Sunday, February 07, 2016

Mules, MacArthur and Monuments

Of Mules and Ickes
The Philippines’ brush with National Monument Status
MacArthur stood tall
By Stephen L. Wilmeth


             I’m looking for a mule.
            My search for a mule is the result of having two good horses gimpy from running cattle in the rocks of the Sierras de Las Uvas. Both of them are too important to cripple and a mule has become a priority of some importance. I’ve called in my circle. Walt didn’t know of a good mule, hadn’t seen one in his 56+ years, and, if there was a good one, maybe Harvel would know where it might be.
Pepe’s looking for a candidate on the basis of a three way trade akin to a 1031 exchange. He’s interested in a mare I have, knows a vaquero with a mule of interest, and is relying on me to fill the spot of arbitrage. A high level trade could be consummated if all the parties could be amenable to the deal.
The near famous Ortega forgot to ask his brother, but said to expect to pay an arm and a leg for a molly in order to compete with the Californians.
Dusty has become an out and out turn coat. Where mules used to be everyday passage to him, practicality has blossomed. “You can train three or four horses by the time you get a mule where you want him,” he began. “Besides, you are now so old maybe you ought to think about the outcome of such a moment of weakness.”
Terrell curled his lips and wrinkled his nose in anticipation when I asked him if he knew of a good one. “There are only two kinds of good mules, you know,” he declared after a dignified (desultory) long pause.
“Okay, what would that be?” was the obligatory response.
“Well, the kind the fellow just bought and he’s trying to justify his decision, and the one the fellow is trying to unload on you.”
I am still looking for a mule.
MacArthur
I must admit I have never been a MacArthur fan.
Long before it was trendy to discuss Patton, I was his ardent admirer. It was the same for Tom Jackson. In both cases, their tendencies to act on boldness and aggressively seeking the advantage of surprise set them apart and made them special.
MacArthur was painted with egotistical broad strokes. He couldn’t overcome my bias made greater by lingering grudges of several childhood friends. He left too many local New Mexico National Guard boys on Corregidor that wound up enduring the Bataan Death March. I knew a few of them. They were survivors that became fathers of my childhood friends. The closest had the names Chintis, Jackson, and Tow. As children we talked about those fathers with nightmares and strange habits like eating overcooked, burned rice.
Douglas MacArthur was not their hero, hence, he wasn’t mine.
In a recent bout of insomnia, though, I found something that piqued my interest. It was an overview of MacArthur’s enduring support for Filipino loyalists upon his return to the Philippines commencing with the Battle of Leyte. In addition to his military command, MacArthur assumed civil duties overseeing governance of the American Island territory which, during the Japanese occupation, was run by a Nipponese backed puppet regime in Manila. He intended to restore Philippine rule. In fact, he had President Sergio Osmena brought back for the invasion with the full intention of formally installing him in office once a beachhead was secured (Osmena had served as vice president of the government in exile in Washington during the Japanese occupation until Manuel Quezon died and he assumed the role of president).
Until that time and unbeknownst to MacArthur, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with his point man, Secretary of Interior, Harold L. Ickes, had ulterior motives for the biological island(s) wonderland. We now know the liberal duo intended for the Department of Interior to “take charge” of the archipelago along with its folksy government once the country was liberated.
MacArthur was incredulous!
“He (Ickes) seemed to think of the islands as another one of his National Parks,” MacArthur wrote to his diary. He later continued, “It was his claim that the archipelago was a ‘possession’ of the United States and the Filipinos were a traitorous race undeserving of self-government”. Indeed, it appears Ickes was going to make the Philippines a grand ecological preserve!
MacArthur ignored the demands of Ickes as he had resisted the earlier subtle urgings from Roosevelt to assume full control of the government. He never caught on the grander plan that Roosevelt wouldn’t discuss outright. He intended to return normalcy to the lives of the people as soon as possible and he sought the support of Secretary of War, Henry Stimson. Stimson agreed on all fronts and Roosevelt capitulated in order not to create an unwarranted issue.
That, however, didn’t stop Ickes. He continued to wage a furious battle with the White House to overturn MacArthur’s scheme to return the Philippines to the sweaty, undeserving populous. The Secretary wanted to keep the Pacific possession under his czardom and protect it from environmental ruin.
Nevertheless, when a permanent beachhead was secured, MacArthur carried out his plan and restored the presidency of the Philippines under the old commonwealth constitution. He installed Osmena, “on behalf of my government,” as president of a free Philippine commonwealth and declared Manila “the Citadel of Democracy of the East.”
For his part, Ickes considered MacArthur and archenemy and never lost the opportunity to impugn him. Ickes knew how close he had come to altering the entire paradigm of the archipelago into a new concept … “the Citadel of Environmental Eden of the East.”
Courageous leadership
 If Roosevelt’s European hierarchy of military committee leadership had been in MacArthur’s place, the Philippines model may well have been much different. We must only witness the debacle of the post war divided Germany and all the world implications thereof to recognize that Ickes would probably have prevailed in his plan. MacArthur, however, disallowed the human catastrophe that would surely have taken place.
For that, he deserves credit. In fact, his leadership must be recognized for what it ultimately became … courageous leadership.
The revelation of the bizarre attempt to disallow Filipinos to govern their native country and to manage it from the Department of Interior as one of Ickes’ National Parks must not be swept aside as if it was simply the actions of “a common scold puffed up by high office” (as past Senator Styles once described Ickes). It must be arrayed in juxtaposition with the climate of the new Washington. The temptation is simply too great to pass up. Just think of the actions of this president if he were returned by time passage to Roosevelt’s chair. In a heartbeat, he would have given Ickes a lifelong stipend and ordered his director of executive order concepts to craft the grandest of land grabs by ordering the designation of the Philippines as the nation’s newest national monument.
All the tedious jargon would be there. Iconic, rich heritage, biological wonders, environmental fragility, lands with wilderness characteristics and ecological gem would all be painted across the pages as if it was a masterful painting. It would reveal the greatest issue of our day… the bankruptcy of courageous leadership.
In the past, I have opined for the reappearance of Patton and Jackson. I’ll now somewhat reluctantly add the name, MacArthur, but there will be a qualification.
He won’t be allowed to ride the dashing charger of his preference … he’ll ride a mule.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The more you investigate the past the more you realize the environmental mobs have always been there. This Harold L. Ickes was Bill Clinton’s Chief-of-staff’s (Harold M Ickes) father.”


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