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April 07, 2006

The Moro Crater Massacre

I was researching Mark Twain and learned of a truly horrific incident in American history: the 1906 Moro Crater Massacre, where 600-1500 Muslim villagers armed with knives and spears were attacked with machine guns and mortars. Why?

The Philippines were purchased from the Spanish after the Spanish-American war, the one started after highly suspect claims that the USS Maine was sabotaged were used by the Hearst newspapers to inflame the public. In fact, this episode is the origin of the term "yellow journalism".

Filipinos however had been fighting for their independence from the Spanish, and didn't cooperate with their new masters. They were declared "outlaw bandits" by the Americans, who sent in over 100,000 troops without a declaration of war. They insisted on calling it the "Philippine Insurrection" to legitimize it and avoid liability claims by veterans. US soldiers regularly wrote home bragging about committing atrocities. Villages were burned and civilians were placed in concentration camps. General Jacob H. Smith, a veteran of the Wounded Knee massacre, ordered his troops to "Kill everyone over ten."

Vastly outgunned, it wasn't long before the Filipinos gave up on conventional war and turned to guerilla war, but by 1901 their leader was captured and the Christianized, Tagalog northern islands were "pacified". The Muslim southern islands however had never been conquered by the Spanish, and were politically separate. The Moros, as they were known, had been led by the Americans to believe they could retain their religion and autonomy, but that didn't last.

The Moro rebellion lasted for 10 years. The low-point was the Moro Crater Massacre, aka the Battle of Bud Dajo. Major General Leonard Wood led the assault with 540-790 solidiers. The Moros were holed up in a forfied volcano crater. Every single man woman and child was killed. Wood was named Army Chief of Staff a few years later, and eventually ran for the Republican Presidential nomination, winning New Hampshire but losing to Warren Harding. Ever heard of the Teapot Dome scandal? Did you know it was about oil?

Deja Vu. It just goes on and on. I have to quit this and get some real work done.... Oh yea, so what does this have to do with Mark Twain? He worked to oppose the annexation of the Philippines as vice-president of the Anti-imperialist League. Posted by spot at April 7, 2006 03:36 PM

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