Note: These posts were just recently transferred from livingplanet2001.blogspot.com
Hello and thanks for the feedback on the piece! A number replied and the feedback was varied as it was very informative. I’ve always believed in creative tension, when people disagree, but agree to disagree and to continue discussing. We won’t be able to kick out the evil politicians, but at least, we know that there are people there, Filipinos, who are aware and are discussing these issues. Hopefully, our discussions should lead to some concrete actions at various levels. Just hearing from you was well worth it.
To my friends and colleagues, it sure would have been nice to discuss this over drinks and pulutan. To family, these discussions over a meal would have been very lively. But hey, I have all your comments, and without your permission (sorry!), I’ve placed them in a blog I’ve set up (livingplanet2001.blogspot.com). Of course, your names have been removed and identifying characteristics have been omitted, i.e. a former singer etc.. J
Most agreed with what I wrote and gave additional comments such as the fact that Europe paid so much ransom money for the Dos Palmas hostages that that the “exchange rate in Mindanao actually appreciated to 42 when the USD/PHP rate in Manila was at 50!” Others also reiterated that all countries focus on their own national interests and that the U.S. has a history of propping up dictators, including Saddam himself. Lastly, most had contempt for GMA and the politicians for the state of our nation and the fact that GMA was really acting for her own political survival. All very incisive.
New developments include the announcement that Thailand and Norway are also withdrawing their troops.
Those who disagreed, and this is what I want to comment on, cited our loss of face/ international credibility, the risk we are taking, that more terrorist acts are forthcoming, that patriotism and self-sacrifice is needed even for OCWs (as if they are not already sacrificing) etc.
In my piece, I noted that GMA was acting very Machiavellian in withdrawing the troops. I have no problem with that as I wrote because it saves a Filipino life and corrects a policy mistake (supporting the Iraq invasion). The loss of face and international credibility is a serious matter that the Philippine government’s future actions should consider. My last three paragraphs provided opportunities to counteract this loss of face. Let me expand it.
First, to reiterate, we have to support legitimate actions against terrorism and that should be in Afghanistan, in Africa, in Kosovo etc. Our contribution will be more deeply appreciated since peacekeeping is direly needed.
Second, I have to emphasize that withdrawal is not a static, one point in time, end-game, zero-sum event. Terrorism will strike us whether we withdraw or not. Counteracting terrorism, as I said, is a long-term, global, multi-dimensional, multi-level activity that requires innovative counter-strategies and counter-intelligence. Will the terrorist have won if we withdraw? On the short-term maybe. Geopolitically though, this can be much debated. Iraq is so fluid these days, it is now very hard to determine the ultimate causes of the rise in terrorism and violence in the country. But withdrawal, as stated by several of you, gives some level of protection to our over 1 million OCWs in the Middle East.
Third, my martial arts and U.S./ Filipino military trainer -friend opposes the withdrawal on the grounds of encouraging more terrorism and that Saddam’s removal is moral and right. On the surface I agree with him, but his view contradicts his advice to me, which I used in my second to last paragraph. In defense, he says, do not tell them what weapon you have, what you are going to do, what skills you have. When you hit back, hit hard and make sure the other guy doesn’t get up. He also said that the Filipino soldier, provided good logistical support, is a world class soldier.
This is precisely the point I am making. The Philippines reserves the right to protect its citizens in any manner, including retribution (I did not want to elaborate on this but here goes…). By withdrawing, everybody thinks we are cowards, but has anyone tried calling a Filipino a coward to his face? Let us see what will happen. Imagine meeting Jay Leno walking towards you. What would you do? If Angel or anyone else in the future gets decapitated by these terrorists, what prevents us from not striking back, one year from now, five years from now? I remember reading Rosaldo’s book on Illonggot Headhunting on how the Illonggots on their own would ambush the fully-armed Japanese soldiers and lop off their heads in WWII.
If terrorists hit, so can the Philippines hit back (with all its pork barrel funds). A slush fund and team to focus solely on these issues should be set up. We’ve all heard about millionaire kidnap victims seeking their “own” justice afterwards. As I said, in the fight against terrorism, agility, creativity, long-term planning, better geopolitical analysts, special forces, good negotiators etc. are needed. The fight against terrorism needs out-of-the box thinking and not the bureaucratic and “total war” approach (War against whom? We don’t even know who they are!) that governments today are advocating.
It is only when we do not seek justice and/or retribution that we lose face permanently. Our actions, although wobbly at times, should speak for itself. One friend wrote that it was the Philippines who alerted the US FBI/CIA about the original Al-Qaeda plot to fly airplanes into American buildings and that we also caught that Yousef Rahmzi guy. Abu Sabbaya has been killed and the Abu Sayyaf are on the run… We are in the thick of the fight against terrorism, here in the country and in Asia and this withdrawal is just one of several strategies we have taken for the moment. The world shouldn’t forget that.
