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Waterboarding – The U.S. Military in the Philippines – 1902

April 5, 2014 American as apple pie? (source - Time Magazine - 1902)

Waterboarding…as American as apple pie? (source – Time Magazine – 1902)

Waterboarding. Turns out it is nothing new, not “invented” by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the lot of neo-conservatives who pushed the United States into an unending war against the Third World – from Afghanistan to Iraq and would like to see wars extended to Iran, Syria…and of late, Russia.

It was standard fare for the U.S. military in a Third World Country even 115 years ago: the torture of rebels, in this case waterboarding in the Philippines, 1902. The image on the left is a “Life” Magazine cover from May 22, 1902, on the website “Executed Today” in history, (today being April 5th). The website, which I discovered about a week ago, includes fascinating information concerning human inhumanity to its fellow beings through history.

Some entries are of a personal nature – so and so murdered so and so, etc, but many are distinctly political which interest me more admittedly. It’s not that I ignore such things – it has long given me the chills how people mistreat one another on an individual level. It’s just when states get involved – state sanctioned torture, murder – otherwise known as war – that things get even uglier.

There were two othe entries on the website though – besides the killing of Filipinos by torture – that especially caught my attention this April 5 – the guillotining of French revolutionary leader Georges Danton in 1794 and the execution of two Arab nationalists opposed to Ottoman rule in 1916, one in Beirut, the other in Damascus.

Concerning the U.S. invasion of the Philippines…If the occupation of Hawaii is discounted (the Hawaii-ans don’t discount it), or the many invasions of Mexico in the 19th Century (the Mexicans don’t discount them) the U.S. military invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba as a result of the Spanish American War is considered the first foreign military intervention of the 20th century (even though they started in 1898). In the end a secret deal was cut between the Spanish and United States governments that rather than abandon these former colonies to their own people – punish the very thought of it!) that there would be a change of colonial rulers from Spain to the United States.

All three military occupations were messy, bloody affairs, but the one in the Philippines went on the longest and was probably the bloodiest. Some 200,000 Filipinos died opposing the U.S. military intervention. The intervention itself was overseen by U.S. General Arthur MacArthur, father of General Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame (and Korean War infamy – he was itching to using nuclear weapons against the Chinese and was removed from command by President Truman). Having honed his skills killing Indians on the Great Plains for decades, Arthur MacArthur went on to outdo himself in the Philippines where virtually everything that moved became target practice for the U.S. army.

According to one explanation for why the United States would invade the Philippines (that I recall reading a long, long time ago), then President McKinley – soon to be assassinated) explained that he made the decision to invade the Philippines  at “God’s direction.” McKinley claimed to be undecided and was walking the White House floors agonizing over what to do when he heard a voice and the voice was God. Not having at the time the convenience of using t weapons of mass destruction nor military intervention for humanitarian reasons as pretexts, McKinley needed another line of reasoning to plunder a far away, Asian country. It was also a problem that there were not communist countries at the time that McKinley could argue were a threat to world peace intent on taking over the world.

A genuine dilemma!

But when all else fails, American presidents – from McKinley to George W. Bush can always take the Crusader logic of old, dust it off a bit, and go for it. McKinley would tell the American public, of all things, that God told him to invade the Philippines, and being a good Christian, how could he do otherwise? It is possible that besides consulting God, McKinley also conferred with some of the country’s main financial and corporate leaders of the day anxious to increase U.S. commercial ties with Asia, China especially, for which the Philippines would provide an excellent springboard. It was/is also a place extraordinarily rich in natural resources, a potential market in and of itself for the burgeoning U.S. manufacturing sector.

God told Arthur MacArthur to use waterboarding on Filipinos as he (it is a “he” usually, isn’t it?) instructed George W. Bush to do likewise on Iraqis, Afghans and who knows how many other Third World rebels. Blaming God for U.S. military intervention didn’t work so well for McKinley and the Philippine intervention also triggered one of the country’s great pacifist and anti-war movements. Calling a spade a spade, this peace movement called itself “The Anti-Imperialist League”  whose prominent members included mega-capitalist Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Jane Addams, John Dewey, William Jennings Bryan, William Dean Howells, William Graham Sumner, David Starr Jordan and former U.S. President Grover Cleveland. Unlike McKinley, apparently God had not spoken directly to these late 19th century American luminaries, either that or God was speaking in more than one voice – one to McKinley, a very different voice to Mark Twain and company.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2014 4:42 pm

    During the rash of Vietnam movies, I remember a scene where a soldier waterboards a Viet Cong prisoner with water from his canteen. Seems like the prisoner was also tied up with barbed wire or something atrocious like that. It wasn’t ‘Apocalypse Now!’. Maybe ‘Full Metal Jacket’ or ‘Hamburger Hill’ or ‘Deerslayer’?

  2. Jim permalink
    April 5, 2014 8:36 pm

    When contemplating
    the Philippines in recent
    times three things are prominent;
    1) the stealing the nation
    blind by Marcos, and his
    money laundering with the
    Saudi Arms dealing in NY
    real estate
    2) the human rights rulings
    in Federal Court against
    Marcos, ( civil cases), despite the DOJ
    blowing its criminal case against Marcos
    3) The Ronald Reagan dancing
    spectacles with Imelda.

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