What's in it for the US in an independent Moroland?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-09-02
Many Filipinos know little of the sinister nature of superpower politics. Seeing how Islamic extremist groups have already wrought untold damage to American pride, they find it unthinkable that the US will want to act as Protector of an independent Moroland.

In his January 20, 2003 letter to US President George W. Bush, the late MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Chairman Salamat Hashim called attention to the US pledge to provide an independent Moroland under American protection. Salamat supported his point by citing two historical treaties, the 1898 Treaty of Paris and the 1899 Kiram-Bates Treaty.

Strong media reportage on the problems encountered by the US with extremist Muslims, notably al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, tends to generalize Muslims and makes the idea of a US-backed Moroland in Mindanao rather incredible. But what is overlooked is the fact that the US has a long history of providing tactical support to whomever and whatever will support their interests. In this case, the US stands much to gain in being the Protector of an independent Moroland.

A Think Tank I meet with regularly (whose members are also consulted by top local leaders and important foreign policy advisers of many countries, including the US) reported to me that since the term of George Bush Sr., the idea of reviving the idea of creating an independent Moroland was already seriously considered.

This became even more compelling given today's geopolitical realities. Russia and China have renewed their alliance, with India likely to join them. The US will want to keep a strong strategic presence within a crucial area where superpower forces could converge. Territorial control of vital shipping lanes and even areas known to have rich oil and natural gas deposits like the Spratly Islands (claimed by the Philippines, China and Vietnam), presents a strategic advantage in superpower politics.

A US Protector of an independent Moroland will provide the following benefits to American geopolitical interests in the region:

1. The US is able to deal first hand with the threat of extremist Middle East Muslims spreading its clout in the region, especially in Indonesia which has the biggest Muslim population. If you were the US, you would rather deal with that problem yourself than entrust it to a corrupt, incompetent Philippine government.

2. The main objective of Mindanao Muslims to have their own Moroland is not incompatible with US interests especially if such an independent Moroland enhances the US presence in Asia's strategic region and can be the repository of US weapons, including nuclear (now banned by the 1987 Constitution).

3. It may just be cheaper and easier for the US to serve their geopolitical interests through an independent Moroland under their Protection rather than be dealing with the Philippine government and all its attendant problems with a dysfunctional democracy, worsening poverty and unchecked insurgency. US patronage will always be more enticing to Muslim Mindanao warlords compared to what they are now getting from Philippine politicians. It can only be a blissful union.

The US must have concluded that our Muslims do not really empathize with the causes of the Middle East extremist groups like al Qaeda and Hamas. The main links of our Muslims with the Middle East are with the rulers of Arab States like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The MILF and the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) are focused on domestic Muslim issues and concerns that center on having their long cherished dream of an independent Moroland.

It has not occurred to many Filipinos that the Americans have been all over Mindanao for the past four years and all this time no American has been targeted by either the MILF or the MNLF. If the MILF and MNLF had really been aligned with the extremist Middle East Muslims, those Americans who are roaming all over Muslim Mindanao would have been fair game.

While our troops are fired at when they enter MILF and MNLF territory, the Americans are welcomed. It also escaped the attention of many that the time when there was an American in the frontline during the current conflict — there was no confrontation. Is that not too much of a coincidence?

Too many Filipinos continue to nurture a romantic fantasy with 'Victory Joe,' the icon for the American World War II liberator. To them, America will not take advantage of the Filipino, their "little brown brother." Being in denial, they will not see the true colors of the US as the superpower perpetually seeking self-preservation.

Frankly, we cannot blame the US for exploiting us whenever it suits their ends. All countries naturally put their own interests ahead of others.

In a similar light, our leaders should always exercise wisdom and discernment when dealing with foreign policy and when receiving seemingly harmless presents and concessions from seemingly well-meaning benefactors. We should learn from history — beware of Greeks bearing gifts, you might just get a Trojan horse.

Unfortunately, our leaders go so far as offering our bodies and souls for trade, like sex slaves in a brothel. Our leaders have no qualms if we all get screwed as long as it promotes their personal interests.

After threatening to wage an all-out war, aren't you surprised that Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is suddenly talking about giving our Muslims their ancestral domain? Don't you find this incongruous with all her previous spiel of wiping out the perpetrators of the July 10 beheading of 14 Marines that spawned the current round of hostilities in Mindanao?

It makes sense if the US is forcing her.

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