By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples' Struggle
Cebu City, December 9-10, 2006
Let me congratulate all the cooperating organizations for successfully organizing this conference. I am deeply pleased that the International League of Peoples' Struggle is part of the joint initiative, with the Asia-Pacific Research Network, Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants, Asian Students Association, ARENA-New Zealand, Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and the Peace for Life Network.
Thank you for inviting me to be the keynote speaker. I feel privileged and highly honored to express my views to all of you who are present as representatives of people's organizations, grassroots movements, the academe and other institutions and who seek to confront and tackle the problem of US militarism and the so-called war on terror, which is actually the US war of terror.
The conference must strive to achieve its three objectives:
1. to raise the level of awareness and understanding of the current US war of terror in the context of long-running US imperialism and militarism and how this war is being used to aggrandize US economic and political interests in the region;
2. to address specific urgent issues relating to the US military bases, militarism and human rights in order to be well grounded in responding to the needs and demands of the people; and
3. to develop a platform for cooperation and sustained networking for carrying out an Asian regional campaign against the US war of terror and escalating militarism and work for the realization of the full range of human rights.
I. US War of Terror, Militarism, Economic and Political Interests
Militarism and expansionism characterized the US as a global imperialist power at the turn of the 20th century. The US reached across the Pacific and turned the Philippines into its colony and military outpost in Asia. It emerged from the Second World War the strongest and most prosperous industrial capitalist country, while the economies of its European allies as well as their former adversaries Germany, Italy and Japan (the Axis powers) were devastated. It headed the alliance of imperialist powers in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and East European countries, China, North Korea, Mongolia the Indochinese countries (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) and Cuba.
The restoration of capitalism through modern revisionism in the Soviet Union and East European countries from 1956 onwards and the anti-Left coup in China in 1976 led to the expansion of the world capitalist market into the erstwhile socialist economies. But this has contributed to, rather than prevented, the aggravation of the chronic crisis of overproduction that continues to afflict the entire world capitalist system since the 1970s. US president Reagan and and UK prime minister Thatcher led the US and Britain, and subsequently the global economy, from Keynesianism to the neoliberal policies of deregulation, liberalization, privatization and de-nationalization to further exploit the weaker economies and squeeze the toiling peoples dry in order to aggrandize the monopoly bourgeoisie and accelerate the concentration and centralization of capital in its hands.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and East European regimes in 1989-91 led to the undisguised restoration of capitalism and the rapid integration of the erstwhile Comecon countries into the world capitalist system under the banner of "neoliberal globalization". China also stepped up capitalist restoration. The promise of progress, prosperity and peace flowing into the so-called newly-emergent markets and developing countries as a result of "globalization" were proven false. Russia and the East European countries underwent further economic and social degradation. East Asia succumbed to a financial and economic crisis in 1997. Japan and Europe fell into recession in succession, followed by the US in 2000.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc left the US as the sole and unchallenged imperialist superpower. Gone was the spectre of "communism" and "totalitarianism" which the US had invoked to justify massive military spending, costly military research and production, the permanent deployment of US military forces all over the world, military intervention and wars of aggression. The neoconservatives in the US, representing the interests of big business, especially the military industrial complex and the oil giants, drew up a blueprint to expand and consolidate US global hegemony, to combat and defeat "rogue states" and prevent at all cost the rise of any rival in the world or in any global region in order to ensure US global supremacy for the entire 21st century.
Historically, the US has used war as means to counter economic slowdown and stagnation, reviving the sluggish economy even if only temporarily by spurring military production and drawing immense profits for the military contractors. The neoconservatives offered the blueprint "Project New American Century (PNAC)" as the solution in the short, medium and long term. But the PNAC was regarded by most US policy-makers as too arrogantly presumptive, reckless and expensive for the American public and Congress and thus remained on ice until Bush came to power and 9/11 occurred. Previously, not even the successful Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and military intervention in the Balkans in most of the 1990s could whet the neoconservatives' appetite for large-scale and prolonged military actions (using the full spectrum of US power, chiefly its high-tech weapons) to seize and control strategic territory and resources.