It is now up to GMA to avoid future blunders.
Have a good week everyone!
FROM DOWN UNDER…
Having said that, I must admit that your editorial piece did grab my attention and rouse strong feelings. I have been mulling the situation over in my head and feel the same Way you do. I wanted to share a few points of my own. Would like to hear your thoughts on it when you have time.
1. The US only looks after its own national interests. Yes, Manila was the second most devastated city after WWII, but do people also know thatJapan received more reconstruction aid than the Philippines did?
2. Yes, the Philippines has been at the forefront at the war on terror, even before it was described as such. Perhaps the judgmental Western media need reminding that it was the Philippines who alerted the US FBI/CIA about the original Al-Qaeda plot to fly airplanes into American landmarks? (To say nothing of the negligent handling of that information by the US agencies concerned.) Obviously, the US was "interested" in other issues.
3. When the Abu Sayyaff hit Dos Palmas (?) and took several European hostages, the European governments concerned sent their own negotiators over and paid the ransom. This short-term fix, while understandable from a humanistic view, strengthened the terrorists in Mindanao; they won more supporters and with the cash they bought enough firepower (guns, fast speedboats, etc) to overwhelm the Philippine government's troops. These people had so much USD that the exchage rate in Mindanao actually appreciated to 42 when the USD/PHP rate in Manila was at 50!
But I wonder how the Western press reported these negotiations? Were the European governments concerned portrayed as weak, as the Philippines is being portrayed now? Or were described as heroes who did the right thing in saving their own citizens from terrorism?
I think we all know the answer to that. It's often said that history is written from the viewpoint of the victorious. In a similar vein, I believe the international news is written by the rich.
4. The OCW community is the country's no. 1 source of foreign exchange, without which the Peso could easily deteriorate to Php 100 against the USD.
What sort of actions would the US resort to (overt and covert) if it found itself in a similar situation? While it is impossible to answer this question, one could start to forman answer by recalling instances when the US pursued its interests at the expense of everyone else: propping up dictators (Marcos, Noriega, etc.), supporting terrorists (Bin Laden, etc.), invading countries(Panama, etc.), avoiding the Kyoto agreement, being the number one exporter of arms, etc. (I'm sure there are lots more examples you could add.)
And let's not forget the media's current favorite interests: torture at the Abu Grahib and Guantanamo Bay prisons and, guess what, there were no WMD after all, "but we were still right to invade Iraq".
Given this track record, can the self-anointed "global policeman" really claim any moral high ground here?
5. To press the point home, if the US is the kind of global policeman that invades countries / props up dictators / etc. to support interests with limited economic value, what would it do to other countries if its major economic interests are threatened? (Can you spell o-i-l?)
Note that most of these actions were designed to project US influence overseas; e.g. to contain communism, etc. But from an economic perspective, none of these actions, taken separately, would have destabilized the US economy to the same degree as losing its number one source of foreign exchange.
Yet that is precisely the situation the Philippines finds itself in. And it is being portrayed by the Western media as a spineless developing country that just can't get its act together.
The Philippines can and should pursue its moral and economic interests, like all the other nations do. And if Bush is convinced that he was "right to invade Iraq anyway", why does he need the additional symbolic validation of minor coalition members? In some parallel reality, if the Philippines and Spain did not pull out of Iraq, I argue that the
political ratings of John Howard and Tony Blair and George W. would STILL have dropped to current levels--because it was the wrong thing to do.
FROM A PHILSOPHER-PRIEST
Thanks for sharing this. Helped me a lot to clarify my own thoughts on the matter. For a while I was thinking GMA was wrong, but now, especially after having read I am convinced that GMA did the right thing, though she certainly has left herself wide open to attack. But, as you say, it is not only what she did, but what the national interest is. If USA attacks her for "cowardice" and leaving her "allies" in the lurch, then I hope USA will will at least be honest enough to beat their breast and say Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, for having misled the Philippines and other supportive allies into a hell of hole. Anyone can make a mistake. But it is the mark of a wise and honest man to right the mistake and not make the same mistake twice.
FROM AN ASTUTE AND SHARP M.I.L. (FIRST AND BETTER THAN A COLUMNIST’S VERSION!)
Yes, you can go on and on in its' deliberation and yes, it is our prerogative to withdraw whenever and for whatever reason specially because the presence of mass destruction for which they got everybody to war, could not be established by the Americans themselves. And many more.
