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Ramzy Baroud: Turning A Nation Against Itself

From Arizona to Baghdad: Will Geronimo Ever Surrender?

By Ramzy Baroud

United States military genius has evolved enormously since the nostalgic days of the so-called Indian Wars. The primitive war machinery of the US cavalries at the time merits no more than a pause of reflection, or perhaps pity, when compared to the astounding technological war advancements of the present. But altering the techniques in which enemy forces, in this case 'renegade' Indians, are hunted down and killed, hardly conceals the treacherous strategy adopted by colonial powers: turning a nation against itself to spare the lives of the invader.

"President Bush's desire to speed up the rate at which Iraqis are put on the streets to supplement the 130,000 American troops in Iraq was the dominant subject at a meeting of the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room," reported the New York Times, on October 30. And because the supplementation of US forces is "not happening fast enough," according to a senior official, the Iraqi recruits' training period would be drastically shortened to two weeks, before they are positioned as 'militiamen' on the frontlines "to combat the insurgents."

The notion of hiring "a rogue to catch a rogue" - used against the Apache Indians fighting for their freedom in the late nineteen century while straying in the rugged Tonto Basin in Arizona - is not cited candidly by the National Security Council, and more importantly by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz in his quest to 'revitalize' the Iraqi army. However, Wolfowitz, seen as the 'intellectual architect' of the Iraq War, whether knowingly or not, is assigning himself to become a modern day Colonel George Crook, the man whose ingenious plan to fight his Indian foes in Arizona using members of the same tribe was his winning scheme that, jointly with brute force, victoriously concluded the "Indian wars", or so we are told.

Freedom fighting Native Americans, lead by the legendary Geronimo among others, favored death in battle over perishing in reservations starved and dispossessed under the command of an 'agent', often corrupt and cruel. Hundreds of Apache Indians, often lead by Geronimo himself, would daringly flee the reservation, gasping for freedom and seeking self-assertion in an abyss of a valley, sheltered, even if briefly, from degradation in captivity. The Chicago Tribune's call at the time to slay every native man or woman who refuses to submit to the abhorrent life of the reservation, echoed across the country, a country that had little room to accommodate its indigenous owners. Having "Apache kill Apache" was one of the most successful tactics used by the US army, and the most dispiriting of all, which finally subdued the defiant factions of 'renegade' Indians, and forced Geronimo's surrender. Crook's duplicitous plot worked, so-well in fact that in 1886 a Congressional Act empowered the President "to enlist and employ in the Territories and Indian country a force of Indians, not to exceed 1000, to act as scouts."

The US army chore chosen for the "Indian scouts", whose involvement greatly pained the proud native populations of the Apaches, Lakota, Cheyenne - tribes that fought until its last man, often literally - was to be revived over 130 years later, by exploiting the enmity of Afghani tribes to cleanse the war path for American forces; and now, again, in Iraq.

Of course, much has changed since the "rogue was dispatched to catch the rogue" in the coarse terrains of Arizona; not only have the numbers of "enlisted" scouts - or 'militiamen' in the Iraqi case - radically augmented, but the wording describing the role governing the relationship between the scouts and their commanders has also been fundamentally altered. Consequent to the capture of Baghdad, the US forces' pressing military need to consolidate their control over Iraq, the newest conquered territory, unchallenged, necessitated the disbanding of the Iraqi army. But since the theatrical toppling of the former dictator's statue near Palestine Hotel has failed to bring to an end the anti-occupation resistance, then seeking the wisdom of Colonel Crook, despite the inferiority of his war machine, became imperative.

Wolfowitz appears more ambitious than Crook, however, for the Pentagon official's vision foresees an Iraqi army of five divisions; each branch is assigned to carry part of the burden endured almost exclusively by the demoralized US and British forces in Iraq. Certainly, the "rapid transfer of powers" to the Iraqi people is not an honest depiction of the envisioned Iraqi army's formidable task. For one, a rightful transfer of powers to the Iraqis will most likely lead to the demise of the foreign occupation, considering how loathed the occupiers are. Such demise is not good for business. "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims in oil," said Wolfowitz in an Asian security summit last June.

A man of such frankness must be aware of the fact that full American control of the Iraqi will is a prerequisite to bleed dry the Iraqi sea of oil. It should come as no surprise that an entire division of the proposed Iraqi army that of the "Facilities Protection Services", will be utilized solely to guard oil pipelines. Another branch is to be deployed to quell Iraqi resistance, the 'renegades'; a third is to guard the border, to prevent 'foreign terrorists' from plaguing the country. In spite of the proclaimed objective, the Iraqi army is to serve as a human shield for US and British forces and their emerging business interests, in other words, they will be transformed into a band of modern "Indian scouts".

The qualified success of the "Indian scout' Act of the nineteenth century should not throw one into a hasty conclusion that it was destined to succeed in Iraq. The native population of the United States was annihilated for centuries, prior to Crooks' military wisdom, with unequivocal brute force as their genocide was labeled victory, good for civilization, railroad construction and business; thus it was not the contribution of a few hundred desperate and misguided "Indian scouts" that conquered the West, nor, equally shall the compilation of an Iraqi army subdue the anti-occupation sentiment and patently authentic, not imported resistance.

Enlisting a nation to fight itself to sustain the economic and imperial interests of a foreign power is a fiendish endeavor. It will implausibly reduce the amount of bloodletting in warring Iraq, although might preserve the blood of 'coalition' soldiers at the expense of local Iraqi police and pipeline guards and their potential victims. The motif that has inspired the fearless resistance among ordinary Iraqis was not the disposing of a dictator and his regime, but the replacement of a tyrant by a foreign occupier whose economic objective has been manifest except to the uncritical eye. Turning a nation against itself is disheartening, to say the least, and will likely serve as a demoralizing factor to every Iraqi, no matter where he or she is positioned in the political, ethnic or religious spectrum, but will unlikely force the resistance to subside or diminish wholly.

Granted, Iraq is in need for an independent army, a sovereign government that fairly represents and reflects the desires of the Iraqi people. But what the United States is charting, is a modern day reservation, a reservation agent and brigades of "Indian scouts". Nevertheless, the scale of the Iraqi resistance and the altered geopolitical map of the battleground - sympathetic Iraqi streets compared to the desolate and hostile terrains of Arizona - all indicate that despite common myth, Geronimo has managed to survive, and is yet to surrender.


- Ramzy Baroud is an American-Arab journalist and author. He is the editor-in-chief of Palestine Chronicle and a researcher for the Qatar-based Aljazeera Net English.

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