Nice start to 2020 — wars and conflicts and threats Breaking Israel News

Nice start to 2020 — wars and conflicts and threats Featured

I’D like to start my year with a bang! After a wonderful skiing vacation with my grandkids and frolicking in the snow in Lake Tahoe, enjoying the seafood and amenities of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, something’s gotta give. And indeed, Presidents Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte obliged. The year 2020 began with a war on two fronts. The former could expand further the decades-old conflicts between America and Iran although a “hot shooting war” is unlikely; the latter — an expansion of the “cold war” between Duterte and the oligarchy.

US vs Iran
Trump’s order to assassinate the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani could start a war — not a world war, not even in the genre of the Vietnam War but more along the lines of heightened regional conflicts. This will of course involve the spilling of blood — not President Trump’s but those of his soldiers, American boys and girls, and Iranians and those caught in between — Iraqis, Syrians and civilians, and maybe our overseas Filipino workers who will have to suffer through a prolonged “low intensity conflict”, the preferred method of the underdog. This conflict is going to be played out in a non-traditional asymmetrical battlefield, cyberwar or even by proxy; using terrorist groups already lusting principally for American blood — Hezbollah, Islamic State or IS, Taliban, Boko Haram, the remnants of al-Qaida, and even our homegrown Abu Sayyaf. And the frontline could be everywhere. And we are all possible collaterals.

Thanks to Trump who has gone berserk. This unfolding scenario is like watching in slow motion a runaway train hurtling toward an impending disaster, having lost its brakes — only one doesn’t know the extent of the damage yet.

Retaliation from Iran came five days later with missiles raining on Iraqi air bases housing United States military forces. A few more rockets struck a US base at Camp Taji in Syria on the Jordanian border. Reports on casualties were sketchy. My take here is that these retaliatory acts perhaps were instigated more for the benefit of the Iranian domestic audience for an appearance of revenge. Pitted against a behemoth — a mosquito against an elephant — it’s a foregone conclusion that America could wipe Iran off the map, if ever.

But there will be no nuclear bombs. This is no Armageddon in the making but hostilities will spill over the region and beyond, perhaps even over American soil. And of course, a counter retaliation from this madman in Washington targeting Iranian cultural sites that could constitute war crimes under international law, although prevented from doing so by cooler heads at the Pentagon. But for how long will they hold the leash on this president gone rogue.

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.” Thus spoke the world’s number one terrorist, propounding in simplistic terms his future terrorist acts.

Soleimani no doubt had it coming. He caused the deaths of American servicemen although he also helped saved American soldiers’ lives by supporting Iraqi and Syrian militia defeat the IS. There is, however, a precedent when Obama ordered the assassination of Osama bin Laden. The Middle East conflicts have become too Byzantine to comprehend. And Trump’s precipitate acts may have been motivated by his unsophisticated worldview seen “…through the prism of whether an action advances his own narrow interests, his own distorted desires, his own twisted impulses….” (Peter Wehner, contributing editor, The Atlantic, Sept. 9, 2019).

But what the hell? Trump too is under siege and fighting for his political life. He is an impeached president; and he is playing to the American audience too, whose votes he will need for his reelection. No American in his right mind will contradict a president leading a country on the verge of war, real or concocted. This arouses in them a sense of patriotism, even a false one; but this is embedded in their DNA. They will rally to the flag no matter who is at fault. Since 1776, President Jimmy Carter said, “…the US… has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country ‘the most warlike nation in the history of the world.’” Perhaps America is just reverting to its nature, enjoying the bloodlust that has been part of its national character. And American business loves a war. It really is good for the bottom line.

Duterte vs water oligarchs
Meantime, on the local front and the ongoing fight between the Deegong and the Philippine oligarchy, the President has just given an ultimatum for “Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. to accept a new draft of water contracts or the government will terminate their concession deals and take over their water distribution services.” (Catherine S. Valente, The Manila Times, Jan. 8, 2020) He denies this is an ultimatum, but with a Damocles sword hanging over their heads —“non-bailable” offenses of syndicated estafa or plunder, saying he would love to see billionaires in jail, naming Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala for Manila Water and Manuel V. Pangilinan for Maynilad.

Duterte has directed the Justice department and the Office of the Solicitor General to prepare a draft of a new contract without the “onerous provisions.” Further, “[the] Chief Executive is giving the water concessionaires the option of accepting the new contracts without any guarantee of [them] not being criminally prosecuted together with those who conspired to craft the very onerous contracts, which are void ab initio for violating the Constitution and the laws of the land.” (Catherine S. Valente, Manila Times, Jan. 8, 2020)

Left unsaid are that these one-sided contracts were crafted principally during President Fidel V. Ramos’ (FVR) watch and must have been immersed in corruption. All these “onerous provisions” surfacing only now, tacitly acknowledged by the concessionaires with their profound silence and unilaterally giving up the Singapore arbitration awards already in their favor — implicate the FVR and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) administrations. The Manila Water contract expiring in 2022 but extended to 2037 by President GMA during her last year as president in 2009, was likewise questionable. Duterte has just implicitly lumped FVR and GMA as allies of the Philippine oligarchy; and for good measure, he included his immediate predecessor, President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

Duterte vs ABS-CBN
The Deegong has the sympathy of multitudes in this fight. The Lopez family has been notorious in using their political clout over the decades to advance and protect their family and business interests. For a time, the dictator Marcos got them out, but Aquino-Cojuangco, their allies, reinstated their pre-martial law status and their holdings. The ABS-CBN was their crown jewel — one that can make or break any politician. And many elective officials, congressmen and senators are in their pockets with some willingly kissing the family’s ass. But the Deegong has them by the balls. And God forbid, if they employ the same harebrained adventurism during martial law that got Geny Lopez in prison.

Trump’s war may not help his cause — impeachment! But Deegong’s may succeed. With 87 percent of Filipinos backing him, he will!000
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