April 22, 2012

This Week's Scenario Blast from the Past: Nation-Building in '01

Patrick Marren
Partner

Despite our leeriness about extrapolation from the past, we do read a lot of history at FSG in order to write our scenarios. As Mark Twain wrote, "It is not worth while to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible." (Mark Twain in Eruption: Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940, Bernard DeVoto, editor). 

 

'"...[The] Committee...reluctantly published the Gardener Report on 11 April. It caused instant national outrage.... No sooner had the phrases kill and burn and howling wilderness registered on the national conscience than a third, water cure, came out of the Committee hearings. Witness after witness testified to the widespread use by American soldiers of this traditional torture, developed by Spanish priests as a means of instilling reverence for the Holy Ghost.... 

 

'"...[W]ater is poured onto his face, down his throat, and nose...until the man gives some sign of giving in or becomes unconscious.... His suffering must be that of a man who is drowning, but who cannot drown."

 

'Amid mounting cries of revulsion, the President swung into action. He met with his Cabinet on 15 April, and demanded a full briefing.... [The Secretary of Defense] said defensively that one officer accused of water torture had been ordered to report for trial. [The president] was not satisfied. His entire...policy was in danger, not to mention his reputation for decent governance. He directed [the Secretary of Defense] to flash a cable to [the theater commander]:

 

'THE PRESIDENT DESIRES TO KNOW IN THE FULLEST AND MOST CIRCUMSTANTIAL MANNER ALL THE FACTS.... FOR THE VERY REASON THAT THE PRESIDENT INTENDS TO BACK UP THE ARMY IN THE HEARTIEST FASHION IN EVERY LAWFUL AND LEGITIMATE METHOD OF DOING ITS WORK, HE ALSO INTENDS TO SEE THAT THE MOST VIGOROUS CARE IS EXERCISED TO DETECT AND PREVENT ANY CRUELTY OR BRUTALITY, AND THAT MEN WHO ARE GUILTY THEREOF ARE PUNISHED. GREAT AS THE PROVOCATION HAS BEEN IN DEALING WITH FOES WHO HABITUALLY RESORT TO TREACHERY MURDER AND TORTURE AGAINST OUR MEN, NOTHING CAN JUSTIFY OR WILL BE HELD TO JUSTIFY THE USE OF TORTURE OR INHUMAN CONDUCT OF ANY KIND ON THE PART OF THE AMERICAN ARMY.

 

'...These gestures, which coincided with the surrender of... the last...guerrilla leader, relieved pressure on the White House....

 

'..."If we are to 'benevolently assimilate' [the occupied people] by such methods," remarked the New Orleans Times-Democrat, "we should frankly so state, and drop our canting hypocrisy about having to wage war on these people for their own betterment."'

 

- from Edmund Morris' biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, p. 399, on the scandal surrounding US occupation policies in the Philippines in 1901 during the post-Spanish-American War insurgency.

Thoughts?