How what we don't want to know will kill us
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-04-05

My late father told me that it was only after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when many Filipinos realized that war clouds hovered over our country. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, most Filipinos went about their lives as if everything would be like business as usual.

Hardly anybody here paid attention to the developing tensions in Asia as a result of the US embargo that effectively deprived Japan of vital commodities for its growth and expansion. Few Filipinos then were bothered by the issuance of the ultimatum that presaged the start of hostilities.

Europe, where Hitler’s Germany was waging war and genocide, was just too far away for Filipinos to be concerned. The Japanese invasion of China was simply a war between two Asian neighbors to most Filipinos. For many Filipinos, the US was too powerful and it was simply unthinkable that an Asian country like Japan will fight the US.

Of course, with history and hindsight to guide us, we know today just how wrong they were and how very idiotic (they did not know the truth) or stupid (they did not do anything if ever they knew the truth).

If it is any consolation — even the great General Douglas MacArthur (who headed the USAFFE, United States Armed Forces in the Far East) was also caught flat footed. In his best-selling MacArthur biography (“American Caesar”), William Manchester narrated how MacArthur was shocked into indecision and inaction when he learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

If Filipinos in December 1941 were simply in denial, that did not save all those who perished during the fighting in Bataan and Corregidor and the April 1942 Death March. Being in denial did not save those who were killed in the many guerilla skirmishes that happened after the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Being in denial did not spare those Filipinos who were killed by Japanese occupation forces inflicting reprisal for guerilla activities near their area. Being in denial did not also save the over 100,000 civilians who died in the 1945 Battle for Manila.

The US-Japanese War in the Philippines during World War II was a classic case of what we don’t want to know will kill us. A stupid ostrich that hides its head in the middle of a big firefight — instead of seeking protection — becomes a dead big bird.

Believe it or not, Filipinos today are committing the same mistake all over again. Somehow, in the IT age, it is unthinkable (and therefore unpardonable) for Filipinos not to sense the dangers now facing our country because of the escalating risks of armed confrontation between the US and China.

Last March 26, the New York Times published an article of Thom Shanker about the recent Pentagon Report to the US Congress outlining the alarming increased military build up of China. While the report focused on an immediate threat to Taiwan, there is the great likelihood that the feared conflict will find the Philippines right in the center of that US-China confrontation.

The oil in the Spratlys and the perceived US plan to control the vital China shipping lanes in the South China Sea (where 80% of China’s oil imports pass through) are compelling reasons for China to prepare for a possible armed confrontation.

Michael Klare, correspondent of The Nation, noted in his “Revving up the China threat” article that the US and China are the world’s top two consumers of imported oil. It is projected that by 2020, the US and China will be needing 16 million and 12 million barrels of oil a day, respectively.

The US invasion of Iraq and the US threat to take on Iran signaled a possible US domination of the 4th (Iraq) and 3rd (Iran) biggest oil reserves in the world. This made the oil in the Spratlys — believed to be as much as the Iraq reserves — most vital for China.

This is also motivating the US sponsorship of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) from where the US plans to operate their FOS (Forward Operating Sites) and CSL (Cooperative Security Locations). Sans the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), the US can only control the Pacific Ocean. Because of the VFA, the US is able to operate their FOS and CSL in Mindanao, giving them access to the South China Sea.

Foolishly overlooked in all this is the fact that China has an alliance with Russia and India. You can’t talk about a US-China armed confrontation without factoring Russia and India in the equation.

What is worrisome about this developing situation in the South China Sea is that the current world economic crisis duplicates the world’s economic crisis of the 1930s which segued to World War II. History has an uncanny way of repeating itself.

The US economic crisis plus the fact that the US has not defeated China in any military confrontation since the Korean Peninsula War of the 1950s might just tempt China to now deal with the US once and for all. A cash-strapped US versus a cash-rich China coupled with a war weary US from its Iraq and Afghanistan misadventures may just prove to be an irresistible invitation for a showdown in the South China Sea.

Ever since the BJE deal was exposed, China’s nuclear submarine base in Hainan Island has been hyperactive. Already, a US naval research vessel (read: spy) was confronted by Chinese vessels near the Hainan Island naval base. Now, we have the Pentagon Report to the US Congress of a worrisome China military build up.

In the March 25 article of Financial Times Washington correspondent, Demetri Sevastopulo, about the Pentagon Report on China’s military build up, a map was posted which showed the possible theatre of conflict. The extent of claimed Chinese territorial waters included the Scarborough Shoals and the Spratly Islands — across the Western side of Palawan.

Why are our leaders and media not even talking about these developments? Are they idiots who don’t know the truth or just plain stupid?

How can Charter change, an election in 2010 and more tales of murder conspiracies and plunder take precedence over a developing situation where our country could find itself the ground zero for the war between nuclear-powered US and China?

  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

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo