Obama snubs Duterte at end of Laos Summit after Filipino President Rightly Blames U.S. for Killing his Ancestors*
Filipino casualties on the first day of Philippine-American War. Original caption is ‘Insurgent dead just as they fell in the trench near Santa Ana, February 5th. The trench was circular, and the picture shows but a small portion.’
By Ananya Roy
Philippines President Duterte expresses ‘regret’ for comments on Obama. Before signing off from The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit on Thursday (9 September) night, U.S. President Barack Obama apparently snubbed his Filipino counterpart Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier called him ‘a son of a b***h’.
TAP – He actually called Obama son of a whore – ‘putang ina’ – which is in fact correct. Obama was the son of a prostitute, and there are plenty of pictures of her on the internet. Obama was clearly deeply affected. As they say, the truth hurts.
Obama went around shaking hands with all the leaders present at the final summit meeting in Vientiane, Laos, but avoided Duterte.
Obama’s reaction was reportedly triggered by yet another humiliating remark made by Duterte.
This time he reportedly veered off his prepared speech and took a dig at American soldiers, blaming them for killing his “ancestors”. Duterte says he didn’t insult Obama but thinks U.N.’s Ban Ki-Moon is a ‘fool’.
TAP – Americans indeed killed hundreds of thousands of poorly armed Filipinos and massacred unarmed Filipinos during the Filipino-American War. This fact is hidden from history as inconvenient. Well done to Duterte for bringing this matter up. It’s about time Filipinos woke up form their American dream. The American Army needlessly killed 1.5 million Filipinos and have covered up their atrocious behaviour ever since. The normal ratio of 1 killed to 5 wounded, typical of warfare, was reversed to 5 killed to one wounded. The Americans massacred every village they came across. Vietnam was a picnic compared to this little episode.
Earlier, Duterte had toned down his language following outrage against his blatant remarks and had even said he regretted swearing at the “most powerful president” of the world. Duterte’s remarks came after Obama raised concerns about the human rights violations allegedly being committed as part of the Philippine leader’s bloody drug war. A scheduled meeting between the two leaders was cancelled following the verbal spat.
On Thursday, Duterte raised the same topic again during an impromptu speech at the final summit meeting in Laos. An Indonesian diplomat present at the meeting, told Agence France Presse that Duterte veered off his prepared speech,
“showed a picture of the killings of American soldiers in the past”, and said: “This is my ancestor[s that] they killed. Why now we are talking about human rights.”
The diplomat said that the atmosphere at the gathering following Duterte’s statement was “quiet and shocked”. U.S. President Barack Obama snubbed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during the last meeting at the Laos summit. Later, while bidding farewell to all the leaders at the meeting, Obama shook hands with everyone, except Duterte, a source told GMA news network. However, Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr was quoted as saying that the two leaders missed a handshake as they just happened to walk in opposite directions at that time.
Following the cancellation of the scheduled first meeting between the two leaders, they were reported to have met informally on the sidelines of the summit. Obama is said to have shaken hands with Duterte then. The U.S. president was also quoted as saying earlier that he did not take Duterte’s comments personally.
From Liberators to Killers: American Attitudes toward Filipinos
The attitudes of American commanders involved in pacifying the Philippines are remarkable for both their disdain for the people they had allegedly “liberated” and their willingness to resort to the most ruthless methods in suppressing resistance. For example, General J.M. Bell, wrote in December 1901:
“I am now assembling in the neighbourhood of 2,500 men who will be used in columns of about fifty men each. I take so large a command for the purpose of thoroughly searching each ravine, valley and mountain peak for insurgents and for food, expecting to destroy everything I find outside of towns. All able bodied men will be killed or captured. … These people need a thrashing to teach them some good common sense; and they should have it for the good of all concerned.”
That same month, General Bell issued Circular Order No. 3 to all American commanders in the field:
Batangas, Dec. 9, 1901.
“To All Station Commanders:
A general conviction, which the brigade commander shares, appears to exist, that the insurrection in this brigade continues because the greater part of the people, especially the wealthy ones, pretend to desire, but in reality do not want, peace; that, when all really want peace, we can have it promptly. Under such circumstances it is clearly indicated that a policy should be adopted that will as soon as possible make the people want peace, and want it badly.
Commanding officers are urged and enjoined to use their discretion freely in adopting any or all measures of warfare authorized by this order which will contribute, in their judgment, toward enforcing the policy or accomplishing the purpose above announced. … No person should be given credit for loyalty solely on account of his having done nothing for or against us, so far as known. Neutrality should not be tolerated. Every inhabitant of this brigade should either be an active friend or be classed as an enemy….
