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Forum Post: The African-American Connection to the Philippines

Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 18, 2013, 4:27 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The African-American Connection to the Philippines

Monday, 18 February 2013 12:46 By Bill Fletcher, Jr., The Michigan Citizen | Op-Ed


Although the Spanish-American War (1898) is a well-known episode in U.S. history, few of us know that immediately following the end of hostilities with Spain, the USA initiated a war of colonization against the Philippines. Interestingly, Black America figured into this war in a very odd way.

The U.S. claimed the Philippines as a trophy from their war with Spain. The problem is that before the U.S. military arrived in the Philippines, there was a very successful insurrection underway by the Filipinos, an insurrection that was nearing victory. The Philippine rebels believed the U.S. had arrived to assist in the final push against the Spanish. Instead, the U.S. troops turned against the Filipino rebels and embarked on what can only be understood to have been a racist, genocidal war aimed at subjugating the archipelago.

The war started Feb. 2, 1899.

Black America found itself in an odd place at that moment. Reconstruction in the South had been defeated by White supremacist forces and African Americans were in the process of becoming disenfranchised as Jim Crow segregation was emerging as the law of the former Confederacy. In order to prove ourselves worthy of full citizenship, many African Americans volunteered to fight Spain in 1898, and later went to the Philippines to fight a population they had been led to believe were heathens.

The U.S. war against the Philippines was one atrocity after another, including indiscriminate killings and the use of a torture technique that we have come to know as water-boarding. Entire cities were destroyed, such as Iloilo on Panay Island. And in this setting the Filipinos were not only demonized, but racially demonized, with White soldiers referring to the Filipinos as “n——” as they went about murdering them.

The overtly racist side to this conflict became apparent to African American soldiers, resulting in demoralization as well as some desertions. The most famous — or from the standpoint of the white military, most infamous — was that of Army corporal David Fagen. Fagen abandoned the U.S. military and went to fight on the side of the Filipinos against his country. In fact, Fagen became an officer in the Filipino guerrilla army. This so infuriated the U.S. military that they put a price on his head. Although there were claims that Fagen was killed, it was never proven. In either, case he never surrendered and was never captured. The war lasted until at least 1902, though skirmishes continued well past that.

The week following Feb. 2 has become, for many Filipino activists, Philippine Solidarity Week. It is a time to remember that the U.S. colonized the Philippines and held it in subjugation until 1946 at which point the country received nominal independence but actually became a neo-colony of the U.S. Struggles for genuine independence have continued through today, including an insurrection led by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The U.S. government, including under President Obama, supports government after government in the Philippines that serve the interests of the USA. More to the point, such governments either directly engage in human rights abuses or turn a blind eye to such abuses including what are politely called “extra-judicial killings” — i.e., political murders — aimed at opponents and dissenters.

African Americans, both at the birth of the 20th century and today, have had a connection with the Philippines. Soldiers and civilians, in 1899, were aware that the war was one of aggression and in many cases were prepared to speak out. As the U.S. of the 21st century seeks to further militarize the Philippines and block efforts to peacefully settle the long-standing civil war, we, once again, need to be prepared to speak up. And, in so doing, remember the moral dilemma faced and answered by David Fagen more than a century ago.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.


