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

Vol. VI, No. 27      August 13 - 19, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Macapagal-Arroyo’s ‘Silent War’ Vs the Left
The U.S. Doctrine of Counter-Insurgency in the ‘Silent War’
Second of three parts

The deliberate use of terror is “a legitimate and highly effective tactical tool of unconventional warfare.” This unconventional warfare is designated as a “national policy” with the military assigned the primary responsibility in “the conduct of punitive operations” backed by police, paramilitary and civilian agencies.


Accounts of government’s internal security plan or of the OBL do not of course show that the military and other security forces are under explicit orders to kill leaders and members of suspected front organizations of the underground left. However, government’s record of counter-insurgency in the Philippines sheds some light on how such campaign operates.

Since the Marcos dictatorship (1972, when martial law was declared, to 1986 when he was ousted from power), the doctrine of counter-insurgency has been waged through unrelenting military suppression campaigns, psychological warfare and assaults on civil liberties. The doctrine was refined further during the Aquino presidency’s “total war policy” through the CIA-inspired low-intensity conflict (LIC) that tapped local government units, paramilitary units and – unclassified secret documents reveal - about 50 vigilante bands or death squads. Counter-insurgency campaigns have been launched not only against the Marxist guerrillas but also Moro rebels fighting for self-determination and autonomy. The cost of such brutal campaigns in terms of human lives lost and communities displaced would be huge and lengthy to mention in this paper.

Both previous campaigns and the current OBL – which is actually recycled from the old ones – have the makings of the counter-insurgency or “counter-terror” doctrine devised by the U.S. military since the 1950s and which, according to former CIA operatives, had been used extensively in at least 43 countries particularly in the Philippines, Indochina and Korea. Similar doctrines have also been crafted in Central and Latin America and, today, in Colombia, Iraq and other countries.

Based on U.S. military field manuals, the heart of this counter-insurgency doctrine is the deliberate use of terror “as a legitimate and highly effective tactical tool of unconventional warfare.” This unconventional warfare is designated as a “national policy” with the military assigned the primary responsibility in “the conduct of punitive operations” backed by police, paramilitary and civilian agencies. Operations used for this terror campaign include assassinations, disappearances and mass executions. Although terror is supposed to be part of the counter-insurgency program, experience shows that it may in fact gain primacy thus making the program primarily an unconventional war.

The doctrine further suggests that the use of terror as a “legitimate weapon” for counter-insurgency aims to instill fear among the population and, as a result, deny suspected cadres and members of target political organizations their mass support. Mass executions or massacres often take place alongside selective political assassinations for maximum effect. The psywar message these operations try to send is that advocacy – especially the radical type – is risky and is not worth fighting for. Being highly-secretive and known only to top military officials, terror invests both the hit men and architects of these punitive operations with the license to kill as well as immunity from prosecution.

For too long, the Philippines has been maintained by the United States, its former colonial master, for the latter’s strategic economic and geo-political objectives not only in the Philippines but throughout Asia, the Pacific and the Gulf Region. This special relationship has been guaranteed by making the AFP dependent on U.S. military aid and training in order to make it useful for its proxy war in the Philippines as well as for ensuring that whoever sits as president remains friendly to the United States. Note the intervention of the U.S. chiefly through the AFP and the use of economic squeeze in two political-economic crises that led to the downfall of two presidents – Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001. The immediate aim was to prevent the government from supposedly falling into the hands of the Left and hence keeping the Philippines’ ancillary role in U.S. strategic interests in the region. Before Marcos and Estrada, previous presidents had also been empowered or suffered shorter terms depending on their ability to fight insurgent forces and support U.S. objectives, among other considerations.

Key role

Thus for decades the U.S. military through its Pacific Command has maintained strong influence in the AFP not only in the field of counter-insurgency but also in the current U.S.-led “war on terrorism.” The U.S. has had a key role in developing and promoting counter-insurgency doctrines that were adopted by the AFP. The implementation of counter-insurgency doctrines – including the current “war on terror” – had been tied to U.S. economic and military aid. Continuing scholarship trainings given to the AFP’s junior officers as well as police officers at the U.S. military’s special training schools are used to further hone the country’s security forces anti-insurgency strategy and skills while maintaining the AFP as a surrogate army of the U.S.

At present, the U.S. military, intelligence and “homeland security” operatives provide training for special covert operations as well as intelligence, logistical, and combat support. U.S. armed intervention in the country has been boosted by a new agreement signed with the Macapagal-Arroyo government allowing U.S. forces to operate not only for “training” or “war exercises” but also to conduct “humanitarian” and “anti-terrorism” missions. Actually such missions have been ongoing in recent years particularly in suspected NPA lairs.

The U.S. role in counter-insurgency-terrorism has expanded alongside the increase in U.S. economic aid geared to anti-terrorism. Based on the 2003 Conflict Vulnerability Assessment, the USAID’s new strategy for 2004-2009 seeks to “address conflict more comprehensively and with a broader geographical focus, particularly on areas outside Mindanao where poverty and social injustice can help to create fertile ground for organized violence and terrorism.”

Records also show, however, that the greater the level of U.S. aggression through military presence and increased military and economic aid is in the country, the more human rights violations occur. The U.S. military and economic aid that propped up the Marcos dictatorship was also used to intensify military suppression campaigns that resulted in nearly five million people displaced and tens of thousands arrested, tortured, killed and disappeared. The U.S-initiated and –supported low intensity war during the Aquino years (1986-1992) led to unprecedented cases of forcible disappearances, massacres, the deployment of vigilante squads and the extra-judicial killings of many urban-based activists. While pretending to engage the Left in peace talks, the Ramos government (1992-1998) launched similar punitive operations with secret plans to restore authoritarian rule, a policy that was sustained by Joseph Estrada (1998-January 2001) particularly in the south. All told, it can be said that like her, Macapagal-Arroyo’s predecessors used counter-insurgency to the hilt to ensure continued U.S. support. But, at what cost?

Throughout the world, the U.S. has been condemned for using the “war on terror” as a pretext for launching wars of aggression on many small countries, for propping up unpopular and despotic regimes as well as for the increase of crimes against humanity and human rights violations in these countries. The Bush government refuses to take heed on calls from around the world to withdraw its support for the illegitimate Macapagal-Arroyo regime especially because U.S. military aid has led to more political crimes and that economic aid only goes to corruption. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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