June 9, 2011We are working on our next cover story "Was Geronimo A Terrorist?" I had a completely different editorial finished (growing up on Route 66), but after reading Paul Andrew Hutton's excellent piece on the metamorphizing of Geronimo from terrorist to patriot hero, I decided to scrap my current editorial and go with something like this:
It was a breathtaking and daring raid. U.S. special forces crossed a porous border into a dangerous region of an alleged ally and attacked a secret compound where a notorious killer of Americans was hiding.
This was not Pakistan, this was Mexico in 1886. The hand-picked special forces included a large force of Apache scouts, and they were led by a West Pointer, Captain Emmett Crawford. Their mission was to take out Geronimo, who had for years, raided all over Arizona, New Mexico and Old Mexico, destabilizing the region while killing innocent people and leaving a trail of blood and destruction everywhere.
The raid did not go as well as the Navy Seal 6 operation and tragically ended the life of a brave, American officer and a hero of Mexico, Major Corredor. Geronimo escaped and more people died (and General George Crook lost his job), before Geronimo finally surrendered in September of 1886.
And, although many Americans wanted to hang the Apache for his many killings, the U.S. government sent him to exile in Florida, sparing his life. Although current critics consider this inhumane treatment, it certainly beats a shot in the eye.
Today, it seems safe to say, the majority of Americans believe Geronimo was a "freedom fighter" and the U.S. troops who gave their lives trying to bring him to justice, are considered the villains of this Old West story. This is disturbing to those of us who believe, as Voltaire put it, "To the living we owe respect, to the dead we owe only the truth."
Paul Andrew Hutton brilliantly guides us through the truth about Geronimo's metamorphosis from terrorist to patriotic hero.
Is it possible that 100 years from now, Ossama bin Laden will be viewed as a freedom fighter, and the U.S. Navy Seal 6 team that killed him will be portrayed in movies and literature as the evil villains? If you can fathom this, you will have a decent insight into how the people of Arizona, New Mexico and Old Mexico in 1886 would feel if they lived to see the morphing of Geronimo into what he is perceived to be today.
Nation building, indeed.
The parallels to today are there for anyone who reads the record. And speaking of the record, I cannot praise enough Ed Sweeney's new book "From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches 1874-1886." It is a thorough, balanced telling of that tragic war that would make Voltaire proud.
"The only thing new in this world is the history you don't know."