Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Forgotten War

In the news this week is a 12 year-old suicide bomber who murdered over 50 people, mostly women and children, at a wedding in Turkey.  Another young would-be martyr was captured in Iraq.  The likelihood that ISIS would continue to use children to fight its war has many of the talking heads on the nightly news making wild statements on how the United States should fight this new threat.

I certainly do not have an answer, but I would like to point out that this is not the first time our country has faced this problem.  A little over a hundred years ago, in a war no one remembers, we faced the same dilemma. It was in a war properly called The Philippine Resistance—an offshoot of the Spanish American War of 1898.

After suffering military defeats in the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, the Spanish Government sued for peace on July 26, 1898.  After two weeks, an armistice was signed on August 12, the day before Americans entered the city of Manila in the Philippines.  The entire war had only lasted a little less than 4 months and while 5,462 of the 274,000 men who served in the war had died, only 379 had died in battle.  The rest had died of malaria, typhoid, dysentery, or yellow fever.

By several measures, this was not much of a war, but the peace protocol specified that Spain would give up Cuba and the United States would annex Puerto Rico and occupy Manila pending final disposition of the Philippines.

A Peace Commission eventually drafted the Treaty of Paris, signed on December 10, 1898.  The treaty, however did not specify what to do with the Philippines, as The Commission itself was divided over the issue.

Note.  If you are ever on Jeopardy or some other game show and you are asked for the name of the treaty that ended some obscure war, just answer either the Treaty of Paris or the Treaty of Ghent:  You have about a 50% chance of being correct.

Even President McKinley was unsure of what to do with the Philippines.  (Privately, he later admitted that he couldn't find the country on a White House globe the first time he looked.)  While some Americans railed against America's growing Imperialism, others saw Asia as a fertile market of millions waiting to buy American goods.

Still others saw a chance to "save the heathens" of Asia by extending missionary activities. 

McKinley finally reached a conclusion.  As he explained to a gathering of missionaries:

And one night late it came to me this way—I don't know how it was, but it came:  (1) that we could not give them back to Spain—that would be cowardly and dishonorable;  (2)  that we could not turn them over to France or Germany—our commercial rivals in the Orient—that would be bad business and discreditable;  (3) that we could not leave them to themselves—they were unfit for self government—and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's was; and (4)  that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellowmen for whom Christ also died.  And then I went to bed, and went to sleep and slept soundly.

Even for a politician, that’s quite a statement.  It neatly summarizes all of American Imperialism.  We took the Philippines for:

1.  National Honor
2.  Commerce
3.  Racial Superiority
4.  Altruism

When Spain pointed out that, technically, America had no claim by right of conquest, since American troops had actually occupied Manila the day after the armistice, we settled the point by giving Spain $20 million in compensation.

The final treaty added Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to American territory.

The Treaty of Paris did not make everyone happy in the United States.  Most Democrats, and some Republicans were against it.  Occupation was not democratic, it countered American traditional isolationism, and it could easily involve us in foreign entanglements.  Some in the military even pointed out the impossibility of defending a possession so far from home—a prediction that would prove true 40 years later.

Some worried about how such an alien culture could be blended into the American way of life.  As one elected racist said from the Senate floor, "Bananas and self-government cannot grow on the same piece of land."

Eventually, a consensus formed that the best way to save the Philippines was to take them.  The treaty was ratified on February 6, 1899 by a margin of 2 to 1.

The same month, Rudyard Kipling published the poem, The White Mans BurdenWithout satire, he calls the American people to a new duty:

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send for the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captive's need;
to wait in heavy harness
On fluttered fold and wild—
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

President William McKinley issued a proclamation on December 21, 1898, declaring United States policy towards the Philippines to be one of "benevolent assimilation" in which "the mild sway of justice and right" would be substituted for "arbitrary rule." 

By this time, America’s task of helping his "little brown brother" had taken a strange and violent turn.  We had forgotten to ask the Filipinos if they wanted our help.  They didn’t, and were resisting militarily.

It is ironic that before we could impose a colonial rule to help the Filipinos, we had to fight a war in the Philippines from 1899 to 1902 to crush a Philippine nationalist insurgency.  Filipino insurgents were already fighting the Spanish for independence when Dewey's fleet arrived. 

Dewey's victory was due in part to the attack on Manila by Aguinaldo.  The Filipino patriots believed that they had been promised independence for their efforts and felt betrayed by the terms of the Paris treaty. 

