26 APRIL 2003, Page 31

Short memory syndrome

From Mr Allan Massie Sir: Paul Johnson (And another thing, 19 April) quotes President McKinley's assur ance to a delegation to the White House that he had prayed `to Almighty God for light and guidance' when he was 'unsure what to do about the Philippines'.

May I quote Edmund Wilson's account of what followed? 'The Filipino rebels against Spanish rule, who had assumed that our intervention was disinterested, turned their resistance against us when they discovered that we wanted to take over their islands. It took us more than two years to subdue them and cost us 5,000 lives among the 70,000 soldiers we had sent there. We established concentration camps of the kind which had aroused our indignation when the Spaniards had resorted to them in Cuba, and 220,000 Filipinos, most of them civilians, were killed' (Patriotic Gore, Introduction, p. xxiv).

As Mr Johnson writes, in due course America redeemed her promise to give the Philippines their full independence' — half a century later. . . Plus ca change? Dear me, surely not.

Allan Massie Selkirk, Scottish Borders