Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 26 August 4-10, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Assessment of the Balikatan Exercises
Danilo P. Vizmanos
"US Troops Out N ow!"
$5 million reward offer of the US government as a solution to the Abu Sayyaf
problem is an admission of failure of the counter-terrorism aspect of the
Balikatan exercises. A short-term objective of Balikatan 02-1 was to put an end
to the depredations of the Abu Sayyaf group in the Basilan area. This was to be
achieved through US Special Forces advice and special training of Filipino
troops on effective counter-terrorism strategy and tactics. US military
authorities underestimated the staying power of the enemy even as they tried to
impress the public with the capability of their state-of-the-art weaponry and
reward offer also suggests that US authorities have run out of options. This is
the same ploy with which US colonial authorities enticed the Macabebes for the
capture of the elusive Emilio Aguinaldo in 1901. Instead of enriching one or two
informers, the money could perhaps serve a better purpose if it were used
instead to compensate and alleviate the plight of thousands of victims of human
rights violations committed by the adversaries in the conflict.
ploy debunks the original assumption of US authorities that a terrorist group
can itself be terrorized by a display and application of sophisticated weapons
failed American experiment in Basilan raises some thought-provoking
that the military capability of a superpower has its limitations, foremost of
which are the political parameters that circumscribe military action.
that high-tech weapons and equipment are prone to malfunctions and shortcomings
arising from inherent vulnerabilities of complex machines.
if the most modern and sophisticated weaponry and gadgetry cannot produce the
desired results against a ragtag terrorist group on a 1,300 square kilometer
island, how much more against a people's
army engaged in a people's
war deployed throughout the country with a land area of 300,000 square
the military sledgehammer approach in dealing with a small ragtag terrorist
group has taken a high and tragic toll of human lives, human suffering and
needless destruction of towns, communities and properties. The end
does not justify the means.
pitfall in US military thinking is its overdependence on high-tech military
machines in solving today's complex socio-political contradictions and
conflicts. The military bias of superpower resolution of socio-political
contradictions ignore the fact that it is the human element, not
military machines, that is the most complex and decisive factor in conflict
resolutions. Failure to recognize this truism explains the US defeat in the
Vietnam war. Also, despite the massive application of air power in Iraq and
Afghanistan, the end results remain inconclusive and indecisive as far as wiping
out the enemy is concerned.
of the crucial and decisive human and political factor in conflict resolution,
despite sophisticated high-tech weapons at its disposal we can daresay that US
imperialism will never be able to suppress the worldwide people's struggle for
national liberation, economic emancipation and self-determination.
return to the main topic, let me reiterate that Basilan and the Abu Sayyaf issue
comprise but a tiny corner of a much bigger picture. The big picture I am
referring to is the endless exercise of power politics by US imperialism for
economic and political hegemony on a global scale.
the centerpiece of the superpower's economic thrust is imperialist globalization.
This is the overpowering imposition that consigns the broad masses of all
nations to perpetual servitude, wretchedness and misery for the benefit of the
economic elite of the superpower.
we want to know the real reasons behind US troop involvement in the series of
Balikatan exercises, then we must seek the answer to the question of why there
seems to be no end to continuing tensions, conflicts and wars in the world
was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who, 50 years ago, voiced his concern over
what he referred to as the dominant role of the "military-industrial
complex" in American society. He underscored the danger to world
peace posed by this very powerful and influential conglomerate whose vast
war-oriented business enterprises and ever expanding instruments of war feed on
continuing tensions and conflicts in all regions and corners of the world.
Insatiable greed of giant corporations and vested interests of the US military
hierarchy dictate the need for a "permanent
war economy" that accounts for the very lucrative arms market and
counterproductive and self-destructive wars that plague the world today.
if the September 11 tragedy did not happen and even if the Abu Sayyaf did not
exist, the US power elite would still have imposed its will on the subservient
Arroyo government for US military access and basing rights in the Philippines.
