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Sep 30th
Home Columns Op-Ed Page Ignorance, thy name is Turner/Buyer!
Ignorance, thy name is Turner/Buyer! PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Saturday, 22 September 2007 13:11

What a pity indeed, that two U.S. lawmakers, members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, who are presumed to be learned, are actually a pair of ignoramuses when it comes to Filipino-American history. Congressmen Michael Turner and Steve Buyer, both my fellow Republicans, alas, are vehemently opposed to the passage of the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill now pending in both chambers of Congress because they believe, mistakenly of course, that the Filipino veterans who fought America’s war in the Philippines in World War II should not be entitled to any veterans’ old age pension because they were members of the Philippine military.

Not only that, both lawmakers contend that the Filipino soldiers in World War II fought for their own country and not for the United States.

The two congressmen obviously need a refresher course in U.S. history, at least that part which involved the Philippines in the "Benevolent Assimilation" scheme of President William McKinley’s "Manifest Destiny". Because to them I might as well be speaking Greek as evidenced by the ignorance of history they so embarrassingly displayed during the mark up hearing for the Equity Bill.

The Filipino soldiers in the Philippines in World War II fought under the command of an American general—no less than the legendary Douglas MacArthur himself. I’m sure these two jokers are aware of that but they never bothered to find out why an American general led what in their minds was a foreign army against the Japanese!

What they may not be aware of is the historical fact that President Franklin Roosevelt, in an Executive Order dated July 26, 1941, ordered the federalization of the Philippine Commonwealth Army to include the Philippine Constabulary (a national police force organized by the U.S. Army in 1901), and all their reserve components, which in this case included even the ROTC cadets of various colleges and universities in the Philippines at that time.)

Now the question is what gave Roosevelt the right to order the federalization of the Philippine military and the induction of all its members into the U.S, Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE)? If the Philippines then were a sovereign nation and not a colony of the United States, what authority would Roosevelt have to issue such an order? And why would their soldiers fight under a foreign commander? That math is so easy a caveman can do it (with apologies to the TV cavemen). It is quite obvious that it doesn’t take an Einstein to put two and two together to get the correct answer!

Perhaps a short lesson in international law is also in order for these two very naïve lawmakers to fully understand the situation of the Filipino soldiers in World War II.

The Indian Army at that time was under the full command and control of the British Army, India then being a colony of England. As such, the Indians fought as British soldiers. The same was true with the French colonial military forces from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia who fought under the Free French of General Charles de Gaulle. The Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians, as well as the Indians fought as French and British soldiers because they were at the time colonies of France and England!

And for the information of Congressmen Turner and Buyer, those French and British colonials to this day receive veterans’ pensions from France and England! Why? Because at the time of their military service they were considered nationals of France and subjects of the British Empire!

Did the Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans and Guamenians who served in the U.S. military in World War II fight for Hawaii, Puerto Rico or Guam or for the United States? Hawaii and Guam were U.S. territories when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and Puerto Rico, then and now, was and still is an American Commonwealth, just like the Philippines before July 4, 1946. But were the Hawaiians, Guamenians and Puerto Ricans told by Congressmen Turner and Buyer that they were not entitled to veterans’ benefits because they were not Americans? If they were not American nationals in World War II, what were they?

Why in Heaven’s name then, do these two lawmakers now vehemently insist that the Filipinos fought for their own country and not for the United States of America, when the Philippines was a colony and completely had no control over its own foreign affairs or national defense?

More lessons in history my dear congressmen. In 1941, when the Japanese invaded and occupied Thailand, then known as Siam, which was a neutral country, the Siamese government decided not to resist because their military was too weak to fight against the mighty Japanese Imperial forces. If the Philippines then, were not occupied by the U.S., would not the Philippine government whose military was as weak as Siam’s, also have gone the way of Siam and simply allow their land to be taken over?