The 9/11 bombings instantly reversed the disposition of the US, particularly the temper of bipartisan consensus, as the Bush regime conjured and hyped the "global terrorist" menace and persuaded the American public. The US Congress was swayed to support a worldwide, borderless, permanent and preemptive "war against terrorism". The initial targets of invasion and occupation would provide the US with access to and control of strategic resources, vital supply lines and strategic forward positions for military aggression. The US has long coveted Afghanistan for access to and control of the rich sources of oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian region and Central Asia and for securing a foothold on the western flank of China. It has even more coveted Iraq for its huge oil reserves next only to Saudi Arabia, which has the largest but of a quality inferior to Iraqi oil. Iraq has the added advantage of being centrally located, suitable for building US military bases and controlling the sources of oil in the Middle East.
Soon after launching its war of aggression against Afghanistan in October 2001, the US in January 2002 declared Southeast Asia as the "second front in the war against terrorism" and drastically increased its forward presence in the Philippines under the guise of "joint military training exercises" purportedly to enhance cooperation and interoperability in operations against the small bandit group Abu Sayyaf. But the US is really interested in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, because of the region's rich oil, natural gas and other mineral resources, strategic basing locations, and sealanes through which half of US and non-US world merchandise trade pass.
The US military budget has shot up from a steady USD 350 billion in the years before 9/11 to nearly USD 500 billion in 2006, or nearly half of the entire US annual budget. Actual military expenditures are even more, exceeding 50% of the total budget, since many items are hidden under apparently non-military items. The budget outlays for the Department of Defense (DOD), for example, do not include the expenses for prosecuting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, part of which is listed as "supplemental expenses" and run up to more than USD 100 billion.
A large part of the additional expenses for FY 2006 and 2007 will go to expanding the US Special Forces by 15% or 66,000 troops, upgrading the weaponry of the Army, and developing new fighter jets, battleships, the star wars anti-missile defense system and other weapons systems. The Special Forces are the designated principal and core combat force for the overseas "war on terror", for training foreign forces, and carrying out covert intelligence and non-conventional operations, including abductions and assassinations. The types of weaponry and armaments being developed are reportedly directed mainly at a possible conflict with China. In the meantime, the development of such weaponry and armaments is calculated to pressure China and induce it to fall in line with the US.
Some observers note that some military expenditures, including the development of new weapons systems, have little to do with the "war on terror" and are obviously intended to boost the military industrial complex, which appears to have won out in the tug-of-war for funding against some Pentagon officials who favor an increase in army troops to remedy the overstretching of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The combination of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld has gone for putting more money into military production, acquisition of equipment and even privatization of functions in the military.
The US considers Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand as its closest and most reliable allies in the region. Australia hosts a US satellite spy base and provides military training for other US allies in the area. The US is setting up land and ship-based "Star Wars" missile defense systems in Australia with the cooperation of the Australian government. The Philippine and Singapore governments have military agreements with the US and have been willing and eager accomplices in the "war on terror".
The military agreements and arrangements between the US and the Philippines include the Military Assistance Agreement, the Mutual Defense Agreement, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement. The Philippine reactionary government immediately declared full support for the US "war on terror" shortly after 9/11, offering Philippine troops, medical personnel, contract workers, and opening its airspace and the use of Philippine territory and facilities as refuelling stations, storage, prepositioning and staging areas for US troops. Singapore also has an access and servicing agreement with the US for use of its seaports.
US troops conduct joint military training exercises, "counter-narcotics", "counter-terrorist" as well as "humanitarian" operations (civic-military, disaster, anti-epidemic, de-mining and rescue operations) as a pretext for forward-deployment and pre-stationing of its troops in critical and strategic areas all over the world. In East Asia and Oceania, US Special Forces, mostly based in Japan and Korea, regularly conduct these operations on a year-round basis in the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The US also conducts joint naval exercises with Australia for enhancing cooperation and interoperability.