Dewey demanded that the Filipinos leave Manila.  Aguinaldo agreed, but retreated only as far as the suburbs where defensive trenches are dug.

Aguinaldo declared the Philippines to be an independent republic in January 1899 and, in response to McKinley's proclamation, issued his own.  In it, he said that "violent and aggressive seizure" by the United States was wrong and threatened war.  Hostilities broke out on the night of February 4, 1899, after two American privates on patrol killed three Filipino soldiers in a suburb of Manila.

America fought back immediately, aided by shelling the Filipino trenches from US naval ships in the harbor.  For months, the Filipino forces tried to fight back using conventional warfare, effectively committing suicide, because the Filipinos lacked the arms, the artillery, and the training. 

The Filipino troops, armed with old rifles and bolos, and carrying anting-anting (magical charms), were no match for American troops in open combat, but they were very effective in guerrilla warfare. 

General Ewell S. Otis was appointed commander of the US forces there and military governor of the Philippines.  The war started well for the US, as Otis pushed the rebel forces from Manila and its suburbs.  When Aguinaldo's government sought an armistice, Otis insisted on an unconditional surrender.

General Otis might have been able to crush the rebellion early had he not been faced with a problem that was totally new to American warfare.  How do you fight an enemy and win the people over at the same time?  Or as my generation would later ask, “How do you win the hearts and minds of people you are fighting?”

At the same time, America began instituting civic reforms.  The American army began building new infrastructure for the Philippines:  New roads, schools, hospitals, bridges, railroads, telegraph lines, and telephone lines.  Disease, especially smallpox, cholera, and plague practically disappeared.  Slowly, there were an increasing numbers of Filipino collaborators.    

Aguinaldo fought back as he ordered the establishment of decentralized guerrilla commands in each of several military zones.  More than ever, American soldiers knew the miseries of fighting an enemy that was able to move at will within the civilian population in the villages.  "Pacified" ground only extended as far as a soldier's Krag rifle could shoot.

The guerrillas would not attack unless they were sure they could win and if  chased, they hid their weapons, went home and pretended they were the friendliest natives on the island—But if they captured an American soldier, he would be horribly tortured. 

And the guerrillas began to attack the collaborators, calling it "exemplary punishment on traitors to prevent the people of the towns from unworthily selling themselves for the gold of the invader." 

Inevitably, the American soldiers began committing atrocities of their own. 

In May 1900, General Arthur MacArthur replaced Otis and with a much larger army, MacArthur cracked down.  Guerrillas would be jailed or executed.  Patrols were kept out longer, forcing guerrillas to run longer.  MacArthur also used an old Indian-fighting technique:  he hired thousands of Filipino scouts and police. 

MacArthur, with the help of a new civilian government under Judge William Howard Taft, began building a new civilian government that was a model of efficiency and fairness.

Aguinaldo was captured on March 23, 1901, by a force of Philippine Scouts loyal to the United States and was brought back to Manila.  Convinced of the futility of further resistance, he swore allegiance to the United States and issued a proclamation calling on his compatriots to lay down their arms.  When Aguinaldo made the public announcement, he was wearing a black bow-tie, a symbol of mourning.  Aguinaldo vowed to continue to wear the black bow-tie until the Philippines were granted their independence. 

On September 1901, guerrillas in one of the last remaining uncontrolled provinces wiped out a US infantry company in Samar.  This was the largest military defeat since the death of Colonel Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.  America was shocked and demanded retaliation. 

The troops ordered by General Smith to "pacify" Samar were also ordered to take no prisoners.  "I want you to kill and burn, the more you kill and the burn the better it will please me.  I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.  The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness..." 

When the officer leading the detail asked for clarification as to exactly who was capable of bearing arms…his commanding officer answered that this meant anyone over the age of 10 years old.  To this day, historians argue about exactly how many Filipinos were killed during the pacification of the island.

Today, the attack and the retaliation are collectively referred to as the Balangiga Massacre.

By the Spring of 1902, organized resistance was pretty much over.  On the 4th of July, 1902, President Roosevelt declared that the insurrection was over and the United States had been victorious.  No one argued the point with him.

The war the Americans called the Philippine Insurrection lasted nearly three years and claimed the lives of 4,234 US troops and 16,000 Filipino soldiers.  By the end of the war, another 220,000 civilian Filipinos had died, largely from famine and disease.  Both sides committed horrible atrocities.  The monetary cost of the war was $400 million, an amount more than 20 times what had been paid to Spain in 1898.

