Independence, Imperialism and Immigrants

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Common Dreams

Independence, Imperialism and Immigrants

Was the American War for Independence morally justifiable? Is any war?

In my most recent essay on the Iraq War I used strong language to voice my opposition to that war. I believe it is wrong. I said that my opposition to war, indeed any war, is based on a belief that intentional killing for retribution, empire, or other noble and high sounding aspirations, such as establishing freedom and democracy in the world, is far out-weighed by war's collateral damage to non-combatants like the innocent women and children who suffer and die as a consequence of war.

The piece provoked interesting responses--pro and con. One questioned my intent, protesting, "Some wars...are morally justifiable, such as the American War for Independence."

I replied that I aspire to convince people that war and violence to get even with, take from, and/or oppress other people anywhere in the world is morally wrong--was then, still is!

European imperialism and genocide against the indigenous Native Americans allowed Europeans to take over what became the United States. European conquest of North America created an American Empire. Was it morally justifiable?

One of the principal causes of the American War for Independence fought by the Continental colonials against Britain was Britain's demand that the colonials pay taxes for the money spent in the French and Indian Wars to secure territory in what became the Eastern part of United States. A 21 year old Virginian named George Washington was an officer for the British colonials. The colonials greatly benefited from the struggles between imperial England and imperial France over control of the Eastern half of North America. Indigenous Native Americans had inhabited the land for at least 10 to 20 thousand years. The British colonials exploited Native Americans and pitted them against the vast majority of Native Americans who sided with the French. Europeans took North America from the indigenous peoples by force and deceit.

The British and French fought four imperial struggles called the French and Indian Wars for control of North America over a span of 75 years with the first three involving the Brits and their colonists who named them for their reigning monarch of the day. They were: King William's War (1689-1697); Queen Anne's War (1702-1713); and King George's War (1744-1748). The final war was called the French and Indian War in North America (1754-1763) and became known as the Seven Years War in Europe. All four conflicts were the North American front of even larger struggles occurring in Europe.

The culminating conflict heated up with British General Braddock's death in an ambush while accompanied by young George Washington near Fort Duquesne and Fort Necessity where the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers form the Ohio River at present day Pittsburgh. Military forays and pillaging in what is now the United States were focused on attempts to capture the opponent's fortress positions on the frontier such as Fort Carillon, later known as Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in New York. The British finally decided to concentrate on the North American phase of the conflict and their investment of huge sums of money and new military talent helped provide the margin of victory.

As the wars proceeded the military advantage went to the British. This was partly due to the population and production capacity of the British colonies as compared with the French who tended to be hunters, trappers and Catholic clerics who befriended and traded with the Indians. The French hung in during the first three conflicts with the help of their Native American allies, but were finally overwhelmed in the fourth war. Many Native Americans were killed and abused by marauders, including women and children. The victory of the British played a huge role in the loss of their American colonies. Without the threat of French invasion, the American colonists saw little need for British military protection and resented British limits on the colonization of French territories. The rift between the colonials and England intensified with the slogan of "taxation without representation" and contributed greatly as a cause of the American War for Independence.

Most Native Americans who fought in the American War for Independence fought against the United States because their native lands were threatened by expanding European American settlements. An estimated 13,000 warriors fought on the British side. The colonials were able to split the Cherokees and the Iroquois into an internecine tribal slaughter.

The imperialist oppression and cynical manipulation of Native Americans by Europeans who colonized and have controlled the United States has been undeniable and continuing: From the French and Indian Wars to the "Trail of Tears", and the Battle of Wounded Knee; from the beads for Manhattan Island to the casino con jobs by Jack Abramhoff.

I am descended from Choctaw Indians in addition to having European ancestry. Knowledge of my Native American lineage and our history makes me angry at some of the recent nationalistic and historically blind rhetoric about immigration.

European conquest of Mexican Native Americans is an example of such blindness. After Mexico won independence from Spain, the new Mexican republic included present-day Mexico as well as the territory that today constitutes five southwestern states and more territory further north.

In 1835, U.S. settlers in Texas revolted against Mexico, fought at the Alamo and formed their own republic. In the years that followed, the United States pushed farther westward. The imperial doctrine of Manifest Destiny -- the belief that God had destined the nation to be a territory bordered on the east and west by the Atlantic and the Pacific -- was used to justify the United States' encroachment upon Mexican territories, which finally provoked a war in 1846 that enabled the United States to take almost half of Mexico's territory.

Should hard-working Mexicans in the U.S. whose ancestors lived in the Southwestern part of the U.S. for thousands of years before they were forcibly removed by the United States be treated as "undocumented" criminals? It is important for us to understand the truth of how we became a nation of independence, imperialism and immigrants.

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is http://tomandjudyonablog.blogspot.com/

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