Monday, November 23, 2009

The Philippines, Independence, and National Bias

When did the Philippines become an independent nation?

July 4, 1946?
October 14, 1943?
Or maybe June 12, 1898?

The United States of America granted the Philippines its independence on July 4, 1946. The Philippines had been de facto governed by the United States since the battle of Manilla Bay on May 1, 1898, and in the eyes of the U.S. government, legally since the Treaty of Paris was signed with Spain on December 10, 1898.

But long before the U.S. did its first big land grab since the Mexican-American war, there was a movement in the Philippines seeking independence from Spain. If you chose June 12, 1898, that was the day they declared independence from Spain. Imperialists like President William McKinley and soon-to-be President Theodore Roosevelt (both Republican Party leaders) did not just choose to ignore a few Philippinos whining for the chance to govern themselves. They had the U.S. army murder hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in order to establish their enslavement of the island [See The U.S. Conquest of the Philippines for details].

I like the June 12, 1898 date myself. That makes almost everyone who was in the ruling class of the Philippines a traitor and collaborationist who later helped the United States repress and exploit their people.

The third date, Octover 13, 1943, is the day the government of the Philippines became de facto independent without the permission of the United States. They felt safe doing that because Japan appeared to have defeated not just the United States, but the entire gamut of imperialist nations (Holland, Great Britain, France, and the United States) all in one swoop. This government was called the Second Philippine Republic.

What prompts this post is my reading of American Caesar
by William Manchester, which is a biography of General Douglas MacArthur. Manchester is a good writer. I got American Caesar because I enjoyed his The Arms of Krupp
and The Glory and the Dream
. I figured a book on MacArthur would be very readable and lend much insight into my own U.S. War Against Asia. But Manchester has an American national bias that colors his factual presentation and his interpretation even of the facts that he presents.

The section on the Japanese military occupation of the Philippines is skimpy partly because the book dwells in such intimate detail on MacArthur. For the most part he was in Australia during the occupation, after failing to provide food, medicine, and ammunition for his army but insisting that they fight on against the Japanese until they were all dead. The book deals with the aftermath of the occupation because MacArthur had to deal with the members of the "Japanese puppet government" after he defeated the Japanese in the archipelago.

Wait a second, William. You say they were the same people, almost to a man. They were the ruling class of the Philippines under the bosseration of the United States. They all signed up to be in the "Japanese puppet" government, during the occupation. [See also Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere]. They were lucky most of them were personal friends of Douglas MacArthur, who had grown up in the Philippines while his father General Arthur MacArthur killed every rebel, I mean freedom fighter, his soldiers could find. MacArthur had also been the War Lord of the Philippines prior to World War II.

And they pretty much all became part of the new American puppet government of the Philippines, which became "independent" on July 4, 1946. Within, of course, the American-Asian Co-Exploitation sphere [my term], which Japan itself was part of by then as well.

The new President of the Philippines, Manuel Acuña Roxas, had collaborated closely with the Japanese. One of the nationalist groups, the Hukbalahap, fought Roxas's new government because of its class nature and Roxas's previous cooperation with the Japanese and Americans. What did the U.S. do? It helped the new Republic of the Philippines to fight the Huks, which was a fine prelude to John F. Kennedy's war against the Vietnamese people.

I try not to be nationalist, but I understand the nationalism of people who want to throw off foreign oppressors. What I don't understand is how historians like William Manchester get away with saying that the U.S. governed the Philippines well, and was beloved by Filipinos. In contrast on page 375 he states: "While the vast majority of the captive population ignored its new masters [the Japanese] , there were two conspicuous exceptions: the guerrillas and the collaborators." But the same can be said to be true about the American masters both before and after the Japanese interlude. The size of the guerilla resistance against the Japanese was dwarfed by the size of the resistance against the U.S. invaders when they first replaced the Spanish.

If the Philippines were independent of the U.S. as of October 14, 1943, then they had to be resubjugated in order for the U.S. to "grant" independence on July 4, 1946.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Envision Spokane and the Gruel of Law

Thursday night, November 19th, Chad Nicholson of Envision Spokane spoke to a group of about 25 citizens near the Garcia River and Point Arena, California. The audience came from as far south as Sea Ranch and as far north as Fort Bragg. The event was organized by Jan Edwards and Joel Chaban, and hosted by Anne Kessler.

