Is President Bush Repeating McKinley's Mistake in the Philippines?
Mr. Gibney, professor of politics at Pomona College, is president of the Pacific Basin Institute. He is the author of The Pacific Century, Five Gentlemen of Japan and other books on Asia.
Not a bad description of the war and postwar goals of the United States in Iraq. A bit dated, however. The year was 1899. John Hay was secretary of state; the president was William F. McKinley and their subject was America's occupation of the Philippines, after our victory in the Spanish-American War. Hay's and McKinley's current successors should have given their experience some careful study. The strategic confusion, administrative backtracking, mixed signals and mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq bear a striking and worrisome resemblance to what happened in the Philippines a century ago.
The decision to go to war with Spain, as was the case with Iraq, was made and marketed in a hurry. McKinley had a real incident to deal with: an explosion had severely damaged the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana harbor. A hastily convened Navy inquiry concluded that the probable cause was a mine obviously Spanish, the press and pro-war politicians concluded. (Ultimately, it was found to have been a fire in a bunker adjacent to a magazine.) War fever soared, fueled by atrocity stories about Spain's harsh treatment of Cuban rebels.
It was not Cuba, however, but Spain's colony in the Philippines that the victorious Americans occupied. McKinley's expansionist advisors Theodore Roosevelt and the Navy strategist Alfred T. Mahan had long advocated a U.S. strategic presence across the Pacific. It was Roosevelt, then assistant secretary of the Navy, who ordered Adm. George Dewey to engage the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. Victory was swift and complete.
If you like the service HNN provides, please consider making a donation.
What, then, to do with the Filipinos? Many distinguished Americans, among them Mark Twain, former President Grover Cleveland and Harvard President Charles Eliot, opposed the idea of an anti-colonial country acquiring a colony. Most Filipinos wanted independence. Well-armed local militias had already fought the Spanish governors, and Dewey, for one, wanted to support them. In the end, however, Washington's hawks won the argument: McKinley, who had to search for the Philippines on a map, decided its people needed American guidance to be really free.
A peace might have held, if the U.S. government had agreed to a protectorate. Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of what was fast becoming a Philippine national army and not yet fiercely anti-American, liked the idea because it would allow his country to develop with a goal of ultimate independence. But McKinley dithered. When he finally decided on annexation, the opportunity for compromise had expired. By February 1899, Aguinaldo's army and newly arrived U.S. infantry reinforcements were shooting it out.
McKinley's assurances of "individual rights and liberties" for Filipinos went up in smoke, as village after village was torched. Angered by guerrilla ambushes, U.S. volunteers, most of them racist to begin with, eagerly executed the "kill-and-burn" orders of their Indian-fighter commanders. In turn, Aguinaldo's men slaughtered isolated American units, whose comrades responded in kind. U.S. reinforcements kept arriving. By mid-1900, 75,000 U.S. troops were in action, almost two-thirds of the entire army.
Worried about the slaughter "the blood-stained trenches around Manila, where every red drop, whether from the veins of an American soldier or a misguided Filipino, is anguish to my heart" McKinley turned to civilian leadership. William Howard Taft was dispatched to the Philippines to become the archipelago's first civilian chief executive, to the chagrin of Brig. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, who as military governor had sought to keep civilians out. Under Taft's leadership, the Americans sponsored huge programs in education, public health and economic improvement. Meanwhile, MacArthur's army ruthlessly pacified the country, ignoring its civilian advisors. Filipinos were alternately terrified, gratified and confused.
On July 4,1902, President Roosevelt officially declared the end of the "great insurrection." It had lasted more than three years. American casualties were 4,234 dead, almost 3,000 wounded. Thousands more died later of diseases they had contracted in the Philippines. The American casualty count in the Philippines was almost 10 times what it was during the Spanish-American War. Some 20,000 Filipino soldiers were killed. Nearly 200,000 civilians died in the insurrection, either from the actual fighting or from the disease and pestilence it spawned.
Despite Roosevelt's announcement, heavy fighting continued until 1913, largely against the Moros, the archipelago's implacable Muslim minority. Taft imported shiploads of eager young American teachers to set up a nationwide public education system for his "little brown brothers." Commerce in the archipelago picked up, although the economy was rigged to help American exporters. The first legislative elections were held in 1907. By 1910, having weathered a decade of spasmodic "good-cop, bad-cop" U.S. governance, Filipinos were not doing badly. "Americanized," historian Stanley Karnow put it, "without becoming Americans," they were at last enjoying something close to McKinley's promised peace.
Throughout the long decade, however, the Americans made costly and needless mistakes. They occupied the islands without knowing a thing about them and never took the time to learn. McKinley's pledge to "Christianize" the Philippines sounded odd to overwhelmingly Catholic Filipinos. Nor did they think of themselves as "aborigines." During the first year of occupation, American administration was vacillating and inconsistent. Annexation was imposed without explaining it to the Filipinos, whose Malay-Latino culture was held in contempt by the Americans. Communications between occupiers and the occupied was generally lacking, except for the few Filipino leaders who understood English. Worst of all was the contradiction between the occupiers' lofty democratic proclamations and their alternately repressive and patronizing behavior.
Yet, in comparison with the U.S. challenge in Iraq, McKinley had it easy. The Philippines in 1899 was largely agricultural, a land of small farms and villages with only one large city. The population of 21st century Iraq is 70 percent urban, and its vastly more complex infrastructure is now in ruins. In the sequestered world of the early 1900s, Americans could run their colonial occupation without outside interference. There were no denunciations from fatwa-quoting mullahs in Egypt and Pakistan, no Al Jazeera cameramen feeding anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, no troublesome kibitzing from Europe and the U.N.
