John A. Tures: Philippines, U.S. linked in history

November 15, 2013 

America's history and that of its Asiatic ally, the Philippines, are about to be linked once again. They have a long history of serving side by side. Though the relationship was frayed from time to time, it needs to be more closely bonded than ever today.

It was 1942. The remaining American and Filipino forces held out on the island nation against a superior Japanese force, which was unaccustomed to losing. After all, they had defeated the Mongols, the Chinese, the Russians and the British. An embarrassed General Homma had to call in for reinforcements against the beleaguered allies. Finally, the remaining 11,000 American soldiers and 66,000 Filipino troops surrendered when their supplies were exhausted.

Enraged by their stubborn resistance, General Homma sent this group on a march of more than sixty miles in what has become known as "The Bataan Death March." Those who could not endure the trek or gave assistance to struggling comrades were killed. But the march was only part of the horror, as survivors were stuffed into boxcars for the trip by railway to a prison camp. More than 11,000 prisoners never made it back.

Recently, a senator insensitively likened his marathon filibuster to the Bataan Death March. Like many of us, he probably couldn't have lasted an hour in that real ordeal. Thankfully, he apologized for making a poor analogy.

Of course, the Americans did return. The two allies were able to expel the Japanese from the Philippines. General Homma was executed for wartime crimes the year after World War II ended. And the United States became a permanent ally to the Filipinos.

The history of the two countries has had to endure some troubled times. After the Spanish-American War, some Filipinos rose up in rebellion against the victorious Americans in a bloody insurgency. We backed a long-time dictator in the interests of anti-communism.

But such ties have been stronger than mistakes. We eventually realized that an unstable democracy that respected human rights was preferable to a brutal dictator, and helped usher Ferdinand Marcos out of power. We helped Cory Aquino's democratic regime withstand a right-wing military coup (her husband, a democratic activist, had been killed by Marcos).

And though Clark Air Force Base and the naval base at Subic might be closed (though the Filipino government is allowing U.S. forces to use a rebuilt base there), we're still working on the frontlines in the War on Terrorism with Filipino forces against those who seek to exploit regional separatist movements and economic movements to link with al-Qaeda.

But now a terrible typhoon, Haiyan, has killed tens of thousands of Filipinos. It was a storm that was even stronger than Hurricane Katrina. Our military is on the ground, ready to help an old ally. They are wary of our enemies and their certain attempts to exploit the crisis to hurt both countries.

Let's remember the brave sacrifice our soldiers made in the Philippines and elsewhere throughout World War II and throughout history as well. And let's see what aid we can provide our allies in the frontlines in the War on Terrorism. Here's a link to where we can help:

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science at LaGrange College;

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