Another dangerous class of enemies are wealthy sympathizers and contributors, who, though holding no official positions, use all their influence in support of the insurrection, and, while enjoying American protection for themselves, their families and property, secretly aid, protect, and contribute to insurgents. Chief and most important among this class of disloyal persons are native priests.
The same course should be pursued with all of this class; for, to arrest anyone believed to be guilty of giving aid or assistance to the insurrection in any way or of giving food or comfort to the enemies of the government, it is not necessary to wait for sufficient evidence to lead to conviction by a court, but those strongly suspected of complicity with the insurrection may be arrested and confined as a military necessity, and may be held indefinitely as prisoners of war, in the discretion of the station commander or until the receipt of other orders from higher authority. It will frequently be found impossible to obtain any evidence against persons of influence as long as they are at liberty; but, once confined, evidence is easily obtainable.”
Although few soldiers joined the anti-imperialist cause, their statements did sometimes provide ammunition for the opponents of annexation and war. In 1899, the Anti-Imperialist League published a pamphlet of Soldiers Letters, with the provocative subtitle: “Being Materials for a History of a War of Criminal Aggression.”
Even worse, perhaps, is the fact that the policies instituted by General Bell and other American commanders were endorsed by Secretary of War Elihu Root. In an amazing letter to the Senate dated May 7, 1902, Root argued that
“The War Department saw no reason to doubt that the policy embodied in the above-mentioned orders was at once the most effective and the most humane which could possibly be followed; and so, indeed, it has proved, guerrilla warfare in Batangas and Laguna and the adjacent regions has been ended, the authority of the United States has been asserted and acquiesced in, and the people who had been collected and protected in the camps of concentration have been permitted to return to their homes and resume their customary pursuits in peace. The War Department has not disapproved or interfered in any way with the orders giving effect to this policy; but has aided in their enforcement by directing an increase of food supply to the Philippines for the purpose of caring for the natives in the concentration camps.“
Like many of their officers, American troops also showed incredible callousness toward the Philippine civilian population. A man named Clarence Clowe described the situation as follows in a letter he wrote to Senator Hoar. The methods employed by American troops against civilians in an effort to find insurgent “arms and ammunition” include torture, beating, and outright killing.
At any time I am liable to be called upon to go out and bind and gag helpless prisoners, to strike them in the face, to knock them down when so bound, to bear them away from wife and children, at their very door, who are shrieking pitifully the while, or kneeling and kissing the hands of our officers, imploring mercy from those who seem not to know what it is, and then, with a crowd of soldiers, hold our helpless victim head downward in a tub of water in his own yard, or bind him hand and foot, attaching ropes to head and feet, and then lowering him into the depths of a well of water till life is well-nigh choked out, and the bitterness of a death is tasted, and our poor, gasping victims ask us for the poor boon of being finished off, in mercy to themselves.
All these things have been done at one time or another by our men, generally in cases of trying to obtain information as to the location of arms and ammunition.
Nor can it be said that there is any general repulsion on the part of the enlisted men to taking part in these doings. I regret to have to say that, on the contrary, the majority of soldiers take a keen delight in them, and rush with joy to the making of this latest development of a Roman holiday.
Another soldier, L. F. Adams, with the Washington regiment, described what he saw after the Battle of Manila on February 4-5, 1899:
“In the path of the Washington Regiment and Battery D of the Sixth Artillery there were 1,008 dead niggers, and a great many wounded. We burned all their houses. I don’t know how many men, women, and children the Tennessee boys did kill. They would not take any prisoners.”
Similarly, Sergeant Howard McFarland of the 43rd Infantry, wrote to the Fairfield Journal of Maine:
“I am now stationed in a small town in charge of twenty-five men, and have a territory of twenty miles to patrol…. At the best, this is a very rich country; and we want it. My way of getting it would be to put a regiment into a skirmish line, and blow every nigger into a nigger heaven. On Thursday, March 29, eighteen of my company killed seventy-five nigger bolo men and ten of the nigger gunners. When we find one that is not dead, we have bayonets.”
These methods were condoned by some back at home in the U.S., as exemplified by the statement of a Republican Congressman in 1909:
“You never hear of any disturbances in Northern Luzon; and the secret of its pacification is, in my opinion, the secret of pacification of the archipelago. They never rebel in northern Luzon because there isn’t anybody there to rebel. The country was marched over and cleaned in a most resolute manner. The good Lord in heaven only knows the number of Filipinos that were put under ground. Our soldiers took no prisoners, they kept no records; they simply swept the country, and wherever or whenever they could get hold of a Filipino they killed him. The women and children were spared, and may now be noticed in disproportionate numbers in that part of the island.”
