The Fort Laramie Syndrome

Can the handpicked Palestinian peace candidate, Abbas, disarm militants and get his people to accept a scaled down Palestine, including the Israeli annexation of large sections of East Jerusalem? Can "democratically elected" Iraqi leaders hold together the country and prevent a civil war and Iraqui oil falling into the hands of an Israeli-backed Kurdistan? If history is any guide, the answer would probably be no. But which history to use?

U.S. proponents of exporting democracy to the Mid East like to cite post-World War II Germany and Japan as success storuies. However, Germany already had a democratic tradition and Japanese were under orders from their beloved Emperor to follow the instructions of General MacArthur. Rather, I think we need to look to the American Wild West of 1850 through 1880 for a more useful historical analog.

In recent years, there have been attempts to equate various Mid Eastern peoples with American Indians. These have been ridiculed due to the obvious cultural differences. But the situations closely parallel one another. For instance, there is a strong similarity between the American "Manifest Destiny" and Modern Zionism, which seeks to create "Eretz Israel" on the remains of countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon. Add to this a competition for scarce resources (such as gold in the American West and oil and water in the Mid East), a long period of military interventions, broken agreements, and population relocations and you have additional parallels.

Further, there are financial parallels. In the period following the U.S. Civil War, financial houses such as the Rothschilds were flush with war profits and debt interest. They invested these profits in Westward expansion and the railroads, which received huge Federal land grants along the rights of way. But, for these lands to have value, the Indians had to go. Be it by killing the buffalo, giving them smallpox-infested blankets, relocation to small reservations or killing in warfare. Likewise, in the Mid East, several trillion dollars has been invested in the creation of the Israeli state. You fill in the blanks.

Thus, we have a good real-life illustration of what could happen in the present environment: the "democratization" of American Indians and the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. Essentially, both treaties contained the idea that if a white did wrong to an Indian, the army would bring him before the U.S. courts. And, if an Indian did wrong to a white, the army would arrest him and bring him before a U.S. court.

The prelude to the first Ft. Laramie Treaty was the Horse Creek Treaty of 1851. There, 10,000 Plains Indians were gathered together and told to "democratize" and that, henceforth, the U.S. would guarantee them lands and peace in return for allowing settlers safe passage. Since many tribes did not have a concept such as this, i.e., that one man could speak for all people in the tribe, the U.S. Government graciously "elected" such leaders for them. One such leader was Conquering Bear, a Sioux peacemaker much like Abbas.

It was just three years after the Treaty that Lt. John Gutton and 30 soldiers rode into Bear’s camp and attempted to arrest him for allegedly stealing a lame calf from a Mormon wagon train. Bear denied wrongdoing, but offered to pay double the value of the calf if that would make peace. At that moment one of the soldiers fired and then the howitzer opened up, killing Bear and a number of Indians. An Indian named Spotted Tail took over and killed most of the soldiers except one, who made it into Ft. Laramie. This set off 14 years of conflict.

The second Ft. Laramie Treaty in 1868 was even more ambitious. In return for giving up large tracts of claimed land, the Indians were promised secure reservations and food and supplies for 50 years. (In the modern venue, aid to the Palestinians.) The Sioux were promised the land between the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Big Horn in Wyoming.

Needless to say, corrupt agents and officials produced food shortages and, with the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, the Sioux quickly found that the army would protect prospectors but not Indians from their trespassing. Finally, despite Federal court rulings that it was illegal, a decision was made to relocate all the Sioux and military leaders such as George Custer were assigned this task. (To his credit, Custer personally opposed the mistreatment of these Indians.) Soon, Indians with names like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse would become well known–but their opposition was far too late to have any chance of success. And even these formidable Indians eventually surrendered and were assassinated by Indian police–their own people. Shades of the Iraqui "Security Force".

As yet, we have seen only sporadic attempts to depopulate countries in the Mid East, although this recently was discussed on Israeli TV, according to reports. Iraq remains the best example. Since the First Gulf War its people have been subjected to bombing, depleted uranium dust, starvation, disease, and destruction of housing as in Fallujah.

There is one major difference between the Mid East and American Wild West: Islam. This way of life has allowed societies in that region to survive and even prosper despite war and corrupt leaders and despots. It will be a sad day in the region if the new forms of "tolerant" Islam being proposed by Neocons and even some European leaders take hold.