The Iraqi Solidarity Campaign Philippines (ISCP) was launched last April 19, 2004 as an alliance of political blocs and organizations after the outbreak of widespread uprising in Iraq at the beginning of April. It calls for the ending of the US-led occupation and the withdrawal and evacuation of Philippine troops and workers from Iraq. It also endeavors to support the Iraqi people’s resistance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Filipino Anti-War Groups Picket Korean Embassy, Demand Withdrawal of Troops from Iraq

September 23 -- Members of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign (ISC) picketed the Korean Embassy in Manila's central business district to demand the withdrawal of Korean troops from the US-led coalition occupying Iraq.

"US and Korean troops out of Iraq" and "No to an illegitimate foreign policy from an illegitimate president!", read the group's banner.

Among the protesters were seven representatives from the Korean community in the Philippines. Fr Robert Reyes, more popularly known as the "running priest" and a long-time anti-war advocate, was also present.

He was joined representatives from the ISC, a broad coalition of social movements, political parties, religious organizations, women's groups, NGOs, and other organizations and individuals that has been campaigning for an end to the US-led occupation of Iraq.

Organizers of the picket said they chose to focus on the Korean government this time because it has 2,800 troops in Iraq -- the third largest contingent in the US-led coalition after the United States and the United Kingdom. The ISC has marched to the US embassy on several occasions in the past.

"We denounce our fellow Asians' participation in the illegal occupation of another Asian people's land," said Cora Fabros, an ISC member. "The Korean troops -- under the command of the US -- are depriving the Iraqis of true sovereignty and democracy."

The protest action was part of an international day of action called for by US anti-war groups who are organizing what could be the biggest march against the war in the United States since Bush was re-elected. Anti-war coalitions in the UK, Japan, Korea, Greece, Turkey, and other countries are also scheduled to hold protest actions.#

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Manila, 15 July 2005

As calls for the Philippine President's resignation gain ground, we at the Iraq Solidarity Campaign-Philippines pause to join the world in mourning the tragic deaths of dozens of innocent civilians in London. We offer our sympathies to those who have suffered from last week¹s bombings; even as we extend our compassion for all those who continue to suffer under war and domination in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, as well as in Southern Thailand, Aceh, Mindanao, and many other places around the world. Each life lost in London is as precious as any life lost because of war anywhere in the world.

As many of us said after 9-11, after similar incidents of violence in Manila and across the country, and after the Madrid bombings: Our grief is not a cry for war.

We condemn as depraved opportunism efforts to use the attacks to justify vengeful wars and occupations, to foment racism, and to impose repressive security measures. A senior British investigator has said that there is not enough evidence to make "even a sensible guess" as to who was responsible and yet government officials and the media have put the entire Muslim community under suspicion. We oppose the questioning, arrest, and detention of suspects on the bases of their ethnicity or religion.

We reject any move capitalizing on the London bombings to continue or to intensify the "war against terror," to purse militarization, and to entrench draconian anti-terror legislation and other measures around the world.

We renounce the racism and hypocrisy of all those who call the attacks in London as 'terrorism' but who consider the death of between 20,000 to 100,000 Iraqis as a result of the war and occupation as merely "collateral damage."

While we abhor and condemn any attacks against innocent civilians, we also cannot clear British Prime Minister Tony Blair of any responsibility because of his leading role in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

We in the Philippines have also suffered from similar cases of violence which could likewise not be dissociated from embattled President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's complicity in US-led wars abroad and at home.

This most recent episode of violence proves that the US,' the UK's, and their allied governments', including the Philippines' response to terrorism has not stopped bloodshed; on the contrary, they have exacerbated it and they have dragged us all into a cycle of bloodletting. We at the Iraq Solidarity Campaign call for an end to this cycle of violence by calling for a stop to the so-called "war against terror;" an end to the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine; and an end to a drive for global domination that spawn injustice and suffering.#

Monday, September 20, 2004

Where Next for the Anti-War and Anti-Globalization Movements?

Speech at the Assembly i­n Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 17, 2004

By Walden Bello*

We are assembled here in Beirut at a critical moment. It is a moment marked by crosscurrents:In Iraq, the US gets deeper and deeper into a Vietnam-style quagmire, with the number of American soldiers killed since the March 20, 2003 invasion passing the 1,000 mark in the first week of September

Yet in Palestine, the Zionist Wall continues to be built at the rate of a kilometer a day.
A year ago, o­n September 14, 2003, some of us in this hall were in Cancun, Mexico, dancing with joy at the Convention Center as we celebrated the collapse of the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization. Today, the WTO, the supreme institution of corporate-driven globalization, is back o­n its feet with the adoption last month of the Geneva Framework Document designed to speed up the economic disarmament of developing countries.

In New York a few weeks back, we saw massive repudiation of George W. Bush and his pro-war policies by over 500,000 people that marched in the streets of New York. Yet, today, polls show that the same George Bush has a 10 per cent lead over John Kerry in the lead-up to elections the results of which will have a massive impact o­n the fate of the world in the next few years.

The future, comrades, is in the balance, as we meet in this historic city, with its glorious history of resistance to Israeli aggression and American intervention. As you know, many more people wanted to come to Beirut to be with us. The size, breadth, and diversity of our assembly here today underline the strength, the power of our movement.

It would be useful to briefly review our history over the last decade to gain an appreciation of where we are today.

March from Marginalization

Less than 10 years ago, our movement was marginalized. The founding of the WTO in 1995 seemed to signal that globalization was the wave of the future, and that those who opposed it were destined to suffer the same fate as the Luddites that fought against the introduction of machines during the industrial revolution. Globalization was going to bring prosperity in its wake, and how could o­ne oppose the promise of the greatest good for the greatest number that the transnational corporations, guided by the invisible hand of the market, were going to shower the world?

