<\body> Stories in America: "Indian Country" in Iraq

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Indian Country" in Iraq

How nice.
AMY GOODMAN: You said that in the military they refer to Iraq as "Indian country"?

SGT. ELI PAINTED CROW: Well, they referred to -- what they said in the briefing, they called enemy territory "Indian country." And I'm standing there, just listening to this briefing, and I'm just in shock that after all this time, after so many Natives have served and are serving and are dying, that we are still the enemy, even if we're wearing the same uniform. That was very shocking for me to hear.


At 3/09/2007 6:39 AM, Blogger JACK BOO said...

Not sure I get this.

Why would she say that Natives who wear the same uniform are considered the enemy? I don't know any soldiers who wouldn't put their life on the line for a fellow soldier, regardless of whether they were a "Native" or not. How do you square that with the notion that Indians who wear the same uniform are considered the enemy?

The term "Indian territory" is merely one of the 90-gazillion politically incorrect phrases that thin-skinned politically correct lefties have decided to get riled up about.

But hell, if it really bothers Sgt. Eli Painted Crow how 'bout we start a petition to call the enemy territories "Viking country". You gotta admit, it's kinda catchy, and as a Scandinavian myself, I'd get a good chuckle out of it.

At 3/09/2007 7:20 AM, Anonymous Joseph said...

I once read that during the Vietnam war some drill sargeants would use Asian American trainees to represent "the enemy(!)" in boot camp training. And, I'm sure you've heard that, of course, during the gulf war, Iraqis (and Arabs in general) were often referred to as "sand niggers".

I know that Native Americans on poor reservations often have little to no economic alternatives, but I would ask why a Native American would even join the U.S. military -- the military that genocided them and put the few remaining in open-air concentration camps (often smaller than American wildlife refuges or even bird sanctuaries) -- to go help the U.S. military kill off some *other* people -- and what would those Native Americans otherwise *expect*? If I were Native American and I felt I had to join for economic reasons, I would quit (or become a conscientious objector) once Sam was going to send me off to someone else's country. I have to say, I don't have any sympathy for her story. This just shows her what she should have realized all along. Especially people of color have always been "the enemy" to the American government and most white-Americans.

If that Native American thought that she was anything other than combat cannon fodder (like *all*, especially, poor Americans), if she thought that she was proving herself worthy enough to become an American (though she is far more American than the European genocidists), then she (as we say in the Black community) *played* herself. I don't even have much sympathy for the Black soldiers over there unless they finally wise up (like some did in Vietnam) -- and I hinted and told one (still over here, with some of his buddies over there) very early in the war, "Looks like those people don't want us taking over their country." As one grassroots progressive Black media activst friend of mine said, "I don't support the troops; I give them *consciousness*."

At 3/09/2007 2:44 PM, Blogger JACK BOO said...

"I don't support the troops; I give them *consciousness*."

Very generous gesture on your friends part. And very astute of him not to count "consciousness" as support.

At 4/28/2007 10:25 AM, Blogger Scott Starr said...

I have in the last few years, since the invasion of Iraq, heard the area outside of the "Green Zone" in Baghdad, the "safe" area where Americans and their allies have created forts referred to as the Red Zone- or "Indian Country". Beyond the "Green Zone" one encounters a "terrorist"-infested territory- a wilderness as dangerous to the "justice bearing liberators" as the lands inhabited by by "Redskins" with the resistance they offered during the Indian wars- wars that opposed the conquest, the theft, rape, murder and cultural genocide and treaty breaking mendacity of the allegedly Christian colonizers.

This terminology of "Indian Country" speaks volumes about the intellectual retardation of the United States' self image and awareness of the perception of the rest of the world. It bespeaks of arrogance, hubris, and self imposed paternalism, exceptionalism and imperialism.

