On June 2, 1915 President Wilson issued an ultimatum to the revolutionary factions of war-torn Mexico. In so many words it stated: Get it together or we will do it for you. At the time there were two factions vying for supreme power in Mexico: Pancho Villa leading the Division of the North, at one time the largest armed force in Mexico, and the Constitutionalists with Venustiano Carranza as head and Alvaro Obregón as his most powerful commander. In the summer of 1915 it looked as if Carranza was winning and he hoped to be recognized as the de-facto president of Mexico. Wilson's proclamation put Carranza under pressure. What if the American president chose to support the other faction, a realistic scenario?
In addition to a flurry of lobbying activity from both Mexican factions to win President Wilson's favor, “bands of outlaws” raided ranches throughout the lower Rio Grande Valley. As it turned out nearly one hundred years later (read The Plan de San Diego by Charles Harris and Louis Sadler), agents of the Carranza administration spread vicious propaganda, proclaiming a “Texas Revolution,” and called for an uprising of Mexican-Americans along the border to free themselves from the “shackles of Anglo supremacy.”
The propaganda stemmed from the so-called Plan de San Diego, issued in the town of San Diego, Texas in January 1915. The Plan called for an uprising of the Mexican-American populations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California against the “Yankee tyranny.” Among other stipulations, the manifesto included passages that alarmed American officials who first saw a copy of the plan in the end of January 1915. Objective number 5 read: “It is strictly forbidden to hold prisoners … they shall be shot immediately without any pretext.” Number 6: “Every foreigner [i.e. any non-Chicano in the states to be liberated from the Yankee tyranny] who shall be found armed and cannot prove his right to carry arms, shall be summarily executed …” Number 7: “Every North American [sic] over sixteen years of age shall be put to death …” The first white American, an eighteen-year-old farmhand, died from the bullets of a Chicano raider in the end of July 1915. During July and August hundreds of attacks occurred.
Some of these attacks had nothing to do with the Revolución de Texas. Undoubtedly, people took advantage of the situation to live out their long-held bigoted views of their Mexican-American neighbors. The Texas Rangers and local police forces started raiding homes, arresting scores of Mexican and Mexican-Americans, all but a tiny fraction of mostly innocent residents of Texas. Stories of severe beatings and murder surrounded the roundup. The exact number of people the Texas Rangers murdered in those months is still disputed to this day. Young Mexican-Americans suddenly subscribed to the revolutionary ideology, joined the raiders, and armed themselves in the face of increasing violence from local law enforcement and non-Hispanic Texans. Violence rose in a spiral of attacks, murder, and harassment. Despite being short of personnel and hesitant to get involved, the U.S. army reluctantly reinforced the overwhelmed Texas Rangers and local law enforcement authorities in September. Raiders not only robbed banks, shops, and ranches but also blew up railroad bridges and cut telegraph lines. The Mexican Revolution finally seemed to be spilling over into U.S. territory in a deadly and disturbing way.
In the first days of October 1915, President Wilson finally announced his decision for Mexico: Pancho Villa, who had been decisively defeated on the battlefields of Mexico, was out. Venustiano Carranza now was the recognized "de-facto" president of Mexico. A strict arms embargo cut Villa's forces off over night. Carranzista troops moved through U.S. territory with permission to break the last resistance of Villa in Sonora with unexpected reinforcements. Within days of Carranza's recognition, and to the complete surprise of the United States, the raids in Texas stopped. General Funston reported to his superiors in Washington on October 13 that “it had been ten days since the last hostile shot had been fired.”
Historians Harris and Sadler concluded in their analysis of the uprising, “once Carranza withdrew his support, the insurrection in Texas collapsed like a punctured balloon… Viewing Mexican-Americans as a useful fifth column, Carranza skillfully played on their hopes and fears as a means of exerting pressure on the United States. When his [Carranza’s] policies shifted [and those of the United States], they were cynically abandoned… The Plan left a legacy of racial tension in south Texas that has endured to the present.”
So how does this relate to the ISIS terror? In 2003 the United States inserted itself into the balance of power in the Middle East, occupied Iraq, and deposed President Saddam Hussein, a Sunni. Within months U.S. officials fired the entire Iraqi army and banned Sunni Iraqis from holding office in the new government, controlled by Shi'a Iraqis. Heavily armed, highly trained, and without a political or economic chance, Iraqi Sunnis mounted a resistance campaign against the U.S. military and the Shi'a government in Bagdad. U.S. forces, in a bloody and costly campaign, drove the resistance from most of the country into neighboring Syria, where it reconstituted as what we know today as ISIS.
In an even more indiscriminate campaign that involves air strikes from drones, several air forces, the West and Russia are now trying to dislodge ISIS from Syria and Iraq. So far, tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian civilians have died, millions are displaced, Europe gripped by a refugee crisis not seen since World War II. ISIS is recruiting among a desperate population. Violence has spread from the Middle East to Africa, Asia, Western Europe, and the United States. The high number of civilian deaths and destroyed property is breeding recruits for ISIS by the day among Muslim youths worldwide.
Western countries are now being infiltrated by ISIS agents that not only have the task to commit terrorist acts but also to recruit among Muslim communities. The more brutality and indiscriminate law enforcement we exert on Muslim communities in our country, the more willing recruits ISIS will gain. Especially here in the United States, bomb-making materials can be ordered by mail, machine guns and military ordinance can be bought at Walmart. Why would anyone assume that communities that are scared and discriminated against in this country will not arm themselves, even if just for self-defense? That does not excuse violence but helps explain it. The San Bernardino shooter married an ISIS agent provocateur. He was an easy prey. Maybe he was discriminated against, harassed as a Muslim, bullied by his co-workers, maybe he was just very ignorant or scared. Carranza's agents along the Mexican-American border successfully preyed on a civilian population that was harassed, discriminated against, and scared.
The only solution for an end to this terrorist violence lies in the lessons we could learn from 100 years ago: Iraqi Sunnis need their country back, maybe not all of Iraq, but the areas they traditionally lived in, including the oil revenue. Young Sunni Iraqis need a viable future. Now they are without a social, political or economic chance, no jobs, no welfare, and no public education. Just like the Carranza government, former Iraqi military leaders utilize ISIS ideology in order to force the West to give them this country and will cancel their support for ISIS as soon as they succeed, whether through war or negotiation. Not before. ISIS agents will disappear from the western countries overnight and the Muslim communities’ relationship with the rest of western populations will start to heal. The deeper the wounds, the longer the healing process will take, as historians Harris and Sadler aptly noted. It is all of our responsibility to prevent bigots and ideologues from spurting their ill-informed propaganda, which does nothing but hurt fellow citizens, desperate refugees, and members of a religion where fate is the driving force of human behavior. Most importantly, hate-speech plays right into the hands of ISIS recruiters.