Keynote Speech to the Conference on US Militarism
and "War on Terror" in the Asia-Pacific Region
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples' Struggle
Cebu City, December 9-10, 2006
Let me congratulate all the cooperating organizations for successfully organizing this
conference. I am deeply pleased that the International League of Peoples' Struggle
is part of the joint initiative, with the Asia-Pacific Research Network, Asia-Pacific Mission
for Migrants, Asian Students Association, ARENA-New Zealand, Asia-Pacific Forum on
Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and the Peace for Life Network.
Thank you for inviting me to be the keynote speaker. I feel privileged and highly
honored to express my views to all of you who are present as representatives of
people's organizations, grassroots movements, the academe and other institutions
and who seek to confront and tackle the problem of US militarism and the so-called
war on terror, which is actually the US war of terror.
The conference must strive to achieve its three objectives:
1. to raise the level of awareness and understanding of the current US war of terror
in the context of long-running US imperialism and militarism and how this war is being
used to aggrandize US economic and political interests in the region;
2. to address specific urgent issues relating to the US military bases, militarism and
human rights in order to be well grounded in responding to the needs and demands
of the people; and
3. to develop a platform for cooperation and sustained networking for carrying out
an Asian regional campaign against the US war of terror and escalating militarism and
work for the realization of the full range of human rights.
I. US War of Terror, Militarism, Economic and Political Interests
Militarism and expansionism characterized the US as a global imperialist power at the
turn of the 20th century. The US reached across the Pacific and turned the Philippines
into its colony and military outpost in Asia. It emerged from the Second World War
the strongest and most prosperous industrial capitalist country, while the economies
of its European allies as well as their former adversaries Germany, Italy and Japan (the
Axis powers) were devastated. It headed the alliance of imperialist powers in the Cold
War against the Soviet Union and East European countries, China, North Korea, Mongolia
the Indochinese countries (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) and Cuba.
The restoration of capitalism through modern revisionism in the Soviet Union and East
European countries from 1956 onwards and the anti-Left coup in China in 1976 led to
the expansion of the world capitalist market into the erstwhile socialist economies. But
this has contributed to, rather than prevented, the aggravation of the chronic crisis of
overproduction that continues to afflict the entire world capitalist system since the 1970s.
US president Reagan and and UK prime minister Thatcher led the US and Britain, and
subsequently the global economy, from Keynesianism to the neoliberal policies of
deregulation, liberalization, privatization and de-nationalization to further exploit the
weaker economies and squeeze the toiling peoples dry in order to aggrandize the
monopoly bourgeoisie and accelerate the concentration and centralization of capital
in its hands.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and East European regimes in 1989-91 led to the
undisguised restoration of capitalism and the rapid integration of the erstwhile Comecon
countries into the world capitalist system under the banner of "neoliberal globalization".
China also stepped up capitalist restoration. The promise of progress, prosperity and peace
flowing into the so-called newly-emergent markets and developing countries as a result
of "globalization" were proven false. Russia and the East European countries underwent
further economic and social degradation. East Asia succumbed to a financial and economic
crisis in 1997. Japan and Europe fell into recession in succession, followed by the US in 2000.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc left the US as the sole and
unchallenged imperialist superpower. Gone was the spectre of "communism" and
"totalitarianism" which the US had invoked to justify massive military spending, costly
military research and production, the permanent deployment of US military forces all
over the world, military intervention and wars of aggression. The neoconservatives in
the US, representing the interests of big business, especially the military industrial complex
and the oil giants, drew up a blueprint to expand and consolidate US global hegemony, to
combat and defeat "rogue states" and prevent at all cost the rise of any rival in the world
or in any global region in order to ensure US global supremacy for the entire 21st century.
Historically, the US has used war as means to counter economic slowdown and stagnation,
reviving the sluggish economy even if only temporarily by spurring military production and
drawing immense profits for the military contractors. The neoconservatives offered the
blueprint "Project New American Century (PNAC)" as the solution in the short, medium
and long term. But the PNAC was regarded by most US policy-makers as too arrogantly
presumptive, reckless and expensive for the American public and Congress and thus remained
on ice until Bush came to power and 9/11 occurred. Previously, not even the successful
Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and military intervention in the Balkans in most of the
1990s could whet the neoconservatives' appetite for large-scale and prolonged military
actions (using the full spectrum of US power, chiefly its high-tech weapons) to seize and
control strategic territory and resources.