As an American Indian I can state unequivocally that this telling catch phrase that projects the warzones of the "wars on terror" as "Indian Country" is as deeply offensive as it is counter-productive to the stated mission in Iraq. My immediate thoughts- the first time that I heard the reference to the war torn streets of Baghdad as "Indian Country"- was that after 515 years of conquest- in the minds of Imperial America- the First Nations of the "Americas" are still regarded as enemies, hostiles, obstacles to progress... as terrorists. "Indians" then, in the American mindscape are yet sub-humans with no intrinsic value and no redeeming qualities and no contribution and/or partnership in contemporary society save as cartoonish sports mascots and fodder for the myth making propaganda, manifest destiny and fantasies of the "master race" as portrayed in Hollywood western movies and literature.

Take heed that this collective psychosis, this self adulation and lack of self criticism that plagues America is well noted by those who oppose us in the bloody streets of Baghdad and in the "Indian Country" of Afghanistan. One can accuse voices such as mine as emboldening the enemy by offering critical analysis of the situation in America's wars in the "Middle East" ("Middle East" being another colloquialism coined from the Western perspective of the planet). But- with these not so subtle attitudes couched within the phraseology of "Indian Country"- is it any wonder that they have resolved to fight us to the death- there in their home territory? Is it any wonder that America is seen as invaders, imperialists and controllers rather than liberators? Indian country they call it? Isn't it more likely that the attitude that lies behind colloquialisms like this are what emboldens our enemies and gives them the resolve to oppose the American agenda as they perceive it?

During the conquest of the "Americas"- Indians were reviled as a species that could not be reasoned with and that their extermination was necessary to progress and order. Don't you think its at the least imprudent for Americans to tacitly refer to the people that they are allegedly trying to liberate as "Indians"? The experience of "American Indians"- on their own ancestral ground is a testament, to this very day,to the often racist, dehumanizing and marginalizing power of the blight and rot in America's self indulgent soul. Why would the Arabs in the "Indian Country" of their own homeland desire a status resembling anything like what "American Indians" have experienced?

In 1779, George Washington instructed Major General John Sullivan to attack Iroquois people. Washington stated, "lay waste all the settlements around...that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed". In the course of the carnage and annihilation of Indian people, Washington also instructed his general not "listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected". (Stannard, David E. AMERICAN HOLOCAUST. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. pp. 118-121.)

In 1783, Washington's anti-Indian sentiments were apparent in his comparisons of Indians with wolves: "Both being beast of prey, tho' they differ in shape", he said. George Washington's policies of extermination were realized in his troops behaviors following a defeat. Troops would skin the bodies of Iroquois "from the hips downward to make boot tops or leggings". Indians who survived the attacks later re-named the nation's first president as "Town Destroyer". Approximately 28 of 30 Seneca towns had been destroyed within a five year period. (Ibid)

Though America has forgotten, ignored or never internalized the fact that much of its history and many of its god-like heroes like George Washington, the "father" of "our" country are constructed out of pure propaganda and balderdash- the rest of the world is quite painfully aware. Despite Washington's sentiments that the American nation could not be put together so long as the "Indians" existed as "Indians"- it was built... and in case one needs to be reminded... we are still here.

Now, critics of this article will be quick to point out that "American Indians" don't have it so bad these days- what with the casino industry booming and all. Fair enough. For the record, as an "Indian" traditionalist, I do not approve of the smoke shop, tourist trap, bingo parlor/casino culture that is erasing our spiritual legacy and replacing it with the value system of our colonizers and thus detracting from our voice of moral authority and stand upon moral principles. Nobody understands the fallibility of human nature, the power of money, propaganda and politics better than one who maintains their identity as an "American Indian" and also a believer in the true Christ of the Gospels as opposed to that of opportunistic political operatives.

"Indian Country" indeed. The analogy does bring one event from American history to mind. There is another tale of arrogance and hubris this is a sobering and perhaps ponderous and foreboding omen concerning the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Revisit and contemplate the tale of General George Armstrong Custer and the battle of Little Big Horn. Pride of the kind considered one of the seven deadly sins can carry a heavy toll in "Indian Country".

- Scott Starr


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