The Example of Samar: A “Howling Wilderness”
Early in the morning on September 28, 1901 the residents of the small village of Balangiga (located in the Samar Province) attacked the men of U.S. Army Company C, Ninth U.S. Infantry, who were stationed in the area. While the Americans ate breakfast, church bells in the town began to peal. This was the signal for hundreds of Filipinos armed with machetes and bolos to attack the garrison. Forty-eight U.S. soldiers, two-thirds of the garrison, were butchered, in what is called the Balangiga Massacre. Of the Filipinos who attacked, as many as 150 were killed.
American troops began retaliating as soon as the next day by returning to Balangiga in force and burning the now abandoned village. General Jacob H. Smith, however, sought to punish the entire civilian population of the Samar province. Arriving in Samar himself toward the end of October, Smith charged Major Littleton Waller with responsibility for punishing the inhabitants of Samar. Smith issued Waller oral instructions concerning his duties. These were recounted as follows (see below) in Smith and Waller’s court martial proceedings the following year in 1902. These proceedings, indeed attention to the entire matter of U.S. Army conduct in the Philippines, were driven by the appearance of an interview with General Smith in the Manila Times on November 4, 1901. During this interview, Smith confirmed that these had truly been his orders to Major Waller.
“‘I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn: the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me,’ and, further, that he wanted all persons killed who were capable of bearing arms and in actual hostilities against the United States, and did, in reply to a question by Major Waller asking for an age limit, designate the limit as ten years of age. … General Smith did give instructions to Major Waller to ‘kill and burn’ and ‘make Samar a howling wilderness,’ and he admits that he wanted everybody killed capable of bearing arms, and that he did specify all over ten years of age, as the Samar boys of that age were equally as dangerous as their elders.”
Smith carried out his mission by having U.S. troops concentrate the local population into camps and towns. Areas outside of these camps and towns were designated “dead zones” in which those who were found would be considered insurgents and summarily executed. Tens of thousands of people were herded into these concentration camps. Disease was the biggest killer in the camps, although precisely how many lives were lost during Smith’s pacification operations is not known. For his part, Major Waller reported that over eleven days between the end of October and the middle of November 1901 his men burned 255 dwellings and killed 39 people. Other officers under Smith’s command reported similar figures. Concerning the overall number of dead, one scholar estimates that 8,344 people perished between January and April 1902.
The Death Toll of American Occupation
The overall cost in human lives of American actions in the Philippines was horrific. One scholar has concluded concerning the American occupation that
“In the fifteen years that followed the defeat of the Spanish in Manila Bay in 1898, more Filipinos were killed by U.S. forces than by the Spanish in 300 years of colonization. Over 1.5 million died out of a total population of 6 million.”
A detailed estimate of both civilian and American military dead is offered by historian John Gates, who sums up the subject as follows:
“Of some 125,000 Americans who fought in the Islands at one time or another, almost 4,000 died there. Of the non-Muslim Filipino population, which numbered approximately 6,700,000, at least 34,000 lost their lives as a direct result of the war, and as many as 200,000 may have died as a result of the cholera epidemic at the war’s end. The U. S. Army’s death rate in the Philippine-American War (32/1000) was the equivalent of the nation having lost over 86,000 (of roughly 2,700,000 engaged) during the Vietnam war instead of approximately 58,000 who were lost in that conflict. For the Filipinos, the loss of 34,000 lives was equivalent to the United States losing over a million people from a population of roughly 250 million, and if the cholera deaths are also attributed to the war, the equivalent death toll for the United States would be over 8,000,000. This war about which one hears so little was not a minor skirmish.”
Yet another estimate states,
“Philippine military deaths are estimated at 20,000 with 16,000 actually counted, while civilian deaths numbered between 250,000 and 1,000,000 Filipinos. These numbers take into account those killed by war, malnutrition, and a cholera epidemic that raged during the war.”
“The comparative figures of killed and wounded — nearly five killed to one wounded if we take only the official returns — are absolutely convincing. When we examine them in detail and find the returns quoted of many killed and often no wounded, only one conclusion is possible. In no war where the usages of civilized warfare have been respected has the number of killed approached the number of wounded more nearly than these figures. The rule is generally about five wounded to one killed. What shall we say of a war where the proportions are reversed?“
Investigating War Crimes: The U.S. Senate Investigating Committee
The United States Senate Investigating Committee on the Philippines was convened from January 31, 1902 after word of the Army’s Samar pacification campaign reached Washington via the Manila Times story of November 4, 1901. Chaired by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the committee heard testimony concerning crimes that had allegedly been committed by U.S. troops and officers in the Philippines. The policies behind the U.S. occupation were also examined.
