The right decision*
THOSE who oppose the pullout of the country’s military; police contingent in Iraq see only weakness where others see necessity, cowardice where others see conviction (if admittedly newfound), greater danger where others see more security.
A Reuters story on Friday framed the pullout in bilateral terms, with the Philippines & the United States by proceeding with the first phase of the withdrawal.
If only that were true. If there is defiance, it is only in consequence, not in intent. We wish the Arroyo administration had the gumption to finally state the obvious: That while we are ready partners in the war on terrorism, we were lied to about Iraq’s role in that war. Saddam Hussein’s regime was odious, but it had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terror network. Because we were lied to, we were led to support the invasion of Iraq for the wrong reasons.
Instead of setting the Americans right, the Arroyo administration has decided to keep silent on the issue of US duplicity. It has only announced the pullout, beginning with Friday’s first batch of returnees, without explaining why the scheduled withdrawal had been moved a month in advance. Nevertheless, the right decision has been reached. Under less than ideal conditions, we are bringing home the troops who should never have been sent to Iraq in the first place.
But the criticism against the pullout continues. One line of criticism holds that the pullout is an exercise in futility. In the words of the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard: it’s a mistake and it won’t buy them immunity; In other words, because we blinked, Iraqi insurgents will challenge us to more eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations, for the pleasure of staring us down again. In Howard’s words: “if you give in, it won’t stop it happening again. You invite people to do it with increasing severity.”
But in an imperfect, dangerous world, there is no such thing as immunity. What the pullout buys is probability: it reduces the chances that Filipino civilians working in Iraq will be seen as political targets. This does not mean that they will no longer be targeted; in the civil war that is now wracking Iraq, even citizens will be at risk. But once the 51-man Philippine contingent is out of Iraq, the probability that Iraqi insurgents will continue to regard Filipino workers in political terms goes down dramatically.
The second line of criticism is closely related to the first: Our pullout endangers other members of the so-called Coalition of the Willing. Our giving in, the critics say, has emboldened the insurgents, giving them a taste of blood. It’s disappoin-ting to see a decision that sends the wrong signal to terrorists. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan has said. We don’t know which signal is more wrong, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or the cornering of Iraqi contracts by Halliburton cronies. But we hold that American duplicity in the run-up to war, and serious US mistakes since the invasion, have given the insurgents all the encouragement they need. Besides, what a government decides when faced with a hostage-taking situation is left to its reading of its own national interest, to conviction. If more coalition members rethink their membership because of the hostages, is that necessarily a bad thing?
A third line of criticism is premised on the argument from practicality. The pullout, critics say, puts the Iraqi reconstruction contracts we could have won at risk. To which the only possible reply is: What contracts? All the big money has flowed in the direction of cronies of the cowboys in the White House.
Noises are being made about the country losing either economic opportunity or US military aid, or both, because of the pullout. If we must think of the issue in dollar terms, there is one important number to keep in mind: $8 billion. That is the amount of money our overseas workers will remit this year. Our decision to withdraw our troops in Iraq effectively de-politicizes the presence of a million Filipinos in the Middle East, and helps protect the remittance stream.
Security, conviction, necessity–for these and like reasons, the pullout from Iraq remains the right decision.
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 July 27th, 2004