Saturday, September 2, 2006

Guest Commentary: The First Iraq?

he following essay is a column written for the Philippine News, Telltale Signs, by lawyer Rodel E. Rodis, President of California's San Francisco City School Board. He is an old friend. Though we do not agree on certain things, I am happy to publish his work here at Philippine Commentary - The First Iraq.
Telltale Signs/ THE FIRST IRAQ? Rodel E. Rodis, September 1, 2006

At the funeral mass for Christopher Rose held at the St. Augustine’s Church in South San Francisco on July 11, I heard Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel of the US Army Corps of Engineers speak about the “ultimate sacrifice” the 21-year old Filipino American made when he stepped on an explosive device in Baghdad on June 29.

"Chris didn't want to die," Gen. Schroedel assured us. "He didn't want to leave his family. But he knew that by serving something bigger than himself, even if it meant the ultimate sacrifice, Chris knew that was an honorable thing to do with his life."

Chris’ father, Rudy Rose, a Vietnam War vet, was so touched by the General's words that he told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter: "A lot of soldiers have died already. Finish the job there. We cannot leave now. It's too late."

Although the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Chris Rose was the first San Francisco casualty of the Iraq War, Fr. Ramon Mores, the officiating priest at the church, told me that the Rose funeral was the 5th funeral mass for an Iraq War vet held at St. Augustine’s Church since 2003.

It wasn't so long ago when I attended the funeral mass of Joseph Menusa in Tracy, California, barely two weeks after the Iraq War began. Joseph was the first Fil-Am Iraq war casualty from the Bay Area.

More than 2,642 American soldiers, like Chris Rose and Joseph Menusa, have been killed in Iraq since President George Bush ordered the US invasion of that country in March of 2003. Those of us who do not have Alzheimer’s still vividly recall that Bush said Iraq was a threat to the US because it had weapons of mass destruction and because it was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Neither of those charges turned out to be true but no US general will dare tell the parents at their son’s funeral that he died because of a lie, that his death was a waste. No, it is more reassuring to the family to hear that their son died “serving something bigger than himself”.

President Bush says again and again that we have to “stay the course” in Iraq. What does this mean? According to Pentagon officials, this means that American troops must be prepared to stay in Iraq at least until 2016. At the rate of 800 American soldiers killed a year since the Iraq war began, this means that Americans must be prepared to suffer another 8,000 soldiers killed in the next 10 years.

The Congressional Research Service reported that more than $325 billion has already been spent to prosecute the war in Iraq, which is costing US taxpayers about $80-B a year. In 10 years, this would mean another $800-B, making the Iraq War a trillion dollar investment.

What about the Iraqis? Since January of this year alone, more than 18,000 Iraqis have been killed, averaging about 100 victims a day. A recent U.N. study, cited by Ted Galen Carpenter in his San Francisco Examiner article, reported that more than 14,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the first six months of 2006.The death toll rate is rising ominously: in January it was 1,778; in June it was 3,149.

As Carpenter noted, “this is occurring in a country of only 27 million people. A comparable pace in the United States would be a horrifying 1,200 deaths per day -- 438,000 per year. If political violence were consuming that many American lives, there would be little debate about whether the United States was experiencing a civil war.”

The new rationale for “staying the course” in Iraq, according to the neo-conservatives who pushed the US into the war (like those in the American Enterprise Institute), is the “Philippine model”.

Even Iraq war critics like Thomas E. Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, agree. In his new bestseller, "Fiasco: The American Military Misadventure in Iraq," Ricks writes that although the war has been a disaster, he is still opposed to pulling out because of the US experience in the Philippines. He believes that even a military misadventure can result in the creation of a democracy.

But Jon Wiener, in an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times (8/30/06), debunked this notion:

“First, it neglects the massive differences between the Philippines in 1900 and Iraq in 2006. The guerrillas in the Philippines fought the Army with old Spanish muskets and bolo knives; today's insurgents in Iraq employ sophisticated improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles that can shoot down helicopters. And combat in Iraq takes place in a fully urbanized society where "pacification" is much more difficult than in the mostly rural islands of the Philippines.”

”Also, the Filipinos who fought the U.S. Army at the turn of the 20th century had no outside allies or sources of support. Today's Iraqi insurgents are at the center of a burgeoning anti-Americanism that has spread throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, with supporters in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.”

”And of course today there's also the media. Images of resistance fighters in Iraq, and of the victims of American attacks, are broadcast hourly throughout Iraq, Arab and Muslim countries and the rest of the world. Compared with the Philippines guerrillas of 1900, the Iraqi insurgents are much stronger and more capable and have a much broader base of support that extends beyond national boundaries.”

Weiner, a Professor of History at UC Irvine, also noted that in the Philippine War, “the U.S. did not count Filipino casualties, but historians today estimate 16,000 deaths for the guerrilla army and civilian deaths between 200,000 and 1 million — a horrifying toll.”

