Sunday, September 10, 2006

9/11--Pearl Harbor of the War on Terrorism

MARIA RESSA and ABSCBN News Public Affairs performed a valuable public service tonight with the broadcast of the documentary/essay 9/11: The Philippine Connection. (Links to the transcripts are here: Part 1 - 2 - 3 -4 -5 - 6 - 7 ) The show will be an eye-opener for the Philippine public at large, who know little about the true history of Al Qaeda and terrorism in the Philippines. Maria Ressa tells several riveting stories including the terrorist plot to kill Pope John Paul II during a visit to Manila in the mid 90s; the connection between Sept. 11 masterminds Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi Youssef, Al Qaeda and the infant Abu Sayyaf Group; and that of Operation Bojinka, in which a liquid bomb was assembled by Ramzi Youssef aboard a Cebu Pacific flight--ten years before this year's aborted London attacks. Most significantly, an apparently little-noticed Philippine intelligence report from 1995 stated a discovered plan of Youssef's and Khalid Sheik Mohammed was to hijack a commercial airliner, take over the cockpit and crash the plane into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Former Secretary Rafael Alunan III, tells Maria Ressa that right there was the blueprint for the 2001 Sept. 11 attack in New York and Washington. It was the Manila cell of Al Qaeda that apparently developed the 9/11 attack strategy. Maria Ressa's documentary ends with a poignant challenge to "moderate Muslims" to speak up about the global terrorist movement, whether they approve of its tactics and attacks. Maria Ressa's show is rare in the Philippines, where the media is steadfastly introverted and devoted to the coverage of the droll and predictable pathos in the lives of showbiz personalities, or is openly leftist and automatically anti-American on most issues. Speaking of which...

RANDY DAVID is a well-known University of the Philippines sociologist, faculty member and a lifelong defender of the Left and other "progressive causes" through published articles, television and radio programs, as well as speeches and position papers on Philippine social and political issues. Once per week he writes a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer called Public Lives. In After 9/11, Randy produces an essay that states the position of the anti-American Philippine Left on the global war on terror. His attitude is that all the bad things that have happened after 9/11 are basically America's fault, for being either arrogant or paranoid or worse, a failure at what it sets out to do in the world.

RANDY: THE transformation of air travel, particularly into the United States, into a tedious, time-consuming, and often humiliating activity is only the most obvious effect of 9/11. It is perhaps the least important. The paranoia that 9/11 spawned has produced a new international security doctrine that is undermining democracy everywhere. It has given a new warrant to imperialist wars by reviving the archaic notion of pre-emptive defense. It has extended the life of militarist and dictatorial regimes that had been battered by the global tide of democratization in the ’80s and ’90s. It has given tyrants who justify oppression as a state necessity a good conscience.
As quickly as Randy dispatches the inconveniences of modern air travel as being "the least important" costs of the war on terror, he immediately blames "the paranoia that 9/11 spawned" as "undermining democracy everywhere" by abetting "imperialist wars" and soothing the consciences of tyrants. (Oh, but how archaic of the West to resort to self-defense!) But objectively speaking, Randy is quite wrong about the global trends in democratization. Since the United States first decided to forcibly democratize Miitarist Japan and Nazi Germany after World War II, the number of Western-style constitutional democracies all over the world has been steadily increasing in numbers from a few dozen before the War to well over 120 today. The last major spurt was seen in the late eighties and nineties as a direct result of the implosion of the Soviet Union and the historic collapse of world wide communism. It was another US President that the Left loved to hate--one Ronald Reagan--that basically gave the old USSR the last fatal shove into the graveyard of truly failed phenomenal ideas, starting when, in an historic act of political incorrectness during the Cold War, he dared to call the USSR "the Evil Empire." Of course that singular political supernova of almost a generation ago now, has hardly dimmed the ideological faith of Randy David and the Philippine Left. Contrary to his assertion, I would say that dictatorial regimes of all kinds have been looking over their shoulder at changes in US foreign policy toward such regimes, especially after 9/11.

RANDY: The United States has fought many wars before, but never on its homeland. The daring 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the heartland of American power, were unprecedented not only in their brazenness but in their effect on the American psyche. They gave imperial arrogance a moral reason to unleash the capacity for naked violence that the United States wields as the world’s lone superpower.
Well there you have it folks, the world's lone superpower displaying imperial arrogance and moral outrage in the face of a brazen attack on its homeland. How dare the arrogant Americans react violently to the slaughter of several thousand of their innocent citizens! Perhaps Randy would rather have America turn the other cheek rather than, for example, dismantle the Taliban government in Afghanistan or root out sleeper cells and supporters.