The 9/11 bombings instantly reversed the disposition of the US, particularly the temper
of bipartisan consensus, as the Bush regime conjured and hyped the "global terrorist"
menace and persuaded the American public. The US Congress was swayed to support
a worldwide, borderless, permanent and preemptive "war against terrorism". The initial
targets of invasion and occupation would provide the US with access to and control of
strategic resources, vital supply lines and strategic forward positions for military aggression.
The US has long coveted Afghanistan for access to and control of the rich sources of oil
and natural gas reserves in the Caspian region and Central Asia and for securing a foothold
on the western flank of China. It has even more coveted Iraq for its huge oil reserves
next only to Saudi Arabia, which has the largest but of a quality inferior to Iraqi oil.
Iraq has the added advantage of being centrally located, suitable for building US military
bases and controlling the sources of oil in the Middle East.
Soon after launching its war of aggression against Afghanistan in October 2001, the US
in January 2002 declared Southeast Asia as the "second front in the war against terrorism"
and drastically increased its forward presence in the Philippines under the guise of "joint
military training exercises" purportedly to enhance cooperation and interoperability in
operations against the small bandit group Abu Sayyaf. But the US is really interested
in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, because of
the region's rich oil, natural gas and other mineral resources, strategic basing locations,
and sealanes through which half of US and non-US world merchandise trade pass.
The US military budget has shot up from a steady USD 350 billion in the years before
9/11 to nearly USD 500 billion in 2006, or nearly half of the entire US annual budget.
Actual military expenditures are even more, exceeding 50% of the total budget, since
many items are hidden under apparently non-military items. The budget outlays for the
Department of Defense (DOD), for example, do not include the expenses for prosecuting
the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, part of which is listed as "supplemental expenses" and
run up to more than USD 100 billion.
A large part of the additional expenses for FY 2006 and 2007 will go to expanding the
US Special Forces by 15% or 66,000 troops, upgrading the weaponry of the Army, and
developing new fighter jets, battleships, the star wars anti-missile defense system and
other weapons systems. The Special Forces are the designated principal and core combat
force for the overseas "war on terror", for training foreign forces, and carrying out covert
intelligence and non-conventional operations, including abductions and assassinations.
The types of weaponry and armaments being developed are reportedly directed mainly
at a possible conflict with China. In the meantime, the development of such weaponry
and armaments is calculated to pressure China and induce it to fall in line with the US.
Some observers note that some military expenditures, including the development of new
weapons systems, have little to do with the "war on terror" and are obviously intended
to boost the military industrial complex, which appears to have won out in the tug-of-war
for funding against some Pentagon officials who favor an increase in army troops to
remedy the overstretching of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The combination of Bush,
Cheney and Rumsfeld has gone for putting more money into military production, acquisition
of equipment and even privatization of functions in the military.
The US considers Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand as its closest
and most reliable allies in the region. Australia hosts a US satellite spy base and provides
military training for other US allies in the area. The US is setting up land and ship-based
"Star Wars" missile defense systems in Australia with the cooperation of the Australian
government. The Philippine and Singapore governments have military agreements with
the US and have been willing and eager accomplices in the "war on terror".
The military agreements and arrangements between the US and the Philippines include
the Military Assistance Agreement, the Mutual Defense Agreement, the Visiting Forces
Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement. The Philippine reactionary
government immediately declared full support for the US "war on terror" shortly after
9/11, offering Philippine troops, medical personnel, contract workers, and opening its
airspace and the use of Philippine territory and facilities as refuelling stations, storage,
prepositioning and staging areas for US troops. Singapore also has an access and
servicing agreement with the US for use of its seaports.
US troops conduct joint military training exercises, "counter-narcotics", "counter-terrorist"
as well as "humanitarian" operations (civic-military, disaster, anti-epidemic, de-mining
and rescue operations) as a pretext for forward-deployment and pre-stationing of its
troops in critical and strategic areas all over the world. In East Asia and Oceania, US
Special Forces, mostly based in Japan and Korea, regularly conduct these operations
on a year-round basis in the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos,
Cambodia and Vietnam. The US also conducts joint naval exercises with Australia for
enhancing cooperation and interoperability.
