Betrayals R Us: An Abbreviated History

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Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Lakota

“The white man made many promises to us, but they kept only one. They promised to take our land, and they did.” Those were the words of Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Lakota, a tribe known as the Sioux to the neighboring Absaroka, or Crow, who scouted for the white men against their ancestral enemies. The word “Sioux” is a corruption of the Crow word Nadissieux (or something close to that) which meant “cutthroat” in their language. Early French fur trappers mangled what they had heard the Crows call the Lakota, so Custer wound up being killed in dozens of movies by the Sioux. In their own language, however, they were the Lakota, with several distinct sub tribes that included San Arcs, Brule, Teton, Hunkpapa (Sitting Bull’s bunch) and the Santee. Lakota, in their own language, simply meant “friend.” North and South Dakota once was their place, Dakota being yet another failure of communication between cultures. Had the white men heard it right, we’d be talking about North and South Lakota, two states not now known as particularly friendly.

The Crow scouts, including a guy named Curly who led Custer to the “big village” which Custer then unwisely attacked, were shown no better treatment by the white men they’d allied themselves with than the defeated Lakota got. They were all fucked indiscriminately, consigned to dismal reservations, bad government issued beef, squalor, and disease. You can go to the Crow reservation near the Custer battlefield and see that those handsome people got just as bad a deal for being our “friends” as the “Cutthroats” who had been their avowed enemies. And ours.

In short, the Crow scouts, their families, and their whole tribe threw their lot in with “us,” and what they got for their sacrifices and courage was betrayal.

The same thing happened to the Apaches who scouted for us against Geronimo, or Cochise and Mangas Colorado before him. Once Geronimo surrendered, he and the few remaining members of his very small band (mostly women and children) were put on a train to Florida, along with the men who had helped track them down. That surely must have made for a very uncomfortable train ride to the place where the Apaches began to die off rather rapidly, the tropical climate of Florida being decidedly different from the high desert of southern Arizona northern Mexico where the Apache has long made their home. In a delayed act of consideration on our part, Geronimo and the other mal-adaptive Apaches where shipped to Oklahoma where they were able to die more slowly. In 1909, Geronimo stole a government horse and lit out for his old stomping grounds in the southwest. He didn’t get far and he died not much later that year. When he was recaptured, he explained his late-life flight for freedom as being due to a fight with his wife.

But the point is that the history of the U.S. betraying friends and allies is a long one. We were always selling someone out, or going back on promises.

Nor was it just people of color who were betrayed. One of the uglier episodes in 20th century history was when General Douglas MacArthur routed a group of World War I vets who had gathered in the nation’s capital in 1932 to demand an advance on bonuses they were promised. President Hoover, a Republican of the kind we’ve come to know, ordered MacArthur to clear them out of their encampment, which the media had dubbed a “Hooverville.” General MacArthur, who would later give the self-aggrandizing speech before a joint session of congress in which he said “old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” and who had lots of qualities of both a narcissist and a fascist, had no trouble kicking the shit out of men who had shared his service in the trenches of the Western Front, guys who been gassed, wounded, and traumatized by the horror of that horrible war. Seeking relief in the Depression Hoover had helped launch, however, they were considered rabble and subversives. Two of them were shot and later died of their wounds. The tent city was ploughed through with tanks, the veterans and their families forced to scatter in response to the ruthless display of force.

And those were nearly all white folks, veterans betrayed by the oligarchs with General MacArthur acting as their enforcer.

The beat goes on, of course, for vets, for Mexican laborers, for all the people who are the last hired and the first fired, for Native Americans, for women, for any who can be defined as “other” and then subjected to bad treatment or betrayal. In Trump Land, as in all the regimes where thugs rule, that can extend even to friends and relatives.

But I can think of no betrayal any more disgraceful than the betrayal of the Kurds by this draft-dodging cocksucker who now sits in the highest office in the land, put there, in part, through the machinations of a Russian ex-KGB thug and thief, along with pretty damn near the entire Republican Party and most every corporate greed head extant. After all, the stock market has really gone ape shit under Trump’s stewardship, so what’s the problem?

Given that, perhaps we shouldn’t allow ourselves to feel guilty about abandoning the Kurds to their fate. After all, where were the damn Kurds when Custer was getting his ass kicked by the cutthroats up there on the Little Big Horn, once the land of the ‘friends”?


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