Chad was a very good speaker, injecting just enough humor into his report on a political subject to keep the audience on its toes. Envision Spokane put together an extensive amendment to the charter of the City of Spokane (Washington State), which was put on the ballot as Proposition 4. The amendment amounts to a bill of rights. People's rights listed include the right to a locally-based economy; to affordable preventative healthcare; to safe and affordable housing; to determine the futures of their neighborhoods; to be paid prevailing wages; to and unionize. In addition "the natural environment has the right to exist and flourish." To ensure the rights of the citizens and of nature, "Corporations and other business entities shall not be deemed to possess any legal rights, privileges, powers, or protections which would enable those entities to avoid the enforcement of these rights, or which would enable them to nullify these rights."

Well, that is a very big dose of reform in one package. The Envision Spokane organization grew largely out of the frustrations of neighborhood groups. In Spokane the city has set up a neighborhood structure. The neighbors are supposed to get together and decide what they think about things like rezoning real estate. If they agree with the schemes of developers and the City Council, it looks very nice and democratic. But if they disagree, the City Council listens politely and does whatever the developers want, probably after extracting political donations if not bribes. This happened enough times that many of the neighborhood council people wanted to try something different. They joined together with a number of other advocacy groups, notably low-cost housing advocates and unions. They spent years getting input from citizens to write Proposition 4.

As you might expect, business interests poured vast sums of money into defeating Prop 4. They also used scare tactics, claiming taxes would rise and the economy would collapse if Proposition 4 passed. It failed, garnering only about a quarter of the vote.

Yet Chad did not seem discouraged. Given that it was new and the array of power attacking it, he felt a quarter of the voters was pretty substantial.

Because there were some pretty sophisticated people in the audience, including former Congressman Dan Hamburg and other local activists, much of the question and answer discussion concerned what I like to call the Gruel of Law [See also The Gruel of Law (September 12, 2009)]. In real life the Rule of Law is that the rich get legal caviar, the poor get legal gruel. At the scale of trying to reform something like a city charter, you see this in the different realities confronting say, the real estate industry trying to amend the charter and ordinary citizens trying to amend the charter.

One of the big arguments against Prop 4 and similar citizen initiatives is that they will simply be knocked down by the courts even if they are passed. I hear this all the time; often it is sufficient to keep good law from even being submitted by the citizens. In Spokane the City Council tried to keep Prop. 4 off the ballot. Feeling the could not, instead they put two bogus Props on the ballot ahead of Prop 4, asking citizens it they would be willing to pay new, higher taxes to finance the measure, even though no new taxes would be required for Prop 4.

We know that the Supreme Court of the United States backs the doctrine of Corporate Personhood and therefore will not allow citizens to take away "rights" of corporations in Spokane or anywhere else. That is a major cornerstone of the Gruel of Law. But the courts seldom need to deal in absolutes. They pick and choose from a large number of variables, including various rights, to get the outcome that (almost always) favors the ruling class, if any ruling class interest is affected by a case. Thus you have the right to private property, and the right to free speech; which one is the trump card in a case involving both? If you give nature rights, can you be explicit when they trump the rights of developers?

Law, in the United States, is a battlefield where the ruling class is eternally strengthening its base areas and trying to mop up little remnants of justice for the "little people." True, we little people win from time to time, often after great effort. The rich lounge in their castles, making no effort except perhaps diverting some money a tiny fraction of their money to pay politicians and lawyers, and let's face it, judges to do their work for them.

On the other hand, as Michael Moore reminds us in Capitalism: A Love Story, the ruling class still allows us to vote. That is their soft underbelly. But as they say in my profession, garbage in, garbage out: as long as they control the information the voters receive (and even the information that elected officials receive), our votes might as well be their votes.

Envision Spokane's efforts impressed me as a way to reclaim the voting power of the ordinary citizen. I hope they keep up their efforts.

Would You Join This Party?

I want to know if you would join this political party.

The founder of the party was an old man who established early in his life that greed would be its core value and that killing people to enlarge his own fortune was a necessity. He made some money as a lawyer, but he was always on the lookout for a quick buck. He staged cock and dog fights, to the death, so that he could make money on the wagering. He bought families of slaves and broke them up because they sold at higher prices as individuals. He also grew cotton using slaves as workers. He started fights with native American tribes, then used the fighting as a pretext to run them off their land, which he and his friends then bought up for almost nothing, and sold at a profit.