US military presence in the Asia-Pacific serves as a coercive and intimidating sword
hanging over the governments and peoples of the region, allowing US and other
foreign multinationals to dictate policies and exploit and plunder the region's natural
and human resources. Military and economic grants and loans are depicted by puppet
regimes like that of Arroyo as sweet aid but in fact are used to poison and subvert
the political and economic sovereignty of the people and impose anti-national and
anti-democratic policies on the reactionary governments.
II. Urgent Issues Relating to US Military Bases, Militarism and Human Rights
US military bases serve to protect and promote the ultra-national economic, political
and other interests of US imperialism and are strategically directed against the political
and economic sovereignty of countries in the region. It is through military force that
the US has been able to serve and expand the interests of US monopoly capitalism in
the recurrent struggles for a redivision of the world among the imperialist powers. US
imperialism is inherently aggressive and its aggressiveness serves the purpose of
expanding economic territory and political hegemony and prevailing in the competition
with other imperialist powers.
US imperialism uses all kinds of justifications and subterfuges in order to build its military
might and deploy its military forces abroad. Its loudest justification for many decades
since the end of World War II was anti-communism and such related euphemisms as
defense of freedom, democracy, peace and security. Now, the latest big justification
is anti-terrorism. The imperialists and their puppets are in fact the biggest real terrorists
who use state power to kill the people in large numbers. But they magnify al Qaeda
and other fringe groups beyond their criminal character, capabilities and proportions
to justify the worst forms of terrorism, which are wars of aggression and state repression.
There are still other justifications but these are consistently related to maintaining and
promoting the interests of monopoly capitalism.
The US Pacific Command (USPACOM) is the largest geographical unified command in
the US armed forces, stretching from the west coast of the Americas all the way across
the Pacific to the East Asia littoral to the Indian Ocean and the east coast of Africa,
from the Arctic to Australia and New Zealand to Antarctica. USPACOM maintains 100,000
troops in the Asia-Pacific. Around 37,000 are based in South Korea while 43,000 are
based in Japan. These forces are depicted by the US as serving to protect Taiwan and
South Korea from the threat of invasion and takeover by China and the DPRK, respectively.
But the large US military presence in East Asia and the Pacific and the "war on terror"
are directed at intimidating China and the DPRK as well as discouraging nations and peoples
from asserting national independence and sovereignty. The DPRK has long been demonized
as part of the "axis of evil", blockaded, and threatened with further sanctions and even
with outright aggression if it continues to defy US warnings and develop its own nuclear
weapons. But the DPRK has tested its nuclear capability despite US warnings and asserted
its right to defend itself from superpower aggression. China has been named by the US
as the world power most capable of challenging US hegemony and supremacy within 20
years, a possibility that the US has declared it will never allow.
In the Philippines and some other countries in the region, the US controls and influences
the local military forces through indoctrination and training, military supplies, intelligence
exchange and war exercises. It uses the local military forces as a surrogate armed force
not only to fight the revolutionary forces but also to ensure that the local government
toes the US line and protects US interests in the country. We have seen puppet
regimes, like those of Marcos and Suharto, propped up by the US with economic and
military support and then later dropped through maneuvers in collaboration with US-trained
To protect the interests of the US, British and Dutch oil companies, the US used military
and economic aid to support and embolden Suharto and his clique of generals to act
against Sukarno and massacre 1.5 million people in the name of anti-communism. But
at a much later time, the US would use US-trained Indonesian Special Forces to depose
Suharto, after having become a liability to imperialist interests. Like all the rest of so-called
US allies, Japan is an object of US dual policy. The US depicts its military bases and forces
in Japan as protective of Japan and extracts an annual USD 6 billion payment from Japan.
At the same time, the US claims that the same US military bases and forces are there to
protect other countries, particularly those in the Asia Pacific region, from the danger of
resurgent nationalism and militarism in Japan.