McKinley's goal was simply annexation "benevolent assimilation," as he put it. President Bush's goal for Iraq is far more ambitious: to create a new working democracy as soon as possible. "America's interests in security and America's belief in liberty both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq," Bush said in February. But with suicidal guerrillas roaming the streets of Baghdad, basic services such as water and electricity unreliable and local law enforcement almost nonexistent, the costs in men, material and attention could dwarf those experienced in the Philippines. Happily for McKinley, he never had to face such perilous choices in his occupation, nor worry about equally pressing problems in North Korea, Afghanistan and the West Bank.
This article first appeared in the LA Times and is reprinted with permissionof the author.
comments powered by Disqus
Joseph Nagarya - 5/5/2004
As Bush admits he doesn't read, it isn't likely he would know what is meant by the falsification "revisionist historian". Not that that would stop him popping off, of course.
In other words: one doesn't qoute Bush as a criedible authority -- if one is to be seen as credible. Ideologue, yes.
What is a "revisionist historian"? Only the extreme Reich Wing can say, since they invented that anti-intellectual _ad homina_ substitute for reason. But we know how the game works, don't we? When we don't like a view, but cannot challenge it directly and refute it, we label it "revisionism" -- not actually knowing what we are talking about.
Why not keep it short and sweet -- and honest: you don't like the view because it exposes Bush as being ignorant of history, therefore condemned to repeat it. And you'd rather bury the historical facts under wishful fantasy -- the unfounded hope that Bush has it "right".
Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it -- George Santayana. Avoiding that dictum by avoiding the issue does not succeed in avoiding the repetition. Bush and gang made every effort to dent the so-called "Viet Nam syndrome" -- and went right ahead, on the mysterious premise, and repeated all the errors made in Viet Nam. And in the Philippines. (Clue: until Corie Acquino, US "ally" the Philippines suffered under dictatorship after dictatorship -- _not_ democracy.)
Hannah - 11/21/2003
I'm an eigth grader and in my Social Studies class, we're doing a mock trial of McKinley's annexation of the Philippines. Everyone in my class knows that I'm avidly interested in politics, but I am extremely opposed to President Bush and his foriegn policies. Even though I am now playing the lead attorney on McKinley's defense, I immediatly thought that what he did was wrong and saw the similarities between the situation at the turn of the century with the Philippines and the situation the United States is in now with Iraq. Although everyone kind of laughed me off, my friend Laura found this page the next day during our research. I'd just like to say that I found this article incredibly interesting and well written, and it outlined the similarities extremely well. Thank you for writing this, and thank you for agreeing with me!
MARK - 10/21/2003
Don't forget: The US murdered 300,000 Filipinos when they "liberated" them from Spain.
The US murdered 3,000,000 Vietnamese when they "liberated" them from communism.
How many Iraqis will we murder to liberate them from Saddam Hussein?
Dave Thomas - 8/9/2003
The United States annexed the Phllippines. We will not annex Iraq. The Philippines began a revolution for freedom from Spain before 1898. Iraq had no revolution for the overthrow of Saddam that is now focused on ejecting the United States. We know longer accept the disgusting "white man's burden" of bringing civilization to the "uncivilized" peoples of the world.
In Iraq we wanted to end Saddam's rule, then install an Iraqi government, and get out. We are well on the road to that.
In the Philippines we wanted to civilize heathens, establish an empire, get coaling stations to make trade trips to China easier, and gain recognition as a great power.
None of these Philippine motivations is at work in Iraq.
At worst the younger Bush wanted to finish the older Bush's work.
At best the Iraqi people will enjoy a prosperous future without Saddam.
Lewis L. Gould - 8/3/2003
Dewey's ships were at Hong Kong in April 1898, not Japan.
Mark Clemens - 8/3/2003
Gus Moner's usually interesting remarks are particularly appropriate in this latest comment of his. I would especially like to echo the following statement which cannot be repeated too often on this website:
"There is no longer a left-right confrontation in society, or indeed the world".
Some day, maybe, the non-historians of HNN will realize this reality and start cleaning up their act (their claim to be "both" from the left and the right is also bogus, but that is another issue).
I do think Gus overestimates the role of oil in the recent conquest of Iraq and underestimates the desire for a quick victory by unelected chickenhawks seeking an issue to run in the 2004 campaign.
Thanks to Wolfowitz, and his even more incompetent and hypocritical higher-ups, America has squandered the world sympathy it had after 9-11 and, thanks to the spineless fools in Congress who gave a blank check for this Iraq folly, set a terrible precedent that will haunt our foreign policy for a long time to come. I agree with "Duke" that had Cheney and Rumsfeld successfully pushed for removal of Saddam 10 or 20 years ago, most of these negative repercussions might have been avoided. But that kind of "regime change" just wasn't "marketable" then. And the president of the Texas Rangers was busy trying to stop boozing away brain cells.
What does all of this have to do with McKinley and the invasion of the Philippines 100+ years ago ? Not much, Frank Gibney.
JSN - 8/3/2003
Legally, I bet some of the Indian Wars are still going on.
I am going to kill me some, as use that as the excuse.
THX FOR THE IDEA!
Josh S Narins - 8/3/2003
1. Our soldiers are not massive racists like those depicted in the article. Look more for underage rape incidents than mass killings.
2. We didn't invade the Phillipines as part of the Spanish-American War on a lark. The fleet was in Japan. We were at war with Spain. The fleet, sailing by the Phillipines, would have been seen as weak, that uber-worry of the GOP, had it not invaded.
JSN - 8/3/2003
We are afraid that Mssr. Rove is reluctant to elaborate on why he thinks President McKinley is where he points. I spent a while thinking it was simply McKinley's relation with his haymaking campaign manager, Mark Hanna.
