The Philippine-American War-- Concentration Camps, Genocide and Torture
A reconcentrado (concentration) camp for civilians at Tanauan, Batangas Province. General Bell insisted that he built these camps to "protect friendly natives from the insurgents, assure them an adequate food supply" while teaching them "proper sanitary standards." The commandant of one of the camps referred to them as the "suburbs of Hell."
Starvation and disease took the lives of thousands. Between January and April of 1902, there were 8,350 deaths out of 298,000. Some camps lost as many as 20% of the population. There was one camp that was two miles by one mile (3.2 by 1.6 km) in area. It was "home" to some 8,000 Filipinos. Men were rounded up for questioning, tortured and summarily executed.
A correspondent to the Philadelphia Ledger wrote, "Our soldiers...have taken prisoner people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down as an example to those who found their bullet riddled corpses."...
Reverend W. H. Walker received a letter from his son and showed it to the Boston Journal, which reported about it on May 5, 1902. The letter described how 1,300 prisoners were executed over a few weeks. A Filipino priest heard their confessions for several days and then he was hanged in front of them. Twenty prisoners at a time were made to dig their mass graves and then were shot. The young Walker wrote, “To keep them prisoners would necessitate the placing of the soldiers on short rations if not starving them. There was nothing to do but kill them.”...
Bell said, "It is an inevitable consequence of war that the innocent must generally suffer with the guilty". He reasoned that since all natives were treacherous, it was impossible to recognize "the actively bad from only the passively so."
Some estimates of civilian deaths on Luzon are as high as 100,000. Many of Malvar's officers and men gave up and collaborated with the Americans. Malvar realized that continuing the war would harm the people more.
President Roosevelt privately assured a friend the water cure was "an old Filipino method of mild torture" and claimed when Americans administered it "nobody was seriously damaged."Oddly, wikipedia notes casualties from the war as "an estimated 34,000–1,000,000 casualties"-- quite a large spread. Though curiously in the sidebar they list "Filipino civilian dead: ~200,000 to 1,500,000".
The "treatment" consisted of spread-eagling a prisoner on his back, forcing his mouth open with a bamboo stick and pouring gallons of water down his throat. Helpless, the prisoner was pumped with water until his stomach was near the bursting point. Then he was questioned. If he refused to answer, an American soldier stood or kneeled on his belly, forcing the water out. One report by a U.S. soldier told how "a good heavy man" jumped on a prisoner’s belly "sending a gush of water from his mouth into the air as high as six feet."
This cure was repeated until the prisoner talked or died. Roughly half the Filipinos given the cure did not survive. How many Filipinos were killed by torture is not known, but the extent of the practice is documented by a letter sent home by a soldier who bragged of inflicting the water cure on 160 Filipinos, 134 of whom died. A Harvard-educated officer, 1st Lt. Grover Flint, testified before the US Senate on the routine torture of Filipino combatants and civilians. He described the “water cure” as standard US Army torture.
Obviously, a huge number of deaths, and a huge but almost completely forgotten evil by the American Empire.
Review of a recent book on the war:
What is striking about “Honor in the Dust,” Gregg Jones’s fascinating new book about the Philippine-American War, is not how much war has changed in more than a century, but how little. On nearly every page, there is a scene that feels as if it could have taken place during the Bush and Obama administrations rather than those of McKinley and Roosevelt. American troops are greeted on foreign soil as saviors and then quickly despised as occupiers. The United States triumphantly declares a victorious end to the war, even as bitter fighting continues. Allegations of torture fill the newspapers, horrifying and transfixing the country.
Nowhere will this book resonate more profoundly with modern readers, however, than in the opening episode, which is as difficult to read as it is jarringly familiar. Jones describes the use of an interrogation technique whose name alone instantly brings to mind a recent, highly contentious tactic. To force information from a Filipino mayor believed to have been covertly helping insurgents, American soldiers resort to what they call the “water cure.” After tying the mayor’s hands behind his back and forcing him to lie beneath a large water tank, they pry his mouth open, hold it in place with a stick and then turn on the spigot. When his stomach is full to bursting, the soldiers begin pounding on it with their fists, stopping only after the water, now mixed with gastric juices, has poured from his mouth and nose. Then they turn on the spigot again. The technique, which was perfected during the Spanish Inquisition, produced in its victims the “simultaneous sensations of drowning and of being burned or cut as internal organs stretched and convulsed.” (snip)
Stories of American soldiers torturing Filipino insurgents and slaughtering civilians had become too prevalent, and too convincing, to ignore. “There have been lies, yes, but they were told in a good cause,” Twain wrote, ridiculing the government with his acidic satire. “We have been treacherous, but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil.”
The American people were finally beginning to realize that pacification of the Philippines was not going to be a replay of the Spanish-American War. The Filipinos were poor, but they were not unsophisticated. They developed shadow governments, used an underground system to finance their insurgency — collecting donations and even taxes — and repeatedly surprised American troops with guerrilla attacks, killing a few men at a time and leaving the rest in a constant, exhausting state of vigilance. Enraged, the soldiers responded by employing the same tactics for which they had so recently criticized the Spanish. They burned whole villages, executed suspected guerrillas and felt justified in using any interrogation technique at hand, including the water cure.