By Mark Thompson- battleland.blogs.time.com – A long time ago, and far away, the U.S. invaded and occupied the Philippines. There are parallels to recent U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, down to torturing the enemy.
Journalist Gregg Jones has written Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream, in part, to remind us that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Battleland conducted an email chat with him earlier this week:
What is the most surprising thing you learned in researching and writing Honor in the Dust?
There were so many surprises, which made this project a wonderful voyage of discovery for me. But here are two of the biggest:
– I knew that Theodore Roosevelt was central to my story when I began my research, but I was astonished by the extent to which the Philippines dominated his thoughts from 1898-1903. Roosevelt wrote incessantly about the Philippines in his private letters and spoke about the islands in countless public speeches. He dreamed of becoming America’s first governor there. And he devoted much energy and political capital to keeping the United States on course in its quest to annex and pacify the islands. He was fairly consumed by the Philippines during those years.
– I was surprised by what I learned about William Howard Taft, who used his high-profile position as America’s first civilian governor in the Philippines as a steppingstone to the presidency in 1908. History has remembered him as “Big Bill” Taft, the genial 350-pounder who loved to play golf and was the benevolent friend of America’s “little brown brothers” in the Philippines. In fact, he was a nasty bureaucratic infighter who undermined his rivals in America’s colonial venture in the Philippines. Furthermore, the sincerity of his public displays of friendship toward Filipinos is called into question by private actions that were harsh and sometimes racist.
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