Here (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/gc26.htm) we can read President Cleveland writing, in 1896, some of the issues surrounding the war.
This war, as with the Spanish-American war, was started by the same thing, an overzealous media effort to make the world safe and just.
Pioneer, and nationally famous, Hearst reporter [I don't recall] would jump right in there, even to diplomats, and ask tough questions about what was really going on. Can we all imagine Les from WorldNetDaily with an international beat facing Imperial Spanish grandees?
At that time, the breakdown occured with the Maine. The Papers, having urged war all along, seized on this event and hammered it into America's homes.
Governments do go to war, and McKinley was nothing if not a man whose debt to "special interests" was extreme, they having paid immensely for his Seat. Cleveland mentions how Cuban nationals purposely took advantage of our laws to egg us on to war, with intemperate speech and action.
The main similarity is the Press.
Although there have been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq for a dozen years, the press didn't know this (as they did not know the cause of the sinking of the Maine). Take for example the Press using once, inappropriately, the word "wimp."
The press thinks that is the stuff that makes the world go round, but which did not change a single act of any particular President, except to sour his views of a few editors.
Bombing Iraq (Iraq=bad) has been a staple since 1991, easy pickings for a slow news cycle. In part because of this incessant bombing, terrorists recently struck America twice or three times from that region. NYC, the Norwegian Cruise Line in Miami, and possibly Flight 587 in Queens, NY.
I think the Press was worse this time, because there were so many more claims than just a single ship of the line.
On the other hand, the McKinley/Hanna machine came to power not on principle or promise, but because they were most effective at creaming the top of a most terribly corrupt time in US Federal politics.
Money probably was the decisive factor, but, at the back of his mind, McKinley knew that everyone was thinking he should do it.
Gus Moner - 8/2/2003
Mr NY Guy, you are a treat to read on a dull summer morning. ‘From my cocoon-like womb woven to keep my hate of America going’, to paraphrase you, I reply to your comment in my ‘intemperate’ manner.
The DoD web site says one thing, a typical spin on the comments of their second in command, and thus somewhat comprehensible. The two reporters from Der Spiegel (not The Guardian) who heard him say it, said another thing and stood by their quote.
Notwithstanding, The Guardian’s retraction is good enough for me, for I based my argument not on the quote alone, but on all the evidence, Wolfowitz’s corrected quote included, that oil was clearly a factor in the war, like it or not, and even is ‘corrected’ comment supports that theory.
So, I commend you for blindly believing everything your totalitarianism-challenged government tells you and I'll withdraw the quote as evidence because the DoD spin masters have managed to cast doubt on it. Or, even giving them the benefit of the doubt, the two reporters were simply wrong.In any event, you too sound like a mouthpiece for the Ministry of Truth rather than a citizen trying to sort through the lies and misinformation everywhere, from all sides.
I anyway remain firm in my analysis of the role of oil in the Iraqi war, bringing to your attention that even the 'no choice' part of Wolfowitz's quote makes it clear that oil was a determinant factor. Evidence is all around us, such as the juicy contracts being dished out to US firms (which and seldom awarded in open bidding processes). If you don’t see it you’re blind as a bat, to continue with your animal analogies (although bats are not really ‘blind’).
Personally and FYI, I am not on a Wolfowitz smear campaign, he does plenty to smear himself and requires no assistance from the likes of me on that score.
All the FDR’s hovering around this administration (FDR = friends Donald Rumsfeld) are getting their slice of the pie. These Judeo-Christian warriors had a vendetta to settle with Iraq before entering government for the second time and they have made it official US government policy. Iraqi civilians and US soldiers are paying the price for that arrogance. Taxpayers are bearing the financial burden of $40,000 million to set up the attack and $1,000 million per week to stay in Iraq. Don’t you see it, or do you believe that attacking Iraq was all altruistic American paternalism?
Perhaps some of that largesse ought to be redirected to the financially struggling US states and citizens.
Your blind, uninformed and “frothing at the mouth” attacks on people for being ‘left’ or ‘right’ are ‘old’ thinking (paraphrasing one of your heroes) and bordering on sheer lunacy. There is no longer a left-right confrontation in society, or indeed the world. We are merely people with varying degrees of conviction for solutions that we see as relevant to today’s problems. Come into the light, yourself, it'll do you good.
You haven’t any basis to catalogue people by trying to characterise them as left or right. Yet you try to do it. It's Quixotic.
However, more typical of the fanaticism from the rabble you identify with is the resort to calling people anti-American when they disagree with you. It’s the last stand of the ignorant and incompetent when their positions are indefensible. Again, you are flailing wildly without a shred of evidence with patriotic discourse, as fanatics are wont to do when they haven’t a reasonable argument to stand on.
This accusation of anti-Americanism is another baseless attack, which today is a sensitive matter due to the exalted patriotism of some. The anti-American, the unreasonable person bereft of democratic values is you, who is trying to stifle freedom of expression and reasoned discussion with totalitarian-like rhetoric and insults, typical of what diminishes the US’s position in the world.
Finally, I wonder whether you meant "any of various vole-like rodents" or "a member of any large group following an unthinking course towards mass destruction" when you called 'lemming-like' (by the way it is spelled with two M, not one- you could at least learn to vilify properly, no?) what you perceive to be my "keeping the untruthful slander of Wolfowitz alive".
Although I cannot agree with all Mr Kriz said, he did make a point worth noting: "Your parting shot about the left's "hatred of America" is simple-minded, false and unsupportable. It is the hard right-wing that consistently demonstrates their disdain for the Constitution, human rights, our armed forces and the beautiful land we live in".
