Sunday, April 24, 2005


"Minutemen" threaten to kill "founding fathers"

For those who believe the Iraqi "insurgency" is some kind of unified, patriotic nationalistic movement, this Reuters report might clue you in to the reality of the situation:

Al Qaeda's Iraqi wing threatened Sunday to kill fellow Sunni Muslims who join the country's new government, saying they would be considered infidels.

"We warn all those who want to join the politics of infidels and apostates that the steel sword will be their only fate," the group, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said in a statement posted on a Web site used by Islamic militants.

So whence the title of this post? Well, surely you remember when Michael Moore, propaganda minister of the extreme left, described the Iraqi “resistance” as the equivalent of the minutemen of the American Revolution? These “minutemen” have turned on the Iraqis who seek to form a self-governing Iraqi state, the would be “founding fathers” of a democratic Iraq. Now, not satisfied with killing Kurds and Shiites and anyone else they can kill, they are apparently ready to turn on this last group with which they may have had some common interest.

There is a tendency to view historical events as the natural course of things. “Of course the thirteen colonies united in their bid for independence, it was the natural course of events. Of course the thirteen American colonies united to form a single nation, it was the natural course of events.” But actually it is usually only with the benefit of hindsight that the historical progression of events becomes obvious. History buffs, and the occasional “serious” historian, love to play “what if?” What if Grant had been killed, instead of injured, when thrown from his horse? What if McClellan, and not Meade, had been in command of the Union forces at Gettysburg? What if John Hancock, and not Washington, had been selected as the commander of the rebel armies? What if Washington had given in to the demands of Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and brought his army south, abandoning his strategically critical lines in the north?

The course of events that lay before them was not quite so obvious to the Americans who made the Revolution and formed the United States. Maryland was largely Catholic, with no particular love for the Puritans of the New England colonies, who had no real use for the “papists”, or for the Quakers, for that matter, and many a Pennsylvanian had memories of a relative (or himself) having been run out of towns in New England. The merchants and seamen of the north were distrusted by the planters of the south, who felt the shipping interests gouged them at every opportunity. The farmers and planters, north and south, felt they had little in common with the “big” cities like Boston and Philadelphia, or Savannah either.

And if it was so obvious that revolution was the proper course of events, why didn’t Canada rebel? Most American rebellionists surely assumed that Canada would join the rebellion. Remember, Canada had been wrested from France so recently that Benjamin Franklin himself had been involved in a plan to establish new English settlements in Canada. Many Americans assumed the British subjects in Canada felt the same grievances as in the thirteen colonies.

When Franklin warned that “we had better all hang together or we will all hang separately” he wasn’t just being witty. It was a warning that the thirteen colonies had better act in unison, despite the temptation to do otherwise. Remember, Spain held Florida and France still had vast holdings centered on the Mississippi Valley, and both had agents active throughout what is now the southeastern United States. Georgia, for example, could have reasonably made a separate treaty and placed itself under the protection of one of those nations. Any one or more of the colonies could have abandoned the revolution and made a separate peace with Britain at any time.

We view the Revolution and the founding of the United States as one seamless process. It was not. Take a look at the list of signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and realize that these events are separated by more than a decade, and the confederacy formed under the Articles of Confederation. Some of the names, obviously, are the same. Washington, Franklin, and Roger Sherman, for example. Others are pointedly not present at the Constitutional convention: Jefferson, Hancock, and the Adams cousins, Samuel and John.

We tend to think of the “Founding Fathers”, the war-time Continental Congress, and the rebellionists as being loosely the same group, but they weren’t. Samuel Adams did more than any other single individual to bring about the Revolution, but he played no role in the formation of the Constitution, or, really, the conduct of the war. Patrick “give me liberty or give me death” Henry was said to be outraged when he saw the draft of the Constitution, grasping at once the significance of the phrasing “We, the people” of the “United States”.

The group who constructed – and secured ratification of – the Constitution - was on the whole a much more conservative and politically sophisticated group than the group that brought about the revolution. In fact, many vocal opponents of the Constitution had been some of the most vocal supporters of rebellion and independence. But while Patrick Henry may have opposed the Constitution, he did not organize a group to go out and kidnap and behead fellow Virginian James Madison. Samuel Adams was willing to organize the Sons of Liberty, put on Indian costumes and toss the King’s tea off of the King’s ships into the harbor, and he was willing to argue all day and all night against the ratification of the Constitution, but he did not organize a gang to put kegs of gunpowder in the cellar and blow up the ratification convention.

In Michael Moore’s world, there is no difference between murderous gangs of Baathist thugs, common criminals and ideological fanatics, and a group of patriots with disparate interests, and different viewpoints, working their way, via a series of compromises, to an independent and democratic society, a republic where the rights of each are guaranteed, to the extent possible, against the demands of all. Apparently, Michael Moore’s view of history, and of the course of events in Iraq, bears no more relationship to reality than do any of his scripted, acted, cut-and-pasted celluloid works of fiction.

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