By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — National democratic activists, the bloc usually lumped by mainstream press as ‘the Left,’ have declared the entire week that US President Barack Obama is in Asia as “National Sovereignty and Patrimony Week” in the Philippines (22-30 April). They propose to discuss and challenge what they call as “heightening US intervention, increasing presence of US and allied foreign troops, intensifying foreign economic plunder and worsening puppetry of the Aquino regime to the US government.”
These US activities are amply documented as happening here and abroad, but these are not how the US government or the Aquino government habitually describe their moves or let it be featured in mainstream media. On the contrary, based on visits here of lesser US military or government leaders, Obama as the reigning ruler of “the US imperial overreach” will likely be greeted with razzle dazzle, falling-all-over-themselves rolling out of the red carpet by the top brass in the Aquino government.
Patriotic groups condemn it as puppetry; Obama and Aquino justify it as acts of ‘treaty partners’ or ‘allies enhancing their cooperation.’ Boosting the positive spin further, the US has claimed that it is “standing by” their ally.
Amid amplified reporting of Chinese patrol boats spraying the Philippine forces with water cannon, the US and PH government’s stand-by-me line has anchored the Aquino government’s welcome of even more lethal and numerous US warships into Philippine territory. They are now reportedly poised to sign the agreement legalizing it during Obama’s visit.
On the way to opening more US military bases in the Philippines, China is cast as an aggressor needing to be disciplined, or stared down by a big brother, even as the self-appointed disciplinarian is an empire who spends about 95 percent more in defense compared to China, and, according to UP Political Science Prof. Roland Simbulan, “it has foreign basing which is by far the most extensive in the world — 800 in almost 108 countries, plus its US Navy rules the seven seas.”
When Obama comes to town on Monday, and tries to come across as an avenging ally for us, with God, reason, rule of law and all things positive on their side of the trench, including the mainstream media, consider this: US has done that posture before. To launch war in every region or country it needed to be in command of, for oil and fossil fuels, for gold and mineral resources and logs and other raw materials, for command of market, trade routes or for keeping rivals and trade ‘partners’ in check, US packages its war of aggression as for a moral cause, never mind if their justification would later be exposed as a lie, like, say, the supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Using tried and tested ruses to advance US war of aggression
According to researches by US military psychologists and trainors, the use of ‘moral distance’ in ‘killer-enabling’ in war has long been favored by the US. It involves legitimizing one’s self and one’s cause on one side, and condemning its target for its ‘guilt’, which is to be avenged. Through this, the US has launched wars of aggression over the sinking of US ships, Pearl Harbor, ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq, Al Qaeda in 9/11, etc. Some of which are later questioned for veracity, but by then the US had launched its war and positioned itself to enjoy the spoils.
In Mindanao, it has also used the Abu Sayyaf and the nebulous Al Qaeda as pretext for bringing their ‘war on terror’ and special operations forces here. Later, the Abu Sayyaf was exposed as a creation of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A US military strategist said even the US borderless war on terror falls under supposed moral battles against ‘evil’ others.
To train US troops into becoming efficient killers, and thus overcome the human being’s natural resistance to killing, the US military is drilling its troops and modernizing its weapons to create in their mind some physical and emotional distance from their target/victim, based on Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.” It is based on Grossman’s study of soldiers’ behavior from World War 1 to 2 to Korean and Vietnam wars, ‘engagements’(or war and killing) in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, etc.
Grossman is a US soldier who retired as an officer. In his report he did not touch the class-based roots of the US wars of aggression for global hegemony. He did not even question why the US government went to what he described as a 10-year costly, atrocious Vietnam War, when he details the tragic effect on soldiers of living with the memory of their kills and the condemnation at home.
But his research showed how US imperialism has increased its kill ratio per soldier and equipment, at a huge cost to their soldiers and to their ‘enemies.’ From just 15 to 20 percent of their troops firing in World War I and II, the US military has increased it to 50 percent in Korean War, 95 percent in Vietnam War, and that much or higher in surrogate troops they helped train as their military psychiatrists ‘modernize’ their soldiers’ training, and their war industry their equipment.
