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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Friday, May 28, 2004

The U.S. Empire - Then and Now

There was a recent celebration of soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment who were returning to Fort Carson, CO from their deployment in Iraq. The imagery of the celebration reveals a great amount about how the United States government views its privilege in the world, in much the same way that it celebrated its vision of "Manifest Destiny" across the Americas in the 19th century. One illustration of the continuous line of U.S. imperial policy, from then to now, is found in the picture of Donald Rumsfeld below, at Fort Carson this past October. As with all photo opportunities in the Bush administration, the picture below was carefully staged, framed and choreographed by the U.S. Defense Department.

Rumsfeld at Fort (Kit) Carson, Colorado, October, 2003

As the image indicates, the U.S. acknowledges and champions the connection between the U.S. government (represented by Rumsfeld) and the soldiers arrayed immediately behind him who are on their way to occupy Iraq, and, behind them, the 3rd Cavalry Color Guard -- seated on their horses and dressed in the same uniform of the soldiers of the 1870's who invaded the territories of indigenous nations throughout what is now called the American West. This photograph sends a very powerful non-verbal message about the legitimacy of the extension of the U.S. empire into Indian territories then, and about how the U.S. government would like the public to analogize the current neo-conservative escapade in Iraq with the benefits that most Americans continue to reap from the U.S.' 19th century imperial ventures in Indian Country

Rumsfeld's October message was reinforced this week during another ceremony at Fort Carson to unveil a new statue honoring the Indian killer, Kit Carson, after whom the base is named. The images below also raise the illusion of glory that is wrapped around the U.S. invasion and theft of Indian territories in the 19th century.

3rd Armored Cavalry Color Guard charging, May 25, 2004

After all, who is it that these soldier are supposed to be charging? We are to assume, subconsciously of course, that they are charging "the Indians," the evil ones, the "terrorists" of the 17th through 19th centuries, the obstacles to civilized Christian progress, those who would obstruct the U.S. from defending and globalizing its "way of life." And aren't we all (Native and non-Native alike) supposed to be grateful that the soldiers are charging, that they are attacking the heathens in defense of the blessings of Western civilization, just as Kit Carson had done 140 years ago? Perhaps these soldiers imagine themselves to be charging the unarmed women and children at Sand Creek or the Washita or Wounded Knee -- on their way to Fallujah or Najaf. In either case, the goal is the same: the extension of "superior" Western, Christian and civilized values over the poor wretches who have the misfortune of being born into backward, primitive, savage societies. Trouble is, those backward, pagan, cooperative societies have given more to the world in terms of art and science and philosophy and spiritual insights and freedom than these soldiers shrouded in navy blue pestilence could ever imagine. Here is one example:click And another: click

The final image in the Fort Carson montage is yet more telling about the ideological extension of the 19th century U.S. empire, and its current global delusions.
Kit Carson statue dedicated, Ft. Carson, Colorado, May 25, 2004

The statue that was unvelied on May 25th of Kit Carson sent an alarmingly chilling, racist message that was presaged by Rumsfeld's remarks this past October. The statue of the marauding Kit Carson, who was personally responsible for the slaughter of thousands of native people, is an insult to all Indians. Carson started with the invasion of the Mescalero Apache territories in New Mexico in 1862. It was, however, Carson's tactics against the Diné (Navajos) that earned him a permanent place in the "Indian Murderer Hall of Infamy." In 1863-4, when the Diné refused to be cowed by U.S. threats, Carson engaged in a "scorched earth" policy, destroying all crops -- beans, pumpkins, corn and melons, in an attempt to starve the Diné into submission;it did not work. The Diné continued to fight heroically in defense of their homelands for two more years.

In the bitter winter cold of 1864 (the same winter that hosted the Sand Creek massacre of 300 Cheyenne and Arapaho children, elders, and women less than 100 miles from the current Fort Carson), Kit Carson destroyed the prized peach orchards of the Diné, cutting down over 5000 trees, with the sole purpose of starving the Diné, and this meant all the Diné -- men, women, children, elderly, and sick -- into surrender. Even with this hardship, the Diné resistance continued until the fall of 1866. Carson's most notorius act, however, was the forced march of the Diné over 300 miles across New Mexico to the concentration camp at Bosque Redondo. Over 300 Diné died from exhaustion, illness or exposure on the forced march -- and they may have been the fortunate ones. Once at Bosque, which Hitler later used as a model for his own extermination camps - and which is easily recognizable as the tactical and cultural precursor to Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison today, the Diné lived a desperate existence -- where hundreds more died of starvation, exposure and disease. All as a result of the actions of Kit Carson.

Bosque Redondo Concentration Camp, New Mexico Territory, 1864 - the reality of Kit Carson's heroism

In Carson's honor, this past October, Rumsfeld lionized the Indian-killer, and extended Carson's human-butcher ethic to the latest chapter in U.S. imperialism in Iraq, saying:

"In the global war on terror, U.S. forces, including thousands from this base, have lived up to the legend of Kit Carson," Rumsfeld said, "fighting terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan, hunting the remnants of the deadly regime in Iraq, working with local populations to help secure victory. And every one of you is like Kit Carson."

"Few men have been chosen by destiny to serve their country as Kit Carson served, and fewer still have risen to the challenge," Rumsfeld told the group. "Each of you has been chosen by destiny to serve in this unique time in the history of our country. It's a time of change, a time of challenge, and you have risen to that challenge and have made America proud."

Kit Carson would have fit in perfectly in the "time of challenge" at Abu Ghraib prison. That certainly must have been Rumsfeld 's intended inference when he concluded that the soldiers "have lived up to the legend of Kit Carson." They were all, in the final analysis, implementing Kit Carson's, er...Donald Rumsfeld's -- and the United States' -- enduring imperial strategy. click


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