The Warrior Tradition

The Warrior Tradition

DVD - 2019 | Widescreen ed.
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It tells the astonishing, heartbreaking, inspiring, and largely untold story of Native Americans in the United States military. Why would Indian men and women put their lives on the line for the very government that took their homelands? The film relates the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view, stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.
Publisher: [United States] : Pbs, 2019.
Edition: Widescreen ed.
ISBN: 9781531711092
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (ca. 60 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.


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Dec 29, 2019

The remarks by Prof. Patty Loew about ceremonies for re-integrating warriors back into society are intriguing. Nevertheless this film is an interesting but ultimately cowardly work. It's cowardly in the same way that mainstream America is cowardly about talking about US wars. Frankly, the US hasn't fought a defensive war or war of necessity since WW II or, arguably, since the War of 1812.

At the end of WW II Douglas MacArthur wrote: "The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being. When he violates this sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult, but threatens the very fabric of international society. The traditions of fighting men are long and honorable. They are based upon the noblest of human traits—sacrifice." As a veteran myself, I endorse this wholeheartedly but I also recognize that time and again the US government has betrayed the honor and sacred trust of its men and women in uniform by sending them into ignoble wars for unjust causes. That takes nothing away from the honor and courage of the warriors but it does mean we ought to wrestle with the ugly truth of the government's repeated betrayals.

One of the main places in the film where this comes up is in the discussion of Lori Piestewa. Specialist Piestewa was by all accounts an honorable woman but why dishonor her with talk about how, as is claimed in the film, she gave up her life so others could have freedom. The truth is her convoy got lost and she was killed by Iraqi forces in their own homeland fighting against US troops waging an illegal, undeclared war of aggression initiated on false pretenses.

In the 1993 PBS documentary *Last Stand at Little Big Horn* (co-written by James Welch and narrated by N. Scott Momaday) there appears a quote from Black Hawk—a Lakota veteran of the 1876 battle of the Little Big Horn: "These lands once belonged to the Kiowas and the Crows but we whipped those nations out of them and in this, we did what the White men do when they want the lands of Indians." It would be nice to emulate the candor of Black Hawk and have an honest discussion about this reality of most, if not all, wars and military service.

There's also just some plain old sloppy fact-checking and editing in this film. Contra Peter McDonald the Japanese did not break American codes. Navajo/Dine and other "code talkers" were employed for tactical operations because they could communicate much quicker than others using WW II field crypto technology. They made an important contribution to the war effort but they did not, as McDonald claims, "save the war in the Pacific". As another example, there's also a photo in the film of Jeffrey Means rappelling down the side of a structure but the photo is incorrectly oriented so it looks like he's on a horizontal surface.


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