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US out of the Philippines
by Tony Daquipa
Friday May 10th, 2002 1:01 PM
The US has had long term plans for an increased military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and they are using the 911 attacks and the tiny Abu Sayyaf group as an excuse to implement the plan.

Imperyalismo: Reading Between the Lies
By Tony Daquipa

Coined by the American media as “the second front” in its ill-defined, infinitely-scheduled War on Terrorism, the US is currently committing large amounts of cash, political leverage and military muscle to enhance its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Muslim secessionist movements are indeed strong in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, but do they pose any threat to the United States? Bush’s cronies in the oil industry want us to think so, and his cronies in the Military Industrial Complex are always itching to start any war, regardless of the reason.
“The September 11 attacks were seized upon by the White House and the Pentagon to press ahead with long-held plans to reverse the decline of the US military presence in the region and to aggressively assert US economic and strategic interests,” wrote Peter Symonds of the World Socialist Worker recently.
Indeed, the plans have been in the works for some time now, and they just so happen to coincide with US economic interests.


With Anti-Imperialist sentiment high in the Philippines, opposition leaders have been very vocal about warning against the return of US troops, who were voted out of the country 11 years ago.
In an April 25 Reuters report, Laban Party Senator Edgardo Angara cautioned, “We will pay a high price if we entrap and engulf the Americans into fighting our insurgency war.”
“The whole Arab world will go against us. Our own Muslims will become even more fanatical and I think we will ultimately lose Mindanao,” he continued.
Distancing himself from the incessant coup rumors which have plagued Arroyo’s term, Angara also said that President Arroyo's dependence on U.S. help to beat the Abu Sayyaf showed her inept leadership and predicted the opposition would unseat her in the 2004 presidential elections.
With the US on her side, it is highly doubtful that a military whose primary source of income is US aid would try to remove her through a coup anyway.
However, on May Day, some 40,000 anti-administration demonstrators peacefully took to the streets, enduring government harassment and controversial police checkpoints to voice their opposition.
Yet despite the political backlash in her own country, Arroyo is staying true to her plan of bringing back her American patrons.
Across the Pacific, American interest in the region manifested itself a long time ago, and this current campaign has been in the works for several years now.
Although the US portrays itself as having left Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War, the US maintained bases in the Philippines until they were evicted in 1992. US-based firms are second only to Japanese firms in investments in the region, with some $35 billion having been invested in Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia combined in 1998. In the wake of the recent Asian financial crisis, US investment is increasing everywhere in the region except Indonesia, the only OPEC-member country.
In 1999, over $1.3 trillion worth of merchandise (nearly half the world’s trade) traveled through the Strait of Malacca and Lombok. These shipping lanes are a crucial supply line to the west for energy resources from the Persian Gulf. With the construction of a pipeline project through newly conquered Afghanistan, these lanes will assume even more importance as oil and gas hungry markets in Asia and the west increase their demand for these infinitely dwindling resources.
Of course, we could research ways to decrease our dependence on oil, but militant aggression is so much more lucrative for Bush and his cronies.
In a study produced by the RAND corporation in 2000 entitled, “The Role of Southeast Asia in US Strategy Toward China,” the PRC (People’s Republic of China) boogeyman was once again raised in an attempt to augment US security presence in the region.
“The United States is currently the dominant extraregional power in Southeast Asia…Economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, which is important to the economic security and well-being of the United States and other powers, depends on preserving American presence and influence in the region and unrestricted access to sea lanes,” the think tank opined.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was the former Chairman/President of RAND, and recent Bush appointee as special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was the project leader of the 2000 study calling for increased US presence in the region.
An article written by Dana Dillon and Paolo Pasicolan in October of 2001 outlined a list of proposals for strengthening US ties in the region. Entitled, “Southeast Asia and the War Against Terrorism,” the article said, “While the preferred solution is to use local governments and local security forces to attack terrorism at its roots, in order to protect Americans from terrorist acts, Washington must always keep open the option of direct military intervention.”
“Should there be a clear and immediate threat to US citizens or property that local security forces in Southeast Asia cannot handle, Washington must be ready to act,” the article added.
When President Arroyo visited President Bush the following month, Bush tried to pressure Arroyo into allowing US troops back into the Philippines to pursue the Abu Sayyaf, and offered large amounts of US aid packages.
A month later, in December of 2001, one of the authors of the 2000 RAND study, Senior Policy Analyst Angel Rabasa, appeared before the US Congressional Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific to argue the need for “a robust security assistance…to the Philippines.” Rabasa lobbied for the US to provide “urgently needed air defense and naval patrol assets” to solidify US control of the region.
A recent Council on Foreign Relations task force report also emphasized the importance of the region, reminding the Bush administration that the US has fought three major wars there in the past six decades, and the 1997-98 Asian currency crisis threatened to destabilize the entire world financial system.
Calling the region “a place of great geopolitical consequence that sits aside some of the world’s most critical sea lanes,” the report also detailed “high priority efforts” that Washington should undertake. Some of these efforts included “joint and combined military training excercises” and “individual and small group exchanges and trainings” similar to what is now underway in the Philippines.
In late March, the US ‘proposed’ a multinational Balikatan-type military exercise involving cooperation from South Korea, Japan, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore and Thailand. Met with criticism in the Philippines, the ‘proposal’ outlined excercises which would be dubbed “Team Challenge,” and would concentrate on preparations for defense against the alleged threat that China poses to the region.
“The highest American priority should still be assigned to maintaining regional security through the prevention of intraregional conflict and domination by an outside power or coalition. The administration should preserve a credible military presence and a viable regional training and support infrastructure,” wrote the task force.
The ‘outside power or coalition’ referred to is more likely the OPEC coalition as opposed to communist China. PRC Vice President Hu Jintao met with top U.S. officials in early May, and both sides agreed to resume military exchanges and increase cooperation after first-ever meetings, but the man likely to be China's next leader did caution that "any trouble" on Taiwan could hurt the two countries' improving relations.


