Saturday, June 09, 2007

The kind of stuff I can't ignore

Sorry, but I just can't do it. Call me a social progressive, or a liberal, or unkind, or whatever. To me, it goes back to 1 Timothy 3:15: We're to be "pillars and support of truth," and not propaganda or what some people just ask us to believe.

There's an Army Chaplain in Iraq whose blog I subscribe to. Occasionally, he'll post some things that I really disagree with. He often posts quotes from books about previous wars that he uses to boost morale, or justify our need to be resolute in the Iraq war.

This morning, he has written the following post:
Here are a three quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt that I think apply to our current situation in Iraq:

"The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life. "

and

"The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats."

and

"It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things."

It is worth noting that after the Spanish-American War, in which Roosevelt fought, there was a protracted insurgency in the Philippines. It took years for us to put it down. Roosevelt knew a little bit about courage, perseverance and finishing the job!

Note that last paragraph. The "protracted insurgency" in the Philippines. Does anyone here know their history?
The Spanish-American war ended in 1898 when the U.S. took Manila from the Spanish government, who had ruled the Philippines for hundreds of years. In the ensuing peace treaty, we paid $20 million to Spain for the country, and refused to give any part of the governing to the Filipinos who had helped us defeat Spain (they'd been fighting the Spanish for independence since 1896).
For the next 14 years, the U.S. would fight the Filipinos who wanted their independence. 4,234 Americans died, and at least 250,000 Filipinos would die.
Some of the first machine guns invented were used in this war, as a way to rapidly kill hordes of rushing Filipinos. For what? So we could keep this colony we had paid for.

In the yellow newspapers of the time, the war was called the "Philippine Insurrection," to make it sound the 126,000 American troops were fighting for a noble cause, and because most Americans had no idea the history of the situation. After we defeated the Filipinos' regular army, we fought a guerilla war for 12 years. Concentration camps, slash and burn campaigns, it's an ugly history. Eventually, we granted the Filipinos a bit of autonomy.

I'm not comparing this to the Iraq war, because I certainly hope our motives in Iraq aren't the same as they were in the Philippines! But, this Army Chaplain does compare the two, using the phrase "protracted insurgency" much as the newspapers did back then. Roosevelt's "courage," (and the courage of other presidents who inherited the war) is questionable in my mind. "Finishing the job" in Roosevelt's case meant defending our $20 million investment by destroying a people who just wanted freedom and independence.
In hindsight, we "won" the war but at great cost (with little outright benefit) and to our shame as a democratic, freedom-loving nation.

I don't really fault the chaplain. I think there's a certain number of Americans who think that any talk of America having a brutal history of empire-building is just left-wing conspiracy theory stuff and would like to ignore things from 1898. I remember the first time I studied the Philippine-American war was in an AP History class in high school, and I was shocked. At the time, I had an argument with a former Army Airborne officer who claimed he had never heard of it, and that no such war had happened as it would be contrary to the principles our nation was founded on. He claimed my teacher must just be some "liberal nut." I think that attitude kind of prevails among certain people, and that's why I think it's crucial to post the truth.

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