A Long History of America's Dark Side

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Recently
by Peter Dale Scott: Supplanting
the US Constitution: War,National Emergency and ‘ContinuityofGovernment’

 

 
 

Editor’s
Note: Many Americans view their country and its soldiers as the
“good guys” spreading “democracy” and “liberty”
around the world. When the United States inflicts unnecessary death
and destruction, it’s viewed as a mistake or an aberration.

In the following
article – cobbled together from previous stories published
at Consortiumnews.com – Peter Dale Scott and Robert Parry examine
the long history of these acts of brutality, a record that suggests
they are neither a “mistake” nor an “aberration”
but rather conscious counterinsurgency doctrine on the "dark
side":

There is a
dark – seldom acknowledged – thread that runs through
U.S. military doctrine, dating back to the early days of the Republic.

This military
tradition has explicitly defended the selective use of terror, whether
in suppressing Native American resistance on the frontiers in the
19th Century or in protecting U.S. interests abroad in the 20th
Century or fighting the “war on terror” over the last
decade.

The American
people are largely oblivious to this hidden tradition because most
of the literature advocating state-sponsored terror is carefully
confined to national security circles and rarely spills out into
the public debate, which is instead dominated by feel-good messages
about well-intentioned U.S. interventions abroad.

Over the decades,
congressional and journalistic investigations have exposed some
of these abuses. But when that does happen, the cases are usually
deemed anomalies or excesses by out-of-control soldiers.

 

But the historical
record shows that terror tactics have long been a dark side of U.S.
military doctrine. The theories survive today in textbooks on counterinsurgency
warfare, "low-intensity" conflict and “counter-terrorism.”

Some historians
trace the formal acceptance of those brutal tenets to the 1860s
when the U.S. Army was facing challenge from a rebellious South
and resistance from Native Americans in the West. Out of those crises
emerged the modern military concept of "total war" –
which considers attacks on civilians and their economic infrastructure
an integral part of a victorious strategy.

In 1864, Gen.
William Tecumseh Sherman cut a swath of destruction through civilian
territory in Georgia and the Carolinas. His plan was to destroy
the South’s will to fight and its ability to sustain a large army
in the field. The devastation left plantations in flames and brought
widespread Confederate complaints of rape and murder of civilians.

Meanwhile,
in Colorado, Col. John M. Chivington and the Third Colorado Cavalry
were employing their own terror tactics to pacify Cheyennes. A scout
named John Smith later described the attack at Sand Creek, Colorado,
on unsuspecting Indians at a peaceful encampment:

"They
were scalped; their brains knocked out; the men used their knives,
ripped open women, clubbed little children, knocked them in the
head with their guns, beat their brains out, mutilated their bodies
in every sense of the word." [U.S. Cong., Senate, 39 Cong.,
2nd Sess., "The Chivington Massacre," Reports of the Committees.]

Though Smith’s
objectivity was challenged at the time, today even defenders of
the Sand Creek raid concede that most women and children there were
killed and mutilated. [See Lt. Col. William R. Dunn, I
Stand by Sand Creek
.]

Yet, in the
1860s, many whites in Colorado saw the slaughter as the only realistic
way to bring peace, just as Sherman viewed his "march to the
sea" as necessary to force the South’s surrender.

The brutal
tactics in the West also helped clear the way for the transcontinental
railroad, built fortunes for favored businessmen and consolidated
Republican political power for more than six decades, until the
Great Depression of the 1930s. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Indian
Genocide and Republican Power
.”]

Four years
after the Civil War, Sherman became commanding general of the Army
and incorporated the Indian pacification strategies – as well
as his own tactics – into U.S. military doctrine. Gen. Philip
H. Sheridan, who had led Indian wars in the Missouri territory,
succeeded Sherman in 1883 and further entrenched those strategies
as policy. [See Ward Churchill, A
Little Matter of Genocide
.]

By the end
of the 19th Century, the Native American warriors had been vanquished,
but the Army’s winning strategies lived on.

Imperial
America

When the United
States claimed the Philippines as a prize in the Spanish-American
War, Filipino insurgents resisted. In 1900, the U.S. commander,
Gen. J. Franklin Bell, consciously modeled his brutal counterinsurgency
campaign after the Indian wars and Sherman’s "march to the
sea."

Bell believed
that by punishing the wealthier Filipinos through destruction of
their homes – much as Sherman had done in the South –
they would be coerced into helping convince their countrymen to
submit.

Learning from
the Indian wars, he also isolated the guerrillas by forcing Filipinos
into tightly controlled zones where schools were built and other
social amenities were provided.

"The entire
population outside of the major cities in Batangas was herded into
concentration camps," wrote historian Stuart Creighton Miller.
"Bell’s main target was the wealthier and better-educated classes.
… Adding insult to injury, Bell made these people carry the petrol
used to burn their own country homes." [See Miller's “Benevolent
Assimilation."]

For those outside
the protected areas, there was terror. A supportive news correspondent
described one scene in which American soldiers killed "men,
women, children … from lads of 10 and up, an idea prevailing that
the Filipino, as such, was little better than a dog. …

“Our soldiers
have pumped salt water into men to ‘make them talk,’ have taken
prisoner people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered,
and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show they were
even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one
by one, to drop into the water below and float down as an example
to those who found their bullet-riddled corpses."

Defending
the tactics, the correspondent noted that "it is not civilized
warfare, but we are not dealing with a civilized people. The only
thing they know and fear is force, violence, and brutality."
[Philadelphia Ledger, Nov. 19, 1900]

In 1901, anti-imperialists
in Congress exposed and denounced Bell’s brutal tactics. Nevertheless,
Bell’s strategies won military acclaim as a refined method of pacification.

In a 1973 book,
one pro-Bell military historian, John Morgan Gates, termed reports
of U.S. atrocities "exaggerated" and hailed Bell’s "excellent
understanding of the role of benevolence in pacification."

Gates recalled
that Bell’s campaign in Batanga was regarded by military strategists
as "pacification in its most perfected form." [See Gates's
Schoolbooks
and Krags: The United States Army in the Philippines, 1898–1902
.]

Spreading
the Word

At the turn
of the century, the methodology of pacification was a hot topic
among the European colonial powers, too. From Namibia to Indochina,
Europeans struggled to subdue local populations.

Read
the rest of the article

November
1, 2010

Peter
Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at
the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs
Oil and War
, The
Road to 9/11
, and The
War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War
.
His book, Fueling America’s War Machine: Deep Politics and the
CIA’s Global Drug Connection is in press, due Fall 2010
from Rowman & Littlefield. Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.
His latest book, Neck
Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush
, was written
with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy
& Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq

and Lost
History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’
.

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