Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Conquering Americans

From Mr James R Callender

Sir: Where exactly does Paul Johnson get the idea that `Americans have never wanted power over others' (And another thing, 26 October)? This may be the popular image of the `land of the free', but it is sadly untrue.

I am not a bleeding-heart anti-American. I am a keen fan of capitalism and globalisation, and I frequently enjoy McDonald's, Gap and other dark fruits of Americanism. I merely want to point out that just before the turn of the century the US was an imperial power in every sense of the word.

On 30 April 1898 a US naval squadron, under the command of Admiral Dewey, steamed into Manila Bay. After a day's bombardment it destroyed the Spanish squadron and shore batteries, and by August the Filipinos came under the control of Washington. This invasion was under the guise of a mission of liberation, and for a brief spell the island's rebels, who had for years opposed the Spanish, were overjoyed. They were soon horrified when they realised that America had no intention of allowing the Filipinos to govern them, and they began a new war of resistance. America poured ever-increasing military might into the islands until there were as many as 75,000 US soldiers on the islands at one time. Thousands of men were killed on both sides for no clear purpose - in this sense it was a forerunner of Vietnam - until March 1901 when the rebel leader, Aguinaldo, swore an oath of allegiance to America and urged his people to stop fighting, saying, `There has been enough blood, enough tears, enough desolation.' The US did not completely give up its power over some of the naval bases on the island until 1991.

Paul Johnson points out that the American instinct has always been isolationist. That may be the case now, but at the end of the 19th century the US became gripped by a feeling of extreme nationalism, much like the kind that was growing in Europe, and as a result America took up `the White Man's Burden'. As Albert Beveridge, who became a senator the next year, put it, `We are a conquering race.'

James B. Callender


Scott and Straw

From Mr Norman Scott

Sir: While my recollection of contact between myself and the author Mr Jeremy Scott and his wife is at great variance with that stated in his letter (26 October), I do remember talking to them about my National Insurance cards, then in the hands of the former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe.

As Mr Scott rightly suggests in his just published autobiography Fast and Louche, Mr Thorpe unlawfully retained my National Insurance cards in the 1960s to keep control over me - a documented fact which emerged in 1979 at the Old Bailey trial when Mr Thorpe was found `not guilty' of plotting and paying for my murder.

Understandably, people have been at a loss to comprehend the significance of my missing National Insurance cards, but Mr Thorpe knew their value, and the danger to himself; so the need to keep them well hidden.

We now know from the present Foreign Secretary that he also went hunting through my National Insurance file on behalf of the then Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. Why? I certainly did not give him permission and would dearly like to know why he wanted the information. Shades of Watergate, methinks!

The least Mr Straw can do is to explain what he was up to.

Norman Scott

Throwleigh, Devon

The Godless squad

From Mr Tom Benyon

Sir: Rod Liddle (`Good God, no!', 26 October) writes `It is hard to blame the Church of England . . . for adapting in order to survive and perceives ... a disinclination to invest in faith, moral certainty or commitment to any principle - religious, social or political.'

Many Anglican Church leaders - with notable exceptions - bend the Gospel to the prevailing culture. The result is the double whammy of declining congregations and the genial contempt of non-believers. The selection of Rowan Williams as archbishop, who has admitted that he will not defend the truth against error - that the only place for genital sexual relations is within lifelong heterosexual marriage - is unlikely to reverse this trend. …

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