Why US soldiers are still here

The death of an American soldier, a Green Beret sergeant first class, in the Zamboanga bombing incident the other day came as a surprise to many people.  Hardly anyone in Manila knew that there were remaining US troops in Mindanao.  The public assumed they all left in June, mission accomplished.  Abu Sabaya was pronounced dead, and the Abu Sayyaf group — the supposed reason for inviting US soldiers to Basilan – was declared immobilized and scattered.

Only a handful of US soldiers were supposed to have stayed behind to finish some community projects.  It was assumed they would need a few weeks to pack up, although nobody really minded their residual presence.

Now the enemy has killed one of them. The US can use this as a reason to return its combatants to Mindanao.  For here at last is proof that Mindanao is indeed a major theater in the terrorist war. Those who thought this was such a contrived scenario are no longer surprised. This has never really been about the Abu Sayyaf nor the rescue of the Burnham couple.  This has been, all along, about America reconfiguring its role in the world stage now that it stands unchallenged as the world’s lone superpower.

The truth is that America wants to establish a more permanent military presence in key regions of the world, including Southeast Asia. Given its history of closeness to the US and its western-leaning culture, the Philippines is the most logical host within the region. Since it is impractical for the Americans to recover the bases they left behind in 1991, or to create new ones of the scale and visibility of Subic and Clark, they are exploring new arrangements.  They already have the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as a cover for their troops on a year-round basis, even extending its scope to justify sending them to a war zone.  What they need now in addition are wellequipped facilities they could use for the easy deployment and servicing of their forces, unhampered by sovereignty issues. The proposed Mutual Logistics and Service Agreement or MLSA is meant precisely to make this possible.  The Americans build the facilities, bring in equipment and supplies, and nominally turn these to us on the understanding that they can use these any time.  The MLSA is no doubt an accounting arrangement, plus much more.

America’s ruling elites imagine all this to be integral to the global role thrust upon them by history.  The Soviet Union has broken up, China has gone capitalist, the socialist alternative is dead, and a new world order has emerged whose stability rests solely upon America’s readiness to serve as its guarantor and constabulary.  This new world is today threatened by terrorism, rogue states, and the disintegration of societies along fundamentalist lines.  The United Nations, long rendered ineffective by the imperatives of multilateralism, is unable to respond decisively to these threats.  America is left with no choice but to now openly carry out the task it had tried to mask after World War II – i.e. to impose its own rules of order on the rest of humanity.

These include launching pre-emptive strikes against perceived enemies in order to protect its national interests, and invading other countries run by recalcitrant regimes to force a change in leadership and to compel them to assume their sovereign responsibilities as nations.  This definition of the current global situation and America’s global task is laid out in Pres. George W. Bush’s National Security Strategy, first made public on Sept. 20, 2001.

To understand the terms of this strategy is to understand why American soldiers remain in Mindanao, and why the US is bent on invading Iraq.  Jay Bookman, editorial page editor of the mainstream newspaper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, interprets this new US defense strategy in plain language:  “This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a fullfledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman.  It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the US must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the ‘American imperialists’ that our enemies always claimed we were.”

Bookman is sure that this strategy was not prompted by the events of Sept. 11 because the analysis that underpins it is worded in exactly the same language as a report issued in Sept. 2000 by a group of interventionists and packaged as the “Project for the New American Century”.  Who were the authors of this report?  Powerful persons now occupying sensitive positions in the present Bush administration, says Bookman, namely: Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary for defense; John Bolton, undersecretary of state; Stephen Cambone, head of Pentagon’s office of program analysis and evaluation; I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, who was himself defense chief in 1992; and Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross, members of the defense policy board which advises defense chief Donald Rumsfeld.

In the year 2000, this group identified Iraq, Iran and North Korea as short-term primary targets – one year before George W. Bush actually labeled them the Axis of Evil.  Bush is clearly following a pre9/11 script, whose plot antedates the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda, the Abu Sayyaf and all the enemies that the US is now targeting in the war against global terrorism.

Would Filipinos change their view of the US if they knew this?  Our tragedy is that they probably don’t care.


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