Middle East

Seizing Destiny for U.S. Capital

By Bonnie Weinstein

An article appeared in The New York Times on September 13, 2007, entitled “Compromise on Oil Law in Iraq Seems to Be Collapsing,” by James Glanz. This piece could have been a chapter in the book Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea,by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Kluger. It’s a painstaking historical breakdown of the wheeling and dealing between the commanders of capital in England, France, Spain, even Mexico, and the commanders of U.S. financial and business interests in their pursuit of the acquisition of the land that now makes up the United States of America. By any means necessary—through war, occupation, slavery, and extermination of the indigenous peoples of America—U.S. commanders of capital got most of what they wanted. But it is still not enough of what they need—an unending supply of capital.

U.S. big business wheeling and dealing

The Times article by Glanz details the financial machinations going on in the Iraqi oil fields. The pivotal thorn in the U.S. occupying paw is the Iraqi Oil Law, which includes, according to Glanz, “Article 111 of the Iraqi Constitution...oil and natural resources are properties of Iraqi people....” It is worth a closer look at this article.

“Contributing to the dispute is the decision by the Kurds to begin signing contracts with international oil companies before the federal law is passed. The most recent instance, announced last week on a Kurdish government Web site, was an oil exploration contract with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas.

“The Sunni Arabs who removed their support for the deal did so, in part, because of a contract the Kurdish government signed earlier with a company based in the United Arab Emirates, Dana Gas, to develop gas reserves.

“The Kurds say their regional law is consistent with the Iraqi Constitution, which grants substantial powers to the provinces to govern their own affairs. But Mr. Shahristani believes that a sort of Kurdish declaration of independence can be read into the move. ‘This to us indicates very serious lack of cooperation that makes many people wonder if they are really going to be working within the framework of the federal law,’ Mr. Shahristani said in a recent interview, before the Hunt deal was announced.

“Kurdish officials dispute that contention, saying that they are doing their best to work within the Constitution while waiting for the Iraqi Parliament, which always seems to move at a glacial pace, to consider the legislation.

“’We reject what some parties say—that it is a step towards separation—because we have drafted the Kurdistan oil law depending on Article 111 of the Iraqi Constitution, which says oil and natural resources are properties of Iraqi people,’ said Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government. ‘Both Iraqi and Kurdish oil laws depend on that article,’ Mr. Abdullah said.

“The other crucial players are the Sunnis and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Some members of one of the main Sunni parties, Tawafiq, which insists on federal control of contracts and exclusive state ownership of the fields, bolted when it became convinced that the Kurds had no intention of following those guidelines.”

Of course, all of these negotiations are made under the giant umbrella of U.S. military occupation and constant bombardment, while it insists upon the Iraqi “people’s [read: competing Iraqi business interests’] right” to make business deals with American oil corporations for a cut of the profits for themselves—the Iraqi people be damned! In reading a September 20, 2007, Timesarticle entitled “Cholera Case Reported in Baghdad,” by Andrew E. Kramer, I couldn’t help thinking about the similarities between the treatment of the indigenous population of the Americas in the pursuit of U.S. territory (which I learned by reading Kluger’s book) and the current seizing of Iraq by the U.S. military for the benefit of U.S. business interests:

“Iraqi health officials confirmed the first cases of cholera in Baghdad today, in a sign that an epidemic that has infected approximately 7,000 people in northern Iraq is spreading south through the country’s decrepit and unsanitary water system.... ‘It is already endemic in some parts of Iraq, but when it is growing and moving, that’s when it becomes an epidemic,’ said Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer, the World Health Organization’s representative for Iraq. The organization said there was laboratory confirmation of the disease in a 25-year-old woman living in Baghdad.

“Cholera is fairly simple to treat under normal circumstances, but the war in Iraq makes it far more difficult to contain. The mass displacement of the population has pushed many people into unsanitary living conditions, where food and water can become tainted with sewage and spread the cholera bacteria.

“Kamar el-Jadi, head of the health department for the Red Crescent Society in Baghdad, said cholera was spreading because some people embraced unsanitary living conditions, and she criticized the government for not responding properly.

“‘They like to live and eat in the rubbish,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how they can eat in these bad conditions.’

“She added: ‘The government is doing nothing. They don’t have a program. They have done nothing against this disease.’

“Health officials at the Red Crescent had earlier predicted that cases would begin turning up in Baghdad in late September or early October, when temperatures are especially favorable for the bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, which infects the intestines. People contract cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the bacteria, which comes from the feces of an infected person.”

In his book, Seizing Destiny,Richard Kluger describes the same kinds of wars of occupation that landed the Original Boundaries with the Treaty of Paris in 1783; the Louisiana Territory purchased from France in 1803; the purchase of Florida from Spain in 1819; the Republic of Texas annexed by Congress in 1845; acquisition of the Oregon Territory—a treaty with Britain in 1846; the Mexican cession—the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848; the Gasden Purchase—a treaty with Mexico that resulted in the acquisition of 29,670 square miles of Mexican territory; the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867; the annexation of Hawaii by Congress in 1898; the 1898 treaties with Spain for Puerto Rico and Guam; the annexation of American Samoa by Congress in 1900; the purchase of the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917; and the 1947 UN Trusteeship and the 1976 Covenant by Congress of Northern Marianas, bringing the total U.S. territory to 3,540,305 square miles.

All of this territory was acquired by wheeling and dealing with self-declared “Old World” rulers and “landowners” who themselves had no real right over the territory they ruled over by force of violence and for their own financial and business gains.

None of treaties that were negotiated with the native peoples were kept. The people were swept away, systematically exterminated. They were not human beings, just “nits” in the way of Manifest Destiny, i.e., nits in the hair of rich white men!

