In 1922, Sir John Maffrey, head of the British Empire’s North West Frontier Province, put this nonchalant query to his superiors about civilian deaths during bombings: “What are the rules for this kind of cricket?” The equally callous response was: “International law does not apply against savage tribes who do not conform to codes of ‘civilized’ warfare. It is the ferocity that will break the morale of these savages”.

Years earlier, Native Americans too were dubbed heathens and savages. In the United States, Christopher Columbus is revered as a national hero; in reality he was a rapacious plunderer and mass murderer. On his way to India, he reached the Bahamas by accident in 1492 aboard Santa Maria where he and his crew were welcomed with gifts by the local Arawak tribes’ people.

The warm welcome elicited these thoughts written by Columbus in his log: “They are well-built… do not bear arms and do not know them…when I showed them a sword, they cut themselves out of ignorance. With fifty men, we could subjugate them and make them do whatever we want”. Historian Samuel Morison writes: “The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide”.

These gruesome atrocities were reenacted when English pilgrims, aboard the Mayflower, arrived at Plymouth Massachusetts. Almost starving to death, they were taken in and fed by native Wampanoag tribe members led by Ousamequin, their Chief. This, eating together, dubbed ‘Thanksgiving’, is one of the most celebrated days across the United States and supposed to prove bloodless colonization over a friendly meal!

In reality, the thankless pilgrims who had arrived in search of ‘religious’ freedom set about exterminating the natives. University College of London researchers recently found that within a hundred years of Columbus’s arrival in 1492, European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people in North, Central and South America. This, they found, resulted in massive swathes of farmland to be abandoned and reforested resulting in changing the global climate itself.

Revered as the father of the United States, George Washington (dubbed village burner by Native Indians) said, “Indians are wolves and beasts who deserve nothing from the whites but total ruin”. Thomas Jefferson, another founding father of the US, asserted that the “government was obliged to pursue Indians to extermination”.

Andrew Jackson’s picture adorns the $20 US bill. Seventh President of the US and founder of the modern Democratic Party, he personally supervised the 1814 massacre of 800 Creek Indians in Alabama ordering his troops to cut off the victims’ noses to keep count of the dead. His often repeated order was, “to root out from their dens and kill Indian women and their whelps”.

In a January 1886 speech Roosevelt said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth”. John Chivington, a pastor and colonel in the United States Volunteers perpetrated the horrific Sand Creek massacre ordering his forces that “lives of Indian children should not be spared because nits make lice”.

As colonization began in the Western Hemisphere, about 120 million Indigenous people were murdered in this 500 year war; the most brutal and the longest in history. American historian, David Stannard writes in his book ‘American Holocaust’: “The Nazi Holocaust was the ideological offspring of the American one”. He affirms that this ideology persists and thrives as American justification for global military interventions.

In ‘Adolph Hitler’, John Toland writes: “Hitler’s concept of concentration camps and practicality of genocide owed much, as he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the Wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination, by starvation and uneven combat, of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity”. The American Holocaust also acted as a catalyst for the African Apartheid.

On 27 March, 1973, a young Apache woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, came onstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. In the few sentences the organizers allowed her to say she, on behalf of Marlon Brando, declined the Best Actor Oscar (Godfather). She said that Brando “could not accept the award because of the treatment meted out to American Indians”. In his autobiography, ‘Songs my Mother Taught Me’, Marlon Brando wrote about the ‘genocide of American Indians’ and the woeful plight of African Americans.

The US annexed the Philippines in 1899; the purge saw an estimated 250,000 Filipinos massacred at the hands of American soldiers (trained Native American exterminators); thousands of civilians were herded into concentration camps. These atrocities were justified by branding Filipinos (as were the Koreans and Vietnamese) ‘gooks’ incapable of governing themselves.

Human trophies were prized objects during wars and were photographed for magazines. A May1922 edition of Life magazine carried a photograph by Ralph Crane; the caption read: “When he said goodbye two years ago to Natalie Nickerson, a big handsome (American) Navy lieutenant promised her a ‘Jap’. Last week Natalie received a human skull autographed by the lieutenant and 13 of his friends and inscribed: “This is a good Jap, a dead one”. Natalie named the skull Tojo. Japan’s daily, Asahi Shimbun, re-printed the image with the lines: “This is the picture that has starkly revealed true American barbarism.…”

The avid collection of Japanese body parts as human trophies in World War II was so endemic that Charles Lindbergh wrote in his diary during his fifty missions to the Pacific theater: “It is the same everywhere I go”. This barbaric practice was starkly reminiscent of the savagery of collecting Native scalps and Filipino skulls; the bequeathed abhorrent practice carried on to the mutilation of Iraqi and Afghan bodies when the West led by the United States, true to its history, invaded their lands to set them ‘free’.

The US Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”, it is followed a few lines later by branding the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island as “merciless Indian savages”. This when, a whole race was exterminated, their lands taken away and as author Mary Byler notes; savage, buck, squaw and papoose became pejorative labels, repeated in western novels and endless Hollywood flicks , for an Indian man, boy, woman and baby.

The very few of the free roaming natives who survived were incarcerated in small reservations. This in itself was not less than a death knell for them described in ‘Wetlands of the American Midwest’ as: “Pre-Columbian America was still the First Eden, a pristine natural kingdom. The native people were transparent in the landscape, living as natural elements of the ecosphere”.

