Iraq And The Philippines


Douthat compared the two American occupations in his column yesterday, which provoked some chin scratching by Matt Yglesias and Daniel Larison. Spencer Ackerman does the best job of explaining why the historical parallel doesn't fit:

[T]he hinge point in U.S.-Philippine history -- what yielded the friendship and closeness that the two nations presently enjoy -- was the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. What the Japanese inflicted upon the Philippines and its people was by orders of magnitude far worse than anything the U.S. ever dared. You probably know the rest: MacArthur declares he Shall Return; he does; the battle of Leyte Gulf is one of the largest in the history of naval warfare; we drive the Japanese from the Philippines; the amount of gratitude is overwhelming; a partnership has been our inheritance ever since.
Laying a wreath on graves at Arlington or saying that a very small contingent of U.S. troops might be able to stay after 2011 isn't the same thing. There's cheap anti-Americanism in Philippine politics -- particularly over military bases like the Subic Bay facility -- but the Japanese occupation transformed the ways in which (to be extremely reductive for the sake of a blog post) Filipinos view Americans so that it's a marginal view that the Philippines ought to jettison its relations with the U.S. In Iraq, there's a significant and multifaceted political current saying that. Time might change all that. But these are really rather different cases. When Iran invades Iraq, starts massacring people to an overwhelming degree, and then the U.S. invades, drives out Iran and saves the day, then we can talk.

It's worth noting too that the Philippine war was the last one before the Bush-Cheney era in which US troops routinely committed atrocities and Cheney-style torture, including water-boarding:

U.S. attacks into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns where entire villages were burned and destroyed, torture (water cure) and the concentration of civilians into “protected zones” (concentration camps). Many of the civilian casualties resulted from disease and famine.

(Photo: Filipino casualties on the first day of Philippine-American War. Original caption is 'Filipino soldiers dead just as they fell in the trench near Santa Ana, February 5th. The trench was circular, and the picture shows but a small portion.')