Thursday, October 26, 2006


Only once did my mother say anything critical of the U.S. of A. She was telling stories about WWII in Manila and recalled the 24/7 carpet bombing of the city which formed part of MacArthur’s “I shall return” endgame. “It went on and on, and you lost your mind,” she said, shaking her blue-black hair. The words return to me now, as Iraq implodes under US occupation, Iraqi falling upon Iraqi, the carnage spreading to man, woman and child. A recent study places the war dead thus far as between 400,000 – 900,000 out of a population of only 25 million. I will leave it to the math-smart to work out what that would mean percentage wise, had the population been equal to the recently achieved 300 million of the US.

Militias, insurgents, jihadists, etc., are being blamed for the spiraling violence. Occasionally, a rare voice would say something about US occupation. But why neighbors who had lived peaceably with one another for decades would suddenly fall upon one another – there seems to be no explanation for that. Nor for the unspeakable and deliberate cruelty with which these killings are done. Torture via electric drills?! The mind is boggled.

But this kind of mass psychosis is neither new nor rare. We have seen it before and are seeing it in various parts of the world. In Cambodia, for instance, where non-stop bombing and acts of war so defeated the Buddhist tradition of non-violence, the “killing fields” bloomed in the English language. Despite his doctorate from Sorbonne, Khieu Sampan joined in the drive to return Cambodia to Year Zero, in a futile attempt to eradicate the experience of brutalization. We see it now in various parts of Africa where otherwise rational men fall upon neighbors in unspeakable carnage; we see it in countries where occupation and colonialism had walked, ruining societies and murdering nations.

In the Philippines, history seems not to occur with a flourish but rather by a slow but steady accretion of seemingly insignificant events, decisions and actions. It took the Marcos Dictatorship almost a decade to reach the kill rate of 14 a day. This current government under Macapagal-Arroyo is inching to that figure at a faster rate but still not as dramatically as Iraq or Darfur or the Congo. Nevertheless, the occupation is happening and is ratcheting up the level of violence – though slowly, desensitizing the population and the world.

First, 3,000 of them entered the archipelago. This was five years ago. In between, discreet numbers rotated in and out from Okinawa. Now, 5,700 US troops are supposed to be exercising with 1,700 Filipino soldiers, ostensibly to better train the latter against terrorism. Why there are more trainers than trainees, no one knows. Why, if this were a defense of Filipino territory, there were more foreign than local troops, no one explains. Why this repeated “exercises,” whose lessons never seem to take, leaving the locals good only for assassinating unarmed civilians, no one explains. Nor does anyone know the exact number of these undocumented aliens in the archipelago at any given time. As Amirah Ali Lidasan of the Suara Bangsamoro explains: “we have to rely on ‘sightings.’ Community people tell us ‘a white soldier was sighted in the barrio over there; another sighting that-a-way.’ It’s like the UFOs.” What white solders are doing in rural villages, nobody explains. It’s all X-filed. Suffice it to say, that the level of violence has been going up, as psychosis creeps from island to island and we find both assassins and the assassinated wearing the same color skin, the same color eyes, the same color hair, speaking the same language.

Early in the Philippine-American War, Apolinario Mabini repeatedly advised Emilio Aguinaldo of the Philippine Revolutionary Army not to allow the US to land in Manila. The US Department of War (now Defense) had sent two spies disguised as shipwrecks before US warships appeared in the bay. Now George Dewey was offshore with his ships, having fought the mock battle of Manila Bay and he wanted shore leave for his men. With the rest of the archipelago in Filipino hands, Aguinaldo must have thought that a harbor, a shore, a single city would not make a difference. Aguinaldo’s cavalier disregard of one of his most loyal advisers would lead to one million Filipinos dead.

Women, who are daily subjected to a culture of mental, emotional and physical violence directed against them, know full well the direct link between the unjust accusation and full-blown murder, between non-personhood and the knife across the throat. Control, oppression and violence smuggle themselves into relationships on cat feet. They begin with a label, a word, a fantasy of threat, like “weapons of mass destruction,” “enemy combatants.” Holocausts begin with the sinister glee of kyrstalnacht. They must therefore be resisted and rejected from inception. So don’t tag women “emotional” when they protest at a decibel higher than what you deem appropriate. They’ve seen it all before and they see it all the time. A baseless accusation now fuels future paranoia. A shove against the wall today engenders the killing rage of tomorrow. -- ###