But the movement stood firm in the face of the scorn of the establishment during the 1990’s, when the boom in the world’s mightiest capitalist engine—the US economy—appeared to be destined to go o­n and o­n. It was steadfast in its prediction that, driven by the logic of corporate profitability, the liberalization and deregulation of trade and finance would bring about crises, widen inequalities within and across countries, and increase global poverty.

The Asian financial crisis in 1997 provided sudden, savage proof of the destabilizing impact of eliminating controls from the flow of global capital. Indeed, what could be more savage than the fact that the crisis would bring 1 million people in Thailand and 22 million people in Indonesia below the poverty line in the space of a few weeks in the fateful summer of 1997?

The Asian financial crisis was o­ne of those momentous events that removed the scales from people’s eyes and enabled them see cold, brutal realities. And o­ne of those realities was the fact that the free market policies that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank imposed o­n some 100 developing and transitional economies had induced, in all but a handful of them, not a virtuous circle of growth, prosperity, and equality but a vicious cycle of economic stagnation, poverty, and inequality. The year 2001 brought us not o­nly Sept. 11. 2001 was also the year of reckoning for free-market fundamentalism—the year that the Argentine economy, the poster boy of neoliberal economics, crashed, while in the United States, the contradictions of finance-driven, deregulated global capitalism wiped out $4.6 trillion in investor wealth—half of the US’ gross domestic product—and inaugurated a period of stagnation and rising unemployment from which the world’s central capitalist economy has not recovered till today.

As global capitalism moved from crisis to crisis, people organized in the streets, in work places, in the political arena to counter its destructive logic. In December 1999, massive street resistance by over 50,000 demonstrators combined with a revolt of the developing governments inside the Seattle convention center to bring down the third ministerial of the WTO. Global protests also eroded the legitimacy of the IMF and the World Bank, the two other pillars of global economic governance, albeit in less dramatic fashion. Anti-neoliberal mass movements brought new governments to power in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The fifth ministerial meeting in Cancun, an event associated in many people’s minds with the altruistic suicide of the Korean farmer and Via Campesina activist Lee Kyung-Hae at the barricades, became Seattle II. And, in November last year, in Miami, the same alliance of civil society and developing country governments forced Washington to retreat from the neoliberal program of radical liberalization of trade, finance, and investment that it had threatened to impose in the western hemisphere via the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Fighting against Empire

The fight for global justice and equity has been o­ne thrust of our movement. The other has been the struggle against militarism and war. For the movement against imperial intervention, the 1980’s and 1990’s were not good decades. National liberation struggles retreated, lost momentum, or were compromised in many parts of the world. Of course, there were exceptions, as in South Africa, where the ANC came to power; Palestine, where the first Intifadah handed Israel a political and military defeat; Lebanon, from where the US fled in 1983 after 241 American Marines perished in the bombing of their base located just a few kilometers away from here, and from where the Israelis were gradually squeezed out over the next decade; and, not to forget, Somalia, where the destruction of a US Ranger unit in Mogadishu forced the Clinton administration to terminate its military intervention in October 1993.

The ideologues of globalization promoted the illusion that accelerated globalization would bring about the reign of “perpetual peace.” In contrast, our movement warned that as globalization proceeded, its economically and socially destabilizing effects would multiply conflicts and insecurities. Driven by corporate logic, globalization, we warned, would herald an era of aggressive imperialism that would seek to batter down opposition, seize control of natural resources, and secure markets.

We were proved right, but it took us some time to gain our bearings.

We were still too disoriented by the events of September 11, 2001, and by the internal politics of Afghanistan to enable us to respond effectively to the US invasion of that country. But it was soon clear that the so-called War against Terror was simply an excuse for implementing a quest for Absolute Military Supremacy or, in Pentagon jargon, “Full Spectrum Dominance.”

In late 2002 and early 2003, the movement finally swung into action, becoming a global force for justice and peace that mobilized tens of millions of people throughout the world o­n Feb. 15, 2003, against the planned invasion of Iraq. We did not succeed in stopping the American and British invasion, but we have surely contributed to delegitimizing the Occupation and made it increasingly difficult for invaders that have brazenly violated international law and many rules of the Geneva Convention to remain in Iraq.

The New York Times, o­n the occasion of the Feb. 15, 2003, march, said that there are o­nly two superpowers left in the world today, the United States and global civil society. Let me add that I have no doubt that the forces of justice and peace will prevail over the contemporary incarnation of empire, blood, terror, and greed that is the USA.

Iraq, the Resistance, and the Movement

Our movement is o­n the ascendant. But our agenda is massive, our tasks formidable. To name just a few: We have to drive the US out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We must stop Israel’s increasingly genocidal policies against the Palestinian people. We must impose the rule of law o­n outlaw, rogue states like the US, Britain, and Israel. Moreover, we have some way to go before becoming a critical mass that will decisively affect the struggle for national liberation in Iraq.

Let me explain. Over the last few months, there have been two defining events in Iraq. o­ne was the expose of systematic sexual abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison facility outside Baghdad. The second was the uprising in Fallujah in April.

The Abu Ghraib scandal, which has angered most of the world and shamed most Americans, stripped the last shred of legitimacy from the US presence in Iraq. The uprising in Fallujah, which saw Iraqi men, women, and children fighters defeat the elite of Washington’s colonial legions, the US Marines, was the turning point of the Iraqi war of national liberation. Fallujah was followed by uprisings in other cities like Najaf and Ramadi. It showed that the Iraqi resistance is not o­ne carried out by remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime but o­ne that is widespread, popular, and o­n the ascendant.

Let me read you a recent account from the New York Times o­n the conditions in Ramadi and Falluja, which are pretty much a microcosm of Iraq at this point. It says that “American efforts to build a government structure around former Baath party stalwarts…have collapsed.” Instead, both cities and much of Anbar Province, “are now controlled by…militias, with US troops confined mainly to heavily protected forts o­n the desert’s edge. What little influence the Americans have is asserted through wary forays in armored vehicles, and by laser-guided bombs…[But] even bombing raids appear to strengthen the [militias], who blame the Americans for scores of civilian deaths.”

