10 Most Hated Enemies in American History
June is such a lovely time of year. It’s hot. It’s sweaty. And there’s always down time. Behold, the 10 Most Hated Enemies in American History:
10. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Hitler has always been one of the republic’s most-hated enemies, and for good reason. The genocidal German Chancellor would probably make this list 150 years from now, too. To make things interesting, here is a counterfactual: Would Hitler have come to power if the United States had not entered World War I? The First World War was drawing to a brutal, bloody close until American entry turned the tide of the stalemate into a rout that destroyed not only the German Empire but the other polyglot empires in central and eastern Europe, too. The power vacuum that followed the collapse of the German, Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires practically handed over the reins of power to people like Hitler.
9. Osama bin Laden (1957-2011). Another easy one, Osama bin Laden orchestrated the world’s deadliest terrorist attack and brought down the World Trade Center buildings. When video surfaced of Osama bin Laden smirking and laughing as he bragged about the iconic skyscrapers tumbling to the ground, the American penchant for generosity - renowned around the world (albeit quietly) - vanished. Bin Laden, once a U.S. ally during the Cold War, was killed in Pakistan by an elite U.S. military unit in 2011, while the United States military continues to wage a low-level war in neighboring Afghanistan.
8. Geronimo (1829-1909). A well-regarded leader of the acephalous Apache nation, Geronimo’s raids were violent and hateful. Native Americans and Euro Americans loathed each other. No inch of land from sea to shining sea was ceded peacefully. Geronimo inspired fear in the hearts of southwestern Anglos and animosity in the hearts of Americans elsewhere. Geronimo’s post-surrender life is perhaps the most emblematic of what happened to the Indians: he was paraded around the country as a prisoner of war, but was permitted to sell material goods like bows and arrows or hats or buttons. He was also paid to shoot buffalo and take pictures with the well-to-do. He died in a hospital in 1909, under armed guard as a prisoner of war.
7. Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964). Another former ally, Aguinaldo fought side-by-side with American troops against Spain in the Philippines. When Spain surrendered, though, it was to the United States in a European city (Paris, to be exact). This was done for two reasons. First, the Spanish did not want to cede the Philippines to the (non-white) locals. Second, the Americans did not want the locals to take part in the negotiations of surrender, as they wanted the colony for their own empire. While the United States was negotiating with Spain in Paris for the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo was busy creating a republic for Filipinos. A grisly guerilla war ensued. Aguinaldo surrendered to U.S. forces in 1901, but the insurrection he started lasted up until the moment Japanese soldiers began forcefully moving Filipinos into labor camps during World War II.
6. Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey (1729-1807). Of all the British military brass who served during the American Revolution, none was more despised than Charles Grey. One of the most successful British leaders of the war, the Earl learned quickly to fight fire with fire and engage the Americans and their Native allies at their own guerilla game. He led murderous raids on American troops in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. These raids were undertaken at night and gunpowder was forbidden: only bayonets were to be used against the rebels. His success against the Americans earned him a promotion and he was to be the supreme commander of all British forces in North America, but the war ended before he could take over the reins. Prior to the American secession, the 1st Earl Grey cut his teeth in Germany, France, and Cuba during the Seven Years’ War.
5. Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794-1876). Given the lopsided nature of the Mexican-American War, it’s worth wondering how Santa Anna made this list. The answer is his dishonorable antics against non-combatants and prisoners of war. Santa Anna’s massacres left a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans, and helped tip the balance of the war debate in favor of the hawks. Santa Anna’s most famous massacre was, of course, the one at the Alamo, but he also orchestrated the Goliad Massacre, where over 400 Texans were slaughtered by Mexican troops after they surrendered.
4. Tecumseh (1768-1813). Speaking of massacres, Tecumseh saw more than a few as a boy and young man growing up in Ohio country during the late 18th century. A staunch, longtime ally of the British Empire, Tecumseh spent a lot of time trying to patch together a pan-Indian confederation, which was at odds with American plans for Ohio country. A veteran of the Northwest Indian War - a savage, 10-year war between the United States and an Indian confederacy led by Little Turtle - Tecumseh had nothing but hate for Americans. The feeling was mutual. A war erupted between the U.S. and Tecumseh’s confederation in 1810, and the fighting bled into the War of 1812, with Tecumseh siding, once again, with the British. He died in the Battle of Moraviantown. While the British technically won the War of 1812, Tecumseh’s confederacy collapsed and any Indians still left in Ohio country were violently pushed west of the Mississippi.
