“Embedded” In Arroyo’s Military, US Soldiers Engage Muslim Insurgents in the Philippines
With six hundred engaged on each side, we lost fifteen men killed outright, and we had thirty-two wounded–counting that nose and that elbow. The enemy numbered six hundred–including women and children–and we abolished them utterly, leaving not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother. This is incomparably the greatest victory that was ever achieved by the Christian soldiers of the United States.
–MARK TWAIN, comment on the massacre of Moros at Mt. Dajo, Jolo, 1906, in WEAPONS OF SATIRE, ed. Jim Zwick (Syracuse U Press, 1992).
BY E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Unless US soldiers rape a Filipina date, or Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnap American tourists, nobody notices what’s going on in the Philippines today. But now that Britney Spears just belted out her tempting warble of “sneaking into the Philippines, ” can the PENTAGON Special Forces not be far behind to get a piece of the action? Before you can say “Yo Mama!” US troops are found already “embedded” in the Empire’s most Americanized islands where savage class wars have been raging for decades.
The US invaded the Philippines in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, but it created the “first Vietnam” (to quote the historian Bernard Fall) when 1.4 million Filipino recalcitrants had to be “neutralized” to convert the revolutionary Philippine Republic into an “insular possession.” Mark Twain praised the US government’s success in acquiring “property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu,” referring to the “civilizing mission” of US diplomacy over the Muslim inhabitants of the southern Philippines (E. San Juan, US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines, 2007). But in the 1906 siege at Mt. Dajo and the 1913 rout at Mt. Bagsak, both in Jolo, the US military had to massacre thousands of Muslim men, women and children to complete the islands’ pacification. The victors seemed not to have learned anything, so history is repeating itself.
A hundred years after, the U.S. seems to be doing the job again.
Washington-Manila Homeland Jihad?
The government offensive to retake space occupied or “liberated” by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) enters its seventh week. Disguised as a police action, the 6,000 soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) battled about 3,000 MILF guerillas in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sarangani. By the last week of September, the total casualty figure surpassed three hundred as government troops (with their US advisers/trainers) and Moro (Muslim citizens of the Philippines) militants clashed in the southern Philippines. The scale of violence and magnitude of civilian suffering reached a crescendo enough to alarm the European Union, but not Bush, Condoleeza Rice, nor the two US presidential candidates. BBC News (9/26/2008) reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross bewailed the plight of tens of thousands of refugees and evacuees, the killing of civilians by indiscriminate AFP aerial and artillery bombardments, and the potential for sectarian “ethnic cleansing.” According to the National Disaster Coordinating Council, more than 300,000 people have fled their homes, several hundred people have been killed and injured, and $2 million worth of crops and infrastructure damaged. At least 120,000 people have died since fighting broke out 40 years ago between the Muslim separatists and the neocolonial state, with no end in sight.
With full-scale war between the formidable Moro guerillas and the AFP about to sweep the country, the U.S. military presence suddenly caught media attention. It was confirmed by government officials that the headquarters of the U.S.-Philippines Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) is found inside Camp Navarro of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City, Mindanao. Accessed only by U.S. personnel, the physical infrastructure was sealed by permanent walls, concertina wires and sandbags, with visible communication paraphernalia (satellite dishes, antennaes, etc.). From this place, US military operations against domestic insurgents–whether belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) or to the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), or the New People’s Army (NPA)–are launched and directed. In lieu of economic-social reforms, the government’s militarist solution to poverty, unemployment, and extra-judicial killings and kidnappings–over 1,000 victims so far–will only create a refugee crisis, more atrocities and “collateral damage” of innocent civilians, loss of national sovereignty, and impunity for criminal violence committed by the military and police.