By Gale Courey Toensing
Generations of West Point officers learn about war from studying the “Indian wars,” and so it would make perfect sense for them to draw an analogy between Indians and al Qaeda. The military tradition is that the Indians were the bad guys, they were savage and engaged in non-traditional, even scary warfare, and that they had no rights under the U.S. Constitution. As such, they were fair game for anything—anything at all—the U.S. military wanted to do to them. Preemptive attacks on unarmed women and children like Wounded Knee, indefinite detention in concentration camps like Fort Sill, mass executions for trumped up war crimes like at Fort Snelling all of it legally justifiable from the point of the view of the military. Same is true in the Department of Justice, where in the days following 9/11, Bush Administration attorneys like John Yoo (now a Berkeley law professor) and Jay Bybee (now a Ninth Circuit judge) argued that the President needed no authorization from Congress to engage in torture, establish military jails and commissions to house and try al Qaeda suspects, etc., through extensive reliance on Indian war-related “precedents” involving self-serving legal opinions about the Modocs, the Seminoles, the Dakota at Fort Snelling, and others. It was Yoo and Bybee who authored so many of the so-called “torture papers” who first explicitly compared the Seminoles and other tribes to al Qaeda. The military prosecutors are just cribbing from them.
We killed them for terrorizing, scalping, and murdering us. Now that they're dead and (mostly) gone, we salute them for their terrorist-like abilities. If you want to frighten al-Qaeda, what better way than with an Indian missile or helicopter or codename? It takes a terrorist to scare a terrorist.
It's like honoring a grizzly bear or another deadly predator. When it's about to eat you, you don't "honor" it for its bravery and nobility. You shoot it and kill it. Once you skin it and turn it into a rug, then you honor it. It's brave and noble because it took you, someone even braver and nobler, to conquer it.
For more on the subject, see How People Get Labeled "Terrorists," Obama: Bin Laden Was "Geronimo," and Seminoles Compared to Al Qaeda.