THE CONSEQUENCES OF FORGETTING
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
July 26, 2004
"We love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes," said George H.W. Bush to Ferdinand Marcos as he raised his glass in a toast to the Philippine dictator during his visit to Manila in 1981. From the beginning of the Marcos dictatorship until its end, the US government persisted in fondling the Filipino tyrant (who fondled America back).
But we are of course expected to pretend that this never happened.
We are not supposed to remember that the American Chamber of Commerce described the imposition of martial rule in the Philippines in 1972 as a "heaven-sent relief" and we are expected to forget that, after martial law was declared, the same august Chamber wished Marcos "every success in your endeavor to restore peace and order, business confidence, economic growth and the well-being of the Filipino people."
We are not supposed to remember that, two years before Marcos inflicted martial law on Filipinos, US investments in the Philippines stood at $16.3 million; and that by 1981, the year of the Bush toast to the Filipino tyrant, US investments stood at $920 million.
We are expected to forget the 1965 -1966 Indonesian bloodbath - the slaughter of a million Indonesians perpetrated by a vile gang of Indonesian generals backed by America. A culling that overthrew a government that the US government disliked. A slaughter that midwifed the three-decade dictatorship of the Indonesian despot Suharto.
We are not supposed to remember that during the carnage, the US government had supplied Suharto and his generals lists containing the names of those America wanted slaughtered. "It was a big help to the army," said Robert J. Martens, a political officer of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, of the 1965-1966 butchery. Suharto and his thugs "probably killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at the decisive moment."
"We were getting a good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up," said Joseph Lazarsky, deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta. "The army had a 'shooting list' of about 4,000 or 5,000 people. They didn't have enough goon squads to zap them all, and some individuals were valuable for interrogation . . . We knew what they were doing . . . Suharto and his advisers said, if you keep them alive, you have to feed them."
"The US is generally sympathetic with and admiring of what the [Indonesian] army is doing," said the American Ambassador in Jakarta, Marshall Green, of the killings. But we are not supposed to remember these things.
We are expected to forget about the Iraqi coup of 1963. A coup that took place four years after a massive public demonstration attended by half a million Iraqis had demanded working class leadership in Iraq. A coup that took place two years after the government of Abdul Karim-Qasim attempted to implement socio-economic reforms that included increasing taxes on the rich, the introduction of inheritance taxes, rent controls, price controls, the regulation of working hours and the provision of compulsory systems of social insurance.
We are not supposed to remember the 1963 coup. A US-engineered coup that eventually catapulted a certain Saddam Hussein to the highest echelons of leadership in Iraq. We are not supposed to remember that the Ba'ath Party came to power, in the words of a Ba'athist president, "using an American locomotive."
"I know for a certainty that what happened in Iraq on February 8  had the support of American intelligence," said King Hussein of Jordan, in a meeting in Paris with the editor of Egypt's most influential daily, al-Ahram. "Numerous meetings were held between the Ba'ath Party and American intelligence, the more important in Kuwait. Do you know that on February 8 a secret radio beamed to Iraq was supplying the men who pulled the coup with the names and addresses of Communists there so that they could be arrested and executed?" said the King of Jordan.
We are expected to forget all these things lest we ask some interesting questions. Without America's support, would the Marcos regime have lasted as long as it did? Without America's instigation, would Suharto have been able to slaughter so many and rule Indonesia for so long and with such barbarity? Without the American locomotive of 1963, where would Iraq be today?
"If we have to use force," said Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State during the Clinton administration, "it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation."
Indispensable, yes, until we really choose to remember. "The past is never dead," said William Faulkner. "It's not even past."
 "What We Say Goes: The Middle East in the New World Order," Noam Chomsky, Z Magazine, May 1991.
 "Memory as a Means of Empowerment," Maria Serena I. Diokno, August 23, 2001, Paper presented at the Conference on Memory, Truth-Telling and the Pursuit of Justice. The Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship, September 20-22, 1999, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines.
 A Fateful September, Letizia R. Constantino, Issues without Tears Vol. 5, Karrel Inc., 1986.
 The new rulers of the world, John Pilger, Verso, 2002.
 Bush in Babylon: The recolonisation of Iraq, Tariq Ali, Verso, 2003.
 Quoted in "Blowback: A Review Essay on an Academic Defector's Guide to America's Asia Policy," Walden Bello, March 12, 2000.