"Indians chase the vision, white men chase the dollar," writes Lame Deer, a traditional Sioux medicine man. "Americans are bred like stuffed geese -- to be consumers, not human beings. The moment they stop consuming and buying, this frog-skin [dollar] world has no use for them."
In the 1800s, the Indians were nearly wiped out by the westward expansion of the American frontier. The prize then for the US was land for farming, logging, mining and railroads, and the methods used for displacing Indians were brutal and genocidal, as hundreds of thousands of buffalo -- the main food supply for many Indian tribes -- were shot and left to rot in the sun. The Indians who did not succumb to starvation were relocated and forced onto smaller and smaller parcels of land. Every Indian treaty signed by the United States was broken by the United States. The treaties provided temporary appeasement while the aggressive expansion continued unchecked.
Strike first. Eliminate the opposition's ability to resist. Use whatever means are necessary to win. Claim divine intervention to soothe the God-fearing naysayers. These tenets of the Manifest Destiny doctrine are centuries-old tactics and have been used in North America and throughout the world. Under the Manifest Destiny doctrine, the United States has the divine duty to spread its version of political, religious, and free market "truth" throughout the world, and it does so by claiming this mission to be in its "national interest." From the Indians to the Mexicans to the Koreans to the Iraqis, those who resist are conquered. Even the Moon and Mars have been conquered, if only symbolically at present.
But the 21st century prize for the United States is oil, and the strategic importance of oil to the American economy is the driving force behind today's Manifest Destiny. Bush's war on Iraq, a nation already weakened by economic sanctions and disarmed by a 1991 war and by continued United Nations weapons inspections, is a brazen -- and many would say criminal -- grab for oil that fits perfectly with the extraterritorial nature of Manifest Destiny.
The United States is purporting to support a western-style democracy in Iraq, and, of course, freedom from the tyrannical dictator known as Saddam Hussein. When we dig under the rhetoric and look at the context, however, the Iraq war is an annexation, a colonization, a hostile takeover of a sovereign nation that happens to have 10 percent of the world's remaining oil reserves. And one of the great ironies of the war on Iraq is that the Bush family business just happens to be oil and weapons, which makes the war for oil a win-win situation for the Bushes. No oil-producing nation, nor any nation with the military or ideological power to stand in the way of US Manifest Destiny, is safe from military intervention, regime change, and hostile takeover. The excuses used to justify intervention almost sound legitimate to the casual observer: The Indians needed "civilized." The Iraqis needed "freedom." But Manifest Destiny dictates that both Indians and Iraqis, as non-Europeans, are incapable of self-government.
Like the red-skinned Indians, the new enemies of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny -- the "terrorists" -- are portrayed by the mass media as brown-skinned Arabs. After a group of Saudi extremists flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11/01, Bush's declaration, "you are either with us or you are with the terrorists," brought the Manifest Destiny doctrine once again to center stage. First-strike, unilateral military intervention is easier for the public to swallow in the vague context of a "war on terrorism," of "us vs. them," of "good vs. evil." In President Bush's own words, it is the destiny of the United States to "change the world," to rid the world of "evil-doers." What he means, of course, is that he will defeat all of those who oppose US imperialism's divine claim to planet Earth. In any realistic historical context, however, Bush's view of Manifest Destiny would be considered just as extremist, dangerous, and ruthless as any dictator the world has ever known.
The Republic of Cuba, however, has been a thorn in the side for US Manifest Destiny. Ever since 1959, when Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, in the name of Cuba's workers and farmers, led the Cuban Revolution and overthrew the corrupt Batista regime just 90 miles south of Key West, Florida, the US has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Cuba. From the Bay of Pigs invasion to exploding cigars to germ warfare to an economic blockade to blatant acts of terrorism against hotels and airplanes, the US government, in collusion with a bloc of wealthy Cuban-American exiles in Miami, has sought to destroy the Cuban Revolution. At every meeting of the UN human rights commission, the US exerts its mighty influence over voting members to ensure that Cuba -- by just one vote in 2004 -- is condemned for human rights violations. Another tactic is to list Cuba as one of seven countries that support terrorism. Is Cuba -- a sovereign nation that treats food, housing, education, and health care as human rights -- on Bush's short list for military action and "regime change"?
Perhaps now is the time to replace the doctrine of Manifest Destiny with a new humanist doctrine, a doctrine more in tune with a rapidly growing world population and a dwindling supply of natural resources. A doctrine more in tune with global warming, air pollution, and contaminated drinking water. A doctrine more in tune with the need of all human beings for food, shelter, education and health care.
"I am trying to bring the ghost dance back," writes Lame Deer, "but interpret it in a new way. I think it has been misunderstood, but after  years I believe that more and more people are sensing what we meant when we prayed for a new earth and that now not only the Indians but everybody has become an 'endangered species.' So let the Indians help you bring on a new earth without pollution or war. Let's roll up the world. It needs it."
Note: For more information, see my entire compilation at Manifest Destiny -- From sea to shining sea...to global domination