Speaking of ‘a robust security assistance,’ when former Chief of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Dennis Blair, visited the Philippines in mid-April, he made no bones about requesting the Arroyo government to allow US green berets to join Philippine military patrols on the island of Basilan, where a handful of Abu Sayyaf guerrillas have evaded a dragnet of over 1,000 US troops and several thousand AFP Marines.
“Only a military rescue operation, not the payment of ransom, could bring about the release of the two American missionaries,” Blair was quoted as saying in the April 17 edition of the Manila Times.
He may have simply been trying to squash reports that the US government facilitated a failed $300,000 ransom payment to the Abu Sayyaf for hostage missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham, but Blair even went so far as to order the 1,000-plus US troops stationed in the Southern Philippines to “participate in combat if necessary to pressure the Abu Sayyaf into freeing its remaining three hostages.”
The April 25 edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer confirmed this stance, saying, “US military advisors may join Filipino troops on combat patrols on the southern Philippines island of Basilan if their respective governments approve a plan now under discussion.”
The “discussion” obviously revolves around what the most tactful scenario would be for the Arroyo administration to once again cowtow to the Bush adminstration’s whims.
Agence France-Presse released a story on the same day, reporting that “The proposal, which calls for embedding US special operations forces with Filipino troops at the company level, was raised with Manila last week by Admiral Dennis Blair, the commander of US forces in the Pacific.”
However, when Joint Chiefs Chairman, Gen. Richard Myers, arrived for a brief stopover in the Philippines in late April, talk of US ‘advisors’ on Filipino military patrols took a back seat to lies about how the benevolent Uncle Sam would be “receptive” to Philippine government requests for US “assistance.”
Myers even went so far as to deny that the Bush administration was trying to get the go-ahead for US ‘advisors’ to join combat patrols. However, on April 27, The Philippine Star cited sources at the Pentagon as saying that “a plan was being studied to allow them to join in combat operations.”
Further, Joint Chiefs Deputy Director of Operations, Gen. John Rosa, was quoted in the April 25 Inquirer story saying that sending green berets out on combat operations “would enable us to assess their (Filipino) combat skills in a field environment and to provide advice during operations, rather than during the planning stage beforehand.”
Clearly demonstrating that it was the US pushing to be allowed into combat roles, Rosa added that, “The indications we’ve gotten so far from the Filipinos is they like the idea.”
It all sounds a little too assertive for a country that’s merely supposed to be ‘advising and assisting.’ Well, I guess this does qualify as ‘advising.’
More recently, in an April 28 Reuters report, Myers answered, “I do not want to get into the specifics of any future tactical operations,” when asked what support the U.S. military was providing to the Philippine military. Obviously, the US is planning future tactical operations involving US Special Forces troops in combat roles in the Southern Philippines.
In a Philippine Star report on April 27 though, Philippine Southern Command Chief, Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu ignorantly maintained that US troops would not be put into combat situations. “I repeat, they are here to advise and assist only and we will not allow US troops to join Philippine Army patrols, we will not allow US troops to join rescue operations,” Cimatu said.
Unfortunately for Cimatu, US special forces soldiers have already been documented as having participated in no less than three separate rescue operations of AFP troops under attack by the Abu Sayyaf, and at least one green beret was an ‘advisor’ on one of the patrols that was attacked.
In fact, check out this excerpt from a March 19 Associated Press article:

