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Call Off the Dogs, Mr. Trump

The dogs of war were never just a metaphor. Dogs have been instrumental in the suppression of peoples in the Americas since Columbus’s second voyage. On his first visit Columbus had noted that the natives were nearly naked and thus ideal prey for the war dogs that were standard issue in the arsenal of medieval Castile. Columbus first deployed dogs against the natives of what is now Jamaica in May 1494 and he noted approvingly that each dog was as good as 10 men in putting the natives to rout.

White invaders’ use of dogs as weapons did not fade as the Spanish lost control of what is now the United States. President Zachary Taylor, for example, who became a national hero for his victories in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War, and served as president from 1849 until his death in 1850, was a great believer in the value of dogs. Like the conquistadors before him, Taylor reveled in the dogs’ mercilessness and intrinsic ability to distinguish friend from foe: With dogs there was little risk from “friendly fire.”

Throughout American history, slave owners used dogs to control, capture and kill enslaved Africans. After restoration this tradition was maintained by police forces that brutalized and harassed African-American citizens claiming their rights. In the civil rights era, dogs were sicced on protesters again and again: In Jackson, Miss., in 1961; Birmingham, Ala., in 1963; St. Augustine, Fla., in 1964; and in countless other locations throughout the nation. This tradition of brutality has persisted into the present day. In the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in 2014, the Department of Justice reported that, “in every canine bite incident [in Ferguson, Mo.] for which racial information is available, the subject was African-American.” Dogs were also central to the torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and Guantánamo, Cuba by American forces in the 2000s.

Read entire article at New York Times