US military presence in the Asia-Pacific serves as a coercive and intimidating sword hanging over the governments and peoples of the region, allowing US and other foreign multinationals to dictate policies and exploit and plunder the region's natural and human resources. Military and economic grants and loans are depicted by puppet regimes like that of Arroyo as sweet aid but in fact are used to poison and subvert the political and economic sovereignty of the people and impose anti-national and anti-democratic policies on the reactionary governments.
II. Urgent Issues Relating to US Military Bases, Militarism and Human Rights
US military bases serve to protect and promote the ultra-national economic, political and other interests of US imperialism and are strategically directed against the political and economic sovereignty of countries in the region. It is through military force that the US has been able to serve and expand the interests of US monopoly capitalism in the recurrent struggles for a redivision of the world among the imperialist powers. US imperialism is inherently aggressive and its aggressiveness serves the purpose of expanding economic territory and political hegemony and prevailing in the competition with other imperialist powers.
US imperialism uses all kinds of justifications and subterfuges in order to build its military might and deploy its military forces abroad. Its loudest justification for many decades since the end of World War II was anti-communism and such related euphemisms as defense of freedom, democracy, peace and security. Now, the latest big justification is anti-terrorism. The imperialists and their puppets are in fact the biggest real terrorists who use state power to kill the people in large numbers. But they magnify al Qaeda and other fringe groups beyond their criminal character, capabilities and proportions to justify the worst forms of terrorism, which are wars of aggression and state repression. There are still other justifications but these are consistently related to maintaining and promoting the interests of monopoly capitalism.
The US Pacific Command (USPACOM) is the largest geographical unified command in the US armed forces, stretching from the west coast of the Americas all the way across the Pacific to the East Asia littoral to the Indian Ocean and the east coast of Africa, from the Arctic to Australia and New Zealand to Antarctica. USPACOM maintains 100,000 troops in the Asia-Pacific. Around 37,000 are based in South Korea while 43,000 are based in Japan. These forces are depicted by the US as serving to protect Taiwan and South Korea from the threat of invasion and takeover by China and the DPRK, respectively.
But the large US military presence in East Asia and the Pacific and the "war on terror" are directed at intimidating China and the DPRK as well as discouraging nations and peoples from asserting national independence and sovereignty. The DPRK has long been demonized as part of the "axis of evil", blockaded, and threatened with further sanctions and even with outright aggression if it continues to defy US warnings and develop its own nuclear weapons. But the DPRK has tested its nuclear capability despite US warnings and asserted its right to defend itself from superpower aggression. China has been named by the US as the world power most capable of challenging US hegemony and supremacy within 20 years, a possibility that the US has declared it will never allow.
In the Philippines and some other countries in the region, the US controls and influences the local military forces through indoctrination and training, military supplies, intelligence exchange and war exercises. It uses the local military forces as a surrogate armed force not only to fight the revolutionary forces but also to ensure that the local government toes the US line and protects US interests in the country. We have seen puppet regimes, like those of Marcos and Suharto, propped up by the US with economic and military support and then later dropped through maneuvers in collaboration with US-trained military officers.
To protect the interests of the US, British and Dutch oil companies, the US used military and economic aid to support and embolden Suharto and his clique of generals to act against Sukarno and massacre 1.5 million people in the name of anti-communism. But at a much later time, the US would use US-trained Indonesian Special Forces to depose Suharto, after having become a liability to imperialist interests. Like all the rest of so-called US allies, Japan is an object of US dual policy. The US depicts its military bases and forces in Japan as protective of Japan and extracts an annual USD 6 billion payment from Japan. At the same time, the US claims that the same US military bases and forces are there to protect other countries, particularly those in the Asia Pacific region, from the danger of resurgent nationalism and militarism in Japan.
US policy on military or security matters are implemented in collaboration with puppet and partner governments in various regions and has resulted in horrible consequences to the people. The "war on terror" has spurred a rise in human rights violations by US troops and by local state security forces as governments intensify and escalate military and police operations against revolutionary and opposition forces, including those engaged in open and legal democratic struggle. Human rights violations, including murder and rape, continue to be perpetrated by US troops with impunity in East Asian countries where they are based or deployed.
