The Rise of a Despot (Part III)

Filed under: , , by: Ron Centeno

There is no shortage of links between Manila, (Marcos, 1965 - 1986) and Washington (Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963 – 1969; Richard Nixon, 1969 – 1974; and Ronald Reagan, 1981 - 1989) from 1965 to 1987. The earlier connection between Marcos and Johnson was predicated by the war in Vietnam and was inherited by Nixon at the height of the Cold War that pitted the United States against the former Soviet Union.

America’s fear of “domino effect” (turning Vietnam into a communist state and spreading across Southeast Asia) became a lingering nightmare for U. S. leaders. Second World War was only twenty-years earlier and whatever cost to avert the possibility of a third was priceless. Marcos was quick to capitalize on such ‘fear’ and turned the table to his advantage, economically and politically.

Despite Marcos’ earlier uncommitted posture of sending Filipino troops to Vietnam, he became emboldened to pitch in if the price were right. However, Johnson’s advisers were reluctant to give in to Marcos’ excessive demands for “the very small contribution” he was willing to share. Marcos, they noted, was seeking the money for “political purposes” and had not proposed “effective means of using the large sums.”

Notwithstanding, Marcos prevailed and got what he wanted including, “$45 million in economic assistance; $31 million in settlement of Philippine veterans’ claims; and, finally, from the Special Educational Fund, $3.5 million, which would be for Imelda Marcos’s Cultural Center.” Johnson was not very pleased, however, when Marcos “only modestly supported the Vietnam War while never relenting in his demands for concessions.”

In December 1967 Johnson and Marcos were to attend the funeral of Prime Minister Harold Holt of Australia. Seizing the solemn opportunity to press LBJ for more American aid, Johnson’s aide recalled the U.S. president angry remark, “If you ever bring that man near me again, I’ll have your head.”

Johnson’s dislike for Marcos was overshadowed by his fondness of his wife Imelda. At the White House, when the Marcoses were in for a state visit, the spotlight was piercingly illuminated on Imelda. At thirty-seven, “the former beauty queen was a the head table, on her left the president of the United States, on her right the secretary of state, Dean Rusk.”

Indeed, the Iron Butterfly and the soon-to-be owner of 3,000 pairs of shoes has arrived!


Waltzing with a dictator. (1987). Raymond Bonner. Random House, Inc. New York; Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto


On March 3, 2009 at 5:32 AM , Makoy said...

buti narecover mo pa. would read the two parts later. ang haba hehe :)

On March 3, 2009 at 6:46 AM , shydub said...

Pretty intersting post, my hubby got interested on your third part. He would like to point out though, that it wasn't just america's fear of communism, it was the whole free world's fear of communism. And thanks to america, communism is no more. If we have learned anything from communism, it is how not to run a government.
Great post! thanks for the visit.

On March 3, 2009 at 11:09 AM , Ron Centeno said...

Makoy! It was crazy! Had to start from scratch!

On March 3, 2009 at 3:36 PM , austenfan said...

never knew that. imelda was good (or bad) for marcos, huh? lol.

On March 4, 2009 at 11:05 PM , uglykidjoey said...

pretty interesting read.

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