"Kill Anything That Moves" Military Doctrine Began in Vietnam

Monday, 18 February 2013 00:00 By Nick Turse, Metropolitan Books | Book Excerpt


The visceral horror of what happened at My Lai is undeniable. On the evening of March 15, 1968, members of the Americal Division's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, were briefed by their commanding officer, Captain Ernest Medina, on a planned operation the next day in an area they knew as "Pinkville." As unit member Harry Stanley recalled, Medina "ordered us to 'kill everything in the village.' " Infantryman Salvatore LaMartina remembered Medina's words only slightly differently: they were to "kill everything that breathed." What stuck in artillery forward observer James Flynn's mind was a question one of the other soldiers asked: "Are we supposed to kill women and children?" And Medina's reply: "Kill everything that moves." The next morning, the troops clambered aboard helicopters and were airlifted into what they thought would be a "hot LZ"— a landing zone where they'd be under hostile fire. As it happened, though, instead of finding Vietnamese adversaries spoiling for a fight, the Americans entering My Lai encountered only civilians: women, children, and old men. Many were still cooking their breakfast rice. Nevertheless, Medina's orders were followed to a T. Soldiers of Charlie Company killed. They killed everything. They killed everything that moved. Advancing in small squads, the men of the unit shot chickens as they scurried about, pigs as they bolted, and cows and water buffalo lowing among the thatch-roofed houses. They gunned down old men sitting in their homes and children as they ran for cover. They tossed grenades into homes without even bothering to look inside. An officer grabbed a woman by the hair and shot her point-blank with a pistol. A woman who came out of her home with a baby in her arms was shot down on the spot. As the tiny child hit the ground, another GI opened up on the infant with his M-16 automatic rifle. Over four hours, members of Charlie Company methodically slaughtered more than five hundred unarmed victims, killing some in ones and twos, others in small groups, and collecting many more in a drainage ditch that would become an infamous killing ground. They faced no opposition. They even took a quiet break to eat lunch in the midst of the carnage. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systematically burned homes, and fouled the area's drinking water.

In hundreds of incident summaries and sworn statements in the War Crimes Working Group files, veterans laid bare what had occurred in the backlands of rural Vietnam— the war that Americans back home didn't see nightly on their televisions or read about over morning coffee. A sergeant told investigators how he had put a bullet, point-blank, into the brain of an unarmed boy after gunning down the youngster's brother; an army ranger matter-of-factly described slicing the ears off a dead Vietnamese and said that he planned to continue mutilating corpses. Other files documented the killing of farmers in their fields and the rape of a child carried out by an interrogator at an army base. Reading case after case— like the incident in which a lieutenant "captured two unarmed and unidentified Vietnamese males, estimated ages 2– 3 and 7– 8 years . . . and killed them for no reason"— I began to get a sense of the ubiquity of atrocity during the American War.

Some of the veterans I tried to contact wanted nothing to do with my questions, almost instantaneously slamming down the phone receiver. But most were willing to speak to me, and many even seemed glad to talk to someone who had a sense of the true nature of the war. In homes from Maryland to California, across kitchen tables and in marathon four-hour telephone calls, scores of former soldiers and marines opened up about their experiences. Some had little remorse; an interrogator who'd tortured prisoners, for instance, told me that his actions were merely standard operating procedure. Another veteran, whispering so that his family wouldn't overhear, adamantly insisted that, though he'd been present at a massacre of civilians, he hadn't pulled the trigger, no matter what his fellow unit members said. Then there was the veteran who swore that he knew nothing about civilians being killed, only to later recount an incident in which someone in his unit shot an unarmed woman in the back. And yet another former GI ruefully recounted how, walking through a Vietnamese village, he had spun around when a local woman chattered angrily at him (probably complaining about the commotion that the troops were causing) and driven the butt of his rifle into her nose. He remembered walking away, laughing, as blood poured from the woman's face. Decades later, he could no longer imagine how his nineteen-year-old self had done such a thing, nor could I easily connect this jovial man to that angry adolescent with a brutal streak.



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[-] 1 points by Middleaged (5140) 5 years ago

Good post. We all need to see what war is. How it dehumanizes. We have to see all the effects/costs on people, their lives, their way of life, their economy, their kids & wives.

Maybe we can't stop all war in the world. But we could stop starting wars in countries that can never send a missile to our country, stop wars against countries without navies and without armies to reach our shores. We could stop selling weapons and providing money for weapons to other countries.

We send young people to war and forever they are changed. It is a way of militarizing our people. You could say sending our forces to foreign lands is part of a "Strategy of Tension" ... just like operation gladio. And operation to get people to be more conservative and right wing.


[-] 1 points by Theeighthpieceuv8 (-32) from Seven Sisters, Wales 5 years ago

There is a Spanish history of trade with China via the Philippines that predates Pershing by a few hundred years; I'm not really sure what your point is.


[-] -2 points by derain (-178) 5 years ago

"African-American", stupid p.c. term