Send Filipino troops to join a UN ‘force’ in Lebanon? We’ll spend millions to try to rescue them later
BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven () - August 1, 2006 - 12:00am
Speaker Jose de Venecia must be kidding, or more accurately grandstanding, when he offers to send Filipino troops to join any United Nations "force" to restore peace in war-ravaged Lebanon. They must be laughing at the very notion, in fact, all over the world.

To begin with, nobody trusts the Philippines any more with regard to military commitment – or, indeed, with any commitment which contains the element of danger. Remember: we recalled our pathetic, do-nothing Philippine contingent in Iraq of … about 65 soldiers and policemen, a bunch of boy scouts really under the ridiculous command of a general. We were members of the so-called Coalition of the Willing led by the United States in that desert hell-hole of a country. I doubt if anyone in our minuscule contribution to the Coalition’s fight in the Iraq war ever fired a shot in anger. They were busy borrowing vehicles and helicopters, a drag on the entire operation even if just a mosquito contingent.

Sanamagan – as soon as Islamic "terrorists" seized one of our OFWs, truck driver Angelo dela Cruz and threatened to behead him, La Gloria and her valiant government immediately caved in and precipitately called home our entire group.

In short, we abandoned our Coalition allies in the desert, withdrawing our flag in shame, just to save one OFW – and, by golly, our President and her government even bragged about it.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, in disgust, called us Filipinos "marshmallows." Did we take offense at that scornful remark? Deep down, we knew – thanks to our marshmallow government – that we deserved the insult. Hallelujah and Mabuhay, the Administration trumpeted that we had shown our 1.6 million OFWs working in the Middle East that we were eager to save an OFW, whatever the cost. (Now this sham has been exposed: we can’t even rescue the 30,000 OFWs we have stranded amidst shot and shell in Lebanon).

How was De la Cruz saved? At the cost of national honor. Who’ll trust us anymore to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in any battle or conflict? Or to honor our plighted word? Now we’re offering to send Filipino soldiers to join the United Nations blue helmets in Lebanon. Don’t get me wrong: our soldiers are courageous and ready to fight. It is our political leadership which doesn’t have the guts to give them the order to fight, plucks them out of the field at the very whiff of peril (or terrorist blackmail), and, to worsen things still, doesn’t have the budget to sustain them, armed and ready, in any encounter.

What JDV is proposing is that we dispatch our men as a kind of military OFW operation. Who’ll foot the bill, to begin with?

De Venecia is no dope. Perhaps he’s just trying to impress visiting US Asst. Secretary of State Christopher Hill who came here to lobby for our Congress to, at long last, pass an anti-terrorism law. Our Senators – sad to inform him – may never do that: they’re too busy trying to terrorize GMA.

It’s disgraceful that, while we prattle on about combatting global terrorism, and send our soldiers and policemen to fight and die battling homegrown terrorists, from the NPA to the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic fanatics, including the Jemaah Islamiyah, we handcuff our brave men who’re putting their lives on the line, by not having an anti-Terrorism Law which will enable our boys to effectively combat them.

Our politicians perorate endlessly about the possible violation of "human rights," while the bomb-happy, murderous hoodlums, preaching ideology, religion, or whatever as their justification, go on killing, kidnapping, pillaging, torturing in the most brazen and insolent manner. And when some of them get slain, or worse captured, those outlaws immediately get their best lawyers.

Pass that anti-terrorism law once and for all, for Godsakes – and protect the human rights (especially the right to life) of their victims! God weeps, surely, at the antics of our political leadership who are ready to spring only to the defense of their Pork Barrel.

And let’s not send Filipino soldiers to Lebanon. We’ll only spend millions (which we can’t seem to locate even now for the purpose) trying to rescue them from Lebanon – later. We’re a nation of uncertain trumpets. Our military commanders forthrightly shout: Charge! Our government seems to know only one bugle call: Beat Retreat.
* * *
The TV images of dead children, women and men in the escalating war has given the Israeli Defense Forces a "bad image." The terrible bombing of that four-storey building in Qana in which 60 refugees perished – their bloody bodies endlessly being put on display on world-girdling cable networks – makes the Israelis appear the merciless aggressors (indeed, they are bombing, shelling and sending combat units with armor into Southern Lebanon to hunt down the Hezbollah rocket-launchers) – and the Hezbollah the defenders and heroes of their motherland.

