't mind if I do, sir.'

"I received confirmation . . . that American combat units were ordered by their officers to beat to death [those] who attempted to surrender to them. These men seem very naive and childlike, but some of them are beginning to question the ethics of this order.

"We liberated them from the Fascist Monster. And what is the prize? The rebirth of democracy. The glorious prospect of being able one day to choose their rulers from a list of powerful men, most of whose corruptions are generally known and accepted with weary resignation. The days of Mussolini must seem like a lost paradise compared to us."

Luckily, though, we know that all came right in the end. For why was the U.S. in WWII? To selflessly bring democracy to Italy and Germany. And Japan. That Italy was ruled for fifty years by the same party, or that the U.S. spent large sums to make sure that this was the case, which might be called bribery, treachery, and non-democratic, is one of those penny ante lefty objections.

“Judging by Lewis's diary -- and many other accounts -- the so-called Greatest Generation of World War II was often badly led and worse-behaved, and was certainly less merciful than our present-day soldiers and their leaders. We haven't carpet-bombed Baghdad or nuked Fallujah to spare the lives of our troops. Yet most Americans are glad we forced Italy, Germany and Japan to become democracies, however brutal our means.”

Yet one wonders – how about the marvelous massacres of other U.S. wars? Surely Schaeffer should dig down and find other great things the Great Spirit has led Americans to do. I’d recommend the Sand River Massacre. There, now, was a massacre. Men women and children. But who can doubt that we had the best interests of the American Indians at heart? We were only trying to force them to join a democracy, however brutal the means.

Here’s an account of it:

"The attack was initially reported in the press as a victory against a bravely-fought opponent. Within weeks, however, eyewitnesses came forward offering conflicting testimony, leading to a military investigation and two Congressional investigations into the events.

Starting in the late 1850's, the gold rush in the Rocky Mountains, then part of the western Kansas Territory, had brought a flood of white settlers into the mountains and the surrounding foothills. The sudden immigration came into conflict with the Cheyenne and the Arapaho Indians who inhabited the area, eventually leading to the Colorado War in 1864.

Conflict between the Native Americans and the miners spread, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes made wagon travel extremely dangerous across Colorado's eastern plains. The warriors had been harassing white settlers with scattered Indian raids. Territorial governor John Evans sent Col. John Chivington to quiet the Indians at the head of a locally-raised militia. After a few skirmishes and an effective warpath on the part of the Indians, many of the Cheyennes and Arapahos were ready for peace and camped near Fort Lyon on the eastern plains.

Early in September, Maj. Edward W. Wynkoop arranged a peace meeting between Gov. John Evans of Colorado Territory and several chiefs from the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indian tribes. When he received word of Wynkoop's plans, commanding Gen. Samuel R. Curtis sent word that there would not be any peace could be made until he approved the terms and until the guilty Indians first were punished for their depredations.

Both of the tribes had recently signed a treaty with the United States in which they ceded their lands to the United States and agreed to move to the Indian reservation to the south of Sand Creek in Oklahoma, demarcated by a line to be run due north from a point on the northern boundary of New Mexico, 15 miles west of Purgatory River, and extending to the Sandy Fork of the Arkansas River.

Black Kettle, one chief of a group of mostly Southern Cheyennes and some Arapahoes, some 800 in number, reported to Fort Lyon in an effort to declare peace.

While the Indians waited for negotiations to begin, they camped at Sand Creek, 40 miles northeast of Fort Lyon, believing they were safe, having complied with the white man's demands to lay down their arms. Feeling comfortable he sent out most of his warriors to hunt. Against the advice of military officers and civilians, Col. John M. Chivington, commanding the District of Colorado under Curtis, led the 950 100-day men of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry, the 1st Colorado with its 2 howitzers, and a detachment of the 1st New Mexico Infantry in reprisal against the Indians. The men of the 3rd Colorado had been recruited to put down the outbreak of hostilities that had begun after the Regular Army was transferred east in 1861. With their enlistments about to expire, they were eager for revenge.
On November 29, at sunrise, Chivington's troops reached the Indian village. To prevent escape, they seized the Indians' ponies and unlimbered the howitzers, training them on the still-sleeping Cheyennes and Arapaho. Soldiers attacked the village from 3 sides. When he saw the troops approaching, Black Kettle, chief of the Cheyenne, raised the U.S. flag over his lodge as a gesture of peace. Chivington also ignored the pleas of interpreter John Smith to break off the attack, and his men began shooting indiscriminately, following his orders to not take any prisoners.
Some of the warriors seized their weapons and formed a battle line 1/2 mile above the camp at Sand Creek, but their defense collapsed before overwhelming odds. The Indians contested the soldiers' pursuit for 5 miles before dispersing into the countryside. One officer, Capt. Silas Soule, a Massachusetts abolitionist, refused to follow Chivington's orders. He did not allow his cavalry company to fire into the crowd.

