Feb 4, 2002
At the end of January, the U.S. sent 600 soldiers to the Philippines to fight against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization. Abu Sayyaf means “Bearer of the Sword” in Arabic. The organization is supposedly connected to Osama bin Laden; in any case, it has a very similar history to bin Laden’s.
Abu Sayyaf was a group of Filipino Muslims who went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union in 1986. It too was financed by wealthy Saudis and is influenced by Wahabism, the ultra-conservative form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. And it too was originally put together by the American CIA. In May 2001, Philippines Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. described Abu Sayyaf as a “CIA monster.” He said its members were recruited by the CIA to fight in Afghanistan. The arms and funds came from the CIA, but the training was by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on various southern islands of the Philippines.
After the war in Afghanistan, Abu Sayyaf returned to the Philippines and was part of the Moro National Liberation Front, which it left in 1991. Many of its activities are on the southern island of Mindanao, which has only a fifth of the average income of the Philippines, which is quite low in itself. Abu Sayyaf recruits among the Muslim population of the southern islands.
Since 1991, Abu Sayyaf has been engaged in bombing, looting, burning, killing and kidnaping to raise money for its operations. They have kidnaped 32 foreigners, including five Americans, Europeans and Asians.
The Administration is undoubtedly trying to show that it is continuing “the war against terrorism,” to highlight Bush’s pronouncements in his State of the Union address. This is all the more so since a quick war in these southern islands of the Philippines – just like in Afghanistan – can be quickly declared a victory, regardless of what happens. Not like Iraq.
But in the most basic sense U.S. troops are in the Philippines for the same reason the U.S. has been there during the last hundred years, since the U.S. grabbed the colony from Spain. Today there are important U.S. corporations on the island. U.S. imperialism is there to defend both these corporate interests and U.S. domination of the Philippines and the surrounding areas.
Certainly their activities in no way defend the interests of the Philippine population, particularly its poorest layers, including among the Muslim population.
But the Bush Administration did not send troops to the Philippines to defend its people.