REARRANGING THE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR U.S. MILITARY INTERVENTION
IN THE PHILIPPINES AND THE ASIA-PACIFIC: RESISTANCE AND SOLIDARITY
Roland G. Simbulan
Professor and Vice Chancellor,
University of the Philippines
Let me express my gratitude to the organizers for inviting me to participate in this International Anti-Base, Anti-War Meeting in Tokyo. May I therefore extend my warmest greetings of solidarity to the organizers and participants of this conference.
I take this opportunity to thank all of you for your solidarity in our past struggles against U.S. military bases in the Philippines. We in the Philippines were finally able to remove U.S. military bases in 1991 as a result of the broad unity of anti-base, anti-treaty people’s forces and movements. We successfully convinced the Philippine Senate on Sept. 16, 1991 to terminate the bases treaty and to remove all U.S. military bases, U.S. troops and facilities stationed on Philippine soil. But, we also need your continuing solidarity against the renewed U.S. military activities, U.S. military exercises and restoration of U.S. military presence on Philippine territory since 1999 to the present. I am confident that this conference will be successful in clarifying the dangers and threats of U.S. military bases, the intensification of U.S. military intervention and aggression, the imperial propensity for war, and the need for a broad regional as well as international struggle against U.S. military intervention and war.
Today, it is of crucial importance to stress the need to form international solidarity against U.S. military bases and “military access agreements” as these are being used as the machinery and arsenal for warfare that the United States is waging overseas. We must do everything possible and necessary to enlighten, organize and mobilize as many people possible to condemn and block U.S. military bases, facilities and access agreements with host countries and to demand their immediate dismantling and abrogation. These U.S. air, naval, army, marine, logistics, training and communications bases are the infrastructure of U.S. intervention and aggression against other countries. They are also the infrastructure for nuclear warfighting and the pre-emptive “first strike” doctrine of the United States./ 1
U.S. military bases and access agreements have always been used as springboards in armed intervention and aggression against other countries. They are already in countries or in global regions where there are armed conflicts. U.S. military forces use them to engage in military intervention and aggression. Where there is yet no blatant aggression, the U.S. military bases and/or facilities are sources of U.S. military advice, espionage, training, and weapons against people’s movements and progressive governments which are defending their national integrity and sovereignty. In effect, the U.S. military is further strengthening itself for policing and reconfiguring the Asia-Pacific and the world for U.S. global corporations.
Under the Bush administration and especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. has provided the big U.S. transnational firms with large tax cuts and fat military contracts, combining this with a policy of military Keynesianism or the use of state funds to promote military production. The Bush administration has taken advantage of the Sept. 11 attacks to wage an anti-terrorist hysteria world-wide to grab most of the spoils of war and aggression. The U.S. has been helping itself to monopolize the greatest advantages from the series of wars in the Gulf, in the Balkans and Central Asia, especially in terms of taking control of sources and routes of oil and gas.
The U.S. continues to get what it wants up to the present time, as its allies in Europe and Japan adjust themselves to U.S. policies and plans. Right now, the U.S. is using its occupation of Iraq and control of Iraq’s oil resources as lever for “reconfiguring” the Middle East in favor of Israel, subordinating OPEC to the US oil policy and manipulating the fuel requirements of China, the European Union and Japan.
The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Forces in Okinawa
Since Sept. 11, 2001, as part of its international campaign against terrorism, the United States has made the Philippines its “second front” in Asia next to Afghanistan in its fight against so-called terrorists. The administration of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has given the United States its full cooperation in renewing American military presence in the Philippines and possibly, even restoring its military facilities and bases in the near future.
Right now, more than a thousand U.S. combat troops are already deployed in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the Philippines. U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces based in Okinawa are now not only being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan but are also now actively deployed in the many areas of armed conflicts in the Philippines./ 2 They regularly bring in their weapons, tanks and equipment including CH-31, CH-53, AH-IH, CH-46, C-9, C-12 helicopters during regular Balikatan(shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises in the Philippines. The pretext is for the troops to train the Philippine armed forces how to fight in the combat zones of Basilan, Jolo and Mindanao against a small bandit and kidnapping group , the Abu Sayyaf, a creation of the US-CIA with the collaboration of some Filipino military intelligence officers in the early 1990s in the war against the Moro National Liberation Front. U.S. Marine Expeditionary units, including U.S. Army Special Corps “Green Berets” based in Okinawa that now train regularly in Balikatan military exercises in the Philippines , form the core of today’s U.S. military interventionary forces in the Asia-Pacific, if not the entire world. There are unofficial reports, as part of a global military realignment plan, to shift a regiment of the 18,000-strong 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Camp Schwab in the City of Nago, Okinawa to the Philippines./ 3 However, the Pentagon is also planning to transfer the Headquarters of its U.S. Army’s 1st Corps from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture. Okinawan U.S. military bases have in fact, become the stronghold for new U.S. anti-terrorism interventionary wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines where there are armed conflicts. And with the plan to station some Okinawan-based units of the 3rd U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces in the Philippines, another Okinawa is being made in the Philippines as an additional staging area in the western Pacific for U.S. interventionary forces.