3. Leonid Brezhnev (1906-82). Brezhnev? Why not Josef Stalin, whose murderous purges dwarfed Hitler’s ethnic cleansing campaigns? Mostly because Stalin and FDR were best buds during World War II. Khrushchev threatened to bury us, but the honest socialist couldn’t help himself when he visited the United States; Khrushchev loved us, and we loved him back. Brezhnev, on the other hand, inflicted serious pain on the United States. The Soviet autocrat, who ran the Soviet Union from 1964-82, presided over the world’s most powerful socialist entity during a time of great cultural upheaval in the United States. It was Brezhnev who watched American soldiers die in Vietnam from Soviet-made weapons, and he was still in charge when the U.S. pulled out of southeast Asia in defeat. The period of détente during the Cold War, which saw the Soviet Union achieve military parity with the United States, was also largely the work of Brezhnev. The hard anti-communist turn of the American public, beginning in 1978 with the election of Jimmy Carter, couldn’t be clearer: Brezhnev’s Soviet Union had morphed into an Evil Empire.
2. Osceola (1804-38). Of all the Native American leaders who fought against the United States, Osceola stood out amongst his peers when it came to being hated by Americans. The Seminole leader had a hard life, but one that was reflective of society in Alabama in the early 19th century. He and his mother had to flee Creek country after their side of the Creek civil war lost, and they ended up being adopted into the Seminole nation once they settled in Florida. Osceola’s side of the Creek civil war was the “traditionalist” side, or the side that wanted nothing to do with the United States. As a Seminole, Osceola started the Florida War with the United States after he and his men butchered hundreds of American soldiers who were marching from one fort to another. This war was the longest of the Indian wars in American history, lasting just over six-and-a-half years, and civilians on both sides suffered harsh attacks. One group that did not suffer was the slaves brought in from Africa: Osceola’s Seminoles freed them wherever they went, and most took up arms to help the Seminoles in their fight against the United States. Osceola died in a military prison in South Carolina. He was given full military honors.
1. Hideki Tojo (1884-1948). Although Prime Minister Tojo was responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor, it might be more accurate to put Emperor Hirohito in this spot. As a divine right monarch, Hirohito made an easy target for Americans looking for reasons to hate an enemy. In reality, the Japanese Emperor was just a figurehead for Tojo’s government (which is why Douglas MacArthur spared the Emperor’s life). Hideki Tojo was as ruthless as he was hateful. He was responsible for the butchering of innocent people in China and Korea that took place under Japanese occupation, and he was responsible for the way the Japanese military treated its captives. Hideki Tojo was hanged in Tokyo in 1948, his empire in shatters, his family shamed, and his country defeated.
No Kim Jong-Un, or his ruthless grandfather? The socialist dictators of Korea are mere flies. They don’t inspire hatred the way the men in the Top 10 did.
No Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull? The Indian wars are among the most important wars in American history, ranking alongside the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. These wars of attrition between colonist and Native shaped the United States just as much as the wars against the British Empire, the Nazis, and the slave owners. The Natives in the Top 10 inspired hatred more than Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse because by the time the Sioux were fighting the American military, the war for the continent had already been won by the United States. The post-Civil War Indian wars were just a formality. Prior to the Civil War, the Indians east of the Mississippi had more people, bigger villages, agriculture, organized militaries, and allies in London, Paris, and Madrid. They represented a threat to the existence of the republic.
No Ho Chi Minh? Too many friends on campus.
No Timothy McVeigh? No Unabomber? No hatred here, at least from the American public. (It’s hard to hate stupid.)
Saddam Hussein? Again, no hatred. Hussein was a tinpot dictator in 1991, when the U.S. first invaded Mesopotamia, and then he was in Osama bin Laden’s shadow 10 years later. Hussein was always more of a nuisance that a truly hated enemy, which puts him in the same camp as the Kims and domestic terrorists.
Have a great weekend, and an even better summer.