Saturday, July 24, 2004

Not Any Safer

The Philippines has found that safety hasn't come with paying ransom. The Philippine ABS-CBN news network  reports that:

Filipino truck drivers working in the Middle East are now banned from entering Iraq to prevent another kidnapping by terrorists in that country. President Arroyo ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs Friday to ensure that Filipino truck drivers working in countries near Iraq are stopped at the border should they attempt to enter that country.

Saudi and Kuwaiti companies involved in the reconstruction effort in Iraq hire foreigners to transport crude oil and construction materials into that country. After the kidnapping of Angelo de la Cruz, Filipino officials realized that Filipino truck drivers are the most vulnerable to the terrorist acts of militants.

But why? Doesn't giving in to terrorist demands make one safer? Can't Filipino workers, if confronted by armed men, simply wave their Philippine passports as a kind of laissez passer? Or has paying ransom made them all walking $6 million certified checks? "Mrs. Arroyo said, meanwhile, the Philippines has tapped the assistance of coalition camp commanders in Iraq to help ensure the safety of some 4,000 Filipino workers in Iraq." That in plain English means that Americans, Britons, Australians and Iraqis are expected to lay their lives on the line to protect citizens of the very country that has provided their enemies millions of dollars to buy new and better weapons so that the Philippine government can take their cut from the paychecks these men send home to their families.

The preemptive ban on Filipinos working in Iraq follows from the belated realization in Manila that they just may have committed a diplomatic boo-boo. Consider if the situation were reversed. If an expatriate working in the Philippines had been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf and his government had negotiated directly with the kidnappers without reference and against the wishes of the Philippines some eyebrows might be raised. Suppose the home government of the hostage had further announced a deal with the kidnappers on a foreign TV network and paid ransom to a group which had put a bounty on the head of the President of the Philippines, might that not be embarrassing? If Manila suddenly finds that its overseas workers are no longer welcome throughout the region it just might, with some effort, figure out why.

"You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war."
Winston Churchill on Munich