Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ann Coulter, Smallpox and the American Indians

In her recent column (“Not Crazy Horse, Just Crazy), Ann Coulter continued her attack on Ward Churchill, the embattled professor from the University of Colorado.

I agree, in general, with Ms. Coulter’s demeaning portrait of Professor Churchill. His very-questionable claims that he is part-American Indian remind me of, oh, say, John Kerry and his claims about being in Cambodia. And Churchill’s statement that the victims of 9/11 were all “little Eichmanns” reminds me of, oh, I don’t know, how about “It’s a slam dunk!”.

But Ann hasn’t done her homework in regard to one of Churchill’s claims. She takes aim at Churchill for stating that “…The U.S. Army gave blankets infected with smallpox to the Indians specifically intending to spread the disease.” She says that this was impossible because the alleged event occurred long before Louis Pasteur figured out how this could happen and that settlers, therefore, would have had no idea that disease could be spread this way.

Now I don’t know if the US Army actually ever tried these tactics against the Indians or not, but they certainly knew how to do it if they wanted to. A Google search on “Indian smallpox deaths” turned up several sites that show this. My favorite one is here, a very interesting site that gave not one, but two examples of the British military discussing this very possibility and, in at least one case, actually carrying it out. Another site is here. One of these occurrences was during The French & Indian War while the other was during Pontiac’s Rebellion. Both of these events preceded the very existence of the U.S. Army by a decade or more and both of them preceded Pasteur’s discovery by nearly a century. So, when the U.S. Army came into existence, they certainly knew how to do this, even if Louis Pasteur hadn’t identified the exact mechanism yet. Hopefully they never actually carried it out.

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