Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Filipino-American Commentaries on War and Peace

NTIWAR sentiments are rising in America. Writing from San Francisco, California for the Philippine News weekly broadsheet, Filipino-American community leader Rodel E. Rodis (who is also an elected official of San Francisco City College School Board), pens an essay on the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. He is an old friend and a powerful voice that is often heard at Philippine Commentary, with due respect (and the unavoidable caveats from Michelle Malkin below...)

By Rodel E. Rodis

San Francisco, California
March 19, 2007

This week’s 4th anniversary of America’s “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq brought back memories of a family discussion four years ago about whether to join an anti-war rally to protest the impending war. Our three young sons told us that they had already been discussing the war in school all week and that everyone was opposed to it. “Of course we’ll all go,” they said.

So off we went the next morning to join the massive February 16, 2003 anti-war rally at the Civic Center in San Francisco. Police officials estimated that 200,000 people marched and participated in the rally to denounce President George W. Bush’s plans to invade Iraq. Whole families just like us were there to show their opposition to the war, with babies in strollers, and old folks leaning on their canes.

When my father-in-law, Romulo Austria, learned that we had attended the rally, he was upset. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have joined you,” he said. This proud man, who was a young guerilla during the war against the Japanese, who enrolled in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) after the war (class of ’51), who obtained a PhD in Engineering at the University of Rome in 1958, who worked for Bechtel as a nuclear engineer, and who had been a Republican, was early on dead set against the war.

“Bush is crazy,” he would tell his tennis buddies. “It’s a lie. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush is just using this excuse to fool the people,” he said with firm conviction.

“Papa”, as I call him, turns 80 this week on Thursday, still firm in his conviction now as he was back then that the war in Iraq was and is a tragic mistake.

If Bush had listened to my father-in-law back then, more than 3,200 American soldiers and more than 150,000 Iraqis would likely still be alive today. We would not have close to 30,000 American soldiers in veteran’s hospitals like Walter Reed struggling to survive their war injuries. And we would have more than $600 billion to spend on education, health care and decent housing for the American people. And there would be money to fully fund the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill.

But why should Bush have listened to my father-in-law when he wouldn’t even listen to his own father? In his book, "A World Transformed," which was published in 1998 which he coauthored with his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, former President George H. Bush wrote that if he had pursued the retreating Iraqi Army back to Baghdad in 1991, the United States "would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq." That would have collapsed the international coalition and alienated the Arab members to desert the coalition. “There was no viable 'exit strategy'... violating another of our principles," they wrote.

"Furthermore," they added, “[had] we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different -- and perhaps barren -- outcome."

In an article published in the Wall Street Journal on August 15, 2002 (7 months before the invasion), Scowcroft expounded on this point by asserting that an invasion of Iraq "was certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack." Invasion of Iraq would require the United States "to pursue a virtual go-it- alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive ... [and] very likely would have to be followed by a large-scale, long-term military occupation." Such actions would result in a "degradation" of international cooperation, and an "explosion of outrage against us" especially in the Muslim world. Such a policy "could even swell the ranks of terrorists."

These points seem so obvious now in 20-20 hindsight but they were obvious to my kids and to my father-in-law even back then.

When asked why he didn’t listen to the advice of his father and his father’s national security adviser, Bush told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that it’s because he listens to a “higher Father”. So that was his reason. Bush claimed that God told him to invade Iraq probably just as Allah told Osama bin Laden to destroy the World Trade Center.

Both Bush and binLaden are basically religious fundamentalists, who both believe they are doing God’s will in what they do, that God is always on their side. But God commanded “Thou shalt not kill.” For Christian or Muslim fundamentalists, God’s commandments do not apply to non-believers or infidels. "Imagine there's no religion," John Lennon once mused.

Religious zealots are basically all that Bush has left in the US to support his failed Iraq policy. The latest polls show Bush’s popularity rating at 29%, one of the lowest ever for any US president. Even Donald Trump has come out publicly to declare that Bush is the worst US president ever.

At the February 16, 2003 anti-war rally we attended, there were many other Filipinos, a fact which the San Francisco Chronicle noted in its front-page coverage of the rally. “In the 400,000-strong (Bay Area) Filipino community,” the Chronicle reported, “many have friends or family members working in the Middle East as maids and construction workers, said Rhonda Ramiro, a San Francisco resident. An estimated 1.5 million Filipinos are employed in such jobs there.”

“Several of those marching with her and the 150 members of Filipinos for Global Justice Not War were airport screeners, laid off last fall in the wake of a new federal act requiring screeners to be U.S. citizens. "The younger people here know that their schools are bad already and will get worse if there's more money going for the military," Ramiro said."

At that anti-war rally, one of my sons bought a colorful “No Blood for Oil” t-shirt which he proudly wore in school the following week, prompting discussions about what the real reason for the Iraq war may be.

In this past week, The Washington Post reported that President Bush has asked the Iraqi Parliament, as a “benchmark” for measuring Iraqi progress, to pass the Iraqi Oil Law that would allow US multinational oil companies to take over Iraqi oil (“Whose Oil is it Anyway?,” Antonia Juhasz). It turns out my son’s t-shirt was right on the mark.

“They hate us because we value freedom” Bush has said time and again. Just exactly what freedoms are valued by Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney? One of them is surely this. Halliburton (Cheney’s old company and the US corporation that has profited the most from the Iraq War through its no-bid contracts) enjoys the freedom to move its operations just this week from Houston, Texas to Dhubai. Doesn't it warm the cockles of Cheney's heart to know that more than 3200 American soldiers gave up their lives for this valuable freedom?

Happy 80th birthday, Papa, may you yet outlive this terrible war.
MICHELLE MALKIN neoconservative Filipino-American blogger and online reporter, has an entirely different perspective in The Gathering of Eagles (courtesy of YouTube)

Feels kinda like the Sixties. Now the campaign for the soul of America in the elections of 2008 is well underway...


john marzan said...

i think i'm familiar enough with malkin's writings to know that she's not a neocon, but a socially conservative oldcon.

Amadeo said...

This neo-con label has been thrown around too much, as to be completely alien to the original ones, who were staunch Democrats who broke away from mainline Democratic positions.

Growing in very libertine environment like SF, I cannot see how Rodel can believe any differently from the positions he has taken politically.

Michelle can be neo-con and her critics can and will come up with their points to prove this. Political people just live in different realities and can thus define and justify their positions against their adversaries based on their perception of their realities.

john marzan said...

IMO, the neo cons are hawkish liberals who abandoned the democrat party because of the donk's weakness on national security issues.

people like krauthammer, david brooks, perle, bill kristol, wolfowitz. social conservatives they are not.

anyway, for michelle malking fans, here's a recent profile of her from the WAPO.

Crankshaft said...

I don't understand why Americans allow their government to continue this illegal invasion.

I'm Malaysian and everyday I witness the fervent anti-American sentiment increasing.

Most Americans I know are incredible people and I don't want anything bad to happen to them.

Is It Really A War Against Terror?