The chairman and the chief lawyer of the Seminole Tribe of Florida sent a pair of angry letters Friday to President Barack Obama and his Defense Secretary protesting an analogy by Guantánamo war court prosecutors that likened the 19th Century Seminoles to al Qaeda.
Seminoles Chairman Mitchell Cypress accused the military lawyers of a “backward dive into racist, revisionist history.”
He demanded that Obama apologize, personally.
In his letter, the tribe’s general counsel, Jim Shore, demanded that the U.S. remove portions of a legal brief defending the military commissions conviction of Osama bin Laden’s media secretary, a video maker.
The court document submitted by three senior military attorneys described the Seminoles in 1817 and 1818 as unlawfully resisting Gen. Andrew Jackson’s invasion of then-Spanish Florida, a cross-border incursion designed in part to stop Georgia’s slaves from escaping to freedom.
Jackson ordered two British merchants who were in Florida at the time to face military trials for helping the Seminoles and slaves — the source of the legal precedent for the authority of the Guantánamo war court to capture and put on trial foreign men accused of aiding the enemy in another country.
The two British men were executed.
Shore wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the prosecutors’ statements were an apparent “effort to turn back the clock and rewrite history,’’ because they include the comparison, which is both “inaccurate and insulting, especially in the context of our ancestors’ resistance to an invading army engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing and other atrocities.”
The Seminole attorney copied Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on the correspondence.
In it, Shore requests “on behalf of the approximately 3,600 members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida” that the Secretary of Defense “take appropriate steps to cause the withdrawal of the portion” of the war court brief, filed earlier this month, which “describes the Seminoles’ resistance as unlawful and compares the Tribe’s tactics to those used by al Qaeda.”
It was not immediately known if Gates had received or read the letter. He was in Israel Friday.
White House spokesmen also did not respond to an inquiry by The Miami Herald Friday evening on whether it was read by Obama, who has held two major summits with tribal representatives.
“I do not believe that these citations reflect your views,” Cypress wrote the U.S. president in his single page letter.
“To compare the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s defense against a genocidal assault to today’s terrorists is not only groundless, it is insulting to a segment of Americans who have proudly served in the United States military.”
Shore also gives Gates a bit of a history lesson, describing “The Trail of Tears," which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Indians under Jackson’s 1829 Indian Removal Act.