May 13, 2005

Regime change

“Regime change” is the euphemism found in US strategy papers referring to governments, friendly or otherwise, that the American ruling elite would like to remove from power, for one reason or the other.

Once more the possibility of a sudden change of government in this country looms. It is in the air, becoming more palpable and more compelling as the weeks and months pass.

“Sobra na, tama na!” was transformed into a political battle cry against the Marcos Dictatorship, for all those seeking a change in some way. “Sobra ng pahirap, patalsikin si Erap!” was the more direct-to-the-point and catchy slogan during the heady days of EDSA 2. Today, the English equivalent is still “Oust!” but it is now “Oust her!” -- an ostensibly correct formulation, grammatically and politically, that one hears shouted more and more frequently, in the streets by demonstrators, as well as in exclusive clubs, by retired military and police generals.

Contrary to the propaganda line that the US reserves its support only for the deserving in terms of so-called good governance, a measure of incorruptibility and the practice of democracy, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it quite bluntly when she said of US-backed regimes, “He may be a S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.” And that, apparently, makes all the difference.

On the other hand, a client state may be headed by a staunch US ally but when his or her unpopularity is such that he or she becomes isolated from the people and alienated from other major players in the political arena like opposition parties, the corporate media, the business sector, the church hierarchy etc. making that regime a liability to its erstwhile backers, a policy decision must be made. Shall the US continue to support that regime, even as it pressures it to institute “reforms” that will defuse the volatile situation or should it take its own advice to “cut, and cut cleanly” in order to minimize its losses?

George Bush Sr., while still the US Vice President, lauded the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ “adherence to democracy” when his regime had become quite odious what with the horrendous human rights violations and Imeldific plunder going on. In due time, however, Marcos’ friend Ronald Reagan had to signal to him and all and sundry that it was time for the Dictator to step down or else there was the danger a real social revolution would take place and sweep away not just the Marcos dictatorship but the entire system of reactionary rule. Now where would such a dire development leave the US?

Has a crucial decision point been reached as far as US backing for the government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is concerned?

The flurry of visits by various Opposition leaders and/or their hatchet men to the US State Department after the 2004 presidential elections is an indicator that anti-GMA politicians see bright prospects for a sudden change of fortune and that US officials are keeping their ears close to the ground. Upon their return, these politicians appear encouraged enough to keep up or heighten their opposition against Mrs. Arroyo.

An official visit by another high-ranking State Department official recently may be construed as an opportunity for a mutual reassurance of sorts between the Washington and Mrs. Arroyo. Or then again, it may have been an opportunity for the US to warn her of impending danger unless she shapes up: that is, Mrs. Arroyo must get Congress to pass that expanded VAT bill, find a breakthrough in the peace talks with the MILF while cracking down on the “terrorists” lurking in Mindanao and force the communist movement to surrender by using the “terrorist” label to tighten the screws on its leaders and look the other way as the military and paramilitary go on a killing spree of activists and their supporters and terrorize the countryside.

Still, seemingly casual conversations between an Arroyo government functionary and the US ambassador is causing La Presidente to become suspicious and insecure, enough to impel her to berate the forlorn bureaucrat twice in public and move to cut him down to size.

Then there was the recent hush-hush meeting in Palawan with the outgoing US Ambassador Ricciardone and certain AFP higher-ups in the wake of another supposed destabilization plot in the days leading up to May 1. Whatever took place there appears to have convinced Mrs. Arroyo that US backing and the loyalty of the AFP generals could be counted upon no matter how much her popularity ratings continue to plummet.

While the erosion and eventual withdrawal of US support for any client regime is a critical development that the latter fears and its opponents welcome, Filipino nationalists and anti-imperialists who have studied the strategy and tactics of the US in the post-war neocolonial period in so far as “regime change” -- from an old, discredited one to a newer, relatively untainted replacement – know that any US role in a movement to oust Mrs. Arroyo from Malacaňang is bound to be in accord with its self-serving economic and geopolitical interests above everything else.

In other words, the US cannot be trusted to support a genuinely democratic movement to oust an oppressive and corrupt regime that is shamelessly selling the national patrimony and sovereignty down the river because it is precisely one of the main pillars, if not the main pillar, of this regime. No doubt the US would only consider abandoning the Arroyo administration when the situation warrants and a suitable replacement is found.

History has shown that such a situation can only come about when the people in their millions begin to manifest their determination to bring about change – whether it is merely a change in the way government is run to the way government is. This is the crucial factor that can bring about genuine, wide ranging and long lasting reforms ushered in a by a government composed not just of political forces that conveniently allied together to oust the Arroyo government but of truly nationalist and democratic forces and their allies that can bring about the long overdue, structural changes in the exploitative and oppressive system.

Such a “regime change” is not the sort the US has in mind and in fact would do everything to prevent.

May 13-14, 2005


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