A Column By
Native American Studies
University of California, Davis
Reporter after reporter told us that the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh was the worst terrorist attack ever perpetuated on U.S. soil. Either they have very racist definitions of what constitutes terrorism or they are very poorly educated in history!
How many remember the massacres at Wounded Knee, at Sand Creek, at the Washita, all carried out by U.S. Army units or by Colorado State militia against First Americans? It is very likely that each of these terrorist attacks resulted in greater numbers of deaths than McVeigh's bombing, but the exact totals will perhaps never be known because many died of exposure afterwards, as at Wounded Knee. And then we also have the "ethnic cleansing" carried out in southwest Oregon and northern California, where entire tribes were liquidated or left with only handfuls of survivors. And, of course, we can go back further to the massacres of the Pequots in Connecticut, the killing of Christian Delawares at Gnadenhutten, and George Washington's scorched earth campaign against the Iroquois in the War for U.S. Independence. And, as a Powhatan, I cannot forget the terrorist attacks of Bacon's rabble in Virginia in 1676 which wiped out or decimated entire villages from the Occaneechee in the south, to the Nansiaticos, Monacans, Doegs, and others farther north. Survivors were often sold as slaves; and this in spite of being largely at peace!
As much as we condemn the McVeigh massacre as a horrible crime, we should not forget that violence is very much a part of the tradition of Yanks and that most of the massacres of which I write involved the wholesale killing of women, children, and elders, often with the most unbelievable brutality and sheer sadism. What troubles me also, is how the people of the USA have usually overlooked the blatant atrocities carried out by OUR government since World War II. Here I am speaking of the efforts of the CIA and the Defense Department (meaning, of course, OUR presidents) to wipe out or cripple almost every democracy which might lean in a socialist or worker-peasant direction, including overthrows of reform governments in Guatemala and Iran in the 1950's and the repeated interventions in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Angola, Congo-Zaire, Guyana and elsewhere. Large numbers of Native Americans were slaughtered (as in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua) and also in Colombia where right-wing paramilitary forces are currently killing indigenous leaders and entire communities.
The figures are staggering! Hundreds of thousands of people killed in Central America, almost all of them American Indians by race. Millions killed in Vietnam and, more recently, in Iraq. Many thousands also killed by US weapons in Lebanon and Palestine, supplied to Israel and often used in a terrorist manner against civilians.
Am I wrong to say that the people of the USA, in general, seem unmoved by the totals of the killed, even when these totals include children and completely innocent victims? And, of course, our Congress continues to support the School of Assassins in Georgia (the so-called School of the Americas) which has trained so many of the brutal military killers in Latin America, as well as the Agency of Assassinations (the CIA) and the Defense Department.
The relative indifference of North Americans to the murders of other Americans, Asians, Africans, Timorese, et cetera, leads me to wonder what our core values are, as a nation (state). Is it that people are simply uninformed? Is it that only the deaths of white people motivate? Or is it that people simply want to enjoy beer and baseball, the circuses provided by the omnipresent world of entertainment, consumerism, and gluttony?
But I have a deeper fear, and that is that many people know all too well what our government does throughout much of the world, and that they understand that the purpose of US policy is to guarantee the high-standard-of-living that many here enjoy and, more especially, the wealth and power of US-based corporations and their European counterparts.
Lets face it: the reason why we enjoy the luxury of having cheap bananas, plenty of oil, and all kinds of fundamental resources and products at affordable (for some of us) or even dirt cheap prices, is because : (1) labor union organizers in most of the countries our government dominates are systematically murdered, or are controlled by corrupt unions run by the elites in their country; (2) workers are unable to organize or strike to obtain a fair share of the value of the products they produce; (3) peasants (farmers) are systematically being driven off of the land, or have never been able to obtain land of their own, and peasant organizers, as in Brazil, are often systematically murdered and protests are suppressed brutally by corrupt police and army troops.
In other words, the economic prosperity of the United States (and of much of the northern hemisphere) is, in part, due to the application of the same brutal techniques which were used right here in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to suppress strikes, destroy unions, steal from Indians, oppress Black labor, and so on. The viciousness of some US corporations and their allies has simply been transferred beyond US borders where it is less visible.
This is what worries me, fellow citizens. What are we really like as a country today? Did Tim McVeigh simply act out the violence and indifference to human lives so typical of the powerful?
[Professor Jack D. Forbes, Powhatan-Delaware, is the author of RED BLOOD, AFRICANS AND NATIVE AMERICANS, ONLY APPROVED INDIANS and other books. He is professor emeritus of Native American Studies, University of California, Davis. ] Phone: (530) 752-3626/3237; Fax: (530) 752-7097