Column: Maybe Iraq is the next Pine Ridge Reservation

"When President Bush says he’s prepared to stay in Iraq 'until the job is done,' those poor Iraqis have no idea just how long he means. But the Lakotas do. The United States government has been 'stabilizing' the Great Sioux Nation and promoting democracy for 139 years.

Analogy is a dangerous form of argument, never precise. But sometimes analogy can give us insights into our history, and in this case, it's worth considering: Maybe Iraq isn't just the next Vietnam. Maybe Iraq is the next Pine Ridge.

A good starting point is the recognition that the voice of our 'better angels' is forever stumbling over the more powerful impulse of greed. Oil in Iraq. Gold in the Black Hills. As a good friend likes to remind me: 'We didn't invade Iraq because they grow broccoli.'

The face of American democracy first comes to nations like the Lakotas and Iraq in the form of invasion. Kill the radicals and train homegrown police to secure the countryside. Build forts along the wagon routes. (Fourteen American military bases have been built in Iraq.) Draw sharp rhetorical edges. Warriors who refuse to move to the reservations are 'hostiles.' Iraqis who resist the invasion are 'terrorists.'

Then we sign treaties and send in a superintendent. Welcome to Iraq, Mr. Bremer. We dump wagonloads of money into economic development -- scrawny cattle, plows, cheap blankets. Private contractors siphon off most of the money. Welcome to Iraq, Halliburton.

Then we form constitutional governments, pick our favorite chiefs, and sponsor elections. Dip your finger in purple ink, and make your mark here. Divide up your land, modernize, grow wheat. It's all for your own good.

We've been building constitutional government in Iraq for three years. At Pine Ridge we’ve been at work since 1934. And here’s what we’ve got. The impeachment of Cecelia Fire Thunder was a sham. Last fall's election was a disaster. Almost no one voted, and those who did can't agree who the legitimate president is."

Get the Story:
Sam Hurst: The New Iraq sounds an awful lot like the Old Pine Ridge (The Rapid City Journal 2/18)

Relevant Links:
Oglala Sioux Tribe -

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