The founder of the party killed several men, and I mean his peers, not slaves or Indians, just for criticizing him. As a militia commander he once ordered a 16 year old volunteer to be shot for failing to salute him. But his big break came when he was credited with winning a battle in a war that was already over.

He and his cronies formed a sort of new segment of the ruling class of the United States, as opposed to the old ruling class that was dominated by less policitally clever men on the Atlantic seaboard. He and his friends wanted power, because they knew that holding more political power would give them greater economic power. They formed a political party based initially on the battle-bloody fame of the founder. They decided to appeal for votes to the lower economic strata of men. Their platform, if it can be called that, was: extend slavery; kill Indians; give lucrative government offices to their friends and family.

Of course, you say, you would not join such a party. But, apologists say, that party, the Democratic Party, founded by Andrew Jackson, is different now. Why, it pretends to be the party of lower classes of men and women now, although its ranking policiticans seem to be mostly upper class or pawns of the upper class. Which makes it very hard to distinguish from the Republican Party at times.

Slavery is gone, but it was killed by the Republican Party, and defended to the death by the Democratic Party. Indian land worth grabbing, and for that matter Mexican land worth grabbing, was grabbed long ago. No party has it on its agenda today.

But the core of the Democratic Party is the same. It is a ruling class party, which is open to the greedy and power-hungry if they are unscrupulous enough to climb its ladder. It occasionally throws crumbs of the American economy to certain sections of voters it needs to maintain its power; the crumbs are taxed from other voters. Today the big money is in things like service jobs and medicine. The Democratic Party is doing its best to shake down those sectors. Military contracts for its War in Afghanistan and "infrastructure" contracts are also big sources of skim.

But the party you are thinking of joining, or staying in, is more than just a machine to pick your pockets while courting your vote. It is the only party in the history of the world that has dropped atomic bombs on cities filled with civilians. It is a party that seldom has hesitated to commit a war crime or crime against humanity when that would help it remain in power or enrich America.

Would you join this party? What do you think of politicians who join such a party because "you can't win an election without belonging to the Democratic Party in my district!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans of War Crimes

Today the corporate news sources are assuring us that President Barack Obama is going to okay sending yet another gang of well-armed U.S. murderers to Afghanistan. Using weapons that the Afghan people can't afford, they will try to impose U.S. will on Afganistan. Three years ago a majority of Americans wanted to end the war, and voted in a Democratic Party majority in Congress. Then they elected a Democratic Party hack as President in 2008. Now instead of being hopping mad at their betrayal, they are rationalizing the war crime that is U.S. aggression in Afghanistan. Now it is a Democratic Party war. Now it is okay.

The military-industrial complex understands this process very well. They needed a Democratic Party President in order to continue their lucrative and vainglorious wars. The party machinery quickly narrowed the choices in the Presidential primaries to two: Obama and his now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Heads we win, tails you lose.

Democracy in America is a farce and the Democratic Party is the longest-running part of that farce. It was founded by slave-trading, indian-killing, dog-fighting Andrew Jackson, a greedy lunatic who killed anyone who disagreed with him. He once ordered a sixteen year old boy executed for refusing to salute him.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are far slicker than Andrew Jackson, but they are basically in the same mold. Their job is to do the dirty work of the ruling class while pretending to represent working class people.

The U.S. has no just cause of war against Afghanistan. The former Afgan government did not invade the U.S. or any of its possessions, the only just causes of war. Perhaps it harbored fugitives from U.S. justice, but there is absolutely no precedent for refusing extradition being a cause of war. The U.S. refuses extradition all the time. When a U.S. citizen commits mayhem abroad, especially in the service of the U.S. government, we never hand him over for his just punishment.

I know of no war in American history in which the U.S. had a just cause for entering it, though the beginnings of some wars were murkier than others. That statement may shock most American citizens, but I can stand by it with detailed factual and ethical information in a debate. In other essays at this site I have detailed some of the wars where my statement is most open to attack, like World War I and World War II. As to the War of 1812, it was a war of aggression with the intent to seize Canada. The Revolutionary War was largely about maintaining slavery and invading native American Indian lands. Few honest historians would argue that the Mexican War and the Spanish-American war were anything other than naked agression by the U.S.

