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As we move dreadfully towards B*sh's imperial decree that 20,000+ more US warfighters head to his illegal war of LIES in Iraq, I find a small bit of irony in some research I'm doing.

I'm studying the Wars of South American Independence.  I'm currently looking at the archives of General Pablo Morillo, a key Spanish general sent with an expedition of 10,000 men in 1815 to put down the rebellions in modern day Venezuela and Colombia.

Morillo landed with high hopes: the population was divided into loyal and rebel camps.  Indeed, for the previous 5 years local forces loyal to the king had vigorously fought the rebel forces in a sectarian war that had ravaged the population and the countryside.  Most folks were exhausted and simply wanted peace.  Morillo's first campaign was to recapture Margarita Island.  The rebel leader Arismendi quickly sued for terms and Morillo showed great clemency.  He then sailed to take the port of Cartegena and begin his reconquest of Colombia.

As soon as he left Arismendi reneged.

Morillo's army engaged in a 103 day siege of Cartegena where thousands of his men succumbed to disease.  When the city fell, he again showed restraint.  He moved on to capture the remainder of Colombia.  Easily defeating the rebel forces with his experienced veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, he arrived in Bogota in time to learn of Arismendi's treachery.  So he decided to crack down.  He killed the rebel leaders and confiscated their property.  He unleashed the most ruthless of his native generals to deal with the rebels.

The rebels simply went into the mountains, jungles and vast llanos to continue the fight.

Morillo next decided to pacify Venezuela, including Margarita island.  He spent the next 2 years chasing rebel armies from town to town, winning most of the battles but always becoming weaker and more diffuse as his isolated garrisons only became sitting ducks for the ever-moving rebel forces.  He begged Spain for more troops.  He alternately tried accomodation and repression.  He sought a decisive field battle against Simon Bolivar, the key rebel general.  Indeed, on March 16, 1818 he defeated Bolivar completely, suffering a near fatal lance wound himself while personally leading the key charge that won the day.

Bolivar simply escaped and took his rebuilt army into Colombia.

By 1820, Morillo had had enough.  He realized that he simply could not defeat the rebels.  It wasn't his generalship: he had won every campaign he'd fought.  It wasn't his troops: they had fought hard and suffered every privation under the flag of Spain.  It wasn't even lack of friendly natives: many regions had been and remained loyal to the king, sending thousands of their young men to fight alongside Morillo.  It was simply that the issue had moved beyond any military solution.  The rebels simply could not be defeated in any way that would return the colonies to Spain.

After many letters requesting he be relieved of command, Morillo was finally sent home in 1821.  He left his second in command to fight on.  It was 1826 before the last Spanish outpost was defeated.  5 more years of bloodshed for a cause that had been lost before Morillo ever stepped foot on American soil.

It looks as if George B*sh is set to condemn the United States to 5 more years of bloodshed for a cause that's already lost.  I wonder what Pablo Morillo would say.

Originally posted to truckystiv on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 04:22 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nice Diary, good analogy. (3+ / 0-)

    The same failure occured at the end of England's colonialization of the United States.  Washington didn't need to win the Revolutionary War Battles, just survive and avoid defeat.

    The same lessons in Vietnam.

    You don't need to win any battles, just survive.

    What if they gave a war and nobody profited?

    by BerkeyBee on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 04:30:04 PM PST

  •  A historical precedent that you KNOW (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ice Blue

    will be totally alien to any member of this administration.

    This bunch doesn't even know what's happened in the last 50 years.

    Good diary, our ethnocentric school curriculums rarely touch on history in the Western Hemisphere outside the US......

    Napoleon and Haiti is one of my favorite "escapades" - made possible the Louisiania Purchase.

    Having lost Haiti - and the wealth from the sugar production - there was no point in holding onto Louisiania, which was viewed simply as a larder for that island.

    And irony of irony, the best troops of their day - from the premier military power of its age - got their butts kicked by a bunch of former slaves.

  •  escalation by any other name . . . (0+ / 0-)

    I view Bush's "new" idea as Stay the Course Grande.  Same strategy, bigger force.

    Steve Young, Democrat for Congress Ca-48

    "George Bush has no solutions. Steve Young does."

    Join our $10 to Win campaign at

    by Ca 48 Steve Young on Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 05:17:56 PM PST

  •  Spain and the loss of America (0+ / 0-)

    ...which was the title of Timothy Anna's book, I think.  Interesting post, though the history of the Spanish reconquista could also be spinned in favor of alter-the-course-but-stay in Iraq.  The pro-Independence regimes in (modern) Colombia between 1810 and 1815 were, for the most part, so inept that much of the population was happy, or at least indifferent, when the Spanish came back in 1814-15.  Some of their apparent happiness was no doubt faked, to hedge their bets with their old-and-new overlords, but a lot of it was probably genuine.  The Spanish proceeded to make a hash of it, sometimes in ways that bear a striking resemblance to what has happened in Iraq under US control since 2003. In both cases, the mistakes were in some sense "overdetermined" as some Marxists would say (in other words, the occupiers couldn't do otherwise, given their values and what justified their presence in the first place), while others were just bad mistakes born of incompetence, venality, and all that other timeless stuff.  In 1820 some Rumsfeldian peninsulars believed that more force combined with the elimination of mistakes could still salvage the situation, and if we now consider that thinking ridiculous it's more because Spain c.1820 was a ruined society unable to project its power to the New World, rather than that Independence was so deeply ingrained as to be permanent.  (Maybe in the Rio de la Plata, but not elsewhere for the most part.)  The U.S. is a lot of things, but it's not a ruined society and it hasn't run out of money.

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