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Don’t be a Buffalo Soldier

December 17, 2008

by Carl Dix

U.S. forces, including these modern “Buffalo Soldiers,” round up all the men in the village of Mashahdah, Iraq, in 2003. – Photo: Revcom.us
U.S. forces, including these modern “Buffalo Soldiers,” round up all the men in the village of Mashahdah, Iraq, in 2003. – Photo: Revcom.us
During the Civil War, Black soldiers were allowed to enlist in the Union Army. After the war, most left the army. But some stayed. These soldiers were sent west to fight and kill the Native American Indians who were defending their lands against the government and the white settlers. The Indians called these soldiers “Buffalo Soldiers.” “Buffalo Soldiers”: Oppressed people given guns and sent out to kill other oppressed people. An old and shameful story that some people, somehow, take pride in. Now that story – and that call – is being revived.

Barack Obama is going to the White House – the first Black president – and he’s calling for a new spirit of service to America. Well, I got a question, especially for Black youth: Are you going to sign up to fight America’s wars now? When Bush was talking about staying the course in Iraq till victory is achieved, most of you all weren’t buying it. But now your chests swell with pride when you think of Obama becoming the commander-in-chief of the free world. Some of you all are thinking maybe you would fight for an America that has Obama in charge.

Don’t do it. The nature of these wars hasn’t changed. They still come down to raining death and destruction on people who haven’t done a damn thing to deserve that kind of brutality. Is having a Black commander-in-chief enough to get you to enlist in America’s wars for empire, to kill people, and maybe die yourself, trying to keep America’s stranglehold on the world in effect? Or are you going to stand with people around the world in opposition to these wars? Are you going to buy the poison Obama is selling and think, and act, like an American? Or are you going to start thinking about what humanity needs?

You all aren’t the first generation to face this question. Back in the 1960s, the U.S. sent hundreds of thousands of young men to Vietnam – to kill people and maybe get killed themselves to serve the U.S. empire in trying to drown the Vietnamese people’s liberation struggle in blood. They tried to send me over there, but thanks to the powerful movement of resistance to that war and what I learned from GIs who had gone to Vietnam, I refused to go and kill people in another land. I had more in common with them than with the people who ran this country.

And with all the hell Black people were catching in the U.S., I felt my fight was here. I got sent to Leavenworth Military Penitentiary for this “crime.” Other GIs refused to go out and fight the “enemy” or resisted in other ways. And many who did go came back to the U.S. and got involved in resistance against the crimes of the system. Some of them joined the Black Panther Party and promoted solidarity with the struggle of the Vietnamese people. I became a revolutionary communist back then, and I’ve been on that tip ever since.

Some things are different today. The U.S. is going against a different kind of enemy, Islamic fundamentalists, who don’t represent anything good, and there isn’t a powerful movement in opposition to these wars at the moment. But one thing is the same: These are wars for empire. They’re going to send you to murder people at wedding parties in Afghanistan, terrorize children in their homes in Iraq and run their torture chambers. No one should join up to fight or give support to these wars!

Bombs dropped on villages in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan by U.S. war planes won’t be any less destructive if Obama is the commander-in-chief of the pilot dropping them! Israeli cluster bombs spread in Palestinian villages and refugee camps won’t kill any fewer children if Obama is authorizing the military assistance instead of George Bush! Threats to attack Iran won’t be any less warmongering if they are uttered by Obama instead of Bush!

So again I ask you: Are you going to approach these wars thinking like an American? Are you gonna follow the example of the Buffalo Soldiers? They were Black cavalry units formed in 1866, made up of former slaves who had fought in the Union army in the Civil War. They were sent off to fight in the murderous and genocidal “Indian wars,” driving the native inhabitants off their lands to make way for the expansion of America “from sea to shining sea.” And while the Buffalo Soldiers were fighting the native inhabitants for America, Black people in the southeastern U.S. were catching hell from the KKK and mob violence.

Some people think the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers is something to be proud of. Colin Powell kept a Buffalo Soldier statue on his desk when he was a top official during both of the Bush presidencies. Colin Powell, who tried to cover up the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, who was a major architect of the first Gulf War and who went to the U.N. and lied through his teeth to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, finds the Buffalo Soldiers inspiring. He called them “the wind beneath my wings” and especially cited their “loyalty.” Later they were sent by the U.S. to fight Mexican Revolutionaries like Pancho Villa. This is a shameful legacy, and it’s no wonder that a war criminal like Colin Powell is inspired by it.

If you follow in the footsteps of the Buffalo Soldiers, you will be called on to do just like they did: commit horrible acts against people who have done nothing to you, and you will do it in the service of a system that has carried out terrible crimes, including against the masses of African-American people, and you may end up giving up the only life you have in the service of that foul system.