This was already spelled out in the US Department of Defense East Asia Strategy
Report as early as 1995. Let me cite its most relevant points:
report] reaffirms our commitment to maintain a stable forward presence in the
region, at the existing level of about 100,000 troops, for the foreseeable
future… for maintaining forward
deployment of US forces and access
and basing rights for US and allied
forces…. If the American presence in Asia were removed… our ability to
affect the course of events would be constrained, our markets and our interests
would be jeopardized."
may be translated into the
following requirements of US power politics in the region:
To establish a base of operations for the imposition of Pax Americana and
US hegemony in southeast Asia within the framework of a global strategy in
furtherance of economic and geopolitical interests.
To enhance US capability to control and interdict sea and air lanes
traversing southeast Asia between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean &
between the Far East and southern hemisphere.
For redeployment of US troops and facilities from Okinawa in the face of
mountingopposition to continued US military presence on the island from the
people of Okinawa.
To suppress national liberation and anti-imperialist revolutionary and
progressive forces and movements in southeast Asia in the guise of war against
military forces were forced to withdraw from the Philippines following a
nationalist-oriented Senate rejection of renewal of the RP-US military bases
agreement in 1991. But when Fidel
Ramos became president in 1992, the US government wasted no time in attempts to
restore US military presence in the country. First was ACSA or Acquisition &
Cross-Servicing Agreement. This was followed by SOFA or Status of Forces
Agreement. Both attempts were aborted due to strong public opposition. The US
government finally succeeded in 1998 with ratification
of the Visiting Forces Agreement by a colonial-oriented and subservient majority
in the Senate. The latest is the MLSA or Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement.
This is another US imposition whose aim is to provide a logistics support base
in anticipation of permanent US military presence in the country.
Balikatan 02-1 and 02-2 with venues in Mindanao and Luzon, respectively,
involving almost 4,000 American troops are distinct from previous Balikatan
exercises for a number of reasons:
Balikatan 02-1 is the first joint exercise to engage in full-fledge military
operations in a war zone against positively identified enemies.
the marked increase in involvement of American troops betrays US intentions to
expand its military presence through even bigger Balikatan exercises in the
extension of US troop participation, particularly in "civic action"
and infrastructure projects is a way of conditioning the minds of the people
into accepting permanent US military presence in the country.
the open-ended and vague provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement are being
exploited by US authorities with impunity. Changes in original plans and
schedules through direct dealing with Camp Aguinaldo reflect the US government's
lack of respect for the Department of Foreign Affairs which is the nation's
overseer for foreign relations.
Filipino people should know that among ASEAN countries today, it is only the
Philippines that has allowed US military presence and intervention in the
country's internal affairs. This is because the other governments have leaders
with a high sense of national dignity, national pride and self-respect. Unlike
the Arroyo government they do not, and will not, allow themselves to be used as
political prostitutes by the Bush government.
The latest experiment in the Basilan counterterrorism laboratory is the deployment of US Special Forces from battalion to company level. This marks a higher level of US involvement in combat operations in a war zone disguised as a joint military exercise. It further worsens the continuing violation of the Constitution and infringement of the national sovereignty.
culpable violations abetted by government's methodical deception of the people
in order to accommodate and satisfy the demands of US power politics are
compounded by an utter lack of national dignity and sense of national pride and
self-respect at the national leadership level. These are more than enough
reasons to condemn President Arroyo and her coterie for their abject puppetry
and subservience to foreign predatory interests in exchange for narrow political
ends. What makes it even worse is that they have deceived, betrayed and treated
the Filipino people no different from docile and innocent lambs being led to the
slaughterhouse of imperialist power politics.
the nation will celebrate Independence Day that has lost its meaning and
essence. Indefinite US military intervention and continuing intrusion of US
government functionaries in the country's internal affairs have made a mockery
and myth of what all along has been an illusion of national sovereignty.
June 2002. Bulatlat.com