Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Fighting Terrorism with Noodles

Dean Jorge Bocobo has an excellent post at Philippine Commentary on the attitudes which have led to the "escape" of terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi from a Manila jail. The word "escape" is the only inaccuracy in Bocobo's blog, because it is now widely accepted that al-Ghozi was released by policemen in exchange for a bribe. Dean makes the point that the Filipino elite refused to accept the existence of the terrorist threat despite repeated pre-9/11 attacks on the Philippines, including the December 30, 2000 (not December 25 as Belmont Club erroneously reported) attack on a commuter train which killed 22 and mangled many more, including children in their holiday finery still clutching presents from Santa Claus.

And they still don't. Dean's inquiries show that the Philippine Senate is sitting on the draft of the Philippine anti-terrorism bill. "Now I wish they'd get to work on the anti-terror law instead of grandstanding for the Left and the religious Right all the time", Bocobo says, and he is right. But they won't because Filipino politics revolves around infantile displays of pique largely directed at the United States in order to force Uncle Sam to cough up more goodies. Sadly, these goodies are never transmitted to the Filipino people. Their final stop is the pockets of these perpetually indignant, posturing, faux nationalist politicians.

And why not? Everything is always America's fault. Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi's compatriot, Bali bomber Amrozi, admits that he planted the bomb at the targeted nightclub, but says it was a "nuclear bomb" set off by American or Jewish satellites orbiting overhead which caused the carnage. Laugh, but people will believe that. Just like they believe that the September 11 attacks were the handiwork of the Jews.

The principal anti-terror strategy of the Filipino elite is to combat it with noodles, literally. They have a mystical faith in the immense persuasive power of pancit, a local noodle delicacy, which is routinely served at peace talks with Islamic rebels. Pancit, in conjunction with an exaggerated camaraderie, which consists largely of hailing the Islamic interlocutors as "brother" at every opportunity, will by itself build confidence, win over the estranged Muslim brethren and bring peace. This approach has already failed several dozen times in the past, but nothing daunted, the Filipino politicians, egged on by the local Left, will keep at it ad infinitum, with more pancit and more flattery. The capital of magical realism is not, as New York literati often assume, located in Latin America. It is located in the Philippines.