Both wars project American military presence, and the recent past gives us sound reasons to doubt the United States government’s motives, and not to allow ourselves ever again to be drawn into America’s wars. American presidents, from Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon, all lied to their own people to justify the invasion of Vietnam. Books such as those written by Daniel Ellsberg show that the US armed forces did not go there to intervene in a civil war. They did not side with the wrong party. They were the wrong party.
Today we see glimpses of this same cynical mendacity and moral hypocrisy in the US plan to invade Iraq. George W. Bush first named Iraq as an enemy in his famous “axis of evil” speech. He says that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction and must immediately disarm. He accuses Saddam Hussein not only of supporting al-Qaida terrorists but also of terrorizing his own people. He makes a case for the overthrow of Saddam’s regime by saying it would not only restore democracy in Iraq but also promote stability in the Middle East. He warned that if the United Nations will not move to disarm Iraq, the US would with its own willing allies. Let us briefly examine these reasons.
Most of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War and in the 1998 bombing of specified targets by the US. The UN weapons inspection team is convinced that Iraq has no nuclear weapons and that all efforts to develop one have been stopped. The inspectors have not found any “smoking gun” but still need to be convinced that Iraq has destroyed all its biological and chemical weapons. They want more time. The US and Britain, who gave Saddam most of these weapons so he could use them against Iran, are against prolonging the inspectors’ visit.
As for Saddam’s links with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida, no persuasive proof showing any such connection has been presented. In contrast, it is a well-known fact that CIA operatives had extensive dealings with Osama bin Laden in the past. America used Osama to train and arm the Taliban, and recruit Islamic fighters from all over the Islamic world to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan.
A regime change in Iraq would undoubtedly benefit the Iraqi people. Saddam is indeed one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, and has ruled Iraq without elections. But for America to bomb a whole nation and put at risk the lives of 23 million civilians in order to topple their president is callous madness. (The plan is to drop 800 bombs in the first 2 days in order to produce “shock and awe.”) It violates all the norms of peaceful co-existence among nations.
In a second resolution it is planning to submit to the UN Security Council, the US will argue that, having breached the UN’s resolution to disarm, Iraq must now face “serious consequences” for its defiance. The US understands this phrase to mean military action and regime change, an interpretation not shared by most of the council’s 15 members. War is a last resort in the UN’s own charter. If defiance of UN resolutions were the only justification for authorizing the bombing of a member country, the Council would have repeatedly authorized the bombing of Israel for the countless times since 1967 it has flagrantly ignored UN directives for it to vacate occupied Palestinian territory.
Thoughtful scholars and journalists from the US are convinced that Bush’s war is driven by corporate greed, by the wish to control and privatize Iraqi oil. Whatever are the deep motives behind America’s war plans, we in the Philippines would be stupid to support this reckless expedition. Even assuming we cannot feel any sentiment for the children of Baghdad who will die in this war, we cannot ignore the interests of our own over a million Filipinos workers in the Middle East whose lives will be disrupted by the war.
But even here at home, the danger we face seems to come from the same mindset that has been shaped by the panic and insecurity generated by all the talk about global terrorism. We see this in the pitiless conduct of the war in Mindanao. Whatever are the proximate causes for the resumption of this war at this time, we know it is wrong, dangerous, and irresponsible to view the conflict in that part of our country as a chapter in the global war against terrorism.
The US media have reported that American troops participating in this year’s Balikatan military exercises would be assigned a combat role and given a chance to go after Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Sulu. Our government immediately denied this. Though the new terms of reference for the exercises are not yet out, the government has assured the public that American troops are here for training and will only play a supportive role. They will not fire except in self-defense.
On August 4, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox was patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin when it began to send urgent dispatches to Washington saying it was under torpedo attack. Lyndon Johnson responded by ordering air strikes on North Vietnam. Three days later, the US Congress authorized a full-scale war that Americans had no moral right to wage. No one has been able to confirm if the attack on the Maddox took place at all. If it did, it was definitely provoked because the ship was on a secret mission inside Vietnamese territory.
If our leaders are not lying, why are they fielding American forces in precisely those areas that have been the site of a long festering domestic conflict? The only answer I can think of is: They are giving the US every chance to escalate the war in Mindanao. This is a betrayal we cannot allow.
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