Archive for July, 2007

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Beheadings in Basilan: Peace the real victim

Peace is real victim of the 10 hour gun battle that left scores dead and injured in Tipo – Tipo, Basilan – the battle started as an ambush – media observers say after a seven truck convoy passed through a village that had already evacuated – indicating – locals knew something bad was about to happen.

Blogger – Nancy Reyes wrote that the attack on Philippine Marines in the jungles of Tipo-Tipo on Basilan Island is about to see a major escalation of violence in ‘payback’ terms for the beheading of Marines – either wounded or already killed – 11 of the headless torso’s the MILF spokesman there told the Philippine Daily Inquirer – the MILF says were the alleged ‘after effect’ of rage over the brutal killing of a local Imam in the area.

[… Officially, the government is saying that they are not going to blame the MILF for the attack, but only seek justice in finding the “rogue elements” who helped the Abu Sayyaf kill and mutilate the Marines. In reality, it’s payback time….] finestkind clinic and fishmarket

But, even those in peace movement ranks see the attack as major escalation of brutality in the area. The Philippine Daily Inquirer which like many in Philippine media have often been critical of the Military in a recent editorial condemned the acts of beheadings – it went too far- whatever goodwill the MILF leadership had earned with rescues and help in defeating kidnappers in other areas has largely been lost by the statements made by local western Mindanao elements of the Moro rebel group on Basilan.

[…Last Tuesday’s ambush of a search-and-rescue military convoy in Albarka, Basilan — 14 Marines looking for kidnapped Italian missionary Fr. Giancarlo Bossi were killed, 10 of them beheaded — was a bestial act, the work of savages. To this deliberate provocation the national leadership must respond with both iron fist and open mind….] PDI Editorial Savages on the loose

However enraged and justified it may have been in the jungle concept of ‘justice’ for the alleged killing of a local Imam – it went too far for the public at large. The five to one ambush by some accounts goes beyond the normal.

The Catholic Church upset already over kidnapping of Fr. Brossi further has been enraged by the beheadings.

[… This is inhumanity at its worst. This is barbarism at its best. Even people in the deep far jungles of distant parts of the word are already becoming gradually conscious of how they should relate with one another for their own good and their common welfare….] viewpoints 

More stern words from a Archbishop below almost give a blessing for Government in the 90 per cent catholic country to not ‘turn the other way. That justice must be sought for those killed so brutally.

[…”The atrocity rightfully demands the recourse and application of commutative justice. No, it is definitely not to answer barbarism with an equally barbaric move.”] Archbishop Oscar Cruz

Locals worry on Basilan, which they say has barely just come back from the ravages of years of brutality of the ASG on the island. Now, Basilan, faces the strong possibility of renewed heavy fighting on a scale not seen since the days of the battles for hinterland areas that led to the by and large defeat of the ASG on Basilan.

The MILF has in the past condemned terrorism and fought against criminal elements – gaining their cause some public sympathy from even those fighting against them in the Military even for cooperation in the past versus criminal gangs.

If the MILF leadership does not want this action to get out of hand it should do its best to find those responsible and punish them. They say they will. But action is need now before new battles rage that may spin the situation out of control. Something holdouts and hardliners wanting to derail the peace process could use to escalate the clash into renewed fighting.

Mind you – several of those held hostage by the ASG in the past – noted that they were often held in areas near rebel camps – some of the MNLF others of the MILF – the rebels often did little but provide food for those taken hostage and try and ‘talk sense’ into the hard-line ASG members – who were often better armed than thier own fighters – fearing also internal infighting among relatives on the extremist and moderates side allowed safe passage for the ASG through their areas.

It is [possible that in the heat of battle – ASG members – or sympathetic to them could have entered the area or even teamed up with those fighting government forces. It as happened before in other parts of Mindanao. It is the most plausible explanation for the bestiality and brutality of the dismemberment of the corpses.

If indeed as some are saying in media reports from Zambo – some of those men were alive and wounded when they were beheaded – something that pathologists or forensic experts could easily prove – then the acts go into violations of the rules of war and conflict an area where the MILF for the most part has had a relatively good record of treating enemy wounded and later ‘trading’ them for thier own.

