By Contributor on February 04, 2012

By Emil Guillermo

Feb. 4 marks the anniversary of a war America won — but doesn’t care to crow about. When the memory only produces shame and regret, you can understand why.

Such is the fate of the Philippine-American War, otherwise known as the Philippine Insurrection, which began on Feb. 4, 1899. It’s a reminder of a time when America’s dreams of imperial greatness got in the way of its democratic values.

Independent film director John Sayles made a movie about it last year called “Amigo.” On a scant $1.5 million budget, Sayles showed a humanistic vision of the war as seen through the eyes of Filipinos in one village and how they deal with the occupation by U.S. soldiers. How does one collaborate without betraying the nationalist rebels, many of whom are family?

But “Amigo” faded fast. So, here’s a little background:

The war started in a Manila suburb, when American soldiers shot at “the goo-goos,” one of the many offensive terms U.S. soldiers used for the Filipinos, and indicative of the racist tone in the war. The nationalists returned fire, and the sequel to the Spanish-American War was under way.

Insurrection doesn’t begin to describe the full-fledged war that lasted three years, with more than 100,000 Americans involved. Depending on the accounts you read, the Filipino civilian death toll ranged from 250,000 to as high as 1 million, counting those who died from disease or starvation.

The war was an American betrayal. Nationalists, under Emilio Aguinaldo, had broken off from Spain and, relying heavily on a promise of U.S. support during the Spanish-American War, started their own independent republic in 1898 — the first in Asia. That promise was broken when the McKinley administration sought the Philippines as a colony and tapped into a new patriotic fervor for American Imperialism.

Some historians believe McKinley instigated the Philippine-American War to gain support in Congress to ratify the Treaty of Paris. That’s where the U.S. dealt with Spain directly, cutting out the new Philippine leadership. Instead of becoming the independent country it had hoped for, the Philippines was ceded by Spain to the United States for $20 million. Aguinaldo went from president to insurrectionist, just like that.

The idea of winning “hearts and minds” and the use of waterboarding had their origins in this war.

We’re still dealing with those legacies today.

Emil Guillermo is an award-winning American Filipino journalist who writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund www.aaldef.org/blog. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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