U.S.'s imperial roots
by John Alan
President George W. Bush made a brief state visit to the Philippines to reward its president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for supporting the U.S. war on terror. Bush told his hosts that the U.S. had "liberated the Philippines from colonial rule." This claim is not just a revision of history but an outright falsification of the history of the Filipino struggle for freedom.
Toward the end of the 19th century, during the administration of President William McKinley, American capitalism discovered that, in the words of Senator Albert Beveridge in 1897, "American factories are making more than the American people can use; American soil is producing more than they can consume. Fate has written our policy for us; the trade of the world must and shall be ours." This senator, indirectly, was expressing an ideology that American capitalism had to expand aggressively and take over the world market. It was embraced by the upper ranks of the armed forces, politicians and businessmen.
THE TAKEOVER OF CUBA, THE PHILIPPINES
The most attractive areas for U.S. capitalism's expansion were the two colonies of the Spanish Empire, Cuba and the Philippines. Cuba was rebelling against Spanish domination at the same time that American capitalism invested an estimated $30 to $50 million in Cuba's plantations, railroads and mines. The U.S.S. Maine, a warship the U.S. sent to Cuba to protect its property, exploded because of what is now known to be an internal malfunction. The U.S., however, blamed the Spanish and Congress declared war on Spain in 1898.
President George W. Bush should note: while the majority of Americans supported the Cuban people's struggle against Spanish colonialism, President McKinley never officially recognized the Cuban insurgents, or gave them aid. According to some historians, McKinley feared that if he supported them they would become strong enough to win and keep the U.S. out of Cuba.
The U.S. also had another grave fear. More than two-fifths of the Cuban military forces in the field were Afro-Cubans. Those men, if they won the war, would demand a share in the government and the result would be a new Haiti, whose revolution against France in 1804 led to a first nation governed by Blacks in the New World.
Thus McKinley never seriously considered a free and independent Cuba. Once they drove out Spain, the U.S. established a military government for a short period, after which the U.S. imposed a new form of colonialism on Cuba. Cuba was forced to incorporate in its new constitution a so-called "protectorate provision'' known as the Platt Amendment. It stipulated that Cuba could not enter into treaties or financial agreements with any other country and gave the U.S. the right to intervene at any time. In other words, once Cuba ceased to be Spain's colony it was transformed into an American colony.
The taste of empire was in the mouth of American capitalism. It was whetted by the 1898 peace treaty Spain signed, to officially turn over to the U.S. Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines for a payment of $20 million.
IMPERIALIST LIES, THEN...AND NOW
Contrary to President Bush's claim that the U.S. "liberated the Philippines," the U.S. actually BOUGHT the Philippines, at a cheap price, from an old decayed empire. President McKinley attempted to hide this shabby transaction by saying: "We could not leave them by themselves--they were unfit for self government--and would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain."
McKinley's fear of "misrule" by Filipinos meant that the U.S. opposed a movement for Philippines independence headed by Emilio Aguinaldo during the period of Spanish colonial rule. Condoleezza Rice should have told Bush about the bloody war--1899 to 1903--that the U.S. military waged against those Filipinos who opposed U.S. colonialism. The U.S. gave no quarter in this anti-guerrilla war. Villages were burned, prisoners were tortured and innocent people were killed. The Filipino casualties were 20,000 (though some historians place the figure at 100,000) while 4,000 Americans were killed.
African Americans equated the barbarism of the U.S. forces in the Philippines with the barbarism of racism they were experiencing in America. Many African Americans thought that it was hypocrisy of the worst kind to kill Filipinos for the purpose of "good government" while the U.S.'s own government did not prosecute the lynchings of African Americans or other practices of racism within the United States. This hypocrisy caused African Americans to create a mass anti-imperialist movement within the African-American community, which coincided with the white anti-imperialist movement.
This struggle against U.S. imperialism and for full liberation at home did not end with the acquisition of the Philippines, but, as Raya Dunayevskaya points out in AMERICAN CIVILIZATION ON TRIAL, continues as an essential struggle that has been going on for a century. Lying about history is part of Bush's lies about the present U.S. imperial reach, by which real forces for self-determination and democracy cannot be fooled.
Published by News and Letters Committees