and yet deprecate agitation
are men who want crops without
plowing up the ground;
they want rain without thunder and
They want the ocean without the
awful roar of its waters.
This struggle may be a moral one
or it may be a physical one
or it may be both moral and physical
but it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a
It never did, and never will." – Frederick Douglass, AmericanAbolitionist, Lecturer, Author and Slave, 1817-1895)
(quoted in Fr. Salgado’s Philippine Economy: History and Analysis, 1985)
" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio)
To those who wonder "why dig the past": We engage in revisiting and revising our past, i.e. historical "revisionism", to develop new emphases and raise new questions on assumptions and explanations for key historical issues and policies --given by our former colonial master America, government officials and authors of history books, then and now.
We Filipinos, here and abroad, past and present, relied and continue to use these official explanations that lead only to our ignorance of hidden truths and knowledge of untruths, thus perpetuating the post-WW2 neocolonial conditions that brought only worsening impoverishment to the masses; foreign control of the national economy and its plunder of our national patrimony (of course, with the help of the local collaborators/traitors to our homeland and native majority). - Bert
"The HISTORY of the past interests us only in so far as it illuminates the HISTORY of the present." Ernest Dimnet, 1866-1954, French Clergyman
History has been one of my favorite subjects in high school, and to this day it continues to be one of my great interests. In retrospect, I think the study of History, whether of the Philippines, of another country or that of the World, was badly taught since the stress has been mainly on memorizing names, dates and events. This teaching method made History to become/remain unpopular among many students and most important, to losing its true value for the future adult citizens and members of society.
It was only when battles during the Vietnam War became a daily news item did my outlook towards History in general take a different spin. From then on, even while attending a college of engineering, I would spend time and money reading about the Vietnam War (more aptly, American intervention) and especially, about the causes or roots of this war. My great interest in history also led me into appreciating the other branches of the social sciences or the humanities, i.e. philosophy, psychology, etc, those subject matters that go deep into "what is man?" and comprise mainly the so-called"liberal education." (see History and Liberal Learning).
To digress a bit: Many of those who attended the Uiversity of the Philippines have had a taste of liberal education and thus seem more attuned with societal issues. And in general, some or many who are for technical education may have found them boring too. It partly explains why we engineers --wherever we graduated from-- tend to be generally unqualified in human/organizational management uinless we study and learn.
Two truisms: One where it is said "history repeats itself." Another where I would say "history does not have to repeat itself." Man makes history not the other way around (I do not believe in absolute historical determinism). A rough analogy: in the project engineering practice of better managed organizations, after project completion we sit down and talk about "lessons learned," to identify the good and the bad in the project just closed out for the purpose of not repeating mistakes.
It should make us wonder why we do not use our scientific/technical approach or thinking in our social analysis and problem-solving. It maybe due to the case when most of the time human problems are much more complex than most technical/inanimate problems. In human problems wisdom in problem-solving is acquired only from a combo of education, time and experience. Though again, acquired knowledge also may oftentimesrequire the will, i.e. "political will," of the rulers --and of the active citizenry to press the rulers-- to implement it.
WHO SHOULD RULE THEN? If we have chosen the wrong rulers, we have to force/make them become good rulers --but this is another topic.)
Back to our history study. The reason I mention the above is the fact that we Filipinos grew up and were schooled in books, including those on Philippine history, written primarily by American and Americanized authors. History, come to think about it if seriously studied, provides one an understanding of a people, a place, a culture. A history to understand ourselves: why are we what we are? what brought us here - to our current predicament?
Thinking about what transpired in the past provides a history buff a way of linking isolated, if not apparently unrelated events or historical milestones and therefore gives meaning and direction to the “who, what, when, where, how and why” questions concerning such past events. Learning and understanding history help provide a fresh perspective, the identification of a common thread, on recent and current events. Such obtained knowledge when applied to society can help formulate some and fundamental, even radical but necessary, approaches to problem solving of society’s current ills.
As to our Philippine history, I believe and think that the 50-year American intervention, occupation and colonization of our homeland need a deeper rethinking if one wants to understand the seemingly confusing and incomprehensibly perennial predicament of Filipinos in the Philippines.
