Thoughts Following 9/11


Political Index

11/7/2001: I've had a rude awakening. 
The Mexican War
    In the 1999 Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, I looked up the Mexican War. Mexico had invited U. S. citizens to settle in Texas. At first,  In 1835, the Texans declared themselves a separate country ("The Republic of Texas"), winning their independence from Mexico in 1836. In 1845, they became one of the states of the United States. Texas claimed that its border went all the way to the Rio Grande, while Mexico claimed that it stopped about 100 miles east, at the Nueces River. In 1845, President Polk sent James Slidell to Mexico City to negotiate the border dispute, and to try to purchase California from Mexico. President Santayana refused to see him. In 1846, President Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to advance to the Rio Grande. The Mexicans considered this to be an invasion of Mexican territory, and in May, the Mexicans joined General Taylor in battle. The United States then declared war on Mexico. The U. S. forces were outnumbered more than two-to-one, but prevailed in each engagement. The war settlement gave the U. S. California and the land to the Rio Grande, in return for $15 million (equivalent to perhaps $15 billion today in terms of relative GNP's). But it was a territorial dispute. It sounds as though President Santayana was unwilling to discuss the situation with the United States.
The Spanish-American War and the Philippines
    The Mexican War pales in comparison with the Spanish-American War. A revolutionary movement in Cuba was seeking Cuba's independence from Spain. The U. S. sent the battleship Maine to Cuba to protect its business interests in Cuba. On the night of February 15, 1898, a huge explosion destroyed the Maine in Havana Harbor. (Our historians have suggested that the explosion might have been implemented by U. S. interests seeking to foment a war with Spain. William Randolph Hearst was egging on a war in his newspapers, and wired his homesick correspondent in Cuba, Frederic Remington, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.")
     Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia says,
    "The formal peace negotiations took place in Paris, beginning on Oct. 1, 1898. The American representatives had committed themselves to an expansive imperialistic policy for the United States. Spain granted Cuba its independence, and the United States was given Puerto Rico and Guam. The difficult issue was the Philippines. McKinley was undecided on what to do about the 7,000-island former Spanish colony. Soon, however, he was caught up in the fervor of imperialism that was sweeping the United States. He finally concluded that "the march of events rules and overrules human action." The Philippines would be annexed, and--in the words of New York Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid--the Philippines would 'convert the Pacific Ocean into an American lake.'
    "Spain parted with the Philippines in exchange for a payment of 20 million dollars from the United States."
    In the meantime, the Philippines were making a bid for their independence from Spain, led by a revolutionary general named Emilio Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo, expecting support from the United States, became the President of the new Philippine Republic.
    "Officials in the United States had other ideas, however. After liberating the islands from Spain, the United States refused to accept the notion of Philippine independence. The United States wanted to establish a military and commercial presence in the Far East, and the island nation seemed to be the perfect outpost. 
    "To keep the Philippines the United States fought a bloody three-year guerrilla war. The United States found itself doing in the Philippines precisely what it had condemned Spain for doing in Cuba. It has been estimated that more than 600,000 Filipinos were killed in the insurrection led by Emilio Aguinaldo against the United States (see Aguinaldo). The actual number is probably much higher, though exact figures have never been released by the Department of the Army. Some estimates place the number as high as 3 million--15% to 20% of the population? Protests against the war in the United States were nearly as vehement as those against the Vietnam War three or four generations later. Hostilities ended in March 1901, when Aguinaldo was captured. (See also Aguinaldo, Emilio.) It has been called the first genocide of the 20th century. Mark Twain protested the conflict bitterly in one of his most powerful pieces of writing, 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness.' In it he stated that the American flag should have 'the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross bones.'
    "William Howard Taft, a future president, was appointed the first civil governor of the Philippines. In order to counter the embarrassing domestic and foreign criticism of its imperialism, the United States worked out a plan that guaranteed Philippine independence when the Filipinos were prepared for it. Meanwhile, the United States governed within the existing structures of Philippine society. Gradually the Filipino elites were granted increased authority by gaining representation in government. By 1907 a national assembly had been elected. The Nationalist party, led by Sergio Osmena and Manuel L. Quezon became the dominant political force in the islands."
    The bottom line is that, apparently, it was blatantly imperialistic. It was aimed at giving the U. S. a presence in the Far East, and although I hate to say it, our treatment of the Filipinos sounds barbaric. Killing one to three million Filipinos and mestizos (half-Spanish/half-Filipino) was worthy of Nazi Germany, or of Stalin's extermination of the Kulaks. Apparently, it was about imperial aspirations, and the greed of already-wealthy men (or at least that's how our historians have presented it).
    I checked other history books besides Compton's Encyclopedia and found a similar story.