Sunday, October 19, 2003

iraq and the philippines

bush is now saying that the philippines is the model for the american occupation of iraq. previous comparisons have been to germany or iraq, countries which most would agree are nation-building successes. i've always thought the german and japan models don't apply here, for a variety of reasons. so i am happy that bush has moved beyond such a simple-minded comparisons.

but the philippines--that is an odd comparison to make if you want to call iraq a success. the u.s. seized the islands during the spanish-american war, a war which in retrospect most agree was fought based on false pretenses (when the u.s.s. maine exploded in havana harbor, the u.s. blamed the spanish and declared war even though it was almost certainly an accidental explosion). u.s. went into the philippines using much of the same language as they used with iraq, talking about liberating an oppressed people. but once the u.s. arrived, they treated the filipinos with particular brutality. the u.s.-installed filipino governor eventually led an insurrection against the u.s. occupation which causes american forces to launch several bloody retributory attacks. although the insurrection was eventually suppressed by american forces, the philippines was occupied territory for 49 years (most of that time by the americans, with a brief period of japanese rule after the japanese captured it from the americans during world war two). when filipinos were finally allowed to rule, the country had u.s.-backed dictatorships which ended only in the 1980s when ferdinand marcos was overthrown.

its been over 100 years since the philippines was first occupied by the u.s. during that time, only the last 15 can be called anything resembling a democracy. today the philippines is a weak democracy with rampant poverty, with a central government that does not control the southern portions of the country where an al qaeda-linked islamic movement continues to terrorize the population in the south and perform raids against the central government.

so, for once, i agree with president bush. the history of the philippines is a much more likely scenario for what will happen in iraq than comparisons to post-world war two europe or japan.

i should also add that hesiod beat the president to this comparison. last june, he posted this timeline of the early american occupation of the philippines to show just how they paralleled the bush administration's pronouncements about iraq.