The restudy of Philippine-American History by us Filipinos should aptly begin with the unknown and underlying rationalization and/or justification by Social Darwinism; the ignored and glossed over shift to expansionism by the formerly anti-imperialist and isolationist America; most especially its dominant racist mindset for both market- and military-driven expansions explained away by the so-called Manifest Destiny towards the Pacific Rim during the later decades of the 19th century. Note that decades before, America declared and warned the Europeans, through its Monroe Doctrine, that the western hemisphere -all the Americas- was its sole domain, its "backyard."
The gradual shift at the turn of the 20th century from American isolationism to American imperialism, joining the exclusive imperialist club of England, France, Spain,etc. as the new global bully in the block, was demonstrated with the arrival of American armed forces in the Philippine islands, the latter's political trickery towards the Katipuneros. The native Filipinos who had (have to this day) naïve sentimentality thus faith in the American revolutionary heritage led to their failure to perceive the fading of so-called heritage and the rising new American reality.
The new American reality of imperialism, the ordinary American does not recognize/realize it due to his ignorance, imposed its subsequent brutal war against the Filipino natives, and with the subtle Americanization (cultural imperialism) of the Filipino natives -through public education--a new, more efficient and effective method, i.e. cheaper and not requiring American occupation troops in foreign soil (with native military substitutes beholden to the American military) and long-lasting way of re-colonization, i.e. neocolonialism aka neoliberalism, that strongly persists up to the present.
As a footnote, George W. Bush in his brief visit and speech to the Philippine Congress in 2003 spoke of our homeland as a model for Iraq. Thus America today pursues Iraqi occupation by American troops, now trapped in a quagmire as in Vietnam, after its brief but amoral intervention and invasion, and trying to impose its self-righteous belief that it has the best way for all civilizations and societies; an excuse for its ultimate goal of controlling Iraqi Oil, the second largest proven oil reserve in the world (second to Saudi Arabia). During the 2003 invasion, it is worth remembering that one of the very first places that the US troops took over is the Iraqi Oli Ministry and of course, all its documents.
And the Bush administration can do so thanks to the dominance of a similar ignorance of the American mind.
A picture of a “water detail,” reportedly taken in May 1901, in Sual, the Philippines. “It is a terrible torture,” one soldier wrote. "His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown." - Lt. Grover Flint, Philippine-American War.
“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” - Meridel Le Sueur , American writer, 1900-1996
ANNALS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
THE WATER CURE
Debating torture and counterinsurgency—a century ago.
by Paul Kramer, FEBRUARY 25, 2008, THE NEW YORKER
The first had been in 1898, against Spain, whose remaining empire was crumbling in the face of popular revolts in two of its colonies, Cuba and the Philippines. The brief campaign was pitched to the American public in terms of freedom and national honor (the U.S.S. Maine had blown up mysteriously in Havana Harbor), rather than of sugar and naval bases, and resulted in a formally independent Cuba.
Shortly afterward, Commodore George Dewey returned the exiled Filipino revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo to the islands. Aguinaldo defeated Spanish forces on land, declared the Philippines independent in June, and organized a government led by the Philippine élite.
Aguinaldo and some of his advisers, who had been inspired by the United States as a model republic and had greeted its soldiers as liberators, became increasingly suspicious of American motivations. When, after a period of mounting tensions, a U.S. sentry fired on Filipino soldiers outside Manila in February, 1899, the second war erupted, just days before the Senate ratified a treaty with Spain securing American sovereignty over the islands in exchange for twenty million dollars.
In the next three years, U.S. troops waged a war to “free” the islands’ population from the regime that Aguinaldo had established. The conflict cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos and about four thousand U.S. soldiers.
Soldiers, in their letters home, wrote about extreme violence against Filipinos, alongside complaints about the weather, the food, and their officers; and some of these letters were published in home-town newspapers.
A letter by A. F. Miller, of the 32nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment, published in the Omaha World-Herald in May, 1900, told of how Miller’s unit uncovered hidden weapons by subjecting a prisoner to what he and others called the “water cure.”
