U.S. assistance to the Philippines is fair military intervention

The United States is sending troops to the Philippines for war games, where they will apparently practice on live targets: the Abu Sayyaf, which is a Muslim group claiming to fight for an independent Muslim state on the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf has been named a terrorist threat by the current president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The United States will deploy about 650 troops to “”practice”” army tactics against the Muslim militants, who have demonstrated their loathing for human life most recently by kidnapping about 70 people since May.

American tourist Guillermo Sobero was among those allegedly beheaded by Abu Sayyaf in the past months. Two American Christians and a Filipino nurse are still being held on Basilan. Recently released hostages are reported to have seen the couple and described them as “”not just skinny, but bony.””

This is not a matter of terrorism, but of humanity.

However gruesome the past has been, the future is sure to reveal several more doses of reality. American troops are the best in the world, and to help control the inhumane acts performed by the Abu Sayyaf, it is sensible for the Philippines to ask for help from the strongest.

The history of the Abu Sayyaf includes the decapitation of several of its hostages and the kidnapping of children, a grandmother and many foreigners. A raid on a Christian village in 1995 killed 53 inhabitants and soldiers. Extortion, piracy, robbery and ransom kidnappings provide money for the band, but it is believed that support also comes from Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.

However, if one knows the history of American troops in the Philippines, there is no denying the complications between the two nations. The mid-1980s brought the “”peaceful”” overthrow of President Ferdinand Marcos, and Arroyo now faces possible impeachment for cooperating with the United States in its efforts to fight terrorist activity on the islands.

According to the constitution of the Philippines, foreign troops are prohibited from participating in combat missions on Philippine soil. U.S. troops left in 1992 after Mount Pinatubo erupted and destroyed an American base. The Philippine Senate refused to renew the lease for a second base. Many Filipinos would be happy if the U.S. presence never returned. However, that would be an inconsistent move in American policy.

When militants first took American hostages, the United States refused to pay a ransom, and that is the source of conflict. It is not always possible to pay each group of terrorists for the safety of citizens, but when the group is then linked to Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, the story changes. It is noble for troops to help a struggling country when their president requests it, and we do not seem to be helping out of outright greed, but one has to wonder.

President George W. Bush seems to know exactly what is prohibited in the restrictive constitution, and he agrees to stay out of combat, per se. Nevertheless, the troops will assist in training the Philippine forces and will accompany the forces on patrol through rebel territory. They will be armed and prepared for any defense. This situation makes it easy to blame the rebels for starting any attack.

Questioning the morality of the United States is not a new thing for people of all nationalities to do. Even Americans do it. Even so, one cannot help thinking of all those brutally killed by these freedom fighters called the “”Bearers of the Sword,”” and this recent step to halt such cruelties should be commended.

As questionable as the tactics of our troops may appear, Abu Sayyaf cannot go unpunished for the atrocities it has committed against innocent people.

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