Monday, May 10, 2010
Abu Sayaaf - Freedom Fighters or Terrorists?
In the rain forests pregnant with orchids and ylang ylang, a new terrorist front - Abu Sayyaf has been formed. It is in Southeast Asia, in the Philippine Archipelago, on its southern most tip, the Sulu Archipelago. It forms part of Mindanao , once predominantly Muslim until the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. The people were Malays,with lithe bodies and shiny brown skins. They fought ferociously. The Spaniards called then "Moros" Moors, as they had called the Berber Muslims from North Africa who conquered Spain and occupied most of Andalucia for 800 years.
And then came Manifest Destiny, America desperately needed a country in Southeast Asia to fight counter act Japan's hegemony in the Pacific. The Philippine Islands, strategically positioned in the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Straits of Malacca seemed like the best way to initiate its first foray into Empire. In order to do that, Spain had to go, one way or another. Spain was less than a shadow of its former self. She had two colonies left. Cuba in the Caribbean and the Philippines in Southeast Asia. There were daily protests in the streets, continuous upheavals in government. Insurgencies were common. Spain was in deep trouble economically and politically.
An American ship "The Maine" anchored in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, mysteriously blew up. Historians today ascribe the explosion to carelessness on the part of the seamen on board rather than to an act of terrorism by Spain.
That did not stop the media, particularly William Randolph Heart who said " Just go to Cuba and the Philippines and I'll give you a war."
President McKinley was reluctant to send Commodore Dewey to Manila. He called the Filipino people "My little brown brothers". God spoke to him as well, it seems that many Leaders since the world begun have dialogued with God about their warlike intentions towards a weaker country. God has always approved. The weaker nations always fought back because God also seemed to urge them to never cease the struggle for their independence. Invaders, even enlightened ones, if such a thing is ever possible, remain invaders - from the Latin 'INVADERE" which means to enter a territory which is in no way yours, take it and hold it by lethal force.
The assassination of President McKinley cleared the way for the regal Theodore Roosevelt, the Vice President to order the conquest of the Philippines.
It was a bloody war. The American media called the Filipinos insurgents. In truth it was an all out rebellion,much like Ho Chi Minh would do 50 years later against the French, the Japanese, the French once again,and then the Americans.More than 650,00 Filipino civilians died, according to Gore VIDAL, one of America's most esteemed and charismatic historians.
The Filipino Muslims became known as Moros, as the Spaniards had called them. They were ruling various parts of the Philippines when explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521. Indeed, he was killed by Sultan Lapu-Lapu because he and his people wished to remain Muslims.
They were just as intransigent with America as they had been with Spain. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Sulu Archipelago, Mindanao, Sabah and parts of Borneo formed part of the Sultanate of Sulu. A treaty was signed with General Bates in the early 1900's which stated that the Sultanate accepted American rule and administration. Not so claimed the Moros. The Treaty signed by them was changed and added later on. In one form or another the Moros have not ceased their centuries old struggle.
It is important to note that many of the officers and soldiers who fought in the Philippine jungles were hardened, ruthless veterans of the Indian wars back in the States.The Colt was created and perfected in order to kill endless Moros and Flip bandits (unsavory term for Filipinos).
Mark Twain denounced the war, much as Gore Vidal does today. Both found themselves in the position of finding that their articles were not being published. Censorship? You bet!
The Philippines is the only Catholic/Christian country in Asia. Out of a population of 90 million people, 80% are Catholic. In Jolo, capital city of Sulu, Muslims predominate. Now this is where the situation gets dicey. A new vicious and well organized group of terrorists who call themselves Abu Sayyaf which means" Sword of God" in Arabic hold sway. Its founder was a rabid religious leader, a Wahabi Imam Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani. He was killed in a shoot out with Philippine government forces in 1998. Now they had unwittingly created a Martyr. His declared objective repeated ad nauseam by his followers," An independent state for the Sulu Archipelago".
The Bush administration prided itself on the success of their mission in Sulu, Hw they could do that remains an unsolved mystery. The Philippines has been and remains to a certain extent, the only official colony of the United States (1898 to 1946). Behind the black curtain of geo-political affairs, U. S. advisors are back in Mindanao and Sulu. The success bragged about by the Bush neo-cons was nothing but spin.
Should one pay attention to inflammatory statements such as "the total independence of the Sulu Archipelago" which may be just political rhetoric? No one really knows. Abu Sayyaf today has a thousand followers, according to the western media. Three to five thousand seems more realistic.Their sympathizers remain an unknown factor to us.
Abu Sayyaf should be taken seriously. Since 1998, they have kidnapped four Italians and an unspecified number of Westerners. The most recent Italian kidnapped was Father Giancarlo l Bossi, a Catholic missionary. He was held for 39 days and released after a huge ransom was paid. Everyone involved is silent about details. That is why Abu Sayyaf are so insidious. Their expertize is kidnapping. They also possess the ability of receiving huge sums of ransom money.
The local Muslims declare unequivocally that Osama Bin Laden hid in the jungles of Suu and Tawi-Tawi. How? When? Where? No one is saying.
One of the most dangerous moves Abu Sayyaf has made is an alliance with The Wahabis of Saudi Arabia.That was like an announced action. Who in his or her right mind would ever doubt that its jihadist founder would join forces with Saudi-Arabia.There's more than contradiction here. Are they not allies of the United States, replete with bases?
What is really giving the West nightmares are the theological universities that have sprung up in Indonesia teaching Islam to the Youth. They are so rabid that they make the Wahagis look like Hollywood Liberals. The recent joint venture operation in terror and struggle is the unholy union between Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu and Jamaa Islamiyah in Indonesia. That is what is giving some in the West who know a great deal about terrorism - nightmares.
Because of its strategic location in Mindanao and Sulu, Abu Sayyaf is the main training camp for Indonesian jihadists, That should give anyone who knows anything about geopolitics the worst jitters. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world , with over 207 million people, it now constitutes the world's third largest democracy after India and the United States. So far, notwithstanding the effort of destablization by the Wahabis and other Indonesian terrorist groups, its experiment with democracy looks promising. Three elections have been held and one of them was won by a woman, Megawati Sukarnoputri.
The massacre in Bali linked to Al Qaeda and local groups killed 200 people. 300 people perished in Mumbai.Attacks in Pakistan are almost a daily occurrence. Often they go unreported unless hundreds are blown to bits.
Indonesia was an important ally in the "Containment' of Communism" during the Cold Wr. More than a million Indonesian Communists were killed during the 60's and 70's because the U.S. feared that they would attempt to take over from the ailing President Sukarno, Father of Indonesian Independence against the Dutch.
There are serious doubts among the Catholic and Christian intelligentsia that the recent bombing of a Church in Mindanao was the work of Aby Sayyaf. " We suspect that it might be a false flag operation," said a local Bishop.
In the entire history of the Crusades, the Conquest of Spain, the take over of Constantinople/Istanbul, Muslims never destroyed Churches. They converted them into Mosques. Terrorist strategies and tactics mutate especially in the 21st century.
President Barack Obama spent some years in Indonesia. His sister is part Indonesia. In his book, he writes about waking up at 4 in the morning, to the call to Prayer by the Muezzin atop their minarets. He needs to move fast. He is going to need more than lovely memories to stop the ugliness unfolding in Indonesia and the almost eternal armed struggle going on in the Sulu Archipelago, deep inside impenetrable jungles.