IMPERIALISM, THEN AND NOW
jacdon at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 3 19:20:03 MST 2003
The following article will appear in the Nov. 5 issue of the Hudson Valley
Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, NY, by the Mid-Hudson National
People's Campaign/IAC and relayed via jacdon at earthlink.net
IMPERIALISM, THEN AND NOW
During his whirlwind trip to Asia in mid-October, President Bush took the
occasion of a visit to Manila to compare the U.S. "liberation" of Iraq to
that of Washington's "liberation" of the Philippines as a consequence of the
"Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions
of democracy," Bush declared. "The same doubts were once expressed about
the culture of Asia. Those doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades
ago," he said, when the Philippines gained formal independence and democracy
after nearly a half-century as Washington's reluctant ward. In essence
Bush was pointing to the Philippines as a model for the attainment of
"democracy" in Iraq, with help from Washington, of course.
In fact, the United States has dominated the Philippines for over a
century. For nearly half that time, the Philippines was a direct colony;
after gaining independence, it has remained in political, military and
economic liege to its former colonial master.
The people of the Philippines in the last decade of the 19th century were
conducting an active liberation struggle against a declining Spanish
colonialism, as were the people of Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean at
the same time. The U.S. interjected itself into the affairs of these three
countries in the spring of 1898 by declaring war against Spain, which was
quickly defeated. Far from helping these colonies to attain independence,
however, Washington seized all three of them, suppressing the indigenous
liberation forces in the process.
Cuba was turned into a semi-colony, controlled by the Yankee colossus to the
north, until revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro brought about genuine
national independence in 1959 an act unforgiven by the United States to
this day. Puerto Rico was converted into a colony and then a semi-colony
now defined as a commonwealth. The Philippines was annexed as a colony in
1899 and was directly ruled by Washington until 1946.
The people of the Philippines launched a full-scale guerrilla war against
some 130,000 U.S. troops (about the same total the U.S. has now sent to
Iraq), who marched into the country to subdue a rebellion that started
immediately upon annexation.
It is estimated that between 300,000 to over a million Filipinos (largely
civilians) were slaughtered or died from privation and famine during the
worst years of the struggle against a vicious and racist U.S. military
occupation and colonization between 1899 and 1902, when the main resistance
was ruthlessly broken. Remnants of the struggle continued for another 14
years until all opposition was crushed. The official U.S. military death
toll from the invasion and occupation during this period was 4,234.
If Washington's paradigm for an "independent, democratic" Iraq is the
wretched experience of the Philippines, as President Bush suggested Oct. 18
in a speech to the Filipino Congress, the need for broadening and deepening
the unity of oppositional forces and the activist element of the U.S.
antiwar struggle is immediate.
In this connection it is worthwhile to recall the important popular struggle
that broke out within the U.S. in opposition to Washington's acquisition of
the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hawaii as well. By late 1898 an
organization called the American Anti-Imperialist League was formed,
eventually attracting 30,000 to 50,000 members (including a number of
leading writers, journalists and politicians) and influencing millions of
people. The league became the country's largest peace movement up to that
time, before fragmenting and disappearing a few years later.
The anti-imperialist struggle that broke out in 1898 and the public
arguments put forward by its participants had some lasting consequences. It
contributed toward a change in how Washington expressed its penchant for
domination in future years. After an initial acquisition of direct
colonies, the U.S. government decided it was better to rule other countries
indirectly through puppet governments, backed by bribery, economic power,
the threat of sanctions, and the willingness to "send in the Marines" to
protect Yankee interests if necessary.
Imperial Japan kicked the U.S. out of the Philippines in 1942 and launched
its own colonial occupation, which lasted until the Tokyo government was
defeated and Uncle Sam reoccupied the battered country in 1945. The
Philippines was granted nominal independence a year later, but the U.S.
insured that its interests would be protected for several more decades by
one captive regime after another that it brought to power and protected. As
a result of over 100 years of subservience to the United States, the
Philippines is essentially controlled by the 400 wealthy Filipino families
who are said to possess all but 10% of the nation's assets. A majority of
the population of over 80 million people is living in conditions of poverty.
By bragging about the means by which the United States brought "democracy"
to the Philippines, President Bush inadvertently exposed that Washington's
policy toward Iraq today is based on crass imperialism and the modern
variant of colonialism. This, of course, is precisely what has been taking
place in Iraq since last March, at least according to that sector of the
antiwar movement which isn't reluctant to call so calamitous a misdeed by
its correct names.
Interestingly, Bush's major pretexts for invading Iraq (Baghdad's alleged
possession of weapons of mass destruction and a supposed connection with
9/11) are as phony as President William McKinley's excuse for starting a war
with Spain (the White House and mass media blamed Madrid for the destruction
of the U.S. battleship Maine during a visit to Havana harbor in early
1898). It took the U.S. 78 years to acknowledge that a spontaneous
explosion in the Maine's coal bins probably caused the ship to sink with the
loss of 260 sailors, not sabotage by agents of Spain. We wonder how long it
will take for Washington to admit that the expressed rationale for invading
Iraq was based on lies and manipulation, and that the real goal is total
hegemony in the Middle East and control of world's second largest petroleum
Readers interested in the history of U.S. imperialism in the Western
Hemisphere may wish to obtain two pamphlets written by the editor of this
newsletter "Enough is Enough!: 100 years of U.S. intervention in Latin
America and the Caribbean," and "The Cuban Revolution: 40 years of
struggle." These large-size, illustrated pamphlets are being sold for only
$1 each. To receive both together by mail, make out a check for $4 (which
includes postage and handling) to MHNPC and mail to MHNPC at P.O. Box 523,
Highland, N.Y. 12528.
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