A tale for every American
“I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate… We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to … let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way; and so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
Sound like today’s news? In fact, it is Mark Twain, writing in 1906.
DemocracyNow, in honor of the passing of author Kurt Vonnegut, recently played a recording of Vonnegut reading Twain’s response to President Theodore Roosevelt’s congratulations to the commanding general over the 1906 massacre in the Philippines. Twain is quoted in Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
I wish every American knew the story. We consent with such naiveté when government begs to go to war. Vulnerable through ignorance, we are charmed into faith in a national goodness, then shocked when horror and folly result.
This incident burst upon the world last Friday… in an official cablegram from the commander of our forces in the Philippines to our Government at Washington. The substance of it was as follows: A tribe of Moros, dark-skinned savages, had fortified themselves in the bowl of an extinct crater not many miles from Jolo; and as they were hostiles, and bitter against us because we have been trying for eight years to take their liberties away from them, their presence in that position was a menace. Our commander, Gen. Leonard Wood, ordered a reconnaissance. It was found that the Moros numbered six hundred, counting women and children; that their crater bowl was in the summit of a peak or mountain twenty-two hundred feet above sea level, and very difficult of access for Christian troops and artillery. Then General Wood ordered a surprise, and went along himself to see the order carried out. […]
Gen. Wood’s order was, “Kill or capture the six hundred.” […]
There, with six hundred engaged on each side, we lost fifteen men killed outright, and we had thirty-two wounded-counting that nose and that elbow. The enemy numbered six hundred — including women and children — and we abolished them utterly, leaving not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother. This is incomparably the greatest victory that was ever achieved by the Christian soldiers of the United States. […]
So far as I can find out, there was only one person among our eighty millions who allowed himself the privilege of a public remark on this great occasion — that was the President of the United States. All day Friday he was as studiously silent as the rest. But on Saturday he recognized that his duty required him to say something, and he took his pen and performed that duty. […] This is what he said:
Washington, March 10 . Wood, Manila:- I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag. (Signed) Theodore Roosevelt. […]
I have read carefully the Treaty of Paris. I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make these people free and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way; and so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.
[The “Moros,” alas, were Muslims, so called by the Spanish for their common faith with the “Moors.” For a more complete version of the story, see American Heritage.com’s American Troops Killing Muslims: A Massacre to Remember.]
Would Americans so blithely trust their government’s invasion habit if they knew how commonly these efforts have disintegrated into murder?
And would we not be a greater nation if we more bravely faced our own capacity for evil?
Tags: Kurt+Vonnegut, war crimes, Americans killing Muslims, antiwar, genocide, Mark+Twain, military+history, US+history, patriotism, Spanish-American+War, War+on+terror, Leonard+Wood, Theodore+Roosevelt, American+imperialism, Philippines, massacre, Moro, Treaty+of+Paris, American+intervention, Monte Asbury
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