Monday, March 5, 2012

l. 5190 -- “... we propose f'r to larn ye th' uses of liberty.”

As pointless and bloody fighting wore on into the year 1900, both the civilian and the military leadership of the American colonial adventure in the Philippines changed. President McKinley sent Ohio federal judge William Howard Taft to set up and administer civilian control, and General Arthur MacArthur became supreme military commander. Taft later became both President and Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Arthur MacArthur was the father of General Douglas MacArthur.

In spite of both being politicians from Ohio, McKinley and Taft met for the first time only three months earlier (l. 4455). They were both Republicans, and professed opposition to international adventures. Taft had no special knowledge of Philippines and was taken by surprise by McKinley's offer, made in the presence of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy (l. 4463). Initially reluctant, Taft responded to appeals to his sense of adventure and intellectual challenge, as well a virtual pledge of a Supreme Court seat (l. 4475). Taft, later promoted to governor, remained in Manila for four years and later declined repeated offers by Theodore Roosevelt (who had once aspired to the governorship himself) of a Supreme Court slot (l. 4479).

McKinley's directive to Taft instructed him to “bear in mind that the government they are establishing is designed not for our satisfaction, or for the expression of our theoretical views, but for the happiness, peace, and prosperity of the people of the Philippine islands, and the measures adopted should be made to conform to their customs, their habits and even their prejudices” (l. 4514).

Mr. Dooley had a more jaundiced set of instructions: “Poor dissolute uncovered wretches, ye miserable, childish-minded apes, we propose f'r to larn ye th' uses of liberty. We can't give ye any votes ... but we'll threat ye th' way a father shud threat his childhern if we have to break ivry bone in ye'er bodies” (l. 4518).

Taft had a frosty initial meeting with MacArthur, who had just been elevated to military governor. MacArthur remained in a large palace in central Manila and assigned inferior housing and office space to the newly-arrived civilians (l. 4534). MacArthur is portrayed as a pompous racist martinet, with a certain redeeming sense of soldiers' honor. He had no patience for the “hearts and minds” measures that his predecessor (l. 4553) had instituted and viewed all native as implacably hostile (l. 4561).

Nor was Taft a model of political correctness, most famously for repeated references to the natives as “our little brown brothers” (l. 4619). He aggravated MacArthur by maintain a more optimistic attitude, defying MacArthur's obstructions, and setting up a de facto legislature. The most powerful weapon of the last was the power to collect and distribute money (l. 4599). Unlike the previous committee, this one contained no soldiers. However, like the previous committee, this one consulted exclusively with elite high-born Filipinos, many of whom confirmed the estimate that the mass of Filipinos were abysmally backward (l. 4606) and needed US protection.

Taft attracted some members of the elite into his administration, which enabled him to govern with a comparatively light touch. These native cooperators naturally varied in quality and open-mindedness. They have been roundly abused by more recent Filipino historians (l. 4640) as traitors. Taft assisted in the founding of an elite-dominate political party, the Partido Federal, which formally started business on Washington's birthday, 1901 (l. 4679), to the accompaniment of brass bands and paper-maché eagles. The party enjoyed a monopoly on political patronage jobs, which attracted supporters, but also was seen as too close to the Americans, which repelled supporters. Taft also banned opposition parties (l. 4685).

This strengthening of the dynastic wealthy family has consequences to this day. Ferdinand Marcos smashed the oligarchs' power 70 years later in order to reward his own cronies. The dispossessed dynasties later helped Corazon Aquino oust Marcos. Corazon Aquino's husband (in 1968) characterized the Filipino elite as “an entrenched plutocracy” (l. 4710).

As the conflict wore on, Aguinaldo gave up occasion attempts at conventional warfare in favor of full-time guerrilla tactics, including improvised booby traps and leaving evidence of tortured prisoners. MacArthur declared martial law in December 1900 and used cruel tactics more frequently. In 1902, a Massachusetts veteran testified in the US Senate about the use of the “water cure”, wherein the victim was forced to drink and then forced to vomit enormous amounts of water (l. 4780), or had salt water quirted up his nostrils.

A key aspect of Filipino response was the control of the population, either through intimidation or sympathy. Suspected American collaborators were treated brutally. There were also well-documented cases of rebel leaders settling personal scores by accusing people of collaboration with Americans (l. 4800).

Aguinaldo and other rebel leaders looked with wishful thinking on the US Presidential elections of 1900, hoping a Democratic victory would aid their cause. The Democratic party platform stated: “No nation can long endure half republic and half empire.” But W. J. Bryan lost handily to McKinley (l. 4829).

The next American to be thrust into the spotlight was Brigadier General Frederick Funston. In late March 1901, Funston led a daring raid by local hill tribes disguised an Filipino partisans, lead by US officers disguised as prisoners, into the stronghold of Emilio Aguinaldo, capturing him. Thomas Edison recreated this incident in his New Jersey studio to showcase his newly-invented movie camera (l. 4896). Funston enjoyed a period of celebrity. Aguinaldo was treated respectfully and invited to MacArthur's residential palace,to Taft's dismay. Aguinaldo soon issued a proclamation urging Filipinos to put down their arms and quietly retired to his family mansion. During WWII, he broadcast pro-Japanese propaganda, and was later pardoned. After receiving back his sword, he died on 6 February 1964, just before his 95th birthday and exactly 65 years after the outbreak of war against the US (l. 4913).

Karnow contrasts the Filipino fight against the US with the later Vietnamese fight. Karnow says that, on the surface, the Filipinos a had better chance of winning, in terms of number of men, firepower, etc., but lost because of poor leadership. Aguinaldo “failed to offer genuine change to the Filipino masses” (l. 4849). He deprived the vote to the enormous majority of people and “ignored the country's appalling agrarian problems” (l. 4966).

The increasingly heavy-handed tactics of Arthur MacArthur and his successor, Major General Adna Romanza Chaffee, led to a two-sided cycle of mayhem and revenge, including a massacre of over 40 American soldiers by Filipinos in Balangiga on 28 September 1901. A “howling wilderness” response eventually drew unfavorable press coverage in the US, which led to courts-martial. In the subsequent trials, the highest levels of authority managed to avoid responsibility, and one mid-level soldier had his career ruined (l. 5152).

With leaders captured or neutralized, the wind went out of the sails of mass organized resistance, although hill tribes and southern Moro movement continued to plague the occupying forces for another decade (l. 5169). The war ended officially on 4 July 1902. The war had cost the US $600 million (in dollars of that period). The official US toll was 4,234 dead and 2,818 wounded Americans, and approximate 20,000 Filipino soldiers killed.

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