Violations of the Neutrality Act

Americans aren't supposed to wage war on sovereign nations unless we are at war with them. There is nevertheless a pretty proud tradition of us doing so anyway. Obviously the most famous and successful case is the support to Texas revolutionaries during its war of liberation. Men such as Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were neither the first nor the last: the word "filibuster" originated with bands of private armies that raided into Latin America in those days.

My favorite example of this trend happened in 1865, right after the end of the Civil War. Thousands of the millions of Irishmen who'd emigrated following the famines that began in the late 1840s, or their sons, were veterans of the Union Army. When the war was over in the South, they formed a private army and invaded Canada.
We are the Fenian Brotherhood, skilled in the arts of war,
And we’re going to fight for Ireland, the land we adore,
Many battles we have won, along with the boys in blue,
And we’ll go and capture Canada,
for we’ve nothing else to do.
This story rarely gets taught in school, but it's an interesting one -- part of a bigger story of Irish resistance to British authority, as the main impetus for the raid was to force the British to devote armed forces and mental energy away from the planned revolt in Ireland. The British defended their interests in the traditional way -- with spies -- and thus were entirely too prepared for the planned Irish revolt. The Canadian invasion... well, read for yourselves.

The reason I mention all of this was that I read this morning that there has been another such violation. Like the Fenian raids, it was led by immigrants to the United States who were veterans of our wars. This time it happened in Gambia, and it sounds as if it would have worked if the members of the government who'd promised to defect to support the insurrection had followed through.
Sigga Jagne believes her brother died in a heroic struggle against tyranny and that Jammeh's regime is weaker than it appears. "His legacy is that he stood up for people who had nobody to stand up for them," she said. "People who were daily being abused and tortured and abducted and killed. It was worth it for him."
It's an interesting story, which happened just before the new year.


Texan99 said...

I was proofreading a history of 19th century Latin America a few months ago and kept finding the American private adventurers who kept trying to set up kingdoms for themselves referred to as "filibusters." The Online Etymology sites gives this history of the term: It started as a 16th-century Dutch term, something like flee-booting, meaning simple piracy on the high seas. Spanish dislikes a "fl" and inserted an "i," making fili-. French likes a silent "s" before a "t," and neither language cares for "oo," so it became "filibustero."

Originally a word for piracy, it was then adapted to mean "the right and practice of private war, or the claim of individuals to engage in foreign hostilities aside from, and even in opposition to the government with which they are in political membership. ['Harper's New Monthly Magazine,"'January 1853]." Later the idea was extended metaphorically to the idea that "obstructionist legislators 'pirated' debate or overthrew the usual order of authority. Originally of the senator who led it; the maneuver itself so called by 1893. Not technically restricted to U.S. Senate, but that's where the strategy works best."

OK, so now I'm going to go read about what happened in Gambia.

douglas said...

"Americans aren't supposed to wage war on sovereign nations unless we are at war with them. There is nevertheless a pretty proud tradition of us doing so anyway."

Heck, the government has even openly sponsored such groups- AVG pilots in both WWs for instance.