Originally published 03/15/2013
In school, most of us learned a couple of facts about America’s evolving imperial ambitions and the Spanish-American War of 1898: the sinking of the battleship Maine in Cuba, the Roughrider charge up San Juan Hill led by Teddy Roosevelt, and Commodore George Dewey’s sinking of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. But the ensuing, bloody Philippine-American War of 1899 to 1902 is usually neglected in most standard history courses.Within months of the victory over Spain, the American “liberation” of the Filipino population from Spanish colonial despotism became an American war against the Filipino independence movement and for conquest of the islands. After suffering overwhelming defeats in conventional battles, the Filipino revolutionaries adopted guerilla warfare tactics, and the U.S. forces responded with brutality. In what General Frederick Funston labeled a “nasty little war” as soldiers randomly fired into villages, burned homes and crops, summarily executed perceived enemies, tortured combatants and civilians with techniques such as a form of water boarding, and committed other atrocities. More than four thousand U.S. troops died in the Philippines war, whereas fewer than four hundred Americans died in the Spanish-American War -- “a splendid little war,” according to Secretary of State John Hay.