Source: HUNTER OF STORIES
by David Swanson, World Beyond War
HUNTER OF STORIES
The late Eduardo Galeano’s forthcoming book, Hunter of Stories, has five or ten sentences on each page — each page a tiny story, their combination engaging and powerful. Galeano includes the story of a war resister who chose to die rather than kill, and that of an Iraqi who foretold and pre-grieved the 2003 looting of the National Museum, also the story of former drone pilot Brandon Bryant who quit after killing a child and being lied to that the child had been a dog, not to mention the story of the World War I Christmas truces. These are all true stories, some new and some familiar, all well documented elsewhere, but Galeano doesn’t bother with the documentation here. He simply tells the stories — extremely simply, he tells the stories. He inspires me to offer the following, and to search for more. If you have ideas for the very best incidents to recount that fit into the following pattern, please let me know. The stories below are meant, not to depict every aspect of war or peace, much less to cover the entire history of war and peace. There’s no need to send me the full list of thousands and millions of stories not included here. The stories below are meant to encourage questioning of war-thinking. Send me the best anecdotes that further that project please.
HAVE SOME BLANKETS AND DIE
Jeffrey Amherst, commanding general of British forces in North America, later a Lord, and man for whom Amherst, Massachusetts, is named, wrote this in a letter to a subordinate: “Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.” Beyond small pox, Amherst proposed “to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race.” He asked that “Measures to be taken as would Bring about the Total Extirpation of those Indian Nations.” He hoped to “put a most Effectual Stop to their very Being.” His plans were acted upon using infected blankets and handkerchiefs. Total extirpation was not achieved. Hundreds of years later it remains common for members of the U.S. military to describe invaded lands as “Indian Country.” In 2017, President Donald Trump proposed “total destruction” and Senator John McCain proposed “extermination” for North Korea.
NOBODY HAD YET THOUGHT OF A BETTER WAY, EXCEPT THOSE WHO HAD
From 1683 to 1755 Pennsylvania’s European settlers had no major wars with the native nations, in stark contrasts with other British colonies. Pennsylvania had slavery, it had capital and other horrific punishments, it had individual violence. But it chose not to use war, not to take land without what was supposed to be just compensation, and not to push alcohol on the native people in the way that opium was later pushed on China and guns and planes are now pushed on nasty despots. In 1710, the Tuscaroras from North Carolina sent messengers to Pennsylvania asking for permission to settle there. All the money that would have been used for militias, forts, and armaments in Pennsylvania was available, for better or worse, to build Philadelphia (remember what its name means) and develop the colony. The colony had 4,000 people within 3 years, and by 1776 Philadelphia surpassed Boston and New York in size. So while the superpowers of the day were battling for control of the continent, one group of people rejected the idea that war is necessary, and prospered more rapidly than any of their neighbors who insisted it was. (Thank you to John Reuwer for this story.)