As the fight raged, the elite U.S. troops piled into a blue pickup truck and headed out to evacuate the wounded Philippine soldiers. They were joined by government soldiers in another truck and an armored personnel carrier.
Heavy fighting blocked the rescue effort and the two wounded Filipino soldiers eventually were pulled by their comrades to the safety of a helicopter landing zone away from the battle.
The Green Berets set out again for the landing zone.
"Let's rock n' roll," shouted one of them, driving and singing along to blaring Latin pop music on the truck stereo. Another fixed his assault rifle on the wild coconut groves whizzing past the window.

Remember that back in November, when President Arroyo visited George W. in Washington, Arroyo had to turn down Bush’s repeated requests to allow US troops to go after the Abu Sayyaf. Circumventing the Philippine Constitution’s ban on any foreign military presence, Arroyo’s lawyers quickly had to draft up the whole Balikatan facade as a front for US troop deployment. Even back then, the Bush administration wanted to pursue a military campaign in the Southern Philippines, and Arroyo was willing to bend over backwards to maker it happen.
The move has been a lucrative one for Arroyo and her cronies. Since that meeting, as Myers was quoted by Agence France-Presse on April 27, there has been a “10-fold increase” in US military assistance to the Philippines.
Thus far, Arroyo’s compliance has generated some $4.6 billion in pledges of economic and military aid to the Philippines – $92.2 million in defense assistance, $1.5 billion in economic and trade assistance, $246 million in loans and grants from the World Bank, $2.6 billion in trade and investments pledged by the US private sector.

‘Development Projects’

