Death in the Philippines

To the Editors:

In his dispute with Robert W. Creamer as to whether “three million Filipinos” or “less than a tenth of [that] figure” were killed by the American army at the beginning of the century, Gore Vidal is either uninformed or deliberately misleading.

Thus, when he says “It was American policy at the turn of the century to kill as many Filipinos as possible” and quotes Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell “apropos our seizure of the Philippines,” many readers may not know that the Bell quotation, rather than being typical of that seizure, is from Bell’s December 9, 1901 Circular Order No. 1 pertaining to his extraordinarily harsh operations in the Luzon province of Batangas, for which he was severely criticized in Senate hearings….

But Vidal ignores such evidence and goes on to say that “General Bell himself, the old sweetheart, estimated that we killed one-sixth of the population of the main island of Luzon—some 600,000 people,” which raises the question of how the Luzon population could have grown from the 1901 US Coast and Geodetic Survey Atlas of the Philippine Islands figure of 3,666,822 to the 1903 census total of 3,798,507 in a period that comprised the year in which Bell’s own depredations occurred….

Russell Roth

Minneapolis, Minnesota