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'Twill vex they soul to hear what I shall speak:
For I must talk of murders, rapes and massacres,
Acts of black night, abominable deeds,
Complots of mischief, treason, villanies
Ruthful to hear, yet piteously perform'd.
I cannot say exactly when I realized that the best way to characterize historic and present day U.S. relations with Asia was with the phrase "The U.S. War Against Asia." But by 2006 the idea had crystalized to the extent that when Jim Tarbell asked to write a brief (600 word limit) article for Alliance Alerts, as part of my history series, on the topic of corportions and war, I made it the subject of my essay.
In childhood I was aware of the war between Japan and the United States that was part of World War II (roughly 1942 to 1946). My father served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1938 until 1960, when I was just five years old. My mother had served briefly in the Marine Corps as well, long enough to meet my father. My earliest childhood memories were largely set in Marine Corps bases in North Carolina. My father was stationed in Japan in the late 1950s.
But television, in particular re-runs of movies set in World War II, did more to color my picture of the Japanese. They were Japs, the enemy, allies of the Nazis. They were as evil as Communists, though they were not communists. Nothing in my schooling changed this view. Of course I learned that the Japanese had become a peace-loving, anti-communist ally of the USA after World War II. The new enemies of my 1960s era childhood were the Communist Chinese, North Vietnamese, and Viet Cong.
The War Against Vietnam taught me, and every American not to stupefied by ardent nationalism, to learn that the U.S. was not always in the right in every international situation. I began to be critical of this country's conduct in such situations as the U.S. War of aggression against Mexico (Mexican-American War). This process started when I was still in high school.
Yet each historical illusion that I shed, even as my life stretched into decades, only seemed to be a prelude to discovering another illusion. Though I am not a professional academic, I enjoy reading. Gradually, over the years, I built up a detailed knowledge of U.S. and world history. One particular fact I considered to be significant had to do with the aftermath of the Spanish-American War (1898), in the Philippines. The Filipino people, fighting to establish a democratic government, had already defeated the Spanish before the U.S. declared war on Spain. A small Spanish army and navy still occupied Manila, but there was no doubt they were doomed to defeat even before the U.S. arrived. The U.S. government demanded that Spain hand over the Philippines, a country Spain no longer possessed. To make good its acquisition the U.S. killed (estimates vary) probably well more than 1 million islanders. Democracy was for white people, not Asians.
Around 1989 I heard, in Fort Bragg California, a lecture by Jonathan Shepherd, whose book on the Spanish American War had been published in the Philippines, but never in the United States. That book provides much of the material for the chapter on the Philippines War. I also read Richard Story's History of Modern Japan around that time, which enlightened me with a far more complex picture of U.S. - Japanese relations than I had previously.
In 2001 Asian-based warriors struck back against the U.S., inside U.S. territory, for only the second time in history. While I consider the attack that destroyed the World Trade Center to be war crime/crime against humanity because it purposefully targeted civilians, it did not begin to approach in magnitude U.S. war crimes/crimes against humanity committed against various Asian peoples.
The realization that the U.S. as an independent nation was founded on the principle of race-based slavery, which follows from realizing the importance of the Somerset Case, also reminded me of the need to reevaluate history by thinking clearly and without racial or nationalist prejudice.
So in 2006 I realized with great clarity that the United States of America has waged a war of aggression against the people of Asia since roughly the 1850's. Which is to say, after we had finished the aggressive, military occupation of Native American Indian territories.
William P. Meyers, January 3, 2007
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