But if you were here, I think that more than what we would like to think of GMA's noble intentions for the pull out, personally, it was a political survival that made her decide to do this. You see, de la Cruz became a symbol of the Pinoy OFW in Iraq, pretty much the way Flor Contemplacion became the symbol for the domestic OFW. And if he got beheaded, then all this legitimate and illegitimate howling by numerous protesters, will only be used by the opposition to kick out GMA or show her "incompetence", and charge her further as a puppet of Bush. The Contemplacion case led to the "beheading" of Bobby Romulo and Nieves Confessor. I am sure the opposition, who has obviously run out of ammunition, was salivating and hopeful for a similar incident they could use on Gloria. So I think she is a smart cookie.
If the situation were not as critical as today, GMA could have stuck to her original decision to pull out in August and take the risk of de la Cruz' beheading. But she knew that she couldn't afford that gamble. So noble or not her intentions were, for the moment, I agree.
You have to know that people here are just hungry for jobs so that even if there is a ban for further hiring to Iraq, people continue to line up at the recruitment offices. So that contingent over there, don't really want to come home. The longer their employment is extended, the better. Which is why, like most things, you can't please everybody - damned if you do, dammed if you don't.
CONERNED WITH OCWs
Actually, --- and I had this same discussion just last night. Gloria's loyalty should be to the people. We need unity and this is something that will unite us. The US has reneged on many of their promises to the Filipino people. We don't owe them anything.
Although we are a very poor country (a fact which Marcos is directly responsible for), we are still blessed with being strategically positioned. And we are the only ones Uncle Sam could really count on in Asia. I don't think they can do squat about scaring us. We have nothing to lose anyway.
So, Gloria's decision to stand by one Filipino (who has become a symbol of our OFWs) is a wise choice. Think of the many families who feel good with this choice (say 1M OFWs multiply this by a minimum of 7 family members...that's a lot of happy people!).
Hopefully, the Filipino people will learn how to unite for the good of the country (although I know that's highly improbable). As I told Bet, my ka-debate on the state of our nation, the only way for the Philippines to reach its glory is to kill all current politicians and a third of the adult society. We need to start from the basics. So, sorry for us, none of our kids will ever experience this dream. But for this one instance, wherein our president and country unite as one, the glimmer of hope is aroused. Then you read the papers and see Borgy Marcos Manotoc, his mom, Imee, and his lola......... GRRRRR!!!!
FROM A BALIKBAYAN
I say save Angelo and pull out. What are our troops in Iraq doing anyway? They are standing in the middle of intersections waving traffic through. Any Iraqi can do that! Our military presence in Iraq is not critical to the coalition effort. Angelo's survival is critical to
his family (8 kids! Who's going to feed and educate these poor souls?). Save Angelo.
God will take care of those damn kidnappers.
FROM A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
Whatever other people say, I don't agree to decision that showed we could easily wilt under pressure…
FROM A FIL-AM
Sorry but I have to disagree with the pulling out of our soldiers in Iraq. All we did was send a message that we can be pushed around into giving in when pushed against the wall. All we did was encourage terrorists into making more future demands because they now think we will give in at any moment in time. What's next? Hostage for ransom so they can continue their terorrizing ways?
I honestly don't know how I would react if it were one of my family members who ended up a hostage. We have not given into terrorists demands in the past in Mindanao and now that we are in international spotlight, we decided to do so. What was once a proud people is now falling deeper into more embarrassing situations. This is not the movies and our country led by actors and actresses are NOT qualified for such situations.
I knew that from a Military standpoint, it was the wrong thing to do. Just as soon as I heard about the abduction , the first thing I thought was, what would a President with a military background do? Just the other day Former President Ramos came out and said we should have not pulled our soldiers out. Gloria Macapagal is not trained in such Military tactics and neither is our congress who are either actors/actresses or more concerned about their pockets.
Our problems with terrorism back home is that of our own doing. We play with politics too much and keep voting the wrong people into power that these problems are ignored
Not long ago I was in Cavite training both the US and Philippines force at Balikatan. Sad to say the guns that our own soldiers had would not even fire and if it did it would either misfire or jam.
The Makati incident by our Military did not go without reason. It has been proven that our better weapons are being sold to the people who are our so called enemies and in turn put the lives of our own soldiers at risk because they are at a loss with equipment provided to them. Go to any of our camps and you will see what kind of lives our soldiers lead while our politicians continue to mislead and put money in their own pockets.
Tell me, how in the world are our politicians getting richer each day while our soldiers who are dying everyday to protect our country both external and internal are getting poorer and poorer?
Makes you wonder who our enemies are. Our politicians who take away from it's own people for their personal stability or the terrorists. It's harder to distinguish one from the other. Just a different strategy. Not all politicians are out for themselves and I still believe there are some of the very minority who care for our country. They are just being crushed by our system of politics.
The so called Iraq invasion is justifiable from an American standpoint regardless of whether or not there were weapons of Mass Destruction. It did not take an entire military attack or so called weapons to kill thousands of people in the World trade Center disaster. A couple few planes and terrorists that could be counted with the fingers in our hands.
