Quick on the draw

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Malacanang had not yet appointed him to the Department of National Defense as of this writing. But former Philippine National Police Chief Hermogenes Ebdane was talking last week as if it were all over except the shouting.

That meant either one of three things: he’s indeed Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s choice, and the Palace is sending up a trial balloon to gauge public reaction to the idea; he wants the post so badly he’s second-guessing her; or both. Continue reading

Between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee

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Out of about 5,000 words, US President George W. Bush devoted a mere 1,500 to Iraq in his January 23 State of the Union address, despite the widespread and spreading disillusionment over the war the US has been waging in that country since 2003.

Initially supportive of the war, most Americans now disapprove of their government’s actions, including Bush’s recent decision to send an additional 20,000 troops into that country. (Not because of the 100,000 civilian deaths among the Iraqis, or the near-total destruction of Iraq, but mostly because 3,000 US soldiers have died there.) Continue reading

End of days

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The end of the world is an old theme in pop culture, as well as common in the lore of much of the world’s religions. But it became even more common in Western movies, science fiction novels, television, radio, etc. in the aftermath of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

But there was a difference in the perception of how The End would come. If the end was once almost solely imagined at the hands of aliens from space or from vengeful gods, the end of life as we know it was soon being imagined at the hands of human beings themselves. The US nuclear monopoly after all lasted only a few years as the Cold War broke out. The Soviet Union soon exploded its own nuclear bombs after the US, as did China by 1968. A confrontation among these nuclear powers seemed inevitable. Science fiction writers thus began to crank out short stories, novels and films that foresaw The End through nuclear war. Continue reading

Vietnam in Iraq

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US President George W. Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq has invited further comparisons with the US debacle in Vietnam in the 1970s. Bush did warn the so-called “Iraqi government” that US military commitment was “not open-ended”. But that was apparently meant to preempt suggestions that, as in Vietnam over 30 years ago, the US would be bogged down in an endless war in Iraq.

Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq—which he called a “surge”—was promptly described as an “escalation” of a war that’s also been called a “quagmire”. Both terms were commonly used during the war in Vietnam, which the US lost in 1975. Thus Bush’s effort not to couch his strategy in those terms—and to insist that there is a limit to US intervention in Iraq. Continue reading

Family ties

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Elections are supposed to be the best expression of democratic will. Sovereign citizens make their wishes known through elections on the matter of who they think can best represent and lead them. The same process also allows citizens the opportunity to express their approval or disapproval of the policies of sitting officials and of the proposed platforms of those running for office.

The US Congressional elections of November 2006 demonstrated how voters can use elections to throw out those associated with an administration responsible not only for the US debacle in Iraq but also for such current US economic woes as the weakening of the dollar. They ended Republican Party dominance of Congress to demonstrate their displeasure. But the US Democratic Party also regained control of the US Congress on the crest of the US electorate’s hopes that the Democrats can find a way out of the Iraq and economic quagmires George W. Bush and the Republicans led the US into. Continue reading

Small mercies

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We’ve all heard it before, and we’re hearing it again. Philippine elections are popularity contests in which issues don’t matter. The political parties are no more than bands of opportunists who have come together out of pure self-interest. And they stand for nothing, whereas they should be united by programs based on common ideologies.

This is not entirely accurate. Philippine political parties may not have ideologies, but they do have an ideology. It’s the ideology of the wealthy and the powerful, of those who benefit the most from the way things are. Continue reading

Still their master’s voice

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Rapist Daniel Smith isn’t back in US custody in exchange for a few obsolete helicopters from the United States and the resumption of the Balikatan military exercises. The Arroyo regime surrendered jurisdiction over the US Marine for the bigger cause of its political survival.

One can read that concern between the lines of the statements of Mrs. Arroyo’s subalterns. Raul Gonzalez declared, for example, that by returning Smith to US custody the Philippine government showed the US that “it complies with its international commitments and agreements,” while the Department of Foreign Affairs declared that the decision had saved US-Philippines relations. Mrs. Arroyo’s House of Representatives allies, on the other hand, chorused that she did right because the Philippines needs US military and economic aid. Continue reading

Their master’s voice

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Like most deeds foul, it was done under cover of darkness, and on a Friday too, with “traffic” as an excuse. But the real reason was clear enough even for the blind: the perpetrator–the “perp” as US police agencies would put it– knew it couldn’t be defended in the light of day, whether before public opinion or in court.

A court order was already in place–in fact two court orders. One was Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon’s, which committed US Marine Daniel Smith to the Makati City Jail after his conviction and sentencing for rape. Continue reading