20 July 2008

A war remembered

It is a horrific war, a terrible war, one derided and impugned to imperialism by the United States by a misleading President. It went right and actually was won, the major fighting part of it, but then things went horribly wrong and the promised peace turned to bloodshed. Disgruntled civilians took to fighting the occupiers who would not respect them nor their ways. That President would support the armed forces, get a change in direction in the fighting and those naysayers at home would find the one or two disgruntled soldiers and put them up for all to see about just how bad things were. And then, when things started to go right and the civil conflict abated, the good works of the armed forces would be ignored by the media, as it could no longer inflame passion for peace as it did against war.

Sound familiar?

Let's start with a veteran's organization of a previous war in the run-up to the next one, as seen in this article:

"General disatisfaction, and an attempt to place the organization in the hands of the Ohio representatives, making it appear as a move for political purposes, and the recent action of the committee who were in the minority asuming the privilege of eliminating and vacating offices created by the National convention, making several appointive officers, and a move to control the association generally, and remove the headquarters to Ohio. Those who were present today are men who have made National reputations and are here to make the association a success and not use it for selfish motives."

One of the appointed officers of the veteran's organization was a man who would soon be running for high office. That actually would have some impact on the future course of events, and to heighten things I will remove place names and such to take a look at how the common soldier of that next war would see it from on the ground about a year into it:

"Not even in garrisoned places can a soldier or American go out in the night without danger of being killed from ambush, and we never go out unless we have to. Sometimes around a post you will not see a sign of a [native], but when darkness comes on they pop at us from all around."

"When we first got out to [Nation where fighting is taking place] we were disposed to treat the natives fighting with kindness, and cared for the wounded as carefully as our own, but when we found natives we had nursed to life turning around on us as soon as they had recovered and trying assassination and other deviltries, we nearly all decided that the best [native] was a dead one. It is impossible to estimate the number of natives killed, but I tell you it is thousands upon thousands, but, like flies, the more you kill the more there are."

"We got tired in my company of sending out details to bury the natives killed, and finally, when we had a skirmish away from a permanent post we let the natives lie where they were killed, as the carrion birds will pick them clean in a couple of days, and we killed so many that it would take all our time to play undertaker. We found [natives] would frequently mutilate our dead, carving some of our poor fellows as neatly as butchers dress mutton and beef for the market. This fact made our boys furious, and then we started killing for fair. It may sound bad, but you could not blame our men if you were out there. I was never so happy as when I potted a [native], and so it goes.


"On many dead [natives] we found papers in [foreign language], saying that a new party would soon be in power in the United States, and that the fight must be kept up until then. Extracts from the Democratic speakers praising [natives] were also included in the [foreign language] papers found.

"It will take an army twice the size of the present one to subdue the [natives] and we have practically made no headway in this respect, save in a very few seaports. The men are getting tired out, and have too much work to do. The rations are very good. Sometimes we live on the country when we get a chance, and we detail six sharpshooters, whose duty it is to shoot any stray chickens and other live stock fit to eat belonging to natives, who have left for parts unknown, and, of course, our men are not overparticular whether the owner is around or not sometimes. It depends on how hungry they are."

You know, for all the 'horrors' of Iraq, I have problems placing it in the top 5 of most gruesome wars the US has been involved in. And yet this war had a deployment roughly equal in size and time spent as our forces in Iraq, yet by the end of the first year things were definitely not looking up.

Even more eerily is that a lone chronicler, like today's Michael Yon, would go and look first hand at what was going on and report the good, bad and ugly so that Americans could get a better look at what it was, exactly, we were doing there. And the indictments of that sort of reporting are extremely frightening for their repeat of today. Again I will do substitutions to remove the time period, but you are probably getting the time frame and have already guessed the war:

Evidently the author believes that justice has not been done to the [natives], and that "until an inept bureaucracy was substituted for the old paternal rule, and the revenue quadrupled by increase taxation" they were a happy community, the population multiplying, cultivation extending, and exports steadily increasing.

