Those Who Cannot Remember The Past…

This past Sunday was an occasion to reflect on the life and times of George, a woeful leader if there ever was one. How did such a man—a mediocre student in his younger days who would rather pull a prank on a classmate than pull a book off a shelf—later ascend to such authority? How did such a man—who, at one point in his service career, abandoned his duties and went A.W.O.L.—later come to command a powerful military force? How did such a man—bristling with ego and so brash and glory-seeking—later attain a position of respect and responsibility? Given such qualities and prior experiences, is it any wonder what came to pass? Is it any wonder that George became responsible for a military misadventure of historic proportions, one in which he foolishly and unnecessarily put troops in harm’s way? Is it any wonder he was so ill thought of by some military officers, such as Major General David Stanley, who at one point had the following to say about George:

“I have seen enough of him to convince me that he is a cold-blooded, untruthful and unprincipled man. He is universally despised by all his officers…�

And consider, too, the words of the renowned historian, Stephen Ambrose, who offered the following assessment:

“His undoubted audacity and courage were offset by a criminal lack of good judgment, a refusal to take the time to gather intelligence about the enemy, an insistence on attacking at the earliest possible opportunity, a petty jealousy toward his fellow officers, a monumental ambition, and a total disregard for the lives of his men.� (Americans At War, p. 60)

Such criticism is not unwarranted. George brought it all on himself. Without question, his actions were reckless and ill-conceived. And, as a result, on the 25th of June in the year 1876, George Armstrong Custer died for his sins.

Who did you think that I was writing about?

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4 responses

  1. I figured you were talking about Bill Clinton and Somalia.

  2. GEORGE BUSH IS THE WORST PRESIDENT IN THE 230 YEARS OF THIS NATION AND HAS DONE M ORE DISERVICE TO THIS NATION AND ALONG WITH THE REPUBLICAN PARTY THAN ANYONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. BETWEEN THE RONALD REAGAN AND GEORGE BUSH THEY HAVE CREATED TEN TIMES MORE DEBT FOR THIS COUNTRY THAN ANYONE HAS BEFORE THEY SERVED AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND HAVE PUT MORE OF OUR MEMBERS OF OUR ARMED FORCES IN HARMS WAY THAN ANYONE ELSE IN THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS BY THERE ACTIONS AND NOT USING DIPLOMATIC WAYS TO KEEP THE PEACE.
    GEORGE BUSH OUGHT TO BE TRIED FOR TREASON FOR GOING AFTER OSAMA BIN LADEN INSTEAD OF SADDAM HUSSEIN. GEORGE BUSH’S INDEBTNESS OF THIS NATION IS BEYOND ANY HOPE OF RECOVERY AT THIS POINT IN TIME. hE IS MORE LIKE A TYRANT THAN A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND HAS COST THIS NATION A LOSS OF OUR ALLIES THAT MAY NEVER BE REPLACED.
    MOST OF THE WORLD IS AGAINST OUR POLICIES AND WILL NOT HELP US IN THE WAR ON TERROR AND HAVE BECOME OUR ENEMIES. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHICH PARTY GETS CONTROL OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE OR THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT IN NOVEMBER 2008 BECAUSE WHOEVER HE IS WILL BE GETTING A HUGE SET OF PROBLEMS TO TRY AND SOLVE AND WILL HAVE A HARD TIME TRYING TO STEM THE DEBT WITHOUT RAISING TAXES FOR ALL CITIZENS TO PAY OFF AND GET THIS NATION ON A TRUE HEADING TO FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY. TO END THIS ILL CONCEIVED WAR IN IRAQ AND TO GET ENOUGH CITIZENS TO DEFEND THIS COUNTRY AGAINST ALL ENEMIES.

  3. Mr. Jaffe,

    While I am in sympathy with your sentiments regarding the unelected marrionette who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we part company when you endorse Stephen Ambrose’s flawed assessment of George Armstrong Custer.

    At first blush, it would seem that a discussion of the action at Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876 is wholly inappropriate for this forum. Yet I submit that, absent the framing of the actions of Custer and certain of his key subordinates that day within a deep political context (in the Peter Dale Scott sense), all efforts to find meaningful metaphors in the Greasy Grass for contemporary political events are doomed.

    I carry no water for Custer. In the most flattering of light he is revealed to be a force for imperialism and cultural (if not literal) genocide.

    But if we choose to view Custer’s strategy, tactics, and motives in evidence on that long-ago Sunday afternoon from a CinemaScope perspective (where a story’s width is more important than its depth), we reveal a terrible weakness in our ability to understand how deep political processes operate — then and now.

    In short: Custer was betrayed by the officer to whom he sent a direct order to come to his assistance. That man, Captain Frederick Benteen, disobeyed and deserted his commander, refused to ride to the sound of Custer’s guns (including volley fire designed as clear-cut signals for help) when fully capable of doing so, and thus bears direct responsibility for the destruction of the five troops comprising the command battalion.

    And Benteen was neither a coward nor a fool.

    Custer and the men with him died because he foolishly expected his subordinates to obey orders — which is to say, because his workable plan of attack was sabotaged by a treasonous Benteen and an incompetent, impaired Major Marcus Reno.

    And at the root of this perfidy, one finds political agendas of the darkest order.

    (By the way, your “universally despised by his officers” quote is attributed, if memory serves, either to Benteen or another colleague charged with the task of character assassination.)

    I have walked the battlefield, and I have ridden on horseback over Custer’s presumed lines of march. The tragedy of that day is yet palpable, the sorrow resonates. Victory celebrations held in the massive Native American encampment that night were, to be kind, premature. For fourteen years later, at Wounded Knee, the destruction of a people that Custer’s demise was designed and memorialized to hasten came to pass.

    The Custer/Bush comparison could not be more inappropriate.

    Bush is more aptly to be compared to the ignorant, drunk, hand puppet named Reno.

    Custer was a son of a bitch. But compared to the forces that destroyed him — the same forces that control Bush — he was the Son of the Morning Star.

    Left of Che

  4. Erudite comment, Left of Che. Thanks.

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