The Hezbollah, who boast that they chased the Israelis out of Lebanon in May 2000, never over the years – people forget – gave the Israelis across the "border" any respite. They would attack outposts, raid settlements on the Israeli side, blast away with anti-tank missiles.

Even when the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (who was murdered himself last year by a car-bomb ambush which tore him up and several of his bodyguards) was in Paris with nearly his entire Cabinet in quest of urgently-needed foreign investments to rebuild civil-war-destroyed Beirut and Lebanon itself, what did the Hezbollah do? Hariri had just given a press conference assuring his listeners composed of officials, bankers, financiers and businessmen that Israel would not attack to damage his country’s infrastructure.

"Beirut," Hariri asserted, "does not wish to give Israel any provocation at the frontier, and Lebanon and Syria are in agreement on that issue." Gee whiz. The very next day, the Lebanese delegation still in Paris was shocked to learn that Hezbollah fighters had ambushed an Israeli Patrol on the Israeli side, in the Shebaa Farms area, firing an anti-tank missile at it, and killing one IDF soldier while wounding two others. The attack was called by the Shiite guerrillas, "Operation Islamic Martyrs."

The truth is that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which was passed by the UN condemning the assassination of the much-revered Hariri (who had rebuilt Beirut almost single-handedly out of his own fortune) not only mandated the withdrawal of all Syrian troops – who had occupied much of Lebanon for 33 years. The same UN Resolution demanded the disarmament of the Hezbollah and the redeployment of legitimate Lebanese Army forces to guard the border in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government had never complied. Probably it was powerless to curb Hezbollah. The Hezbollah continued to attack the Israelis across the frontier.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, now sounding so indignant against the Israelis, particularly when IDF bombing killed four UN observers in their outpost last July 25, knows of the Hezbollah incursions against Israel. Annan had, in truth, even met with Hezbollah’s leader, Shaikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (now being hailed as a "hero" by Lebanese, and the Arab world) to try to resolve Hezbollah’s quarrel with Israel over where the "blue line" should be drawn. Nasrallah – who today vows to obliterate Israel with his Katusha and longer-reaching missiles – bluntly told Kofi Annan: "For us, the ‘blue line’ being traced means nothing… we demand that the UN act quickly on Israeli violations. (sic) We will not wait long… we will work to liberate the smallest parcel of our land!"

Well, the Hezbollah kept on firing away – and today the Israelis (their country being blasted by more than 2,000 missiles to date) are vehemently striking back.

I know, I know. Nothing "justifies" ruthless war and bloodshed. But the Middle East is a cruel and unforgiving place.

The Lebanese not only did not curb the Hezbollah. They elected 15 Hezbollah members to their Parliament. Three Hezbollah are in the Lebanese Cabinet.

In sum, a movement dedicated to the destruction of Israel, the "Party of God" (supported by Iran and Syria) is a powerful political element in civilian government. The Hezbollah have a teenage and children’s contingent called the "Islamic Scouts." It has in Lebanon created a friendly image. In fact, as the guidebooks point out, in the southern city of Tyre (now devastated by Israeli bombing as a Hezbollah rocket-launching stronghold), there was even a Hezbollah souvenir shop, selling everything from key-rings, calendars and t-shirts to souvenir prayer rugs and large yellow flags representing the militants’ logo, a Kalashnikov rifle.

I won’t be so callous and stupid as to say the four million Lebanese, now suffering and bleeding, brought the terror down on their heads – but Hezbollah’s mighty presence in their society ought to give us food for reflection. What could the Israelis do – with their own children, women and men dying, too? They unleashed their power in fury, and they, I’m sorry to say, with the US backing them up, have no intention of stopping this time.

The Israelis and the Arabs, first cousins and children of the same Father, Abraham (Ibrahim), have on their foreheads the Biblical mark of Cain. This is what the fight, alas, is all about. A fight to the finish? The diplomats and the UN are now trying to get into the act – to put a stop to it.

But remember, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been there since 1978. The UN blue helmets instead of being peacekeepers, became sitting ducks. It’s a duck and turkey shoot out there – with so many of our OFWs caught in the middle.

You cannot simply say: "Stop the war, I want to get off."

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