Following the suppression of the insurrection, the US established a colonial administration in the Philippines.  American teachers, nurses, engineers, and doctors flocked to the Philippines to "modernize" it and English was made the official language.  In 1908, we opened the University of the Philippines to train an elite to implement political democracy and to prepare the Philippines for independence.

This preparation was still underway when WW2 started and the Philippines were seized by the Japanese.

Aguinaldo was finally able to remove his black tie on July 4, 1946, when the US finally gave the Philippines their independence.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Lighter Side of a Heart Attack

Okay, it has been a month, and seriously, I'm doing fine.  I'm now doing so much better that I hardly even need a nap after putting on my pants in the morning.  The drugs regularly make me think I am Hercules, only to discover that putting on my socks is a task fully equal to cleaning the Augean stables. 

Heart attacks, and the resulting quintuple bypass procedures, are probably not that much fun normally, but I had great docs, good drugs, and some awesome hallucinations.  If you couple this with the fact that I have absolutely no medical knowledge whatsoever (meaning I misinterpreted every single thing that was happening around me), some of the events, in retrospect, are rather funny.

By the time I was safely in the ambulance, both the oxygen and the nitroglycerin were working fine, and strangely, I was feeling pretty good.  I was strapped to a gurney, and for some reason, I started giggling.  As the ambulance left the university Employee Health Center (which the trolls that pass as administrators at Enema U did indeed close down while I was in the Cardiac Care Center) I suddenly got a text from my brother about something he was doing.  This struck me as hilarious, so I used my phone to take a selfie so I could show him what I was doing.  At right, is the only self photo I know of taken by a guy having a heart attack.

If you know the geography of Enema U, you can probably tell that the ambulance is actually driving away from the hospital, heading due west, instead of east.  I pointed this out to the driver, who informed me that he was following GPS instructions.  They were very nice people, who undoubtedly helped save my life that day, so it would be rude of me to point out that the $500 bill I received from the ambulance company includes charges for mileage.  Oh, well!

I don't remember much of the rest of that day.  Lots of people earnestly explained things to me that I understood not at all.  I agreed to anything that was asked of me, confident that my wife, The Doc, understood all the things that I could not comprehend and would prevent them removing anything I might need later.  What do people who aren't married to surgeons do when they go to the hospital?  Whenever somebody asked me a question, I answered, "I had a boo-boo."  Then I would listen to my wife talk for five minutes straight while I understood not one  single word.  This didn't seem to matter to anyone, since usually the only substantive thing people asked me, repeated endlessly, was, "Can you tell me your birthday?"

I always politely answered, "Yes."

I think I was sedated pretty good:  my last clear memory before the operation was wondering why the room was so cold, then they told me they were about to start the operation.  "Remember," I told no one in particular,  "I haven't paid anybody's bill yet."  Then I lost a day.

The Cardiac Care Unit was actually rather pleasant, people there were excellent and took great care of me, and the hallucinations were fantastic.  At no time did I believe that any of the weird shit I saw was actually real, but I was highly entertained.  Lots of things in the room kept moving: there was a menagerie of furry animals, and people who weren't actually there came to visit (Mary Wolf, frequently).  At one point, I vividly saw Captain Morgan walk through the room.  I have no idea what those drugs were, but I finally understand the meaning of "Better Living Through Chemistry". 

The hallucinations persisted for a while, even after I got home.  For some reason, one particular book seemed to constantly leave a bookcase and move around the bedroom.  Finally, it was so distracting that I had to ask The Doc to hide the book to make it behave.  She thought it was hilarious that the book turned out to be Gregory Maguire's "Lost".  If you have read the book, this is a little creepy.

I had the best student nurses.  I really mean that!  This must have been their first week and they treated me like I was made of eggshells.  They spent at least half an hour putting the telemetry lead patches on my chest.  It was obviously their first attempt at this, since even I could tell that they were placing them wrong (each round patch had a picture on it indicating where it was supposed to go).  I kept mum as they put each patch in the wrong spot, but later, the nurse and I had a good laugh about it.  I wonder what the EKG would have reported if they had actually run it with the leads on weird.

Every experience should be a learning experience, and this has been no exception.  I've learned that hospital food is designed to make you leave the hospital as soon as possible.  I can now prove that late night television is much worse than daytime television.  Most important, I now believe that medical marijuana should be legal and nitroglycerin should be sold in vending machines, but prune juice should require a doctor's prescription.