RANDY: Its first targets were the aliens perceived to pose a threat at home. In the days following 9/11, 768 foreigners were rounded up and jailed as “special interest” detainees. Their identities were kept secret, and the public was barred from the immigration hearings in which their cases were taken up. Within a week after 9/11, the first draft of the Patriot Act took shape. Much of the assault on the civil liberties of persons living in the United States today happens under the auspices of this law.
Ever the civil libertarian, Randy considers the Patriot Act to be an assault on the civil liberties of persons in the US. Never mind that it is the sovereign will of the American people, expressed through their duly elected democratic representatives, that government authorities be given the power, the resources, and yes, the good auspices of the Law to prevent terrorist assaults on lofty towers using jetplanes full of fuel and innocent people. But try as hard as he does to portray some grievous breach of human rights in the US as a result of the Patriot Act and Bush's domestic security policies, I am struck by the fact that the only reason Randy even knows about the abuses, errors, misjudgments and bad decisions by the US administration during the five years since September 11, is because of the fully functioning democracy there, including even more original Leftists than him.

RANDY: The Bush government immediately went into a self-defense mode and vowed to punish not only the perpetrators of 9/11 but also the countries that harbor them. In the list were Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan and Iran. Intelligence operatives named Osama bin Laden as the mastermind of the hijackers, who were mostly Saudi nationals. But the hunt for Bin Laden led to Afghanistan, where the anti-Western Taliban held sway. Operating under a UN mandate, US-led coalition forces overthrew the Taliban, but failed to find Bin Laden, the war’s prime object. A new Afghan government was installed, but four years later, it is still incapable of enforcing its authority and defending itself. In the past few weeks, resurgent Taliban forces have seized control of towns west of Kandahar, engaging Canadian troops in fierce battles on difficult Afghan terrain. George W. Bush rationalized the war on Afghanistan as a fight to bring democracy to that country. That goal remains a dream. The US-led coalition forces now find themselves more and more playing the role of an occupying rather than a liberating army.
Tomorrow is the Fifth Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. Perhaps it would be useful to look upon 9/11 as the "Pearl Harbor" of the War on Terror, because of one thing Randy IS correct: 9/11 had a powerful effect on the American psyche -- it was a massive and much-needed wake-up call. Indeed, a call to arms, which Randy unfortunately views through anti-American ideological lenses that were, ironically, manufactured in the United States of America by the American Left but perfected and adapted to local conditions by the Philippine Left, a scion, a descendant, a creation of Mark Twain and the US Anti-Imperialist League, and presently, an unconscious adjunct of the Far Left of the Democratic Party. But in essence, Randy's view of America is that of an imperialist power with a new excuse for world domination. How perfectly qauint but, ahem, archaic, but here is the rest of the spiel...

RANDY: The next target was Iraq, an oil-producing country under a secular dictator. Unable to obtain a UN mandate to invade Iraq, Bush sold the idea to the American people by linking Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 hijackers and by accusing his government of storing weapons of mass destruction. Subsequent investigations found no basis for either charge. The United States raised the flag of democratization over Iraq, expecting to be welcomed by the Iraqis as a liberating force. But Iraq today is in shambles, a society torn by civil war. After wasting billions of dollars and losing American lives, the United States faces the familiar problem of how to disengage without admitting it has failed. Bush continues to paint Iraq as a breeding ground of terrorists who must be stopped where they are so they would not pose a threat to America. This line is being rejected by a growing majority of the American people.
Now what was I saying about the Philippine Left being an adjunct of the Democratic Party? Randy is clearly impressed by the achievements of Al Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers and is eager to declare Operation Iraqi Freedom a failure. "Torn by civil war" and "in shambles" after wasting billions of dollars and losing thousands of American soldiers, Randy is most interested in how America will cut and run. It is all Bush's fault in Randy's view, that Al Qaeda has unleashed an unrelenting wave of car bombings that is indiscriminately killing primarily Iraqis, not just Americans. He neglects the historic fact that Iraqis HAVE set up the first and only existing Arab democracy in the world, which happens to be fighting for its life as people like Randy crow about the travails and difficulties of that birth. It is true that Al Qaeda rushed into the vacuum created by Saddam Hussein's exit from power, and has nihilistically exploited ancient religious and ethnic divisions among the Iraqi people. But perhaps that is why the coming of democracy to an Arab country like Iraq has not been occasioned by more of the traditional Iraqi symbols of welcome: dancing, flowers and sweets. They are too busy fighting the terrorists who need a new home since losing the government of Afghanistan!

RANDY: There is a wealth of information to be found in the report of the 9/11 Commission. But the motives that led the hijackers to do what they did continued to puzzle the investigators. The commission ended its hearings in June 2004, and in one of these final hearings, the question of motives was raised again by its vice chair, Lee Hamilton. An interesting response to the question was given by FBI Special Agent James Fitzgerald. This was caught on video but did not find its way into the commission’s report.

“I believe,” Fitzgerald declared, “that they feel a sense of outrage against the United States. They identify with the Palestinian problem. They identify with people who oppose oppressive regimes. I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States.” This is perhaps the most honest account of what agitates Islamic peoples all over the world today. US policy has refused to see American support for Israel against the Palestinian cause, and the cozy relations that America has maintained with oppressive but pro-American Arab regimes, as the driving force behind the anger of Muslims against America. Bush continues to peddle the lie that what fuels Islamic militancy is hatred for American freedoms. It is absurd.

