Doing things differently?

Further to my posting of earlier today, in which I unpacked a rather bizarre response to a question on Quora, I thought I would post my own (hopefully rather more useful) answer to the question:

One only has to look at the conduct of the French in Algeria, and of the USA in the Plains Wars and in the Philippines, to realise that they would have adopted a similar strategy, if not a more heavy-handed one.

The French had used concentration camps in Algeria from the 1830s, and it has been estimated that, from 1830 to 1900, between 15 and 25 per cent of the Algerian population died in such camps.

‘Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur’, by Ben Keirnan, states, ‘By 1875, the French conquest was complete. The war had killed approximately 825,000 indigenous Algerians since 1830.’

Another source states: ‘Colonization and genocidal massacres proceeded in tandem. Within the first three decades (1830–1860) of French conquest, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Algerians, out of a total of 3 million, were killed due to war, massacres, disease and famine.’

A similar strategy was employed by the American military in the American-Philippine War and many of the concentration camps they established were massively overcrowded, with one report declaring that 8,000 Filipinos were held in a camp just two miles long by a mile wide. One church in the camp housed 127 females, while 270 men shared a house. Civilian death tolls in that conflict dwarf those of the Boer War and are estimated to have been anywhere between 200,000 and over a million: it was reckoned that 100,000 civilians perished in Batangas province alone.

If anything, the American-Philippine War of 1899–1903 (fought almost simultaneously with the Boer War) saw US troops adopting tactics far harsher than those employed by Imperial forces in South Africa:

‘…the behaviour of American soldiers in the Philippines was officially governed by General Orders 100. GO 100 had been written during the Civil War to help Union forces deal with the task of controlling occupied Southern territories. The author, a distinguished lawyer named Frances Lieber, had had sons fighting both sides, and he aimed the orders to be stern but fair … GO 100 demanded the fair treatment of enemy soldiers and of civilians in occupied terrain. But it also required that those enemy soldiers and occupied civilians meet certain rules of behaviour. Enemy soldiers had to wear uniforms. Occupied civilians could not act to hide or assist enemy soldiers without fear of repercussion … if the civilian population acted to hide or assist such guerrilla forces, the occupying army was justified in punitive destruction of civilian property, as long as that destruction was not ‘wanton’ … captured insurgents could be executed summarily. Towns giving support to Aguinaldo’s forces could be destroyed’, and ‘…the population [of one area which was an insurgent stronghold] was forced into zones of concentration around the major towns and anything left outside was considered fair game. American units burned villages, killed animals, and destroyed crops … one officer who took part in the campaign, recalled, ‘We did not take any prisoners. We shot everybody on sight.’

And this was by no means the occasional excess: Major Littleton Waller of the US Marines received the following orders from his General:
‘I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me.’
When Waller questioned what the lower age limit was on the killing, he was told ‘ten years of age’.

After an insurgent attack on American forces at Balangiga had left forty-eight US troops dead, ‘the town of Balangiga was razed to the ground, such that nothing there remains to this day but the bare walls of the church used to conceal the ambushers’.

One American officer had cages measuring fifteen by 30 feet and six feet high constructed from railway tracks, and crammed up to fifty prisoners in them for months at a time. He proudly posed in front of his cages for a press photographer, and cheerfully answered questions about the death rates they caused.

An American soldier wrote home to tell his family:

‘The town of Titatia [sic] was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger.’

American ‘soldiers derisively labelled this kind of fighting ‘amigo’ warfare because, after inflicting casualties, the insurgent force would fade away into the jungle, and when the Americans pushed on into the nearest town, all they would find were Filipinos in civilian clothing crying out ‘Amigo, amigo!’ as a sign of friendship’.

To return to the Boer War: once Botha refused Kitchener’s offer to have farms declared off-limits (because Botha wanted to keep targeting the farms of surrendered Boers and loyalists) then scorched earth was inevitable; to leave enemy supply depots untouched would have been nonsensical – no matter who was fighting the war.


  • Robert+Hackney Posted February 4, 2022 12:07 am

    One thing I have to say, is that really too many people confuse genocide with subjugation. Yes these scales are BRUTAL subjugation, but that’s still what it is.

    • Bulldog Posted February 6, 2022 3:47 pm

      Absolutely – the word ‘genocide’ gets thrown around with little or no thought. None of these are examples of genocide, no matter how brutal they might have been.

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