Combat Versus Conquest
Although the war was ostensibly over Cuba, U.S. forces attacked Spain’s other colonies. This might be excused as strategically necessary — had not the United States subsequently absorbed these territories.
In July, after Santiago had fallen and Spain had already sued for peace, U.S. forces invaded the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico, whose defenders surrendered after token resistance.
In the Pacific, a U.S. cruiser began shelling Guam. The hapless Spaniards on that isolated island did not even know a war was on. They rowed out to the ship and apologized for not having the cannons necessary to return the “salute.”
In August, U.S. troops, supported by naval bombardment, seized Manila after light resistance, unaware that Spain had already signed a peace protocol.
Under the final treaty, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines became possessions of the United States, which paid Spain $20 million — on a take-it-or-leave-it basis — as compensation. In July, the United States also annexed Hawaii — though not a Spanish colony, it was absorbed during “expansion fever.”
To justify expelling Spain from Cuba, some congressional interventionists invoked the Monroe Doctrine. Declared by President James Monroe in 1823, the doctrine stated that America would view future European interference in the Western Hemisphere as aggression.
However, Monroe did not apply the doctrine to existing colonies like Cuba. Furthermore, the doctrine was intrinsically isolationist, affirming that nations should remain in their own spheres. By what logical consistency, then, could the United States overtake lands as distant as the Philippines? Americans were told we required overseas possessions to “protect our interests,” but why couldn’t Spain have that same privilege?
American soldiers were told they were “fighting colonialism” in Cuba, yet by usurping Spain’s colonies we became a colonial power ourselves. Calling them “possessions” was essentially an exercise in semantics.
Americans were also told we must fight for Cubans’ “self-determination.” But when the Filipinos requested the same right, it was refused. U.S. troops spent four years suppressing a Filipino independence movement. Forty-two hundred U.S. soldiers and 20,000 Filipino insurgents died in the fighting. Ironically, in the Philippines, when American General J. Franklin Bell realized rural people were aiding the rebels, he ordered them into concentrated zones. Thus the United States adapted the same strategy it condemned when employed by the Spanish in Cuba.
A few Americans recognized the hypocrisies. Massachusetts Senator George Hoar stated that “if we are to govern subjects and vassal States, trampling as we do it on our own great Charter which recognizes alike the liberty and dignity of individual manhood, then let us resist this thing in the beginning, and let us resist it to the death.” Delaware Senator George Gray warned that the treaty with Spain “introduces European politics and the entangling alliances against which Washington and all American statesmen have protested.
It will make necessary a navy equal to the largest of powers [and] a greatly increased military establishment … multiply occasions for dangerous complications with foreign nations, and increase burdens of taxation.” The newly formed Anti-Imperialist League declared: “We regret that it has become necessary in the land of Washington and Lincoln to reaffirm that all men, of whatever race or color, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We maintain that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
These voices were drowned out as flags waved to speeches about America becoming a “world power,” justified by our “Manifest Destiny.”
Behind the Scenes
One can better understand the war by following actions of National City Bank, forerunner of today’s Citibank. National City was America’s most powerful bank, with a board including representatives of the Rockefeller, Morgan, and Rothschild interests. Historian Ferdinand Lundberg noted: “National City Bank during McKinley’s incumbency was, significantly, more closely involved in Administration affairs than any other bank.”
To finance the war, Assistant Treasury Secretary Frank Vanderlip negotiated a $200 million loan from National City Bank. After the war, the bank made Vanderlip its president. In that capacity he participated in the infamous Jekyll Island meeting, where private bankers secretly plotted creation of the Federal Reserve Bank.
A new tax was announced to fund the war (or, practically speaking, to reimburse National City Bank). Since the Supreme Court had ruled an income tax unconstitutional in 1895, a federal excise tax was levied on telephone service. The tax remained in force for over a century, until it was repealed in 2006.
More than loan interest was at stake. Sugar seems ordinary today, but long ago its profitability earned the nickname “white gold” — much as oil, dominated by the Rockefellers’ Standard Oil, was called “black gold.” Lundberg writes of the Spanish-American War that “the Rockefeller-Stillman National City Bank benefited most directly from it, for Cuba, the Philippines, and, indeed, all of Latin America soon afterward became dotted with National City branches, and the Cuban sugar industry gravitated into National City’s hands.” William Guy Carr affirmed in Pawns in the Game: “National City Bank owned and controlled Cuba’s sugar industry when the war ended.” Mark Twain wrote:
How our hearts burned with indignation against the atrocious Spaniards.… But when the smoke was over, the dead buried and the cost of the war came back to the people in an increase in the price of commodities and rent — that is, when we sobered up from our patriotic spree — it suddenly dawned on us that the cause of the Spanish-American War was the price of sugar.
