POSTSCRIPT /April 17, 2014 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Waiting for Noy to tell US: ‘Give us the tools!’

CHURCHILL: On Feb. 9, 1941, as England endured the bombing raids of the German Luftwaffe with Adolf Hitler attempting to spread the conflagration across the channel from the war-ravaged main, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the British nation in a stirring broadcast from London.

At the conclusion of his address rallying the English nation and praising the British military’s valiant campaigns in Europe and Africa, Churchill, then 66, said:

“The other day, President Roosevelt gave his opponent in the late presidential election (Mr. Wendell Willkie) a letter of introduction to me, and in it he wrote out a verse, in his own handwriting, from Longfellow, which he said ‘applies to you people as it does to us.’ Here is the verse:

“… Sail on, O Ship of State!/ Sail on, O Union, strong and great!/ Humanity with all its fears,/ With all the hopes of future years,/ Is hanging breathless on thy fate!”

Churchill quoted his reply to Roosevelt: “Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. GIVE US THE TOOLS, and we will finish the job.”

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MACARTHUR: Many anxious Filipinos have been waiting for President Noynoy Aquino to tell US President Barack Obama, when he visits Manila April 28-29, something like the “Give us the tools” of Churchill.

Filipinos passed the crucible of fire in the last Pacific War when Japanese Imperial forces, aided by Korean conscripts, invaded and occupied these islands. Our soldiers, many of them in the prime of their youth, proved themselves despite limited materiel.

So was Gen. Douglas MacArthur, then commander of Fil-Am forces in the Far East who organized the Philippine Army under the Commonwealth and later saw the men fight under severe conditions, moved to declare: “Give me ten thousand Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world!”

That may be a bit emotive, but understandable, since the imperious Julius Caesar of that time must have been impressed by what he saw the Filipino soldier capable of doing if given the tools and the right leadership.

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NEGLECTED MILITARY: Instead of bringing in American GIs to fight the enemy, why not just “en-tool” or equip the Philippine military properly? After all, this is their country, we are their people and this is the Republic they are sworn to defend and protect.

The Philippine military is ill-equipped. Whatever is there in the national budget to keep the armed forces in top fighting form has been largely stolen by treasonous leaders. It is not fair. It is criminal.

These are the soldiers we expect to defend our shores and whatever lies within 200 nautical miles from the beach, but we make them do with Vietnam-vintage rifles, cellphones, instant noodles, crackers and a rusting derelict of a ship as marine outpost.

The biggest problem of our Marines out there amid the lashing winds is not fighting off Chinese interlopers, but surviving thirst and desolation on various psychological levels – two human wants worth pondering this Lent.

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RATIONALE OF BASING: President Obama is dropping by like an itinerant car dealer. The paperwork, including the sales contract, is being prepared by ministerial clerks, hopefully to be signed if the sales talk succeeds.

One wonders if President Aquino and his boys have not neglected the basic facts – like they did in rushing the agreement to deliver a quasi-federal Bangsamoro state to the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front without consulting Filipino stakeholders but heeding Malaysian brokers.

In assessing the enhanced rotational basing of American forces, has anybody in Malacañang asked what the rationale really is?

Is the setup meant for Philippine internal and external security, or is it mainly for the enhanced forward defense of the United States? It could be both, I know, but which is the prime consideration?

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LEANING ON UNCLE: Restoring American basing is valuable to Filipinos insofar as it enhances internal security and boosts external defense. Salutary economic effects are only value-added. (It is basing, mind you, however they describe or disguise a significant military presence over time on fixed installations.)

But INTERNAL security cannot be the excuse, because we can handle this problem better than Americans can, especially if we have the tools. We do not need enhanced GI presence — rotational, linear, cyclonic or whatever — to tackle domestic security concerns.

Now if the rationale is EXTERNAL defense, it is ridiculous having ill-equipped little brown Americans leaning on GI Joe whenever the neighborhood bully swaggers in.

We do not want it said that we intend to defend Panatag, Ayungin or some shoal, reef or whatever sticks out of our territorial seas — to the last American.

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PACKAGE DEAL: The simple truth is that the US actually wants this rotational arrangement for the forward basing of its defense forces, to push farther the frontiers of war away from the continental US.

America will defend treaty-ally Philippines only if attacked in open aggression and only after complying with its constitutional process. It will do so not out of love for its former colony, but primarily for its own survival.

Why don’t we just be honest then and have President Aquino level with the people? Let us simplify, so Malacañang thickheads will be able to absorb it, and throw Uncle Sam this sweetheart deal:

• Leave internal security to Filipinos, but help us with the Churchillan tools. We do not want Americans getting hurt fighting local dissidents, rebels, hostage-takers, terrorists and such scum.

•. For external defense, we lend the bases to the US under a treaty mutually concurred in by our Senates. Anyway, such a treaty will win a landslide approval in a referendum, if one is needed.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 17, 2014)

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