When you meet a U.S. military veteran, you meet a war criminal. Of course most don't want to think of themselves that way. Everyone from Private Smith to Commander in Chief Obama has some reason why they are not a war criminal. Obama's reasoning is probably complex and sophisticated. Lower down the rationalization is "we were attacked first" (never true in U.S. history) or the standard, "I was just following orders."

We claim to be a land of individualists, but this is just another big lie, repeated incessantly. We are a nation of people who follow orders.

We are a nation of war criminals. Even I am a war criminal, because I know what is wrong, and do little about it except write an occasional rant.

To change we must admit to what we are. At the age of 14 I could not understand why we did not just obliterate North Vietnam with nuclear weapons. Had I been a few years older, I might have joined the Marines just to get away from my parents, and participated in the war. I was lucky there was an anti-war movement at the time that had an impact on me before I enlisted.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let the Blinged See

"Then the eyes of the blinged shall be opened." - Bible, Isaiah 35, 5

I just spent two weeks constructing the index for a book for administrators of Windows Server, latest version. I did some recreational reading, news scanning, and thinking in the slim cracks that my schedule allowed. Today, rather than writing a coherent essay, I will try to recap as many of my findings and thoughts as I can. Hopefully some will appear in fuller form in future blog entries.

Just last night I finished reading The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna. This is a book that should be on the college literature short list, but it is way too real and not sufficiently literary for that, so it is already half forgotten. The movie, staring Steve McQueen as the anti-hero turned hero Holman, is available for rental; movies, sadly, now live longer than books. The movie is good, but the book is great. It came out in 1962, and should have been a warning about U.S. intervention in Vietnam. It is about U.S. military operations in the interior of China in the 1920's, when Calvin Coolidge was president and Chiang Kai-shek was still suspected of being a communist. I always thought of President Coolidge as a sort of nothing President who merely presided over the American prosperity of the 1920's. Now, finally, I have cause to look at his presidency in more depth and write an essay about it.

Not entirely coincidently, I also finished reading Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao
by Benjamin I. Schwartz, originally published in 1951. I wish I had read it back in the 1970's when Maoism was more popular in the U.S. (and around the globe). There were a number of interesting points in the book, and strangely they explained many of the scenes depicted in The Sand Pebbles. Certainly China would not be the great nation it is today if it had not been for the blood spilled by the ordinary peasants of China in the 1920s. Although it has drifted from its original conception, to understand the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government of today, it helps to understand its birth in Hunan Province in the 1920s.

Back in these United States, the Democratic Party politicians continue to disappoint almost everyone who is paying attention. The illegal, unjust, criminal war against the people of Afghanistan is now just background noise to most people. The medical "reform" bill about to be passed looks pretty bad, on the whole, to me. The economy, however, is reviving and might even be in good enough shape by November 2010 to allow the Democratic Party to hold onto Congress and all the perks that go with it. As to the Republicans, even that mass murderer Lincoln would turn in his grave. They are becoming a parody of a parody, so out of touch with reality that they should be laughed off this stage of history. However, they are tapping into the anger of frustrated Americans, and it is a deep anger. The Republican leadership will misdirect it as best they can.

Thank nature for small victories. The Green Party just won a majority of the seats on the town council of Fairfax, California. You may laugh, but this is a victory deep, deep in the Democratic Party heartland. In your heart, you know you are Green, so why not join our party?

Elsewhere in sunny California, where the climate is nice but we serfs are subjected to taxes that would have been deemed cruel even by Catholic bishops in the Dark Ages, life seems to go on. Belts have been tightened, and many have been forced to move into Obamaville homeless encampments, but people are bucking up pretty well. Laid off engineers are tinkering with the next generation of labor and energy savings devices. Laid off office workers, women and men, are setting up small businesses of all sorts, and prices are falling in the recreational drug and sex-for-hire industries. Perhaps the apocalypse is just around the corner, perhaps the light can finally be seen at the end of the tunnel, but rest assured, life in some form will go on. If not here, then on some other planet, perhaps in some other galaxy. Something is making me wax galactic ... it must be Jerry Brown's run for governor. Back to the future, indeed.