The "war on terror" has given the Arroyo regime an excuse for escalating repressive measures in order to suppress the widespread clamor and actions of the people for its ouster on the grounds of puppetry, corruption, electoral fraud, and culpability for gross violations of human rights. The Bush and Arroyo governments have been pushing Congress to pass anti-terrorist legislation to proscribe patriotic and progressive organizations and leaders, to allow warrantless arrests, detention and seizure of properties, to suppress the freedom of speech and assembly and to allow rampant surveillance, harassment and intimidation. But even without such legislation, the military and police have gone on a rampage of killing, abducting, torturing, massacring innocent people, forcing people to evacuate and committing other atrocities with impunity.
In such notorious places like Fort Bragg and the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the US has systematically trained military officers of puppet governments in the doctrine of low intensify conflict and in dirty tricks, including psychological warfare and methods of abduction, assassination and torture. Indonesian, Philippine and Thai security (military and police) forces have also been trained by US Special Forces, Drugs Enforcement Administration and FBI agents to violate human rights and fundamental freedoms in the name of anti-terrorism and other pretexts.
Under the direction and influence of the US Military Commissions Act of 2006, the US and its puppets are bound to violate civil and political rights with impunity on a wider scale than before on the road of state terrorism and fascism. The law negates the right to habeas corpus, prevents prompt access to the civil courts, lawyers of choice and evidence, attacks the confidentiality of lawyer-client relations and allows unlimited surveillance, warrantless arrests, arbitrary seizures of property, indefinite detention and the use of torture. Starting with the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the US has pushed its allied as well as puppet governments to adopt so-called anti-terrorism laws. These have established the global legal infrastrucrture for naked state terrorism and fascism.
The US thinly disguises its real intent in the "war on terror", which is to go after and suppress national liberation movements, anti-imperialist forces and leaders and governments assertive of national independence. Before conducting "joint military training exercises" in the Philippines in 2002, US and Philippine officials boasted that after the Abu Sayyaf, they would go after the New People's Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They have persistently attempted to link the Abu Sayyaf and MILF, as well as the MILF with the NPA in order to conjure the illusion of a chain of "terrorist" cooperation among them.
The US has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NPA and the NDFP Chief Political consultant as "terrorists", and has pressured other governments to do likewise since 2002. The Arroyo government has subsequently suspended formal talks with the NDFP and used the "terrorist" tag and the threat of intensifying US-backed military offensives in order to coerce the NDFP to capitulate through a one-sided "formal peace accord" (a document of surrender) written by the Arroyo government.
Since the first post-9/11 "joint military exercise", the Arroyo government has declared "all out war" against the CPP-NPA-NDFP and has deployed the Philippine Army light infantry companies trained by the US Special Forces in Basilan and elsewhere to the NPA-controlled areas. Half of the USD 55 million aid for counterterrorism was allotted to offensive operations against the NPA. Joint US-RP military exercises were subsequently held in and around NPA-controlled areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The US war of terror and the subservience of the Arroyo regime have sabotaged the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and have escalated the armed counterrevolution against the Filipino people. In directing the Arroyo regime to carry out an all-out war policy, the US aims to increase its military intervention in the Philippines, deploy US troops, build military facilities and pave the way for the return of US military bases.
III. Cooperation and Networking for Campaigns
There is a need for us to wage a region-wide campaign for the abrogation of military and security agreements and arrangements with the US, and for the dismantling of US military bases in the region. We must encourage the people to struggle against US militarism and terrorism, especially in countries where US military power is deeply entrenched. In this way the nations and peoples of East Asia and Oceania attain genuine independence, uphold their national and economic sovereignty, and build a truly free, democratic, prosperous and peaceful region.
