Philippine-American War

Death Toll: 1,000,000

In 1908 Manuel Arellano Remondo, in General Geography of the Philippine Islands, wrote: “The population decreased due to the wars, in the five-year period from 1895 to 1900, since, at the start of the first insurrection, the population was estimated at 9,000,000, and at present (1908), the inhabitants of the Archipelago do not exceed 8,000,000 in number.”

“…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone to conquer, not to redeem… And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the [American] eagle put its talons on any other land.”

— Mark Twain
October 15, 1900
The New York Herald

Between the years 1899 and 1913 the United States of America wrote the darkest pages of its history. The invasion of the Philippines for no other reason than acquiring imperial possessions, prompted a fierce reaction of the Filipino people. 126,000 American soldiers were brought in to quell the resistance. As a result, 400,000 Filipino “insurrectos” died under the American fire and one million Filipino civilians died because of the hardship, mass killings and scorched earth tactics carried out by the Americans.

In total the American war against a peaceful people who fairly ignored the existence of the Americans until their arrival wiped out 1/6 of the population of the country. One hundred years have passed. Isn’t it high time that the USA army, Congress and Government apologised for the horrendous crimes and monstruous sufferings that inflicted upon the peoples of Filipinas?

Alfonso Velázquez

It was American policy at the turn of the century to kill as many Filipinos as possible. The rationale was straightforward:

“With a very few exceptions, practically the entire population has been hostile to us at heart,” wrote Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell. “In order to combat such a population, it is necessary to make the state of war as insupportable as possible, and there is no more efficacious way of accomplishing this than by keeping the minds of the people in such a state of anxiety and apprehension that living under such conditions will soon become intolerable.”

The comparison of this highly successful operation with our less successful adventure in Vietnam was made by, among others, Bernard Fall, who referred to our conquest of the Philippines as:

“the bloodiest colonial war (in proportion to population) ever fought by a white power in Asia; it cost the lives of 3,000,000 Filipinos.” (cf. E. Ahmed’s “The Theory and Fallacies of Counter-Insurgency,” The Nation, August 2, 1971.)

General Bell himself, the old sweetheart, estimated that we killed one-sixth of the population of the main island of Luzon—some 600,000 people.

Now a Mr. Creamer quotes a Mr. Hill (“who grew up in Manila,” presumably counting skulls) who suggests that the body count for all the islands is 300,000 men, women, and children—or half what General Bell admitted to.

I am amused to learn that I have wandered “so far from easily verified fact.” There are no easily verified facts when it comes to this particular experiment in genocide. At the time when I first made reference to the 3,000,000 (NYR, October 18, 1973), a Filipino wrote me to say she was writing her master’s thesis on the subject. She was inclined to accept Fall’s figures but she said that since few records were kept and entire villages were totally destroyed, there was no way to discover, exactly, those “facts” historians like to “verify.” In any case, none of this is supposed to have happened and so, as far as those history books that we use to indoctrinate the young go, it did not happen.”

Gore Vidal

“EXCEPT during the sixties when the Filipino-American War of 1899-1902 was referred to as “the first Vietnam,” the death of 1.4 million Filipinos has been usually accounted for as either collateral damage or victims of insurrection against the imperial authority of the United States.

The first Filipino scholar to make a thorough documentation of the carnage is the late Luzviminda Francisco in her contribution to The Philippines: The End of An Illusion (London, 1973).

This fact is not even mentioned in the tiny paragraph or so in most U.S. history textbooks. Stanley Karnow’s In Our Image (1989), the acclaimed history of this intervention, quotes the figure of 200,000 Filipinos killed in outright fighting. Among historians, only Howard Zinn and Gabriel Kolko have dwelt on the “genocidal” character of the catastrophe. Kolko, in his magisterial Main Currents in Modern American History (1976), reflects on the context of the mass murder:

“Violence reached a crescendo against the Indian after the Civil War and found a yet bloodier manifestation during the protracted conquest of the Philippines from 1898 until well into the next decade, when anywhere from 200,000 to 600,000 Filipinos were killed in an orgy of racist slaughter that evoked much congratulation and approval….”

Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980) cites 300,000 Filipinos killed in Batangas alone, while William Pomeroy’s American Neo-Colonialism (1970) cites 600,000 Filipinos dead in Luzon alone by 1902. The actual figure of 1.4 million covers the period from 1899 to 1905 when resistance by the Filipino revolutionary forces mutated from outright combat in battle to guerilla skirmishes; it doesn’t include the thousands of Moros (Filipino Muslims) killed in the first two decades of U.S. colonial domination.”