"The [Appointee in charge], importuned on one hand by doctrinaire liberals, whose crude schemes of reform would have set [the region] on fire; confronted on the other hand by a serried phalanx of the [learned religious scholars] and their literary bravos," was between the devil and the deep sea. But even handicapped as the administration was, it boasted some reforms and improvements. The hateful slavery of [neighboring natives] had been abolished, forced cultivation of tobacco was a thing of the past. In all the [area] [those forced to work the land] had been reduced. A [telecommunications system] connecting [the capital] with [a major foreign city] and the world's [telecommunications system], had been laid and subsidized, a railway 120 miles long had been built from [capital] to [major city], [modern] tramways had been laid, lighthouses were built, a capacious harbor was under construction. The [capital] water works had been completed. Technical schools were established in [the capital] and [another city], and lower grades of schools were well attended. "Credit is due the administration for these measures, but it is rare to see any mention of them," says the author, though doubtless the omission to record them is due to what, in the light of his remarks, is the flattering assumption by Americans and Englishmen that these various Concomitants of civilization were naturally expected in the more populous and civilized centers.

Regarding the religious orders, Mr. Sawyer remarks:

They are not wholly bad, and have had a glorious history. They held [the area] from [258 years] without any permanent garrison of [Ruling Nation] regular troops and from [73 to 68 years before this article] with about 1,500 artillerymen, &c. Having survived their utility, they are an anachronism, but they have brought the [Nation] a long way on the path of civilization.

About American rule, Mr. Sawyer expresses his opinion bluntly. Its unfortunate beginning has raised a feeling of hatred in the natives:

That will take a generation to efface. It will not be enough for the United States to beat down armed resistance; a huge army must be maintained to keep the natives down. As soon as the Americans are at war with one of the great powers, the natives will rise: whenver a land tax is imposed, there will be an insurrection. The difference between this war and former insurrections is that now, for the first time, the natives have rifles and ammunition, and have learned how to use them.

Notice that even winning the 'hearts and minds' campaign is given short shrift because it is 'naturally expected' that these things will be done! Mind you they had NOT been done before that, so the actual undertaking of getting a series of highly technical and complex projects under way in an area that had little infrastructure for them must have been colossal. The direct assessment that the media was not reporting these things to its own ends is what is given. Even when the man who had been there sees the need for a huge army, he still sees hope, of a kind. It is not the route that you would expect from the modern era, however, and that is dating it a bit:

"There is no doubt," continues the author, "that if peace and an honest Government can be secured, capital will be attracted, and considerable increase in the export of hemp, tobacco and sugar will take place as fresh land is cleared and planted.*** But the [Nation] are not, and will never be, a country for the poor white man."

More banks are needed for financing timber cutters, gold miners, and agriculturalists, who now pay enormous rates of interest and commissions for funds to carry on their vocations. There are a need for sugar factories in suitable localities, paper mills, rice mills, and cotton mills. That the commerce of [the area], now mainly [another foreign Power], will ultimately pass into American hands, can scarcely be doubted.

The United States, as rich and powerful as it was, could not do these things: it was incumbent upon the natives to do these things for themselves and that rested on honest Government. It is the one sure cure for problems with insurgencies, one of which would develop, and for quelling post-war conflicts. Without honest governance and security of knowing that the government is reliable and honest, there can be no investment so that the people can invest in *themselves* to create a better economy and better life. Building the infrastructure of transportation, telecomm, water supply, and educational institutions is a start, but they will all be lost without a good, honest post-war government.

Once the insurrection that started the insurgency began, there was a call from a local native political party for those groups doing the fighting on their side to lay down their arms. That did not happen, and the response of the American officials is extremely informative on what the basis of ending the conflict would be:

Taking up the question of the political future of the [natives], it is declared that the theory upon which the commission is proceeding is that the only possible method of instructing the [natives] in methods of free institutions and self-government is to make a Government partly of Americans and partly of [natives], with ultimate control in American hands for some time to come. Less than 10 per cent of the people speak [previous Ruling Nation's language], and the educated people, under the influence of [previous Ruling Nation] teaching, have but a faint conception of real civil liberty and the mutual self-restraint required for its maintenance. The commission has already, however, established municipal suffrage in the pacified parts of [the Nation], and has limited the suffrage to those who can read and write English or [previous Ruling Nation's language], or who own property of the value of $250, pay an annual tax of $15, or have been municipal officers. Thus far, only 49,523 electors have qualified under these provisions, out of a population of 2,695,801, in 390 municipalities, showing only 18.3 electors per 1,000 inhabitants. This is only about 10 per cent of the number which would qualify with similar population under American law. The commission declares that in fixing these qualification it followed the recommendations of all the [natives] who they consulted, except that there were many who advocated a higher qualification.

Many of the common people, the commission believes, will be brought within these qualifications in one generation, by the widespread system of education which is being inaugurated, and the electorate will thus be gradually enlarged. Meantime it is proposed by practical lessons to eliminate from the minds of the more intelligent part of the community those ideas of absolutism in government which now control, and to impress upon them the division of powers prevailing under the American system.