The decision to launch a regional campaign to dismantle the US bases in the East Asia and Oceania region is quite timely and deserves our unanimous agreement and concerted efforts. There are robust and vibrant anti-bases formations and movements in countries where there are US bases, stations, facilities, advisors and trainors and other forms of military presence, especially in Japan and South Korea, Australia, Philippines and Indonesia. There is the Asia-Wide Campaign against US bases. We should strive to cooperate and coordinate with these formations and movements and help to expand, strengthen and further activate them. We can also establish new formations and movements where possible and necessary.
The US and other imperialist powers, the militarists and the local fascist reactionaries are the real terrorists, by the correct definition of terrorism as organized violence solely or mainly against the people or civilian population. We must launch a campaign to expose and oppose their use of superior military and economic power to coerce the nations and peoples of East Asia and Oceania into following the US imperialist and terrorist agenda, disguised as a "war on terror" for maintaining regional stability and security.
We should wage regional mass campaigns or other forms of coordinated efforts for defending civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The defense of civil and political rights is closely linked with the campaign to expose and oppose US militarism and the "war on terror", which have become the main prod to the attacks on civil and political rights. This involves exposing and opposing the repressive measures masquerading as "anti-terrorism" and "counterterrorism".
We must strengthen our resolve and strive to reverse and eradicate the evil consequences of the US war of terror in the form of bilateral and multilateral agreements to allow unbridled US aggression and other extraterritorial acts, the policy of state terrorism, fascist legislation and actual bloody campaigns to violate human rights like Oplan Bantay Laya. Otherwise US militarism and terrorism in collaboration with the local regimes and ultra-reactionaries in the region will continue to violate human rights in a comprehensive way and inflict terrible suffering on the people.
The campaign to defend the people's social, economic and cultural rights requires exposing US militarism and the "war on terror" as means for imposing US hegemony over the region, controlling and using strategic resources for its own interest and to the detriment of the peoples of the region. Superior US military power is being employed to promote and facilitate "neoliberal globalization" in the region, so that US monopoly capital can more freely enter the local economies and intensify the exploitation and oppression of the region's peoples.
In all of these campaigns, we need to broaden our knowledge and deepen our understanding of the operations and dynamics of US militarism and "war on terror" in particular countries and in the entire region. We must pay close attention to the impact of US militarism and terrorism on the civil, political, social, economic and cultural lives of the peoples. The various study commissions of the ILPS can contribute significantly to these studies, as the member organizations serve to arouse and mobilize the broad masses of people against US militarism and the "war on terror".
The networks of ILPS, APRN, Peace for Life, APMM, ARENA-New Zealand, APWLD and ASA are sufficiently broad to be able to undertake these campaigns. Good coordination and cooperation will certainly enhance the capabilities of each network as well as the whole. The campaigns can also serve to expand and strengthen each network as it arouses, organizes and mobilizes the people against US militarism and the "war on terror" and along the specific issues to which these are linked.
Internationally, the situation is excellent for launching and carrying out these campaigns. The Bush government faces continuing isolation daily as its global "war on terror", especially the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, are exposed as naked acts of imperialist aggression, and as the valiant resistance of the Afghan and Iraqi people frustrate and defeat the lone superpower's arrogance, rapacity and brutality.
The American people have expressed their unequivocal disapproval of the war in the Middle East and Central Asia, handing over both houses of Congress to the opposition Democrats. The neo-conservatives are in decline and disarray in US policy-making bodies on foreign policy and security. The US government is faced with a sluggish economy and with the threat of another round of recession in the coming year. US imperialism has no solution to its economic and political crisis, and no plan for extracting itself from the Iraqi and Afghan quagmires. The longer it stays in these quagmires the bigger losses it incurs. The so-called realists among US policy-makers are finding grave difficulties seeking a way out of Iraq and upholding US imperialist interests..
The peoples of East Asia and Oceania will certainly join and support the campaigns against US militarism and its war of terror as these will complement and enhance their own struggles for national liberation and social emancipation. The anti-imperialist and democratic movement of the peoples is gaining ground and intensity. The peoples' struggles worldwide will steadily and surely advance to isolate, weaken and eventually defeat US imperialism and other imperialists the world over. ###