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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Good Morning, America

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | February 26th, 2008 | Comments 6 Comments »

“Yes, I sued the president today,” said lawyer Harry Roque. Having sued my own president, I was quite impressed. “But we’ve impeached her before,” he added dismissively.
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pict0077_16.JPGOur delegation is here at a propitious time: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, or GMA, as she’s referred to by the acronym-dropping Filipinos, is in trouble. Her administration got caught in a scandal while courting the Chinese government. Thousands of people marched in the streets earlier this month protesting graft and corruption, and several demonstrations were held today during the national holiday celebrating the end of the Marcos regime.

(Being the PR person I am, when I first saw “GMA” written in the newspaper, I thought Good Morning, America had debuted in Manila!)

President Arroyo has been close the US, but she’s fallen out of favor lately, as the Bush Administration sees her plummeting support. It is rumored the US is propping up her vice president, Noli de Castro, to succeed her, according to Dr. Edberto M. Villegas of the IBON Foundation (ibon.org),a think tank in Manila.

The change won’t mean much. “The faces change; the systems don’t,” said Marie Hilao Enriquez, director of KARAPATAN (karapatan.org), a civil rights organization that tracks the government’s extra-judicial executions and kidnappings.

So, a desperate GMA is attempting to keep America close by “playing the China card, the way Marcos played the Russia card,” says lawyer Roque.

Arroyo knows the US is shifting its military strategy from permanent bases to smaller, more mobile, more numerous, less visible and less politically volatile “operations.” The colloquially called “lily pads” allow soldiers to hop from hot spot to hot spot without dismantling and reassembling a lot of infrastructure…and allows them to operate more covertly, limiting scrutiny at home and community resistance from abroad.

“The military must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice,” President Bush declared ominously, “in any dark corner of the world.”

The Bush Administration’s foreign policy includes isolating China by dropping mobile units in India and in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on China’s western border and shoring up its operations in the South Pacific, specifically the Philippines.
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Although the US military bases at Subic and Clark were closed by the Philippine Senate in 1991 after a vociferous grassroots campaign, US military presence is still prevalent. During our visit to Subic earlier this week, we saw the USS Pecos naval ship docked. 500 soldiers were involved in “training the Philippine police,” according to Ruzen Villanueva, our guide from Subic’s public information office.
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A few days later, we watched two military helicopters and two US cargo planes land at the presumably closed Clark Air Force Base. Around the country, 6,000 US soldiers from the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force are “training the Filipino Army in emergency preparedness,” according to one Marine I interviewed at the local Holiday Inn. In separate conversations, I interviewed three Marines who told me they would be here in the Philippines for the next week for this annual balikatan (“shoulder-to-shoulder”) military exercise, dubbed Operation Taal, after a volcano near Manila. “And then there’s the Islamic threat,” one soldier told me, referring to political tensions in Mindanao in southern Philippines. “I just learned about that.”
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These “training exercises” are ways for the US to maintain a toehold in countries where their presence is controversial, expanding the US military reach without much scrutiny by the American public.

Our Filipino delegates have their doubts about the American soldiers’ presence. “Six thousand soldiers is too many [for emergency preparedness]. They’re probably here for another purpose. I think it’s connected to their occupation in Mindanao,” says Neil, a chaplain who asked that his last name be withheld to ensure his safety.

Rev. Julius Camannong, a Methodist minister from the western peninsula of Zamboanga, just north of Sulu, the island where the US military has been accused of participating in a recent attack that killed at least 15 civilians, asks, “If the US wants to help, why send the military? Why not give the money [directly] to our government – or to humanitarian groups?”
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6 Responses to “Good Morning, America”

  1. Good Morning, America Says:

    […] baby::k blog wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptGood Morning, America By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | February 26th, 2008 | No Comments » “Yes, I sued the president today,” said lawyer Harry Roque. Having sued my own president, I was quite impressed. “But we’ve impeached her before,” he added dismissively. Our delegation is here at a propitious time: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, or GMA, as she’s referred to by the acronym-dropping Filipinos, is in trouble. Her administration got caught in a scandal while courting the Chinese government. Thousands o […]

  2. John Reinke Says:

    Thanks for a good post on current US military operations in the Philippines. We certainly don’t get anything like this detail in the U.S. press.

  3. Nathaniel Sison Says:

    Hello Kelly..Way to go my friend! I like the the objectivity of yur report on US military presence in the Phils. I wish many will get to know the real situation too..

    Keep it up Kelly!

    Nath

  4. Henry Troyer Says:

    I was along on the visit to Clark. The US cargo planes Boeing C-17 Globemasters. They carry a much greater payload and are much more versatile than the trusty old C-130s. Kelly mentioned seeing two, but if I am not mistaken, I saw three or four.

  5. Cromwell "Tibo" Rabaya Says:

    Kelly,

    It was so spirit lifting to be with you on this journey. but sad to see both clark and subic being used again for military purposes. keep up the good work of letting the world know the effects of too much militarism.

    tibo

  6. Elaine Says:

    I was in a small group meeting with Non-Government Organizations in Palawan back in 2000. Dr. Antonio Socrates showed an interesting powerpoint presentation about the Spratlys. At the end of the meeting he encouraged everyone to get our acts together, get our local and national leaders to get ready for the May 2009 UNCLES. His argument was, the Philippine Government is not ready to present anything that supports its claim on Spratlys. We, as residents of Palawan, the closest province to the Spratlys group of islands among other claimants should be proactive and really voice out our concerns. I lost touch with what\’s going on for several years as I moved to the US…

    Seeing Kelly\’s blog reminded me of my role as a native-born Palawena. Now…after 8 years of having been part of that small meeting, I realized the UNCLES is just a year from now. I am scared for my home country to lose its rights over China—the most aggressive claimant on disputed spratlys. Not too long ago, Beijing sent a warning note to Philippine President re: House Bill 3216. Beijing said that putting “the Scarborough Shoal and some other Nansha (Spratly) reefs and islands inside the baseline of the Philippines will not be conducive to stability … [and will] also disturb China-Philippine cooperation in the area.” The bill had been approved unanimously by Philippine Congress but the President intervened the passing of the bill due to China\’s note. Spratlys is now in the spotlight….

    I think much of Philippines\’ claim is embedded on Treaty of Paris in 1898 between the Spain and the United States where US bought the Philippines for $20 million. In the treaty, the Philippine territory was defined. But for years…the US has not supported the Philippines in interpreting the Treaty. Now, realizing how critical it is to lose the Philippines over to China, they\’re back in the Philippines to do some military exercises:

    http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080524-138585

    More info on Spratlys:

    http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080324-126045

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