But in the overall scene of things – beheadings in the Mindanao conflict zone are not unheard of – covering the 2000 assault on camp abu bakar in Maguindanao province reports of beheaded corpses were among those killed were found areas of the battles..

Going further back the acts were also seen in other zones of the fight in all areas of Minsupala – Mindanao – Sulu – Palawan that the Moro rebels have fought in versus Philippine government forces.

But that was in the 1970’s and 80’s – and even further back during World War II – my mother who spent the War years protected by our relatives along with her brothers and sisters on Basilan -remembers seeing ’sacks of heads’ of Japanese stragglers and holdouts hunted down by Basileneo’s and others seeking the ‘fifty dollars a head’ bounty set by US liberation forces – a reward later changed to fifty dollars for each prisoner hastily by US forces who were confronted by scores of sacks of heads – some not even Japanese looking anymore after a few weeks.

Basilan has bounced back so far from the kidnappings and reign of terror that raged during the height of the ASG fight. Isabella now even has Jollibee branch and many stores along with plans of small shopping mall and two hotels in the works I am told as well as renewed investments. It would be sad to see such a long suffering island and people – a place I also consider home as my grandfather and great grandfather settled the area at the turn of the 20th century. It’s people are the reason I am here today – their grandparents protected my mother family from Japanese forces during World War II in the time of our grandfathers.

It also is where my Yakan blood flows from in my heart I know a part of me is part of those on Basilan. It is a island of rare beauty of nature – and is peaceful and tranquil charm could see it as major ecotourism destination someday – But as last weeks clashes have shown it is also often threatened by conflict.

Or now as Nancy puts it – ‘Payback’ – but as Christians we are taught that revenge is the Lords – not ours to met out.

Justice however is something people in a democracy seek for those killed in so brutal a fashion. The Mindanao Examiner – perhaps the best source of news down south – reports that the stage is set for a major escalation in fighting.

[… “The government will account for the perpetrators of this heinous attack in line with the rule of law, through the mechanisms of the peace process. The Armed Forces are duty-bound to hunt down and arrest those who treacherously killed and beheaded the soldiers,” President Arroyo …. } Mindanao Examiner

So the real victim is Peace – the brutal acts will be avenged the fighting and cycle of violence renewed. The battles will rage on and fight continue until justice is served and in the inevitable collateral damage that warfare brings with the drums and winds of war th the chance Mindanao has had for peace may be lost anew.

A solution to this would be a clear investigation of the actions perhaps a combined effort of Malaysin peace monitors and representatives of both the AFP and MILF to seek out those who beheaded the marines and as alleged the killers of the Imam.

For all we know they may be one and the same. Let justice be served – and payback could be peace. Something my grandmother’s island deserves after so many years of warfare.

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July 14, 2007 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Al Jazeera does Guam ‘Anti-Bases Story’

Al jazeera TV english news channel did a feature on GUAM USA –  – forgetting of course the full address of ‘USA’ in their very strong effort to hit with any chance they get to bash the world with their view of being anti- us military and mostly anti-american editorial policy.

Guam is where America’s Day begins – I spent a number of years growing up on guam- I still have many friends there and few agree with the report – They tell me they doubt there is more than perhaps a two percent figure of Guamanians who might chose any other path – of going its own way as independent country.

But if you watch the Al Jazeera report you get the feeling that Guam is occupied us territory – and there might even be a ‘interfada’ movement growing – it does mention almost in passing that All Guamanians are US citizens – but never calls ‘Guamanians’ Americans. Oh boy… expect a lot of emails in Doha!

the network has – had this tinge on its arab language service – whiz is understandable in the arab world- but- ironic considering most of its shareholders are US citizens and or dual nationals –

The Guam story does go into depth on issues ‘unpopular’ with Guam mainstream media – and does touch a sensitive local issue with Chamorro locals who might be described as a small faction of ‘ultra-Guamanians’  – who increasingly through both intermarriage and immigration are becoming a minority on the island.

But the Al Jeez reports pair of them paints as picture of a Guam that is not the majority view. I was amazed to see how accommodating the US-military was to Al Jeez – access granted at a level that amazed me. Really – Anderson Air Force base flight line video- interviews and coverage that was fair.