US policy on military or security matters are implemented in collaboration with puppet and
partner governments in various regions and has resulted in horrible consequences to the
people. The "war on terror" has spurred a rise in human rights violations by US troops and
by local state security forces as governments intensify and escalate military and police
operations against revolutionary and opposition forces, including those engaged in open
and legal democratic struggle. Human rights violations, including murder and rape, continue
to be perpetrated by US troops with impunity in East Asian countries where they are based
The "war on terror" has given the Arroyo regime an excuse for escalating repressive measures
in order to suppress the widespread clamor and actions of the people for its ouster on the
grounds of puppetry, corruption, electoral fraud, and culpability for gross violations of human
rights. The Bush and Arroyo governments have been pushing Congress to pass anti-terrorist
legislation to proscribe patriotic and progressive organizations and leaders, to allow warrantless
arrests, detention and seizure of properties, to suppress the freedom of speech and assembly
and to allow rampant surveillance, harassment and intimidation. But even without such
legislation, the military and police have gone on a rampage of killing, abducting, torturing,
massacring innocent people, forcing people to evacuate and committing other atrocities
In such notorious places like Fort Bragg and the School of the Americas (now called the
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the US has systematically trained
military officers of puppet governments in the doctrine of low intensify conflict and in dirty
tricks, including psychological warfare and methods of abduction, assassination and torture.
Indonesian, Philippine and Thai security (military and police) forces have also been trained by
US Special Forces, Drugs Enforcement Administration and FBI agents to violate human rights
and fundamental freedoms in the name of anti-terrorism and other pretexts.
Under the direction and influence of the US Military Commissions Act of 2006, the US and its
puppets are bound to violate civil and political rights with impunity on a wider scale than
before on the road of state terrorism and fascism. The law negates the right to habeas
corpus, prevents prompt access to the civil courts, lawyers of choice and evidence, attacks
the confidentiality of lawyer-client relations and allows unlimited surveillance, warrantless
arrests, arbitrary seizures of property, indefinite detention and the use of torture. Starting
with the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the US has pushed its allied as well as puppet
governments to adopt so-called anti-terrorism laws. These have established the global
legal infrastrucrture for naked state terrorism and fascism.
The US thinly disguises its real intent in the "war on terror", which is to go after and
suppress national liberation movements, anti-imperialist forces and leaders and governments
assertive of national independence. Before conducting "joint military training exercises" in
the Philippines in 2002, US and Philippine officials boasted that after the Abu Sayyaf, they
would go after the New People's Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
They have persistently attempted to link the Abu Sayyaf and MILF, as well as the MILF with
the NPA in order to conjure the illusion of a chain of "terrorist" cooperation among them.
The US has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NPA and the NDFP
Chief Political consultant as "terrorists", and has pressured other governments to do likewise
since 2002. The Arroyo government has subsequently suspended formal talks with the
NDFP and used the "terrorist" tag and the threat of intensifying US-backed military offensives
in order to coerce the NDFP to capitulate through a one-sided "formal peace accord" (a
document of surrender) written by the Arroyo government.
Since the first post-9/11 "joint military exercise", the Arroyo government has declared "all
out war" against the CPP-NPA-NDFP and has deployed the Philippine Army light infantry
companies trained by the US Special Forces in Basilan and elsewhere to the NPA-controlled
areas. Half of the USD 55 million aid for counterterrorism was allotted to offensive operations
against the NPA. Joint US-RP military exercises were subsequently held in and around
NPA-controlled areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The US war of terror and the subservience of the Arroyo regime have sabotaged the peace
negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines and have escalated the armed counterrevolution against the Filipino people. In
directing the Arroyo regime to carry out an all-out war policy, the US aims to increase its
military intervention in the Philippines, deploy US troops, build military facilities and pave the
way for the return of US military bases.
III. Cooperation and Networking for Campaigns
There is a need for us to wage a region-wide campaign for the abrogation of military and
security agreements and arrangements with the US, and for the dismantling of US military
bases in the region. We must encourage the people to struggle against US militarism and
terrorism, especially in countries where US military power is deeply entrenched. In this way
the nations and peoples of East Asia and Oceania attain genuine independence, uphold their
national and economic sovereignty, and build a truly free, democratic, prosperous and
The decision to launch a regional campaign to dismantle the US bases in the East Asia and
Oceania region is quite timely and deserves our unanimous agreement and concerted efforts.
