Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 7              March 24 - 30,  2002                   Quezon City, Philippines

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Balikatan O2-1: An Exercise in Power Politics


By Capt. Dan Vizmanos, PN (ret.)
Convenor, Junk VFA Movement

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The State of the Nation Address of U.S. President George W. Bush Jr. last Jan. 30 introduces a new dimension to the U.S.-initiated war against terrorism. It confirms that Balikatan 02-1 is not a mere military exercise. It has been exposed as the start of joint military operations not only against the Abu Sayyaf but also against all armed groups in the country perceived as terrorists by Bush. These include the New People’s Army and possibly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

We can now see the reason behind the attempt of Malacañang and Camp Aguinaldo to keep Balikatan 02-1 under a veil of confusing semantics. Bush has been more candid. He spelled it out as “military operations” involving U.S. forces aimed at wiping out all perceived terrorist groups not only in Basilan in southern Philippines but also in the whole country.

“Nations would be given a chance to wipe out terrorists themselves,” said Bush, adding that “the United States is willing to assist their efforts.” But then he warned: “If they do not act, America will!”

The message is loud and clear. It is Bush who determines who the “terrorists” are not only in Afghanistan and the Philippines but also in all countries. It is Bush who renders judgment on all alleged terrorists. Finally, it is Bush who decides on their fate. In brief, George Bush has arrogated unto himself the role of accuser, judge and executioner. Never in the history of empires and dictatorships have such awesome powers been usurped by one man.

But we should not allow a few trees to block our view of the forest. The Abu Sayyaf, al-Qaida and other perceived terrorist groups are but the emotionally-laden facade that Bush exploits in the exercise of power politics to carry out the grand designs of U.S. global hegemony.

However, U.S. dictation and impositions, especially so-called “free market” globalization, are now being challenged by people’s organizations and NGOs worldwide. The usual economic sanctions and political arm-twisting may be effective on governments and traditional political parties. But rising militant people’s struggle worldwide has become a major concern to U.S. policy makers. Hence, the need to apply naked military force in ramming Pax Americana and a “new world order” down the peoples’ throat.

The deployment and application of U.S. military power throughout the planet have become truly awesome. Nations and governments are now being intimidated to march to the drumbeat of Bush in furtherance and in consolidation of U.S. economic and geo-political interests. Except for a handful, almost all governments have become so intimidated by the brazen and arrogant display of naked power behind the cloak of anti-terrorism.

The fait accompli of U.S. military intervention in the country has torn to shreds any claim to independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Arroyo regime. We now have a government and armed forces that have completely succumbed, and subordinated themselves to, the imperious impositions of U.S. commander-in-chief Bush. The Arroyo government has confirmed its status as a vassal state and the AFP a proxy army that continue to serve U.S. interests primarily and the interests of the Filipino people only incidentally.

The seemingly unending debate and arguments on the pertinent provisions of the Constitution, the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement are of no consequence to Bush. He dismisses them as irrelevant to the exercise of power by the "all-conquering" U.S. military machine of the 21st century. In so doing, Bush underscores the brutish principle of “might is right.”

The shackles and chains that President Bush has clamped on the Arroyo government and the AFP may yet become the unifying factor in the people’s struggle for genuine independence, national sovereignty and national identity.

Superpower that the United States may be, it is debatable whether the military-backed impositions of Bush in the guise of war against international terrorism will prevail over intensified and expanding peoples’ struggle in many countries linked by the bond of international solidarity. This asymmetrical conflict is not a one-way street. The vaunted U.S. military machine has its limitations. The superpower has its weaknesses and vulnerabilities. American citizens and government functionaries scattered all over the world are vulnerable. U.S. corporations and institutions are vulnerable. Even elements of the powerful U.S. military machine are vulnerable in a “war of the flea.” Ironically, the superpower’s most vulnerable features arise from insatiable greed manifested in imperialist globalization and irremediable arrogant self-righteousness exemplified by the John Wayne mentality of George Bush.

Unless global genocide is achieved by the weapons of mass destruction of commander-in-chief Bush, the political power of resolute world-wide peoples’ political struggle against U.S. hegemonic impositions may prove to be a formidable adversary that can neutralize and even negate the military prowess of the superpower. The narrow self-serving aims and insatiable appetite of the U.S. military-industrial complex of which Bush serves as “chairman of the board” may yet suffer the same fate that befell the “invincible” Roman legions and the supposedly indestructible Roman Empire in the long term.

5 February 2002

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