Angelo de la Cruz is Macapagal-Arroyo's karma
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2004-07-19
WHEN US president George W. Bush went to war with Iraq, the United Nations rejected the grounds on which that misadventure was premised. The UN, led by major powers France and Germany, did not believe in the existence of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq nor a link between Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin Laden.

Eventually, indeed no WMDs and no link between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were found. An American public so traumatized by 9/11 and eager to lash back at the enemy quickly bit the Bush bait. But the truth is out and Americans know better. Bush consequently now trails behind Democrat John Kerry (49 - 42 per the latest CBS poll) in the run up towards the US presidential elections in November.

If Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had only the Philippine national interest in consideration from the very start, she would have taken a very guarded stance. She would not have so readily danced to the overtures of George W. Bush and even going to the extent of sending our troops to a war that is not ours.

Macapagal-Arroyo was lucky the invasion did not trigger Arab retaliation akin to the 1973 Yom Kippur War when US support for Israel sparked an Arab oil embargo which squeezed oil supply and set prices so high it ripped economies across the globe. In the Philippines, motorists queued up for their 10-liter allowable daily ration of gasoline.

By kowtowing to Bush, Macapagal-Arroyo has identified herself and the Filipino nation with the US-led Coalition perceived by the Iraqis (and other Arab nationals) as enemy and invader. By making our foreign policy subservient to that of George W. Bush's - even looking as though this were a personal commitment - Macapagal-Arroyo had turned Filipino workers in Iraq into fair game. Considering the volatility of the Middle East and how Islamic extremists are spread all over, Macapagal-Arroyo in effect also placed at risk all Filipino OFWs in the region.

Angelo de la Cruz was just unlucky. In a way, poor Angelo got the luck of the draw. Iraqi insurgents picked up on our vulnerability and used this to dramatize their cause and chip at the Coalition's morale. Angelo de la Cruz was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

De la Cruz's abduction threw the Macapagal-Arroyo government in total disarray. Now the life of one of the country's modern-day OFW "heroes" hangs in the balance, and all because our chief of state had so gallantly proffered the services of our troops for a war that we now all know has been deceitfully contrived and a war that is not even our own war.

Worse, rather than immediately addressing the hostage crisis, the Macapagal-Arroyo government's knee-jerk reaction was to dish out their usual gobbledygook and lame excuses to justify their devoted fealty to Bush.

There was a big attempt to show grit and brawn as Macapagal-Arroyo mouthed the old Bush lines about being firm and not giving way to the demands of terrorists. She went through all the expected procedures in the PR book - the outpouring of support and sympathy for the family of Angelo de la Cruz, the motions towards negotiating for de la Cruz's release but she had not considered troop pullout, the one thing that really mattered to resolve the problem. It was only when the issue exploded into becoming a national crisis that Macapagal-Arroyo reversed her stand and ordered a recall.

Bringing the de la Cruz family to Malacanang makes for good photo op and show of concern. Sending the de la Cruz wife and brother to Jordan did not soften the hearts of the Iraqi insurgents who have stated their demand very clearly - pullout those Philippine troops in Iraq or de la Cruz dies. The ensuing news blackout buys Macapagal-Arroyo peace from the press in the midst of her agony. This is government damage control in action, an attempt to avoid the type of ugly backlash the Flor Contemplacion execution by Singapore authorities had inflicted on the Ramos administration.

But all the initial steps of government served no purpose in winning the release of de la Cruz. Clearly, all the show of grief and empathy and accommodating generosity were all intended to curb political fallout and had nothing to do with saving Angelo de la Cruz. All the reasons bandied about to rationalize the no-pullout policy were all but lame and only added insult to injury.

If there had been a real justifiable reason for keeping the Filipino contingent in Iraq, there would be sound basis to stand pat on the decision to keep the troops there. It was an unjustified war that was no different from the violence imposed by a bully on a hapless neighbor. Not only that, but by government admission, the troops were due to be recalled by August 20. So everybody asked: what keeps Macapagal-Arroyo from ordering an earlier pullout of July 20 in order to save a Filipino worker's life?

So what is the big deal with staying in Iraq up to August 20? Will it make the unjustified reasons for waging war justified? Will it restore the loss of credibility of George W. Bush in waging a war without legal and moral justifications? What is the big deal with not pulling out 30 days earlier? Will that reduce the insurgency or lessen the viciousness of the insurgency?

Does the Philippine troop contingent fulfill any strategic value in the military equation there? Obviously, the addition of Philippine troops will not accomplish what the combined forces of the US and the UK cannot nor will it provide any decisive military significance either. The entire Philippine army here cannot even totally eliminate that motley group known as the Abu Sayyaf.

Does saving face for George W. Bush weigh more than saving the life of Angelo de la Cruz? Is Macapagal-Arroyo the president of the Philippines or some factotum or lackey of the US president? Just where is your loyalty and heart Madame President? These were the questions Filipinos were asking.

Typically Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she dumped Bush when it dawned on her that the hostage crisis in Iraq could result in the beginning of her end. Not surprising considering her track record for trading causes, alliances and friends when the situation favors her or in this case - threatens her. There are of course Dinky Soliman and Cito Lorenzo as "exhibits A and B".

Nasty things these bad decisions because they come back to haunt. For sure Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be experiencing more haunting in the days to come. Like death and taxes and the law of supply and demand, there is no escaping the law of karma.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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