Since 1999 when the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement(VFA) was signed, the U.S. government has used this document to sneak in U.S. military forces and Pentagon and CIA civilian operatives into the Philippines. The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement or MLSA , which was signed in 2001 between the Philippines and the United States, is also another unconstitutional document like the VFA that has been used to justify the stockpiling of U.S. military armaments and war materiel as they did during the time of the U.S. military base presence. The current large and small-scale Philippine-U.S. military exercises, “Balikatan”, in the Philippines have been initiated under the VFA and the MLSA agreements. Philippine courts cannot, under the VFA, even assume jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers and try them for such crimes as rape, murder, or homicide, committed against Filipinos right in our own country. Under Article 5 of the VFA, any offense committed by US soldiers or personnel on Philippine soil, no matter how grave or heinous, may be considered “official acts”, provided the U.S. commander issues a “military duty” certificate. This was how the US gave immunity to thousands of accused American soldiers from 1947 to 1991 under the defunct Philippine-U.S. Military Bases Agreement, for their criminal acts committed on Philippine soil.
The real main objective of U.S. military re-deployment and restoration of U.S. military presence in the Philippines is to participate actively in combat against the guerrilla forces nationwide of the New People’s Army, and the Bangsamoro Army in Mindanao. It is also to establish military bases in southern Philippines especially in General Santos City and Zamboanga City in order to be a springboard at the center of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and exercise control over the oil and other natural resources as well as the routes of international commerce in the region. A new base in southern Mindanao would be an ideal fulcrum for U.S. military operations not only in that island, but also for future counter-terrorism strikes in Southeast Asian countries, particularly in predominantly Islamic Indonesia and Malaysia. The aforementioned countries are major oil producers while the Cotabato basin and Palawan waters in Mindanao are also acknowledged as having rich oil reserves. The Philippines is also seen as the gateway of the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf and would therefore be ideal for forward-deployed U.S. forces in the Western Pacific.
In short, in abject servility to the United States, the Philippine government has volunteered the use of the entire national territory again as a base for U.S. armed aggression and intervention, as it has in the past during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and other armed conflicts.
Japan’s Role in the Global Eavesdropping System—Echelon
The estimated 702 U.S. foreign military bases and installations that are currently located in at least 40 nations today are part of the integrated global infrastructure for imperial domination of the United States. Not only does it use these bases and military forces for global intervention , controlling the world’s oil resources and natural resource supplies as well as trade and sea routes, but they are also used to intimidate smaller nations into submission. Bases in Japan and South Korea, as well as “visiting” and “access” agreements such as those in the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand are used to serve and reinforce aircraft carriers, destroyers, nuclear armed submarines that serve America’s gunboat diplomacy today.
But we should not neglect their use such as for command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I), including essential roles in nuclear war-fighting, using space for intelligence and warfare. Signals intelligence (SIGINT) also needs to be mentioned as in the U.S. Air Force base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan. There at Misawa, U.S. Project Echelon facilities are installed and operated with sophisticated surveillance equipment to spy and eavesdrop not only on China, North Korea and Russia, but also to intercept all military and civilian communications within Japan, including those by fax, email and telephone calls both landline and mobile. / 4 These eavesdropping facilities in Misawa are linked to the braincenter of U.S. SIGINT operations at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland, near Washington D.C.. Recently, this global eavesdropping system of Project Echelon was exposed in the Philippines where it was revealed that the U.S. uses this integrated eavesdropping system to spy even on its own allies like the Philippines. This is even used for economic intelligence to monitor and intercept communications between trading companies of allied countries, and to boost the American position in trade talks and negotiations, let us say with Japan and the Philippines.
The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
The United States is now also trying to legitimize, under a semblance of international law, its modern-day piracy and gunboat diplomacy against smaller nations. Under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) which was introduced by the United States in 2003, U.S. gunboats docked at military bases overseas may now intercept any vessel in the high seas that they suspect to be transporting or carrying weapons of mass destruction, or components and ingredients of such weapons. This is very dangerous and may provoke wars and conflicts because under international law, ships with the proper identification are extensions of the state and cannot be intercepted or boarded by a foreign state. They can only be intercepted by their flag state. There will be a PSI exercise on Oct. 25-27 this month in Japan’s territorial waters, in the form of a “maritime interdiction training exercise” called Team Samurai. / 5
But look who’s talking! The United States has long been vehemently opposed to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an anti-nuclear weapons treaty, for it perceived this as restricting, if not challenging, the unhampered operations especially of the nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered U.S. 7th Fleet in the Western Pacific. Can nations not see this practice of double-standards that the weapons of mass destruction of superpowers are not restricted in any way while other vessels from smaller countries can now be subject to full inspection even in international waters?Despite the US objections to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty in 1995, the SEA-NWFZ Treaty was collectively signed by ASEAN members on Dec. 15, 1995 as ” a concrete action which will contribute to the process towards general and complete disarmament of nuclear weapons ” in Southeast Asia. From the perspective of Asian countries and the anti-nuclear movement, this was a major victory towards de-militarizing and de-nuclearizing the seas and oceans in the region. It was also seen as an important step in weakening and denying the United States of its infrastructure for intervention and war in the region. This is because the U.S. uses its access and bases in Southeast Asia as its springboard for aggression and intervention against the Middle East and Asia itself.