The question, friends and comrades, is no longer whether Washington will eventually be defeated by the Iraqi resistance. It will be defeated. The question is how long it will hang o­n to an impossible situation. o­n the resolution of this issue, our role in the global peace movement has a very important bearing.

Washington hangs o­n despite the daily attacks o­n its troops by the resistance. Given this situation, the victory of the Iraqi people’s resistance will definitely be hastened by o­ne thing: the emergence of a strong global anti-war movement such as that which took to the streets daily and in the thousands before and after the Tet Offensive in 1968. So far that has not materialized, though opposition to the US presence in Iraq is the dominant global sentinment and disillusionment with their government’s policies in Iraq has now spread to a majority of the US public.

Indeed, at the very time that it is most needed by the people of Iraq, the international peace movement has had trouble getting into gear. The demonstrations o­n March 20, 2004, were significantly smaller than the Feb.15, 2003, when tens of millions marched throughout the world against the projected invasion of Iraq. The kind of international mass pressure that makes an impact o­n policymakers—the daily staging of demonstration after demonstration in the hundreds of thousands in city after city—is simply not in evidence, at least not yet.

Perhaps a major part of the reason is that a significant part of the international peace movement hesitates to legitimize the Iraqi resistance. Who are they? Can we really support them? These questions have increasingly been flung at the advocates of an unconditional military and political withdrawal from Iraq. Let us face it: the use of suicide as a political weapon continues to bother many activists who were repelled by statements such as that of the Palestinian leaders who proudly asserted that suicide bombers were the oppressed people’s equivalent of the F-16. Let us face it: the fact that a large part of the resistance in both Iraq and Palestine is Islamic rather than secular in inspiration continues to bother many western peace activists.

Yet there has never been any pretty movement for national liberation or independence. Many progressives were also repelled by some of the methods of the “Mau Mau” movement in Kenya, the FLN in Algeria, the NLF in Vietnam. What progressives forget is that national liberation movements are not asking them mainly for ideological or political support. What they really want from the outside, from progressive like us, is international pressure for the withdrawal of an illegitimate occupying power so that internal forces can have the space to forge a truly national government based o­n their unique processes. Until they give up their implicit conditioning of their actions o­n the guarantee that a national liberation movement tailored to their values and discourse will be the o­ne to come to power, many peace activists will continue to be trapped within a paradigm of imposing their terms o­n other people.

Let me be clear. We cannot promote conditional solutions--even o­ne that says US and Coalition troop withdrawal o­nly if there is a UN security presence that takes the place of the Americans. The o­nly principled stand is: Unconditional withdrawal of US and Coalition military and political forces now. Period.

But if the future in Iraq itself continues to hang in the balance, the Iraqi resistance has already helped to transform the global equation.

The US is weaker today than it was before May 1, 2003, when Bush declared victory in Iraq. The Atlantic Alliance that won the Cold War no longer functions, largely because of the division over Iraq. Spain and the Philippines have been forced to withdraw their troops from Iraq, and Thailand has now quietly followed suit, contributing further to US isolation. The situation in Afghanistan is more unstable now than last year, with the US writ extending o­nly to the outskirts of Kabul. Militant Islam, which the US now considers its enemy no. 1, is now more vigorously spreading throughout Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. In Latin America, we now have massive popular anti-neoliberal and anti-US movements in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Bolivia that are either in government or are making it difficult for governments to maintain their neoliberal, free market policies. Hugo Chavez has frontally challenged imperialism in its own backyard, and he remains in power owing to the organized support of the Venezuelan people. More power to him and the Venezuelan people!

Owing to its hubris, the US is suffering from that fatal disease of all empires—imperial overstretch. Our role, to echo that great Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, is to worsen this crisis of overextension, not o­nly by creating or expanding movements of international solidarity against the US in Iraq, the US-Israel axis in Palestine, and the creeping US intervention in Colombia. It is also by giving birth or reinvigorating struggles against the US imperial presence in our own countries and regions. For instance, the struggle against the US bases in Northeast Asia and the renewed US military presence via the so-called War o­n Terror in Southeast Asia is o­ne that we from East Asia must rededicate ourselves to.

Towards a New Global Economic Order

Struggle against imperialism and war is o­ne front of our struggle. The other front is the struggle to change the rules of the global economy, for it is the logic of global capitalism whose fountainheads are the US, the European Union, and Japan that is the source of the disruption of society and of the environment. The challenge here goes beyond simply disempowering institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, though this task must not be underestimated—witness, for instance, the recent resurrection in Geneva of the WTO, which many of us thought had suffered a major blow to its foundations in Cancun.

The challenge is that even as we deconstruct the old, we dare to imagine and win over people to our visions and programs for the new. Contrary to the claims of the ideologues of the establishment, the principles that would serve as the pillars of a new global order are present. The primordial principle is that instead of the economy, the market, driving society, the market must be--to use the image of the great Hungarian scholar Karl Polanyi—“reembedded” in society and governed by the overarching values of community, solidarity, justice, and equity. At the international level, the global economy must be deglobalized or rid of the distorting, disfiguring logic of corporate profitability and truly internationalized, meaning that participation in the international economy must serve to strengthen and develop rather than disintegrate and destroy local and national economies.

The perspective and principles are there; the challenge is how each society can articulate these principles and programs in unique ways that respond to their values, their rhythms, their personality as societies. Call us post-modern, but central to our movement is the conviction that, in contrast to the belief common to both neoliberalism and bureaucratic socialism, there is no o­ne shoe that will fit all. It is no longer a question of an alternative but of alternatives. And unless there is a new global order built o­n the principles of justice, sovereignty, and respect for diversity, there will be no real peace.

