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THE PHILIPPINES: THE “FIRST IRAQ” (First of Two Parts)


 

“The U.S. military has invaded, occupied, and administered

only two countries in its history.  One is Iraq now, and the

other was the Philippines more than 100 years ago during

the period 1899 to 1913.  The Philippines was the ‘First Iraq’

in terms of regime change by the U.S...”  – FVR, January 2007

 

The Iraq war is now in its third edition with the militant jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) having succeeded in overcoming Mosul (Iraq’s 2nd largest City) and Tikrit (Saddam Hussein’s bailiwick), and, as of this writing, are advancing steadily upon Bagdhad from just 20 miles away. 

Most Americans have little knowledge of how the U.S. colonized the Philippines, soon after General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite on 12 June 1898.  In fact, some scholars still recall America's first adventure in imperialism (a.k.a. McKinley’s “Manifest Destiny”) at the close of the 19th century as just "the Philippine Insurrection" – oblivious to the historical fact that the long-drawn struggle was a war between two sovereign nations, with two sovereign armies fighting each other -- even if the Aguinaldo forces seemed so puny against American military might. 

If some of the lessons evolving from the Iraq Wars sound familiar to students of military history and our veterans of the Mindanao and Vietnam campaigns, this is because much the same experiences (read “costly lessons”) emerged from the Philippine-American War of 1899-1913. 

Forgotten Lessons Of History

Let us revisit our column entitled “U.S. In Iraq: Not Learning From The Philippine-American War 1899-1913” (Manila Bulletin, 28 January 2007) where FVR wrote:  “Today, the U.S. is heavily committed to a peace-keeping role, and a self-assigned mission to effect democratic regime change in IraqRegime change would have been easy enough, and that was done very quickly by U.S. military forces, supported by troops from the 'Coalition of the Willing.

“BUT DEMOCRATIC REGIME CHANGE IS SOMETHING ELSE -- MORE COMPLEX, DRAWN-OUT, AND COSTLY

“How do you emplace democracy in a country like Iraq?  We here in the Philippines went through that experience ourselves, and could speak with great authority on the struggle for independent nationhood characterized by freedom and democracyTo establish democratic institutions, educate people to be democratically-oriented, and develop a culture of democracy and the rule of law is very difficult – if the effort is coming from the outsideIt is most enduringly established if it is coming from among the people themselves,”(from FVR interview with Marites Vitug published in Newsweek, 22 January 2007).

From hindsight, it would seem that the costly U.S. experiences in the subjugation of the Philippines and of Iraq in 2003 have many aspects in common.  For instance:

(1)U.S. policy planners and military commanders did not foresee, much less plan for, the onset of insurgency and guerrilla warfare as the logical aftermath of the occupation of a foreign country.

(2)Military strength was inadequate, particularly where the U.S. Armed Forces themselves had to provide the local population their basic needs of food, water, shelter, power, health, sanitation, and security in occupied enclaves in the absence of local capabilities to furnish the same.

(3)The collection of firearms, explosives and other lethal weapons was not undertaken early enough, neither done thoroughly on a nation-wide scale to guard against lawlessness and anti-government resistance.

(4)Inadequate social and cultural orientation of the occupation troops who were being exposed to a completely strange foreign environment for the first time.

(5)INCORRECT OR FAULTY ASSESSMENT BY THE AMERICAN AUTHORITIES OF THE ENORMITY AND DURATION OF THE MILITARY CAMPAIGNS – PARTICULARLY FINANCIAL, LOGISTICS AND HUMAN RESOURCES – OF EFFECTING ENDURING DEMOCRATIC REGIME CHANGE IN TERMS OF UNIVERSAL EDUCATION, SOCIO-ECONOMIC INSTITUTIONS, GOOD GOVERNANCE AND THE RULE OF LAW.”

U.S. Counter-Insurgency Warfare Concepts

It will be recalled that Iraq War II stemmed from the angry reactions of the U.S. public after the devastating 9-11 Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.  That Second Iraq War expanded to the war in Afghanistan soon thereafter, thereby over-burdening America’s military capabilities and taxpayers when the U.S. economy was floundering. 

