Still, tough | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

Still, tough

/ 11:23 PM October 26, 2011

I remember how it was in the aftermath of 9/11. Filipinos were far more furious than Americans over it and would not hear of any protest against America’s vow to rain death and destruction on those who wreaked it. The emotional cloud was so thick you could slice through it, made all the thicker by images of the Twin Towers in New York collapsing like a set from Godzilla repeatedly flashed on TV.

I know that because I was one of those who protested the American response to it, which was to unleash a war against “global terrorism” without first looking at the mirror, and got the most violent reactions to it. Showing me that Filipinos can be more pro-American than Americans themselves.


It wasn’t until a couple of years later that the emotional cloud dissipated. By then the Americans had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq for reasons known only to Dubya and cohorts. A response that brought untold suffering not just on the Afghans and Iraqis but also on the Americans themselves who were cocooned in a culture of paranoia with Homeland Security serving like an Orwellian Big Brother.

In the end, all it took to put a closure to 9/11 was a Navy SEALS unit that stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and killed him.


That is what I see in the knee-jerk, blast ’em to hell paean to bloodlust surrounding us today.

We are thankful that the emotional cloud is not as thick as it was in post-9/11, though it is thick enough as it is. And understandably so: The spectacle of a score or so of soldiers killed by their enemies, some of them beheaded, some of them barely past their training, is one to stoke the fires of fury. Particularly of the generals whose men these were.

But it’s not just them, it’s the public too. The fires have spread far and wide, fanned no end by the media, particularly AM radio, with its barrage of incendiary comments. Not least that all those who do not want to raise their battle axes in the air shouting death to their enemies are cowards. As with post-9/11, the public is ready to go to war, even if that is only by proxy. Even if that is only to be carried out by others, even if that is only to be carried out far from home and hearth.

But at least today, the voices of sobriety have not been drowned out. In fact they are resonating as powerfully as the calls for all-out war. The position this newspaper has taken, as seen in its editorial last Tuesday, is particularly heartwarming in this respect. Even more so is the position taken by government.

What happened after 9/11 forcefully shows the pitfalls or perils of an all-out war against the MILF.

At the very least, knee-jerk, spontaneous, unthinking responses such as this are always prone to being hijacked by powerful selfish, calculating and completely unscrupulous groups in society. The American response to 9/11 was so, which became patent after the United States invaded Iraq, as rational a way to punish the attackers of the Twin Towers as it is to drown the whole of Mindanao in blood to punish the killers of the soldiers in Basilan. It was in fact the American Right that pounced on 9/11 to pursue an agenda all its own.

The same will be true here, unless we stop the madness. An all-out war will not strengthen the Republic, it will strengthen the elements that have repeatedly screwed the Republic. The warmongers in the military who have been party to uprisings and attempted coups, and during Marcos’ time to propping up a dictatorship. The carpetbaggers who have been casting a moist eye on ARMM, they feed on war the way maggots feast on carcasses.


At the very most, a response such as this will not punish the guilty, it will punish the innocent. America’s response to 9/11 punished everyone except the people who wrought 9/11. An all-out war against the MILF will not punish the MILF, it will punish the Muslims in ARMM, the Christians in the rest of Mindanao, even the residents of Metro Manila when bombs begin bursting in their midst. I’ll agree to an all-out war only when I see the generals and senators and commentators loudly calling for it volunteering for the frontlines and not just shouting “Nasa likod n’yo ako!” Easy to talk, not so easy to die.

And in the end, what for? The world did not become safer with the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it became more dangerous. It did not end global terrorism, it strengthened it. An all-out war against the MILF won’t integrate the nation more, it will dis-integrate the nation more. It will not end the problem of secessionism, it will intensify it.

I applaud P-Noy vigorously for not allowing himself to be carried away by the war drums, for having the courage to refuse to join the noisy saber-rattling. He has been called a coward by his enemies, but talk is cheap. Where are the Filipinos today who cheered lustily while America tried to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq back to the Stone Age? Gloria was chief of them but turned tail and ran, or swiftly recalled our tiny contingent in Iraq, after an OFW was threatened with beheading. Which had everyone from David Letterman to Jay Leno cracking jokes about Pinoy bravery.

But far more than that, courage at its core has never been external, it has always been internal. It has never been feral, it has always been moral. It has never been macho, it has always been mucho. It takes a lot more courage to stand up for principle than to stand up against a knife-wielding assailant in a drunken spree. It takes a lot more courage to stick to the righteous path than to shout the loudest in a mob. It’s P-Noy’s very stance today that shows he is not a wimp; his enemies are merely soft in the head. It’s P-Noy’s very stance today that shows that after Erap and Gloria we finally have a president who is what they never were, really, truly, genuinely:


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TAGS: 9/11, AFP, all-out war, MILF, P-Noy, President Benigno Aquino III
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