Two Challenges

But let me end by returning to our urgent task, which is to defeat the US in Iraq and Israel in Palestine. We are all here not to celebrate our strength but, most important, to address our weaknesses over the next few days.

Let me just say that o­ne of the challenges that we will be addressing is how we get beyond spontaneous actions, beyond coordination that remains at the level of coordinating international days of protest. The enemy is extremely well coordinated at a global level and we have no choice but to match that level of coordination and cooperation. But we must match it in with a professionalism that respects our democratic practices—indeed, we must confront it in ways that turns our democratic practice into an advantage.

The other challenge that I would like to highlight is that of closing the political and cultural gap between the global movements for justice and peace and their counterparts in the Arab and Islamic worlds. This is a gap that imperialism has exploited to the hilt, with its effort to paint most of our Arab and Muslim comrades as terrorists or supporters of terrorism. We cannot allow this situation to continue, which is the reason we are holding this meeting in Beirut. Indeed, let me say that unless the global movements and the Arab movements forge tight, organic ties of solidarity, we will not win the struggle against corporate-driven globalization and imperialism.
So, friends, the future of the struggle is in the balance—a balance that will be affected by what happens here in Beirut in the next few days. Will we advance, stay in place, or retreat? The answer is o­ne that depends o­n each o­ne of the over 300 registered delegates that have come here from all over the world. I am cautiously confident. Why? Because I know the goodwill is there, the tolerance for differences is there, and the political will is there to achieve unified action to overcome the forces of injustice, oppression, and death.

Thank you.

*Walden Bello was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for 2003. The prize is better known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Bello is executive director of the Bangkok-based research organization Focus o­n the Global South and a professor of sociology and public administration at the University of the Philippines

Sunday, August 15, 2004

"It's time we abandon the empire" Herbert Docena of Gathering for Peace and the Iraq Solidarity Campaign at a forum on Philippine Foreign Policy at UP. 12 August 2004. Photo by joseph p.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, August 12, 2004

On the Side of Empire?

By Herbert Docena

In 1948, George Kennan, then a director of planning at the US State Department, wrote what has become a classic quote among foreign policy circles. “We have about 60 per cent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population,” he said. Our real task in the coming period (willbe) to maintain this position of disparity... We will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming...The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts.... The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

These days, as we are forced to assess our country’s foreign policy in light of the Angelo dela Cruz episode, we should listen to Kennan: Let’s dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming. Now is the time for a clean break in our foreign policy and reviewing it requires nothing less than an honest and accurate assessment of the world we’re living in.

Refusing to be hampered by slogans, many foreign policy analysts and commentators around the world have been left with no choice ¬ what with the invasion of Iraq ¬ but to refer to the United States using the “e”-word: “Empire.” Even in the United States, where most commentators have developed an allergy to the word, many people have now taken to open talking about their country as an “Empire.” In fact, one of the most-talked-about books in the US these days is Niall Ferguson’s Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire. A professor of history at the New York University, Ferguson looks back in history and argues “not merely that the United States is an empire, but that it has always been an empire.”

The best way then for us to begin charting a new direction for our foreign policy is to come to terms with what we’re dealing with and to not see the world through ideological blinders. We can argue over the semantics and the nuances of the label. We can debate about the differences among the Roman, British, and American styles of empire. In talking to the press or in diplomatic circles, we can call it by other names. We can try to be polite and talk about “unilateralism” or “dominance” or “hegemony” even if we actually mean “imperialism.”

But in seriously rethinking our foreign policy, let us listen to Kennan and deal in straight power concepts: How else do we explain the actions of a superpower that, according to former State Secretary Madeleine Albright, will be “multilateral if we can but unilateral if we must;” that flouts international law and goes unpunished; that over the past century, according to the US Congressional Research Service, has engaged in over 200 military interventions abroad; that has a military presence in over 100 countries in order to, as the Pentagon itself puts it, “impose the will of the United States and its coalition partners on any adversaries.”

We live in a world in which a sole superpower does not hesitate to use its being the world’s sole superpower in order to remain as the world’s sole superpower. The United States is the strongest, most powerful empire in history ¬ more powerful than both the Roman and British empires ¬ and it does not hesitate to use its massive economic and military might to advance and defend its interests around the world. The first step in re-examining our foreign policy is to acknowledge this; to deny it is to conduct foreign policy ¬ in another planet. Whether we like it or not, our foreign policy will have to respond to this reality.

Angelo dela Cruz has merely forced us to confront the overarching question for our foreign policy yet again: Are we on the side of Empire? Or more precisely, should we continue to be on its side? This in turn leads us to the bigger question: Do we want to live in a world with Empire? And does being on the side of Empire help us in building that world? Our answer to these questions will determine our response to day-to-day concerns: Should we still send troops to Iraq? Should we be "major non-NATO ally"? How do we deal with China and our neighbors? It depends on whether we are on the side of Empire. On a pragmatic level alone, the cost of sidling up to the United States far outweighs the benefits. Sure, we get millions of dollars in military aid and trade concessions. But even NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri himself has admitted that the amount of aid we get from the US has been “overrated.” Professor Raymund Quilop of the National Defense College of the Philippines has confirmed that the war materiel we get are hand-me-downs that the US needs to throw away anyway. Instead of making us more secure, our being a major non-NATO ally has only made us become the target of reprisals as the enemies of the United States also become our own. If for every ten bombs we get from the United States, we also make ten new enemies determined to bomb us, does that make us secure?

Part of the “assistance” we get from USAID should be banned, not welcomed.
This aid usually comes in the form of grants for projects that aim to transform our laws and institutions to become more favorable to foreign investors to the detriment of our economy. Remember the USAID-funded AGILE.

Despite our much-vaunted special relationship with the US, our trading relationship with them remains unequal and unbalanced.

