ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Bangsamoro Struggle from a Global Perspective

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 19 October) — Sinulat ko noong Nov 15-20, 1986. Ito ang lekyur ko sa 2nd Annual Congress of PAMOKAU, Diocesan Pastoral Center, Balangasan District, Pagadian City, at ipinamigay sa mga partisipante. Napublish ito sa SANDUGO, (Blood Brothers), isang annual publication ng People’s Action for Cultural Ties (PACT) of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). 1986 Issue, pp. 8-14. Assoc Prof B ako ng Department of History, College of Arts and Social Sciences, MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology.

Marami na ang naganap sa daigdig. Pero mahalaga na balikan ang nakaraan para maintindihan ang kasalukuyang takbo ng panahon. Halimbawa, laganap na ang tatak na international o global terrorism. Ang laging tanong ko, paano o bakit tayo sumasabit sa isyu nitong terrorism? Papaano nagkaroon ng teknolohiya sa paggawa ng bomba at pagpaputok gamit ang celpon? Yong malalaking bansa kaya nilang gumamit ng satellite para matukoy kung saan idedeliber ang missile. Hindi na kailangan lumapit sa target.

Maraming misteryo sa mundo na dati ay kaagad tinatawag na aswang, ngayon konting search sa internet, marami kaliwanagan na ang matatagpuan.

Sumaglit tayo sandali sa nakaraan. Hahatiin natin sa apat na bahagi.

Part I


I have been asked to give you a global situationer, but given the immensity and complexity of the global situation as well as the limited time we have here, I have decided to focus my attention on the reality of American imperialism and how it affects the Islamic world, specifically the countries of the Middle East, and how the interaction between these two forces in turn affects the Moro struggle for self-determination.

I shall further narrow this down to the confrontation between Libya and the United States for the purpose of accentuating the main points that I wish to emphasize.

Finally, in the light of the theme of this congress which is “the role of the Moro youth and students in the heightening struggle for self-determination of the Bangsamoro”, I would like also to explore how the Moro youth may situate themselves within the perspective of our present discussion.

We are all aware of the existence of the Organization of Islamic Conference, which is made up of 46 Muslim countries. We are also conscious of the existence of the Islamic Ummah. There is further the Arab League made up of 21 Arab nations. These all indicate, at least that is how it appears, a high level of unity among the Muslim countries. And yet existence realities reveal that unity in the Islamic world, except in the doctrinal sphere, is nothing but a myth.

Iran and Iraq have been at war since 1980. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, among other Arab countries, support Iraq. Libya and Syria are allied with Iran. Iran itself has complained that the Peace Committee created by the Organization of Islamic Conference to work towards peace between the warring countries has yet to prove its neutrality.

The Palestinian Arabs (Muslim, Christians and Jews alike) have been locked in a life and death struggle against the forces of Zionism for several decades now. In the early years after the second world war, it is told that the Zionist would have had no chance to take root in Palestine because the latter’s number was too small and their arms negligible. But the Arabs’ greater number and better armaments got nowhere precisely because of lack of unity occasioned by conflicting interests. Egypt used to be, in the time of Abdel Nasser and in the early years of Anwar Sadat, at the forefront of the anti-Zionist struggle, but then Sadat changed his mind and entered into a peace treaty with Israel, giving the members of the Arab League reason to expel it (Egypt) from the organization; President Mubarak has not departed from the signature of his predecessor. For a while, Jordan spoke in support of the Palestinians but then the Jordanian army later turned its guns on the Palestinian refugees in its borders. Presently, the members of the Amal Gang which happen to be Shi’ites are actively involved in the process of wiping out Palestinians, both guerrilla and civilian elements, in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia, the most powerful and the most influential of the Arab nations, has been at best wishy-washy in its stand towards the Palestinian struggle. Occasionally, it issues loud protest against Zionist excesses but on the whole it is the most staunch ally of the United States, the principal backer of Israel.

Libya since 1969, Iran since 1979 and Syria have been at the forefront of the opposition not only against Zionism but also and especially against the forces of American imperialism in the Middle East.

How then should we view this apparent lack of unity among Islamic countries?

Part II

The Main Causes of Division within the Islamic Countries

You must have heard of the Pan-Arabic movement in the Middle East. This is largely a reaction to the forces of western colonialism by Arab-speaking territories. The present division of the Middle countries into separate nations is also largely a creation of western colonialism. But in order to understand this in its historical perspective, let us go back first to how this phenomenon came about. I shall quote from The Arabs, a book of Philip K. Hitti which provides an excellent summary of the events. For four centuries from 1517, the Ottoman Turks held sway over all of the Arab world which once extended from Persian to Spain. With the decline of the Ottoman empire, large portions of its territory started to fall away.

