US Exploits Humanitarian Suffering in Philippines to Win More Military Bases

31st MEU assesses remote sites with Osprey, delivers help

Catherine Traywick at Foreign Policy explains how the U.S. government and the (U.S.-backed) Philippines government exploited the U.S. military’s disaster response to the recent typhoon in order to justify more U.S. troops to be stationed at more U.S. bases in the Philippines.

Officials from both nations quickly framed the catastrophe as a justification for a broader U.S. military presence in the Philippines. Two weeks after Haiyan made landfall, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the disaster “demonstrated” the need for U.S. troops in the Philippines. Shortly after that, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg argued that Haiyan underscored his top priority: to deepen the military relationship between countries. That argument riled some Filipino legislators. One leftist political advocacy group decried it “disaster opportunism at its finest.”

U.S. troops already have a small but significant footprint in the Philippines. U.S. special forces have spent the past 12 years in the southern part of the country to help Philippine troops carry out counterrorism missions against Abu Sayyaf and elements of Jemaah Islamiyah, two Islamic terrorist groups with links to al Qaeda. U.S. troops also participate in frequent military exercises with the Philippine military. Since President Barack Obama announced his so-called “pivot to Asia,” however, the United States has been pushing for greater access to Philippine bases and the right to build exclusive facilities on them — a politically contentious issue that caused negotiations to fall apart last October.

Traywick notes the issue of more U.S. troops is “a sensitive one”: “The Philippine legislature ousted U.S. forces from the country in 1991 over issues of national sovereignty and the public’s perception that American troops were above the law, after allegations of rape and the human rights abuses made national headlines.”

I wrote about this cynical effort to win more basing rights back in November, noting specifically why the history of U.S. interventionism in the Philippines makes many Filipinos justifiably wary of welcoming U.S. troops back:

The fact that Filipinos hesitate to welcome the U.S. back onto permanent bases, after kicking us out at the end of the Cold War, should not be belittled. The 1899-1902 U.S. war and occupation of the Philippines was a vicious colonial experiment waged for cynical geopolitical interests. Inclusive estimates that account for excess deaths related to the war say there were as many as 1 million casualties. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were locked up in concentration camps, where poor conditions and disease killed thousands.

The account of U.S. Corporal Sam Gillis provides a vivid insight into what the occupation was like: “We make everyone get into his house by seven p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses we shoot him. We killed over 300 natives the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from the house we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives, so they are pretty quiet in town now.”

Just as the U.S. is now trying to cloak their interventionism in the guise of humanitarian causes, the 1899 intervention was of course described in the loveliest of terms. The leader of the nationalist movement in the Philippines who declared independence from the Spanish, Emilio Aguinaldo, received a letter from U.S. General Thomas Anderson that read,” General Anderson wishes you to inform your people that we are here for their good…”

President William McKinley insisted the U.S. was just trying to liberate the Philippines: “No imperial designs lurk in the American mind,” he said, but it was “not a good time for the liberator to submit important questions concerning liberty and government to the liberated while they are engaged in shooting down their rescuers.”

The legacy of that imperial war persisted over the decades until the U.S. was finally kicked out of the Philippines in the early 1990?s. The only reason the U.S. is interested in increasing military presence in the Philippines is to threaten and thus contain China. Never mind the fact that China doesn’t actually pose a threat to Americans.

It should go without saying that it is unacceptable for the U.S. to cynically use the quick military relief operations response to “lubricate” a deal that benefits U.S. foreign policy interests.

Read the whole thing.

33 thoughts on “US Exploits Humanitarian Suffering in Philippines to Win More Military Bases”

  1. you let the americans open a base in your country you never get rid of them after,they will try to take over your country,kill your people,steal,murder and make you a slave,do nought let USAID in your country,they work for the terrorist government of the USA

    1. That's exactly what happened to the native Filipino population as a result of the Spanish-American War toward the end of the 19th Century, Bob. That poor country didn't get its independence after that war ended, did it? Only three years later, the population revolted against the US occupiers; and, what was the result? The rebellion was thoroughly crushed and many Filipinos massacred.

      You're absolutely correct, my friend; allow the Americans to open a base in a foreign nation, and that nation won't be able to get rid of them. The Philippines gained their independence only after WWII, when US General Douglas MacArthur and his forces drove the Japanese occupiers from the area. What happened just recently in that nation (a super typhoon) was a terrible tragedy, but re-opening a military base is not the solution; international aid that includes private charities is.