You can’t be taken seriously. But it’s fun to call you on it.
Duke Way In - 8/2/2003
In reply to Mr Markell's query:
"I was opposed to U.S. aid to Saddam in the early 1980s and expressed myself so on several occasions in the venues open to me at the time. I wonder where Mr. Way was then."
I was living in New York City, corresponding with my friends in Europe and the Mideast who were at times more informed about what was going on there than New York Times reporters, and (then as now) marveling at the stupidity and hypocrisy coming out of
Washington D.C.. Short-sighted American foreign policies helped build up Osama and Saddam, and I wonder how many new future terrorists the current gang of arrogant and hypocritical cowards in the Pentagon are helping to create through their inept blunders. In and of itself getting rid of Saddam was a good move, but it should have been done years ago when it could have been accomplished readily, legally and multilaterally. There is no real value in removing one Saddam if we spawn a dozen new ones in the process.
Lewis L. Gould - 8/1/2003
The questions of the intentions of the McKinley administration in 1898 have vexed historians for decades. There are the "market-seeking historians" who see the administration in quest of overseas customers because of a surplus of manufactured and agricultural products at home. In that way, the social tensions that plagued the 1890s would be alleviated. More recently Kristin Hoganson has identified sentiments of masculine anxiety as motivating forces behind the war with Spain and the acquisition of the Philippines. There is also the missionary impulse associated with Josiah Strong and others. Admiral Mahan's theory about the need for overseas basis also has persistent and strong adherents. I'm not sure you can find evidence that McKinley wanted to change the nature of the United States. As for the issue of a naval base at Manila or just taking the island of Luzon or even an American protectorate, these alternatives would have involved the United States in the affairs of the archipelago without giving us the clear authority to rule as if we were the sovereign. Those considerations in the end led McKinley to the decision of late October 1898 to insist that Spain yield sovereignty over the Philippines to Washington.
These questions of sovereignty and the responsibilities of an occuping power will no doubt, as far as Iraq is concerned, keep the State Department and its lawyers busy for decades. To change the subject a little, does anyone know what the attitude of the various non-Hussein elements in Iraq is toward the issue of Kuwait as part of the Iraqi nation? Could we end up establishing a reasonably democratic government there, pick up and go, only to find some future Iraqi foreign minister arguing on behalf of the new Iraqi government that Kuwait is indeed part of Iraq? Just curious.
Oscar Chamberlain - 8/1/2003
Gould is correct that the decision to take the Philippines was carefully considered. However, that very care brings us back to the real purposes for the conquest.
I would argue that Lewis's argument confirms the conclusion that the McKinley's administration hoped to change the nature of the United States.
By taking the Philippines solely for reasons of geopolitics and trade, they hoped the United States would become a nation that could and should seize territory without regard to the interests of its inhabitants. They wanted to abandon the heritage of the Northwest Ordinance and become a nation in which the constitution no longer followed the flag.
(Yes, the U.S. had disregarded native populations in its westward expansion. But white Americans had made a distinction between lands they intended to settle and lands they did not want to settle. At minimum, taking the Philippines obliterated that distinction and so expanded the possible targets for conquest.)
Another question, which Gould raises himself, concerns the alternatives to taking the Philippines. Certainly a "naked" Philippines would have been ripe for conquest. However if McKinley and his advisors considered the alternatives carefully, they must have considered, at least briefly, negotiating for military bases. American naval bases (without conquest) would have likely deterred conquest by other powers while securing most US strategic and trade interests.
That this was not sufficient for McKinley and his advisors reinforces the conclusion that the creation of empire was part of a longer term goal. To use a phrase that I think Roosevelt used, the US needed to "lose its innocence" in order to take its rightful place in the world.
John Kipper - 8/1/2003
"You no doubt have noted the intense clamor from the international community for the United States to invade Liberia [not just send logistics support troops] to end the civil war there. How can the international community want the U.S. in Liberia but not in Iraq?"
Just wait. If the United States commits its already uoverextended military in a peacekeeping venture in Liberia, as so many want, within a few weeks the very same people will be complaining about the military's failure to create an immediate utopia, declaring that it is all about the oil (non-existent to the best of my knowledge), the racist overtones of the "occupation," and America's disregard of the very human rights that prompted the call for intervention in the first place. It will, of course, be regarded as another example of American empire building and be braqnded a neoconservative plot to subvert the Copnstitution. Then they will call for UN supervision of the effort. Of course, this is the very UN that they now claim could not handle the situtation.
It seems to me that the US will be damned if you do and DAMNED if you don't do it my way, even if I (the UN) have don't have the power, knowledge or the prestige, to do it myself situation. The US will do all the work, pay for it in lives and treasure and be second guessed by all the carpers in the world. Who needs it?
Bill - 8/1/2003
So your challenge to Mr. Gibney's argument would make you one of those "revisionist historians" about whom President Bush warned. I see.
Herodotus - 7/31/2003
This coming from the man who thinks Hitler was better than Bush. Your pro-Nazi, Holocaust-minimizing views have no place in here:
"Here are the facts - Paul Wolfowitz is a dimunitive little weenie who gets his jollies by vicariously killing innocent people. He is a sick, demented pervert who belongs in a mental asylum for the rest of his despicable life. There is a very warm corner of hell waiting for Wolfie, Rummy and yes, Dubya, for the oceans of innocent blood they have spilled in pursuit of their self-serving and greed-laden goals."
Elia Markell - 7/31/2003
This is rich:
"the aggressive but not destructive American imperialism of the late 19th and early 20th century"
And people here think I am the apologist?