First among the Arab lands to be detached from the empire was Algeria. It was occupied by the French in 1830 and later declared an integral part of France. Tunisia came next (1881) under French control. By 1912 France, Spain and Italy … had established their ascendance over the whole territory from Morocco to Libya.” (p.254)

During the first world war, the Ottoman ruler allied himself with the Germans and after the war consequently lost. Ottoman territories were consequently partitioned among the victorious western powers. Hitti continues:

Subsequent to the first World war, a French mandate was inaugurate over Syria and Lebanon which was not shaken off until the second World War. Palestine was mandated to Great Britain until 1948, when Israel was created against the will of the native inhabitants and despite the feeble resistance of all neighbouring Arab states. Jordan, which began its political career as part of the British mandate, was proclaimed a kingdom in 1946 under Abdullah, son of Sharif Husayn and Hijaz and elder brother of Faysal. After a brief occupancy of the improvised throne of Syria, Faysal was overthrown by the French only to be installed (1921) by the British on the newly created throne of Iraq. Of the mandate territories, Lebanon was the first to be declared itself a republic; Iraq, though culturally behind the Syria, was the first to free itself completely from the mandatory power and to achieve full independence. Iraq’s declaration of independence was made in 1939.” (pp. 256-57)

Nationalism as one of the imports the Arab world was made from the West and led to the struggle for independence from western control, direct western colonial control, that is. Let us go back to pan-Arabism. Hitti states:

Starting as a purely intellectual movement, the Arab national awakening had for pioneers mostly Syrian intellectuals, more specifically Christian Lebanese, educated at the American University of Beirut and operating in Egypt. The early manifestations of the movement were revived interest in classical Arabic, study of Arabic literature and research in Islamic history. Soon a consciousness of the past glory of the Arab empire and the cultural achievements and of its citizens began to dawn upon the literate body… Political awakening followed intellectual awakening and the urge for a resuscitated, reunite Arab society for the first time to be strongly and widely felt….

   “The base from which this Arab nationalism started was a wide one. Its thesis was that all Arabic-speaking peoples — regardless of religion .. were one people united through language and general culture. The attempt was one of Pan-Arabism rather than Pan-Islam.” (pp. 260-61)

But the struggle of the Egyptians against British occupation from 1882 resulted in Egyptian nationalism, distinct and apart from Pan-Arabism. The Syrians developed Syrian nationalism as a consequence of their fight against Turkification, then later against French imperialism. Palestinian hostility to the British mandate as well as to Zionism produced its Palestinian version of nationalism. Lebanon achieves its own nationhood by its own efforts. Iraq, too, saw the birth of its own brand of nationalism as a result of its fight against British imperialism. Hitti observes:

Thus did these Arab components of the Ottoman Empire fall apart between the two world wars and develop into nations of quasi-nations. But the second World War and the threat of Zionism… served to bring those parts once more closer together. The urge of common interest and the rising feeling of solidarity culminated in the Arab League, whose pact was signed in Cairo, March 1945.” (p. 262)

The original members of the League were Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, followed later by Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Algeria and Kuwait. There are presently 21 members. Abdel Nasser pursued the unification process and after his death, Muammar Khadafy of Libya. The central focus of the movement at present is the strong opposition to Zionism and American imperialism as well as the support of the Palestinian cause.

Part III

The Rise of US Imperialism and its Intrusion into Middle East Affairs          

The Central focus of imperialist interest in the Middle East is oil. At the end of the second world war, the United States emerged as the No. 1 world superpower and naturally demanded its share of the pie in the Middle East. Earlier it was the British imperialists who sponsored, protected and sustained the nucleus of Zionism which led to the creation of Israel. After the second world war, the US took over and coerced its allies to vote for the creation of the Israeli state.

It must be recalled at this point how the voting over the issue of the creation of the Israeli state took place at the United Nations in November 1947. How the Philippine delegate fared on this occasion deserves recalling. We quote from “Our Roots Are Still Alive” written by the Palestinian Book Project:

“On the opening day of the United Nations session on Palestine, in November 1947, the delegate from the Philippines declared: We hold that the issue is primarily moral. The issue is whether the United States should accept the responsibility for the enforcement of a policy which is clearly repugnant to the valid nationalist aspirations of the people of Palestine. The Philippine Government holds that the United Nations ought not to accept such responsibility.

