Friday, June 18, 2010

'Erasing Iraq' — and the Philippine situation

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Recently, a book hit the press in New York describing what American award-winning journalist Dahr Jamail described as “a comprehensive overview of the situation in Iraq today, and the decades of US-backed policy it took to create this nightmare scenario.”

The book discusses in detail the physical, psychological, and cultural destruction of the invasion of the U.S. military in Iraq, known in the ancient times as Mesopotamia, once seat of ancient civilization.

Penned by award-winning freelance journalist and human rights consultant Michael Otterman and Richard Hil, with Paul Wilson, Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) is a poignant story of unheard voices of refugees, surviving Iraqis, and non-Iraqi eyewitnesses who continue to “wonder why many innocent endlessly suffer needlessly.”

The destruction in Iraq goes beyond the arrest and death of Saddam Hussein who was not very much loved by the majority of his own people, but is nestled in what Otterman and Hil suggest as the Iraqi sociocide.

An excerpt of the book says: “What has the US left behind in Iraq? Our interviews with Iraqis, along with the reporting of human rights organizations, bloggers and enterprising journalists, foretell an uncertain road ahead. Iraq’s women and children—always the most vulnerable in times of unrest - remain at risk, while Iraqi homosexuals and the country’s ethnic and religious minorities continue to face violent death in the new (Itals. provided) Iraq.

Furthermore, the decimated remains of Iraq’s rich cultural heritage—once safeguarded in museums, libraries, and secure archaeological sites—continue to be sold off abroad to the highest bidder. While the worst of the post-invasion violence seems to have subsided, a legacy of sociocide—the total assault upon Iraqi lives, culture and national identity—remains.”

The impact of these US-initiated destruction in the early years of the millennium may have been made immediately visible via destruction of roads, infrastructure, heightened social problems, which the authors cited to include “malnutrition, disease, and interrupted education” among Iraqi children who are to be the next generation of leaders in Iraq.

“Iraqi children are paying far too high a price,” UNICEF’s special representative for Iraq, Roger Wright is quoted by the authors.

The situation in this Asian country, or the picture and story vividly told by Otterman and Hil in Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) may not be too keenly interesting to Filipinos, especially Mindanaoans where a contingent of about five hundred are annually occupying certain areas (particularly Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Marawi City, Pagadian City, and Cotabato City), and a contingent of four to five thousands arrive on a special mission for the annual joint military exercise with the Philippine Armed Forces. After all, the Philippine mission is a different war.

The Philippines, being an ally, may probably not suffer an eventual societal erasure as Iraq may be going through. The intention and interests of the United States in Iraq may not be as serious as that in the Philippines. The book Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) suggests a never-ending raison d’etre, which could be a common denominator for Iraq and the Philippines, and this is the oily—the greasy---threads of terrorism.

The thrust of the US military is dubbed “winning hearts and minds one country at a time.”

This is in reference to a “service” program to local residents of whatever country the US is operating on, usually managed by the deployed Civil Affairs Team and Military Information Support Team.

An officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, requesting not to be named, elaborated, saying that these teams have been working their way around Mindanao, and employing the soft military strategy of low intensity warfare, covering overt and covert politico-military operations—hence, winning the battle of the minds and hearts vis-à-vis dole-outs, community services, grants, and the like.

The US military is waging this battle as well in Iraq and Afghanistan, post-invasion, and in a very subtle way, in the Philippines sans an invasion. It can be well-argued though that there is no need for the US to invade the Philippines because, since it took us from the bondage of a 300-year Spanish rule after a good buy at a measly $20 million, America has never left the Philippines.

The Philippine situation may not be as serious, but the Iraq scenario provides insights.

Erasing Iraq (The Human Costs of Carnage) is a good read, ushering enlightening though-far-from-novel truth from voices that have been unheard. In the stretch of its 248 pages, the authors deliver the message that the root of the conflict for world power is oil.

It is time that the Philippine Department of Energy, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines do more than the service they have afforded to the Filipino people.(Frencie L. Carreon)

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