    2. Its financial toll on the US will be very high to assist the Pinoys. Nothing comes free.Comes to exploitation, it's more towards the Philippines politician that exploits their own than any foreigners.Imagine geographically, it is very expensive to get supplies to the Philippines even from a South East Asia neighboring countries. Your custom officers and the your existing infrastructure is already a burden and not to mentioned the internal management for a disaster, when it occurs, how much monies actually reaches to you Pinoys?Most will be filtered , digested before it reaches to the poor. Not to mentioned, when someone from the outside tries to teach you how to be independent, you Pinoys will start biting back towards the people who feeds you.

  2. Great reporting. Human rights are great, when they align with imperial interests. If not, they are ignored or embraced, and violations are committed to an extent that few countries in history have matched.

  3. No doubt the American-Philippine war was a tragic and brutal colonial war that should have never been waged following the Spanish-American War. Major player governments at the time simply were not yet evolved into a modern paradigm and were of course, excessively exploitative, inhumane and barbaric in their methods. I'd totally support a proposal for event modest reparations, in form of development aid, as a gesture of remorse and atonement for past times in history. Fast forward to today, regardless of predictable and natural instinct to piggy-back on tragic Typhoon relief mission in attempt to leverage policy efforts in securing a better basing deal, don't expect Philippines govt to accept any permanent basing. Period. No matter what, AFP has made it clear they want access to US equipment and infrastructure in any 'base-access' agreement. They will not accept exclusive US basing operating outside of Philippine law. As for future joint Disaster-relief missions, absolutely response time can be reduced and coordination improved benefiting the scale of response, if US assets are in Philippines already on joint-training mission. And I'll have to disagree with the analysis that US (and Philippines) is trying to 'contain' PRC. That's misinformation being exploited for propaganda and to stoke nationalist reaction. It's more show of resolute commitment to upholding principles of rejecting any regional hegemonic intentions (to deter against) and to help improve (modernize) self-defense capabilities of AFP. Those are arguably sound and just policies. But most of all, I think the distraction here is that number one priority and focus should be placed on absolute need for regional disputes to be resolved peacefully, equitably and via recognized rules-based solutions, ASAP, without coercion or under intimidation…

  4. The American deployment is a "fait accompli' think otherwise is a nonsense.
    The Philippines is simply a puppet state run by Washington. Whatever the Americans want they get!
    Moreover the Filipinos are the most brainwashed people on the planet!
    It was for this reason Edward Lansdale the CIA Icon said: "We failed miserably in Vietnam but were successful beyond our wildest dreams in the Philippines".
    The Philippines has the highest approval rate of all nations on earth in respect to America, some 87%, which is strange because Americans do not approve of themselves in such high numbers!

    America wants the Philippines to be land based aircraft carrier against China in the forthcoming war. Obviously like world war two, the Philippines will be destroyed first, in the event of a slow burn war leading up to a nuclear confrontation with China…thats the plan and it has been passed by the prostitutes in the PH Government even before deliberation, which is when it comes to the merely rubbing stamping!

    1. Absurd, Philippine govt would never willingly accept ANY foreign govt to cut security deal allowing for certain destruction of Philippines in a 'slow burn war' as you say, in lead up to nuclear confrontation. For the first time in history, Armed Forces Philippines is and will continue to rapidly modernize and equip a credible, sovereign self-defense force! Now, if you are suggesting Philippines might be under threat of coercion and intimidation by an imperial power in rejecting any encroachment of sovereignty, or even hypothetical threat of military assault against her by a foreign antagonist/belligerent angry at Manila for resisting such imposed rule, then there is a problem in the equation there that absolutely needs to be resolved peacefully, ASAP, as part of the grander territorial disputes. Simply, such tensions are not welcome and are counter-productive.

      1. You are entitled to your opinion but I know those Flip prostitutes better than you!
        I was born in the Ph of none Filipino parents…what America wants from its number one puppet state, America get!

          1. No, but it adds up to more facts that substantiate what most people in the world know, except you) that the PH Government is nothing but a satrapy of the US with no independent foreign policy!…But it helps to have lived there and speak the language hindot!

    1. There is an alternative but perhaps not in your lifetime !…..However, I see your point and frustrations!

  5. When RP invited the US to leave the bases, the US did so. Now RP finds Chinese paramilitary ships running over fishing bancas in the Philippine EEZ? Pick your poison: US Joes or the Chinese. There's only one choice in the matter.

    1. jsinton – it's truly not about US re-establishing permanent, Leased bases of old day. etc. That's the misperception being exploited for propaganda purposes by various camps of thought.

      Any new deal will not be some great USG humanitarian wonder gift to RP and for which deserving praise and given blanket support. Any such 'military' support and/or venture is of course represents the ugliness and sores of Life and is a symptom of humanity's flaws and immaturity.