“Now, this is the way we give them the water cure,” he explained. “Lay them on their backs, a man standing on each hand and each foot, then put a round stick in the mouth and pour a pail of water in the mouth and nose, and if they don’t give up pour in another pail. They swell up like toads. I’ll tell you it is a terrible torture.”
This was especially true as the politics of imperialism became entangled in the 1900 Presidential campaign. As the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, clashed with the Republican incumbent over imperialism, which the Democrats called “the paramount issue,” critics of the war had to defend themselves against accusations of having treasonously inspired the insurgency, prolonged the conflict, and betrayed American soldiers. But, after McKinley won a second term, the critics may have felt that they had little to lose.
His main antagonists had previously been Philadelphia’s party bosses, whose sordid machinations were extensively reported in Welsh’s earnest upstart weekly, City and State. Yet he had also been a founder of the “Indian rights” movement, which attempted to curtail white violence and fraud while pursuing Native American “civilization” through Christianity, U.S. citizenship, and individual land tenure.
An expansive concern with bloodshed and corruption at the nation’s periphery is perhaps what drew Welsh’s imagination from the Dakotas to Southeast Asia. He had initially been skeptical of reports of misconduct by U.S. troops. But by late 1901, faced with what he considered “overwhelming” proof, Welsh emerged as a single-minded campaigner for the exposure and punishment of atrocities, running an idiosyncratic investigation out of his Philadelphia offices.
As one who “professes to believe in the gospel of Christ,” he declared, he felt obliged to condemn “the cruelties and barbarities which have been perpetrated under our flag in the Philippines.” Only the vigorous pursuit of justice could restore “the credit of the American nation in the eyes of the civilized world.” By early 1902, three assistants to Welsh were chasing down returning soldiers for their testimony, and Philippine “cruelties” began to crowd Philadelphia’s party bosses from the pages of City and State.
The investigation began at the end of January, 1902, and, in the months that followed, two distinct visions of the hearings emerged. Hoar had hoped for a broad examination of the conduct of the war; Lodge, along with the Republican majority, wanted to keep the focus on the present, and was “not convinced” of the need to delve into “some of the disputed questions of the past.”
For the next ten weeks, prominent military and civilian officials expounded on the progress of American arms, the illegitimacy of Aguinaldo’s government, its victimization of Filipinos, and the population’s incapacity for self-government and hunger for American tutelage.
That cruelties have been inflicted; that people have been shot when they ought not to have been; that there have been in individual instances of water cure, that torture which I believe involves pouring water down the throat so that the man swells and gets the impression that he is going to be suffocated and then tells what he knows, which was a frequent treatment under the Spaniards, I am told—all these things are true.
Eager to share intelligence with the Americans, but needing a plausible cover, these Filipinos, in Taft’s recounting, had presented themselves and “said they would not say anything until they were tortured.” In many cases, it appeared, American forces had been only too happy to oblige them.
The document, entitled “Charges of Cruelty, Etc., to the Natives of the Philippines,” was an unsubtle exercise in the politics of proportion. A meagre forty-four pages related to allegations of torture and abuse of Filipinos by U.S. soldiers; almost four hundred pages were devoted to records of military tribunals convened to try Filipinos for “cruelties” against their countrymen.
If the committee sought atrocities, Root suggested, it need look no further than the Filipino insurgency, which had been “conducted with the barbarous cruelty common among uncivilized races.” The relatively slender ledger of courts-martial was not, for Root, evidence of the unevenness of U.S. military justice on the islands. Rather, it showed that the American campaign had been carried out “with scrupulous regard for the rules of civilized warfare, with careful and genuine consideration for the prisoner and the noncombatant, with self-restraint, and with humanity never surpassed, if ever equaled, in any conflict, worthy only of praise, and reflecting credit on the American people.”
In the wake of a surprise attack by Filipino revolutionaries on American troops in the town of Balangiga, which had killed forty-eight of seventy-four members of an American Army company, Waller and his forces were deployed on a search-and-destroy mission across the island.
During an ill-fated march into the island’s uncharted interior, Waller had become lost, feverish, and paranoid. Believing that Filipino guides and carriers in the service of his marines were guilty of treachery, he ordered eleven of them summarily shot.
