Thursday, May 04, 2006

[politics] Who wrote this?

And when?
The cable news has kept the home folks fully informed as to the progress of this "raghead" hunt, so it is unnecessary to recount any details of battles. The cruelties of Saddam toward these people have been fully discussed, but if the thing were written up by a recent arrival here, he would make a tale just as harrowing. But the old boys will say that no cruelty is too severe for these brainless monkeys, who can appreciate no sense of honor, kindness, or justice.... With an enemy like this to fight, it is not surprising that the boys should soon adopt "no quarter" as a motto, and fill the hajii full of lead before finding out whether or not they are friends or enemies
Guesses? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? Actually, this quote is attributed to a private from Utah - serving with the state militia in the Philipines, sometime circa 1900 (It is unclear exactly when. This could be a quote from the fighting in the Philipines during the Spanish-American War proper, it could be from the subsequent Moro Insurrection.). I've changed three words from the original, which may be found here - I've bolded the words I changed:
The cable news has kept the home folks fully informed as to the progress of this "goo-goo" hunt, so it is unnecessary to recount any details of battles. The cruelties of Spain toward these people have been fully discussed, but if the thing were written up by a recent arrival here, he would make a tale just as harrowing. But the old boys will say that no cruelty is too severe for these brainless monkeys, who can appreciate no sense of honor, kindness, or justice.... With an enemy like this to fight, it is not surprising that the boys should soon adopt "no quarter" as a motto, and fill the blacks full of lead before finding out whether or not they are friends or enemies
One racial epithet, one oppressor, one racial/cultural mischaracterization. That's it. The language is slightly archaic, but it really could have been written yesterday about Iraq. (I love the reference to 'cable news' - not CNN but Western Union!) Now, there are commonalities in all wars. Racial and ethnic stereotyping play a part in many conflicts, as they are useful tools in dehumanization. They make it easier for soldiers to distance themselves from the carnage; they make it easier for the leadership (civilian and military) to convince soldiers to kill. But I've said before that the Iraq War has quite a few parallels with the Spanish American War. In that earlier piece, I compared the subjugation of the Moros to Afghanistan, but the overall acquisition and occupation of the Philipines also presents some useful and possibly illuminating lessons for Iraq:
  • An occupied people may be grateful that you've relieved them from an oppressor - but they'll turn on you in a heartbeat if you don't view them as equals, or if you fail to provide them with the rights they expect.
  • Soldiers will grow more and more demoralized the longer they're exposed to a country that resents their very presence - particularly if they've been lead to believe that they're on a mission to 'do good.'
  • This resentment makes it a lot more likely that they will respond with disproportionate force, that they will want to dehumanize and humiliate 'the enemy', and in some cases, commit atrocities.
  • Occupations can have a life of their own - we were supposedly liberating the Philipines, not colonizing it, but it took us 60 years to provide (initially, only limited) independence, and another 30 years to hand over the last keys.
  • Ignoring the tone, this article does an excellent job of summarizing the US relationship with the Philipines as viewed through the lens of our liberation and subsequent occupation. It also mentions something of which I was previously unaware: in 2003, Bush actually had the temerity to hold up the history of our relationship with the Philipines as a model for Iraq (full text here - "Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule. Together we rescued the islands from invasion and occupation." Erm. Not so much.). While this was more-or-less well recieved by the Filipino oligarchy, this did not go over well with much of the populace, as it glossed over and ignored the historical truths of our long presence in the Philipines. I fear that the myopia that this remark typifies will over time only compound the disastrous situation in Iraq. And I still feel that Iraq will take its place with the Spanish American War in the eyes of history; reading the accounts of our misadventures in the Philipines has only solidified this opinion. (link to the stereoscopic pictures and the original quote via Making Light, link titled "A Brave Feat of Arms".)

    7 Comments:

    Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

    Interesting - I will re-read this in full but two things stand out.

    Moro rebellion, bet on it. There was little ground combat when we wrested PI from Spain. A day's naval combat in the bay against a completely outclassed Spanish squadron, a truce until the troops arrived, then Dewey bombarded an abandoned fort to preserve notions of Spanish honor and landed troops to keep order.

    The Phillipines would have had their own governement years and years before they did had not WW II happened. Probably at least - they were on their way to it in 1941 then got their economy and civil government kicked into a bucket by two invasions and years of horrid occupation.

    5/04/2006 04:00:00 PM  
    Blogger protected static said...

