Michael Medved on parallels between Iraq and Philippines

Michael Medved, who I thought reviewed movies on TV, tells us about the parallels between the US occupations of Iraq and the Philippines.  

The U.S. succeeded through generous policies during the occupation as much as through courage on the battlefield… Soldiers built schools, ran sanitation campaigns, vaccinated people, collected customs duties, set up courts run by natives, supervised municipal elections, and generally administered governmental functions efficiently and honestly.

The outcome in today’s Middle East remains uncertain, but our painful Philippine experience a century ago suggests that a positive result is still possible through a combination of public patience, battlefield brilliance and compassionate determination to provide better lives and freedom to a far-away people.

 

First of all, what why the US in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War of 1898? 

Now that China seemed on the point of breaking up, it began to look like a good idea to many leaders of public opinion for the United States to obtain a base in the far East. And clearly all the Philippines must be taken, or none. McKinley hesitated long and prayerfully but finally decided, as he informed a Methodist delegation, “to take them all and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them”

McKinley apparently was not aware that the Philippinos were already overwhelmingly Christian.  In any case, China, not Christianity, was the main focus. 

For a secure base to protect business interests in China, the US needed Manila Harbour.  But in order to protect the harbour, the US needed control of Luzon island, the home island of Manila.  To control Luzon, control over the Philippines was needed. 

About three-quarters of the US army was sent to the Philippines to put down the native insurrection that had previously threatened Spanish control of the islands.  They killed around 4,000 rebels, and perhaps as many as 200,000 civilians.  

As for Medved’s “generous policies,” here are some excerpts from the Senate Lodge Committee meetings of 1902, held to investigate allegations of US war crimes. (All material below on  from same Wikipedia link.)

Sentate Lodge Committee 

General Robert P. Hughes testified for two weeks and conceded that Fillipino houses were burned indiscriminately.

Senator Rawlins: What was the utility of their destruction?

Hughes: The destruction was a punishment. They permitted these people to come in there and conceal themselves and they gave no sign. It is always–

Rawlins: The punishment in that case would fall, not upon the men, who could go elsewhere, but mainly upon the women and little children.

Hughes: The women and children are part of the family, and where you wish to inflict a punishment you can punish the man probably worse in that way than in any other.

Rawlins: But is that within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare? Of course you could exterminate the family which would be still worse punishment.

Hughes: These people are not civilized.

Rawlins: But is that within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare?

Hughes: No; I think it is not.

 

Report by Major Cornelius Gardener

(A West Point graduate serving as provincial governor of Tayabas)

“Of late by reason of the conduct of the troops, such as the extensive burning of the barrios in trying to lay waste the country so that the insurgents cannot occupy it, the torturing of natives by so-called water cure and other methods, in order to obtain information, the harsh treatment of natives generally, and the failure of inexperienced, lately appointed Lieutenants commanding posts, to distinguish between those who are friendly and those unfriendly and to treat every native as if he were, whether or no, an insurrecto at heart, this favorable sentiment above referred to is being fast destroyed and a deep hatred toward us engendered.”

“The course now being pursued in this province and in the Provinces of Batangas, Laguna, and Samar is in my opinion sowing the seeds for a perpetual revolution against us hereafter whenever a good opportunity offers. Under present conditions the political situation in this province is slowly retrograding, and the American sentiment is decreasing and we are daily making permanent enemies.”

 

Sergeant Charles S. Riley

Riley, a Sergeant in the Twenty-sixth Regiment, Northampton, Massachusetts wrote home on November 251900:

Arriving at Igbaras at daylight, we found everything peaceful; but it shortly developed that we were really “treading on a volcano.” Thepresidente (or chief), the priest, and another leading man were assembled, and put on the rack of inquiry. The presidente evaded some questions, and was soon bound and given the “water cure.” This was done by throwing him on his back beneath a tank of water and running a stream into his mouth, a man kneading his stomach meanwhile to prevent his drowning. The ordeal proved a tongue-loosener, and the crafty old fellow soon begged for mercy and made full confession…. Thepresidente was asked for more information, and had to take a second dose of “water cure” before he would divulge.

He also stated that the town was burned to the ground.

Before the Senate Committee Riley testified, and his testimony was confirmed, that “the presidente was tied and placed on his back under a water-tank holding probably one hundred gallons.”

The faucet was opened, and a stream of water was forced down or allowed to run down his throat. His throat was held so he could not prevent swallowing the water, so that he had to allow the water to run into his stomach. He was directly under the faucet, with his mouth held wide open. When he was filled with water, it was forced out of him by pressing a foot on his stomach or else with the hands”; and this continued “from five to fifteen minutes.” A native interpreter stood directly over this man as he lay on the floor, and “kept saying some one word which I should judge meant ‘confess’ or ‘answer.'”