During his court-martial, Waller testified that he had been under orders from the volatile, aging Brigadier General Jacob Smith (“Hell-Roaring Jake,” to his comrades) to transform the island into a “howling wilderness,” to “kill and burn” to the greatest degree possible—“The more you kill and burn, the better it will please me”—and to shoot anyone “capable of bearing arms.”
According to Waller, when he asked Smith what this last stipulation meant in practical terms, Smith had clarified that he thought that ten-year-old Filipino boys were capable of bearing arms. (In light of those orders, Waller was acquitted.)
Root then used the opportunity to tout the restraint that the U.S. forces had shown, given their “desperate struggle” against “a cruel and savage foe.” The Lodge committee, meanwhile, maintained its equanimity, with a steady procession of generals and officials recounting the success and benevolence of American operations.
Herbert Welsh had learned of Riley, and enlisted him, among other soldiers, to testify before the committee. Amid the bullying questions of pro-war senators, Riley’s account of the events of November 27, 1900, unfolded, and it was startlingly at odds with most official accounts. Upon entering the town’s convent, which had been seized as a headquarters, Riley had witnessed Ealdama being bound and forced full of water, while supervised by a contract surgeon and Captain Edwin Glenn, a judge advocate.
Ealdama’s throat had been “held so he could not prevent swallowing the water, so that he had to allow the water to run into his stomach”; the water was then “forced out of him by pressing a foot on his stomach or else with [the soldiers’] hands.” The ostensible goal of the water cure was to obtain intelligence: after a second round of torture, carried out in front of the convent by a “water detail” of five or six men, Ealdama confessed to serving as a captain in the insurgency.
He then led U.S. forces into the bush in search of insurgents. After their return to Igbaras, that night, Glenn had ordered that the town, consisting of between four and five hundred houses, be burned to the ground, as Riley explained, “on account of the condition of affairs exposed by the treatment.”
Yet in the cable Root assured the general, well in advance of the facts, that “the violations of law and humanity, of which these cases, if true, are examples, will prove to be few and occasional, and not to characterize the conduct of the army generally in the Philippines.” Most significant, though, was the decision, possibly at Glenn’s request, to shift the location of the court-martial from San Francisco to Catbalogan, in the Philippines, close to sympathetic officers fighting a war, and an ocean away from the accusing witnesses, whose units had returned home.
Glenn had objected to a trial in America because, he said, there was a “high state of excitement in the United States upon the subject of the so-called water cure and the consequent misunderstanding of what was meant by that term.”
He maintained that the torture of Ealdama was “a legitimate exercise of force under the laws of war,” being “justified by military necessity.” In making this case, Glenn shifted the focus to the enemy’s tactics. He emphasized the treachery of Ealdama, who had been tried and convicted by a military commission a year earlier as a “war traitor,” for aiding the insurgency.
Testimony was presented by U.S. military officers and Filipinos concerning the insurgency’s guerrilla tactics, which violated the norms of “civilized war.” Found guilty, Glenn was sentenced to a one-month suspension and a fifty-dollar fine. “The court is thus lenient,” the sentence read, “on account of the circumstances as shown in evidence.” (Glenn retired from the Army, in 1919, as a brigadier general.)
Meanwhile, Ealdama, twice tortured by Glenn’s forces, was serving a sentence of ten years’ hard labor; he had been temporarily released to enable him to testify against his torturer.
Glenn’s sentence, in his view, was “inadequate to the offense established by the testimony of the witnesses and the admission of the accused.” Paragraph 16 of the General Orders, No. 100, the Army’s Civil War-era combat regulations, could not have been clearer: “Military necessity does not admit of cruelty—that is, the infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or for revenge, nor of maiming or wounding except in fight, nor of torture to extort confessions.”
Davis conceded that, in a “rare or isolated case,” force might legitimately be used in “obtaining the unwilling service” of a guide, if justified as a “measure of emergency.” But a careful examination of the events preceding the tortures at Igbaras revealed that “no such case existed.”
Furthermore, Glenn had described the water cure as “the habitual method of obtaining information from individual insurgents”—in other words, as “a method of conducting operations.” But the operational use of torture, Davis stressed, was strictly forbidden.