The answer on how to get good government? Ensure that people can read/write so as to take part in the dialog of the community and read about further information, or have some basis of buy-in to the community via property ownership. The method to expand the suffrage of the citizenry is to educate them and that has already started with a system of schools being started. Note the timeline expected: a generation. Further on the article describes how the natives were the ones lobbying to GET English as their primary language, across the school systems. That is *native* teachers wanting to do this and recommending it, not imposition from the top-downwards.

The next piece is priceless, and really, it is time to let the cat out of the bag about this war that America was involved in and, apparently, has completely forgotten about. In case you think that Moveon and their ilk, or any of the modern 'peace' movements is a new phenomena in America, it is time to read about An Anti-Imperialist Petition being backed by those against the war, and I will take the liberty of transcribing it in full from the NY Times archives of 06 FEB 1902:

The right of petition is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is exercised for many purposes, some wise, some foolish. In our judgement it has been exercised unnecessarily by certain gentlemen who in the preamble of the petition presented by Senator Hoar in the Senate are described as "sundry citizens of the United States, eminent men of letters and scholars and others, favoring the suspension of hostilities in the Philippine Islands, and that an opportunity be given for a discussion of the situation between the Government and the Filipino leaders."

These petitioners pray for the appointment of a committee of the Senate to investigate:

The practices of the American Army in the Philippines, so that the truth may be laid before the people of the United States: that if the reports be true steps be taken at once to stop reconcentration, the killing of prisoners, the shooting without trial of suspected persons, the use of torture, the employment of savage allies, the wanton destruction of private property, and every other barbarous method of waging war which this Nation from its infancy had ever condemned.

A "suspension of hostilities" in the Philippine Islands at the request of the military authorities of the United States would prolong hostilities, greatly increase the cost in money and human life of our task in establishing civil order in the islands, and could serve no purpose recognized as sound and desirable by any person of sense not at present opposing the policy of this Government. The use made of the Filipino issue in Mr. Bryan's campaign gave aid, comfort, and encouragement to the insurrectionists. Gov. Taft said before the Senate Committee on the Philippines that "the insurgents believed that if Mr. Bryan should be elected there would be a change in policy and the islands surrendered, placing those who were in insurrection in charge." A request for the suspension of hostilities would, with absolute certainty, be construed by them as a proof that the United States had been beaten in the war, which they are quite ignorant enough to believe, or that it was about to change its policy and deliver the islands into their keeping. In either case negotiation with them would be fruitless, and the only result would be further encouragement for them in their policy of resistance. The chief agitators among the American anti-imperialists have consistently treated the encouragement and aiding of the rebels and the loss of American soldiers' lives thereby occasioned as minor and negligible incidents of their campaign against the policy of the Administration. They are impatient when reference is made to the bloody mischief they perpetrate, and begin to talk about padlocks and gag law.

The other aspect of this petition is its request for information to the end "that the truth may be laid before the people of the United States." The truth has been laid before the people of the the United States during the present week by the Civil Governor of the Philippines , an upright and truth-telling man whose information concerning Philippine affairs is more recent, full, and accurate than that possessed by any witness accessible to the subpoena of the Senate committee. These petitioners pray to be informed whether we are carrying on warfare in the Philippines as barbarians and murderers. Gov. Taft, who is not an advocate of military rule, testified on Tuesday that it was his deliberate judgement that "never had a war been conducted in which more compassion, more restraint, and more generosity had been exhibited than in connection wth the American war in the Philippines."

This testimony was given after he had candidly stated that the many instances of mutilation of corpses of our soldiers by Filipino rebels had provoked "some retaliation on the part of small bands of Americans." There had been probably "some cases of unnecessary killing, some cases whipping, and some cases of what was called 'the water cure,'" which is a method of filling men up with water until they become frightened and tell all they know. All these acts had been "in the face of direct orders to the contrary." We may add that they are all such as would perpetrated to a greater or less extent in individuals cases by the soldiers of any civilized country under the same provocation. Our anti-imperialists treat these isolated offenses as if they were common, habitual acts, committed with the approval or under the orders of American officers.

These anti-imperialists suggest that orders be issued to deal with the Filipinos "as with persons whom one day we hope to make our friends." Gov. Taft declares, according to the press report, that "the great majority of the people of the islands desire peace, and that the insurrectionists by their acts are preventing the mass of people from settling down and earning a quiet living. Instead of being allowed to do this, they were kept under a system of terrorism, which should be stopped."

