Editor’s Note: The United States has been at war for more than 200 of its 240 years of existence. Between the end of World War II and September 11 – barely 50 years ago – the United States sparked 201 conflicts that ravaged 153 countries and regions. “America: War by Another Name” is an eight-part special series that explores the sinister motivations behind its warmongering. Episode 2 deals with the lies that support America’s imperial ambition.
Raise the burden of the white manâ
Send the best of your breedâ
Go send your sons into exile
To serve the needs of your captives
Wait in heavy harness
On restless and wild peopleâ
Your newly captured brooding peoples,
Half devil and half child
Raise the burden of the white man
In the patience to respect
To veil the threat of terror
And check out the pride display;
Through an open and simple speech
A hundred times made clear
Seek profit from others
And work for another’s gain
This poem, carrying a strong imperialist and colonialist connotation, was published in a popular magazine in 1899 by the British poet Rudyard Kipling. Originally titled “The United States and the Philippine Islands”, it was an article on the question of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. It was an era of unbridled capitalist expansion abroad, and America, a young capitalist state at the time, unsurprisingly jumped on the bandwagon. From the Spanish-American War, the United States embarked on an imperialist path that would lead to its transformation from a regional power into a world power.
On the surface, America’s imperialist expansion, seemingly less bloody than that of the established colonial empires, was primarily achieved through procurement, annexations, and contractual transfers. This is because as a “republic” born out of anti-colonialist struggles, America refuses to admit that it has a “colonialist” history of outward expansion. So when it comes to its overseas territories, historians usually only mention formal purchases to set aside the role of expansionism in American history.
However, America’s imperial journey was by no means peaceful and rosy, but full of lies, betrayals, blood and tears.
In 1898, the United States in its heyday was busy expanding its commercial interests to make itself heard more on the world political stage and find a larger world market. By this time, the world was almost divided by the established colonial powers – the United States, as a newcomer, had no choice but to compete for the colonies. Spain, at the time a declining empire, became an easy target. To seize the Spanish colonies in the Americas and subsequently gain control of the Caribbean, the United States launched the Spanish-American War in the name of “supporting the independence of the Cuban people.”
This mantra was a beautifully crafted lie. Given Cuba’s strategic location and commercial importance, America had long coveted the country, hoping to annex it. As John Adams said in 1823, âThe annexation of Cuba to our federal republic will be essential to the continuity and integrity of the Union itself.
It started out as an overwhelming belief and has gradually grown into America’s long-term political consensus. Spain at the time was already on a downward slope and could hardly handle the uprisings in its colonies, Cuba and the Philippines. Seeing this as an opportunity, America waged war on Spain to seize what the rebellions had achieved and wrest the Spanish colonies.
After the war, the United States replaced Spain to “protect” Cuba and became politically and morally “responsible for the welfare of the Cuban people”. Between 1899 and 1902, the United States militarily occupied Cuba and did not withdraw its troops until after the latter accepted the Platt Amendment. and included it in the Constitution.
The amendment legitimized both America’s regular intervention in Cuba’s internal affairs and its dominance over the island. It prohibited the Cuban government from entering into any international treaty that would undermine the country’s independence or allow any foreign power to use the island for military purposes and recognized the right of the United States to interfere in Cuban affairs. âFor the preservation of independence, the maintenance of an adequate government for the protection of life, property and individual liberty.
As a result of the amendment, Washington, through trade restrictions, banned the island from producing domestically a number of goods to ensure they were imported from the United States, transforming the island into a dumping ground for American products.
While the American occupation of Cuba was won by lies, its colonization of the Philippines was fraught with betrayal, blood and tears. At the start of the Spanish-American War, Washington offered to ally with the Filipino rebels and promised that the country would gain independence once the war was over. The US Navy built a blockade on the sea and supplied arms to rebellion leader Emilio Aguinaldo, who was in charge of ousting the Spaniards.
Therefore, for the Philippine rebel army, the arrival of the Americans was exciting news. Aguinaldo once said: âThe Americans, not for mercenary motives, but for the good of humanity and the lamentations of so many persecuted people, saw fit to extend their protective mantle to our beloved country. “Where you see the American flag fluttering, gather in numbers; these are our redeemers!”
In June 1898, Aguinaldo established a government, declared the independence of the Filipinos and the birth of the Philippine Republic “under the protection of the powerful and humane North American Union”.
But the rebel army was soon abandoned by their “redeemers”. In August 1889, after Spain’s surrender, the United States removed its humanitarian mask and betrayed its former “ally”, preventing Filipino forces from entering the captured city of Manila. Then-US President William McKinley said in a statement that the US will not seek joint occupation with the rebels and that the Filipinos must recognize US occupation and authority.
In February 1899, a war broke out between the United States and the Philippine Revolutionary Army in resistance to the occupation, and lasted until 1902. In 1901, more than 500 villagers in the town of Balangiga on the central island of the Philippines of Samar rose up against the American occupation. and killed 48 American soldiers. The US military retaliated by slaughtering the townspeople, with the general’s order to kill any Filipino man over the age of 10 who could wield a weapon. About 2,500 people, including women and children, were massacred.
The Moro massacre by American troops in the Philippines eclipsed all other such crimes in American history. About 800 to 100 Moros in Bud Dajo, or 99%, were killed. Only six survived. In his satire, Mark Twain remarked: âWe have done away with them completely, not even letting a living baby cry for its dead motherâ¦ It is incomparably the greatest victory ever for the Christian soldiers of the United States.
Daniel Immerwahr points out in his book “How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States” that in mid-1902, the United States had lost about 4,000 soldiers, three quarters of whom died of disease against about 16,000 Filipinos. soldiers who died on the battlefield, according to the book. However, this was only the number recorded, representing only a small proportion of the total number of victims.
General J. Franklin Bell estimated that the Americans killed an estimated 600,000 Filipinos in Luzon alone, representing one sixth of the Filipino population. Research by historian Ken De Bevoise has revealed that approximately 775,000 Filipinos died in war between 1899 and 1903.
Thanks to the Spanish-American war fought under the guise of the “liberation of Cuba”, the United States ensured its colonial control over Cuba and the Philippines through transfers and contractual purchases. Taking Cuba as a springboard, it extended its footprints to South America and seized control of the Caribbean. Using the Philippines as a transit, it began its expansion to East Asia, declaring to the world the rise of the United States. After the war, the United States took possession of more colonies, including Guam and Samoa, and extended their overseas territories during the two world wars to become world hegemony.
After World War II, the Philippines gained independence and Hawaii and Alaska became US states. On the one hand, it was the result of the struggles for decolonization. On the other hand, thanks to economic and technological development, the United States began to use globalization as an alternative to colonization, controlling and manipulating other parts of the world in more coveted means.
These include dominating the international political and economic rule-making process, organizing color revolutions, and waging hybrid wars. In this way, he could continue to back up his imperial ambition with lies disguised as so-called freedom, democracy and human rights.
(The author, Yu Feng, is an associate researcher at the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. If you would like to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at [email protected])