A war connived at by a cabal of right-wing warmongers in Washington, an occupation resulting in the deaths of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of local inhabitants. Surely this catastrophic blunder by the Bush administration is unprecedented in American history.
George F. Kennan, in his lecture series, later published in book form, American Diplomacy 1900-1950, outlines the causes of the Spanish American War, which had nothing to do with the security of the United States and everything to do with an ambitious assistant secretary of the Navy.
Spain, Kennan explains, had done virtually everything reasonably possible to comply with American demands, but a small, vocal cabal of warmongers, or jingoists, as they were then known, capitalized on the sinking of the battleship Maine, which the Spanish had nothing to do with, to incite the nation to war.
“Thus our government, to the accompaniment of great congressional and popular acclaim, inaugurated hostilities against another country in a situation of which it can only be said that the possibilities of settlement by measures short of war had by no means been exhausted.”
So Congress passed a resolution authorizing the president to use force to expel the Spanish from Cuba. Eleven days later, Admiral George Dewey attacked and destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. Okay, that could have been to prevent the Spanish fleet from attacking the US.
But why did the US send an army to occupy the Philippines, since any threat from the Spanish had been removed? Our occupation of the islands was as disastrous as our occupation of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people died with no benefit whatever to the United States.
I urge you to read Kennan’s account in its entirety, because it’s rather complicated. But here are some excerpts:
“We know that Theodore Roosevelt, who was the young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, had long felt we ought to take the Philippines; that he wangled Dewey’s appointment to the command of the Asiatic fleet; that both he and Dewey wanted war; and that he had some sort of a prior understanding with Dewey to the effect that Dewey would attack Manila, regardless of the circumstances of the origin or the purpose of the war.”
“And we can only say that it looks very much as though, in this case, the action of the United States government had been determined primarily on the basis of a very able intrigue by a few strategically placed persons in Washington, an intrigue which received absolution, forgiveness, and a sort of public blessing by virtue of war hysteria.”
And so, for the first time in history, the United States flag was planted in conquest, and we acquired territory with no intention of extending citizenship to its inhabitants. We claimed to be liberators, but became occupiers, causing terrible, needless slaughter. All to further one man’s political ambitions.