A new Philippines?
October 22, 2003 6:36 AM   Subscribe

In 1898, the United States made a major move in the direction of colonial imperialism with the acquisition of the Philippine Islands from Spain. President Bush, in a recent speech in the Philippines, pointed to that country's story as a model for rebuilding Iraq. Perhaps a history lesson about the American and Filipino experience in this occupation is in order for both us and our President. The atrocities committed during the Filipinos' struggle for independence (including the use of concentration camps), the high death toll (between 250,000 and 1,000,000, according to this article), and the American occupation which spanned six decades lead me to question whether Bush is just ignorant of the associations made in this comparison, or if it's a subtle way for the administration to set the stage for what possessing Iraq is actually going to entail. (Most links courtesy of the outstanding BoondocksNet, a collection of primary and secondary sources related to American imperialism.)
posted by UKnowForKids (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
lead me to question whether Bush is just ignorant of the associations made in this comparison, or if it's a subtle way for the administration to set the stage for what possessing Iraq is actually going to entail

The first one.


I would be stunned if Bush knew where the Philippines where before he landed there, much less anything of their history.

You have to remember, this man may be the king of all card-readers, having no idea what is actually coming out of his mouth. I believe he may have dethroned the Lord God of all card-readers, Reagan.

At least Reagan had an excuse, he was old and crazy, and already suffering from some of the signs of his now fully involved Alzheimer's.

Bush is just stupid. And a puppet.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:26 AM on October 22, 2003

Don't mock Bush. He's on a CRUSADE, you know!
posted by muppetboy at 7:29 AM on October 22, 2003

The world was very different back then if your going to draw history into the argument then be objective to the times your referring to. Moral equivalency is a weak argument.
posted by stbalbach at 7:37 AM on October 22, 2003

stbalbach, friend : at least make a cursory attempt to explain your position, just as a favour to the community, mmkay? Random phrases that simulate analysis serve nobody's interests, least of all yours.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:43 AM on October 22, 2003

Seconded. Different in what way? Which of those differences help explain policy differences between then and now? Are they differences in goals? in strategy? in what is right and wrong? in our expectations of an accuracy in and a responsibility to history?
posted by rushmc at 8:11 AM on October 22, 2003

Ooh, ooh, pile on!
posted by bshort at 8:20 AM on October 22, 2003

With respect to the U.S. occupation of the Philippines, see this 48-page study on U.S. foreign and domestic policy in the Philippines 1898-1900 entitled "President McKinley and American Imperialism." It's worth reading, and you'll find plenty of parallels to the current American occupation of Iraq.
posted by rwkenyon at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2003

Very Different?

The U.S. is _still_ trying to keep the Philippines colonized.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:27 AM on October 22, 2003

"bushstupidgrrrgrrr bushevilchristiancrusadergrrrgrrr hatebushgrrrgrrr..."

Nominal anti-Bush vitriol aside, of course Junior knows where the Philippines is and what it means in the scheme of US strategy in East Asia. A few factors to consider:

1.) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was one of the first international leaders to pledge "support" (whatever that meant) for the US immediately after 9/11. She was sworn into the Philippine presidency on the same day as he in 2000, under extra-constitutional circumstances even more questionable than those under which Bush was made president.

Macapagal-Arroyo recently broke a promise not to run for Philippine president in 2004, polarizing the country's electorate; local pundits have cited strong influence from Pres. Bush in her decision; kind of a you-scratch-my-back-etc. relationship.

2.) The Philippines has a central location in Southeast Asia, what with easy access to China, Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia, all from a relatively isolated island platform with a US-friendly culture. This has made the archipelago the apple of America's military eye since WW2. We kicked out the last US military bases in a fit of nationalistic fervor about a decade ago, and I'll bet any of the so-called neocons would give a nut to get US military influence back in there.

3.) That said, Bush probably is mostly ign'ant of the nuances of the US colonial heritage in the Philippines. The democracy we inherited has not worked for us so far: an uneducated electorate continues to vote in incompetent and/or corrupt leaders whose economic policies completely ignore the country's rich natural resources in favor of "industrialization," i.e. whoring the economy to wealthy multinational companies. The power of US colonialism never really left; it simply shifted over to the corporations.

This is getting too long. More later.
posted by brownpau at 8:29 AM on October 22, 2003

I read Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present" just before the outbreak of Gulf War II, and was instantly and strongly impressed by how closely the Spanish-American War resembled what was about to unfold in the Gulf Region. Most compelling was the fact that the USA decided against supporting the existing Cuban rebels because Big Business didn't feel that they could be sure that if the rebels were successful in seceding from Spanish dominion they would welcome US business interests with open arms and free access to their markets and considerable resources (tobacco, sugar cane, etc.). So they trumped-up an excuse to actually invade, ignored the advice of the rebels who knew the ground much better than the USA ever could, and after successfully "liberating" Cuba, put in place most of the apparatus and business opportunities that would lead to the dictatorship of Baptista, and ultimately to his overthrow by Castro and his generation of rebels.

