Academic journal article Theory in Action

Genesis or Genocide? Leonard Wood, Theodore Roosevelt and the White Man's Empire in the Southern Philippines

Academic journal article Theory in Action

Genesis or Genocide? Leonard Wood, Theodore Roosevelt and the White Man's Empire in the Southern Philippines

Article excerpt

On March 5, 1906, United States Army units under the command of Brigadier General Leonard Wood attacked a band of Filipino Muslims, Tausug Moros, who had taken refuge on Bud Dajo, a volcanic summit on Jolo Island in the Sulu archipelago of the southern Philippines. The operation culminated in the massacre of approximately 600 to 1000 men, women, and children. It fed outrage among anti-imperialists in the United States appalled at the carnage of empire building.2 Prior to the assault on Bud Dajo, Brigadier General Wood and his staff believed that the gathering on the summit was an opportunity to demonstrate U.S. military dominance and political authority in the region. In its aftermath Wood and his staff viewed the event as an extremely effective operation, which had met all its stated objectives. It also exemplified an approach to dealing with the indigenous Muslim population, the Moros, which Wood had advocated since his arrival as Governor General of the southern Philippines, a territory renamed the Moro Provinces by the Philippines Commission in 1901. U.S. policy-makers had decided that the Moros were a savage people for whom "warfare was their religion and like a national sport" and who were incapable of self-rule.3

President Theodore Roosevelt and General Leonard Wood were not only principal players in this act, but also very close friends and proponents of a new brand of white masculinity for a new century and a vigorous overseas American empire. They saw in this expansionist project a new frontier for white men to test their mettle against savage and barbarous races. Wood also saw this type of warfare as germane to the future expansion of U.S. power beyond the American continent. President Roosevelt believed Wood to be the perfect candidate to restrain the Moros and bring them to accept U.S. authority. In the case of Wood, it also offered the proving ground for a new kind of army and a modernized method of warfare, and so called "savage wars of peace," which forged its genesis on the American frontier.4 An analysis of the less studied relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and Leonard Wood provides a framework for understanding how transformations of gender and increasing racial tensions in the United States directly shaped military policy in the Southern Philippines.

Roosevelt and Wood categorized Moros as a particularly uncivilized "race." In 1896 Theodore Roosevelt had declared that allowing self-rule for Filipinos would be like "granting self-government to an Apache reservation under some local chief," thus dismissing all Filipinos as incapable of self rule. Once armed with this certainty of "Moro character," U.S. Army officials, during the tenure of Governor General Wood, embarked on a campaign to eradicate Moros' political and cultural authority.5

In total, close to one thousand Americans and their allies attacked the summit, fully equipped with .30 caliber Krag rifles, .45 caliber Springfield rifles, 12 gauge shotguns, and Colt forty-five revolvers. In addition to four mountain guns, the U.S. Army and the Navy introduced three Colt Automatic Machine guns into combat. About seven hundred to one thousand Tausug Moros faced this impressive array of professional soldiers wielding advanced weaponry. The Tausug were armed with a total of one hundred to one hundred and fifty rifles, about half as many pistols, an assortment of swords, knives, and projectiles (including large rocks), and six to eight lantacas6

Once the shooting ceased, General Wood gave the order to incinerate all the bodies in place and withdraw immediately, actions that resulted in an inaccurate count of bodies and weapons. Numerous reports by the attackers claimed that the Tausug used women and children as "shields," claiming this tactic accounted for the great loss of life among them. The Colt Automatic Machine guns that destroyed the community Masjid inflicted many deaths of non-combatant women, old people, and children. In addition many Tausug women willingly participated in the fight against the Americans. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.