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Old 08-29-2005, 11:32 AM   #1
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Civil war parellels in US and Iraq

This might interest some of you in here. This article was presented to one of my political science classes this morning for discussion.

[q]The soul of resistance: civil war parallels in US and Iraq
By Ken Shulman

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - By now it's a familiar and hackneyed war story. A jarring event
rouses a dormant people. Diplomacy fails. Conflict erupts. The modern, mechanized
nation overpowers the atavistic, feudal regime. The victors send soldiers, consultants,
and contractors to free the oppressed, rebuild, secure vital resources and territory, and
to put their stamp on the society that will emerge. In the midst of this benevolence, a
loosely woven network of terror groups stages dogged acts of sabotage, kidnapping,
assassination, and graphic murder that demoralize the occupiers. The victors are
gradually forced to compromise those principles in whose name they first fought, or to

Sound like Iraq? It is. But it's also the United States of the Civil War.

Much like the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the April 1861
Confederate salvos at Fort Sumter forever changed the way Americans viewed their
country. Like George W. Bush, President Abraham Lincoln dressed his military campaign
in idealistic robes - as a noble crusade to free the slaves. Like Bush, Lincoln went to war
without a viable plan for the aftermath.

"Mr. Lincoln gropes ... like a traveller in an unknown country without a map," wrote one
New York World columnist in early 1865.

Georges Clemenceau, a French diplomat and journalist who would later serve two terms
as his country's prime minister, observed that the US had "embarked on the abolitionist
sea, without any clear idea of where their cause would lead."

As in Iraq, regime change left the South in social, economic, and political disarray.
Slaves had made up nearly 40 percent of the population in the prewar South, and had
provided its largely agrarian economy with a stable - and of course cost-effective -
workforce. With emancipation, the nearly 3.5 million freedmen were - at least in theory -
no longer tied to the land. Talks of enfranchisement for blacks were foreboding for
Southern whites, conjuring visions of African-American majorities who could use the
ballot to exact revenge on their former masters, or to further the programs of Republican
activists and carpetbaggers from the North.

The division of political and economic resources is the primary and thorniest issue in
postwar Iraq. Efforts at reconstruction generate resistance in a broad coalition of
insurgents formed of Baath Party loyalists, former Army officers, Sunni potentates, Iraqi
patriots, and foreign mercenaries. Some fight to preserve their prewar privilege and
prominence; some, to curb the influence of the Shiite majority. Others fight to reject the
political, economic, and social templates the Americans attempt to impose. Still others
simply to drive the invaders from their soil. The violence is constant, savage, and above
all visible, intended, like the March 2003 US aerial campaign, to shock and awe.

The Confederate insurgency was just as brutal and immediate. Just days after Gen.
Robert E. Lee consigned his sword at Appomatox, Confederate loyalists assassinated
Lincoln and gravely wounded William H. Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, in a
separate attack on the same evening. As Northern teachers, preachers, lawyers, and
businessmen flooded the defeated South, white supremacist groups including the Ku Klux
Klan, the Knights of the White Camilia, and the White Brotherhood committed atrocities
against newly freed African-Americans, and against those white judges, legislators,
clerics, and editors who sided with the freedmen.

In an 1866 episode that seems to presage one of the most horrific spectacles of the Iraqi
conflict, insurgents near Pine Bluff, Ark., burnt a black settlement and left dozens of
African-American men, women, and children hanging by their necks from nearby trees
as admonition. In another eerie portent, a gang of 500 masked men assaulted a Union
jail in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1871, destroying property, whipping hundreds of Republicans
and their sympathizers, and lynching eight.

Reliable statistics for deaths during Reconstruction, like those of civilian casualties during
Operation Iraqi Freedom, are unavailable. But the quantity of death and terror was
sufficient to compel President Rutherford B. Hayes to withdraw all federal troops from the
South in 1877. Even before this official end of Reconstruction, African-Americans had
been coerced into de facto servitude with punitive labor contracts, dispossessed of
property, prevented from voting, and victimized by marauding gangs.

In 1896, the US Supreme Court signaled the triumph of the counterrevolution with the
Plessy v. Ferguson decision that effectively sanctioned segregation.

Masked and hooded men continued to terrorize and kill African Americans in the South
well into the 20th century. Between 1882 - the first year such statistics were tallied - and
1901, more than 2,000 people were lynched. In all, recorded lynchings between 1882
and 1951 number nearly 5,000. Hundreds of others perished in race riots that erupted in
cities across the American South and Midwest.

While history is rich in similes, it is considerably poorer in homilies. It is relatively easy to
mine history for parallels. But it is agonizingly difficult to learn from them. Those opposed
to the current Iraqi campaign might cite the tragic example of American Reconstruction
as yet another reason to have refrained from attack. Those in favor of the war could
dismiss the insurrection as a regrettable but inevitable consequence of any military
occupation, even the most benign and just.

Perhaps the only universal conclusion to be drawn is that people will fight to preserve
their property and their way of life, simply because it is theirs, and that wars do not end
at armistice, but only when hostilities cease.

In September 1957, this time on order from President Eisenhower, federal troops were
back in Little Rock, Ark., to enforce federally mandated school desegregation. Nearly a
century had passed since the first shots were fired in the war between the States.

• Ken Shulman was the 2003-04 Freedman-Martin Fellow for Journalism at the John F.
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.[/q]

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Old 08-29-2005, 11:38 AM   #2
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Very interesting perspective...

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Old 08-31-2005, 11:05 AM   #3
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perhaps the mods can move this to the War section.
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Old 08-31-2005, 11:12 AM   #4
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It should be noted that "Republican" back during the Civil War and immediate Reconstruction era is not the same party now. Technically, yes, it is, but back then, it was the "liberal" Northern party, while the Democratic Party was the "conservative" Southern party. Around 1870, northern conservative Democrats, frustrated with the negative connotations associated with the party suddenly flooded the Republican Party. Northern liberal Republicans, miffed, then fled their party and went to the Democratic Party. Southerners of both parties pretty much stayed put, since they weren't wanted by anyone in 1870. Then, when it came to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, conservative Southern Democrats, angry at the party's support for racial equality, started bolting into the Republican Party.

These days, the transition is mostly complete. It just took nearly 140 years for liberals and conservatives to completely switch places from where they were originally. In short, that's generally why I laugh when the GOP parades Abraham Lincoln around, considering that the GOP of his day was the equivalent of the modern Democratic Party.

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