Imperialism in the Philippines was a direct result of the Spanish-American War, also, providing the US with valuable resources to exploit, and a home for the US Navy in the South East of Asia.

Compare with Iraq in 2002, where simply supporting an overthrow of Saddam wouldn't necessarily assure the US a friend in the Gulf. So they went in with guns blazing and essentially took over. I think it's been debated before here on metafilter, but I have no doubt that the USA would never, even under strictly observed and just elections, allow a new government to be formed in Iraq -- by Iraqis -- that did not openly welcome US and invite their businesses through the Open Door.

Another interesting feature of the Spanish-American War was the price paid for US Business's avarice: Armor Meats sold hundreds of cans of tainted beef to the US Army (meat that had already been rejected by England because it was bad) to feed to their soldiers. A huge percentage of the casualties of that war weren't due to combat or environmental causes, but due to food poisoning.
So American Business interests were trying to win from both sides...how very patriotic!

I wonder if George W. knows his history of the rest of the Spanish-American War history as well as he knows his history of the Philippines?
posted by Badmichelle at 8:30 AM on October 22, 2003

whether Bush is just ignorant of the associations made in this comparison, or if it's a subtle way for the administration to set the stage for what possessing Iraq is actually going to entail.

Either way, the Filipinos of the world should be (and likely are) quite offended by the comparison. To take a model of annihilation that happened to a country by another country, and hold this up as something to be revered, in the country that it happened to, is downright disgraceful.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:35 AM on October 22, 2003

"They Sunk The Maine!"
posted by GrahamVM at 8:38 AM on October 22, 2003

BoondocksNet is great (good post).
posted by plep at 9:14 AM on October 22, 2003

Ufez -- it depends on who you ask. The Philippines is still dealing with some serious postcolonial identity baggage, and you'll find a definite split between nationalists who would bristle at Bush's analogy and others who hold up the Filipino-American relationship as a point of national pride, and all of this harping on past wrongs is just getting in the way of wooing America's dollars. The nation is like a teenager who might simultaneously yearn for an independent identity while still looking to their parents for emotional validation and economic support.

Couple that with brownpau's point about the current election crisis, and most press attention to the Bush speech is centered on whether or not Bush is endorsing Arroyo as a presidential candidate or whether or not Bush's attention will translate into more foreign aid, than whether or not he made some diplomatic gaffe.

Whether or not the sad shape of Filipino democracy can be attributed to an American failure is a question without a clear cut answer. Certainly, America's behavior in the Philippines during the Cold War has done much to corrupt the democratic process (supporting strongmen like Marcos, for one) but Filipinos also realize that the corruption stems from flaws that go further back than the American occupation, and it is our responsibility, not America's, to fix that.

It's just that America's presence isn't really helping ...
posted by bl1nk at 9:17 AM on October 22, 2003

Aww, give Bush a break. All he knows is...the U.S. used to occupy the Philippines, and now they have McDonalds! That's what's important! He's looking at the big picture, don'tcha know! The rest is just details! He's a uniter, not a divider!

But seriously...good god.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:24 AM on October 22, 2003

Hey, Bush may be a moron, but he's OUR moron.
posted by muppetboy at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2003

I'd be willing to make him someone else's moron.
posted by bshort at 9:50 AM on October 22, 2003

Mark Twain had plenty to say about the occupation of the Philippines.

Great post, UKnowForKids.
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on October 22, 2003

Aside: bl1nk, thanks for the link; I'd been meaning to blog that column by Teddy Benigno, and I lost the URL.
posted by brownpau at 10:22 AM on October 22, 2003

The big goddam problem with lefties...

::: skip to next comment :::
posted by rushmc at 12:22 PM on October 22, 2003

Fred Kaplan has a good piece about this in Slate: From Baghdad to Manila
posted by homunculus at 12:36 PM on October 22, 2003

Some previous threads involving the Philippine-American war:
Mark Twain on War and Imperialism
Antics of the Dogs of War
posted by eddydamascene at 1:21 PM on October 22, 2003

>> I'd be willing to make him someone else's moron.

Yeah, me too.
posted by muppetboy at 3:49 PM on October 22, 2003

Maybe we could convince Belgium to take him.
posted by bshort at 4:36 PM on October 22, 2003

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