1,700 U.S. Troops to Mindanao

Escalating the Unjust War in the Philippines

Revolutionary Worker #1189, March 2, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org

As war looms in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. is carrying out a major military escalation in a war zone thousands of miles away, in Southeast Asia. The Pentagon is sending over 1,700 troops, including Special Forces soldiers, to the Philippines.

This is the second large insertion of U.S. troops into the Philippines since September 11, 2001. Soon after invading Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, the U.S. opened a "second front" in its worldwide war--landing hundreds of troops on Basilan island in the Sulu Sea and on the larger island of Mindanao in southern Philippines in January 2002.

The earlier deployment came disguised as a "joint training exercise" by the U.S. military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The U.S. troops were there simply as "advisors," U.S. and Philippine officials claimed. They insisted that the U.S. soldiers were limited to a supporting role in the fight against a small Islamic force known as the Abu Sayyaf Group.

But now, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon is openly declaring that the troops involved in the new deployment will take on a combat role in offensive missions. A top Pentagon official said, "This will be a no-holds-barred effort. This is not an exercise." No time limit has been set on this new operation.

According to news reports, 350 U.S. Special Forces troops will land on Jolo island, and 400 support troops will be stationed nearby at Zamboanga on Mindanao. Another 1,000 Marines--armed with attack helicopters and planes--will be on ships near Jolo to act as a "quick-response force." In other words, the size of the ground forces could more than double at a moment's notice.

Behind the "Anti-Terrorism" Banner

Once again, U.S. troops and choppers are landing on Philippine soil under the banner of the "war on terrorism." But the U.S. combat forces are being inserted directly into an area where the reactionary Philippine government has long waged war against the oppressed Muslim people (known as the Moro people or the Bangsamoro).

And throughout this country of many islands, the U.S.-backed regime confronts the Maoist people's war of the New People's Army (NPA) led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The Philippine regime represents the oppressive rule of the comprador capitalists and landlords closely tied to the U.S. imperialists. There are large areas of the country where the central government has only shaky control. The Philippine rulers and their U.S. backers want to suppress resistance and establish far more stable conditions for exploiting the people and resources--and for using the country as a base for U.S. imperialism in Asia.

The new U.S. operation in Mindanao is a dangerous escalation of an unjust war aimed at the oppressed people of the Philippines.

In recent months, the Philippine military has been carrying out heavy offensives against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)--the main group leading the armed struggle of the Bangsamoro in Mindanao. The supposed target of the new U.S. deployment, the Abu Sayyaf, is a small, isolated, and reactionary group.

The Abu Sayyaf, in fact, was originally created by the CIA and the Philippine regime in an effort to undermine the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). After the MNLF capitulated to the government in 1996, the Abu Sayyaf were no longer of that much use to the U.S. and Philippine governments--and the group turned to activities like kidnapping for ransom.

José-Maria Sison, founding chairman of the CPP and chief political consultant of the New Democratic Front of the Philippines, pointed out last year: "Now, 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 grand-scale terrorism of U.S. imperialism is trying to use the small-scale terrorism of the Abu Sayyaf Group as the excuse for a war of intervention and possibly a war of aggression against the people of the Philippines (including the Bangsamoro) and their revolutionary forces fighting for national liberation and democracy."

A Base for U.S. Imperialism

The escalation of war in Mindanao is part of the long and bloody history of U.S. imperialism in the Philippines (see sidebar).

The Philippines is a country with a wealth of resources--where the great majority of people live in crushing poverty. The U.S. imperialists have their eye on further exploiting the country, including potential oil and gas resources. On a strategic scale, this whole region, known as BIMP-EAGA ("Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines--East Asian Growth Area") in imperialist thinktanks, is seen as an important area for expanding capitalist exploitation--all of which leads the U.S. ruling class to want military pacification of the people.

Beyond the economic interests, the U.S. sees the Philippines as a key strategic base for its imperialist moves throughout Asia and beyond.

The Philippine government has a close--and servile--relationship to the U.S., and there are long-standing ties between the U.S. and Philippine militaries. Since 9/11, the Macapagal-Arroyo regime has been one of the most shamelessly obsequious cheerleaders of Bush's worldwide imperialist crusade and the war threats against Iraq. In return, the U.S. has greatly increased military aid and flow of military equipment to the Philippine regime.

The U.S. and the Macapagal-Arroyo regime have also been working closely to target the Philippine revolutionary movement. Last August the U.S. State Department placed the CPP and NPA on its official list of "foreign terrorist organizations." Following U.S. demands, the government of the Netherlands--where José-Maria Sison has been living in exile since the mid-1980s--froze the assets of the CPP and of Philippine revolutionary exiles. In another escalation, the European Union placed Sison and the NPA on its "terrorist" list. And in February of this year, the Philippine regime announced the filing of bogus murder charges against Sison--and demanded that the Dutch government extradite him to the Philippines.

U.S. Out of the Philippines!

The escalation of U.S. military involvement is giving rise to resistance among the people as well as deep unrest--even in the Philippine Senate. One Senator accused the Philippine defense minister of "treason" for turning the Philippines into a "deadly laboratory for the testing of the effectiveness of U.S. troops, tactics and weaponry against so-called terrorists in Moroland." The presence of U.S. combat troops on Philippine territory openly violates the Philippine Constitution--and there are fears within the Philippine ruling class that such developments could further weaken the whole structure of semi-colonial and semi-feudal rule.

In a February 14 statement, CPP spokesperson Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal said: "It is now becoming clear that the inclusion of the CPP and NPA in the U.S.' list of 'terrorist organizations' is simply a way to prepare the basis for its military intervention in the Philippines.

"U.S. imperialism's hunger for war extends beyond the Middle East. Even while it stubbornly insists on launching a war of aggression against Iraq, American military troops are carrying out clandestine military operations in the Philippines in the name of 'joint exercises' and in connivance with the puppet Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

"We will make sure, however, that once the U.S. forces carry out full-scale military intervention in the Philippines, they will suffer the same fate that they suffered in Vietnam."

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