If the United States and other countries were to implement a Proliferation Security Initiative, then let it include the subjection to inspection and interdiction of vessels of the United States Navy that carry nuclear weapons, chemical and bacteriological weapons and their components, as well as the inspection of Japanese vessels that carry plutonium from Europe!
People’s Movements in the Philippines
The Filipino people are resisting the military restoration and interventionary schemes of the U.S. and the Philippine regime of subservience to the Pentagon. People’s organizations in the Philippines which are involved in anti-war and disarmament campaigns regard security agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement with the United States as the military aspect of U.S.-led globalization efforts. In their view, globalization is not just about the free movement of U.S. capital but also its armed components that will assure the protection of international capital. In fact, a Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review by the U.S. Department of Defense admitted that U.S. defense and security policy is intertwined with economic globalization such as the “protection of the sea lanes of trade, ensuring unhampered access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.” Pentagon literature even refers to the operational jurisdiction of the US Pacific Command as “highways of trade which are vital to U.S. national security.” / 6
The historic removal of all U.S. military bases at Clark and Subic in the Philippines on Sept. 16, 1991 signaled an involuntary retreat for forward-based U.S. forces in the Philippines, which in the past, has been regarded as a formidable US military stronghold and enclave by Pentagon planners. The Philippines was previously used as an important logistical support base to U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam and later the Gulf War in the early ‘ 90s. The Philippines also served as an active regional center for the CIA’s covert operations against Indonesia and against the national liberation movements in Indochina, using the cover of Operation Brotherhood. / 7
The people of the Philippines and their anti-bases and anti-nuclear movements succeeded in 1991 in removing all U.S. bases and facilities and scored a major victory. And just like in your own country here in Japan, the U.S. Armed Forces left behind a deadly legacy of contamination and death that has polluted our lands with hazardous and toxic waste from the former U.S. bases in the Philippines, resulting in the deaths of many Filipinos, especially children, due to contaminated soil and water. / 8
In opposing U.S. bases, intervention and war, it is necessary to bring about the broadest possible unity in each country as we did in the Philippines in our successful struggle against U.S. bases. In the Asia-Pacific region and on a global scale, it is necessary to intensify resistance against U.S. aggression, which has resulted in the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, where the U.S. is now suffering setbacks and is now in a quagmire.
Let us remember that the story of Iraq today was the story of the Philippines in 1899, when 126,000 American combat troops invaded our country, crushed our newly born First Philippine Republic and colonized my country so as to gain a market and military stronghold in Asia. That bloody conquest of my country in 1899 caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, mostly civilians, like what is now happening in Iraq. That era of the Philippine-American War in the Philippines (1899-1913) has been called by historians as “America’s First Vietnam in Asia”. It was in that era of invasion and colonization that the Americans established their first military bases in the Philippines.
But let us remember that neither the story of the Philippines then nor the story of Iraq now end with successful US occupation. We can expect more resistance from the people to arise as the Iraqis are valiantly showing in the relentless effort to free their country of US-Anglo aggression and occupation. By unleashing acts of state terrorism in the world as it did against the Philippines in 1899, and against Japan when it atom-bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the United States is only generating more hatred for US aggression and will further arouse the just resistance of the people of the world.
1. Roland G. Simbulan, The Bases of Our Insecurity: A Study of the U.S. Military Bases in the Philippines. Manila: Balai Inc., 1983, 1985, 1987). For the regional perspective, see the article, Roland G. Simbulan, “U.S. Military Power and Interests in the Asia-Pacific: The Challenges to Human Security and Development”, KASARINLAN, Philippine Journal of Third World Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2004.
2. www.bulatlat.com/news/5-3/5-3-okinawa_printer.html, Philippine alternative weekly newsmagazine.
3. Japan Times, Feb. 10, 2004.
4. Nicky Hager, Secret Power, 1995. See also European Commission Report, Assessing the Technologies of Political Control, 1997.
5. U.S. State Department. Fact Sheet. October 22, 2004.
6. U.S. Department of Defense. Quadrennial Defense Review, 1997.
7. Roland G. Simbulan, The Hidden History of CIA Covert Operations in the Philippines, Manila Studies Program: Popular Bookstore, 2001.
8. Roland G. Simbulan, ” Environmental Injustice: Rectifying America’s Poisoned Legacy in the Philippines” , Paper presented before the First National Conference on Philippine Health Social Science, Manila Midtown Hotel, Manila , Oct. 14, 2000.(unpublished) . See also British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary on environmental destruction by U.S. bases in Okinawa, “BBC Documentary Highlights U.S. military threat to environment, culture and livelihoods in Okinawa, Japan”. Aired by BBC Sept. 30, 2005.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on Nov. 10th 2005