“Two days later the Philippine delegate was on a ship back to Manila, recalled from his post. A phone call from Washington to President Roxas of the Philippines had reversed the Philippine position on Palestine.”(p. 65)

Since that time, the United States has been responsible for the downfall of the prime minister of Iran in the mid-1950s who dared to oppose US dominance in the country’s oil industry. The US, too, was responsible for the propping up of the infamous Shah of Iran, which explains the hatred the present rulers of Iran express towards American imperialism. It is responsible still for the present division among the Islamic countries of the Middle East.

How does the United States promote and protect its interests in the Middle East? Mainly by propping up the Zionist rule in Israel. Says in part by one article in the Jamahiriyah Mail, 6 July 1985:

Washington’s main partner remains Zionist Israel which looks upon itself as the most reliable prop of the US in this region. In 1982-83 fiscal year alone, Israel received US military aid to the tune of 2.2 billion dollars.”

In another issue of the same periodical, 27 July 1985, we quote:

“A professor and adviser to the US Department of Defense, who is living in Washington under the assumed name of Miles Ignotas, had revealed the following: ‘Our aim is not simply to obtain oil in one way or another (say in places easily accessible such as Nigeria or Venezuela) but to smash OPEC. So we have to make purposeful use of force to get hold of large and concentrated oil deposits which can be developed rapidly so that an end will be put to the artificial shortage of oil and prices will be reduced as a result…

‘This being the ultimate purpose, there is only one conceivable target: Saudi Arabia…

   ‘Fortunately, these fields are not only productive but moreover concentrated in a small area, a fraction of Saudi Arabian territory… While Vietnam was full of trees and brave people, and out national interest hardly discernible, here there are no trees, very few people and a clear-cut aim.’

“The US strategic alliance with Israel is central to the ‘clear-cut aim’ of acquiring Arab oil and getting access to bases in the region (at Oman and Al Mallaha). The bedrock remains, as it has for over three decades our moral and strategic relationship with Israel… We pledge to help maintain Israel’s qualitative edge over its adversaries.”

The chief concern of the American imperialist is not only its interests in the oil of the Middle East. It is world-wide. And they see to it that these varied interests are amply protected with military force. Says a US State Department document quoted also in the 27 July 1985 issue of the Jamahiriyah Mail:

US security begins north of the Arctic Circle, at bases situated in Alaska, Greenland, Iceland and other bases served by our good neighbour, Canada. It begins on the other side of the Atlantic – in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey… It begins far to the west, in Korea and Japan, in the Philippines, New Zealand and Thailand. At it begins in Latin America.”

President Ronald Reagan was just as blunt. He was quoted in the Wireless Bullet from Washington, Bonn, 28 October 1983:

“We are a nation with global responsibilities. We are not somewhere else in the world protecting someone else’s interests. We are protecting our own.”

Why Hit Khadafy?

Twice in the early morning of April 15, 1986, American war-planes bombed the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya. Hit were residential sectors of the two cities, including the Franciscan nuns’ mission center, the diplomatic premises of France, Japan, Switzerland and Romania, and the residence of Muammar Khadafy himself. More than one hundred people were reported killed, including the 15-month old daughter of Khadafy. Two of his young sons were injured.

Condemnation of this barbaric act reverberated throughout the world, from east to west. Here in Mindanao, thousands of Muslims took to the streets in protest. Britain stood virtually alone, along with Canada and Israel at the side of the United States. In New York, hundreds of demonstrators called Reagan the world’s number one terrorist.

Being a member of the non-aligned countries, Libya is a neutral country, neither belonging to NATO or to the Warsaw Pact. But as a result of the air raids, the Libya Information Minister was quoted to have blurted out:

Neutrality becomes useless for a small country like the Jamahiriyah (Libya) from the moment that a superpower such as the United States blows the principle to pieces.”

Among the Arab leaders of the Middle East countries, Muammar Khadafy stands as the most uncompromising supporter of the Palestinian struggle and the enemy of Zionism and US imperialism. He is presently the most active promoter of Pan-Arabism. And in his own country he is a staunch advocate of ‘authority in the hands of the people’, ‘arms in the hands of the people’, and ‘partnership’ in the economic system. He is also an active supporter of genuine liberation struggles all over the world. He admitted this publicly just a few weeks ago, including his support of the Moro struggle for national self-determination.