When this unhappy man was taken down and asked more questions, he again refused to answer, and then was treated again.

…The interpreter stood over him in the meantime asking for this second information that was desired. Finally, he gave in and gave the information that they sought, and then he was allowed to rise.

 

Sergeant Hallock

L. E. Hallock of Boston, Massachusetts, formerly a Sergeant and later a private in Company I, Twenty-sixth Volunteer Infantry, testified concerning the practice of the water cure in the Philippines.

He told of the infliction of the cure upon a dozen natives at the town of Leon, Province of Panay. He said they were captured and tortured in order to secure information of the murder of Private O’Herne of Company I.

“Did Capt. Gregg known of the torture?” Senator Rawlins asked.

“All the command knew it, and I don’t see how he could have helped knowing it.”

“What was the effect of the punishment?”

“The stomach would swell up, and in some cases I witnessed blood come from the mouth.”

Asked what became of the Philippine prisoners to whom the cure was administered, he replied that they were placed in a guardhouse 20 by 25 feet in size, in which there was one window, and in which there were at times eighteen men confined. The twelve prisoners were kept for four or five months, and then they tried to escape. That effort had been successful on the part of some of them, but five or six fleeing prisoners were shot and killed. One of them had been killed while trying to get away when the squad was taken to the river for a bath, and the others when out at work, in a general rush for liberty.

“Were all the prisoners who did not escape killed?”

“I think so, with one exception; I think one was given his freedom.”

 

Colonel Arthur L. Wagner

Wagner was in effect the army’s chief public relations officer. Wagner spent two and one-half years in the Philippines.

Wagner was questioned about the concentration camps…So far as he had been able to observe, there was no evidence of want among the people there congregated. Moreover, they were surprisingly contented. Such camps, he insisted, were created to “protect friendly natives from the insurgents” and to “assure them an adequate food supply,” while also teaching them “proper sanitary standards.”

They were at liberty to go outside the line from 300 to 800 yards. Beyond that distance was what was called the dead line, beyond which the people were not permitted to go.

Wagner continued that the natives were given to understand that if they crossed this dead line they would be shot…

Over loud Republican protests, Senator Culberson began to read a letter from one of J. Franklin Bell‘s officers, which had been quoted in the Senate by Mr. Bacon, in which the officer described a concentration camp as a “suburb of hell.” …

What a farce it all is . . . this little spot of black sogginess is a reconcentrado pen, with a dead line outside, beyond which everything living is shot…Upon arrival, I found 30 cases of smallpox, and average fresh ones of five a day, which practically have to be turned out to die. At nightfall crowds of huge vampire bats softly swirl out of their orgies over the dead. Mosquitos work in relays. This corpse-carcass stench wafts in and combined with some lovely municipal odors besides makes it slightly unpleasant here.

Wagner said that in the provinces commanded by Gen. Bell about 100,000 people were gathered in the concentration camps. Their property left outside the camps was confiscated and the wealthy people lost heavily.

Wagner conceded that in one camp “about two miles long and one mile wide” live 8,000 Filipinos. By simple calculation, the critics pointed out that there was only a twelve-by-six foot area for each inhabitant.

 

Fast-forward: The US and President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-86)

The US did not cease to wield its power in the Philippines at the end of the occupation.  The US was, for example, the primary foreign patron of kleptocratic Ferdinand Marcos, President from 1965-86. “Seldom have so few stolen from so many,” (perhaps billions of dollars) according to Raymond Bonner, in “Waltzing with a Dictator.” From a review:

So why did the United States support Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos? How could we have done so if, as Mr. Bonner asserts, they were so blatantly corrupt and malign that they had to work against whatever hopes we could possibly invest in them?

Mr. Bonner proposes many answers to these questions. George F. Kennan ”set the course for American policy toward” the Philippines when he argued in the early 1940’s that we should dispense with altruism and simply insure in the face of Communism’s threat that the Philippines ”remain in hands we can control or rely on.” Later cold warriors saw Mr. Marcos as someone we could count as a bulwark against Communist insurgency.

The Pentagon, he argues, saw the Marcoses as assurance of military security in the South Pacific, a guarantee that we could cheaply maintain our bases in the Philippines. Businessmen saw them as a source of profit. People who needed flattery found in them balm for their egos.

But in the very process of proposing these answers, Mr. Bonner shoots them to pieces. Under Mr. Marcos’s presidency, he argues, the Communist threat grew from relative insignificance to a force that not even his eventual ouster could mitigate. Under Mr. Marcos, the author insists, the question of military bases deteriorated from a debatable strategic issue into an item of blackmail that we should have had the sense to ignore. Under Mr. Marcos, free enterprise declined into something less profitable and more corrupt even than Communist state capitalism.  

 

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “Michael Medved on parallels between Iraq and Philippines

  1. True words, some true words dude. Made my day!

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