Dancing in the streets

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It’s called wishful thinking: interpreting events according to how one wants things to turn out, imagining the imminent realization of one’s hopes in the statements of the presumably knowledgeable as well as those with the power to make things happen.

It’s the recourse of the desperate. And these are desperate times indeed, reminiscent of the prelude to the Marcos declaration of martial law in 1972. As the bombings in Mindanao continue — and as the fear- peddlers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police make sure that Filipinos get their message of dread by warning them that the bombings could “spill over” into Manila — more and more Filipinos are being convinced that a declaration of either a state of emergency or martial law is only a matter of time. It’s been in the Arroyo regime list of options to keep itself in power, only the most naïve believing that she and hers will meekly step down in 2010.

As the regime plays out the terror script it has devised, it’s easy to believe that nothing can stop it. Public opinion and outrage mean nothing to it. No principle guides it except self-aggrandizement. It recognizes no check on its power, with much of Congress in its pocket and the Supreme Court dominated by Arroyo appointees.

Its henchmen mock the Constitution in practice while publicly proclaiming their loyalty to it. Privately they sneer at citizen efforts at transparency and accountability. Its spokespersons don’t even pretend to make any sense in 95 percent of the time. It’s backed by a police and military establishment noted for its brazen abuse of power and contempt for human rights.

It’s a juggernaut of deceit, cynicism, and hypocrisy. Its arrogance is based on the assumption that it can get away with anything because the people have either been cowed into submission or beaten into resignation by poverty and bad governance.

In the 1980s the Marcos regime too had seemed as impregnable, and in desperation some Filipinos had indulged in some wishful thinking of their own, imagining a scenario of United States intervention in behalf of the values it claims to stand for — democracy, human rights, liberty. Instead what they got were several more years of US support for the Marcos regime — support that ended only on the eve of his regime’s overthrow at EDSA — and even a statement lauding Marcos for his “adherence to democracy” from then US Vice President George F. (W’s father) Bush.

The same desperation has lately provoked among some observers virtually the same fantasies. Last week’s interview by reporters with the US Ambassador was the occasion for their latest manifestations.

Among the wilder conclusions some media commentators have drawn from her statements is that the US would intervene in behalf of free elections in 2010. And yet all that Ambassador Kristie Kenney had said — and only upon reporters’ prodding — was that yes, a postponement of the 2010 elections would be a cause for concern in Washington.

The US has of course intervened all over the planet. Over the last 60 years it has instigated and supported military coups against duly elected governments, installed and funded dictatorships, subverted movements for social change, and kept unpopular governments in power.

It has done so in furtherance of its strategic and economic interests — with, of course, “democracy, ” “human rights,” and “liberty” as cover. In the 1970s and up to the very eve of EDSA 1, it identified those interests with the Marcos regime, which was, after all, as anti-communist as it was anti-democratic.

But the country has no resources for multinational exploitation to push the US to intervene in behalf of the suffering multitude. The Philippines can’t equal the resources of Iraq, which has the second largest proven oil reserves in the world (115 billion barrels), or those of Vietnam, the bauxite reserves of which are considered among the world’s best but most undeveloped by the predators of Wall Street. Neither does the country have the same strategic value as Afghanistan, where US-based multinationals are laying an oil pipeline to access the oil fields of Central Asia.

In assuring control over resources and in furtherance of its strategic interests the US may incidentally remove hated regimes. It did in Iraq, but at the cost not only of national control over that country’s resources, but also of lives — 600,000 civilians since the US invasion in 2003, says the British medical journal Lancet — not to mention the loss of social services, and the non-existence of the barest amenities (electricity continues to be sporadically available in Baghdad, six years after the invasion).

Let’s not even talk of sovereignty, which the disciples of multinational, cross-border exploitation say is an outmoded concept in the age of globalized imperial plunder. A sovereign state, Iraq, where human civilization began 3000 years ago, was attacked in violation of international law, and its cities bombed, the artifacts of its ancient civilization destroyed or plundered, and its citizens, whether men, women or children, killed, while those suspected of resistance were imprisoned and tortured in US prisons. All this on the basis of the lie that Saddam Hussein had links with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden (he despised them both) and had weapons of mass destruction (he didn’t, but pretended to have them to keep Iran off balance).

The neo-conservative gang of former US Vice President Cheney predicted dancing in the streets once the US attacked Iraq. Whatever dancing there was in 2003, it has now been established, was stage managed. What was NOT staged managed was the dancing in the streets that indeed took place last June 26 — when US forces withdrew from Iraqi cities at the insistence of the Iraqi government they had installed, but which has had to bow to demands that it show some backbone in dealing with the US.

Iraqi jubilation over the US’ partial withdrawal reveals that far from being considered “liberators,” the US is rightly regarded as an invader and aggressor. The withdrawal of US forces from the cities is small consolation, however, for a society that’s in ruins, and where, as a result of the US intervention, violence and chaos continue to rule what was once a relatively stable, secular country whose problems Iraqis themselves could (and should) have sorted out without external interference and its horrible toll in lives, treasure, stability, development and peace.

The partisans of US intervention need to look not only at what happened in history, but also at what’s happening now. Be careful what you wish for.

(BusinessWorld)

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