For six months officers and political figures involved in the Philippine adventure, both pro and anti-imperialists, testified as to the brutal nature of American anti-insurgent operations. Although attempts were made to justify the amount of damage U.S. troops were doing, as well as the number of Filipino lives lost, the evidence provided by several individuals was damning.
Major Cornelius Gardener, for example, a West Point graduate and the U.S. Army’s Provincial Governor of the Tayabas province in the Philippines, submitted the following evidence via letter on April 10, 1902:
“Of late by reason of the conduct of the troops, such as the extensive burning of the barrios in trying to lay waste the country so that the insurgents cannot occupy it, the torturing of natives by so-called water cure and other methods, in order to obtain information, the harsh treatment of natives generally, and the failure of inexperienced, lately appointed Lieutenants commanding posts, to distinguish between those who are friendly and those unfriendly and to treat every native as if he were, whether or no, an insurrection at heart, this favourable sentiment above referred to is being fast destroyed and a deep hatred toward us engendered.
The course now being pursued in this province and in the Provinces of Batangas, Laguna, and Samar is in my opinion sowing the seeds for a perpetual revolution against us hereafter whenever a good opportunity offers. Under present conditions the political situation in this province is slowly retrograding, and the American sentiment is decreasing and we are daily making permanent enemies.”
The letters of American troops home to the U.S. were also introduced as evidence of war crimes. In this case, a letter written in November 1900 by one Sergeant Riley described an interrogation torture procedure used on Filipino captives:
“Arriving at Igbaras at daylight, we found everything peaceful; but it shortly developed that we were really “treading on a volcano.” The Presidente (or chief), the priest, and another leading man were assembled, and put on the rack of inquiry. The presidente evaded some questions, and was soon bound and given the “water cure“. This was done by throwing him on his back beneath a tank of water and running a stream into his mouth, a man kneading his stomach meanwhile to prevent his drowning. The ordeal proved a tongue-loosener, and the crafty old fellow soon begged for mercy and made full confession. … The presidente was asked for more information, and had to take a second dose of “water cure” before he would divulge.”
Committee proceedings adjourned on June 28, 1902. For two months after this the legal team presenting evidence for the committee compiled its report. This report was released on August 29, 1902 under the title Secretary Root’s Record: “Marked Severities” in Philippine Warfare, An Analysis of the Law and Facts Bearing on the Action and Utterances of President Roosevelt and Secretary Root. The report was a damning indictment of U.S. policy in the Philippines and the almost criminal conduct of the war by War Secretary Elihu Root, who multiple times had expressed support for the extreme measures implemented by the U.S. Army.
Altogether thirteen conclusions were drawn from the evidence, the most significant of which were:
- That the destruction of Filipino life during the war has been so frightful that it cannot be explained as the result of ordinary civilized warfare.
- That at the very outset of the war there was strong reason to believe that our troops were ordered by some officers to give no quarter, and that no investigation was had because it was reported by Lieut.-Colonel Crowder that the evidence “would implicate many others,” General Elwell Otis saying that the charge was “not very grievous under the circumstances.”
- That from that time on, as is shown by the reports of killed and wounded and by direct testimony, the practice continued.
- That the War Department has never made any earnest effort to investigate charges of this offence or to stop the practice.
- That from the beginning of the war the practice of burning native towns and villages and laying waste the country has continued.
- That the Secretary of War never made any attempt to check, or punish this method of war.
- That from a very early day torture has been employed systematically to obtain information.
- That no one has ever been seriously punished for this, and that since the first officers were reprimanded for hanging up prisoners no one has been punished at all until Major Glenn, in obedience to an imperative public sentiment, was tried for one of many offences, and received a farcical sentence.
- That the Secretary of War never made any attempt to stop this barbarous practice while the war was in progress.
- That the statements of Mr. Root’s, whether as to the origin of the war, its progress, or the methods by which it has been prosecuted, have been untrue.
- That Mr. Root has shown a desire not to investigate, and, on the other hand, to conceal the truth touching the war and to shield the guilty, and by censorship and otherwise has largely succeeded.
- That Mr. Root, then, is the real defendant in this case. The responsibility for what has disgraced the American name lies at his door. He is conspicuously the person to be investigated. The records of the War Department should be laid bare, that we may see what orders, what cablegrams, what reports, are there. His standard of humanity, his attitude toward witnesses, the position which he has taken, the statements which he has made,
November 1944: U.S. landing ship tanks are seen from above as they pour military equipment onto the shores of Leyte island, to support invading forces in the Philippines.
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