E. San Juan, Jr.

In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn writes of American sadism during the Philippine-American war:

“In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of The Philadelphia Ledger reported:

“The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog…
“Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”

In Manila, a U.S. Marine named Littletown Waller, a major, was accused of shooting eleven defenseless Filipinos, without trial, on the island of Samar. Other marine officers described his testimony:

“The major said that General Smith instructed him to kill and burn, and said that the more he killed and burned the better pleased he would be; that it was no time to take prisoners, and that he was to make Samar a howling wilderness. Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing, and he replied “everything over ten.”

In the province of Batangas, the secretary of the province estimated that of the population of 300,000, one third had been killed by combat, famine, or disease.
American firepower was overwhelmingly superior to anything the Filipino rebels could put together. In the very first battle, Admiral Dewey steamed up the Pasig River and fired 500-pound shells into the Filipino trenches. Dead Filipinos were piled so high that the Americans used their bodies for breastworks.
Mark Twain said further of the brutal American genocide:
“…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the philippines. we have gone to conquer, not to redeem… and so i am an anti-imperialist. i am opposed to having the [american] eagle put its talons on any other land.”

They called it the "water cure" - waterboarding in the Philippines

Mark Twain
October 15, 1900
the new york herald

“We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket; we have acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our protecting flag over that swag. And so, by these providences of god — and the phrase is the government’s, not mine — we are a World Power.”

— Mark Twain

Source

Filipino historian E. San Juan, Jr., alleges that the death of 1.4 million Filipinos constitutes an act of genocide on the part of the United States.

Mark Twain was deeply disturbed by the sadistic war crimes committed by the evil U.S. military in a Vietnam-like genocide which lasted from 1899 to 1902. He was also disgusted with the virtually universal racism in which White Americans shamelessly wallowed throughout those benighted turn-of-the-century years. (The very years which moral Neanderthals in America even now call “The Good Old Days.”) Twain cynically “saluted” America’s first international genocide “by suggesting that we replace the stars and stripes in our flag with the skull and crossbones.”

“Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”

United States attacks into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns[62] in which entire villages were burned and destroyed, the use of torture (water cure[79]) and the concentration of civilians into “protected zones”.[80] In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger reported:”The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog….” A New York-born soldier – “The town of Titatia [sic] was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger (Benevolent Assimilation, pg. 88).   Corporal Sam Gillis – “We make everyone get into his house by seven p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses we shoot him. We killed over 300 natives the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from the house we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives, so they are pretty quiet in town now.” Filipino villagers were forced into concentration camps called reconcentrados which were surrounded by free-fire zones, or in other words “dead zones.” Furthermore, these camps were overcrowded and filled with disease, causing the death rate to be extremely high. Conditions in these “reconcentrados” were inhumane. Between January and April 1902, 8,350 prisoners of approximately 298,000 died. Some camps incurred death rates as high as 20 percent. “One camp was two miles by one mile (3.2 by 1.6 km) in area and ‘home’ to some 8,000 Filipinos. Men were rounded up for questioning, tortured, and summarily executed.” In Manila, a U.S. Marine named Littletown Waller, a major, was accused of shooting eleven defenseless Filipinos, without trial, on the island of Samar. Other marine officers described his testimony:

The major said that General Smith instructed him to kill and burn, and said that the more he killed and burned the better pleased he would be; that it was no time to take prisoners, and that he was to make Samar a howling wilderness. Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing, and he replied “Everything over ten.”

In the province of Batangas, the secretary of the province estimated that of the population of 300,000, one third had been killed by combat, famine, or disease.

American firepower was overwhelmingly superior to anything the Filipino rebels could put together. In the very first battle, Admiral Dewey steamed up the Pasig River and fired 500-pound shells into the Filipino trenches. Dead Filipinos were piled so high that the Americans used their bodies for breastworks.

A British witness said:

“This is not war; it is simply massacre and murderous butchery.”

Mark Twain said further of the brutal American genocide:

Iraq War Parallels Philippine-American War

BY BING ARADANAS, a Lompoc native who visited Philippine tribes last year to document what’s left of pre-colonial indigenous Asian culture and to build the case for a pan-tribal “national” identity.

I have spent the last year stressing over the Iraq War, worried for the lives of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians, and questioning my notion of democracy. I am distressed by the war in Iraq’s parallels to the Philippine-American War, which, though perhaps the least-known U.S. war, was America’s longest foreign military conflict — 37 years — in which nearly 200,000 civilians died.