DON’T DO IT! Don’t sign up for America’s wars under the leadership of “commander in chief” Barack Obama and carry forward the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers. Instead get with a cause that’s in the interest of humanity and is something worth fighting for – making revolution to wipe imperialism off the face of the earth!

Carl Dix
Carl Dix
Carl Dix is a long time revolutionary whose writings appear in Revolution newspaper and other publications. He can be reached at carldix@hotmail.com.

9 thoughts on “Don’t be a Buffalo Soldier

  1. Willard D. Gray

    Carl Dix. As a white boy raised in SE illinois in 1923 and who spent over 20 years in the active U.S. Army ending in 1964 I didn’t know the true history of the “Buffalo Soldiers.” As a growing and developing mid American I was mislead on many issues. One being is this deceitful, thankless and unforgiving nation.

    I like your article and ask that you enter my full name, Willard D. Gray, in Google and hit Search. There is really more to my story.

    ‘ll be coming back to your page. wdgray@shawneellnk.net

    Reply
  2. Angry_Patriot

    this article is filth, totally untrue and anyone who actually researches will find that it’s totally in accurate. I suppose you have something negative to say about the teskegee airmen as well. Anyone who actually believes your article is just as bone-headed and misled as you are. Good Day.

    Reply
  3. a. David

    This is a writer that has very little knowledge and tries to come across as an expert and revolutionary. What is clear to me is with a little research he would have come to a different conclusion about the Buffalo Soldiers. First myths, Native Americans were not necessarily the peaceful people simply defending their land. There were nations that were in a constant state of war against not only Whites but other Indian Nations. Many of the Nations held slaves both from other Indian nations along with whites and former African slaves. Some Native Americans were heavily involved in the African slave trade. The same holds true for the Islamic fundamentalists. Some are peaceful and some are bended on destroying the U.S. While I didn’t agree with the Iraq war it is necessary to take up arms to destroy those that would destroy us. The Buffalo Soldiers are true patriots and deserve recognition for the serve they perform. This article is wrong on so many levels. Carl do your research it may serve you better next time!

    Reply
  4. Gene Fleming

    I served honorably in both the US Navy and Air Force, retired and I began to learn a few bad things about the history of US military service. I agree with a. David, war is not a pretty thing, but being a slave was not a bargain either. Freedom is not free my friends. Overall Buffalo Soldier history is a history that we can be proud they helped shape in small but very significant ways. This year, 2009-2010 is the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, a watershed struggle some 180,000 US Colored Soldiers and Sailors contributed too secure a small measure of freedom for our ancestors to cling to. In between wars the soldiers did what we do today, keep the peace and help out when there is a disaster. Like any good warriors, the Native American tribes both hated and respected the soldiers. They hated each other too, especially if they were weak. But at the end of the day they understood that all things change with time. You had better believe that if something really bad happens in the world, people aren’t going to call Mr Dix, 911 or SWAT for that matter. So I’ll take a well-trained Airman, Soldier, Sailor or Marine to protect my family’s freedom.

    Reply
  5. D. Anderson

    Carl Dix is a moron! I understand his right of Free Speech, but i didn’t know that he had a right to be an Anti-American ‘Revolutionary’ who doesn’t appreciate his freedoms or those who protect his freedoms. Gene Fleming, A. David, and
    Angry_Patriot, i agree 100% with what your are all saying

    Reply
  6. John Brown

    God bless you Mr. Dix, for having the moral strength and conviction to write this article. I sometimes feel so dismayed at the choices I see our young people making in signing up for an illegal, unjust, and indefensible war. If you sign up at this point in time, you’re signing up to be a criminal, don’t kid yourself. You’re no better than someone who signs up to join the mafia.

    Thank you for restoring my faith. We are all on the same side, not black, white, but RIGHT.

    Peace

    Reply
  7. norris baldwin

    This Carl guy is stupid. Do your research and then you will appreciate the sacrfices made by these brave men. Grow up, get a job and be quiet about thing you are ignorant of.
    YOU ARE A TRUE IDIOT

    Reply
  8. Lifesaver

    The title of this article caught my eye; I am a Buffalo Soldier representing and educating about the rich history. Although, your entitled to your opinion, free speech etc… It seems logical to me that since ALL ethnic races are fighting for all our rights of freedom. My thought lies with every human has the right to make a choice to serve in our military. To make it a Buffalo Soldier issue because Africa-American are enlisting is “about as dumb” as suggesting all whites are fighting for a KKK cause. I disagree with your misleading title with the suggestion “colored America” is fighting for the “white” people. To my knowledge our president is biracial not just African-American. Some chose to keep racism alive, myself I chose to embrace the human race as one unity, not separate but equal.

    Reply

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