Introduction: Behind the
After September 11, the Bush administration responded forcefully
to help the Philippines combat its homegrown "terrorists" --
the Muslim separatists who have turned the island of Mindanao
into a battleground and have pledged to fight Americans. This
is hardly the first time the Philippine government has confronted
a rebel group within its own borders. Nor is it the first time
the United States has become deeply involved in a bloody conflict
in the nation. Follow the trail backward to understand how these
two countries have become linked in a violent fight against
insurgencies -- again.
Filipino poet Maria Fatima Lim once described her homeland
as a nation of people shouting at each other. With more than
84.5 million people speaking more than 100 languages, the Philippines
is anything but quiet. Its people are spread across a vast archipelago
of 7,100 islands and live in environments that range from jungle
villages to overcrowded, media-saturated cities. Filipino culture
is a swirl of Roman Catholicism (with Muslim and tribal minorities),
American pop culture, hyperactive commerce and seemingly unquenchable
Holding together such a sprawling, contradictory society has
never been easy. The United States knows this as well as anyone.
At the end of the 19th century, it claimed the Philippines as
a colony and fought a guerilla war against Filipino rebels.
The ensuing history of the Philippines -- its shaky democracy,
its armed insurrections and its ongoing economic troubles --
has been marked by a recurring U.S. military presence and political
influence. As a new century begins, the United States is still
deeply involved in the Philippines -- and the stakes are higher
NEXT - 1898-1933: America's Colony
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Dave Gilson is a journalist in Berkeley, California.
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