    What I found interesting was that the governor of the Philipines encouraged a general uprising once it became clear that we were not, in fact, kicking out Spain and then leaving. Some of what I read would suggest that by labeling it the "Moro Rebellion", the US was downplaying the wider anti-US sentiment that existed in the Philipines.

    5/04/2006 04:15:00 PM  
    Blogger protected static said...

    Let me clarify - the US-installed Filipino governor, who had originally welcomed the US, not the deposed Spanish-appointed governor.

    (I'd expect the Spanish-appointed governor to order resistance of some kind...)

    5/04/2006 04:19:00 PM  
    Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

    I'd expect the Spanish-appointed governor to order resistance of some kind..

    He didn't. Dewey tore up the Spanish navy, the governer surrendered.

    Which meant something to men in those days. Surrender the government, the army downs arms and surrenders. That's how gentlemen do these things, eh wot?

    5/04/2006 06:35:00 PM  
    Blogger protected static said...

    I know, pretty amazing. (If you ever make it to Philadelphia, one of Dewey's ships is moored there - it's (as you'd probably expect) a jarring mish-mash of Edwardian gilt & splendor and lethally-efficient-looking pre-Dreadnought hints of things to come, like, oh, Jutland...).

    Do you really think we'd have walked away from the Philipines in the 1930s or 1940s? We certainly kept hold of Guam & Puerto Rico.

    5/04/2006 08:35:00 PM  
    Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

    if you ever make it to Philadelphia, one of Dewey's ships is moored there

    I had to google that - I had no idea Olympia was there.

    Amazing - and small by our standards, with deplorable living conditions.

    Do you really think we'd have walked away from the Philipines in the 1930s or 1940s?

    Define 'walked away'. The Commonwealth of the PI did achieve semi-indepeant status in 1935, in 1937 MacArthur was tabbed to be field marshall in their Army. Ah, crap you just made me go and commit Wiki to supplement my horrible memory. Damn you.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_of_the_Philippines

    The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the political designation of the Philippines from 1935 to 1946 when the country was a commonwealth of the United States. Before 1935, the Philippines was an insular area with non-commonwealth status; it had been a U.S. territory since the 1898 Treaty of Paris, following Spain's loss of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was envisioned as a transition government to rule for 10 years, preparatory to full Philippine independence. The Commonwealth was established after the acceptance by the Philippine Legislature of the Philippine Independence Act, popularly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act. The law authorized the drafting of a constitution for the Philippines, by a popularly-elected constitutional convention. Upon the ratification of the constitution by the Filipino people, it would then be submitted to the President of the United States who would certify its having met certain requirements in the Independence Act.

    It does seem clear (not just from Wiki of course, but that is a handy reference tool) that we were in the act of giving the PI independance. Which isn't the same thing as giving it all up - Manila Bay is the finest deep water anchorage in Asia and a superb place to use for power projection. If you have vested interests in Asia (and we do, and did) then having a place to use as a base is paramount.

    The American occupation of the PI was ungood, perhaps. As conquerers however we wanted to give it back, while making sure the place would friendly to our interests and a more-or-less stable democracy. This took too long, aye, but we did do what we said we would.

    For an example of occupation with truly evil intent see the Japanese occupation 1941-1944.

    5/05/2006 09:05:00 AM  
    Blogger protected static said...

    Yeah, I couldn't remember if it was Olympia or not... She definitely projects a different aura than Old Ironsides, that's for sure.

    As for commiting wiki, well - we try to stay open-minded here. What you do behind the privacy of your computer screen is your own business ;-)

    What I found fascinating about the post-Spanish American War period was our ambivilence about Cuba. Prior to the war, it was clear that the jingoists and other manifest destiny fans were dead set on annexing Cuba outright and admitting her to the Union as a state. During & after the war, an odd alliance of anti-imperialists and Southern racists pretty much killed that idea: the anti-imperialists weren't so hip on our colony, period, while the Southerners weren't so hip on the idea of a state that would have been what? 90% black?

    Now there's an interesting alt. history exercise - how would the early 20th century have looked if we'd annexed Cuba and granted her statehood? Would Jim Crow have ended sooner? Would the Harlem Renaissance even be able to happen?

    (I'm seeing Fidel becoming a pro baseball player, then a mainstream politician affiliated with a mildly-separatist Cuban political party.)

    As for the Japanese - I've got a great uncle whose bones are still in Bougainville somewhere. If I was going to be occupied by someone in the 1930s, I could do much worse than the US. It would still suck if you were, say, politically involved, but it sucked a lot less for regular folks than under the Japanese.

    5/05/2006 08:59:00 PM  

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