Pancho Bin Laden
J. D. Pendry
My recollection of history is a little inexact at times. I rummaged through my boxes of I-don’t-know-why-I-keep-this-stuff to find some information that might refresh my memory. I found it in a box of old Sergeants Major Academy stuff (the one remaining box OK) marked Columbus, New Mexico Raid. I scanned it, another technique learned at the Academy, and now I want to spin a tale for you, the most of which is true as far as I can recollect. If not completely accurate, then an honest regurgitation of my scanning.
Dorteo Arango a.k.a. Francisco “Pancho” Villa was a criminal and a murderer. Despite his criminal qualities, he was a hero to many poor Mexicans. He was their righter of the wrongs that they credited, along with their poverty, to years of Yankee oppression. Pancho thought America was going to support him for the presidency of Mexico. To make a long story into a short one, we didn’t. Instead, we recognized the government of Venustiano Carranza. Pancho wasn’t very happy with us because of this. He, with the help of his Pistleros, began murdering American citizens in Mexico to show us how displeased he was with American foreign policy. Pancho thought his activity would provoke an attack on Mexico by America, which would discredit the legitimate government of Mexico and propel him to the presidency.
Since his plan of drawing America in wasn’t working very well, Pancho began raiding border towns. To respond to Pancho’s raids and to protect Americans, President Wilson sent General “Black Jack” Pershing and an infantry brigade to Fort Bliss, Texas with the near impossible mission of guarding the US-Mexico border. Pancho, however, continued with his sport murdering of Americans wherever he could get at them. In one instance, Villa’s bandits pulled 17 American businessmen from a train and executed them. These men were in Mexico at the invitation the Mexican government – sorta like foreign aid workers. Our response to this was to place El Paso under marshal law to prevent irate Texans from crossing the border to exact revenge on the wrong Mexicans.
Villa’s killing Americans outside our borders upset us somewhat, but not enough to cause us to go looking for him. On March 9, 1916, a day that will live in infamy for the residents of Columbus, New Mexico, Pancho and about 500 of his Villistas attacked Camp Furlong, a cavalry garrison near Columbus. In spite of all that Pancho and his bandits had been up to, murdering Americans, raping, pillaging and plundering border towns, etc. the 13th US Calvary at Camp Furlong was on its collective butt. In other words not prepared or on alert for any potential attack – soldiers drinking, weapons chained up…. In spite of this, they were able to muster enough fight to cause Pancho and the boys to give it up and head back toward old Mexico. On their way back, they stopped off at the border town of Columbus, New Mexico. There, they shot up the town, did some looting, set the place on fire, killed some civilians and them lit out for the hills. During their sacking of Columbus, the Villistas’ called out Muerte a los Americonos! (Death to Americans!). After Columbus, Pancho and the boys headed south into the mountains. Hot on his heels was an Army Colonel named Tompkins and a platoon sized element of cavalry troopers. They gave pursuit for a while and battled with some of Villa’s rear guard, but did not have the supplies with them to keep up the chase and had to break off and head back to Texas.
Pancho had done gone and done it. He killed some more Americans, only this time he chose to do it in America. That’s usually what it takes to get our attention. President Wilson reinforced border security with militia and ordered General Pershing on a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa. Nine days after the raid, Pershing set out with 4,800 troops, one of which was his aide LT George Patton who was looking to fulfill his self-determined destiny to be a great warrior. Pershing’s mission orders were interesting. Simply put, they said capture Villa, but do not take any hostile action against the Mexican government or its soldiers. Again, to shorten this tale, allow me to summarize. Pershing and troops chased Villa around Mexico until January of 1917. During this time, Mexican troops - not Villistas - attacked them, they got bad information from their own scouts, and Villistas reportedly mingled among them (even Pancho its rumored) and in the local populations undetected. They blended well with the native population. Keeping the troops busy, sober and focused proved to be as much a challenge as finding Villa. We didn’t get Pancho; a few years later, his own kind bushwhacked and killed him.
Pancho and Osama have similar stories. Criminals, both of them, murderers both of them, desirous of killing Americans both of them…. In fact, if I changed around a few names and places, you’d have trouble telling the difference. Would it have been different if Pancho had the capability of bringing as much death and destruction as Osama did?
Bin Laden has an end in mind. Not unlike Villa’s plan to rule Mexico, Bin Laden wants to rule an Islamic empire. His problem is that civilized Islamic countries are not willing to break their ties to the west, nor fall in line with his twisted views of the world. If they do not want to follow him, then he has no empire to rule, except the Taliban and a collection of thugs and heroin dealers who impose an oppressing set of rules on the Afghan people. Rules they, themselves, do not abide.
Bin Laden has gone about it much as Villa did. He’s killed Americans wherever he could get at them. He bombed military barracks, our embassies and the USS Cole. From this activity, he hoped to draw the US into a conflict with Islamic countries. Our response to him has been tepid on the surface. Not the all out conflict he wants. Each time, he has grown bolder and more devastating. Finally, he had his Columbus and succeeded in getting the average American’s attention. A mistake he’ll likely regret during his short time remaining on this earth. Our mission is not unlike General Pershing’s mission. We have to find Bin Laden and do it without attacking or bringing harm to the Afghan people.
Our toughest challenge is convincing the Afghan people that we mean them no harm while doing this. Something we were not successful at in Mexico. In a country where 70% of the men and most of the women are illiterate as well as destitute this is a tall order. It’s tough because each change of leadership brings a more difficult life for them. Therefore, they have no reason to believe that a change would give them anything better. They are not informed. Living hand-to-mouth each day they likely don’t have time or inclination to discuss world affairs. They don’t have cable TV and if they had access to a paper, they couldn’t read it. They know only what the Taliban and the likes of Bin Laden tell them. You can imagine for yourself what that might be. Many of them likely believe that their poverty is caused by America, because that is what they are taught. Like the Villistas, many of them probably see Bin Laden as a hero. One who is able to strike back at America, the source of their despair.
Osama will meet the same fate as Pancho. Only this time I’m betting on the cavalry to catch Osama and his bandits.