The parallels between the two wars are many. On October 19, 2003, the New York Times identified three similarities in its article “Bush Cites Philippines as Model in Rebuilding Iraq” — the seizure of a sovereign nation, the installation of a Western-style democracy, and flimsy evidence to justify war. But there are more: America shot first both times, both wars involved weaker countries rich in natural resources, and both sparked prominent antiwar movements. U.S. propaganda labeled resistance fighters opposed to American occupation “brigands” in the Philippines and “terrorists” in Iraq, while cheerleading media reduced the human dimension of both enemies to elicit pro-war support.

The conquest of the Philippines was America’s first experiment with “nation building.” If Bush truly views it as a model for rebuilding Iraq, we should learn what happened to the first nation America “built,” and its impact on the Philippine people.

Philippines, My Philippines

“The least Asian country in Asia,” is how fellow backpackers described the Philippines to me when I traveled there last summer. I found their assessment true; locals typically have American nicknames and Spanish surnames, they are Christian, speak English, and religiously follow American trends. Most signs are in English and billboards advertise skin-whitening soaps. Mixed Filipinos with lighter skin and pointed noses play the heroes and sex symbols in movies while Filipinos with native flat noses and brown skin play villains, servants, and buffoons.

The eradication of Filipino culture began in the 1500s when Spain colonized the Philippines. For three centuries the Spanish ruled and native customs were outlawed. Spain’s lasting legacies include Latin surnames, Catholicism, and a deeply ingrained belief that native brown skin is inferior to lighter skin. In 1898, Filipino revolutionaries booted out the Spanish, but the country’s freedom was short-lived. In 1899, the U.S. took over the country and continued squelching the Filipino culture, supplanting it with American ways.

American influence was visible at every level. Schoolchildren saluted both the American and Filipino flags. They sang both “The Star Spangled Banner” and the Philippine national anthem, “Lupang Hinirang,” a song crafted by Americans to the melody of an American tune “Maryland, My Maryland.” Longtime Goleta resident Ambrose Baggao was born in the Philippines in 1912. He said Americans made English the national language of instruction, a policy still enforced today. If he spoke his native Ilocano in school, he was fined a farmworker’s half-hour wage.

America gave enormous landholdings to corporations, such as Dole and Del Monte for pineapple plantations. It created a more stable environment for American capitalism by building roads, bridges and communications, and English-language public schools to prepare its new colonial subjects for the low-wage workforce.

Americans considered Filipinos inferior and perpetuated racist views in the United States. Government anthropologist W. J. McGee, for example, displayed Filipino tribes as zoo animals at the 1904 St. Louis Fair, labeling some as “savages” and “monkey-like.” National Geographic Magazine in 1912-13 called non-Christian Filipinos “wild” and “uncivilized.”

Despite their lesser status, many Filipinos immigrated to the U.S. searching for opportunity. Baggao joined 100,000 other Filipinos who poured into America in the 1920s and ’30s. Most were young, poor, uneducated, and male. Filipinos immigrated freely due to colonial status as American “nationals” with U.S. passports. However, they couldn’t legally vote, own property or a business, work government jobs, become citizens, practice law, or marry white or Mexican women. They were excluded from many restaurants, hotels, and swimming pools, and encountered racially segregated theater seating.

The overwhelming majority found only menial work in cities or physical labor on farms, railroads, and in fish canneries. Like the Chinese and Japanese before them, Filipinos helped build America by providing labor for frontier industries until racist hostility led to laws preventing further immigration — respectively: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 and Reed-Johnson Immigration Act of 1924; and the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934. The bigotry exhibited by Americans was particularly devastating to Filipinos, who, unlike previous immigrants who’d faced discrimination, had learned in Americanized schools to see themselves as equals of white Americans.

The Seeds of War

At Lompoc High School years ago, I was jolted awake during history class when the word “Filipino” materialized in our textbook. Being Filipino-American, I was thrilled. But my excitement turned to embarrassment as I learned Filipinos were the bad guys. The book didn’t mention that Filipinos were the first Asian group to settle permanently in America (near New Orleans, 1763); that Filipinos organized the strike that led to the formation of the United Farm Workers (Delano, 1965); nor that Filipinos invented the fluorescent bulb, the one-chip video camera, and co-discovered the antibiotic erythromycin. Rather, I read about “The Philippine Insurrection,” 1899-1902, in which Filipinos, instead of gratefully accepting the gift of American domination after the Spanish-American War, rebelled against their legitimate ruler — America — and lost. Ashamed for my heritage, I was relieved my classmates didn’t jack me after class.

