Sunday, August 31, 2014

Government Policy of Genocide


The basic strategy of the US government, as explained to Red Cloud in 1871, was for "the Great Father to put war-houses all through the Indian country." The idea was to make the Yankee soldiers highly visible to tribes for deterrent effect, and it "demoralizes them more than anything else except money and whiskey."  Sherman's genocidal policy was learned by his young Spanish attaché, Valeriano Weyler, who practiced it on Cubans in the 1890s.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Government Policy of Genocide

"The surprise attack on the [Indian] village was total war.  In such encounters women and children were nearly always present.  They mingled with the fighting men, often participated in the fighting, and in the confusion and excitement were difficult to identify as noncombatants.  In engagement after engagement women and children fell victim to army bullets or were cast upon a hostile country, often in winter, without food or shelter.

Total war raised disturbing moral questions, not only for the eastern humanitarians who shrilly protested military butchery, but for the army as well.  Some officers openly acknowledged the surprise attack to be indiscriminate killing.  "The confessed aim was to exterminate everyone," concluded Colonel de Trobriand, "for this is the only advantage of making the expedition; if extermination were not achieved, just another burden would be added – prisoners."

But what of the morality of a strategy aimed at finding and destroying Indian villages where women and children would unquestionably be present and suffer death or injury?  Whether, as General Sherman contended, such warfare is in the end more humane because it is more speedily and definitely ended may be argued.  The significant point is that Sherman's strategy for the conquest of the Indians was as moral, or immoral, as his march across Georgia . . .

Humanitarians, appalled by the killing of women and children, scored the army for practicing extermination.  Some pronouncements of Sherman, Sheridan, and others sound like exterminationism . . . [and] Extermination – a later generation would call it genocide – is the systematic obliteration of a whole people.

Many officers believed that extinction was the Indian's preordained fate . . . [rather] it was an impulse to civilize the Indian that dominated military attitudes as it dominated public sentiment and government policy – and that belies the charge that the United States pursued a policy of genocide.

[General George Crook] turned to the very tribe against which his operations were directed [for Indian allies and discovered] the psychological impact of the enemy finding his own people arrayed against him.  {Crook said in 1886:] "Nothing breaks them up like turning their own people against them . . . [and it has a] broader and more enduring aim – their disintegration."

(Frontier Regulars: The US Army and the Indian, 1866-1891, Robert M. Utley, Macmillan Publishing, 1971, pp. 52-55)