It is not only that the costs exceed the benefit but that the ones who get the benefits are not the same ones who bear the costs. The case of Angelo dela Cruz and our support for the invasion of Iraq is a case in point: in exchange for equipment for the military, reconstruction contracts for some Filipino businessmen, and support for Arroyo’s presidency, we endangered the lives of millions of our Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East. It is the businessmen who get their million-dollar contracts and the generals who get their guns ¬ but it is the likes of Rodrigo Reyes, the forgotten Filipino driver killed in Iraq, who pay with their lives. The interests of the military, the interests of business, and the interests of the President should not be equated with the “national” interest.

But no matter what the benefits are, it is simply wrong to support the illegal and immoral actions of Empire. We should not get the things we get from the US by helping it illegally invade another country. The price of the military equipment we receive from the US should not be the sovereignty of other people. It is precisely by being identified with the US’ aggressive and self-interested military aggressions and interventions in pursuit of empire-building that we become legitimate targets of those branded as “terrorists.” By partaking in the invasion of Iraq in exchange for contracts, we lost the moral high ground, making it difficult for us to tell the “terrorists” that what they are doing is reprehensible. We cannot be an accomplice to an illegal war that has killed over 10,000 innocent civilians and preach compassion.

The foreign policy consensus is that it’s better to be on the side of Empire because it’s always better to be on the side of the powerful. We’re just a weak, impoverished country after all and the world out there is nasty, brutish, and short. We don’t like it that way and it could all be better but that’s just the way it is and let’s just get the most from it. We don’t necessarily approve of how the US runs the world and how it treats us but the alternative to not being on its side is so much worse. The question, however, is this: If we really believe that as a country, we would really be much better off in a world without empire, then doesn’t our support for Empire perpetuate precisely the kind of world that we don’t want to live in? Empires don’t last without loyal vassals like us. The Empire needs us more than we need it.

George Kennan said their task is to maintain the disparity; ours therefore is to dislodge it. It was time we withdrew from the coalition occupying Iraq. It is also now time we abandon the Empire.

* Herbert Docena is a foreign policy analyst with Focus on the Global South, an international policy research center based in Bangkok. This essay was presented at the forum “Hostaged? Philippine Foreign Policy after Angelo dela Cruz” in UP Diliman last August 12.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Filipino's Guide to Iraq

Iraq Solidarity Campaign - Philippines

What is now happening in Iraq?

In March last year, without any UN authorization and in violation of international law, the United States, along with other coalition members including the Philippines, invaded Iraq. They cited the supposed danger posed to the world by Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and its alleged links with Osama bin Lade despite evidence available even then that such claims were unfounded. A year after, the pretexts used to justify the war have all been proven to be lies.

Meanwhile, between 11,000 to 13,000 Iraqis and up to 1,000 coalition troops have been killed.
Still, the occupation continues. The United States and the remaining members of the "Coalition of the Willing," continue to attempt to wield ultimate power over the country. Despite the so-called "transfer of sovereignty" last June 30, Iraq is still neither sovereign nor independent. The occupation has not ended.

But the resistance is also growing. Iraqis have launched a war of national liberation to drive out the occupiers and to regain their freedom. According to a recent survey, a staggering 92% of Iraqis view all occupation forces as "occupiers" not as "liberators." Up to 55% of Iraqis now want the US and all the coalition forces to leave. The best way to understand how the Iraqis feel and what they are doing is to look back to our own history. When the US occupied the Philippines last century, Filipinos like Apolinario Mabini and Macario Sakay also fought back. This is why we should think of ourselves as yesterday¹s Iraqis and why we should see the Iraqis as today's Filipinos.

What did Angelo dela Cruz have to do with all that?

The abduction of foreign hostages in Iraq is part of the Iraqi resistance fighters¹ tactics to pressure foreign governments into withdrawing their support for the US-led occupation of their country. As a member of the US-led coalition, the resistance saw our troops in Iraq not as a "humanitarian mission" but as unwelcome "occupiers" helping the United States occupy their country. While the Filipino soldiers may have built roads or schools, they did so in an attempt to help the US achieve its political objective of making the occupation more acceptable to the Iraqis.
Why did President Arroyo support the war in the first place?

President Arroyo was quite straightforward: in justifying the war, she herself said that she sent our troops to Iraq so that Filipino businessmen can get reconstruction contracts and so that our OFWs can be employed there by reconstruction contractors. In other words, the Philippine government wanted to profit from the occupation of another country. Iraqis know that.
On a more general level, President Arroyo supported the war as part of her administration's relationship with the United States. Only the US and Arroyo know exactly what's the deal. But as in the past and as in the case with other countries, the US usually gets what it wants from other governments by offering them military aid, loans, trade concessions or other forms of inducement. The US has also been documented to support pro-US candidates during elections and to protect their regimes once in power.

But Angelo and the other OFWs in Iraq are merely trying to earn a living.
Should we be against that?

Our workers should only have been sent to Iraq at the invitation of an independent Iraqi government and at their own terms not by the occupiers and not without the Iraqis' consent. It does not help that many of our OFWs in Iraq are employed by such contractors as Bechtel and Halliburton infamous American corporations which are currently being investigated in the US for corruption and which many Iraqis see as profiting from the destruction of their country. The risk now, in fact, is that an independent Iraqi government could decide to ban our workers' in the future because of our government¹s participation in the invasion and occupation of their own country.

Iraqis want to begin rebuilding their own country and they will most likely need our help. But they can't start unless the occupation ends.

OK, let's assume for the sake of argument that the Iraqis are right to resist the occupation. But isn't beheading prisoners wrong?

First of all, we have to understand that the resistance is composed of many different factions with varying aims and different strategies and little coordination and communication among themselves. A united front against the occupation, with an over-all command structure, has yet to emerge. What is clear, however, is that the demand for an end to the occupation has widespread and popular support among Iraqis.

