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The Shadow of Torture: Debating US Transgressions in Military Interventions, 1899–2008

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Katrin Dauenhauer

The photographs from Abu Ghraib triggered a debate on torture in the United States that has been led with a significant amount of visibility. What has been noticeably absent, however, is a thorough historical contextualization of US torture following September 11, 2001. The Shadow of Torture analyzes the debates on torture during the Vietnam War and the Philippine-American War and shows that the current controversy did not arise out of a political vacuum but reflects and draws upon pre-existing discursive contexts and practices.
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Chapter Three: Forgetting/Rewriting/Reclaiming: Shadows of the Philippine-American War, 1899–1902

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← 78 | 79 → Chapter ThreeForgetting/Rewriting/Reclaiming: Shadows of the Philippine-American War, 1899–1902

Forgetting is a form of death ever present within life. […] But forgetting is also the great problem of politics. When a big power wants to deprive a small country of its national consciousness it uses the method of organized forgetting. […] A nation which loses awareness of its past gradually loses its self.

- Milan Kundera.62

The origins of the shared past between the United States and the Philippine Islands lie almost completely in the dark. It is not exaggerating to say that there has been a widespread amnesia regarding the Philippine-American War and the occurrence of torture during the war in both US and Filipino public memory. As the previous chapter showed, the reluctance to address issues relating to the conflict dates all the way back to the inception of the war itself. Congress hesitantly held an investigation of instances of the “water cure” carried out by American soldiers and never displayed the investigative vigor needed to thoroughly clarify the charges. Similarly, at no point was the Anti-Imperialist League, the dominant mouthpiece of anti-war sentiment, able to arouse a major public outcry against the American army’s misdeeds in the Philippines. How then—if at all—is the Philippine-American War in general and the employment of the “water cure” in particular remembered? How present is the United States’ first involvement in South East Asia in US public discourse?

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