Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
The confluence of Columbus Day Weekend and the Kunduz hospital bombing has us thinking about the deep levels of cultural violence in the United States and what can be done to change it. How does the US move from a country dominated by war culture to one dominated by a humanitarian culture? And, how do we do it in time to avoid war with China and Russia, which both advanced closer this week.
What does Celebrating Columbus say About the Character of the United States?
Popular Resistance has reported on the the legacy of Columbus. Howard Zinn describes the true history of Columbus and the Indigenous people of North America. There is a great need for the Columbus myth to be revised with realities. When the truth is understood, it is evident the US is celebrating a brutal war criminal and that it is time to abolish Columbus Day.
After-all, Columbus lost at sea, "discovered" a continent, or an island near it, where up to a hundred million people already lived. He enslaved the indigenous peoples, treating them as workhorse animals and sex slaves; he fed live natives to his dogs and cut off the hands of those who did not work hard enough; he slaughtered tens of thousands, beginning a process of ethnic cleansing across the continent, and his son was one of the originators of the African slave trade.
Many Indigenous peoples of North America do not celebrate Columbus Day because the reality of his human rights violations make it a celebration of a brutal war criminal. Cities are renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous People's Day, or after local Indigenous Peoples. The most recent are Albuquerque and multiple cities in Oklahoma. Others include Seattle, Bellingham, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Berkeley, Portland, Lawrence, and Santa Cruz. Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, do not recognize Columbus Day, which did not become a US federal holiday until 1937.
This is an international movement. In 1977, the International Indian Treaty Council, the international arm of the American Indian Movement, called for the global end of the celebration of Columbus Day and declared instead the International Day of Solidarity and Mourning with Indigenous Peoples. Throughout the years we have seen aggressive protests in Latin American countries over Columbus Day. In 2013 15,000 protesters, organized by Indigenous Peoples in Chile, called for an end to Columbus Day and the police turned water cannons on them. Thousands more marched in 2014 in Chile and the police attacked Columbus Day protesters with tear gas and water cannons. The Columbus protests are tied up with disputes between the largest Indigenous community over rights to the ancestral lands. This July, in Argentina after years of protest, a statute of Columbus was taken down and replaced by a female freedom fighter central to their fight for independence. Progress has come with conflict:
"In 1982, Spain and the Vatican proposed a 500-year commemoration of Columbus's voyage at the UN General Assembly. The entire African delegation, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples of the Americas, walked out of the meeting in protest of celebrating colonialism-the very system the UN was supposed to end. The commemoration was crushed, and the UN declared a celebration of the World's Indigenous Peoples Day and the Decade for the World's Indigenous Peoples, which began in 1994. The second Decade was declared in 2005, and the UN adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007."
The Vatican continues to show ongoing blindness on Indigenous issues. The Pope failed to denounce "The Right Of Conquest" which provided legal justification for colonization and stealing of land and resources from Indigenous Peoples. Pope Francis, in his visit to the United States, canonized a California missionary, Junipero Serra, some now call the Saint of Genocide. He refused to meet with 50 Indigenous Nations to discuss the issue. People protested the canonization by replacing Serra's name on street signs with the name Toypurina, an Indigenous woman who led a revolt against Serra for his treating Indigenous as slaves, destroying cultural rights and actions which led to the deaths of thousands.
It is not just about renaming the day, it is about ending discrimination against Indigenous peoples. Albuquerque's Indigenous People's Day proclamation declares the day "shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples on this land." The reality is that Indigenous men aged 20 to 24 are the group most likely to experience police violence. There is a massive, inadequately addressed reality of missing and murdered woman, especially in Canada. Indigenous people continue to fight for the survival of their culture and to stop the sale of sacred artifacts. And, they continue to fight to keep their land and rivers and against extraction of energy, minerals and resources from their land. At the root of many problems with the ongoing ethnic cleansing is the failure to recognize treaty rights.
The US Way of War
The United States has conducted war in brutal ways since before the country was founded. In the "Indigenous People's History of the United States," Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, writes about the origins of the 'US Way of War:' "This way of war, forged in the first century of colonization -- destroying Indigenous villages and fields, killing civilians, ranging and scalp hunting -- became the basis for the wars against the Indigenous across the continent into the late nineteenth century."
This week the US military received intensive worldwide criticism for bombing a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The DoD has changed its story multiple times, after MSF refuted each version, evolving from a mistake, to that the Afghans requested it, to that it was ordered in the US chain of command in violation of US rules of engagement. When Margaret Flowers, MD was sitting in the audience before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and General John Campbell walked in to testify, she wanted to make sure he heard the anger of people over the Kunduz bombing and she said "Bombing hospitals is a war crime. Stop the bombing now." Sen. John McCain ordered her arrested for making this statement.
The DoD will be investigating itself, so we know how that will turn out before it even begins. An independent investigation is needed. The DoD's latest is to deny a congressional request for the audio and video cockpit tapes of the bombin g. A request for the tapes was made in closed door congressional hearings this week. DoD acknowledged they had reviewed the tapes which provided important evidence but refused access to Congress because of the ongoing investigation. Edward Snowden first suggested these tapes would provide valuable evidence and Wikileaks has offered a $50,000 reward to find out. DoD should release the audio and video tapes of the bombing run. Sign our petition to President Obama demanding release of the tapes so the truth about the bombing can be known to all.
The Kunduz bombing and recent US wars are all consistent with the "US Way of War" which includes terrorizing communities, killing civilians of all ages, denying them healthcare and even food. We see the latter two in tactics like economic sanctions that increase poverty or make prescription drugs unavailable. These tactics go back to the founders.