Buencamino does political affairs analysis for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the newspaper Today, page 9, 19 July 2004.

God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a
powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear.”—
GEORGE BUSH, Los Angeles, California, March 3, 2004

Filipinos losing sleep over President Arroyo’s decision to put the
Filipino first can now rest assured that visas and invitations to
United States Embassy functions won’t be snatched from their grasping
hands. Likewise, Philippine government officials need not worry about a
return to the icy postbases regime when promises of foreign aid were
not forthcoming. You can all relax, God and Bush love you and care
about you.

US Ambassador Riccardione reiterated it as he emerged from a courtesy
call on the AFP leadership. He said, “This is the time of a severe test
to your country. We are allies. We are here for you.” With that
statement, Riccardione could have put to rest any uncertainty about the
future, but he had to add, “In a time of test, enemies demand that you
kneel before them. I just ask you please don’t confuse your enemies
with your friends.”

When the US Intelligence Committee reported that Bush’s rationale for
his pre-emptive attack on Iraq was sheer horseshit, Bush should have
telephoned Arroyo to apologize for lying to her. In addition, he should
have followed it up with a written apology personally delivered to
Malacanang by Riccardione. Instead, Riccardione went to Malacanang
demanding an explanation from President Arroyo.

Let’s set the record straight. The US Senate Intelligence Committee
found no links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden—walang
wala—so the invasion and occupation of Iraq is about something else
which doesn’t concern us. Do not conflate the war against Iraq with the
war on terror. Stop confusing your friends, Mr. Riccardione.

Filipinos have been finding gainful employment in Iraq for at least 30
years. Except for Jose de Venecia’s unfortunate experience, there are
hardly any horror stories between Iraqis and Filipinos. As a matter of
fact, among all the countries in the Middle East, Iraq has the best
record with Filipinos. Why, then, should we go to war with Iraq?
Because some Iraqis are using terror to get us to withdraw from the

Struggles against foreign occupation are always asymmetrical. If power
were balanced, there would be no occupation. This power imbalance leads
the weaker side to use unconventional strategies and tactics, thereby
starting a spiral of brutality and cruelty on the part of both
combatants. Are Iraqis using terror to get us to withdraw from the
occupation coalition? Yes. It’s one of the few weapons in their
arsenal. Would they resort to retail terror if they could deliver it
wholesale with stealth fighters, bunker busters and smart bombs? But
arguing over those questions misses the point because the real question
that should concern us is: Do we want to be caught in the middle of all
that carnage?

“Enemies” are not asking Arroyo to kneel before them. Iraqis are asking
her to stay out of their war against an occupation force. Our national
survival is not at stake in the outcome of that war, but our national
interest demands that Arroyo place the welfare of her people above all
else. Filipino first. What is so shameful and craven about that?

“Friends” are asking Arroyo to continue lending her credibility to
their occupation of Iraq even after they had lied to her. Why should
Arroyo bend over backward when such “friends” can’t resist taking
liberties with a Filipino in that position?

Now, tell us, who’s confusing enemies with friends?