Meeting the Enemy: American Exceptionalism and International Law

Nov 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: 23-2: Climate Commitment, Media Reviews

MEETING THE ENEMYBy Natsu Taylor Saito
New York University Press (2010)

Review by Michael W. Simpson

The cover for this book shows that it is slated for the law section of the bookstore. But it should also be stocked in the American Indian/ Indigenous Studies and History sections, as well as in the Serious Stuff We Need to Confront for Human Survival section.

Earlier this year, the United States was confronted with an embarrassment when it was revealed that Osama bin Laden’s secret code name was Geronimo. This book explains why we should not be surprised that such was the case. The alleged newness of U.S. policy toward global terrorism isn’t anything new. Rather, the choice to annihilate the perceived Other is deeply ingrained in U.S. policy and practice.

This book explains the connections to and the continuations from American colonists to the “war on terror” and how the United States both claims international law and excepts itself from it. Further, the book explains how the United States has claimed itself the greatest beacon of freedom, liberty, and democracy while justifying the denial of such to a substantial number of persons and groups over time. Finally, we get a glimpse at how American exceptionalism can be confronted and why it is important for us all to do so. It contains an especially enlightening exposition on federal Indian law.

This important piece of work needs to be read and discussed at every tribal college.

Michael W. Simpson, J.D., M.Ed, is a teacher, lawyer, and social justice advocate and a Ph.D. candidate in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. He may be reached at

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