For a great book on this topic I recommend Stephen Kinzer’s (2017) The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.
Recall that if not for William Randolph Hearst’s yellow journalism the Spanish American War during the McKinley regime would have not happened.
Bob Dylan’s 1960s hit WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE unveils one of the many rationalizations for wars and inspired the popular Viet Nam era mantras: What if they had a war and nobody showed up, and If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Blaming everything on somebody else while not taking responsibility for anything is the common trait I observe among many of Trump’s cult members. War culture is a factor in fostering and sustaining this trait.
The US public remains a largely ignorant accomplice to war.
Some measure of introspection is due the abused in any abusive relationship that involves any measure of choice. But that does not make for much symmetry between abused and abuser. In many cases, the abused turns and abuses. Then, of course, both categories apply.
To blame the public in anything like a level manner may have some element of half-truth: blame distributes broadly, and the fact that others have a share of guilt does not allow anyone a share of innocence.
But US militarism and US empire is top-down, deliberately and extensively misleading, and a rank abuse of the American population. The fact that it is often, not always, less violent does nothing to change that.
Presenting the matter otherwise, whatever the author’s intent in any given piece, provides by implication some measure of innocence or exculpation to the primary guilty parties and institutions.
Far better that the abuse should be met squarely and eliminated, formally if possible, otherwise if otherwise.
Too many voters viewing politics as a team sport rather than a deliberative process it should be is what enables the “top down” exploiters to succeed.
Just like sports fans, voters want to associate with winning teams. Autocratic teams and legally sanctioned organized crime syndicates will always have winning teams.
The other side of the Spanish-American war was of course,
the capture of Cuba by the United States after Cubans
had essentially won their war of liberation from Spain.
Hearst, the Maine, Teddy Roosevelt … later, the U.S.
took Guantanamo (supposedly on a 100-year lease,
but it doesn’t seem to be back in Cuban hands yet),
and forced the nascent Cuban government to accept
the ‘Platt Amendment’ giving Uncle Sam the right to interfere.
No wonder Washington was so upset when Cuban
nationalists took their country back in 1959 – and
have defended its independence ever since.
In the Philippines, Duterte may represent a kind
of right-wing nationalism that resents taking U.S. orders,
but he’s far from representing national liberation.
Nice Andrew, but I think the best writer-takedown of the US Philippines “Insurrection” war was Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”
Here it is in full:
I t was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.
It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.
Sunday morning came – next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams-visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! – then home from the war, bronzed heros, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory!
With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths.
The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation – “God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!”
Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever – merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory.
An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there, waiting.
With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal,“Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”
The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside – which the startled minister did – and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:
“I come from the Throne – bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import – that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of – except he pause and think.
"God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two – one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this – keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
"You have heard your servant’s prayer – the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it – that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
(After a pause)
“Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.”
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.
There’s a great short video of this War Prayer, with great acting. View it here:
www.youtube(dot)com/watch?v=sVYIRbmxHpc&feature=youtu.be (sorry, CD doesn’t allow links in comments so I had to put the dot in the address as a word in parentheses. Just past it into your subject bar and replace (dot) before the word com with a period and click. Well worth watching this performance.
The author’s main thesis that “the American people became tacitly complicit in wrongdoing committed in their name” assumes that the American people know their (and the world’s) history and are not totally and utterly ignorant of it. I believe his assumption is wrong.
Most countries have a day for honoring those who have fallen, but in most countries the fallen, fell to protect their country from an outside invader - generally a bigger power.
In the US, most of the fallen are those outside invaders of other less powerful countries. So it is clear that the US honoring them means dishonoring the fallen of other countries. And boy are those exponentially more than the US ones.
So memorial day should be replaced with an atonement day for the crimes committed against humanity - in a dreamland.
Wow… I have never thought of it in those terms… staggering… thanks for posting this lulumali…
As if we are given a choice.
US citizens are the funders and fodder of US terrorism. I have read that we killed 15 million Filipinos. Lined some of them up on bridges and shot them so they’d float down river and terrorize the next town.
Please correct me if this is merely urban legend from the Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia genocide era.
I keep coming back to this dialogue from “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007, 3rd of 3 in the series): (Paz is the “soldier” killer/murderer/assassin sent to kill Jason Bourne. Paz has Jason Bourne’s old job, basically and Bourne had a chance to kill Paz earlier in the film when Paz was trying to assassinate him. Here they are face to face at the tail end of the film, just before Jason escapes by jumping from the top of the building into the river below.
Paz: Why didn’t you take the shot?
Jason Bourne: Do you even know why you’re supposed to kill me? Look at us. Look at what they make you give.
