Saturday, June 10, 2006

Throw out Blackwater and other recruiters of mercenaries

Throw out those recruiters of mercenaries

"We may be beggars but we do have a choice. Let's throw out those recruiters."

With Filipinos serving as laborers, nurses and caregivers in all corners of the world, deploying them as mercenaries is probably an idea whose time has come. A US outfit, Blackwater, has set up shop at the Subic Freeport and is now recruiting active and retired soldiers, preferably combat veterans, to help fight America�s war against Iraq.

Actually, Filipinos have a long history of involvement in foreign wars. They served as auxiliaries in Spanish misadventures in neighboring countries. Even before that, they had been drawn into wars among native rulers in what is now the Indonesian archipelago and Malaysian Borneo with which they had kinship ties.

In the more recent past, Filipino soldiers were recruited into the "secret war" waged by the United States in Indochina. This was on top of the not-so-secret role played by Pinoys in providing construction and logistical support to the Americans during the Vietnam War. The recruiters were nominally private corporations, but were in fact CIA fronts.

This time around, thanks to privatization and globalization, the recruitment and deployment of mercenaries has truly become a business, albeit with the encouragement of the US government which finds such arrangements cheaper and more palatable to American voters who have grown angry, as in Vietnam, over burying their sons (and daughters under a now gender-equal US military) for some dubious cause in some place they could not find on the map.

That said, it should be remembered that globalization is not limited to business. The US claims it is fighting a loose global network of terrorist organizations driven by an implacable hatred toward the West.

In our people�s search for jobs across the seas in the absence of local opportunities, we might find ourselves in the forward trenches of that war. And we�re not talking of the Abu Sayyaf and its links to the Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiya alone.

A few of our countrymen have already been kidnapped in Iraq for having been identified as drivers, waiters and laundrymen of what are seen as foreign occupying forces. If we take a more high-profile role as armed security guards at US installations and as shotgun riders on convoys � which appear to be the jobs reserved for Filipino mercenaries � we will be seen as hostiles and be open to attacks both inside and outside Iraq.

We may be beggars but we do have a choice. Let�s throw out those recruiters. But we�re not holding our breath. With jobs so scarce, many will be desperate enough to lay their lives on the line.

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