Revolutionary Worker #1164, August 25, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
Since January of this year, more than 1,200 U.S. troops have been based in the southern Philippine region around the Sulu Sea, on the island of Basilan and the Zamboanga Peninsula of the larger Mindanao island. This operation is the largest insertion of U.S. troops since the invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.
From the start, this military move in Southeast Asia was cloaked in deception. U.S. officials said the troops--including Special Forces units--were sent to southern Philippines for a routine "joint training exercise" with the Philippine military. They declared that the U.S. forces would also assist in going after a small local Islamist group, the Abu Sayyaf. This group held some American missionaries hostage, and the U.S. accused it of "links" to al Qaida.
But the U.S. deployment clearly was not routine or limited to targeting Abu Sayyaf, a marginal and reactionary group. The so-called "training exercise" took place directly in the combat zone where the Philippine government has long waged wars against the oppressed Moro people (known as the Bangsamoro)--the Muslim inhabitants of the southern islands. The Philippine government faces large armed separatist movements among the Moro people. And nationwide, in all the major islands of the Philippine archipelago, the Maoist fighters of the New People's Army (NPA)--led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)--is waging people's war.
At the end of July, the seven-month-long "training exercise" officially concluded, and the main force of the U.S. troops began leaving southern Philippines. But this has NOT brought an end to major U.S. military intervention in the Philippines.
Through these past seven months, the U.S. set into motion closer ties to the Philippine military, stepped up military aid to the oppressive Philippine government, and opened the door wider to direct U.S. military presence, not just in southern Philippines but throughout the country.
And, in an outrageous move filled with calculated threats, the U.S. government has begun openly targeting the CPP. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the CPP and NPA are being placed on the U.S. government's list of "foreign terrorist organizations." And the Dutch government said that in response to U.S. requests, it was freezing the assets of people associated with the Philippine revolutionary movement now living in exile in the Netherlands--including Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the CPP and currently the chief political consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The CPP is a revolutionary party with deep roots among the Filipino peasants, workers, and progressive middle classes. It is leading a people's war aimed at overthrowing the reactionary rulers of the Philippines and their U.S. imperialist backers. The fact that the U.S. has now placed this Maoist party in the official list of "terrorist organizations" is a stark exposure of the truth behind the U.S.'s worldwide "war on terrorism." In the hands of the U.S. imperialists, the word "terrorism" is a very flexible label. It can be applied to anyone that they consider a threat to their global interests or an impediment to their predatory moves--and it is being used to justify U.S. threats, wars, and reactionary plots around the world.
New Phase of U.S. Domination
The people of the Philippines have a long and bitter history of resistance to U.S. domination. The U.S. seized the Philippines as a colony in 1898 and waged a bloody war to "pacify" the people. After the Philippines gained formal independence in 1946, it became a U.S. neocolony--and a strategic base for U.S. military "projection" in Asia. During the '60s and '70s, U.S. bombers loaded up in the Philippines to pound Vietnam. It was during that period that young revolutionaries, influenced by then-revolutionary China led by Mao, formed the CPP and NPA and launched the people's war.
In 1991 the U.S. closed its massive Philippine military operations at Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base. But a series of treaties have given the U.S. continued military "rights" in the Philippines, and U.S. domination over this country and its people continues. The U.S. is now working out the details of the prospective Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), which will grant the U.S. military the right to use any facility anywhere in the Philippines, whenever and for however long it wants to.
The Philippines has long been a source of cheap labor and natural resources for the U.S. imperialists. In the Sulu Sea area, U.S. corporations are exploring for major oil and gas resources. And U.S. sees the whole region of East and Southeast Asia as an important strategic area for expanding capitalist exploitation.
It is also an area where U.S. imperialism faces challenges and dangers--from potential rivals as well as from unstable governments and struggles of the people. In the Philippines, the Macapagal-Arroyo government is beset with deep economic problems and corruption scandals, and it has shaky control over large areas of the countryside.
