April 01, 2005

Militarist mindset

Here's a classic conundrum for the Arroyo administration. When does a killing deserve presidential notice, a reaction, or, perhaps, some form of condemnation? When is it just another grisly murder that Mrs. Arroyo, with her carefully cultivated image of being a no-nonsense, hands-on Chief Executive, will leave to the police to investigate and solve?

Mrs. Arroyo's swift action ordering the police to solve the slaying of Mindanao journalist Esparat post-haste is in stark contrast to her inaction and silence in the face of the alarming number of political activists murdered in the past three months, or abducted and missing to this day.

In a manner of speaking, both had put their lives at risk, having made enemies of powerful vested interests who have the armed means (the police, military or hired assassins) to protect themselves against perceived tormentors -- journalists who poke their noses into what's not their business and activists who make it their life's cause to agitate the oppressed to fight for their rights.

The explanation is not difficult to come by. The victim in the former case is a journalist with a track record of being a hard-hitting crusader against corruption: She not only exposed shenanigans through her writing, she filed several complaints against both local and national government officials. It just won't do for Mrs. Arroyo, who has declared her administration's anti-corruption goals ad nauseum, not to take a high-profile stance in the Esparat killing.

In the case of political activists and their supporters, they are considered as Leftist troublemakers, if not "communist terrorists" and "destabilizers," likely deserving of their fate for working to bring down the government.

Perhaps, it matters that national, and most significantly, international media attention has been trained on the killing of journalists since last year. The Philippines has the dubious distinction of being declared as the second most dangerous place for journalists to be in, beaten to top place only by war-torn Iraq. Image-conscious Mrs. Arroyo and her media handlers know how damaging that nasty piece of notoriety can be to her administration.

Then, again, perhaps Mrs. Arroyo will be prodded into belated action by the bishops of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) who have issued strongly worded statements calling on government to find out who ordered the killings of three key supporters of the Hacienda Luisita strikers or face a spreading "social conflagration." It certainly won't do for a self-declared pious Catholic like Mrs. Arroyo to turn a deaf ear to the admonitions of the princes of the Church.

The move of Anakpawis party-list representatives in Congress to go on a three-day fast to draw attention to the unsolved killings, government foot-dragging and, worse, authorship of the politically motivated liquidations of leaders and members of militant mass organizations, progressive party-lists and human rights groups would likely just be ignored by MalacaƱang were it not for its coinciding with the holding of the 112th Interparliamentary Union assembly in Manila which is expected to draw in 1,500 foreign participants from 130 countries and the corresponding international media attention.

It bears watching how Mrs. Arroyo and her political troubleshooters will paper over this latest black mark on her administration, what with her plummeting approval ratings due to rising prices, allegations of widespread corruption as well as perceptions of inability to secure peace and order.

Whoever thought that branding political activists as "terrorists" and shooting them down in quick succession was the ultimate solution to the national security problem posed by the communist-led revolutionary movement, does so with the same twisted values and perverse logic that US President Bush and his cabal of warmongers used in invading and occupying the sovereign states of Afghanistan and Iraq. They are committing the same fatal mistake, on top of the monstrous atrocities, that Bush and company committed in these two infamous wars of aggression.

The world marked the second year of the US invasion of Iraq on March 20, justified by President George Bush as a pre-emptive strike against the regime of Saddam Hussein, a world-class "demon" who posed a clear and present danger to the US and the rest of the world with his arsenal of deadly weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), had close ties with the arch terrorist-villain Osama bin Laden, and had oppressed his people far too long than Bush Jr. could care to remember.

Of course, all that has been proven to be a big, fat lie so now the Bushites harp on the so-called "war on terror." Everything they do is now justified in those terms.

Let's just focus this instance on the kind of militarist thinking that pervades the official doctrine of the "war on terror" which the US keeps hard-selling to the world, and the Arroyo regime keeps parroting. There is a need to expose the interconnections of this mindset with the kind of militarist thinking we suspect is behind the recent spate of killings of progressives and activists and even the bloody handling of the latest flare-up of fighting in Sulu between government forces and Muslim separatists.

Mr. Bush and his inner circle of neo-conservatives have a fairly simple appreciation of the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes in Eastern Europe, and the emergence of the US as unchallenged sole superpower. The US wants to keep it that way and expand its sphere of influence and control even further to achieve complete world domination -- militarily, politically and economically.

The only problem is who is the enemy? Communism no longer provides the credible straw figure to suit the purpose.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US, it was a cinch naming the enemy -- terrorism, with a capital T. No matter that even the United Nations has not been able to come up with a definition of terrorism that it could get everyone to agree on. Remember the adage, "One man's terrorist, another man's freedom fighter."

But for the Bushites, again it's fairly simple. "Terrorists" are all those entities the US categorizes as such for whatever reasons it sees fit and for such grounds as it chooses to consider. The whys and wherefore of the phenomenon of so-called "terrorism," how this relates to historical and long-standing socioeconomic iniquities in the world and how it should be justly and effectively addressed are matters beyond the pale of the current hype and obsession with pursuing the "war on terror."

Thus, deeply rooted, complex and humongous politico-socio-economic problems in the world, in specific regions and particular countries are reduced to the caricature of the enemy that the US-concocted "war on terror" has foisted on the world. The rest follows.

Take Iraq. The "easy" military solution to a non-existent problem of WMDs. The spectacular military success of "stun and awe" but incalculable political and humanitarian disaster when the Iraqi people ended up with hundreds of thousands dead and wounded, their country physically devastated, their oil resources taken over by foreign plunderers and their country under the boot of the US military occupiers and soon to be run by US puppets just as ruthless and corrupt or maybe even more so than Saddam.

The US occupation of Iraq has met with unexpectedly stiff and widespread armed resistance by the Iraqi people, tying down large numbers of US troops and with no clear solution in sight for the US that has dug itself into another quagmire -- a clear example of how the military solution engendered far bigger problems than the one it purportedly set out to solve.

The raging war in Sulu shows how the Moro conflict remains basically unresolved despite two peace accords (1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Accord) and innumerable declarations to the contrary. The underlying causes of the conflict merely smoldered over the years such that a seemingly isolated incident, when a Moro family was massacred in yet another military atrocity, easily flared up into a full-blown war, especially with the government allowing the military to wreak vengeance on the Moro people for the heavy losses they incurred in the battlefield, regardless of the economic and political repercussions, not to mention the massive displacement of civilians, human rights violations and damage to lives and property.

The military's knee-jerk reactions -- no ceasefire, take revenge, assault, pulverize -- can easily be understood (but not excused nor justified) by its mindset. After all, that is what they have been trained to do. That is precisely why no half-way democratic society would put government in their hands. That is why civilian authority is supposed to be supreme. Government is supposed to be able to look at the whole picture and command the military, to put them in their proper place.

Obviously, that is not the case under the present regime. The Arroyo government itself appears to have this militarist mindset. Many reasons have been put forward to explain this unfortunate phenomenon:

(1) The Arroyo government is held hostage by the military, fearing that it could be overthrown should it displease the military;

(2) It feels beholden to the military, erroneously believing that it owes its ascension to power to a military turnabout;

(3) It adopts this policy, aping or following the baton of the US in line with the "war on terror"; and,

(4) It is afflicted with the same narrow mindedness, prejudice and inability to learn the lessons of history. In all instances, the underlying reason is its obsession to remain in power.

It is this murderous militarist mindset at work in the wave of cold-blooded murders and abductions of progressive leaders and political activists.

April 1-2, 2005


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