Estimates of the number of Indians at the encampment range between 500-1,000; 400-600 were killed, many of them women and children whose bodies had been mutilated.

Public reactions to the brutal massacre ranged from approval to condemnation, but many blamed Chivington for having committed an unpardonable act of violence that resulted in a renewed outburst of hostilities.”

As everybody can see from this account, the Indians actually formed a line to defend themselves, or so the hate America crowd would call it, against American troops. So much for their story of victimage – these people refused to be killed peacefully by our troops. When I say our troops, you know I have a lump in my throat. A lump as big as Mount Rushmore. I always have a lump in my throat when I think of American troops. I also have a hardon, but the less said about that, the better.

As many have pointed out about Haditha, the Iraqi child can be one of your craftiest enemies. It is best to shoot him in the cradle, which, in the afterlife, he will appreciate – this is how you force him to be democratic. This is what democracy is about. Similarly, can anyone doubt that looking down from heaven, those Indians slaughtered much like the Philistines by the Israelites can only be grateful that American troops were there to make them do what’s right, or pay the penalty?
The Schaeffer’s of the world also give LI a lump in his throat. But weirdly enough, not a hardon. Funny, that.

4 comments:

new york pervert said...

It's all a fine and informative post, but on looking at it the 2nd time, I got stuck in your first paragraph. Two images popped up: old press photo of Thatcher and Reagan meeting during Falklands War. They were somewhat apart, both wistful and pensive--something there about the miracle of photos, because I think both had a miniscule capacity for the wistful and/or pensive. They just looked soooo World War II, plus a whiff of a poor man's 'Brief Encounter.'

Secondly, the memory of when I read all of Leviticus as a child; I think I was 9 years old, and I do not consider this precocious unless it was precocious self-destructiveness, but that's neither here nor there. Since then, I've gone on to I and II Kings, my favorite books of the Bible.

roger said...

Mr. NYP, a Kings man, eh? Well, I'm much more predictable. Give me Ecclesiastes, Isaiah and one of the more rabid, minor prophets. But I do give Kings a lotta credit for Elijah.

new york pervert said...

roger--I like the same stories in Kings and Chronicles that Racine liked, as in 'Athalie.' Never have seen Racine onstage, and would love to, have read most of them, and he is about as incisive as it gets.

roger said...

This Haditha thing seems to be bringing some welcome clarification to the rules of discourse. Rule no. 1, after 9/11, was -- we can't understand the terrorists. Understanding is a subtle form of condoning. We can't do that. Bad bad bad. No understanding is what separates the Decent Left from the scuzzy, anti-war left.

Now I see that there is a Rule no. 2 from the pro-war crowd. It is that we must understand American soldiers. Stressed, those soldiers. Kids have guns. Threats every day. How to sort out the ungrateful Iraqis from the liberty lovin' ones. Hard, it is hard. We scalped the indians and massacred the Germans at Normandy (or they did us, hard to know in the fog of war). Still, former enemies now love us to death. Even now, if we were feeling low down or something? If Uncle Sam was like having a bad hair day? they'd offer us their towns and villages to do it all over again.

Understand understand understand is the new black.

The pro-war side is making me think of the 60s liberals, with their understanding attitude to crime. And since I'm a sixties liberals type of guy, this is strongly attractive to me. Soft on crime, and hard on the causes of crime. The understanding that is extended to, say, using a cripple for target practice would astonish even the ever forgiving heart of Eleanor Roosevelt.

I do like to know the rules of discourse. It makes it easier to fanatically defend my preferred factoids.