A soldier desensitized and conditioned to kill (via operant or behavioral conditioning), and armed with denial defense mechanism, can more easily kill given greater physical and emotional distance to victim/target, according to Grossman’s study. Think of how easier it is to kill via drones, sniper sight, or thermal night sight, where the target does not look human but appear only as globs, shadows or dots. Think of ‘enemies’ as evil, less than human, someone named by tags laden with pejorative contexts which soldiers have been conditioned to automatically suspect, hate and eviscerate. In the Philippines, it is applied on tags such as ‘reds’ and ‘communists’ and activists listed in the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ ‘Know Your Enemies’ CD. It also seems applied on certain ‘Muslims’ and IP communities defending their ancestral domain.
Although Grossman had focused on interviewing soldiers and vets, the conditioning and creation of emotional distance his subjects described are also being reported and repeated by mass media, in effect spreading the military’s view of their target and enemies to everyone hearing the news.
The reason we discuss this is to understand why, after frequent repeating of the term “increased aggression” of the Chinese, “increased aggression” of the Chinese, without the complete picture showing the entrenched, larger scope of US aggression in the region, a bandwagon effect pressuring Filipinos to choose between the ‘US ally’ and the Chinese ‘aggressor’ is created.
Progressive, patriotic forces have been saying we do not have to choose, and the way to defending sovereignty is not paved by embracing the killing machines of the former colonizer. But as another research shows, people tend to believe more the first idea told them, meaning people have to exert an effort to be objective and critical, even or especially when we are being assaulted not so much by trickles but by waves of one-sided claims.
Base expansion = means and opportunities, killing enabler for US troops = US hegemony
In their “diplomacy,” US is also drilling the world population with their ‘crusade’ against their targets (real or not), to allow or justify the deployment of their killing machines and troops in countries thousands of miles away from mainland USA.
Projecting moral superiority, they ‘avenged’ the sinking of Maine so they replaced the Spaniards as colonizers of the Philippines, savaging in the process a fifth of Filipino population whom they presented as monkeys to the American public in 2000s.
In 1940s the US military ‘fulfilled its promise to return’ and ‘avenged’ the Filipinos against ‘the Japs,’ and they bombed Manila to reestablish their colonial power.
In 1950s they demonized the communist states, placated the domestic liberation movement by granting PH independence, but at the same time they built military bases in the Philippines, in Korea and in Japan. Their stated objective is encirclement of the communists. Meanwhile, their empire gave them increased market for their capital, increased resources and global leverage.
In the 70s the US supported military dictators as long as they are “sons of bitches of the US” in battling the spread of communism and liberation movements.
After revisionist communist regimes fell in the 80s to 90s, the US updated their ‘evil’ enemy and called the independent states or those not predisposed to be under its imperial rule as ‘rouge states.’ In its ‘war on terror,’ everybody who criticizes and resists the government policy of liberalization, privatization and deregulation becomes ‘terrorist’ or sympathizer and military target.
Of late, even American citizens critical of the US government’s drone killings are viewed by US military as in league with their enemies.
All these are historical examples of when the US government had tried to isolate critics of US imperialism or facets of it, then make them appear as rightful targets for killing or war, and also justify their extensive base building outside mainland USA.
As the US Dept. of Defense defines it, bases have integrated functions such as logistics, depot, training facilities, communication, seismic monitoring, R & R, repair support, among others. According to Simbulan, these are available in Subic, in Crow Valley, in Scarborough shoal which had been used for air target practices. “They are interested in former installations,” he said of the US government.
Tactical and technological advantages increase the effectiveness of the combat strategies available to the soldier, said the book ‘On Killing’ by Lt. Col. Grossman. Legalizing more US bases here in the Philippines would contribute to US troops’ killing ratio.
As UP Prof. Simbulan once said at a forum on US bases, “Knowing the activities of US Special Forces, Filipinos should worry.”