We don't have to approve of all of their tactics to understand why they resort to kidnappings and beheadings: Faced with the overwhelming military superiority of the US and the coalition-members, Iraqis think that one way to fight back is to resort to non-conventional forms of warfare. While beheading hostages is regrettable, the kind of violence being used by the occupiers in Iraq should not be equated with the violence of the resistance.

One side uses force to illegitimately occupy another people; the other side uses it to assert their legitimate right to self-determination.

Wait, but what's this I heard in the news that sovereignty has been transferred to the Iraqis, that the occupation has actually ended?

On June 28, Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer handed over blue envelopes not sovereignty to officials of the "interim government" in ceremonies which, they claimed, marked the end of the occupation. But there was never a "transfer of sovereignty" and the occupation has not ended, as proven by the following simple facts:

1 The "interim government" to which sovereignty was supposedly handed over was installed and chosen by the United States not by the Iraqi people. The "Prime Minister" Iyad Allawi a self-confessed CIA and M16 paid operative, as well as scores of its other officials, were handpicked by the United States. The US chose Allawi and his men precisely because they agreed to the US' conditions. Allawi and his men, for their part, chose to be installed by the US because they would not gain power if the choice were left to the Iraqis. The fact that the resistance continues only indicates that this "interim government" has no legitimacy in the eyes of many Iraqis.

2 All 140,000 plus US troops, and the 20,000 soldiers of the remaining "coalition members," are still in Iraq and intend to stay there indefinitely. They will not take orders from anyone but the US and will not be answerable to the Iraqis. If a GI shoots an Iraqi boy after mistaking him for a pig, this GI will be above the law because all the troops staying behind as well as the thousands of contractors profiting from the reconstruction are immune from prosecution.

3 The "interim government" has no real meaningful power. It is held hostage by the presence of the US-led forces: should it do anything against the wishes of the US, the coalition troops can just march out of their bases anytime and oust them. It cannot represent the will of the Iraqi people because their very survival depends on ignoring and acting against what the Iraqi people want. A majority of the Iraqis want the US to leave something the "interim government" will not demand because its very existence depends on the US' continuing presence.

The "interim government" does not even have the power to enact its own policies because the Coalition Provisional Authority has left behind an array of laws which the US does not want the "interim government" to overturn. Even if it now has authority over Iraq's oil revenues, the new "interim government" has little control over the funds because the US has used up almost all of it and has entered into long-term commitments which the "interim government" does not have the authority to revoke.

All this indicate that there was neither a "transfer" nor "sovereignty" during the June 28 "transfer of sovereignty" in Iraq.

So it's not perfect. But the situation is so messy and complicated so it's not going to be easy. Besides, the US has scheduled a step-by-step process for giving Iraqis more control. I heard that elections are even scheduled for next year.

True, it's not easy. But any solution should come from the Iraqis themselves. The political process for determining the Iraqis' new government should be determined by the Iraqis and should be respected. The US should have no role in it whatsoever. The Iraqis have been saying all along that they want free, general, and direct one-person, one vote elections. But the US has been against that all along.

Instead, the US has imposed a political process that addresses its own interests rather than that of the Iraqis. The US is against any general elections because it is are fully aware that any directly elected independent government will demand that they leave. According to the US-imposed timetable, elections will not be held until after the US has had enough time to put in place all those guarantees that will ensure that it can influence the outcome of the elections. In Iraq, as in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and many other countries around the world, the US is currently funding, training, and building up political parties and NGOs that are intended to participate in the coming elections. US support will give them a tremendous edge over other parties.

But hey, I heard that even the UN itself has said that the occupation is over. Surely, we should trust the UN on this one?

True, in a resolution passed last month, the United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 to welcome "the end the occupation" and to recognize the "interim government" as the representative of the Iraqi people. But even if the UN Security Council voted to declare that the earth is flat, we all know that it is not. Sure, the UN Security Council did not endorse the invasion of Iraq last year; but even if it did, would it have made the war right? Let us remember that Security Council members vote according to their own geo-political calculations. Germany's, France's, and Russia's desire to get a piece of the biggest reconstruction business opportunity since World War II played a part in their estimates. Remember too that countries are not immune to blackmail and intimidation. In the run-up to war last year, the US was documented to have bullied or coerced countries to vote in favor of war.

The US might not have succeeded then but that does not mean that it always fails.
What was all that "transfer of sovereignty" fuss all about then?

All that was about propaganda. The US needs to convince the world that the occupation has ended because it needs more troops and funds from other countries two things which the US could no longer afford to provide on its own. They also need to persuade the Iraqis that the occupation is over so that they'll stop fighting. As a Pentagon official admitted, "The transfer of sovereignty clearly will have an impact on security because you rid yourself of the 'occupation' label. That is one of the claims that these so-called insurgents make; that they are under American occupation. So you remove that political claim from the ideological battle.

But why would the US still want to stay in Iraq if no weapons of mass destruction have been found and so many of its soldiers are dying there?

Good question. A US Senate committee, as well as National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell as well as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have all confirmed that the reasons given for going to war were all lies. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Saddam Hussein had no links with al Qaeda. This was never a war to defend the world from "WMDs" or "terrorists." It was always a war to secure the world's second largest reserves of oil, to open up the domestic markets of the Middle East, and to establish US military presence in a very important and very strategic region all in an attempt to perpetuate and extend the US' military, economic, and political domination of the world. If these were the real reasons for the invasion, then we shouldn't expect the US to just pack up and leave just like that. Too much is at stake.

But how does the US still intend to achieve those objectives?

The US has been forced to give up a certain degree of control over Iraq as direct occupying powers. But they still hope to call the shots from behind the scenes. They and not the "interim government" will continue to exercise real power in Iraq by bombs and dollars: through its indefinite military presence and its control over the $18 billion reconstruction fund for Iraq. The presence of around 160,000 foreign troops in Iraq will be like a knife held before any Iraqi government¹s neck; the reconstruction funds, on the other hand, will be more than enough incentive for some Iraqis to do as the US pleases.