Elia Markell - 7/31/2003
You have to be especially ignorant of the history of Iraqi resistace against Saddam, by the Kurds and the Shiites, to think that you are distinguishing it from Liberia by saying lots of people in the latter place want us to intervene. Not only did millions in Iraq want us to intervene for years, polls show some 80% now want us to stay two years or more to make sure the bastards do not return.
I've not made up my mind about Liberia. But the real point about it is why liberals like Dean think we should intervene there, why the UN wants us to, why any of them want us anywhere near another country when they tell us all the time we are a rapacious imperialist monster. If anything gave the lie to the over-the-top phoniness of their claims about the U.S. it is this rush to war in Liberia, this suddent delight at the thought of U.S. soldiers dying in a land far away. But then, again, they are just Africans. We use them for all sorts of psychically gratifying reasons all the time. Why stop now?
And while we are on the topic of Iraqis wanting us to help get rid of Saddam for years, John Way thinks he is scoring a point by referring to the tired chestnut of earlier U.S. support for Saddam, as if the fundamental principle of life were once you do wrong, it is wrong to ever do right. But for his information, I was opposed to U.S. aid to Saddam in the early 1980s and expressed myself so on several occasions in the venues open to me at the time. I wonder where Mr. Way was then.
Elia Markell - 7/31/2003
This from a man lecturing me on civil discourse.
"Here are the facts - Paul Wolfowitz is a dimunitive little weenie who gets his jollies by vicariously killing innocent people. He is a sick, demented pervert who belongs in a mental asylum for the rest of his despicable life"
Kriz, given that this is your idea of presenting "the facts," I can well understand why you would call Gus's diatribe "thoughtful." But I do have one request. Could you please supply the rest of us with God's email address, which you clearly appear to possess?
Zorba the Greektweaker - 7/31/2003
Come on, Suetonious. Are you really this stupid ?:
"How can the international community want the U.S. in Liberia but not in Iraq?"
Countries are clamouring for the U.S. to intervene in Liberia because a war is ALREADY raging there and lots of people in Liberia WANT outside intervention to help STOP the war.
Except for fake historians on HNN and the brain-dead wing of the American Republican party, the world knows that the U.S. intervened in Iraq in 2003, after ignoring the place for years, because Dubya & Co felt like blowing it up.
John Way In - 7/31/2003
I respectfully dissent from Mr. Kriz's views on peace. Sometimes war is appropriate. For instance, helping Iran get rid of Saddam in 1983, instead of supporting Saddam as the coward Wolfowitz's slimy boss Rumsfeld did, might have saved a lot of lives later.
Thomas Gallatin - 7/31/2003
Elia Markell's tsk tsking comments seem to imply that McKinley did not care or ought not to have been bothered about ruffling diplomatic feathers of Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1898 because the U.S. would be at war with these two countries anyway two decades later.
This ahistorical knee-jerk attitude totally misses my point.
McKinley, TR et. al. did not give a hoot about Austria-Hungary during the Spanish American War because the relations between Austria-Hungary and the U.S. were unimportant then and unrelated to American adventurism in the Caribbean and Philippines. The grossly hypocritical and utterly incompetent antics of the Bush Administration in the UN and with America's European allies during the manicial drive to invade Iraq simply cannot be compared to the aggressive but not destructive American imperialism of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Gibney's comparison may have some validity as regards long and messy occupations, but the underlying causes of the Spanish American war and this year's Iraq fiasco are radically different.
Stephen Kriz - 7/31/2003
Mr. or Mrs. Markell:
I would hardly characterize Mr. Moner's response as "intemperate". I think he has been overly gracious and thoughtful in his responses, certainly more than I would be with someone as confused and lacking in facts as yourself. Your parting shot about the left's "hatred of America" is simple-minded, false and unsupportable. It is the hard right-wing that consistently demonstrates their disdain for the Constitution, human rights, our armed forces and the beautiful land we live in.
Here are the facts - Paul Wolfowitz is a dimunitive little weenie who gets his jollies by vicariously killing innocent people. He is a sick, demented pervert who belongs in a mental asylum for the rest of his despicable life. There is a very warm corner of hell waiting for Wolfie, Rummy and yes, Dubya, for the oceans of innocent blood they have spilled in pursuit of their self-serving and greed-laden goals.
Spin all you want to - This was a war that did not need to fought, and the sick twisted men who initiated it will pay with their souls.
Peace is the only answer,
Elia Markell - 7/31/2003
Nothing in Gus's intemperate attacks really merits a reply, except his leming-like relentlessness in keeping the untruthful slander of Wolfowitz alive. The slander began with a story in the Guardian, which the GUARDIAN ITSELF saw fit to forcefully correct. Here is the link to their correction, the first paragraph of which I have supplied as well.
"A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil" misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, according to the Department of Defence website, "The ... difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq." The sense was clearly that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The report appeared only on the website and has now been removed."
Should anyone want to wend their way through this matter, go to the Little Green Footballs web log here for June 4:
I believe this little Urban Legend of Gus's is perfectly typical of the cocoon-like womb the left weaves for itself to keep its hatred of America going, and which it then haughtily disdains the rest of us for not entering. Come out into the light, Gus. It won't kill you.
Elia Markell - 7/31/2003
WOW, GUS, YOU REALLY GOT ME THERE!
Suetonius - 7/31/2003
"I have heard quite enough of your and others post-war spin and chaff about the torture and killing by the brutal dictator. That is really mixing apples and oranges. Why do we not invade China, Russia, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kyrgizstan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and N Korea then? "
You no doubt have noted the intense clamor from the international community for the United States to invade Liberia [not just send logistics support troops] to end the civil war there. How can the international community want the U.S. in Liberia but not in Iraq? How hypocritical.