      Yet, being pragmatic and honest at this time in our collective imperfect world history, still facing injustice on many fronts, on mass scale, the RP (and AFP) is taking a strategic approach in modernizing her self-defense posture, thus giving more credibility and strengthening sovereignty — i.e., just the opposite of relying more heavily on military protection and defense/basing relationships with foreign powers.

      No fear… while AFP will broaden joint-training opportunities with MULTIPLE nation's defense and security forces (hopefully one day to include joint maritime-Patrol with PRC Coast Guard in internationally-resolved waters (currently disputed)) and possibly allow some aspect of US military 'rotation' access to and joint-training access to 'Philippine' basing (as opposed to US-Basing in Philippines), the govt of Philippines will NOT permit permanent basing of a foreign country or be bossed around by ANYONE. It's a new era folks, progressing towards respect, justice and cooperation… wake up and smell the coffee. Work towards trust, but verify.

      1. You are full of the lies that is known as American propaganda!….you should be ashamed of yourself stooge!

    2. An extremely simple minded comment:..US Joes or the Chinese!
      Lets see one is a nation in Asia and the other is in the Atlantic!
      One has colonised and killed Filipino for decades and left the PH in abject poverty.
      China on the other hand has no history of external occupation.
      But like I said in my post earlier..the Ph is the most brainwashed country on earth and you are perfect example!

      As for the US leaving in the late 80's they left to deploy to the middle east, as did the Russia in Vietnam. The Americans left because they wanted to do so, not because the PH pushed them out….now they have returned to pay no rent and have all the had before on PH taxpayers money and one assumes that was the plan all along?

      1. Incorrect, any future PH-US agreement will involve US monetary contribution and assistance. It won't be congruent to 'Leasing' Subic bay, true, for Subic is now base of AFP ownership and operation.

        But to your other point, Philippines is Not brainwashed, please. Do not fear, the Filipino people are watching and reading what you say, very well.

        However, it is true, sure, Philippines is relatively naive and inexperienced vs other countries in the world perhaps, regarding dictating to others and in conquering, etc, on a similar scale with Europe, Arabs, Russia, China, Japan and the US, over the centuries, e.g..

        So yes, Philippines is guilty of inexperience, but is learning… having only a very short, recent adjustment and learning period of progressive-minded self-rule and independent operation, after hundreds of years as a divided, externally-ruled and controlled.

        Other than that, I fully agree with you that countries such as Spain, Japan and US with past colonial history in Philippines, should jointly coordinate, via assistance-development plan and investment package (seeing such tragic and unnecessary abject poverty) — as positive contribution and policy for Philippines.

  6. There are lots of Philippinos who recall the good old days when they made a decent living around the US bases. They'd bend over backwards for those 'opportunities' again.

    And just think of the endless military assistance … a 'leader' who invited America in, needn't worry about losing an election ffor tthe rest of his life.

      1. Yeah, back to "Hey sailor. numbah one cheap, cheap." I hope the stupid ZOGbots all get AIDS.

  7. The US has always been active looking for war anywhere. The only thing it will bring to the Philippines is conflict. Letting them set up military bases in our country will only drag us deeper into the arguements. And once they set up a military base they will never leave….

  8. Have known familys from areas where US SPECIAL FORCES hunted down those who protest the Phillippines cortupt governmentOne of first acys the Islands gov dif was buy a large quantity of Savage 308 and 338 lapua sniper rifles.
    Us has been there for quote a few years already as their attack cartier forces of 20 plus armada of ships with backup of 1500 US marines.
    At least some 4 or 5 USN and liller hunt Gov squads SAAL TEAMS have got to practice upon Philippine people.
    LIVE FIRE upon live civilians is good practice,
    better than pape targets.
    Friends who eill not go back say since US artival few years ago more and more relatives justdisapear or are now suspected terroridt and indeed toture is vrry much in vogueEvrn though phillippine women always been cheap whores there are some who are not anf some 4 humanitarian advidors in last few years srnt home instead of face rape charges.
    Over $500 MILLION IN US Korean Australian and Kapanese military equipment is on order by them.
    All total within 5 years some 100 billion in ships planes and even artillary and even frontline Battle tanls will be purchasef.
    The world Bank has three mega projects for the Phillipines to buy.

  9. The US should leave Asia & the rest of the world. The US says it does so much for foreign countries and they do nothing for us. The USA keeps bases in other nations and allows their soldiers to break the host nations laws and caused more prostitution all over the Far East and led subservient women to come to the USA to find husbands.

  10. Nice reporting. According to me and other experts, US should leave now whole Asia free. The people of Philippines are crying for freedom and of course they deserve it. This is very nice written article and I am sharing it on facebook account.

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