The names of American and European politicians and generals like those mentioned above including the likes of King Leopold II of Belgium, perpetrator of the Congo genocide, General Amherst and Churchill, who participated in and those who continue to be part of crimes against humanity should be remembered not as heroes but for the horrors they perpetrated.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was a New World Order proponent and National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter. Known for his hawkish stance in shaping American foreign policy over decades, he made this chilling pronouncement during a 2008 speech to British elites at Chatham House: “today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people…It is easier to kill, than to control”.

Seldom has history chronicled savagery of such inhuman intent and of consistently horrendous proportions as those wrought on indigenous people and those of invaded lands to this day by the self-proclaimed non-repentant “torch-bearers of liberty and human-rights”.

It begs the question: Who is the savage?

Part II

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 classic, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was the best-selling novel of the 19th century; some view it as the foundation of the American Civil War. Uncle Tom’s character was based on the life of Josiah Henson. Born into slavery he escaped to Canada, became a preacher, authored books and remained an officer in the Canadian Army. He featured on a Canadian stamp and is recognized as a ‘National Historic Person’.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin starts with Mr. Shelby, from Kentucky, having put up a slave for sale. As the price is haggled, the stark reality lies exposed as Tom, the hero of the novel, is reduced to a mere object for sale. His Christian faith, honesty and hard-working ability, innately human traits, only serve as a leverage to increase Tom’s price in this inhuman trade.

With annihilation of Native Americans, Africans were shipped to America to work as slaves. During the seventeenth century, the United States, then a British colony, had a watchmen system to prevent arson and crime. With the increase in slaves, patrols consisting of ‘whites’ and exclusively targeting African Americans were initially formed in South Carolina from where they spread to the other States. These slave patrols used to hunt runaways and were tasked to ensure no rebellions took place against the whites.

Slavery was abolished with passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 after the Civil War. The ‘slave patrols’ gave way to the infamous Ku Klux Klan which became the foundation of the police force. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, from 1877 to 1950, more than 4,400 black women, men and children were lynched by white mobs; many were bludgeoned to death or burnt alive. Lynching usually took place within courthouse lawns. Historians believe that these unchecked brutalities are a precursor to the savage treatment meted out to African Americans by police officers throughout the US to this day.

In this era too, African Americans continue to bear the brunt of racist brutalities being specifically targeted during Nixon’s war on drugs. In later years, John Ehrlichman, Assistant to President Nixon for Domestic Affairs, told Harper’s Magazine: “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news”. Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill too became a tool to target African Americans.

On May 25, 2020, an unresisting George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, who had racked up 18 complaints of misconduct and excessive force over his 19 year police career. During the last three of the eight minutes and 48 seconds with Chauvin’s knee and full body weight on his neck, Floyd was completely motionless. The last feeble words as his life ebbed away were: “Please. Please. Please. I can’t breathe. Please man, I can’t breathe”.

On 17 July, 2014, these were exactly the same agonizing words 43 year old Eric Garner gasped 11 times before he died due to policeman Daniel Pantaleo’s fatal chokehold; Pantaleo was never prosecuted even after Garner’s death was termed a homicide.

Floyd’s death came 10 weeks after the killing of an innocent 25 year old Ahmaud Arbery. On his regular jog in his neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia, he was chased and gunned down by a white father and son vigilante duo following him in their pickup truck. Rayshard Brooks, a 27 year old father, died when he was shot thrice in the back by police officer Garrett Rolfe in an Atlanta restaurant drive- through.

Michael Brown, 18, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer who was responding to reports that an unarmed person had stolen a box of cigars. Autopsy reports revealed Brown had been shot six times. Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy, was shot dead in Cleveland, Ohio by a police officer after reports of “a juvenile pointing a gun at passer bys that was probably a fake”. Police shot and killed Rice; his gun was a toy.

Walter Scott was pulled over for having a defective light on his car in North Charleston, South Carolina. He ran away after a brief scuffle and was shot dead by Michael Slager with five gunshots in the back. Alton Sterling was shot dead in Baton Rouge; Philando Castile was killed while out driving with his girlfriend in St Paul, Minnesota. Stephon Clark died after being shot seven times in Sacramento, California.

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician died, shot eight times during a midnight ‘no-knock raid’ by police on her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. These are just a few recent tragic cases where those who died were African Americans; the trigger-happy shooters, ‘whites’ – police officers; it epitomizes the savagery that has prevailed over the centuries.

‘I can’t breathe’ has become a western anthem as millions identify themselves with George Floyd. It is so because millions of African Americans and non-whites see themselves perpetually in the cross-hairs. The sentiment is mirrored in the words of Lee Pelton, the president of Emerson College. He wrote a letter to the students, explaining his gut-wrenching reaction to Floyd’s murder. He wrote: “Today, I write to you as a black man, there is no other way to write to you, given recent events….what happened to George Floyd is not new…it is as old as 250 years of slavery…”

No words can sum up this saga of savagery and oppression more than the timeless ones from Frederick Douglass Keith, a former slave, abolitionist, writer and statesman. His autobiography titled “Prophet of Freedom” won the Pulitzer Prize. When the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester invited him to give a July 4 speech in 1852 at the Corinthian Hall in Rochester, Douglass opted to speak on July 5. The speech came to be known as, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

He said: “Fellow-citizens, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What do those I represent have to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence extended to us?”

“…Your independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn… America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future”.

“… your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity…your denunciation of tyrants…your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy; a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour”.

“…Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival”.

The captioned question rests answered.

Mir Adnan Aziz is a political commentator Email:miradnanaziz@gmail.com


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