According to Newsweek:  “Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran who had been critical of the handling of the 2003 Iraq War, described the efforts of President George W. Bush in January 2007 to increase the U.S. military commitment in Iraq by a ‘surge’ of 21,500 soldiers as ‘a dangerous foreign policy blunder.’  Even Democrat Senator Russ Feingold called the Bush Administration’s expanded involvement in the volatile and murky Muslim environment as ‘quite possibly the greatest foreign policy mistake in the history of our nation.’ 

“The new commander designated to lead the Coalition Forces in Iraq, LtGen David Petraeus, former Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division, has earnestly cautioned the troops, senior commanders, and civilian planners that:  ‘In counter-insurgency warfare, Mistake No. 1 is over-emphasizing killing your enemy rather than securing and engaging the populace.’ 

“This dictum is now contained in the U.S. Army's latest field manual (FM 3-24) on countering insurgency, the writing of which Petraeus himself supervised, and which is largely derived from his Princeton University doctoral thesis on the lessons of the Vietnam War.  General Petraeus, a West Point graduate, is credited with instructing his paratroopers to interact amicably with civilians and to tell each homeowner,THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING US TO SEARCH YOUR HOME.’”

Fast-forward to June 2014.  We find that extremist militants have overrun Mosul, the country’s second-largest city.  As many as half a million civilians have fled their homes to escape the violence, and the unexpected, shocking Islamic blitzkrieg has exposed the weaknesses of the Iraqi Government’s ability to maintain security and govern capably.

The New Jihadists:  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

What’s happening in the northern part of Iraq today doesn’t augur well for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s administration.  It calls into question whether he has real control over his country, after the great bulk of U.S. Forces remanded security responsibilities to the local military and law enforcement agencies who had been American-trained. 

The devastating militant Islamist advance, which had been building up for some time, is providing object lessons of much that is wrong in Iraq and the Middle East – especially growing sectarian tensions at home and a festering civil war beyond its border with Syria. 

According to CNN last 13 June:  “Militants seized Mosul’s airport on 09 June, plus its TV stations, the provincial jails, and the Governor’s officeThey freed up to 1,000 prisoners.  Police and soldiers ran from their posts rather than put up a fight, abandoning their weapons as they wentThe militants took their places in the city’s boulevards and buildings.  There was no presence of any government forces on the streets, the majority of their posts destroyed and manned by Islamist militants.”

The extremists apparently can strike swiftly and effectively against Iraq’s American-trained security forces, and are seeking to extend their influence countrywide.  The new jihadists are part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, (or ISIS, believed to be an Al-Qaedasplinter group).  Allegedly, they want to establish an Islamic caliphate, or state, stretching across the region. 

THE ISIS HAS BECOME THE SINGLE MOST DANGEROUS, DESTABILIZING RADICAL GROUP IN THE REGION.  The group is also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)Its members include Europeans as well as Chechens, Turks and many fighters from other Arab countries, some attracted by the conflict in Syria.

In the past months, they’ve wrested control of Iraqi cities like Falluja and parts of Ramadi from authorities, just as they’ve done with Syrian towns across the border.  Already, they’re threatening Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Salaheddine province which is between Mosul and Baghdad.

Overall Implications

ISIS/ISIL grew out of al-Qaedain Iraq. In 2006, its commander – the bloodthirsty Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – was killed in a U.S. strike.  In the years afterward, with American help, Iraqi militias put the Al-Qaedaupstart on the defensive.

But, when U.S. troops departed, the extremist militants found new leadership, went to Syria, grew stronger and returned to Iraq, making many military gains in the ethnically-fragmented nation.

Now ISIS has won footholds in both Iraq and Syria, and is blamed for destabilizing both.

According to the United Nations, last year was Iraq’s most violent in five years, with more than 8,800 people killed, most of them civilians.

This year, about half a million Iraqi people have already been displaced from their homes because of fighting between the same extremist groups and government forces.

SUMMING UP

ALREADY, THERE ARE REPORTS OF ESCALATING OIL PRICES EVERYWHERE – THE PHILIPPINES INCLUDED – BECAUSE OF ISIS INCURSIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA.  AND THERE IS THE GROWING UNIVERSAL CALL FOR THE GENUINE UNIFICATION OF IRAQ’S SHI-ITE, SUNNI AND KURDISTAN TRIBES AND THEIR LEADERS.

DOESN’T THAT SOUND LIKE THE CLAMOR FOR LASTING PEACE AMONG THE WARRING FACTIONS IN MINDANAO???

Abangan – Part II.

Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org.Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.

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