Thursday, June 26, 2014

American War Crimes in America

From CounterPunch:

Custer also played a leading role in the 1864 desolation of the Shenandoah Valley, where I was raised a century later. After failing to decisively vanquish southern armies in the battlefield, Lincoln and his generals decided to win the war by brutalizing civilians. In August  1864, Gen. U.S. Grant  ordered  the destruction of all the barns, crops, and livestock in the Shenandoah Valley.  The etching to the left shows his troops after torching much of the town of Mt. Jackson, Virginia.  The population of Warren County, my home county, fell by 20% during the 1860s. Did anyone who refused to submit to Washington automatically forfeit his right to live?  The desolation from the war and the systemic looting in its aftermath (ironically labeled “Reconstruction”) helped keep the South economically prostrate for generations.

More here.

Apparently, as the essay observes, today is the anniversary of Custer's Last Stand, one of the few big battles Native Americans actually won during America's long crusade to eliminate them.  But remembering one of the few losses in this genocidal war serves as an excellent reminder that the European, and therefore American, historic legacy around the globe has been one of atrocity, and that continues until this very day.  Foreigners, people of color, colonized people, even white Americans and Europeans, all of them have been victims of this atrocity-regime over the centuries.

I would say something to the effect of "we must never forget, etc." but I don't think most Americans even understand this in the first place.  I wonder what this country would be like if every single one of us was fully aware of the blood on our collective hands.  I like to think we'd have a more just and compassionate society.  But maybe not.  White Americans LOVED killing Indians.  Loved it well into the twentieth century, when television and movie Westerns absolutely glorified our genocide--I mean, even when I was a kid we played "cowboys and Indians"; as Noam Chomsky has asked, could you imagine German children playing "Nazis and Jews"?