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Statement on the international day of protest against the US occupation of Iraq

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The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) joins the people of the world in commemorating the seventh anniversary of the United States-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. We join the thousands protesting worldwide in calling for an end to the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite being more than in year in office, the Obama administration has not shown any substantial departure from the imperialist agenda that was laid down by George W. Bush when he led the invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are indications that despite Obama’s pledge to end US combat operations in Iraq, the US forces intend to stay, set up bases and continue their direct and indirect control of the Iraqi puppet government.

Despite the debilitating financial and economic crisis that has hit the US economy, the Obama administration has allotted some $708.2 billion for war spending.

The Obama has administration has also advanced the same imperialist agenda in other parts of the world such as Afghanistan. The US government has sent 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and has escalated cross-border attacks in neighboring Pakistan.

More than a year into the Obama administration, the people of the world have yet to see the changes in America’s foreign policy. The developments in Iraq and Afghanistan do not show the “change” that was promised in 2008. What we see are more of the same imperialists wars of aggression.

Meanwhile, Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has shown unabashed puppetry to the US by supporting the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, sending troops to Iraq, and allowing US combat troops to be based in the Philippines. At the tail-end of her term, Arroyo secretly hopes for the backing of the US government for her bid to prolong her stay in power.

US intervention in the Philippines

In the Philippines, the US government has reinforced its permanent and continuing military presence by indefinitely station 600 Special Forces troops under the US Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTFP) based in Zamboanga. Using the vague and unconstitutional provisions of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), US troops enter and leave the Philippines on a rotational but continuing basis. Their presence in Mindanao has become permanent since 2002.

At any given time, there are US troops stationed in the country. Their activities in the country remain questionable and there have been many allegations that they are engaged in actual combat operations. Previous US commanders have admitted that they are indeed engaged in combat but disguised as military exercises. These acts all violate Philippine sovereignty and the Constitution. The Philippines is the only other active combat area in the ‘war on terror’, after Iraq and Afghanistan.

The annual Balikatan war games was recently held for the first time in the Ilocos region, which is the northern part of the Philippines. The US said it will conduct humanitarian missions in the area. We believe that the so called humanitarian exercises in Ilocos is part of the US power projection against China. This type of military buildup can be expected to escalate as it did in Mindanao where humanitarian missions were also used as a pretext for permanent US positioning.

Obama continues to give importance to the lame-duck president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the hopes of securing more concessions from the Philippine government. In a span of six months in 2009, the Philippines was visited by the US Defense Secretary , the CIA director, and the US Secretary of State. The unusual flurry of visits came just a year before Arroyo’s term was to end on June 30, 2010. Military aid to the Philippines has also increased this year, despite continuing allegations of human rights abuses under the Arroyo government.

Problems with the VFA

Even if the Philippine Supreme Court has ruled with finality on the legality of the VFA, the controversies surrounding this agreement will not simply go away. So long as US troops remain permanently stationed in the country and so long as they engage in various questionable activities that violate our Constitution, there will always be legal challenges to the VFA.

The mysterious death of Gregan Cardeno is another case in point. Cardeno was an interpreter hired by the private military contractor Dyn Corporation which builds US military facilities in the Philippines. He was deployed last February 1 by Dyn to a Philippine military camp in Marawi which was hosting US troops. He was found dead inside the military camp on February 3, two days after he arrived in Marawi.

Cardeno’s death was ruled a suicide, but his injuries are not consistent with this finding. There were also indications of an attempt to cover up the cause of death and tamper with evidence. Before he died, Cardeno communicated to his wife that what he got into with the US troops was not what he signed up for.

What was really Cardeno’s job then? What was the nature of the engagement of Dyn Corporation and the US forces? What was the real cause of death and why were there indications of a cover up? Why are US forces now operating in Marawi, unknown to most.

End US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, End US military intervention in the Philippines

It is necessary for the people of the world to expose the continuing imperialist agenda of the US under the Obama administration. The US must pull out immediately from Iraq and Afghanistan. It must devote its resources to addressing the urgent needs of the people of its own country. The US must also end all forms of military intervention in the Philippines.  It must pull out its permanently stationed troops in Mindanao and other parts of the country where they are possibly operating.

The Filipino people will continue to assert their sovereignty against foreign military intervention. We will also continue to express our solidarity with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who are struggling to end foreign occupation in their lands.