A journalist provides a balanced look at America’s bloody effort to annex the Philippines in the early 20th century.
Former Dallas Morning News correspondent Jones (Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerrilla Movement, 1989) gives both sides to the issues and their adherents—though he begins with a graphic description of American soldiers administering water torture to a Filipino captive (the issue of military misconduct recurs repeatedly). Jones swiftly summarizes the war with Spain that gave birth to the events in the Philippines, paying careful attention to rising star Theodore Roosevelt and his exploits with the Rough Riders. We see President William McKinley as something of a ditherer; he was reluctant to make decisions that he knew would cost lives. Once Spain agreed to surrender their sway in the Philippines, the Americans snatched the chance for expansion. President Roosevelt was no ditherer. The Filipinos, initially grateful, quickly realized that they were not going to retain sovereignty, and an insurgency swelled. Soon thousands of American military personnel flooded the islands, and the action turned brutal, sanguinary and punitive. Torture, executions, destruction of private property and the burning of entire villages—all were done by the U.S. in the cause of victory. Jones describes the incidents, chronicles the reactions back home (Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie were passionately opposed to U. S. involvement) and charts the flight of the political football as Republicans and Democrats fought to control the public perception of events. One major result was the elevated status of the Marines, whose days had seemed numbered beforehand.
A well-researched, generally disinterested account whose parallels to today are obvious.