Absurd? Tell that to the Afghan victims of the Taliban, the women under bourqas, or the parents of Indonesian Christian school girls beheaded by Islamic ideopaths, or women being stoned by fundamentalists for adultery. Here indeed is the heart of the fallacy that preys on much of the anti-American ideologues in Philippine society. It is the fallacy that there is a moral equivalence between an open and free democratic society and a radical Islamic fundamentalist State.


kulas said...

There are thousands of Muslims in the US. There are quite a few in my neighborhood. I play basketball at the park with some of them. Ahmed who graduated with honors in accounting works for one of the top accounting firms in Wall Street. His uncle Rashid, not to be confused with Rashid Wallace of the Portland Trail Blazers, although he wishes he could play like him, is a street vendor. He lost his spot by the World Trade center after 9/11 and now complains of poor sales in his new spot uptown. Mohammed(Mo, for short), the dominant character of their group, has three young kids who by any account are American in looks and demeanor. Although Mo disagrees with American policy in the Middle East, he has no wish to go back to his country. He wants his children to grow up here.

Just like the many other Muslims, they are having and enjoying a good life here in the US. Could these be the Muslim people Randy is referring to? Probably not. There are the thousands more Muslims wanting to come here for a better life, away from the oppressive extreme Islamic way of life. Could they be the ones Randy is referring to? Again, probably not. Or, perhaps, Randy is clueless.

Well then, who? The Muslim extremist? The terrorists! Those who blow themselves up taking innocents lives with them? Well, Randy would probably disagree, but Yeah! Unmistakably so.

Makes one wonder if Randy actually, personally, knows a ‘common tao’ Muslim.

john marzan said...

But objectively speaking, Randy is quite wrong about the global trends in democratization.

The democracy movement has slowed down considerably though in the last few months, with setbacks in Russia, Lebanon, Belarus, Kazakhstan, etc.

And most of those who were most vocal about pushing for democracy inside the bush admin (wolfowitz and co.) have recently been replaced with foreign policy "realists" that his father Bush Sr. would approve of.

How dare the arrogant Americans react violently to the slaughter of several thousand of their innocent citizens! Perhaps Randy would rather have America turn the other cheek rather than, for example, dismantle the Taliban government in Afghanistan or root out sleeper cells and supporters.

I disagree with Randy. But his opinions are not much different from De Quiros, Sassy, Ellen T. and the majority of Philippine journalists/columnists and Filipino bloggers are anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war.

Siguro ikaw, ako, si Max Soliven at iilang bloggers na lang sa Pilipinas ang pro-Iraq war at sumusuporta pa rin kay bush kahit na medyo mahina na ang suporta na nakukuha niya.

Now what was I saying about the Philippine Left being an adjunct of the Democratic Party? Randy is clearly impressed by the achievements of Al Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers and is eager to declare Operation Iraqi Freedom a failure. "Torn by civil war" and "in shambles" after wasting billions of dollars and losing thousands of American soldiers, Randy is most interested in how America will cut and run.

I think may civil war na sa Iraq. (Charles Krauthammer: Iraq: A Civil War We Can Still Win sept. 8, 2006)

And it's not just foreign terrorists that is fueling this war, but also Sunni insurgency led by former baathists, and Shiite Militias headed by Moqtada al sadr.

PS. I don't think Randy's a terrorist supporter.

AmericanPainter said...

Not only the anti-American left in the Philippines rail against the alleged “lie” of President Bush but also the American political left are screaming the same thing. But when it looked politically expedient to do so, look at what those same leftists were saying about Saddam Hussein BEFORE Saddam was toppled:

"Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999.

There is no doubt that . Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."
Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, Dec, 5, 2001.

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them."
Sen. Carl Levin (d, MI), Sept. 19, 2002.

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seing and developing weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002.

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002.

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002.

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years . We also should remember we have alway s underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Jay Rockerfeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002,

"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002.

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

Amadeo said...

I am not surprised at the views expressed by Prof. David because they are very representative of views expressed in academia here in the US.

Polls and studies here have clearly established the rather liberal bent of academia, both in their teachings and political affiliations and actions.

When I think about it, I sense that when safely and antiseptically ensconced in academia smart minds tend to be insulated and isolated from the troubling and confusing climes of reality. Uncluttered Idealism becomes the primary anchor in the thinking, which could easily be estranged from harsh realities that in more ways than one fly on the face of the logic or standards of conventional wisdom.

It is IMHO much easier to postulate and espouse theories/suppositions or critique actions, than to be put in a position of authority and responsibility, then be asked to make hard decisions based on complex realities which offer a myriad of possible opposing ramifications, and be responsible for them.

Here’s a joke I lifted from some book:
One is reminded of a European diplomat who supposedly said that although NATO peacekeeping worked in practice, he wasn't sure it would work in theory.