How did America justify violent conquest? There was no threat of communism, terrorism, or dictators with weapons of mass destruction. Filipinos had neither fired the first shot against Americans, nor had they invaded U.S. shores.

The American-Philippines war commenced in 1899. In June 1898, Filipinos had won their two-year war for independence against Spain, aided at the very end by America, which was fighting its own three-month war against Spain. Unbeknownst to Filipinos, however, America and Spain had arranged for the Spanish to lose to American troops — not to Filipinos — in a phony battle staged by Admiral Thomas Dewey in Manila Bay. Edouard André, Belgian consul to the Philippines, arranged the deal. In December 1898, America secretly purchased the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico from Spain for $20 million in Paris.

Two months later, U.S. private Willie Grayson shot Filipino passersby without provocation while patrolling his camp in Manila. Shooting between both sides followed. The shooting incident gave America the excuse it needed to wage war, and Congress quickly ratified the secret $20 million deal. General Elwell Otis lied to the American public saying that Filipinos fired the first shot, igniting anti-Filipino war fever. Racist newspaper cartoons depicted Filipinos as monkey-like children and stupid barbarians. The conflict provoked an antiwar movement in the form of the Anti-Imperialist League, founded by such prominent Americans as author Mark Twain, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and former President Grover Cleveland.

The war lasted until 1936. Former NBC journalist Stanley Karnow detailed the atrocities in his 1989 book, In Our Image. Foreshadowing U.S. military terrorism decades later in Vietnam, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, and Colombia, U.S. soldiers in the Philippines raped “gook” women, threw “******” infants in the air and bayoneted them, summarily executed “monkey” prisoners and “goo-goo” elders on bridges and let their corpses float downriver to terrorize the population, burned entire villages to enforce mass relocations and to control food supplies, and crowded people into jails so tightly they couldn’t sit down.

Filipino freedom fighters from the south were so fierce that American .38 caliber guns often failed to kill them. So the unwelcome Americans developed a superior gun specifically designed to kill southern Filipinos: the Colt .45 ACO. The worst massacre occurred at Bud Dajo in 1906: The U.S. killed 600 unarmed civilians, four years after America formally declared victory. According to the Museum of the Filipino People in Manila, the “Moro Wars” in the South ended in 1936, contrary to beliefs that the “Philippine Insurrection” ended in 1902 or that “brigand” resistance ended in 1913.

When America granted Philippine “independence” in 1946, horrendous strings were attached. The General Relations agreement gave America control over foreign policy; the Bell Trade Law gave America control over tariffs and currency; the Military Assistance agreement gave America control over the army; the Military Bases Agreement allowed America to maintain bases there for 99 years. The Rescission Act of 1946 denied full veterans’ benefits promised to Filipinos who’d fought loyally for the U.S. during World War II simply because they chose to reside in the Philippines after the war.

Iraq and the Philippines

Nation-building lasted 47 years, enriched a handful of wealthy Americans, ushered in one anti-democratic puppet regime after another, contributed to the ongoing decline of native identity and culture, and promoted the Philippines’ worldwide reputation for cheap mail-order brides and underage prostitutes. And a century of neocolonial U.S. capitalism has certainly dented the Filipino psyche. All things American enthrall the average youth — fast food, violent video games, singing karaoke to American pop songs, fashion, Hollywood, text phones, and basketball.

Under the surface, however, there’s another story. Because I’m a brown-skinned Filipino, locals opened up to me in a way they never would with a white American. I found everywhere a grumbling resentment of American hegemony but a simultaneous fatalism that nothing can be done about it, so why bother.

And who can blame them? Since “independence,” America has consistently helped corrupt puppet presidents crush nationalist movements and defeat nationalist presidential candidates. For example, the American government propped up Ferdinand Marcos for 20 years. Even though he jailed and tortured thousands of his political opponents and had many of them killed, and the Guinness Book of World Records ranks him as the biggest thief of all time, five consecutive U.S. presidents hailed him as a leader of democracy, particularly Ronald Reagan. And for almost a century, U.S. war crimes were buried by lies, omissions and propagandizing spins in history books.

America’s first experiment with nation-building began with a war where America shot first, a war sold to the American public on false pretexts, fueled by a manipulative media that portrayed the enemy as sub-human, involving a weaker Third World nation abundant in natural resources, and opposed by a prominent antiwar movement. I find these parallels of the Philippine-American War with the war on Iraq disgusting.