The CPA may have been dissolved but power will continue to be exercised from the American embassy where the former CPA used to be. Leading the biggest US embassy in the world, with the world's biggest CIA station, is none other than former US ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte who is accused of organizing the destabilization of the progressive revolutionary government of Nicaragua in the 1980s. Hidden within the various ministries in Iraq are scores of USAID consultants literally drafting Iraq's laws and policies on a blank slate ala AGILE in the Philippines. (In fact, Development Alternatives International, which was behind AGILE, is also now operating as USAID contractor in Iraq.)

Scattered across the country are scores of USAID contractors funding and training NGOs and other civil society organizations in order to set up the kind of civil society that will actively support or passively accept the US' preferred policies. All these to ensure that the occupation continues even after "independence" is granted. Given the striking parallelisms between our post-"independence" history with what the US intends to accomplish in Iraq, we may still be today's Iraqis and they may yet be tomorrow's Filipinos.

What should happen then?

Iraqis themselves say that they want all the foreign forces to leave and for the occupation to end. Only by ending the occupation can Iraqis begin the difficult task of rebuilding their own country. They should be given the space to decide for themselves how they will start anew how they will form their own government, how they will settle their differences, how they will cast judgment on the dictatorship, etc without any self-interested interference from outside. Any help from other countries, including possibly the presence of peacekeeping forces, should be decided on by the Iraqis themselves and on their own conditions. The United States and all those party to the invasion and occupation should be held accountable and responsible for their obligations.
Does the resistance stand a chance at all? We're talking of the world's only superpower here.
The US may enjoy tremendous military advantages over the Iraqis but that's not all that it takes to win a war. On the battle for hearts and minds, the US has decisively lost. According to a survey, as many as 81% of Iraqis now have "no confidence" in the occupation forces.

While the Iraqis may have been initially grateful for the ouster of Saddam, they now feel betrayed: the US promised to give them "democracy," but they have blocked the holding of free general elections. Instead, the "interim government" which the US installed has imposed martial law. The US promised them respect for human rights; instead, as in the case of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal where detainees were forced to perform sexual acts, they have been tortured and abused. The US promised to help them reconstruct their country; but until now, electricity has not even been fully restored because US contractors put profit above the needs of the Iraqis.
As a result of all this, the US has squandered the one thing that could have defeated the resistance: the Iraqi people¹s support. The US may have far more bombs and bullets but the resistance has popular backing. This was also the decisive imbalance in power that accounts for the defeat of the world¹s only superpower 30 years ago in Vietnam. But as in Vietnam, the Iraqis need the world¹s support.

Why should I care?

Though Iraq is far away, what is happening there affects us even here in the Philippines, as the plight of Angelo dela Cruz proves. Pragmatically speaking, our OFWs will be safer and more welcome in Iraq if they were sent there at the invitation of the Iraqis themselves. The longer the occupation continues, the longer our OFWs who are already there would continue to remain in danger.

More than this however, we should be concerned about what happens in Iraq because it is one of the most flagrant and most destructive violations of international law and international norms in recent years. The US' single-minded and unilateral pursuit of its interests in Iraq and in other parts of the world has been and remains to be the biggest threats to global peace and justice. Instead of making the world safer from al Qaeda-type "terrorists" for instance, the US is unleashing a far more lethal and more violent kind of "state terrorism" and provoking even more retaliation from "terrorists." Victory for the US in its illegal and immoral war and occupation in Iraq will only lead to more instability, and suffering not just for Iraqis but for people around the world.

No one country no matter how powerful should be allowed to illegally invade and occupy a country, kill over 10,000 civilians knowingly, and plunder its resources. As a member of the international community, so much of our aspirations as Filipinos depend on the achievement and maintenance of global peace. Genuine social and economic development not just for Filipinos but for all people in the world, the greater availability of food, housing, and shelter and the absence of deprivation, conflict and misery all these are conditional on making the world a world of equality and justice. If we allow the US to succeed in Iraq, we might as well say goodbye to all that.
To stand against the war in Iraq is to stand for peace, justice, and a better future for the world.

What can I do?

Join the Iraq Solidarity Campaign, a broad multi-sectoral coalition of organizations and individuals calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq.

The ISC conducts workshops, trainings, and film screenings for a deeper understanding of the issues. It also organizes press conferences, mass actions, and other protest rallies to express its positions. For more information, write to Cora Fabros at or visit <> .

Monday, July 19, 2004

Members of Iraq Solidarity Campaign light candles and hold vigil for Angelo dela Cruz. Welcome Rotonda. July 10, 2004. Photo by Joseph P. Posted by Hello

Gov't Must be Held Accountable for Supporting Illegal War; Restitution Possible Only by Ending Occupation

We at the Iraq Solidarity Campaign welcome the government's decision to pull out the troops from a country where they should never have been sent to in the first place. Our gratitude, however, is not reserved for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was her, after all, who by supporting an illegal war and occupation put Angelo dela Cruz in harm's way. It was her who by holding the people's welfare hostage to her and the United States' interests held the life of dela Cruz on her hand. No: we cannot thank the President for putting aside the knife that she herself had held so close to Angelo's neck.

Instead of thanks and praise, we must continue to lavish blame and censure on our President. She must be held accountable and sanctioned for taking the country to an illegal and immoral war. We call on Congress to launch a full inquiry into Arroyo's decision to be part of the US-led "coalition of the willing" and to investigate the lies which she peddled for justifying her support for the war. It must not continue to be said that the President was merely 'duped' by Bush: Despite easily available evidence then proving that the war was based on lies, she willingly allowed herself to be lied to for her own reasons. She, in turn, consciously and deliberately lied to the Filipino people and she must not now be allowed to get away with it. These were not any other lies: they have killed over 10,000 Iraqi civilians and have put in real danger the lives of Filipinos around the world.