Hawaii and the Philippines also yielded huge sugar revenues, and were steps toward a larger economic target: China. By 1899, McKinley already proclaimed his “Open Door” policy, demanding that European nations grant the United States equal access to Chinese ports.
Major General Smedley Butler was, at the time of his death (1940), the most decorated Marine in American history. In his book War Is a Rackethe revealed:
I have spent 34 years in active service as a member of the Marine Corps. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank to collect revenues.
Nevertheless, the war disabled opposition that had been simmering against Wall Street monopolists. Thanks to press propaganda, “Spain” replaced “Morgan and Rockefeller” as the enemy. The rising Populist Party was neutralized. After the 1896 elections, it ceased to play a significant role in American politics. Distinctions between the Democratic and Republican parties, both of whom supported the war, continued fading.
Correspondingly, the war was exploited to consolidate the North and South, which animosity had divided since the War between the States and Reconstruction. McKinley cleverly appointed ex-Confederate generals such as Joseph Wheeler and Thomas Rosser, along with old Union officer William Shafter, who commanded the expeditionary force to Cuba. Having Southerners fight alongside Yankees would rebuild the cohesiveness needed to make America’s military a world police force.
Birth of the Anglo-American Establishment
Few know that the war inaugurated a U.S.-British alliance that began dissipating the aversion most Americans still held toward their former colonial ruler. Of the European powers, Britain alone sided with America during the war, and provided covert assistance. So strong was the partnership that Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II called it “the American-British Society for International Theft and Warmongering.”
In 1896, when Spain sought support from a coalition of the European powers, Britain’s ambassador to Spain, Henry Drummond Wolff, sabotaged the plan by leaking it to the U.S. government. Shortly before war began, Maria Cristina, Regent of Spain, wrote to England’s Queen Victoria (her aunt), imploring British solidarity with Spain. But Victoria politely declined at the insistence of Britain’s powerful prime minister, Lord Salisbury. Before the invasion of Puerto Rico, the land was spied out by U.S. Lieutenant Henry Whitney — disguised as a British officer. When Manila was bombarded in August 1898, British warships positioned themselves between Dewey’s ships and a nearby German fleet.
Before the war, Britain’s Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain declared: “I should look with pleasure to the possibility of the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack floating together in defence [sic] of a common cause sanctioned by humanity and justice.”And with the war under way, he said that “terrible as war may be, even war itself would be cheaply purchased if, in a great and noble cause, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack should wave together over an Anglo-Saxon alliance.” As relations warmed, a new organization formed in July 1898: the Anglo-American League, with branches in the United States and England. The league led to the founding of the secretive Pilgrims Society in 1902.
Students of conspiracy and the “new world order” often hear of the Council on Foreign Relations, Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, the Trilateral Commission, and Bilderbergers. Receiving less attention, though predating them all, is the Pilgrims Society. Ostensibly formed to promote goodwill between the United States and Britain, its membership consists of “upper crust” from government, business, banking, and media in both countries.
Members today include luminaries ranging from David Rockefeller to Queen Elizabeth II. Its earliest members included Spanish-American War generals Joseph Wheeler and Leonard Wood, along with a “who’s who” of Wall Street monopolists and Federal Reserve founders — John D. Rockefeller, Jr.; Andrew Carnegie; Paul Warburg; Jacob Schiff; Nelson Aldrich; and Frank Vanderlip. J.P. Morgan was the society’s first vice president.
In Britain, early members included Lord Salisbury, powerful financier Nathan Rothschild, Bank of England governor Montagu Norman, world government advocate Philip Kerr, and Winston Churchill (whose 1895 visit to Cuba sparked controversy in England, where he was accused of meddling in non-British affairs). The Pilgrims Society’s motto is “Hic et Ubique” (here and everywhere), an evident complement to “Ubique,” the word on the logo of the Council on Foreign Relations — which many American members of the Pilgrims Society have belonged to.