The Longest War in U.S. History

Though it has been a long 14 years, it is historically inaccurate to call the war in Afghanistan "The Longest War in U.S. History." This title reveals a deep-seated problem in the popular mythology of U.S. history – that the nations and assemblies of peoples that existed here before Europeans came were not sovereign, or even real. Let's get the facts right:


There was a 30 year-long war from 1860-1890, spanning many nations, led by the U.S. government against "insurgents" who populated what would become Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Part of a larger, longer genocide, this was one sustained war, which looked unsurprisingly similar to today's campaigns in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

RELATED: An Indigenous People's History of the United States

Fought by the U.S. Army against the Apache, Cheyenne, Navajo, Sioux, and other nations, this war saw resistance armies, led by Geronimo and Sitting Bull, give birth to the guerrilla warriors like Crazy Horse and Little Wolf, and saw the introduction of "counter-insurgency" tactics by the U.S. Cavalry. War crimes abounded as the United States systematically eradicated the buffalo with the intention of depriving the guerrilla warriors of food, to bring an end to their peoples and nations, and to steal their land.

The chapters of this tragic story – Red Cloud's War, The Battle of Powder River, The Battle of Little Bighorn, The Apache Wars – were book-ended by brutal massacres at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, where U.S. soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Native Americans, children and infants included.

WATCH: The Empire Files - The Rise of History's Biggest Empire

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Ryan Harvey is a musician, writer, and activist from Baltimore, MD. Since co-founding the Riot-Folk Collective in 2004, he has shared his songs and stories of social movements in over twenty countries in North America, Europe, and Africa. His writings have been featured in The Nation, Truth-Out, and other digital publications.

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