Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Custer-Like" Military Defeat or Cold-Blooded Symbolic Murder?

"AIM [ie American Indian Movement] and its supporters had sufficient firepower available to turn back the initial attempts at reinforcement, sealing the two agents -- Custer-like -- in their self-made trap."---Ward Churchill
On June 26, 1975, two young FBI Special Agents, Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams, were shot to death execution-style at close range after they were already injured and on the ground. Here is the official FBI account of what happened. The investigation showed that the two FBI agents didn't fire many shots. They seem to have been surprised by the shooters:
The double-murder happened at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Jumping Bull Compound on the 99th anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn, also called "Custer's Last Stand" (June 25-26, 1876).

I think that the murder was probably a kind of sick live theater with the two FBI agents unwittingly playing the role of Custer in a symbolic reinactment of "Custer's Last Stand."

This writer makes the same point.

The facts show that the FBI agents were outgunned before they started shooting; never-the-less, Ward Churchill concocts a fantastic account of this shooting in his book Agents of Repression. Churchill characterizes his account as "reality" and claims that the FBI agents were to blame for their own deaths. He suggests that the FBI agents initiated the shooting:
"The reality, of course, was that Coler and Williams were vastly outgunned from the moment they commenced firing, although it is doubtful they realized it at the outset. Further, AIM [ie American Indian Movement] and its supporters had sufficient firepower available to turn back the initial attempts at reinforcement, sealing the two agents -- Custer-like -- in their self-made trap." [page 241]

Readers can read other accounts about this murder here and here.
On an Indian radio program called Native America Calling (11-4-99), AIMster Vernon Bellecourt stated (possibly sarcastically):
[I]n his book Agents of Repression, [Churchill] stated that he was behind the hill from the Jumping Bull community the day after the gun fight that erupted there and killed two FBI agents...
After Vernon Bellecourt's remarks, Ward Churchill disputed Bellecourt's facts but reaffirmed his previous claim that he was on Pine Ridge Reservation on "that day":

"In my book [ie Agents of Repression], I did not state that I was on the other side of the ridge from the Jumping Bull [Compound]... I was at Potato Creek which is some distance away on the Pine Ridge reservation. I had arrived there that day in an International Scout vehicle without a radio, I had no idea what was going on and was surprised by one of the FBI sweep operations, that’s what I recount.
I was on my way to Spearfish, South Dakota to take up a faculty position, I had not resided in South Dakota nor had I been in South Dakota since I was 6-years-old, at the time I arrived at Pine Ridge. That’s simply another flat out, disinformational statement." [Full text].
What did Churchill actually say in Agents of Repression? In this book, Churchill claims:

"Author Churchill experienced one of these sweeps firsthand when, while driving across Pine Ridge on June 27, 1975, he stopped to urinate alongside the road, about five miles south of Porcupine. Over the ridge came an APC, accompanied by some 20 FBI and BIA police personnel, moving "on line," carrying M-16s, and dressed in Vietnam-style jungle fatigues, boots and bush hats. Most of the group were also wearing military-issue flack-jackets. Needless to say, the whole scene afforded a sense of deja vu to the viewer, given that he had spent a year in Southeast Asia in combat." [page 438, footnote #49]
So it's not "Home Sweet Home."
Adjust! This is Snapple's opinion!

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