May 05, 2011

Terrorist bogey

Osama bin Laden, the elusive head of the Al Qaeda, is dead. The Obama administration thumps its breast as it announces this feat, which reads like an action-thriller movie with US Navy SEALS and CIA-led operatives as the intrepid heroes completing their mission with deadly precision and efficiency, and with not a single US casualty.

This gives the US-engineered “war on terror” new vigor and injects renewed mystique into this touted crusade launched by the Bush administration that has left in its wake a trail of civilian casualties, destroyed physical and social infrastructure and untold havoc and misery on the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention thousands illegally arrested, held in secret detention centers, tortured and interrogated under the aegis of counterterrorism.

To get Bin Laden, the US and NATO invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban government widely believed to be providing the Al Qaeda safe haven. They installed a US puppet who has proven to be true to the tradition of such client regimes – corrupt, elitist, faction-ridden and thoroughly dependent on US-NATO military backing to fight the comebacking Taliban forces.

It goes without saying that the economic stakes of the Western powers in Afghanistan such as the oil and gas pipelines that will deliver Central Asia’s resources to its shores together with their geopolitical interests are being closely safeguarded by the US-NATO-friendly regime.

But much to their unending embarrassment and to the consternation of the American public, the US-NATO forces, for ten long years, could not deliver Osama’s head on a silver platter. Mr. Obama in fact used this as a reason to shift the bulk of US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and authorize military strikes inside Pakistani territory in flagrant violation of its sovereignty and heedless of civilian casualties.

Iraq was next in the Bush administration’s sights. In the flush of the counter-terrorist, jingoist and anti-Muslim rhetoric post 9-11, the Bush-Cheney-Powell triumvirate successfully pulled the hood on the US and world public with its lies about Saddam Hussein’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction”. Saddam’s WMDS were allegedly poised – in true “terrorist” fashion -- against the US, Iraq’s Middle East neighbors and not least of all, the Iraqis themselves, the Kurd minority in particular.

The massive bombardment of Iraq and the subsequent invasion by US troops also brought about the replacement of Saddam with a US puppet. But the presence and continuing combat role of at least 50,000 US troops as an occupation force remains significant despite repeated announcements by Mr. Obama of their eventual withdrawal.

Meanwhile the scale of violence between the US military, the puppet Iraqi troops and a broad range of armed resistance forces in the country has reached a permanent state of deadliness with more than 4500 US soldiers, tens of thousands of rebels and civilians providing the unending body count.

Iraq’s rich oil resources and economy are now managed within the neo-liberal frame of the IMF-World Bank even as the people are still reeling from the devastation and the deprivations that have come in the wake of the 2003 US invasion and occupation.

In the US, the “war on terror” served to justify fascist measures against the people as never before. The US PATRIOT Act and the creation of the US Homeland Security served to bamboozle constitutionally-guaranteed civil and political liberties heretofore held sacred by the American people including rampant snooping into the private communications of those the government considered security threats and the harassment and actual arrests of suspects on the flimsiest grounds alongside the denial of their due process rights.

In the Philippines, the Arroyo regime immediately sucked up to the Bush government after 9-11 by uncritically and enthusiastically embracing the “war on terror”. Apart from providing the widest latitude for the use of Philippine territory and airspace, military facilities and civilian infrastructure by the US Armed Forces for its imperialist adventures into Central Asia and the Middle East, the Arroyo regime hyped the Abu Sayyaf Group as the Philippines very own local “terrorist” counterpart. She vowed her government would do its part in what Mr. Bush would later on call “the second front in the war on terror”.

In 2002, in order to deal with 300 or so ASG members kidnapping and holding for ransom foreigners and locals alike, the Arroyo regime imposed an undeclared state of martial law in Basilan and Jolo. Scores of innocent civilians were rounded up together with ASG suspects, many of whom are still languishing in detention up to now.

During the first RP-US Balikatan military exercises, 650 US Special Forces troops were allowed to participate in military operations against the ASG in contravention of Constitutional prohibitions. This was put forth as necessary to finally put a stop to the depredations of the ASG and hold the line against international terror in the Southern Philippines. And yet, the Philippine military, in announcing preparations for any possible retaliatory attacks by alleged Bin Laden-sympathizing terrorists in the aftermath of his death, still counts 300 or so ASG, not much less than what the combined US and Philippine armed forces attempted to stamp out nine years ago.

The “terrorist” threat came in handy in justifying the bloody counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo regime – Oplan Bantay Laya – that led to rampant extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, mass civilian displacements and other grievous human rights violations.

Terrorist labels were also used to smear and demonize legitimate revolutionary movements in the country such as that of the CPP-NPA-NDFP and the MILF-BMLA. It was used to torpedo peace negotiations with both movements. Anti-terrorist legislation was railroaded in Congress to satisfy the demands of the US government.

TV news clips show crowds in Washington DC celebrating the news of Bin Laden’s execution. Elsewhere there does not seem to be much jubilation and in fact the reaction of people around the world seemed to be somber and muted.

From various perspectives and for different reasons, everyone says that the death of Bin Laden will not end “terrorist” attacks against the US and its allied powers. The US on the contrary warns that Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups are expected to retaliate and are still capable of launching further attacks. In this way, the Bin Laden operation serves as a stunning display of US military superiority and sophistication, while the US continues to use counterterrorism as a justification for its intervention and aggression worldwide.

More objectively and significantly, many local news commentators have echoed the view that for so long as the US arrogantly flaunts its lone superpower status and wields its political, economic and military might to dominate and trample on the rights of peoples and nations all over the world, those who suffer unbearable exploitation and oppression shall continue to resist and fight back. #

Published in Business World
6-7 May 2011


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