You can’t handle the truth.
Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep, A Few Good Men, 1992
SPEAKING BEFORE THE PHILIPPINE CONGRESS in October 2003, President George W Bush announced, “A new totalitarian threat has risen against civilization.” In the fight between civilization and terrorism, he declared the Philippines to be an important ally. “America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people,” said the president. “Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule.” Bush asserted that the Middle East, like Asia, could become democratic as illustrated by the Republic of the Philippines six decades ago. Bush’s use of the Philippines as a model for Iraq raised concern among those who knew that the islands had remained a colony of the United States for almost half a century. Nor did the president draw a connection between the growing Iraqi insurgency and the fierce opposition of Filipinos to U.S. rule in the Philippine War.1
Not only did the president gloss over the inconvenient facts of the past, but he also put a positive face on the present. Uneasy about the stability of the Philippines, where military officers had recently attempted a coup and the U.S. Secret Service would not allow him to stay overnight, Bush announced a joint American—Filipino five-year plan to “modernize and reform” the Philippine military. Policymakers were worried about Abu Sayyaf, a terror group thought to have links to Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism. A few thousand U.S. marines were already in the southern Philippines assisting local forces in fighting an Islamic separatist movement with roots going back to