Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lying swine lying like a rug, or, The Moral of the "Pershing and the Moros" Story

"They were having terrorism problems, just like we do," Trump said, according to an account in the Washington Post. "And he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem."

Actually there is a problem, because the entire tale is a goddamn lie.
Apparently the "Moros" are the trouble children of the Philippines. They fought the Spanish, they fought the Americans, they fought the Japanese, they fought and are fighting the Philippine government. Fucking Moros fight; that's what they do.

I suspect that the lure of Islam for them isn't as much that it promises Paradise as much as it offers a form of religion much more enjoyable than the public piety of Christianity for a people less enamored of hypocrisy. Fight? Sure, where? Sign me up!

Let's not pretend to be innocents, or saints, or savages. This wasn't the Noble Moro against the Rapacious American Imperialists.

Yes, the U.S. had no fucking business being in the Philippines.

But the Moros were a damn hard lot, and the "Moro Rebellion" that set these hard guys against the U.S. Army was a fight that both sides were happy to have. The U.S. was turgid with imperial ambition, and the Muslim inhabitants of the southern portions of the Philippine archipelago, well...like I said; "Moros" in general liked to fight.

The peoples that The Donald lumped as "terrorists" and Filipinos termed "moors" are, in the words of the Encyclopedia Britannica:
"...classified linguistically into 10 subgroups: the Maguindanao of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao provinces; the Maranao of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur provinces; the Tausug, mostly of Jolo Island; the Samal, mostly in the Sulu Archipelago; the Bajau, mostly in the Sulu Archipelago; the Yakan of Zamboanga del Sur province; the Ilanon of southern Mindanao; the Sangir of southern Mindanao; the Melabugnan of southern Palawan; and the Jama Mapun of the Cagayan Islands."
These folks fought each other when they had nobody else to fight, but probably in the way of tribesmen everywhere ascribed to the "me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the stranger" school of politics.

They ran a thriving slave trade, did a little pirating when the spirit moved them, and were generally a pest to everyone who couldn't put a bullet- or sword-shaped hole in them.

It's not surprising that they fought against the U.S. forces under Pershing.

But here's the thing; the most distinctive characteristic of Pershing's strategy in hammering these tribes wasn't brutality and pig's blood. It was his craft and diplomacy.

This isn't to say that American officers didn't try that pig stuff; they did. One naval officer recalled that a GI trick for persuading the locals not to go on a theological killing spree (called a juramentado) was
"...the custom of wrapping the dead man in a pig's skin and stuffing his mouth with pork. As the pig was an unclean animal, this was considered unspeakable defilement."
Another gimmick was recounted in the 1938 book Jungle Patrol attributing to one COL Rodgers of the 6th US Cavalry:
"...a system of burying all dead juramentados in a common grave with the carcasses of slaughtered pigs. The Mohammedan religion forbids contact with pork; and this relatively simple device resulted in the withdrawal of juramentados to sections not containing a Rodgers."
However, all this pork didn't stop the Moros. They kept fighting then and are still fighting - albeit sporadically and ineffectually - today.


Pershing, on the other hand, took a longer view. Assuming that the United States would be the ruling power in the Philippines for generations he had little or no interest in starting American-Moro blood feuds with the locals. He took the time to learn the local language and reportedly did his best to puzzle out the local politics and leaders.
"Pershing’s strategy has often been described by historians as one of divide and conquer. But the Moros, by the very nature of their societal institutions, were already divided. Rather, Pershing focused on sorting out who were his friends, who were his enemies, and who were in between. He sensed that at some point (correctly) he would have to fight some of the most recalcitrant datus. Unlike Baldwin, he knew he could not fight everyone, and it would be most unwise to fight someone he did not have to and unnecessarily add more enemies as a result." (Fulton, 2007)
During Pershing's tenure as governor of Moro Province he sent U.S. troops to fight several times; against Tausug tribal forces at Bud Dajo in 1911 and, again against Tausug tribes at Bud Bagsak in 1913. Both times the Moro dead far outnumbered the American (and Moro Scout troops) losses.

Pershing found what every American satrap in Moroland found; that trying to civilize Moros with a Krag was just nuts to the Moros; they liked to fight - ummm...did I mention they liked to fight? - and they continued to fight long after Pershing and all his troops gave up and left. There was fighting and killing, a lot of killing, and ruin and hatred.


But pig blood and pig parts were nowhere to be found.

If Trump was anything but a great fool he would have learned from the tale of Pershing and the Moros what I learned in just a few hours of brief research of the story. That of all wars - which are all generally insensible, wasteful, and unprofitable - religious and racial wars are the least sensible, the most wasteful, and the least profitable. That talking fondly of imperial wars in Muslim lands is at best idiotic and at worst criminal, in that the resulting butchery is almost inevitably going to include horrific atrocities and the deaths of noncombatants.

That what the tale of Pershing and the Moros teaches us is that we do best for ourselves and for others when we tend to our troubles and leave the others to their own.

But Trump, and those who now roar for him, are indeed great fools and will not heed the lesson.

(Note: For those interesting in learning more about the Moro Rebellion, Moroland, and the history I've sketched out here the blog Moroland is a terrific resource and has both readable accounts of the events of the early 20th Century as we as a terrific library of pictures. Huge shoutout to Robert Fulton, the author and blog curator, for his good work...)

4 comments:

Dane900 said...

Seems to be a popular legend; the Snopes page lists a UK version as well, and I'm sure I heard an Aussie version from back when we were fighting the Turks in the Holy Land (so named for all the holes in it). I suppose its very comforting to imagine the Mohammadan Death Star we've got pointed at ourselves has a thermal exhaust port, rather than resigning yourself to an inevitable mutual bloodbath or a slow, gradual fade-out that won't be over while any of us are still alive. That idea's just depressing.

But at least the Snopes article closes with exactly the right information:

"Palestinian Muslims reacted with scorn to the idea, saying the soul went to paradise and was unaffected by any taint to the body.

"'The keys to heaven are not in the hands of settlers,' said Sheikh Hassan Youssef, for Hamas, whose military wing has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel.

"Islamic reference books say the body of a martyr who dies for the faith is so pure that it does not need to be washed before burial, in contrast to the usual Muslim practice."

Podunk Paul said...

Thanks, Chief, for the interesting post. And good luck with your operation. A friend underwent the same surgery and within a couple of months could dance an Irish jig.

FDChief said...

Dane900: I had that thought, too, but wasn't familiar enough with Islamic mores to be sure of it. Once the guy is dead - as a martyr, anyway - you'd think that it wouldn't matter what happened to his meatsuit. I guess I could see how the prospect of having his body defiled would dissuade some guys but not all or possibly even most of them.

The big-picture IS depressing, in that it gives a pretty damning glimpse into the heads of the sort of people who think "Gee...just a little corpse defiling and we've just about got this whole religious war thing solved!"

Paul: Thanks. I expect that in a couple of months I'll be fine and glad I went through it. IT's the couple of month-long suck that I'm NOT looking forward to.

Barry said...

FDChief, it will suck for one month, then you will clearly be on the mend. It will still be convalescence, but it will also be clear improvement.

Just plan on sleeping and Netflix for 30 days.