There it is, just the "Do you even know why you’re supposed to kill me?"
That single sentence has all of the compliance of all our wars put together. It also sums up all three films in the series. A few times the answer has been yes, even if tenuous. Most of the times it is an order from the “top” set of people who have their own beef with someone else “over there.” Their beef, not ours, but they never go out in person. They just send “us.”
What was Paz’s reason? Just orders. Orders. What is so sacred about orders? Especially orders from the odious little vermin in charge who never do their own work and who would never be able to function if “we” fodder didn’t do everything for them from emptying their waste baskets (they can’t even do that) to dying and killing.
Why do we kill the citizens of another country?
Just because we were sent there?
To “empty the waste baskets?”
Just because “our” odious vermin at the top have a tiff with “their” counterpart odious vermin at their “top.”
How many of those people do any of our solder’s know and have any kind of beef with?
And if we invade their country because the odious opportunists at the “top” send us, why would we not be attacked in that country’s self defense? Isn’t self-defense supposed to be a valid reason for killing, one we keep claiming and recognizing? It is in movie and television shows. Repeatedly.
Who are we to deny our own logic, when applied to us, in reverse?
PBS had a documentary on two former soldiers, one a medic who would not take up arms and one a navy grunt on a fast boat. They went back to a village where the fast boats had taken fire and had in turn burned down the village. It was a particular battle which still greatly bothered him.
It was disturbing for several reasons, but it was very uncomfortable when the ex-navy vet was clearly disturbed by the Vietnamese tourist guides telling how they had killed the invading Americans. The ex-navy guy kept saying this time it was good because he was there in peace.
But inside himself, to hear the villagers take pride in shooting his buddies, upset him greatly and he said to so the camera, though not to the villagers.
One can understand his upset but he seemed to miss the fact that he, and his group, was a most unwelcome invader, and killer, 50 years before. That the Vietnamese perspective could hardly be expected to have been happy that Americans attacked and burned down their village.
There was another point as well, at the very start of the film, when they were showing bits from the previous film which this came from, a veteran was crying about coming home and getting hit with “Baby Killer” signs. While I was never “in country” many in my squadron were (TDYs). But if anyone was in a position to get exposed to protestors it was certainly my and those in my squadron because we were always working in full public view (surveyors) doing work that might make someone wonder what we were up to. Yet, never once did I, nor did I ever hear of from anyone else in the squadron, get anything but welcoming responses, not even frowns. I can’t think of any location we were sent to for jobs that we didn’t get some kind of pat on the back, even invited to meals and even set up for dates with someones’ sister and so forth. All the protestors saw us as someone to help. They protested to remove us from danger, not against us but against the leadership. It seemed that there were sometimes more of us short-haired hippies from the base than local long-haired hippies, some of whom were recently discharged military.
I just did another search for images of baby killer signs of the time. Go look. Image after image was to end the war, to get the troops (us kids) out of Vietnam. But baby killer signs are hard to find. I saw one among many many pictures which showed bodies and asked “Babies” and answered “Babies.” Also once which was clearly an anti-abortion sign Photoshopped in front of an actual picture of “End the war” signs.
I really think a lot of the “memories” of this are really the same as the false memories during the “recovered memory” junk from the 1980’s (remember the supposed satanic baby killings? - which tore families apart and even put people in prison?). Most of this comes after “Rambo,” not before.
To add insult to injury the US refuses to pay rent to Cuba for the stolen / leased land.
The “Philippine Insurrection” has never really ended. Most of the northern Philippine islands are Catholic; not so much the southern…mostly Islamic. Hence the “southern” have not really succumbed to the Yankee Invader…even today.
Yeah, and other than the infamous prison, nearly useless, I’m not sure what they are even using it for. The other day, curious, I did a Google view (satellite photo view). I looked for ships and saw almost nothing anywhere except for a couple of small craft. And if you were operating out of there, would you really want all your movements and operations to be seen from the Cuban hills around there? You have to assume the Cuban government is constantly monitoring the base. So not a great place for a base for any purpose other than to shove your thumb in someone’s face. A lot of money for that stupid gesture.
Yeah, and also Walter Karp’s The Politics Of War if you have the stomach for it. Hypocrisy unbound…McKinley was very dexterous in concealing his motives for foreign in war(s).
The United States did not acquire the Philippines, it seized it. Spain never owned it and by 1899 its colonial army had been expelled by the newly formed Filipino government and army. It had just a few thousands soldiers trapped in Manila pleading for rescue. Unfortunately, the American Empire was growing and wanted a vast new colony, so invaded the Philippines in 1899 and destroyed its army and government.
For details search youtube for: The American Conquest of the Philippines
Was just reading about this earlier today. You are correct.