The Empire Strikes Back

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Mon Mar 24 10:51:02 MST 2003

*****   The Empire Strikes Back
Ian Urbina
Village Voice (February 4-11, 2003)

This Saturday, more than a thousand of America's top military and
government leaders and their guests are scheduled to gather at the
Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, for a secretive tribal rite
called the 103rd Annual Wallow of the Military Order of the Carabao.
And they won't be singing "Kumbaya."

In fact, on what these days feels like the eve of war, nothing says
"imperialism" better than the annual Wallow, which celebrates the
bloody conquest of the nascent Philippine Republic a century ago in
the aftermath of the Spanish-American War.

The exclusive Military Order of the Carabao (named after the
mud-loving water buffalo) was founded in 1900 by American officers
fighting in the Philippines, so naturally there will be a lot of
singing and cigar smoking by the 99.9 percent male crowd. Recent
guests have included Colin Powell and General Richard B. Myers,
current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many of the
country's top military leaders are listed as members. (You have to be
an officer to even be considered for membership.) Acting like a
cluster of Klingons, the guys will toss around revered imperial
slogans, such as "Civilize 'em with a Krag!" referring to the rifles
used by Americans to kill thousands of Filipinos, who had fought
Spain for their freedom and didn't want to be handed over to another
colonial power....

One thing that fires up the bulls never changes: the bellowing of the
Carabao anthem, "The Soldier's Song." At the 2002 Wallow, the room
was already thick with smoke --every place setting had been adorned
with (forget that embargo) an authentic Cuban cigar -- when a voice
said, "Gentlemen, please turn to your songbooks," and the US Marine
Band, seated to the side, struck up a tune. The Carabaos, most of
whom seemed to know the words by heart, lustily sang the first
stanza's story of the dreaded "bolo" (the Filipino revolutionaries'
machete -- they had few guns) and deceitful "ladrones" ("thieves"):

In the days of dopey dreams -- happy, peaceful Philippines,
When the bolomen were busy all night long,
When ladrones would steal and lie, and Americanos die,
Then you heard the soldiers sing this evening song:

And then the bulls and their guests rhythmically banged their fists
on the tables during each rendition of the chorus:

Damn, damn, damn the insurrectos!
Cross-eyed kakiac ladrones!
Underneath the starry flag, civilize 'em with a Krag,
And return us to our own beloved homes.

The chorus originally began: Damn, damn, damn the Filipinos! The US
soldiers chanted the second line's surviving racial slur about
Filipinos as "khaki-colored thieves" while marching through the
jungle. Some accounts say that, as the Americans marched and sang,
some of them carried ears they had lopped off the Filipinos' heads
and kept as souvenirs. ...

(Ian Urbina is a journalist based at the Middle East Research and
Information Project in Washington, DC.)

[The full text is available at

Cf. Ian Urbina and Chris Toensing, "In the Good Old Wallow Time,"
_The Baffler_ (January 2003),

Ian Urbina, <>.

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