Gus Moner - 7/31/2003
Pure nonsense Mr Markell!
We didn’t kill any Austrians, we only sent troops to France, and 93% of German casualties were inflicted by the powers that actually fought the Germans; Russia, Britain, France and Belgium.
Gus Moner - 7/31/2003
You and I, and every person who was adult and lived through the build up to the Iraqi invasion know full well the USA’s leaders did not go to the US public, the world public, indeed U N and say we want to get rid of Iraq’s government because they are mean to their people and so on. Had they done so they would have received no support at all. I cannot conceive of a single family who would send their offspring or relations off to 'liberate' Iraq.
So, instead, they said Iraq was an imminent WMD threat, and unsuccessfully tried to link them to al Qaeda and the 9-11 Bush debacle. Along the way they vilified the Iraqi leadership, as any US administration is wont to do when it has an enemy, by personifying them as the very reincarnation of the devil. So, I disagree wholeheartedly.
There was linkage, but surreal, false and tergiversated versions of the illusions of the re-evaluators of intelligence, Messieurs Rumsfeld, Feith, etc. who set up a group of novices to re-evaluate data and double cross the CIA.
Your disqualifications of the comments others and I make about your own ‘paranoid rants’ are truly demonstrative of your inability to properly articulate a coherent position. It’s a pity. Try harder.
If the ‘larger reason’ we went to war was ‘to teach the Islamic fascists the lesson that not only did 9/11 not work, it backfired’ the cabal never, ever, mentioned this in your infamous three interlinked points. So, in fact you have proven that we were lied to. Thanks.
Where you begin to hallucinate is in your projections for Iraq. What pedestal are you on that you think any foreign power can go into an alien land and “build a decent society that will both shame and inspire the rest of the region, meanwhile splitting that region into several quarters (…) and protecting the democratic state of Israel to boot”? Now there is a truly paranoid, hallucinogenic rant for you! Did any leader ask the US public to shed the blood of their children for this objective? No.
Now, one more thing ...
I am pleased to correct your analysis of Wolfowitz’ quote. Mr Wolfowitz was responding to a query regarding why the US did not apply the same policy in Asia as in Iraq. And he did say what you say he did not. He did NOT say anything you attribute to him.
I have the Q& A from that interview. “Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." Lie elsewhere, sir. That economically we had no choice on Iraq because it sits on a sea of oil is a pretty clear phrace that no spin you put on it will change.
Finally, the ‘standard retort’ you attribute to me, I did not provide. You have tried to attribute your own perceptions to me, and I hereby refute your assertion. I said nothing of he sort.
Bye for now
Elia Markell - 7/30/2003
"In going to war against Spain in 1898, McKinley did not needlessly trash America's relations with other major European powers."
Oh, you mean powers like Germany and Austria-Hungary? Great. Imagine how sad McKinley would have been, however, to learn that we would be killing so many Germans and Austrians just a few years later, after all that sensitivity about our relations with them during the little dust up with Spain. Tsk, tsk. The difficult burdens of a multipolar world.
Thomas Gallatin - 7/30/2003
Frank Gibney's historical analogy is seriously flawed.
In going to war against Spain in 1898, McKinley did not needlessly trash America's relations with other major European powers. The authority to go to war provided by the U.S. Congress was jingoistic and belligerent, but it was a proper declaration of war, not a cowardly blank check. Teddy Roosevelt, a key instigator of the war, at least had the basic honesty and bravery to actually serve in combat.
Of course, the current occupation of Iraq has parallels in the Philippines a century ago, but the historical differences are of much greater long run significance.
Elia Markell - 7/30/2003
Well to repeat, the three linked reasons for the war which I cited were the ones repeatedly stated. I defy you to find a single formal pronouncement of those reasons that does not contain them in the linked manner in which I listed them.
As for your paranoid rant about the "real" reasons (oil, Israeli cliques, vendettas, etc.), I'll give you this much. I too think there is a larger reason we went after Iraq, in addition to the stated reasons I referred to (all of which are valid). But it has nothing to do with the ravings of the left you repeat so forcefully. It was to teach the Islamic fascists the lesson that not only did 9/11 not work, it backfired. We intend to hit you (meaning the entire Islamofascist network) whenever and wherever we deem most useful to the long-term job of eliminating you, not where you chose to fight us. So we start with Iraq, where we will build a decent society that will both shame and inspire the rest of the region, meanwhile splitting that region into several quarters, putting the rest of you on the defensive, allow us to distance ourselves from the Saudis, and protecting the democratic state of Israel to boot. OK? That's my SOUS. Like it? I do. Now, one more thing ...
Wolfowitz did NOT say we are not invading all those other nations you mention because they were not sitting on a sea of oil. As is so typical of the way the critics have mangled just about every detail of this war, the mangling of this remark has taken on a life of its own. What Wolfowitz said, and perfectly clearly, was that the existence of Iraq's sea of oil would enable the U.S. to reconstruct it more easily than would be the case following any regime change in North Korea. He never in any way even hinted at the preposterous take on it you repeat here, that it was the reason to go for Iraq and not those other nations (by the way, you left off my two favorites, Sudan and Congo). Regarding that list, you revert to the standard retort these days whenever the left is confronted with its complicit contentment with Saddam's continued existence, which retort basically boils down to "Never right ANY wrong unless you are willing to right ALL wrongs." Not, I believe, a very charitable sentiment.
Gus Moner - 7/30/2003
Well, Mr Markell, I was not disagreeing with you on the point the war has long been cooking. I was in agreement and found your note more than wanting on details on that score. That’s what I was getting at, sir. Current administration personnel have long been for this war, and they found a way to wage it. Your case did not cover enough of this history.