If that was the case, then the United States truly has no obligation towards the Filipino soldiers because they would not have served in the U.S. military. American soldiers would not have been captured, suffered the humiliation of surrender, and endured untold hardships and atrocities as prisoners of the Japanese. Manila also would not have been destroyed by the Americans who came back to recover their lost territory, and the millions of Filipino civilians who perished during the occupation and the liberation of the Philippines in 1945 would have been spared.

In the mark up hearing, Congressman Buyer stated that none of the nationals of other countries liberated by the United States in World War II are asking for veterans’ benefits or pensions. Duh!! Do you now see, dear readers, why I said he and Turner embarrassed themselves in that hearing by asking such naïve questions?

None of those countries liberated by the United States in World War II, except for the Philippines and Guam were their colonies! Three of them were enemy countries-- Germany, Italy and Japan. But these former enemies and the other liberated countries of Europe did not even have to ask our benevolent Uncle Sam for help after the war.

Uncle Sam, in the goodness of his big and overly generous heart voluntarily gave them extensive monetary assistance so they could get back on their feet! What? Don’t you two supposedly learned lawmakers know about the very magnanimous Marshall Plan?

But while the U.S. without being asked, repeat, without being asked, more than willingly extended help to even former enemies, no such help or assistance was given to the Philippines, a former colony! Nada! Nothing! Zilch! It was Japan who later paid reparations to the Philippines!

The Philippines, particularly Manila, the former Pearl of the Orient Seas, was utterly devastated by American bombs and artillery shells. Manila was in shambles, its infrastructures in rubbles, and the Philippines itself was also thrashed, economically in 1946 when our benevolent, kindly and magnanimous Uncle Sam triumphantly granted that country its independence!

America could not wait to get out of the Philippines after destroying it! "Quick", Uncle Sam said, "give them independence before they start asking us to stay and reconstruct their country which we devastated!"

Is this enough lesson in U.S.-Philippine history for the two of you? Have I made my points clear on why America should now recognize the military service of the Filipino veterans in World War II, or do you still believe the Filipinos fought not for America but for their own country? What country? They did not have a country then!

The Filipinos from 1901 to 1946 were American nationals because America forcibly annexed the Philippine Islands after Spain was defeated in the Spanish-American War. The Filipinos who were conscripted into the U.S. Army in 1941 were American nationals. Only on July 4, 1946, did the Filipinos become independent of the United States and became Filipino citizens.

International law which is honored and observed by the civilized world recognizes those who fought under the flags of their foreign occupiers as nationals of those colonizing countries. France and England even gave the citizens of their former colonies the choice of French or British citizenship prior to the grant of independence and the veterans who served in their military were all recognized and to this day receive pensions and benefits as a reward for their wartime service.

Why then should the United States, the bulwark of freedom, liberty and democracy, whose government is based on the principles of fair play and equality treat their former colonials—the Filipinos-- with utter discrimination?

Perhaps Congressmen Turner and Buyer and their like-minded colleagues in the U.S. Congress can give us a justifiable answer to that question! And while they are at it, they might also consider asking themselves why the Rescission Act of 1946 was enacted by the 108th Congress to take back what they gave the Filipino soldiers in 1944 under the GI Bill of Rights. No one takes back something he never gave.

The ugly truth behind the Rescission Act is that in 1946, the war was over and there was no more use for Filipino soldiers as cannon fodders of the U.S. Army!

Both Congressmen Turner and Buyer contend that the Democrats are giving veterans benefits to non-U.S. citizens, a claim which is utterly misguided if not downright wrong! But if these two zealous "watchdogs" of American money are true to their calling, this writer strongly suggests that they do something to stop the annual grant of billions, repeat, billions of American taxpayer money to illegal aliens! # # #

Editor's Notes: This online publication welcomes Col. Romy Monteyro, who writes also a column entitled "Why?" in San Diego's Philippine Mabuhay News. Colonel Monteyro, a retired officer of the Philippine Armed Forces and a gentleman, studied at the Lyceum of the Philippines School of Journalism in Manila, Philippines. One of his journalism professors then was Poet-pundit Fred Burce Bunao, who is now based in Los Angeles.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 22 September 2007 13:37

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