Regarding a subsequent water-cure court-martial, he wrote, “No modern state, which is a party to international law, can sanction, either expressly or by a silence which imports consent, a resort to torture with a view to obtain confessions, as an incident to its military operations.” Otherwise, he inquired, “where is the line to be drawn?” And he rehearsed an unsettling, judicial calibration of pain:
Shall the victim be suspended, head down, over the smoke of a smouldering fire; shall he be tightly bound and dropped from a distance of several feet; shall he be beaten with rods; shall his shins be rubbed with a broomstick until they bleed?
Their arguments were passionate and wide-ranging, and sometimes contradictory. Some simply attacked the war’s critics, those who sought political advantage by crying out that “our soldiers are barbarous savages,” as one major general put it. Some contended that atrocities were the exclusive province of the Macabebe Scouts, collaborationist Filipino troops over whom, it was alleged, U.S. officers had little control.
Some denied, on racial grounds, that Filipinos were owed the “protective” limits of “civilized warfare.” When, during the committee hearings, Senator Joseph Rawlins had asked General Robert Hughes whether the burning of Filipino homes by advancing U.S. troops was “within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare,” Hughes had replied succinctly, “These people are not civilized.”
More generally, some people, while conceding that American soldiers had engaged in “cruelties,” insisted that the behavior reflected the barbaric sensibilities of the Filipinos. “I think I know why these things have happened,” Lodge offered in a Senate speech in May.
They had “grown out of the conditions of warfare, of the war that was waged by the Filipinos themselves, a semi-civilized people, with all the tendencies and characteristics of Asiatics, with the Asiatic indifference to life, with the Asiatic treachery and the Asiatic cruelty, all tinctured and increased by three hundred years of subjection to Spain.”
As the military physician Henry Rowland later phrased it, the American soldiers’ “lust of slaughter” was “reflected from the faces of those around them.”
Writing to a friend, he admitted that, faced with a “very treacherous” enemy, “not a few of the officers, especially those of the native scouts, and not a few of the enlisted men, began to use the old Filipino method of mild torture, the water cure.”
Roosevelt was convinced that “nobody was seriously damaged,” whereas “the Filipinos had inflicted incredible tortures upon our own people.” Still, he wrote, “torture is not a thing that we can tolerate.”
In a May, 1902, Memorial Day address before assembled veterans at Arlington National Cemetery, Roosevelt deplored the “wholly exceptional” atrocities by American troops: “Determined and unswerving effort must be made, and has been and is being made, to find out every instance of barbarity on the part of our troops, to punish those guilty of it, and to take, if possible, even stronger measures than have already been taken to minimize or prevent the occurrence of all such acts in the future.”
But he deplored the nation’s betrayal by anti-imperialist critics “who traduce our armies in the Philippines.” In conquering the Philippines, he claimed, the United States was, in fact, dissolving “cruelty” in the form of Aguinaldo’s regime. “Our armies do more than bring peace, do more than bring order,” he said. “They bring freedom.”
Such wars were as historically necessary as they were difficult to contain: “The warfare that has extended the boundaries of civilization at the expense of barbarism and savagery has been for centuries one of the most potent factors in the progress of humanity. Yet from its very nature it has always and everywhere been liable to dark abuses.”
Activists in the United States continued to pursue witnesses and urge renewed Senate investigation, but with little success; in February, 1903, Lodge’s Republican-controlled committee voted to end its inquiry into the allegations of torture.
The public became inured to what had, only months earlier, been alarming revelations. As early as April 16, 1902, the New York World described the “American Public” sitting down to eat its breakfast with a newspaper full of Philippine atrocities:
It sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the “water cure” to rebels; of how water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of the patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting; of how our soldiers then jump on the distended bodies to force the water out quickly so that the “treatment” can begin all over again. The American Public takes another sip of its coffee and remarks, “How very unpleasant!”
As the investigation of the water cure ended and the memory of faraway torture faded, Americans answered it with their silence. ♦
PHOTOGRAPH: ATTRIBUTED TO CORPORAL GEORGE J. VENNAGE/OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY RARE BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS LIBRARY
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"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" - Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)
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