We do not have to wait until 2016 to safely conclude that Iraq will not be the 2nd Philippines.

9 comments:

R. O. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
R. O. said...

Mr. Dean, I'm waiting for your own response to the LA Times article saying Iraq is no RP. I'd be very much interested in your rebuttal.

Rizalist said...

r.o.

The basic argument of the L.A. Times is that the Philippines 1900 and Iraq 2006 are different because the Iraqi "resistance" is stronger, more sophisticated, and less susceptible of "pacification." Yet Jon Wiener trots out the old nugget of 200,000 to 1 million "civilian" deaths, a toll far higher now than even the highest estimates for the death toll in Iraq. So which is it? Wasn't the Philippine American War real?

For some, like my friend Rodel, the war on Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was all just something based on a lie, on made up intel or worse, on pure bloodlust by an incompetent President eager to push Arab dictators around to show the world who is boss. But it's distasteful, even despicable, for Rodel, as a FilAm leader and writer or note to be suggesting that genuine heroes who sacrifice their lives in the line of duty did so in Iraq based on a lie, or on the "orders of George W. Bush." As I recall the decision to topple Saddam Hussein was a decision supported by the American people, Republicans, Democrats and Independents. If they've diverged in opinion since then, it is nevertheless unacceptable to say the President acted in bad faith. He did what he had to do under difficult circumstances.

I think the parallel between Iraq and the Philippines lies in America's declared strategic goals and the commitment that is required to achieve them. I for one hope that George W. Bush's vision of a democratic and peaceful Middle East can be brought to fruition, just as the earlier, successful projects that transformed Asia and Europe (after World War II--after we killed 60,000,000 human beings) through the forced democratization of the former Nazi Germany and Militarist Japan.

It worked in Europe and Asia. I think it was those grand historical successes which inspired George W. Bush to embark on a similar project for the Middle East. I think that is why 2016 is being optimistic. If we go by the First Iraq, already over a century whence, it will take a long time. The future of America and Iraq are inextricably intertwined now, no matter what ideologues or politicians think. Some things are simply inexorable. American involvement in the democratic experiment of Iraq -- as even Rodel and L.A. Times realize -- will not and cannot go away! Victory or Bust means peace, freedom and prosperity for Iraq or its a century of sleepless nights for America and its Second Philippine Adventure.

Amadeo said...

It is factual to state that prior to the run-up of the current war in Iraq, the US population was decidedly in favor of waging it, as much as 68%, comprised of people from all political flavors. And we have to consider this in light of the almost slavish preoccupation with polls when politicians here enunciate public decisions, a method quite perfected by an expert politico named Bill Clinton.

And it is just as factual to state that now because the war has been excruciatingly prolonged and has turned ugly, support by the same public has greatly diminished. Fair-weather allegiance is an ugly reality, too.

And on the absence of WMDs and the Iraqi al-Qaida connections, people really ought to dig deeper than the trite talking points that continue to be uttered and rehashed. Because there are credible sources out there that point otherwise.

The opinions expressed by Rodel are not surprising, given that he seeks office in very liberal and anti-administration San Francisco. But we need only remember that during the last presidential elections all Asians in California voted 50-50. But what I find uncomfortable is the very delicate and almost untenable balancing act public figures here constantly straddle between honoring the fallen heroes and espousing their very vocal and adamant opposition to the war and this administration.

Rizalist said...

Thanks for that Amadeo. Philippine Commentary will also publish the Ignatian Perspective! GMail me an essay for publication. There's many more Fil Ams than just Rodel!

Amadeo said...

Thanks for the offer, Dean, but I really do not have much to add except the following.

All my three sons, too, signed up with the Marines Reserve. One activated during the first Gulf War, and another served for 6 months last year for the current war, yanked from his regular job and leaving a family with 2 small kids. They never questioned the activation nor expected anything else when they got back, obediently cognizant of the fact that it was their duty and their commitment for joining the service to go where the chain of command pointed them to.

It was therefore disheartening to note that great press was given to those, one another FilAm, who signed up and then refused to accept the orders to deploy. The FilAm even signed up for officer’s school. And as I recall many of the groups that publicly sympathized, and some even provided financial support, with them were allied with the politics of Rodel.

manuelbuencamino said...

Those young men died in vain.

HILLBLOGGER said...

Dean,

The BBC has just reported that the US Senate has just found that Saddam had links with Al Qaeda based on a CIA report.

What would further "digging" do to change that, I wonder...

HILLBLOGGER said...

Sorry about that: The US Senate has just revealed that Saddam had NO links with Al Qaeda.

The invasion of Iraq was based on lies. Even Tony Blair is paying dearly for trumping up non-existent links following Bush.