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July 28, 2005


Watch now for the reemergence of widespread, right-wing speculation about Berger's pants and hoisery -- and bonus points for me for using the word hoisery twice within the half-hour.

Meanwhile, just more evidence of the intentional ignoring and overruling of advice from traditional (read: authorized and legitimate) channels, this time from military quarters. Again, the Bush doctrine is illustrated: Don't like the way the current military executes its mission? Don't bother seeking legal change through the legislative process. Take the extralegal shortcut, and use the leeway courts give the executive (thanks to the presumption that executive power will be exercised for the national benefit, as opposed to being exercised for the convenience of those in power) to keep dissent under seal. And if word gets out, let it be known that the dissenters are traitors and/or French.

Well, I was waiting all yesterday for an open thread (what happened guys? not one this week!) but let me just hijack this tangentially related post for use as my own launching pad.

An old Jimmy Stewart movie, "Broken Arrow" was on TV yesterday. I only caught the first half or so. It's about a former military scout and current gold-hunter, played by Jimmy Stewart, who saves the life of a young Apache and befriends him. He goes on to learn more Apache ways, and was well on the way to negotiating a truce with Cochise by the time I had to leave for work. (Sounds corny put into 100 words or less like that, but from what I saw of it it was a really good flick.)

What struck me was, if the film had been released today, how conservatives would be howling over the obvious allegories to Iraq. From the scene near the beginning of Apaches hanging the bodies of a raid on a riding party from a tree and setting it on fire, eerily close in imagery to the mercenaries hung and burned from the bridge in Fallujah, to a fellow in the town telling Stewart's character when he begins to seem "soft" on Cochise, "You're either fighting with us or you're fighting with them." (As best I recall -- it may have even been closer to the script the President was reading from.) I guess, notably, they do not accuse Jimmy Stewart of being French -- but then, I didn't see the whole thing.

Where I'm going with this, besides the obvious themes of everything old is new again & that today's wars are played out like Hollywood movies, is another parallel I have been wondering about for a little while now, but don't know enough about to judge if it is fair. Of the US wars, could it be that Iraq is most like the fights with Native Americans?

We know Bush wants to be a cowboy, but I think the similarity runs deeper. In the film, the town was a little green zone, with Cochise's men controlling all the territory around it. (For what it's worth, Cochise in the film is a very sympathetic character, defending his land against the white invaders... this is not your basic Cowboys-and-Injuns show.) So the balance of power is similar, as is the white invaders coming in where they don't belong.

I had a conversation in a thread on dkos a week or two ago where I suggested that the US approach to Iraq is like the old approach to Native Americans -- as it took us a long time (if ever?) to really recognize tribes are independent with their own interests and conflicts rather than a single bloc of "Indians" who can be dealt with as a unit, we are also failing in large part to recognize the very different factions in Iraq and trying to force them to unify as a single Iraqi identity, which is not how they see themselves (I think?). Talk about "divided government."

Is there any value to this comparison? Can anyone help me riff on it a little more to find out? Obviously one thing we're doing right is trying to keep the Iraqis involved in their own peacekeeping and government, which goes well beyond what even Jimmy Stewart was capable of. But is it fair (or wise) to lump what (I guess?) are like separate unfriendly tribes together in a single state?

s it fair (or wise) to lump what (I guess?) are like separate unfriendly tribes together in a single state?

That's the Billion Dollar per Week question, isn't it? I'm assuming everyone's read Peter Galbraith's NYRB . If not, it's le must.

sorry for the screwed up html. The link does work, though.

"Broken Arrow" was one of the first two films to show much sympathy for Indians. But it followed the traditional view - still extant in most quarters today, and relevant to this Iraq discussion - that good Indians ultimately became peaceful Indians while bad Indians - the ones who went "off the reservation" as Jay Silverheels playing Geronimo does - were "renegades" and only worthy of slaughter or imprisonment. Like "hostile," "renegade" is one of those upsidedownisms applied to Indians like Tecumseh, Osceola, Crazy Horse and Geronimo. Most of those to whom it applied were not traitors or deserters - but the true carriers of their native cultures, in other words, patriots.

The real-life story of the deportation to Florida of Geronimo and many Chiricahua who didn't ride with him (including the Apache police who helped capture him) is another in a long line of betrayals by the 19th Century U.S. government. Since the U.S. can't very well impose "reservations" on the Iraqis, it's choosing to build more prisons for "renegades" instead.

To get back to DemFromCT's commentary, we find today that the renegades - traitors to the rule of law and deserters of American ideals - operate right out of the White House, aided by a craven, lickspittle media and the notion that "everything has changed since 9/11." Everything, that is, except the drive for absolute power that the rule of law is supposed to constrain.

jonnybutter thanks, I will read it (I wasn't aware of it).

MB, thanks also, was hoping to hear from you.

"Broken Arrow" was one of the first two films to show much sympathy for Indians
Just curious, what's the other?

I'm hindered here by not having watched up to the part with Geronimo, but is it fair to cast the Iraqi police and government as Cochise and followers, and the so-called insurgents as Geronimo and those who ride with him? Are we ready to say the insurgents in Iraq are the real patriots -- or if not (and I don't think I am), what's the difference between their motives?

The other movie, released before "Broken Arrow," but also in 1950, was "Devil's Doorway".

No, of course, I don't believe you can make an exact congruence between American Indian patriots and the Iraqi insurgents. It's U.S. government policy that seems so much a repeat, this time around both as tragedy and farce.

But like Indians of the 18th and especially the 19th Century, today's Iraqis have difficult choices to make. In their case, you either join with the Occupiers who claim they wish to give you democracy, independence and a fresh and better life or fight them because their pretty words don't measure up to their actions on a day-to-day basis. And if you do fight them, how do you justify joining up with barbarians - some of whom worked ruthlessly for the hated ancien regime - and who now have no qualms about blowing up children and murdering adults whose only crime is walking by the wrong place at the wrong time? Not to mention that they have either no vision except "Americans out!", or a truly horrific vision of how Iraq will be run with them in charge.

Thanks. Devil's Doorway sounds appealing. Interesting to imagine a "Broken Arrow" today made about the choice you lay out in the last paragraph.

I wonder if the power of a thousand writers on a site like dKos could be harnessed into a group-authored screenplay, say via wiki technology. I've been thinking it is not historians who write history any longer -- our country's views of its past come from songs, tv and movies, and pop fiction more than from history books now.

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