Moral Outrage
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The Very Dark Side of U.S. Military History, Part 1

Many Americans view their country and its soldiers as the “good guys” spreading “democracy” and “liberty” around the world. Records though suggest a “dark side”to the U.S. military doctrine, dating back to the early days of the Republic.

Suppressing Native American resistance on the frontiers in the 19th Century –  Of a Cheyenne attack at Sand Creek, Colorado, on unsuspecting Indians at a peaceful encampment: “They were scalped; their brains knocked out; the men used their knives, ripped open women, clubbed little children, knocked them in the head with their guns, beat their brains out, mutilated their bodies in every sense of the word.” [U.S. Cong., Senate, 39 Cong., 2nd Sess., “The Chivington Massacre,” Reports of the Committees.]

The brutal tactics in the West helped clear the way for the transcontinental railroad, built fortunes for favored businessmen and consolidated Republican political power for more than six decades, until the Great Depression of the 1930s. [See Indian Genocide and Republican Power]

Four years after the Civil War, Sherman became commanding general of the Army and incorporated the Indian pacification strategies — as well as his own tactics — into U.S. military doctrine.

When the United States claimed the Philippines as a prize in the Spanish-American War, Filipino insurgents resisted. In 1900, the U.S. commander, Gen. J. Franklin Bell, consciously modeled his brutal counterinsurgency campaign after the Indian wars and Sherman’s “march to the sea.”

Bell believed that by punishing the wealthier Filipinos through destruction of their homes — much as Sherman had done in the South during the Civil War — they would be coerced into helping convince their countrymen to submit. Learning from the Indian wars, he also isolated the guerrillas by forcing Filipinos into tightly controlled zones where schools were built and other social amenities were provided.

“The entire population outside of the major cities in Batangas was herded into concentration camps,” wrote historian Stuart Creighton Miller. “Bell’s main target was the wealthier and better-educated classes. … Adding insult to injury, Bell made these people carry the petrol used to burn their own country homes.” [See Miller’s “Benevolent Assimilation.”]

For those outside the protected areas, there was terror. A supportive news correspondent described one scene in which American soldiers killed “men, women, children … from lads of 10 and up, an idea prevailing that the Filipino, as such, was little better than a dog.”

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