Zoltan Grossman: The global war on tribal nations continues

A photo of Apache warrior Geronimo. The U.S. military used Geronimo as the code name for terrorist Osama bin Laden during the mission in which he was killed in 2011. Photo by Frank A. Rinehart, 1898 via Wikpidia

Zoltan Grossman explores how the global war on terror takes its cues from the Indian wars in the United States:
If the “Global War on Tribes” is as old as European colonialism, in the United States it is as old as the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, and we can trace it back to the Indian Wars, the Philippine-American War, and the Vietnam War. In his classic Facing West: the Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire Building, Richard Drinnon documented that all three wars used identical rhetoric of enemy territory as hostile “Indian country.”

Drinnon concluded, “In each and every West, place itself was infinitely less important…than what the white settlers brought in their heads and hearts to that particular place. At each magic margin, their metaphysics of Indian-hating underwent a seemingly confirmatory ‘perennial rebirth.’…. All along, the obverse of Indian-hating had been the metaphysics of empire building…. Winning the West amounted to no less than winning the world.”

One of the hallmarks of American colonization is to pit favored peoples against the national security threat of the moment—Crow against Lakota, Igorot against Filipino, Montagnard against Vietnamese, Hmong against Lao, Kurd against Arab. When the tribal allies (with their very real grievances) are no longer needed, Washington quickly abandons its defense of their “human rights.” We love ‘em, we use ‘em, and then we dump ‘em. These divide-and-conquer strategies are being revived today, as the Pentagon arms tribes against each other, renewing rivalries that had been dormant for years.

Proponents of the “Global War on Tribes” are seemingly unafraid to connect it to military campaigns in North America. John W. Hall’s book Uncommon Defense: Indian Allies in the Black Hawk War approvingly showed how the Army divided and conquered Wisconsin tribes in the 1832 war, and applies these lessons to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Robert D. Kaplan brazenly wrote in the Wall Street Journal (9/24/04) that “…the American military is back to the days of fighting the Indians ….The range of Indian groups, numbering in their hundreds, that the U.S. Cavalry…had to confront was no less varied than that of the warring ethnic and religious militias spread throughout Eurasia, Africa and South America in the early 21st century.”

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Zoltan Grossman: The Global War on Tribes (Indian Country Today 2/15)

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