You are right, my comment on Democrats pushing for war was an error in writing I made. Sorry. Now, then, about the three reasons:
The President of the USA and his associates in power told us repeatedly that the war was to protect the US from attacks by terrorists, not to save Iraqis and their neighbours from a despot. The WMD were there and Iraq had authorised field commanders to use them. Moreover, we were assured of these mythical links to terror.
In addition, we were told the UN would sanction the action when the time was up, and we would maintain a system of collective decision-making intact, basing our acts on UN resolutions. Except, of course, when other UN members don’t play ball.
Get real. We never had an excuse to launch a pre-emptive strike for our ‘defence’, much less the blatant, unjustified and murderous invasion of another state, which in the end is what happened, with thousands of dead civilians and many more maimed or mentally scarred for life. I shan’t even enter into the US/UK casualties.
The reasons you cite were and are, a charade. A political power grab, an oil grab, a pro-Israeli clique attempting to undermine supporters of the Palestinian cause and a political vendetta by son for father and a shameful blot on US history. The saddest part is the blood being spilled by the innocent Iraqis and US soldiers for the contracting companies and the misguided government policies.
As for the UN inspectors, they were doing their best, as the US inspectors are doing, with equally mystifying results. I was one of those who believed Iraq had WMD, although I was not in favour of the US invasion, much less unilaterally. Mr Bush and cabal have failed to make their case. Even after the war. There is no evidence of Iraq supporting terrorists, there is no evidence of WMD. Those were the reasons we were going to war. If Mr Bush or his entourage had said we were going to war to overthrow a “ruthless and unpredictable tyrant who oppressed his own people and showed no hesitancy in engaging in aggressive and genocidal acts against his own people and his neighbors” no one would have agreed, not even the cowed Democrats. Even you know this is true. They tried to convince us with rhetoric, and when that was insufficient, then they manipulated information, tergiversating and lying, exaggerating and deceiving. All this to get the US public to believe Iraq was somehow associated to terrorists for they knew it was the only way to obtain support for he war. It was the true behaviour of a totalitarian state, historically proven. It was the lie, and then the bigger lie.
Oh yes, Iraq is just sliding along superbly, we can all see that now. Specially the NY Post. Please.
Regarding the centrifuge, I’d recommend you read more on that score.
The mass graves were never listed as a cause for war. The UN had no opportunity to continue searching, for they were pre-empted by the US invasion. And now, even in full control of the land and without Saddam and his sons in power, “about their business of filling mass graves, torturing children in front of their parents, raping wives in front of their husbands, imprisoning and maiming tens of thousands” there’s been nothing found yet.
I have heard quite enough of your and others post-war spin and chaff about the torture and killing by the brutal dictator. That is really mixing apples and oranges. Why do we not invade China, Russia, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kyrgizstan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and N Korea then? Well, as your ideological pal Wolfowitz said, they are not invading these states for the simple reason that they are not “sitting on a sea of oil” like Iraq, (Asian Security Conference Weekend may 30th to1st June) nor are they bothering Israel’s Manifest Destiny to conquer Palestine. Bring on The Wall.
Finally, I disagree with your ending hubris. You said: “I believe the inescapable logic is you would still prefer this state of affairs to be going on as long as it meant you would have gotten to see George W checkmated. How many bones, exactly, would this pleasure be worth to you?”
I did not nor do I support tyrannical murderers. Your ‘logic’ is outlandish and flawed. I never supported Iraqi policies, anymore than I support the tyrannical behaviour of Bush in front of the world, imposing his invasion on a stunned UN, which has itself caused untold numbers of dead, which, curiously, I do not see you counting nor complaining about. It would seem that your mass murderer is OK whilst theirs is not.
Elia Markell - 7/30/2003
Gus, I really don't see what you are getting at. First, regarding the evil Wolfowitz and Rumsfield, if their case for war was made in a 1995 article that only makes the "rush to war" complaint even less compelling than even I had claimed.
Regarding the Democrats, I do not believe I said they were pushing for war. They were pushing, last August, for the President to make the case for war, which he did in due course, several times, each and every one of which posited three inter-related reasons -- WMD (1) in the hands of a Terrorist-supporting state (2) led by a ruthless and unpredictable tyrant who oppressed his own people and showed no hesitancy in engaging in aggressive and genocidal acts against his own people and his neighbors (3). It is fashionable now to insist the President only based the case on point 1, but in fact that is not so. In any case, this is the case he made at the Democrats' insistence, some six months plus before the "rush to war" lumbered along to its final destination.
Regarding post-war planning, I was not happy with this myself. But I think the task is now more or less being taken in hand (see Amir Taheri's latest reports, one today in the NYPost, for example), and I am very optimistic about it.
Regarding your last point, you are mixing apples and oranges. Blix never had a chance of finding anything, period. That recently dug up part of a uranium centefuge, for instance, was in the backyard of a scientist Hans had already interviewed and who then said he "knew nothing." Besides, I must confess to wonderment at those who pine for the return of the days of Hans and his inspectors, roaming Iraq while Saddam and Sons went about their business of filling mass graves, torturing children in front of their parents, raping wives in front of their husbands, imprisoning and maiming tens of thousands. Had your advice been heeded, that is what would still be going on today. I believe the inescapable logic is you would still prefer this state of affairs to be going on as long as it meant you would have gotten to see George W checkmated. How many bones, exactly, would this pleasure be worth to you?
Gus Moner - 7/30/2003
Ah, the Ministry of Truth speaks again. Mr Markell could work at the Pentagon or another government misinformation agency and shine.