There are robust and vibrant anti-bases formations and movements in countries where there
are US bases, stations, facilities, advisors and trainors and other forms of military presence,
especially in Japan and South Korea, Australia, Philippines and Indonesia. There is the Asia-Wide
Campaign against US bases. We should strive to cooperate and coordinate with these
formations and movements and help to expand, strengthen and further activate them.
We can also establish new formations and movements where possible and necessary.
The US and other imperialist powers, the militarists and the local fascist reactionaries are
the real terrorists, by the correct definition of terrorism as organized violence solely or mainly
against the people or civilian population. We must launch a campaign to expose and oppose
their use of superior military and economic power to coerce the nations and peoples of East
Asia and Oceania into following the US imperialist and terrorist agenda, disguised as a "war
on terror" for maintaining regional stability and security.
We should wage regional mass campaigns or other forms of coordinated efforts for defending
civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The defense of civil and
political rights is closely linked with the campaign to expose and oppose US militarism and the
"war on terror", which have become the main prod to the attacks on civil and political rights.
This involves exposing and opposing the repressive measures masquerading as "anti-terrorism"
We must strengthen our resolve and strive to reverse and eradicate the evil consequences
of the US war of terror in the form of bilateral and multilateral agreements to allow unbridled
US aggression and other extraterritorial acts, the policy of state terrorism, fascist legislation
and actual bloody campaigns to violate human rights like Oplan Bantay Laya. Otherwise US
militarism and terrorism in collaboration with the local regimes and ultra-reactionaries in the
region will continue to violate human rights in a comprehensive way and inflict terrible suffering
on the people.
The campaign to defend the people's social, economic and cultural rights requires exposing
US militarism and the "war on terror" as means for imposing US hegemony over the region,
controlling and using strategic resources for its own interest and to the detriment of the
peoples of the region. Superior US military power is being employed to promote and facilitate
"neoliberal globalization" in the region, so that US monopoly capital can more freely enter
the local economies and intensify the exploitation and oppression of the region's peoples.
In all of these campaigns, we need to broaden our knowledge and deepen our understanding
of the operations and dynamics of US militarism and "war on terror" in particular countries
and in the entire region. We must pay close attention to the impact of US militarism and
terrorism on the civil, political, social, economic and cultural lives of the peoples. The various
study commissions of the ILPS can contribute significantly to these studies, as the member
organizations serve to arouse and mobilize the broad masses of people against US militarism
and the "war on terror".
The networks of ILPS, APRN, Peace for Life, APMM, ARENA-New Zealand, APWLD and
ASA are sufficiently broad to be able to undertake these campaigns. Good coordination
and cooperation will certainly enhance the capabilities of each network as well as the whole.
The campaigns can also serve to expand and strengthen each network as it arouses,
organizes and mobilizes the people against US militarism and the "war on terror" and
along the specific issues to which these are linked.
Internationally, the situation is excellent for launching and carrying out these campaigns.
The Bush government faces continuing isolation daily as its global "war on terror", especially
the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, are exposed as naked acts of
imperialist aggression, and as the valiant resistance of the Afghan and Iraqi people
frustrate and defeat the lone superpower's arrogance, rapacity and brutality.
The American people have expressed their unequivocal disapproval of the war in the
Middle East and Central Asia, handing over both houses of Congress to the opposition
Democrats. The neo-conservatives are in decline and disarray in US policy-making
bodies on foreign policy and security. The US government is faced with a sluggish
economy and with the threat of another round of recession in the coming year. US
imperialism has no solution to its economic and political crisis, and no plan for extracting
itself from the Iraqi and Afghan quagmires. The longer it stays in these quagmires the
bigger losses it incurs. The so-called realists among US policy-makers are finding grave
difficulties seeking a way out of Iraq and upholding US imperialist interests..
The peoples of East Asia and Oceania will certainly join and support the campaigns
against US militarism and its war of terror as these will complement and enhance their
own struggles for national liberation and social emancipation. The anti-imperialist and
democratic movement of the peoples is gaining ground and intensity. The peoples'
struggles worldwide will steadily and surely advance to isolate, weaken and eventually
defeat US imperialism and other imperialists the world over. ###