There were oppressive aspects to that engagement, including the massacre of entire "rebel" communities in the mountains of Mindanao. The book contains strident, undeniably passionate, essays by Twain on what was, in certain respects, the Iraq War of its day (except that the European powers were in even deeper colonial doo-doo).*
The link to recent events is that Donald Trump latched onto the story of a real-life Philippine massacre that must stand as one of the most inglorious episodes of American involvement in Southeast Asia, short of Vietnam and (arguably) the atom bombing of Japan.
Naturally, Trump glorified it, using a made-up version of the story to explain his strategy for dealing with the "Muslim problem."** As explained by blogger and historian Paul Matzko:
"On the Friday before the South Carolina Republican primary, Trump told the story of US Army General John Pershing who, faced by recalcitrant Muslim insurgents during the US occupation of the Philippines, ordered the execution of 49 prisoners. To add quite literal insult to injury, Pershing ordered the executioners to use bullets dipped in pig’s blood, a violation of Islamic halal dietary restrictions."
Matzo goes on to look at the historical provenance of that apocryphal story, which he calls a variation on the "chain letter hoax."*** Trump, hyperbole fully loaded, fashioned the story as such: "He caught 50 terrorists that did tremendous damage and killed many people and he took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pig's blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people, and the 50th person, he said; "You go back to your people and you tell them what happened."
I am going to refrain from further comment, though it is interesting to see this recent Trump-Sanders Twitter interaction:
SEO Alert: Damon Shulenberger, aka EnduranceWriter.
*As Erskine Childers' ur-thriller Riddle of the Sands (1903) illustrates, the major powers were also preparing for major Continental warfare.
** God help us if Trump gets his hands on nukes.
*** Matzko also writes: this hoax actually isn’t all that unbelievable in the context of the Philippine-American War, which was fraught with very real atrocities committed by US soldiers (although official accounts of the time valorized the conflict). The low end of estimates for people killed during the conflict is just under a quarter of a million, most of whom were civilians. Bald statistics are less compelling than individual stories, but we also have a multitude of accounts of massacres and torture inflicted...."