I'm much improved and I'm home now, but—unfortunately—I'm off all the good drugs now, while they wait for..."something" to stabilize (ask the Doc—she knows!).  In some form of karmic fulfillment, the only drug I am currently taking is...rat poison.  Well, they call it Warfarin, but I lived on Galveston Island for seven years and they used it there to kill wharf rats on the docks. 

I'd look into this, but I'm afraid I might find out it is something my wife arranged.

While I wouldn't actually recommend a heart attack, I can still testify they are more fun than some of the faculty meetings I have suffered through.  Those seemed unreal, but unfortunately weren't hallucinations.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Pastry War

Mexico has long had a love/hate relationship with France.  Most people are aware that the French invaded Mexico in the 1860's and imposed a puppet monarchy, which resulted in a lengthy and bloody war before Mexico eventually regained its independence.  Less well known is that there was actually an earlier violent French invasion, known as the Pastry War.

After gaining its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico was far from stable:  in its first twenty years, there were twenty presidents—most of whom seized power by force.  Additionally, every new president faced the same hurdle—raising enough money to pay the army that had brought him to power, 

In one year (1800), Mexico produced prodigious amounts of silver—so much so that Mexico was the economic engine that ran the Spanish Empire—but during the decades of wars for independence, the men had been pulled from the mines to fight.  The abandoned mines quickly flooded and caved in.  It was almost a century before the mines regained the production levels they had reached during colonial times.

Note.  A visitor from another planet comparing the two dominant countries of North America would have easily predicted which country was destined for greatness.  Possessing great natural resources, vastly larger in territory, one country was clearly more advanced.  Her cities were much larger, had more cultural amenities, and a more integrated society.  Mexico was clearly ahead, and when you factored in the slaves of the United States, had a higher per capita income.  Unfortunately, independence brought stagnation and decay to Mexico.  Less than 50 years later, Mexico lagged far behind the United States.

Desperate for cash, most of the incoming presidents were forced to use the same sources of revenue: forcing loans from the wealthy elite of Mexico—especially foreigners still residing in the country.  Naturally, these loans were almost never repaid.  These individuals would protest to their respective governments, who in turn, would protest to the Mexican government and demand repayment.  Unfortunately, constantly changing administrations, fluctuating exchange rates, and a chronic shortage of funds in the Mexican treasury meant these claims were rarely settled.

In 1828, the shop of a French baker, Remontel, in Mexico City was emptied by the hungry Mexican Army.  Remontel protested to King Louis Philippe of France, who demanded 600,000 pesos in repayment.  Today, this is a meaningless number, but take my word for it:  the French King was asking for a vast fortune.  The average daily wage in Mexico at that time was no more than a single peso per day.  They must have been really good French pastries.

The claim, of course, was not settled.  In the interim, Mexico had another series of presidents, including Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, who—after defeating the defenders of the Alamo—had lost Texas at the Battle of San Jacinto:  Mexico was hardly in the position to repay any of her debts.

In 1838, the French King issued an ultimatum:  either Mexico would pay her debts, or France would take military steps to enforce repayment.  During their early years, most Latin American countries derived their tax revenues almost exclusively from import duties collected at port cities.  Foreign countries, seeking to recover debts, could simply seize port cities and confiscate tax revenues until the debt was recovered.

Seizing ports and tax revenues evolved into a convenient excuse for European countries to attempt to seize New World countries.   This was the same excuse France used when it imposed Maximilian on Mexico a generation later.  In 1916, the United States seized the customs houses of the Dominican Republic to preempt European countries from doing the same thing.  For decades, the US Marines collected import taxes, dividing the revenue between debt repayment and tax revenue for the island nation.  While the Dominicans were unhappy about the occupation, they did note that the half revenue they received was substantially more revenue than they had received when their own people had run the customs houses, themselves.

When Mexico still refused to settle the debt, France sent a fleet to capture Veracruz, Mexico's main port.  The port was protected by a massive fortress, San Juan de Alua, on an island in the harbor.  An imposing structure, it had withstood pirate attacks for centuries.  Unfortunately, this was a different age and the fortress was no match for the modern artillery of the French fleet.  The fleet's exploding artillery rounds quickly ignited the fortress' magazines, making the attack one of the first examples of the futility of stone forts against naval gunnery—which was noticed by military leaders around the world.

France rather quickly captured the entire Mexican navy, bottled up all the ports, and cut off all trade in and out of Mexico while it demanded repayment of the debts.  Mexico tried to smuggle goods into the country, and was forced to land ships as far away as Corpus Christi, Texas and bring the goods overland. 