US troop involvement in combat is not the only subject that both the Philippine and US governments are lying about.
On April 25, Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Strafor) published on its website a report entitled, “US Excercises May Lead to Regional Base.” Referring to US plans to establish a regional launchpad for future campaigns in the South Pacific, the report caused a whirlwind of denials from government officials on both sides of the Pacific. Stratfor is an Austin, TX-based think tank with over 35,000 subscribers around the world.
In an April 28 Philippine Star article, Myers was quoted as saying, “There is absolutely no intention to establish a forward base here or permanent presence here.” Myers even tried to make it seem as though the Stratfor report said that US plans in the region would be aimed at containing China.
Actually, if anything, US plans in the region are most-likely to impose US-enforced ‘stability’ to the geographically important sea lanes for all the oil and gas from central Asia (where the world’s largest known untapped reserves lie) that will need to get to the enormous and ever-expanding Chinese market. There are also untapped oil and gas reserves in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, the Spratlys and the Paracels.
The Stratfor report uncannily pointed out that “Ultimately, US operations in the Southern Philippines are directed less at defeating the Abu Sayyaf and more at establishing a forward operation base in Southeast Asia- with an eye on Indonesia as a likely first target.”
The report, which made headlines in the Philippines on April 26, said that Indonesia was “a very attractive location for al-Qaeda to regroup. That is why it is important for the United States to set up an operations facility outside Indonesia but close enough for action.” Indonesia lies to the west of Basilan, which is in the southwestern Philippines. Indonesia also has a large muslim population, a weak government “and the underlying sympathies of some influential political and military figures,” according to Stratfor. Further, Indonesia is the only Asian member of OPEC, and accounts for 20% of the world’s liquefied natural gas exports.
At a press conference that same day, Myers likewise pointed out that al-Qaeda was on the run, and may look to set up shop in nearby Indonesia. “So to be effective they have to have a training location and they have to have a place where they can plan and gather,” said Gen. Myers. “We have to be very cautious and very vigilant on where that might be,” he opined.
The highest ranking US military officer then returned to dodging questions about US Special Forces troops in Basilan.
The Stratfor report also analyzed the current excercises going on down in the Southern Philippines, where Philippine experts have been training US Special Forces in guerilla warfare and jungle survival. US combat specialists have also been training civilian paramilitary groups in addition to aiding the AFP in its hunt for the Abu Sayyaf.
“The Abu Sayyaf problem offers a rhetorical cover for US activity in the Philippines, avoiding or at least postponing the politically volatile issue of a more permanent US base in its former colony,” the think tank wrote.
In addition to the military excercises, the US will spend $7 million in infrastructure development projects on Basilan before their officially scheduled June deadline. The development work is being conducted under the code name “Operation Gentle Wind.”
“Although the US government is characterizing the development work as an effort to reduce poverty in the region and thus eliminate one of the root causes of terrorism, Washington may be literally paving the way for a forward logistics and operations base to conduct regional counter-terrorism strikes,” the report stated.
Currently, with over 300 Navy “Seabees” on Basilan engaging in development projects such as bridge construction, road developing and airstrip building, the US is indeed “paving the way” for a forward base for troop deployment into Southeast Asia.
The think tank also noted that the close relations between Malacanang and the White House helped make the Philippines “the focal point for US operations in the region.” Coincidentally, neither Gloria Arroyo nor George W were voted into their presidencies by a majority of the electorate.
The Stratfor report went on to reveal that US military planners had been looking into a possible forward operations base in General Santos City due to its “sea and land access.” It just so happens that during the last decade, the General Santos City International airport was built with US aid.
However, Basilan is a better location than General Santos City, the site of several recent bomb attacks which led to an island-wide military crackdown on Mindanao.
Basilan lies further to the west, closer to Malaysia and Indonesia. Also, its small size would make a base easier to defend, and has less commercial traffic than General Santos City. Furthermore, “Basilan’s built-in insurgency provides a convenient political cover for the establishment of a more permanent US presence on the island.”
Stratfor also disclosed that the Abu Sayyaf, the justification for US troop deployment in Basilan, represented a “limited threat” to the US, and that destroying them “will accomplish little in Washington’s fight against International terrorism.”
Yet still, Joint Chiefs spokesman Rosa rationalized in an Agence France-Presse article on April 25, “With paved roads, convoys and patrols will be able to move at speeds that make them ‘a little bit less of a target.”
In reality though, with state-of-the-art satellites, helicopters with night-flight capability and unmanned surveillance drones, the thousands of AFP and US ground troops on Basilan shouldn’t need paved roads to eliminate the 40-odd Abu Sayyaf members on Basilan. However, as Stratfor pointed out, the Abu Sayyaf “provided the reason to return with minimal political backlash.”
While Philippine officials claimed that the $4 million the US is currently spending on infrastructure projects on Basilan would not be enough to establish a US base, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the Senate defense committee, affirmed in a Philippine Star report on April 27 that the $4 million would be enough “to provide what Stratfor is saying.”
Besides, the US has already spent $3 million on infrastructure projects on Basilan during the opening months of the Balikatan 02-1 excercises.
US officials even attacked Stratfor itself, writing off the Texas think tank as something that no one took seriously, despite its international clientele of some 35,000 satisfied subscribers.
In November of 1999, barely more than a month before Arroyo took office, the US Embassy had belittled a Stratfor report predicting former President Estrada’s ouster.
The Inquirer removed the story on the Strafor report from its website within 24 hours, and Yahoo! News and Google also removed links to any story about the subject.
On his last day on the hot seat in Manila, Gen. Myers maintained, “We are here only to advise and assist in any way that we are asked to do so.” Funny how they keep ‘advising’ the Philippine Government to allow US troops to enter combat, to allow US engineers to set up a forward base of operations and to allow the US to deploy more and more troops for longer periods of time than originally approved.
In addition to the over 1,000 troops in the South, some 2,700 GIs were recently deployed in Northern Luzon under the Balikatan 02-2 excercises.
As if 4,000 troops and $7 million worth of infrastructure projects weren’t evidence enough of Washington’s foreign policy priorities, sending the FBI director, the Pacific Command Chief and then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff within the span of a few months should be all the evidence one needs of the Bush administration’s long-term intentions in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, as an article in the Far Eastern Review recently pointed out, “The US has been criticized as clumsy, misguided and falling into longstanding local disputes that have festered for years and pose little international threat.”
Sounds kinda like what happened in Vietnam forty years ago, doesn’t it?
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US out of the PhilippinesTony DaquipaThursday Apr 10th, 2003 3:44 PM
US out of the PhilippinesTony DaquipaThursday Apr 10th, 2003 3:42 PM

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