THE RETURN OF G.I. JOE by Dr. Francisco Nemenzo,Jr., President, University of the Philippines
This article was originally published in the Sept. 28. 2002 issue of FORUM, the official community newspaper of the University of the Philippines System.
We commemorate this September the expulsion of the US bases. But we celebrate with a sense of frustration at the betrayal of our victory.
We fought so hard and for so long to free our country from American military bases — those hated symbols of our continuing subjugation. Eleven years later, G.I. Joe is back, strutting around with his deadly toys. Humiliating is the fact that it is our own government that has invited him back.
In the past, the Americans had to coerce our government to grant them basing rights. They took advantage of our dire need for postwar rehabilitation, our grave lack of funds to rebuild our country from the damage inflicted by the Americans themselves. Those of you who are too young to remember may not be aware that it was not Japanese but American carpet bombing that leveled Manila, Cebu and other cities to the ground. The Americans used our desperate situation to extract from us the onerous RP-US Military Agreement.
It is not so this time around. Our government all too eagerly volunteered to join George W. Bush’s “war against terrorism”. A gladdened Washington lost no time accepting our government’s offer. It immediately deployed American troops in the guise of training our admittedly incompetent soldiers to fight a band of kidnappers in Basilan and Jolo. Since the Abu Sayyaf proved to be an easy nut to crack, another justification for continued American presence had to be created — that of branding the NPA as terrorist.
This puts us in a worse situation than before. Under the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, American troops were confined to Clark and Subic. Now, they can move around wherever the NPA is operating.
It gives us little comfort that the American intrusion is supposedly just for training. Let us not forget that American involvement in Vietnam also started as a training exercise. President John F. Kennedy initially dispatched a few hundred American troops to teach the soldiers of Ngo Dinh Diem the art of torture and the science of killing communists. They did not expect the Vietcongs to fight back with exemplary courage and skill. When the so-called trainers started going home in coffins, the American media responded with an outburst of patrioteering. To impress those ill-clad and emaciated Vietcong guerrillas of American might, Lyndon Johnson escalated the war, sending hundreds of thousands of conscripts to Vietnam. But they continued losing one battle over another, until the American people themselves clamored for an end to the war. Bill Clinton and a thousand other young Americans fled to avoid being drafted to the army.
Now George W. Bush, a Texas cowboy in the White House, is out to redeem America’s pride. With no more Soviet Union to serve as a countervailing force, he is bullying other nations with impunity. He orders the Palestinian people to replace Yassir Arafat. He threatens Saddam Hussein with another military assault. In the Philippines, he only has to dangle a package of financial aid to elicit the obedience of a morally and economically bankrupt government.
For an imperialist power, a global enemy is a necessity. If it does not exist, it has to be invented. Half a century after the defeat of fascism, the global enemy was communism; now after the Cold War, it is terrorism. The principal driving force of modern imperialism is no longer the quest for natural resources and foreign markets; it can obtain these through the IMF and WTO. All other countries are just too willing to host American investments. All other countries have opened up their markets. But modern imperialism cannot live in peace. It has to maintain an enormous war economy to absorb the surplus. And it can only justify the massive military expenditures by inventing the global enemy.
Osama bin Laden came to the rescue of Mr. Bush. Before the Sept. 11 incidents, the political fortune of Mr. Bush was sliding down faster than the dollar. The American media –always on the look out for someone to ridicule — focused on his intellectual vacuity and ineptitude. With the suicide attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the Texas cowboy in the White House fond a hate object around which to rally the American people and justify the massive military expenditures.
America’s “war on terrorism” is a great historical irony. Its prime targets were themselves creations of the United States. Osama Bin Laden, Mulla Omar and Saddam Hussein were erstwhile allies of America. The CIA provided Al-Qaeda and the Taliban with funds, weapons and military training to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The Pentagon also built up the army of Saddam Hussein as a counterforce to Iran. America has a despicable record of abetting terrorism. It continues to sponsor terrorist attacks on Cuba.
September 11 has another meaning for the peoples of Latin America, especially the Chileans. Sept. 11, 1973 was the day the American-sponsored coup d’etat deposed the democratic government of Salvador Allende and installed General Augusto Pinochet, one of the most ruthless terrorists in history.
As we celebrate the Senate rejection of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, we also mourn the return of G.I. Joe. Quoting a line from a popular song of the anti-Vietnam War Movement, we once again ask the question, “When will we ever learn?””
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted.