“Indian Country”

by zunguzungu

From Stephen W. Silliman’s “The “Old West” in the Middle East: U.S. Military Metaphors in Real and Imagined Indian Country,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 110, No. 2 (Jun., 2008), a sample of public media sources employing “Indian Country” metaphor in Iraq and Afghanistan (via lexus search in 2006):

“From across the river, we hear a boom in the distance. And then another. ‘This is like cowboys and Indians,’ relays a Marine. Indeed it is.” (Hemmer, Bill, 2006 Reporter’s Notebook: Cowboys and Indians. Foxnews.com, March 30. Electronic document, http://ww.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,189147,00.html.)

“Anbar has the savagery, lawlessness and violence of America’s Wild West in the 1870s. The two most lethal cities in Iraq are Fallujah and Ramadi, and . . . between them is Indian Country.”(West, Bing, and Owen West 2007 Iraq’s Real “Civil War.” Wall Street Journal, April 5:A13.)

“I guess if this were the Old West I’d say there are Injuns ahead of us, Injuns behind us, and Injuns on both sides too . . . ” (Editors’ Report 2003 Indian Country of America. Indian Country Today, April 9. Electronic document, http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1049898023.)

“Even the base the Americans have set up on the edge of town, in an abandoned Iraqi police station, is called Forward Operating Base Comanche, with echoes of a fort in Indian country during the 19th-century expansion across the Great Plains.” (Burns, John F. 2004 In the General’s Black Hawk, Flying over a Divided Iraq. The New York Times, January 12:2.)

“‘You have so much freedom and authority over there,’ one member of ODA 2021 said. ‘It kind of makes you feel like God when you’re out there in cowboy and Indian country.’” (Sack, Kevin, and Craig Pyes 2006 Firebase Gardez: A Times Investigation. Los Angeles Times, September 24:A1.)

“LT. COL. RALPH PETERS, US ARMY (RET): ‘[T]he convoys, it’s harder to run them, you need more protection. Basically, the wagon trains now have to go through Indian country.’” (Gibson, John, Mike Tobin, and Mike Emmanuel 2004 US Soldier Kidnapped by Terrorists in Iraq. “The Big Story with John Gibson,” Fox News Network, April 16.)

“Ramadi is Indian Country—‘the wild, wild West,’ as the region is called.” (McDonnell, Patrick J. 2004 The Conflict in Iraq: No Shortage of Fighters in Iraq’s Wild West. Los Angeles Times, July 25:A1)

“We refer to our base as ‘Fort Apache’ because it’s right in the middle of Indian country.” (Peirce, Michael 2003 A View from the Frontline in Iraq. LewRockwell.com, April 13. Electronic document, http://www.lewrockwell.com/peirce/peirce73.html.

“Christ be careful out there. This is Indian country in the Hollywood sense of the word.” (Adams, Jeff 2004 Comment on “Greetings from Baghdad,” May 27. Electronic document, http://www.back-toiraq.com/archives/2004/05/greetings_from_baghdad.php.)

“Had he even lifted a finger towards it, there could have been a ‘situation’. Now you know why we call this place either the ‘Old West’ or ‘Indian Country.’” (Reese, Christopher 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom through the Eyes of an Adventurer, May 2. Electronic document, http://www.scuttlebuttsmallchow.com/reese.html.)

And as Silliman comments:

Contrary to statements made by U.S. military officials, the traffic in these metaphors may be part of the sanctioned but, perhaps, not “official” lexicon of the U.S. government (see Bolger 1995). In October 2006, the Baghdad Overseas Security Advisory Council website had the following statement (which one year later no longer existed): “We will post other things . . . so that your teams can have the best information available if they run into trouble out in ‘Indian Country’ “ (Baghdad Country Council n.d.). Recent newspaper quotations from Stephen Biddle, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former professor at the U.S. Army War College, further emphasize the currency of this metaphor among military leaders and strategists. The Los Angeles Times quotes him with reference the U.S. Embassy: “If the government of Iraq collapses and becomes transparently just one party in a civil war, you’ve got Ft. Apache in the middle of Indian country, but the Indians have mortars now” (Zavis 2007: A1). The International Herald Tribune quotes Biddle saying “those convoys are going to roll through Indian country with no cavalry” (Knowlton 2006). Even U.S. country music superstar Toby Keith commented on traveling to Iraq to entertain soldiers “in Indian country, in the Wild Wild West” (Masley 2005: W16).