He is, in short, the greatest threat to US imperialist interests in that part of the world. In his own words, he said in part during his speech at the Maitiga Airbase (formerly Wheelus) on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary celebrations commemorating the eviction of the American terrorist bases from Libyan Arab territory (Jamahiriyah Mail, 15 June 1985):

The freedom of any part of the Arab homeland cannot be secured until the freedom of the whole Arab homeland is secured… This was the main purpose of Nasser (of Egypt) to raise the banner of Arab nationalism.”

Part IV

American Imperialism and the Moro Struggle for Self-Determination

One of the least known details of Mindanao is the “Report of the Mindanao Exploration Commission” prepared under the auspices of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees. Composed of five Americans who served as bureaucrats in the American colonial regime in the Philippines, this commission explored the possibility of settling 10,000 European Jewish settlers in Mindanao.

Among the areas considered for the European type of settlement were the Wao-Banisilan region of Lanao and Cotabato, the Buldon-Barrira region of Cotabato, the Kidapawan region of Cotabato, the Maramag-Kitaotao plain in Bukidnon, the Maapag plain in Bukidnon, the Miarayon Valley of Bukidnon, the Upper Pulangi Valley of Bukidnon, and the Bukidnon Plateau which covers most of the northern and central part of the province. This last area was regarded as most suited and was therefore recommended. Titay Valley and the Kipit River Valley in the Zamboanga Peninsula were also explored as possible alternative sites. The Philippine Commonwealth had agreed to admit the 10,000 refugees into the Bukidnon Plateau; we cannot say, however, why the plan did not materialize. But we could have had own version of Zionism.

The United States bought the entirety of the Philippine archipelago from Spain, including those portions of Moroland which were never part of Spanish colonial territory, and this became the excuse for the US Army to physically eliminate thousands of inhabitants: more than 200,000 in Luzon and the Visayas, and between 15,000 and 20,000 in Mindanao who resisted the establishment of American colonial rule.

It was the American imperialists who integrated the Moro ancestral lands into the Philippine territory, and opened the way for the entry of thousands of agricultural settlers into Mindanao. It was they who decided that Moros must be Filipinos.

The so-called grant of independence to the Philippines in July 1946 was a neat cover for the perpetuation of American dominance in the Philippines. By means of unequal treaties, the American government was able to retain the Philippines as a neo-colony: the site of two huge military bases, a secure source of much needed raw materials for American factories, and a captive market for American products.

We can see, therefore, that the dominance of American interests in the economic, political, cultural and military spheres of Philippine life is not an accident of history.

Through the military bases, the Philippines has actually become part of that vast American military network designed to protect American interests all over the world. The sphere of operation of the US bases here extends as far as the Persian Gulf.

Neither accidental is the marginalization, and consequently, the national oppression and exploitation of the Moro people. It is by design a creation of American imperialism. Oppression and exploitation is the present essence of imperialism and so, we should not be surprised if the US government is opposed to the Moro struggle for self-determination.

Former US Ambassador to the Philippines William Sullivan was trying to be subtle but his words were clear enough when he said in 1975:

The United States has condemned threat of secession in southern Philippines as contrary to U.S. security interests in Southeast Asia.”

Especially if we consider that this condemnation was accompanied by massive increase in military aid to the Philippine government. We should not be surprised if one day we shall find out that the US government is exerting pressure on the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the World Muslim League not to give in to the demands of the Moro people. Very obviously the Moro struggle to self-determination is vulnerable from many points. Wherever country in the Third World the US imperialists hold sway, Islamic or otherwise, they can influence the future of the Moro struggle, and of the Moro people.

How now must the Moro youth situate the struggle of which they are part? I would not want to tell you what to do, but I would like to suggest that they ought to be more alliance conscious in their attitudes and dealings with people who are non-Muslim or non-Moro. The threat to the Bangsamoro is bigger than we think, more experienced and more sophisticated in the art of national oppression and exploitation.

There is a need to develop our own brand of experience and sophistication in the art of national liberation. Better to think of victory, rather than the graveyard.

[Si Prof. Rudy Buhay Rodil ay aktibong historyan ng Mindanao, tagapasulong ng kalinaw (Bisaya sa kapayapaan). Kilala siyang espesyalista sa paghusay ng mga gusot sa Mindanao-Sulu. Naging Komisyoner noon ng Regional Consultative Commision sa siyang nagbuo ng draft organic law ng Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao noong 1988. Dalawang beses siyang naging miyembro ng GRP Peace Negotiating Panel. 1993-1996, pakikipag-usap sa Moro National Liberation (MNLF), at noong 2004-2008 sa pakikipag-negosasyon sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Naging visiting propesor sa Hiroshima University, Oktubre-Disyembre 2011. Nagretiro noong Oktubre 2007.]