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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review of book on Philippine American war of 1899



A review of a new history of the 1899 Philippine-American war by Candice Millard can be found here in the New York Times. The history is called "Honor in the Dust" by Gregg Jones.

Millard notes that in reading the history she was struck not by how much war has changed in the hundred and some years since but how many scenes were quite similar to what has happened in recent wars. At first the Americans were greeted as saviors by many but in a short time they become despised as occupiers.

As in Iraq the U.S. in a short time declared victory but fighting continued. There were graphic accounts of torture by the Americans in newspapers.

Jones describes the interrogation of a Filipino mayor thought to have helped the insurgents. American soldiers used what they called the water cure a technique developed during the Spanish Inquisition described as follows:"" After tying the mayor’s hands behind his back and forcing him to lie beneath a large water tank, they pry his mouth open, hold it in place with a stick and then turn on the spigot. When his stomach is full to bursting, the soldiers begin pounding on it with their fists, stopping only after the water, now mixed with gastric juices, has poured from his mouth and nose. Then they turn on the spigot again."" Needless to say this seems to be an even crueler variant of water boarding.

When President McKinley first entered the Philippines during the Spanish American war in 1898 he said that it was for Filipinos’ “liberty and not our power, their welfare and not our gain, we are seeking to enhance.” But by 1900 which just happened to be an election year McKinley was giving in to dreams of empire. He noted “territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war in a holy cause.” “Shall we deny to ourselves what the rest of the world so freely and justly accords to us?” The crowd he was addressing shouted a resounding "No"

Within the U.S. itself there was vocal opposition to this imperialism. Critics included Mark Twain and former president Grover Cleveland. Theodore Roosevelt however was a constant critic of the anti-war faction and of McKinley himself for not being hawkish enough. For the rest of the story see the full review.

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