By Jim Zwick (February 4, 1999). Copyright © 1999 Jim Zwick. All rights reserved.
The centennials of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War have led to a long-needed reexamination of Philippine and U.S. history. Only in March of 1998 did the U.S. Library of Congress finally abandon its antiquated "Philippine Insurrection" subject category in favor of two new ones: "Philippine Revolution, 1896-1898" and "Philippine-American War, 1899-1902." But as the Philippine Daily Inquirer's editorial of Feb. 4 pointed out, the Revolution continued beyond 1898, and the war lasted much longer than three years.
I first came upon these problems while researching Mark Twain's writings on the war. He wrote the satirical story "The War Prayer" in 1905, and in March of 1906 he wrote a scathing indictment of the U.S. troops who massacred 900 Muslim Filipinos -- men, women and children -- at Bud Dajo. The Filipinos were trapped in the volcanic crater and fired upon for four days from the heights above until all were reported killed (one young girl survived). Twain continued to comment on the war and U.S. imperialism until at least 1908, but the events of those years that inspired his writings were not covered in any history of the war I could find.
Although the war was never declared in the first place, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declared it over on July 4, 1902. The date was not only symbolic but politically expedient. Less than a week before the U.S. senate had concluded embarrassing hearings that delved into U.S. Army atrocities during the war. The hearings included testimony by soldiers about use of the "water cure" torture and Gen. Jacob Smith's order to "kill and burn" and turn Samar into a "howling wilderness." Roosevelt was faced with growing domestic opposition to the already unpopular war. If it was over, the revelations of atrocities would no longer be politically relevant.
But the war continued, and further denials of its existence were necessary. On November 26, 1902, the Philippine Commission passed a "Brigandage Act" that defined any further resistance to U.S. rule as "banditry." As Orlino Ochosa has discussed in his book, "Bandoleros": Outlawed Guerrillas of the Philippine-American War, 1903-1907, the last holdouts among the Filipino officers on the northern front were hanged as bandits in 1907. Their deaths provided the U.S. with the opportunity to establish the Philippine Assembly that year. Its creation had been delayed until "pacification" was complete in the northern islands. But that wasn't the end, either.
The war had a second front that is rarely recognized in U.S. or Filipino scholarship. Warfare with the Muslim Filipinos was avoided in 1899 through the Bates Agreement which promised them autonomy in exchange for recognition of nominal U.S. rule. Once the warfare in the north began to subside, the U.S. abrogated that agreement in 1903 and commenced military operations aimed at exerting full U.S. control over the southern islands. Two of the worst massacres of the war took place in the south in 1906 and 1913 (about 500 Muslim Filipinos were reported killed at Bud Bagsak in June 1913), and Moro Province remained under U.S. military government until the end of December 1913.
It is true that the U.S. established stable colonial control of the northern islands while the war in the south was taking place. But to accept that the Philippine-American War ended any earlier than December 1913 would seem to require complete dismissal of the U.S. military's divide and conquer strategy that took advantage of still existing divisions within the Philippine population.
During the centennial we should also examine the later years of the war. It had a devastating impact on a truly national scale in the Philippines, and it was not only America's "first Vietnam" but the longest war in U.S. history.
Jim Zwick is the author of Militarism and Repression in the Philippines (1982), the editor of Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War (1992), and has published articles about the Anti-Imperialist League and Mark Twain's anti-imperialist writings in Amerasia Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Over Here: Reviews in American Studies (UK), the Mark Twain Journal, Filipinas Magazine, and elsewhere. From 1989 to 1994 he also edited the FFP Bulletin published by Friends of the Filipino People.