Historian Paul Kramer, in his new book "The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines" (University of North Carolina Press), details the long-forgotten history of the Philippine-American war and the 40-year occupation that followed.He
argues that the Philippine adventure in many ways "rhymes" with the current U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.Among the "eerier similarities," said Kramer, professor of history at The Johns Hopkins University:
"I'm not surprised at these parallels," Kramer
said."Indeed, what's remarkable is our persistence in suppressing the memory of this earlier war, a persistence that I think is all that makes debacles like the present one 'surprising.'"
The U.S. experience in Vietnam is another example of the nation's inability to focus on the lessons of the Philippine-American War, he
"In all three conflicts," Kramer
said, "U.S. officials predicted easy victories, underestimated guerrilla forces and, arrogantly assuming their objectives were universally shared, were shocked when U.S. troops were not greeted as 'liberators.'"Kramer describes in "The Blood of Government," to be published April 17, how the Philippine-American War began in the unsettled aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the 1898 conflict that Secretary of State John Hay dubbed "a splendid little war."
Dewey's Pacific Squadron quickly defeated Spanish naval forces at Manila Bay, but the question remained, Kramer
said, how U.S. forces should engage with a Philippine revolutionary movement that broke from Spain in June 1898 and declared the first republic in Asia.
It would in no sense be either "splendid" or "little," Kramer
Despite military censorship, word of U.S. atrocities traveled back home and was spread by anti-war activists organized into an Anti-Imperialist League, Kramer
538-page book deals both with the invasion and the occupation, telling of the first-ever attempt by U.S. forces to engage in overseas "nation-building" in collaboration with a local elite, even in the midst of ongoing violence.
"I did most of the research long before 9/11 or the U.S. invasion of Iraq," Kramer
said, "and in many ways I was overtaken by the eruption of a new, aggressive imperial moment just as I was completing my manuscript on an eerily similar one just over a century ago."
"The challenge," he
said, "has been to remain true to the idiosyncrasy and integrity of the past while trying to comment subtly and critically on the present: to allow the past and present to touch without subordinating my account of the earlier U. S. invasion to the questions being asked of the present conflict."