Police Training as Part of Balikatan?
by Erick San Juan
When I read in the newspapers that our police forces will be trained by the U.S. military and law enforcement experts, it was at first glance a welcome move especially if it's "gratis et amore". But when my friend, Tony Abaya of the Manila Standard sent me an email entitled -The Pentagon is Muscling in Everywhere, It's Time To Stop the Mission by Thomas A. Schweigh, I recalled the old adage of warning--"Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts".
Schweigh's article seems credible and relevant. He served the Bush administration as Ambassador for Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Law Enforcement Affairs. He's a life long Republican and a son of a retired U.S. air force colonel.
He said that the U.S. no longer have a civilian-led government and its constitution is at risk. Schweigh explained that the most unnerving legacy of the Bush administration is the encroachment of the Department of Defense into a striking number of aspects of civilian government.
He added that incoming President Barack Obama's selections of James L. Jones, a retired four-star marine general to be his National Security Adviser and retired Navy admiral Dennis C. Blair to be his Director for National Intelligence allegedly present the Obama administration with an opportunity and a major risk. These appointments in his analysis could pave way for these respected military officers to reverse the current trend of Pentagon encroachment upon civilian government functions or they could possibly complete the silent military coup d’état that has been gaining ground in the radar screen of most Americans and media.
According to Schweigh, he witnessed the quiet de facto military takeover of much of the U.S. government while serving the U.S. State department in several senior capacities over the past four years. He commented that the first assault on civilian government occurred in far away places like Iraq and Afghanistan and in theory, justified by the exigencies of war.
The White House reportedly let the defense department to call the budgetary shots, vastly underfunded efforts by the State department, the Justice department and the U.S. Agency for Inernational Development to train civilian police forces, build functioning judicial systems and provide basic development services to those war-torn countries. He cited as an example how the Justice department and the State department after the 2003 invasion of Iraq that they needed at least 6,000 police trainers in the country.
Last year, the State department received an average of about $40 million a year for rule-of-law programs in Afghanistan in contrast to the billions that the Pentagon got to train the Afghan army. Under then Defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the DOD failed to provide even basic security for the meager force of civilian police mentors, advisers, and aid workers from other U.S. agencies operating in Afghanistan and Iraq, which drove policy makers to hire contracting firms like Blackwater Worldwide. After setting up the U.S. government to fail, military authorities then declared that the other agencies unsuccessful police training efforts required military leadership and took them over after brutal inter-agency battles at the White House.
When Afghanistan and Iraq were given the programs, both nations were unnecessarily militarized thus producing supposed to be law enforcers who look more "militia" members than ordinary beat cops, Schweigh added. Then, they become paramiltary groups, well armed with U.S. equipment ready to become "manchurian candidates".
Ronald Neumann, former U.S. ambassdor to Afghanistan who was removed in 2007 because of his "admirable" efforts to balance military and civilian needs had an early retirement when he said that "we are in a war after all". When the military takeover of civilian functions was leaked, he was suspected and was also blamed about the leak of classified informations to the media.
The same scenario could happen in the Philippines, especially now that the two perceived terrorist groups, namely, the NPA and the MILF have been very active and our law enforcement units seem helpless to address the insurgents. These groups if they will not stop bullying and provoking can be a good copy for such military and police exercises where they could be the guinea pigs.
On the issue of international drug operations, the controversial drug war in Mexico as written by Gemma Cruz Araneta of the Manila Bulletin last week could have a repeat here. Local drug cartels using their surrogates created so much noise that led to tip offs and buy bust operations. The Chinese Triad group versus the boys of the Indian drug financiers. Believe me, this could be a prelude for foreign governments with vested interests to intervene.