Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rebellion is not Terrorism


‘The militarist Arroyo adminis-tration, we fear, is pursuing a campaign that could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.’

The horrific attacks by Islamic militants in New York and Washington five years ago have introduced marked changes in the way power is exercised globally.

The attacks probably were a deliberate attempt by Osama bin Laden to provoke the United States into a response not commensurate to the actual damage inflicted. If so, Bin Laden has succeeded brilliantly. The United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, where it is now bogged down in wars without seeming resolution in the near future.

The war on terror has overshadowed the clearly emergent wave of democracy and self-determination that was sweeping the global landscape pre-9/11. At that time that the people power-type of revolutions in the authoritarian states in Europe were seen as a precursor of similar movements that would sweep away the remnants of despotism in the world, not excluding the absolutist regimes in most of the Middle East.

The global war on terror has taken its toll even in the Philippines, which Gloria Arroyo has perversely volunteered as a battleground in a conflict where it was not a direct participant. No, this is not to condone the Abu Sayyaf which deserves to be fully treated as bandits and thugs. But the convenient classification of the communist rebels and the Islamic secessionists (in the latter case a classification suspended in the meantime that peace negotiations are going on) as terrorists has, we believe, brought us farther away from a political solution to these security concerns.

The communist rebellion, for example, had always been primarily treated as a problem rooted in poverty and social injustice before the rise to dominance of the militarist Arroyo administration. Now, the doctrine is to kill them all – armed guerrillas, supporters, sympathizers and fellow travelers – in the name of the crusade against terrorism.

The hostilities in the South are for the moment in a state of suspended animation. Peace talks have not been called off but prospects of a peace agreement are becoming dimmer by the day. The nation is again on the knife’s edge. There is an even chance for either peace or war. And if it would turn out to be the latter, it’s a certainty new hostilities would be packaged also as a crusade against terrorism.

The result in both cases would be to do violence to the twin rebellions’ self-understanding of themselves – as movements directed at bringing about what they consider desirable alternative social, political and economic structure (a national democratic state for the communist rebels; a separate Islamic state for the secessionists). To ascribe to them a commitment to mindless, nihilistic violence that we identify with terrorism could bring about the very terror we seek to avoid.

The militarist Arroyo administration, we fear, is pursuing a campaign that could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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