Even before the events of September 11, 2001, the Philippine regime and its U.S. backers were seeking ways to suppress resistance, retake rebel areas, and establish more stable conditions for exploiting the people. In the aftermath of September 11, the U.S. seized on the situation to push forward with a new phase of domination and intervention in the Philippines.
A new U.S. "security assistance package" for the Philippines has opened a massive flow of sophisticated new weapons and military equipment to the Philippine army. A Philippine general said that a major goal of the military was to step up "our ability to move troops between the islands."
Counter-insurgency in the Name of "Anti- Terrorism"
To justify the deployment of troops to southern Philippines in January, the U.S. government made sweeping charges--with little evidence--about alleged connections between Abu Sayyaf and al Qaida. Jose Maria Sison has pointed out that Abu Sayyaf was actually created by the CIA and their operatives in the Philippines as a means to undermine the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), one of the armed separatist Moro groups. After the MNLF capitulated to the government in 1996, the CIA and the Philippine government simply ignored the Abu Sayyaf group, which turned to activities like kidnapping for ransom.
"Now," Sison pointed out, "the U.S. and their Filipino puppets in power are finding the Abu Sayyaf useful again for their own purposes. They are now using the Abu Sayyaf group as a pretext for the intervention of U.S. military advisors, trainers, and combat troops and the increase of U.S. military supplies to the Manila puppet government in the name of combating terrorism."
The Mindanao region of southern Philippines is one of the poorest regions of this country. The people of this land have suffered terribly from the theft of their land and the bullets of the oppressors' army. They have a history of fierce resistance against invaders from Spain and the U.S. and against the central government in Manila. The landing of U.S. troops in this region was a blatant threat against the Moro people and their struggle.
And it has become clear that the U.S. and the Philippine government have also placed the Maoist revolutionaries in the crosshairs. In June, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz landed in Basilan--a gun holster strapped to his shoulder--to visit the troops. He used the occasion to call for expanded U.S. military activities in the Philippines, including assigning U.S. "trainers" to smaller Philippine army units that go out on combat.
At the end of July, Colin Powell ended a tour through Southeast Asia with a stop in Manila, where he announced an additional $55 million in military aid to the Arroyo regime.
Meanwhile, the Philippine government said that the army troops who had been training with the U.S. forces will be redeployed to other regions where NPA guerrillas are active. The BBC reported on Aug. 6: "The armed forces chief in the Philippines, General Roy Cimatu, says the focus of military activity is shifting from confronting Muslim militants of the Abu Sayyaf group in the south of the country to what he called the growing threat from communist guerrillas. General Cimatu said...communist insurgents had extended their activities and the situation could not continue."
Less than a week after returning from the trip through Southeast Asia, Powell designated the CPP as a "foreign terrorist organization." This move makes it illegal for anyone in the U.S. to "provide material support or resources" to the CPP and NPA; requires U.S. financial institutions to block assets held by them; and prohibits representatives or members of those groups from entering the U.S. or makes them subject to deportation. A Philippine government official said that the U.S. decision "means that the U.S. government will tighten its noose as far as the CPP-NPA are concerned."
The U.S., working with the Netherlands, then moved against Filipino revolutionaries in Europe. The Dutch government announced that in response to U.S. requests, it had frozen the assets of the CPP and exiles associated with the Philippine revolutionary movement. Dutch officials said that they had asked other European Union countries to do the same.
These moves have serious implications for the revolutionaries living in exile. Jose Maria Sison has waged legal battles in the Dutch courts against attempts to deport him. Now, a Philippine foreign ministry official threatens, "We have always maintained that the Dutch government should not give the communist rebels sanctuary. Now we can use the U.S. declaration as a leverage against the Dutch government in asking them to bring Sison and Jalandoni [member of the National Democratic Front's National Executive Committee] to justice."
At the start of this year, U.S. troops arrived in southern Philippines flying the banner of a "war on terrorism." But their real mission quickly became plain to see: to help wage and intensify an unjust war aimed at the masses of people, in order to strengthen U.S. control over the Philippines and the oppressive rule of the central government. And now the U.S. is taking another major step by directly threatening and targeting those fighting along the liberating path of Maoist people's war in the Philippines.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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