Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The right decision?

Just about everybody now is glad that Angelo de la Cruz has finally been freed. President Arroyo was ecstatic talking with De la Cruz on her mobile phone. The prevailing opinion seems to be that the caving in by the president to the demands of the kidnappers was the right and moral thing to do. The logic behind this position is often put this way: 1) The war in Iraq is wrong. 2) The kidnapping of De la Cruz was a consequence of our particiaption in the war. 3) Therefore, giving in to the demands of the terrorists was but setting things right because we should never have been in Iraq in the first place. Bishop Bacani, for example, says:

One had very good reasons to believe that President Arroyo supported the war because of her reelection bid. Whatever her reason then, her decision was wrong, and many of us told that to her loudly, though she did not heed it. Now, with the seizure of Angelo de la Cruz, she was confronted with one consequence of her wrong decision, and now she has undoubtedly found out that it is also to her political advantage to stop supporting the war with our troops no matter how small. It is still a good thing to make the right decision even if pressured to do so. It certainly is better than prolonging support for an unjust war.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it wrongfully supposes that our hasty withdrawal in Iraq, a record setter according to funny man Jay Leno, is a mea culpa for our complicity in the invasion of Iraq. It certainly is not; President Arroyo has no plans to issue an apology for supporting the invasion of Iraq last year. The withdrawal therefore basically amounts to this: We as a nation have no guts to commit our troops and follow through on the principles enunciated by our own president.

The premature pullout of our troops is symptomatic of our sorry character as an international player. We make international commitments and we don't honor them. We, for example, have a penchant for signing every human rights convention that goes our way and yet we do nothing to seriously enforce them. Our word to our international partners is as wobbly as a nipa hut in a storm. How can we expect other countries and people to hold us in high esteem?

Alex Magno is right:

We put individuals ahead of the nation. We put short-term comfort ahead of long-term considerations. We are constantly unable to subordinate the particular to the general, the peculiar to the universal. When the going gets tough, we are prone to seeking out quick fixes that bring momentary relief at the price of further complications down the road.

Felipe Miranda is also sorry about President Arroyo's "pragmatism" in this case, one that he says sacrificed the national interest and "historically...beggared the nation and pushed it ever deeper into debt."

So what should have been done?

Thw president should have withdrawn the troops and issued an apology for supporting the invasion. And what about our prior commitments? The president can then testily declare that it is the United States, after all, that has not been following its international commitments as it is actively flouting the Geneva Conventions both at Guantanamo Bay and in the Abu Ghraib prison (as Anthony Lewis succinctly points out here.)

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