Thursday, March 21, 2013

David Barton is Cool with Genocide

I raise this only because I know Barton continues to have some standing among evangelicals and I personally know of decent people who continue to labor under the impression that Barton shares their sense of decency. Let it be known, my friend, that he does not. I have to say, though, that even I was surprised by this. On his little radio spot today he was discussing just war theory. It turns out that he thinks genocide can sometimes fall under the rubric of just war, especially if it is white Americans doing it to Native Americans. Listen to it here. His meaning seems a little less clear in the transcript than it does in the audio, but either way it is fairly horrific. Here he is on some of the components of just war:
You have to deal, a lot of it, with how the enemy responds. It's got to be based on what the enemy responds [to,] you cannot reason with certain types of terrorists; and see that's why we could not get the Indians to the table to negotiate with us on treaties until after we had  thoroughly whipped so many tribes ... What happened was the Indian leaders said "they're trying to change our culture" and so they declared war on all the white guys and went after the white guys and that was King Philip's War.  It was really trying to be civilized on one side and end torture and the Indians were threatened by the ending of torture and so we had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said "oh, got the point, you're doing to us what we're doing to them, okay, we'll sign a treaty."
I don't claim to know anything about King Philip's War, but his fundamental claim, that European settlers were responding in kind to Native American violence, is false. In fact, European warfare was much more deadly than Native American warfare. It's funny that he would mention King Philip's War rather than the Pequot War 40 years before that made it clear white settlers were in New England to stay. The funny thing about that war was that the Pequots and other tribes were accustomed to a culture of warfare that involved small-scale raiding, captive-taking, and small numbers of deaths. The English, the ones Barton calls "civilized," responded by indiscriminately massacring many hundreds of men, women, and children. Their Native American allies were shocked by what was, in their view, the barbarous behavior of the Europeans.

Anyway, it was not my intention to engage with the merits of Barton's argument. I trust that its out-of-bounds nature is close to self-evident. He went on to discuss, in favorable terms, American treatment of the plains Indians. Barton is a famously dishonest and slippery character, but at a certain point you can't continue to wriggle your way out of these self-created binds. It's like, "Hey, I'm not a horrible person! I just say horrible stuff on the radio for a living!" It begins to wear thin after a while.

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