4. Dinner with Colonel Funston|
"You've been in the villages for several days, Doctor Forrester. What news?"
"Not good, I'm afraid, Colonel. The peasants
have looted and destroyed Spanish garrisons throughout the region leaving the
Spanish soldiers with neither food nor shelter. Their command structure,
or what little left of it, is ineffectual. The officers exercise control
through brute force only and then only when they think they'll prevail. Spanish
soldiers are scattered throughout the barrios sleeping where they can and eating
scraps of garbage the peasants throw out for the dogs. It's ugly, sir. There's
no attempt at sanitation. I'm worried about disease. We've tried
to get them to organize themselves, dig slit trenches, boil their drinking
water, but they're just not interested. All they want is to go home. There's
nothing more I can do with them, Colonel."
"So it's come full circle," Funston bellowed. "The Filipinos doling
out scraps to the Spanish. Now that's irony for you!"
Major Russell ignored the colonel's trenchant remark. He turned to
the doctor. "It's the same all over Luzon, doctor. The Spanish
government has deliberately slowed down the repatriation of troops. Their
economy at home in shambles, there aren't any jobs for eighty thousand returning
soldiers, not even any place to put them. The great Spanish empire is
bankrupt. I think the government wishes they'd just disappear so they
wouldn't have to deal with them."
Lieutenant Alstaetter spoke up, "When I left San Francisco six weeks
ago, Congress had not yet appropriated the twenty million they promised Spain
in the Treaty of Paris. Perhaps those funds will help the Spanish get
their soldiers home." His first words of the evening, and he immediately
regretted them. Suddenly, Colonel Funston fixed him with an icy glare. Unthinkable
one of his subordinates spoke in defense of the Spanish at his own dinner table! The
officers were silent for a long moment.
Finally, Colonel Funston said, "It is our position, Lieutenant, Congress should
never have agreed to any condition, save Spain's total and complete surrender. If
Spain's broke, that's her problem. Personally, I wouldn't give them
one red cent."
Captain Baston drained his glass then poured himself another, "The Spanish
should have considered this ignominious eventuality before they began their
empire building." His speech becoming slurred, Major Russell made a
mental note that Baston liked his brandy, maybe a little too well. He
raised his own glass. "Let's hope the lesson is not lost on us, Captain."