He describes what remains of the war as "a crime against civilization. It is also a crime against the Filipino people to keep up a state of war under the circumstances. They have worn out the right to any treatment but that which is severe and within the laws of war."

We are dealing with the great body of the Filipinos as persons whom we hope to make our friends. The rebels who are our enemies are their enemies. The chief objects of anti-imperialist solicitude are these enemies of ourselves and of the Filipino people.

You won't get THAT kind of understanding from the NY Times these days!

Those anti-imperialists of yesterday would fit right in with the modern Left, lock, stock and barrel. The sense shown in that conflict by the NYT is absolutely astounding and is the exact, same reasoning used for the modern COIN work in Iraq: that offering a 'cease fire' extends the conflict, increases casualties, and makes things far more costly. That did not stop William Jennings Bryan, running on the Democratic ticket, from trying to utilize the war issue and appear to be 'wise' in his approach to those who were continuing on a brutal insurgency for what would turn out to be years. If a change in policy started to try and appease the insurrectionists, they would take that to mean that they had *won*, especially if done by a Democratic President.

Even more fun is that those anti-imperialists of old, when told they are extending the conflict by giving hope to the insurgents, then start to trot out the 'gag law' defense, which has no basis in fact. It is as if their conscience is getting the better of them and shaming them with the fact that their support is killing Americans and Filipinos, and so they resort to the protection argument and tell you that they are under threat for 'speaking the truth'. And yet all they are being asked to do is consider the consequences of their acts before they take them. That, too, is missed by the modern 'anti-war' crowd.

Then there is the impugning of the honor of those placed in the unenviable position of trying to get a lid put on a boiling pot as a post-war situation transfers into an insurgency. Then it was the Civil Governor of the Philippines and in Iraq it was the Provisional Authority led by Mr. Bremer, and then the follow-on Interim Government. Much scorn was placed on a man who dutifully spent time trying to find WMDs, get some sort of provisional authority going, and then that Provisional government had to deal with the fast erosion of some peaceful areas being undermined by foreign terrorist organizations.

For those who think Abu Ghraib was bad, note how Gov. Taft characterizes what went on in the way of atrocities in the Philippines - killing, whipping, and some form of water torture similar to waterboarding. Given what we learned from that soldier's report a couple of years previously, with dead American soldiers being skinned like cattle... and some not so dead, as heard from elsewhere... would you actually try to *blame* their fellow soldiers for those acts of retribution against a foe that wore no colors, abided by no government, adhered to no code of conduct, was unaccountable to any authority and considered that they were a law unto themselves? And the retort by the anti-imperialists of old, as is that of the anti-war folks of today is that this is really habitual, ongoing, continuous, condoned and even ordered. Gov. Taft would call that 'terrorism' and that is exactly what it IS. If you hear a friend of yours being skinned alive at night, just out of where your lights can get to, will you not feel some heat of revenge?

Nothing of the Islamic terrorists of today is close to *that*, as beheading is simply barbaric in the extreme, not inhuman. By acting in such a way continuously and without let-up, and attempting to stand up no accountable authority, those insurgents in the Philippines forfeited their rights under all the Laws of War. By giving those insurgents rhetorical aid and help, by the belief that they can outlast America, the death toll would be worse and the conflict extended some years.

Considering where we are, today, in light of where the COIN work in the Philippines was back in 1902, the modern US Citizen Soldier has proven to have deeper moral reserves, a much more highly refined sense of ethics, an ability to adapt in an incredibly short period of time to changing conditions and to persevere just like our forefathers did in the Philippines. That was a horrific conflict not only in the toll in lives, but in the toll of the fiber of those who fought to find their friends skinned and trussed up like sides of beef a day or two after a fight. The toll upon the people of the Philippines would be higher, and yet they stuck by the US to the point of offering to aid us during WWI. By then the rule had already transitioned, by and large, to civilian Filipino home rule with the insurgency sputtering out between 1908 and 1910. A pretty long time after the original war started way back in 1898. And a bit over a generation later, after getting conquered by Japan and liberated by America and having to stand government back up, they are a democratic and free society with their own troubles and problems.

Call it about a century to finally get fully on track. And Iraq is starting from a much, much better spot in terms of education, infrastructure, literacy and economy than the Philippines had. And yet offering rhetorical aid to our enemies is still seen as fashionable, 'cultured', 'sophisticated', 'nuanced'... and lethal to our fellow citizens becoming soldiers. But then appeasement always looks nice when someone else will be doing the dying.

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