The withdrawal of troops from Iraq is not enough. An illegal occupation founded on lies must not be allowed to continue a minute longer. In order to begin paying for its support for the war, the Philippine must first and foremost, apologize to the Iraqi people for being part of an invading force and an unwelcome occupying army. It must explicitly and unequivocally condemn the occupation and work towards the full restoration of independence and sovereignty in Iraq.
As a current member of the UN Security Council, the Philippine government must officially call on the United States and the coalition to immediately end the occupation and press for the observance and enforcement of international laws and obligations. For its part, the government must withhold any official recognition of and refuse to resume any diplomatic ties with the illegitimate 'interim government' imposed by the US on the Iraqi people. Only at the invitation of a legitimate Iraqi government independently installed by the Iraqi people should the Philippine government resume giving opportunities for our OFWs to help Iraqis rebuild their own country.
We call on the Filipino people to use this experience as an occasion for re-examining our foreign policy and for questioning whether the government's alliance with the United States serves the people's interests.

Our plight being colonized by the United States puts us in a unique position to understand what the Iraqis are going through. We must not be party to inflicting on others what we ourselves experienced. As last century's Iraqis among the first people to be directly occupied by the United States, we call on the Filipino people, to extend solidarity with today's Filipinos the Iraqis who continue to be occupied by the United States today.

Pahayag ng Iraq Solidarity Campaign sa Pilipinas
Hulyo 19, 2004
Wakasan ang Pananakop:  Papanagutin at Pagbayarin ang Gubyerno sa Iligal na Gyera sa Iraq
Bumabati  ang Iraq Solidarity Campaign sa desisyon ng gubyerno na pauwiin ang mga sundalo mula sa bansang na unang-una’y di sila dapat ipinadala. Pero hindi para kay Presidente Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ang aming pasasalamat.  Dahil siya ang naglagay sa peligro kay Angelo dela Cruz sa pamamagitan ng pagsuporta sa iligal na gyera at pananakop sa Iraq.  Siya ang may tangan sa buhay ni dela Cruz sa pamamagitan ng pagbihag niya at ng US sa kapakanan ng mamamayan. Hindi kami kailanman magpapasalamat sa Presidente sa pag-atras ng patalim na siya mismo ang nag-umang sa leeg ni Angelo.
Sa halip na pasalamatan, kailangang patuloy na batikusin ang Presidente.  Papanagutin at parusahan siya sa pagsangkot ng bansa sa iligal at imoral na digma.  Nananawagan kami sa Konggreso na maglunsad ng puspusang imbestigasyon sa desisyon ni Arroyo na maging bahagi ng “coalition of the willing” na pinamumunuan ng US at sa mga kasinungalingang inilako niya para bigyang-katwiran ang suporta sa naturang gyera.  Kailangang tigilan na ang pagsasabing nalinlang lang ni Bush ang Presidente:  sa kabila ng maraming ebidensya na nagpapatibay noon na puro kasinungalingan ang pinagbatayan ng gyera, kusang-loob siyang pumayag na maloko dahil sa pansariling dahilan.  Matapos ito, sadyang nagsinungaling  si Arroyo sa mamamayang Pilipino at di ito dapat basta na lang palampasin.  Hindi lang ito simpleng kasinungalingan:  kinitil nila ang mahigit 10,000 mamamayang Iraqi at inilagay sa panganib ang buhay ng mga Pilipino sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo.
Di sapat ang pagpapauwi ng mga sundalo mula sa Iraq.  Di dapat magtagal ng kahit isa pang minuto ang isang iligal na gyerang nakabatay sa puro kasinungalingan.  Para masimulan ang pagbabayad nito dahil sa pagsuporta sa gyera, kailangan munang humingi ng paumanhin ang gubyerno ng Pilipinas sa mamamayang Iraqi sa pagsali nito sa pwersang lumusob at nakibahagi sa hukbong nanakop sa Iraq.  Dapat tahasan at malinaw na kondenahin ang okupasyon at magpunyagi para sa pagpapanumbalik ng kasarinlan at soberenya ng Iraq.
Bilang miembro ng UN Security Council, dapat manawagan ang gubyerno ng Pilipinas at ang koalisyon na kagyat na wakasan ang okupasyon at itulak ang pagkilala at pagpapatupad ng mga pandaigdigang batas at obligasyon.  Sa bahagi ng gubyerno ng Pilipinas, di muna dapat nito kilanlin at huwag pumasok sa diplomatikong ugnayan sa iligal na “pansamantalang gubyernong” ipinataw ng US sa mamamayang Iraqi. Matapos lamang ang malayang pagtatatag ng mga Iraqi ng lehitimong gubyerno saka dapat ipagpatuloy ng gubyernong Pilipino ang pagbibigay ng oportunidad sa ating mga OFW na tumulong sa mga Iraqi na ibangon ang kanilang bansa.
Nananawagan kami sa mamamayang Pilipino at gamitin ang okasyong ito para muling balik-aralan ang ating patarakang panlabas at usisain kung nagsisilbi sa interes ng mamamayan ang pakikipag-alyansa ng gubyerno sa US.
Ang karanasan natin sa pagiging kolonya ng US ay naglalagay sa atin sa isang natatanging pusisyon na unawain ang dinaranas ngayon ng mga Iraqi.  Di tayo dapat makibahagi sa pagpapalasap sa iba ng atin mismong naging karanasan. Nananawagan kami sa mamamayang Pilipino, maituturing na mga “Iraqi” noong nakaraang siglo dahil kabilang sa mga pinakaunang direktang sinakop ng US, na makiisa sa mga “Pilipino” ngayon – ang mamamayang Iraqi na patuloy sinasakop ng US hanggang sa kasalukuyan