What struck me about this column -- not for the first time in this war -- is the inappropriate connections conjured by the language employed -- in this instance, in the title: “Indian Country.”
It might not seem of any consequence to most of us and be simply another case of “politically correct” phraseology, but consider what is implied. In the American West, Indian Country was beyond the pale, beyond civilization, even beyond redemption. Its use to describe the areas in Iraq not controlled by U.S., coalition, or Iraqi security forces links the war against today’s terrorists to the Native American’s struggle against the invading Europeans and later against the U.S. Army. That is, Native Americans were terrorists in their day.
This is not new, and Ralph Peters is not the only one who, consciously or unconsciously, takes what is a long, historical encounter and makes it act as metaphor. Given the conduct of the more powerful Europeans and later the American settlers, one would think that today’s Army (Peters is a retired lieutenant-colonel) would not want to conjure a past that is less than admirable.
Does it really make any difference? It may, for one refrain from the White House and some members of Congress is that al-Qaeda and other terrorists read and listen to what Americans say. And if this is a contest over control of the world’s future ruling ideals and ideas, to remind the world of how shamefully Native Americans and other minority populations have been treated by descendents of European settlers seems to be handing al-Qaeda a free propaganda coup.