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26 June, 2013
Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare
Mr. Root First Denies That Cruelty Has Been Practised


Let us now proceed to consider what was done to investigate charges of torture or to prevent and punish it. In this letter of February 17 he says that every report of cruelty and oppression brought to the notice of the department "has been made the subject of prompt investigation," and encloses "the records of thirteen such inquiries." He proceeds:

You will perceive that in substantially every case the report has proved to be either unfounded or grossly exaggerated. The particular report which was called to the attention of the Senate last week -- viz., that the "water cure" is the favorite torture of the American, and especially of the Macabebe, scouts, to force the natives to give information, and that a soldier who was with General Funston had stated that he helped to administer the water cure to one hundred and sixty natives, all but twenty-six of whom died -- was already under investigation which is still in progress.

I enclose a copy of a letter received from General Funston, dated Feb. 2, 1902, in which he declares the statement to be "an atrocious lie, without the slightest foundation in fact," and a letter from Lieutenant Batson, the commander of the Macabebe scouts, to the same effect.


He encloses the General Order No. 100 and says:

Among these rules you will find the following:

Rule 16. Military necessity does not admit of cruelty; that is, the infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or for revenge, nor for maiming or wounding, except in fight, nor of torture to extort confessions....

Rule 56. A prisoner of war is subject to no punishment for being a public enemy. Nor is any revenge wreaked on him by the intentional infliction of any suffering or disgrace by cruel imprisonment, want of food, by mutilation, death, or any other barbarity.


He proceeds:

The Filipino troops have frequently fired upon our men from under protection of flags of truce, tortured to death American prisoners who have fallen into their hands, buried alive both Americans and friendly natives, and horribly mutilated the bodies of the American dead. That the soldiers fighting against such an enemy, and with their own eyes witnessing such deeds, should occasionally be regardless of these orders and retaliate by unjustifiable severities, is not incredible.... That such occurrences have been sanctioned or permitted is not true. A constant and effective pressure of prohibition, precept, and discipline, has been maintained against them. That there has been any such practice is not true. The cases have been few and far between, scattered infrequently over a great area of country along the course of three years of active conflict, through thousands of engagements, and among many thousands of troops.... The war in the Philippines has been conducted by the American Army with scrupulous regard for the rules of civilized warfare, with careful and genuine consideration for the prisoner and the non-combatant, with self-restraint, and with humanity never surpassed.


This letter was clearly written to deny that there was any truth in the charge that our army had employed torture; and it took the ground, unequivocally, that cruelty and torture were forbidden by the laws of war and the orders of our officers. While admitting that among thousands of troops cases of cruelty might occur, it insisted that a constant pressure of "discipline" had been exerted to prevent it. There was no attempt to justify cruelty, only a denial that it had been practised, and for the very reason that it was forbidden by president Lincoln's General Order No. 100.

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