T he reporter claimed to have tried to interview Guam’s governor who refused -amazing! to be interviewed. I know few political figures on Guam who refuse a any Chance to be on international TV. Really… I guess they might have been put off by the story. The current US military expansion has been a lifesaver to Guam’s economy – 15 billion dollars – plus another 10 billion in civil works in the pipeline.

Hence I might understand them ‘ducking’ a story on land claims and other issues.

I do agree with two points that need to be raised to the US mainland after all these years as America’s only true outpost in Asia- Guam should of course – if possible should be given make some-more forms of representation  to allow a for a full Guam Congressman who can vote and The long term disenfranchisement of American citizens who have no direct vote for President for Guamanians something long sought and fought for – If Guam is truly now to be America’s Gibraltar in the Asia-Pacific region perhaps some form of new legislation might be sought to allow this. A issue discussed also was the issue of long held local disdain about property taken at the end of World War two never properly compensated for – by the US military – an issue indeed that no one likes to discuss. But needs to be finally settled.

Perhaps someday… But also Al Jeez should be praised for even their half baked story did raise some points that need to be discussed. So kudos for trying – even if in the attempt the network worked hard to find any chord of anti-americanism in perhaps one of the most loyal communities to the flag and country that owes it so much for sacrifices few other American communities have made for so long.

July 8, 2007 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

Libby ‘scoots’ jail time with pardon but $250k fine remains

Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby who leaked the name of a CIA agent who was critical of the White House actions that led to the war in Iraq will still face probation a huge fine and civil suits that will most likely hound him for the rest of his life. The public figure’s worst nightmare is often the stripping of the ability to work within the corridors of power and end of high-profile life and the wheeling and dealing that goes with it.

‘Scooter’ doesn’t walk – he is punished -the executive clemency action by the President is a privilege he has – something perhaps he can wield in the weeks months and more ahead if any other white house insiders face trouble on his watch.

Would i have been better to put him behind bars for thirty months? that’s somethings lawyers debate on – I mean paris hilton got a reprieve and lesser jail time in a way because some felt the popularity and notoriety of being tough on those who walk the lights and places of power should be made to suffer more in sentences – something of making an ‘example’ of them.

But justice is supposed to be fair – regardless of social stature – wealth and or influence. In similar circumstances others might have been fined or have collar placed on them and home arrest. Or so the President says in his statement.

So While not ‘Scott free’ Libby will scoot away from jail and try and to rebuild his life an family. An outcast fallen and perhaps stripped of all if not most of his power and influence and forever etched as the man who leaked a name of as some call it – those oh so secret ‘carte blanche’ untouchables of Langley – whose identities are protected to the grave even if at times their actions run against all that is enshrined in a document whose main essence is “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” except those whose names must be kept secret? Even if their actions run against those wants of their commander in chief?

Sadly there is a new aristocracy in America made of privileged lawyers and fringe groups and others who lord it over the rest of the People. But take comfort in this thought that this will nt last forever. Since after all – “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”…

SO Scooter, punished, humiliated, and most likely a life story for Hollywood in the works – did not get away with his actions. He is punished and the President’s clemency act – his only reprieve will go forth into the night – Independence declared and lesson learned that his liberty and freedom to pursue his happiness comes on Independence day.

Ironic…

Here’s GW’s statement:

Fact sheet Grant of Executive Clemency
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected Lewis Libby’s request to remain free on bail while pursuing his appeals for the serious convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice. As a result, Mr. Libby will be required to turn himself over to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his prison sentence.

I have said throughout this process that it would not be appropriate to comment or intervene in this case until Mr. Libby’s appeals have been exhausted. But with the denial of bail being upheld and incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react to that decision.

From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department. Dozens of White House staff and administration officials dutifully cooperated.

After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.

This case has generated significant commentary and debate. Critics of the investigation have argued that a special counsel should not have been appointed, nor should the investigation have been pursued after the Justice Department learned who leaked Ms. Plame’s name to columnist Robert Novak. Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation. Finally, critics say the punishment does not fit the crime: Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.

Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable. They say that had Mr. Libby only told the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place.

Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important points. I have made my own evaluation. In preparing for the decision I am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case.

Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.

I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.

My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.

The Constitution gives the President the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby’s case is an appropriate exercise of this power.

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July 4, 2007 at 12:28 am Leave a comment


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