In the battles of Veracruz, Santa Ana returned from retirement, becoming something of a hero after he was wounded and lost his left leg after having his horse shot out from under him.  This set the stage for his role in the Mexican-American War, just seven years later.

Eventually, both sides tired of the conflict, so Mexico agreed to pay the 600,000 pesos and France agreed to stop the embargo.  Naturally, Mexico borrowed the funds. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Twofer?

It sounds childish and naive today, but there once was a time not that long ago when most people generally believed and trusted their government.  The notion that elected officials would actually lie to the public would have been rejected by almost everyone. 

I'm not sure, but perhaps this was because—to my generation, the postwar baby boom generation—the government was run by the Greatest Generation:  the people who had defeated the Nazis in World War II.  It was a generation that was easier to trust.

On more than a few occasions, I have teased Professor Grumbles for his ignorance of economics.  A movie enthusiast, all the good professor knows about economics is what he picked up from watching Frank Capra movies:  a fantasy world where all the business men are evil Mr. Potters and banks exist only to cheat the working man and to foreclose on widows and orphans.

Truthfully, in my own way, I am just as guilty as Professor Grumbles, for while I know better, I still want to believe that every politician is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  I want to believe that no matter how corrupt the candidate, once the election is over, the weight and importance of the job will descend upon the newly-elected and a change will take place whereby he becomes worthy of the high ideals I want to believe exist—if only because they are the things worth believing in.

Unfortunately for me, it was difficult to live through the Sixties and hold on to such childish notions.  Even for a poor dumb ol' country boy, it was hard to escape reality during a decade that was all but engineered to be the end of innocence.  Whether it was the Vietnam War, the Peace Movement, or an increasingly aggressive press, this was the generation that became all too aware of what the nightly news called the "Credibility Gap."

As a child, I must have been dumb as a post, for I think I was the last teenager in America to realize the truth, but eventually, even I wised up.  One day in school, there was a mandatory viewing of a drug film—part of the endless campaign against the evils of marijuana.  I wish I could remember the name of the film, but the plot was easy to follow.  A sailor fell in with evil companions while on shore leave and smoked a dreaded marijuana cigarette.  Months later, the sailor was back on duty aboard an aircraft carrier, where his job was to help provide radar data so planes 9could safely land.  During a violent storm and at a crucial moment, the sailor suddenly experienced the dreaded marijuana flashback, resulting in the fatal crash of the fighter plane onto the deck of the carrier.

All over the room, people suddenly sat up and looked at each other—a marijuana flashback?  A twofer?  How do you get two hits for the price of one joint?  Hell, at that point, I had never tried marijuana, but even I knew that was bullshit.

For me, that was the first crack in the dam.  Once I started doubting, however, it wasn't long until I began to doubt everything in government.  By the time Watergate was over, I was the full-fledged curmudgeon who writes this blog today.

There was one last attempt by the young, in 1972, to reestablish ideals.  The youth of America helped select a Democratic candidate who, in retrospect, could not possibly be elected.  Their enthusiasm highjacked the primary process and dismayed the party regulars who, after suffering a major defeat, changed the delegate selection rules to insure that such political antics would be impossible in the future, thus guaranteeing that elections would be far from free and far "better" controlled.

This was a painful lesson for the country to learn, and the generation that lived through this period was changed forever.  The very idea of believing in an honest government became standard fodder for talk-show comedians.  A new, and far more cynical age, was upon us.

And politicians did their best to perpetuate the loss of trust.  In swift order we had presidents who, though they promised not to lie, swore they couldn't remember details under oath, or lied to grand juries.    And no one expected anything different from them:  they were simply validating what we already believed about them.

Which brings us to this election cycle.  Once again, a disaffected youth vote selected a presidential candidate who, though perhaps unelectable, nevertheless reflected ideals that were worth believing in, even it they were both naive and impractical.  Millions flocked to support a candidate for the first time in their lives..and the rules established forty-four years ago immediately stopped this campaign cold. 

Millions of voters learned that the election was rigged, that winning the most votes didn't necessarily produce the most delegates, and that the entire process was a sham.  A candidate favored by the status quo has been selected—regardless of the will of the people.  Though there is ample proof of the effort to subvert an election, no one currently is facing criminal charges.

Once again, an entire generation has been taught that being idealistic and naively innocent  carries the high price of disillusionment.  Another generation has been taught to distrust both our government—and those who aspire to run it.