The World is a better place without Sadam. Whether it directly affects out country or not. He was a terrorists to his own people and other ethnic cultures close to Iraq.
Pointing fingers at Bush and Blair, let us look from within our own backyard. Hundreds of $$$ are sent back home by Filipino Nurses that work in America. They depend on the prosperity of the American economy just so that they too can send money back to their families in the Philippines.
I understand that we have a million contract workers in the Middle East. If our politicians did their job, then our contract workers wouldn't have to be there in the first place. Our own people wouldn't have to be maids in Hongkong, Korea, Saudi etc. Our Doctors wouldn't have to go back to school and study nursing in the hope that they can come to the states and send home some $$$ to their families.
Yeah, it's easy to blame Bush , Blair and company for what's happening in Iraq. That's a laugh. Remember, when you point a finger at someone, three of those fingers point back at you.
PS - If my mom didn't pass away, dapat tumakbo na lang ako. After all I am qualified for Philippine politics. Showbiz School for Philippine Politics. :D
ARTICLE WRITTEN LAST FRIDAY
FLYING THE ANGEL OUT
The pullout of the 51-man military contingent from Iraq is correct even though it is perceived as acquiescing to the terrorist threat to behead the hapless driver Angelo Dela Cruz. Whatever the Machiavellian intentions of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s (GMA) Administration, it is the morally right thing to do. Further, this is just how realpolitik works in this new era of global terrorism.
First of all, GMA’s decision should be based first and foremost on national interests, not that of the U.S. or Australia or any other European nation. Our interests in security matters are not inherently and fundamentally tied to that of the U.S. or Europe. During World War II, if not for the insistence of General Douglas McArthur, the retaking of the Philippines would not have been prioritized. Manila was the second most devastated city next to Warsaw with many civilians dying from the indiscriminate bombardment by advancing U.S. forces. Lastly, our WWII veterans are still languishing from their unpaid WWII benefits. Remember these facts when talking about national interests.
The Philippines has been at the forefront of the war against terrorism and we have paid the price for it, in Mindanao, the LRT bombings, the PAL bombings. The 1995 capture of Al-Qaeda terrorists in Malate was an explicit warning to the U.S. that planes were to be used for kamikaze strikes. The country has not shirked its responsibilities.
Our foremost interest then is to preserve life, Filipino life, and to enhance the quality of life of the Filipino. Hence, Dela Cruz must be saved by principled means possible. Now, is withdrawing our forces principled?
Yes it is because the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ordered by Pres. Bush on the grounds of terrorist links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda and the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have been established by the U.S. Senate and by the British Parliament inquiry (as reported by the media) to be false and inaccurate. In other words, there was no justifiable reason to attack Iraq. Deposing Saddam Hussein is another matter, but this was not the reason used to attack Iraq and kill an estimated 10,000 soldiers, civilians, men, women, and children.
The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the so-called “War on Terrorism”. The death of so many Iraqi civilians from collateral damage, which are unreported or not highlighted by the Western media, the prisoner abuse scandals in Abu Ghraib and in Guantanamo, the perceived ineptness and corruption in the Iraq-reconstruction efforts by American officials and corporations are possible reasons for the rising resentment and violence against U.S. and coalition forces. The debacle in Iraq has led to the influx of both terrorists and those genuinely angry at U.S./coalition forces. Terrorism is actually on the upswing because of the Iraq invasion.
In the U.S., the Iraq war has divided the nation to an increasing extent to that of the opposition to the Vietnam War. Bush’s standing in the next election is not assured. Already 1,000 American soldiers have died and more continue to die since Bush made his aircraft carrier landing announcing the end of hostilities in Iraq last year. Even British Prime Minister Blair is being accused by his countrymen on Iraq.
The Philippines should distance itself from the quagmire that is Iraq and from the adventurism of the Bush and Blair administrations. If we are to support the war against terrorism militarily, then we should send a contingent to Afghanistan, where reinforcements are really needed and the fight is genuine and moral. We should also send a contingent to Sudan and Rwanda, where international peacekeepers are direly needed to prevent continuing massacres.
Lastly, the war against terrorism requires flexibility and agility on the part of government that approximates that of the terrorist. Bluster and full military response is NOT how to combat an unidentified, agile terrorist. Rather, better intelligence, better communications, better-trained kidnap, hostage, ransom experts, quick strike, highly trained/ skilled, small forces, and full logistical support are what we need in this age of terrorism. Fighting terrorism is more an intelligence affair and low-intensity conflict and not a full-scale war as the Bush administration presents it.
The Philippines reserves the right to address threats to its citizens in any manner possible, including retribution. A withdrawal is just one of many strategies in the long and deadly struggle against terrorism.