Sir, the case for war in Iraq was made by the Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld lot in 1995, in a magazine article, (The New Statesman, if I recall properly). After, it was put to president Clinton in a letter (approx. 1998). Finally, Rumsfeld put it into play one day after 9/11, to finally go ballistic in September 2002. You say the Democrats were pushing for war? How about they were dragged by the sweeping current?
Finally, after misdeeds galore, they attacked in April 2003.
With all the lack of haste you decry, they could have taken the time to plan something for the post-war? And, by the way, speaking of time, what of the farce of giving the US's WMD inspectors more time?
Why do they need more time? If Blix's team ran out of time, or rather had time taken away from them, after 3 months and the US categorically refused to give the UN more time, with what cheekiness do these patriots now say they need more time?
Stephen Kriz - 7/30/2003
Bush's imperialism is going to hasten the downfall of the American Empire. Comparisons to any previous Administration are pointless, as this scumbag is the absolute lowest of the low.
And here is a Nobel laureate who thinks so too:
Elia Markell - 7/29/2003
Just an added point on the hurrying matter. In 1991, Saddam signed a ceasefire with the U.S. In FIFTEEN days he was in clear violation of it. He proceeded to violate all 17 UN resolutions regarding him, Chapter 7 resolutions that are meant to be absolutely binding on one party. Perfectly legal and serious grounds for deposing Saddam thus existed from 1991 on. Future historians are almost sure to regard the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war as a continuum. What George W "hastened" to do was finish a job started 12 years ago.
Elia Markell - 7/29/2003
Along with all the other pitfalls of the use of superficial and false historical analogies, one of especial relevance here is the use of such an analogy before one half of it is done unfolding. Hence, Professor Gibney writes:
"The strategic confusion, administrative backtracking, mixed signals and mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq bear a striking — and worrisome — resemblance to what happened in the Philippines a century ago."
Already, mounting evidence from Iraq suggests the early mistakes about the post-war situation are being corrected rapidly. A governing council is taking shape made up of all the key non-Baathist groups and leaders, the Baathist remnants (who more closely resemble the Nazi werwolves than filipino or any other guerrillas) are being mopped up. Hospitals, food delivery, oil production, etc., are improving daily. Just about everywhere except near Baghdad, violence is diminishing. Town councils are assembling and meeting. It is not heaven. But it is certainly not hell -- nor is it even remotely comparable to conditions in Germany or Japan in the first months after World War II ended. Reports from many on the scene suggest a good deal of hope and a general Iraq fear that we may leave to soon, not too late.
Another part of Professor Gibney's analogy consists of this claim: "The decision to go to war with Spain, as was the case with Iraq, was made and marketed in a hurry."
I defer to Lewis Gould on the inadequacies of the Philippines side of this claim. As for the Iraq side, it is indeed laughable. President Bush first identified Iraq as part of the Axis of Evil shortly after 9/11. He identified it as a prime target for sure last September -- after DEMOCRATS hectored and hectored him throughout August to hurry up and "make the case," to hurry up and go to Congress before launching any attack, and to hurry up and go to the UN -- yet (completely contrarily) NOT to do this before the elections so as not to politicize the issue! All of the things the Democrats were both hurrying and pressuring Bush not to hurry about, he did, as they asked. THEN -- we waited. We waited for Saddam to comply with the UN's own December deadline for a full accounting on WMD. We got the 12,000-page snort. We waited into January, so the President could give a magnificent SOU speech, only 16 words of which the left now knows. And then we waited some more, for Hans Blix to give one inconclusive report after another. Finally, we acted. And Professor Gibney would have us view this has haste? I cannot think of a less hasty build-up to any war in the past century.
Lewis L. Gould - 7/28/2003
Professor Gibney's account of the coming of the war with Spain looks back to the historiography of the origins of the conflict that dominated writing before the work of H. Wayne Morgan, John A.S. Grenville and George Berkeley Young, and John L. Offner. Space does not permit an extended dissent from Gibney's conclusions, but some comments can be made. The decision to go to war was not "made and marketed in a hurry." As these historians have tried to show, and I argued as well in The Presidency of William McKinley, the differences between the United States and Spain over Cuba were, as Offner puts it, "fundamental." Even if the Maine had not exploded war was likely.
The decision to attack the Philippines was also not the impetuous work of Theodore Roosevelt. As William R. Braisted showed almost fifty years ago, there was a naval war plan in place to attack the archipelago as a way of pressuring Spain that had been drafted before McKinley took office. Roosevelt was implementing the plan in February 1898.
Gibney also leaves out the international dimension of McKinley's decision. As documents in the William R. Day Papers and the George B. Cortelyou Papers show, Germany and Japan both indicated an interest in the islands if the United States departed. The choice for the Philippines was not between the United States and independence, but which of the imperial powers would dominate the area. While no one can now defend imperialism as a concept, William Howard Taft was not the worst proconsul that the Philippines might have encountered. There were few men like him in the German or Japanese governments.
As for McKinley's famous statement about his desire to "Christianize" the Filipinos, that issue has been aired on the HNN website in recent months. The provenance for James F. Rusling's memory of what McKinley said in November 1899 is at least dubious and probably spurious. Isn't it time to put it to rest?
Professor Gibney's observations about the lack of reassuring parallels between the Philippines a century ago and our contemporary predicament in Iraq seem to me to have much merit.
- Five Things You Need to Know to be a Better Digital Preservationist
- Book on Losing British Generals Wins American History Prize
- Stanford scholar explores civil rights revolution's positive impact on the South's economy
- Harvard Historian Nancy Koehn on Amazon's Tentacular Reach
- Q&A with historian and author Nick Turse