I am writing to you from a different side of the war on terrorism. I have been living in the Philippines for a year. I hear the situation of the American people from my family and friends still in the United States while observing and participating in the life of the Filipino people. While the war on terrorism fulfills the Bush administration’s goals of reciprocating the World Trade Center tragedy and hopes to prevent further terrorism on the American people, the Filipino people are making huge sacrifices in the global picture of the war.
U.S. troops have arrived in the Philippines for several reasons. The first aim of the U.S. and Philippine governments was to end the terrorism caused by the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan, Mindanao.
From Philippine experts, the analysis of the situation is that the troops’ priority is not stopping the Abu Sayyaf, but that that remains an excuse for continuing militarization in the Philippines. Issues of corruption and cronyism (two key factors which maintain ineffective governments in the developing world) between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf help perpetuate the war in the Philippines. American soldiers may or may not be fighting with weapons, but no soldiers have stopped the Abu Sayyaf or have made Basilan a safer place. More U.S. troops have arrived in Luzon for further military exercises with the Philippine troops, but no threats of terrorism in the Philippines have motivated these Balikatan exercises.
The total of the situation is turning out to be one where the U.S. government has found a partner with the Philippine government in building a new, strong base in Southeast Asia. Filipinos are encountering violence from militarization. Violence against women has risen dramatically as U.S. soldiers stimulate prostitution and the sex trade. The Philippines has weathered a history of colonialism by the United States and continues to be under U.S. control. People in the Philippines are not free, as they must support the U.S. troops.
The militarization of the Philippines has become a form of terrorism to the Philippine people, which they are shouldering for the American people. The Philippines do not threaten the U.S., therefore the US military should leave these islands and these people in their own peace and problems. U.S. military intervention is creating more problems for Filipinos. Moreover, the Philippine constitution manifests that U.S. bases in the Philippines are illegal. While the U.S. military has built no official base, thousands of troops in the Philippines have forced the country into becoming a “base.”
Filipinos define the U.S. government’s global movements as a “war of aggression” because they are being aggressively forced into war. The American people should recognize that one of the current casualties of Bush’s continuing war is the people of the Philippines. Terrorism will not be eradicated by making the Philippines an illegal base for U.S. interventions in Asia. As Americans should have advocated more strongly during the Vietnam War, the American people need to reject U.S. military intervention in Asia, especially in the Philippines.
-The writer is a GW Shapiro traveling fellow for the University of the Philippines Women and Development Masters Program