Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Yvette e-mailed that she was still in Hargeisa and was safe, which was a relief.

Only days ago, a British couple was killed inside their residence in a town in Somaliland. Before that, Annalena Tonelli, a well-loved Italian aid worker, was murdered in the tuberculosis hospital she ran in Borama, the hometown of Somaliland’s president.

No one is certain who is behind the killings but police patrols have been increased while the houses and offices of members of UN agencies and international organizations, including the NGO Yvette belongs to, were provided security by the government.

Yvette is a Filipina activist in her early 30s who has spent over a decade of her life working with poor Filipino rural communities. Married to a loving husband and mother to a beautiful daughter, Yvette floored her friends when she announced some time ago that she would be working in Somaliland with an international development organization.

In Somaliland, where the life expectancy is 47 years and where one out of five children do not live to see their fifth birthday.

Par for the course, it seems, for a soaring restless Filipina soul, who also happens to be a godmother to my five-year old son.

“There is a woman in Somalia, scraping for pearls on the roadside,” writes Yvette in her blogspot jadedafrica.dekarabaw.com, which has attracted a global audience be cause of its elegance, in sight and account of Filipino solidarity and stoicism. “There’s a force stronger than nature, keeps her will alive. This is how she’s dying, dying to survive. Don’t know what she’s made of. I would like to be that brave.”

Yvette told me when she was in the country a few months ago that anti-Western sentiments ran high among Somalilanders after the American invasion of Iraq.

Her words came back to me while I was reading about the slain British nationals, and they troubled me.

Yvette is a foreigner too, a citizen of a predominantly Catholic country with all too close ties to the US. And I thought about Abdul Jabar, who was sentenced just weeks ago in an Indonesian court to 20 years’ imprisonment for his role in the car-bombing of the Jakarta residence of then-Philippine Ambassador Leonides Caday in August 2000.

Didn’t the vile group to which Jabar belonged single out the Philippine Embassy to avenge Muslims killed in the conflict in southern Philippines? A conflict that is increasingly seen as an extension of an undeclared war against Islam.

A war perceived to be led by a Christian fundamentalist leadership in America and perpetrated by a stooge Philippine government. A not-too-wild perception fostered by a Philippine government recklessly displaying to the world its fealty to America’s imperial ambitions.

I wonder with anxiety what shape the whirlwind will take next.

And which place -- or hearth -- it will next visit.

Extremist Islam is deepening its presence in Africa.

In Somaliland, clerics calling themselves “the Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” are now trying to impose draconian moral codes on Somaliland citizens.

“These people are out to eradicate our culture, our traditions, our songs, our poetry and our folklore dances,” said a Somalilander lamenting the spread of Islamic extremism. “They brand our traditional children’s stories of Diin iyo Dacawo, arrawelo and dheg-dheer as bawdy literature that has no place in the puritanical society that they aspire to build.”

In Tanzania, writes Paul Marshall in The Washington Post, “Saudi Arabia is funding new mosques . . . and fundamentalists have bombed bars and beaten women they thought were inadequately covered.” Marshall laments that the United States has done little to confront this threat “either by challenging those exporting radical Islam or by promoting democracy.”

Much truth here. There is no democracy in Occupied Iraq, and in Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is reduced to playing the role of mayor of Kabul.

And what about Saudi Arabia, the kingdom from which 15 of the September 11 hijackers came from? The place of origin of Wahhabism -- the extremist strain of Islam that is slowly eating into Africa. The brutal kingdom formerly inhabited by a certain Osama bin Laden.

Since September 11, 2001, US bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia has surged by 61 percent.

A fine partnership -- America remains the world’s top arms exporter and a top customer of Saudi oil, and Saudi Arabia the world’s top oil exporter and the top customer of US arms exports.

An “asymmetrical interdependence,” as former US National Security chief Zbigniew Brzezinski described it, slakes the empire’s addiction to oil and secures the ever tenuous rule of the Saudi monarchy.

The fornication of oily royalty and imperialism which continues to seed the extremism that brought the war to America’s shores and, perhaps, to all those unfortunate enough to be identified with the empire’s unholy alliances.

I fear for the safety of those who may be haunted by the specters spawned by the wedding of greed with greed -- like Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia slaving away to nourish the hope of a better future for their families. Or people like Yvette, whose devotion to the lingering dream of a better world keeps her in Somaliland.

“When valor preys on reason,” said Shakespeare, “it eats the sword it fights with.”

And yet there is not even any valor here.

In America’s phony ‘war on terror,’ there is only madness, fueled by the hubris of great powers and sustained by the cowardice of the leaders of small nations who prostitute themselves in exchange for a few pieces of silver.

Comments are welcome at xioi@excite.com
Opinion TODAY and abs-cbnnews.com

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