The modus operandi described in this book that was adopted by the “forefathers” of U.S. imperialism differs from the current situation in Iraq only to the extent that today, the imperialists are not sending “settlers,” with the U.S. Calvary to defend them. The government is sending its military outright, backed up by an equal or surpassing number of “private contractors” who are working to protect Iraqi oil directly. They are occupying the Iraqi oil fields and pipelines, trying to protect the U.S. military and corporate-owned machinery waiting to be put into operation, to fully exploit Iraqi oil reserves and secure their military might in the region.

While they have not distributed contaminated blankets to the Iraqis, the U.S. has created all the conditions for cholera and other such diseases to flourish and take hold among innocent Iraqi people struggling for survival under war, occupation, and the total destruction of their infrastructure and their way of life.

Kluger’s book does more than expose the brutal and violent truth behind the seizure—the outright theft—of U.S. territory. Along with this he exposes the imperial interests of the wealthiest nations with the mightiest fleets and most powerful weapons—no match for the simple life of the indigenous peoples who lived off the land gathering nuts and berries and hunting with spears, bows, and arrows.

The Iraqis are not hunters and gatherers. Iraq is a nation with more engineers per capita than the United States. But its people are up against the most powerful military force ever amassed on the earth, and they had no weapons of mass destruction! Its population has been reduced to hunting and gathering in the garbage dumps of the U.S. occupiers, drinking from contaminated water supplies and contracting preventable diseases, all at the hands of the historically despotic corporate rulers of the United States of America.

Kluger’s book only mentions a few “Indian massacres.” But what glares out from his book is the near absence of concern about the indigenous peoples in the minds and hearts of those in pursuit of the private ownership of the land. For this is what this country was founded upon: the right of the wealthy—originating in the Old World and continuing to today—to steal land and resources away from the inhabitants, human or otherwise, that stand in their way, whom they deem inferior to themselves.

Manifest Destiny was a racist-to-the-core justification for the extermination of millions upon millions of indigenous peoples in the North American continent and in every continent on the planet. It was the Old World’s license to kill! How familiar it sounds! Under the guise of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”—of saving the Iraqi people from themselves; of militarily occupying their land; of destroying their cities and towns and factories like they destroyed native villages, destroyed the crops, and slaughtered the buffalo.

In Iraq the U.S. destroyed modern cities, schools, hospitals, and access to electricity, clean water, and working sewage systems. U.S. occupation of and war against Iraq and Afghanistan has left masses of the indigenous population of those countries without any means of support or any way to make a living except around the dumping grounds of U.S. enclaves on their land.

In the book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Sitting Bull, while traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the summer of 1885, was quoted as telling Annie Oakley, another one of the show’s “stars,” that he could not understand how white men could be so unmindful of their own poor. “The white man knows how to make everything,” he said, “but he does not know how to distribute it.”

Richard Kluger’s, Seizing Destinyexposes the truth about what was really on the minds of the “forefathers” of U.S. imperialism from the instant they set foot on the North American continent. It was the white man’s burden and his destiny to rule this world, seize the land and resources for himself, use slaves whenever necessary and convenient, exterminate whenever convenient and expedient, and wage war and occupation and the spreading of disease whenever necessary for the betterment of his own private and selfish interests. As the imperialists so proudly claim, they are the best—the only ones worthy of the title, human being.

The massive accumulation of personal wealth justified by Manifest Destiny allowed and still allows these despots to buy the biggest and most deadly weapons and support a large military force to put muscle behind those weapons for the purpose of seizing even more for themselves.

They claim they have a right to all of this because white people from the Old World are not only smarter, more advanced, more civilized, but in fact, a higher level of human being. All the rest, even their own poor and ignorant white trash, are less than fully human and thereby need to be ruled by them, to live only at their discretion and only for as long as they are useful to them.

Manifest Destiny is still being carried out today by the same despotic government, with its very roots soaked in the blood of the multitudes of the innocent of centuries past—the indigenous peoples; the slaves; the indentured servants; and the multitudes working for subsistance wages—whose lives were and still are sacrificed to increase the profits, property, power, and status of the wealthiest U.S. capitalists and their allies.

I recommend Kluger’s book because it shows how this country came to be. I also recommend that people study further about how this country has treated its own indigenous people, because this helps to make sense out of the treatment of the Iraqi and Afghani people by the U.S. military today.

‘Nits Make Lice!’

In 1864, Governor Evans of Colorado Territory issued a general proclamation dispatched to the Indian camps by messengers, ordering all peaceful Indians to assemble at Fort Lyon. Those Indians who did not comply with the order would be killed. The order authorized the citizens of Colorado Territory to go in pursuit of all hostile Indians of the plains, to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever the Indians may be found. Colonel Chivington responded in kind. In a Denver speech, in August of 1864, Chivington is quoted as saying, “kill and scalp all, little and big... nits make lice.” He was applauded, and the phrase became the slogan among his fighting regiment. On the early morning of November 29, 1864, Chivington’s troops did just that, killing more than 600 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, primarily women and children—scalping and dismembering them in what is now known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

In March 2006, U.S soldiers in Iraq participated in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family, then set her body on fire to hide the evidence. On November 19, 2005, a group of United States Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children. To date, nearly one million Iraqi people have been murdered by the U.S. war and occupation. Millions more were murdered as a result of ten years of U.S. sanctions against Iraq that stopped the flow of medicines and life-saving food and equipment to the Iraqi people.

Once again it is the innocent who are sacrificed mercilessly to fill the coffers of the wealthy elite of U.S. capital and its Old World allies.

Neither the modus operandi of U.S. imperial conquest nor its distinctly unequal distribution of wealth has changed since its formation. In fact, its distribution of wealth has become more concentrated than ever before. And the massacres have gotten larger, more deadly, and more widespread.

How wise was Chief Sitting Bull?