Saturday, July 10, 2004

The Toilet Bowl Cleaner of the World

Dean Jorge Bocobo at Philippine Commentary takes the leftist Philippine newspaper Inquirer to task for advocating capitulation in the face of the kidnapping of an overseas worker in Iraq by terrorists. The terrorists have demanded that nation withdraw its fifty odd peacekeepers, now deployed as part of the US coalition. The Inquirer editorializes:

The hostage-taking came at a critical time: The Philippine contingent's tour of duty ends on Aug. 20, and the Arroyo administration had not yet decided whether to extend it or bring the troops home. Now the administration is under the gun. It will be loathe to invite comparisons with the resoluteness of the South Korean and Japanese governments. South Korea did not only refuse to withdraw its 600 troops in Iraq; after their hostage was killed, it decided to send an additional 3,000 soldiers. Japan, which suffered a hostage-taking crisis last April, also did not order a pullout. (The three Japanese hostages were released four days after their deadline.)

But the issue is not about steadfastness. It is about the national interest. In a word, we were duped into supporting the US-led war. The national interest requires that we make amends for our naiveté, and demand an explanation and better behavior from our ally, the United States.

The Inquirer's argument can be answered in one word: Sipadan. Sipadan was a tropical dive resort a few miles across the Philippine-Malaysian border popular with European tourists. On July 1, 2000 Abu Sayyaf Islamic rebels affiliated with the Al Qaeda kidnapped the guests and staff and held them for ransom. A CNN timeline details how the captive infidels were sold back to their families like slaves on a market.

The hostages -- 10 tourists and 11 resort workers -- were taken to an Abu Sayaff camp on the southern Philippine island of Jolo. Over the following months all but one of the hostages, a Filipino, were released, allegedly after ransoms of up to $1million per hostage were paid to the kidnappers.

Filipino authorities were regaled by the sight of European envoys trooping, with suitcases of dollars in hand, to pay blood money for the freedom of their nationals, money that was almost destined to be used against the Filipinos themselves. Appeals to the Europeans to stand fast fell on deaf ears. After all the Europeans might answer, taking a leaf from the Inquirer, that the tourists had been 'misled' into taking a vacation in so lawless a part of the world. That 'European national interest required they make amends for their naivete, and understanding from the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines' was required. It was a land-office business: not only were the original hostages ransomed, but the European journalists who were sent to cover the events were also kidnapped and later redeemed for cash.

The Europeans engaged in precisely the policy of capitulation the Inquirer now advocates. Everyone knew even then that the ransom money would eventually be used to buy more weapons. According to sources quoting the very same Philippine Inquirer, the Abu Sayaf lost no time encashing the ransom into a new campaign of terror directed against the Filipinos themselves.

According to sources quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a large portion of the loot has already gone to purchase the loyalty of villagers and arm them, to buy a speedboat and 10 motorcycles. Reuters quoted police sources on Jolo as saying that Abu Sayyaf has paid 50,000 pesos (about $1,100) to each of some 2,500 followers, many of whom are new recruits. Most of them have also been given new weapons.

Police intelligence sources on Jolo were quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 16 August as saying that some $5.47 million had already been distributed among 13 Abu Sayyaf chieftains. The paper reported that Galib Andang, alias Commander Robot, chief of the hostage-takers and Mujib Susukan, with a combined strength of 880 men, received the lion’s share of the loot, some P201-million. Two other Abu Sayyaf leaders, Abu Pula Jumdail and Nadzmi Sahadulla, alias Commander Global, who have a combined force of 600 followers, each received P5 million, according to the report. Journalists visiting the rebel camp have reported seeing Galib Andang test-firing a batch of gleaming new Uzi sub-machine guns.

High currency notes are suddenly common in the markets of Jolo, while Abu Sayyaf’s arms-buying spree has driven up the prices of weapons in Mindanao. Prices for mortars, light machineguns, recoilless rifles, M-14s, M-16s and even old Garand single shot rifles have suddenly jumped. Intelligence sources quoted in the Philippines media said that the kidnappers have also built up an inventory of some 3,000 home-made landmines which they would presumably deploy to deter any government assault once the hostage crisis is resolved.

... In an interview with the Agence France-Press on 16 August, Wahab Akbar, the provincial governor of Basilan Island expressed anxiety that with the huge ransoms raised, the Abu Sayyaf could “mobilize across the region.” The extreme poverty in the Muslim areas of the southern Philippines is driving more young people into the arms of Abu Sayyaf. “Jolo is too small for them. They need expansion,” he said.

Philippines military sources said that thousands have flocked to join Abu Sayyaf since the kidnapping, lured by the huge ransoms the group has squeezed out of foreign governments. Colonel Romeo Tolentino, commander of a military task force in Jolo was quoted by AFP as saying that Abu Sayyaf ranks have swelled at least ten-fold to 3,000 since the start of the hostage crisis in April and recruitment was continuing. Filipino intelligence sources claimed that local armed groups had offered their services to Abu Sayyaf, for salaries of from 40,000 to 100,000 pesos ($889-2,222) for the armed guards for the hostages.

Nor was the whirlwind long in coming. The Abu Sayaf went on to attack Filipino priest Cirilo Nacorda; they went on to raid the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan kidnapping 17 Filipinos and three foreign nationals, including missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham who were celebrating their wedding anniversary. Martin was killed. They went on to bomb the General Santos public market, killing fifteen and injuring more than 70. They attacked Filipino Jehovah's Witness missionaries. They detonated bombs in downtown Zamboanga killing 5 and injuring more than 100. They kidnapped elementary school children from two schools, together with their teachers and took them to Basilan Island until they too, could be ransomed. They went on to raid town after little town and kill one dirt farmer after another. Still it went on. The Philippine Daily Inquirer itself reported that the Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for sinking a passenger ferry in 2004 that left 186 persons missing. The ransom money in those European suitcases was a gift that just never quit giving.

Now the Inquirer recommends doing it all again. There are about 3 million Filipinos working in the Middle East whose remittances keep the dysfunctional Philippine economy afloat; many of them men and women who fled the very same carnage precipitated by the very same surrender policies that the Philippine left now advocates. The Inquirer has disparagingly called Filipino overseas workers "mercenaries" and the "toilet bowl cleaners of the world"-- like the hostage in question who accepted a truck driver's job in Iraq so he could pay for an eye operation to give back his son sight. Too bad he couldn't give the Inquirer back theirs.

And do not suppose this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden time.
-- Churchill on Munich Oct 5, 1938