Hands Off the Philippines! Australian Troops: Out Now!


09-09-2017 – The US led war on Syria is in the throes of defeat, and ISIS is on the verge of being eliminated from the Levant. Australian military forces have played an ignominious role, fighting with and alongside the US Empire, who in turn fight with and alongside ISIS and other proxy forces. The final embers of this dirty war are still smouldering, but that has not prevented the Australian government from once again committing Australian troops to US wars, this time in the Philippines. Once again, we see ISIS being used by the US Empire as a staging post, popping up conveniently when needed, which will once again be used as justification for an invasion force to fight “against”. Working people should not be fooled.

After “offering” to send Australian military forces to the Philippines for some weeks, the Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana finally relented yesterday. With US troops already in the Philippines,[1] allegedly “helping” the Philippine Armed Forces battle against Abu Sayyaf and ISIS militants, the “offer” from the Australian government, backed by the US war machine, is one that the Philippines government would be under enormous pressure to “accept”. Australian Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne, after meeting with Mr Lorenzana, referred to “militants” returning from the Middle East, who are “battle-hardened….well-trained [and] very determined”.[2] She should know. In effect, Australian troops in Iraq and Syria were aiding the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and others fund and arm them!

Duterte pivots away from the US

Almost from the moment Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was elected, it seems he attempted to break the Philippines from its decades old alliance with the US Empire, tilting towards China and Russia in the process. Last October, Duterte visited President Xi Jinping in Beijing. While a guest in the Great Hall of the People, Duterte asserted: “America has lost now…I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”[3] Duterte was arguably alarmed at the previous Philippines government being strong-armed by the US into provoking Red China over a series of islands in the South China Sea, along with Taiwan.

The idea of a former US colony openly switching allegiance to China and Russia was too much for Wall Street. Duterte reportedly sought increased trade, commerce and an arms deal with Russia during the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. But the meeting had not even finished when ISIS, from out of nowhere, appeared in Mindinao, in the south of the Philippines. Duterte had to cut short his visit after martial law was declared around the area of Marawi, which was “suddenly” being besieged by armed ISIS terrorists. To say this was a convenience does not even begin to describe the manipulation.

Until that time Duterte had fired off a number of declarations which were exceedingly brave, despite his questionable domestic politics. Duterte had labelled Russian President Putin as his “favourite hero”, and had referred to Barack Obama as a “son of a bitch”. Duterte stated that America since the 1960s had interfered in other states, offering ‘help’ but in return demanding changes such as the legalisation of gay marriage.[4] Despite the nationalist and populist presentation, Duterte’s rhetoric was a distorted attempt to push back against US domination of the Philippines, and US imperialism worldwide. Despite Duterte’s conservative views on issues such as same-sex marriage and drug addiction, working people should not in the process condemn moves to contribute to the isolation the world’s most dangerous juggernaut – US imperialism.

The war on drugs

It can be recognised that drug addiction, especially in a society such as the Philippines with extensive poverty levels, is a problem which ties in health, employment, alienation, despair and other issues. In normal circumstances, leftists favour treating drug addiction as a health issue, not one of crime and punishment. It does appear that since being elected on June 30, 2016, President Duterte has embarked on one of the most unforgiving “drug wars” in recent history. It is claimed that up to 7000 addicts and dealers have lost their lives, often being blown away by police or masked assassins. However, the killing of 17 year old Kian Delos Santos appears to have moved some in the Philippines who may have otherwise supported the “tough on crime” approach.[5]

While those internationally with generally progressive views may recoil in horror at Duterte’s war on drugs, the fact is he was elected with a huge mandate to do just that. Moreover, those internationally now opposing Duterte for the drug war are often a who’s who of the “human rights” and “civil society” industry – which inevitably form the “liberal” wing of the US Empire. For example, both Human Rights Watch[6] and Amnesty International[7] have condemned Duterte’s first year in power. Yet these are the same organisations which for years alibied Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria as “rebels” for attempting to bring down the Syrian Arab Republic using extreme violence – with the full backing of the governments of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. “Human Rights” indeed. While a “war on drugs” is usually a war against predominantly poor people, the left needs to be aware of the larger geopolitical motives that have brought “ISIS” to the Philippines.


The leprechaun like appearance of ISIS in the Mindanaoan area of Marawi bears all the hallmarks of a ham-fisted late US attempt at regime change in the Philippines. Despite how most of the Western left views Duterte, he maintains an overwhelming approval rating within the Philippines, which some say is as high as 75%. Duterte appears to be attempting to overcome the dependence his pro-US predecessor locked the Philippines into. Along with moves to conciliate China, and foster more trade with Russia, Duterte also was reportedly forging closer ties to Cuba in order to improve health in the country.[8]  Though opposed by anti-Duterte NGOs and Western governments, Duterte appears to retain popular support even in Mindinao, where the military now appear to be winning against the ISIS proxies. The martial law which has been imposed has apparently not alarmed the local population, who appear to approve of the government’s military campaign against the appalling violence of the ISIS mercenaries. The local Maute and Abu Sayyaf have now morphed into the ISIS incubus, further alienating the locals.

From a distance, it does appear as though Duterte represents one wing of the Philippine ruling class which genuinely desires to be free from US domination, while the other wing is more than content with a role as a US patron. These wings are perhaps replicated within the Philippine Armed Forces. This may explain why the Philippine Army has allowed US troops to intervene in the Marawi situation – or perhaps they had little choice. The Philippine defence minister in turn, may have felt that he had no option but to accept Australian military involvement – knowing that the real pressure for this was emanating from the US war machine.

Another complication when attempting to analyse the overall situation is Duterte’s relations with the New People’s Army (NPA) – the armed wing of the Maoist inspired Communist Party of the Philippines. If the NPA can ally itself with Duterte against the encroaches of the US military, perhaps it is not wise to oppose Duterte from the left. However, this alliance between the NPA and Duterte appears to be not only not ongoing, but on-again, off-again.[9]  In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that Duterte, under immense pressure, has felt forced to abandon a consistent anti-US stance. In early August, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Manilla, seemingly in order to persuade Duterte to allow the US armed forces to fight “against” ISIS. Duterte reportedly acquiesced, following on from a seemingly amicable statement to Tillerson at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum, saying “I am your humble friend in South East Asia.”[10]

US encirclement of China

Regardless of the vacillations of Duterte, and despite the hypocritical and plaintive pleas of Western backed anti-Duterte NGOs, the US/AUST military presence in the Philippines is another disastrous chapter in attempted regime change abominations, flowing on from Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen. The Pentagon, not being able to accept the reality of military defeat of their ISIS Frankenstein in Syria by the air power of Russia, have again lashed out against another sovereign country attempting to assert its independence. The political decline of the US Empire has led to “humanitarian wars” now being outsourced to proxy terrorist forces, which receive weapons and funding by the millions. The Pentagon trains up unhinged fundamentalist “Islamic” extremists, and sends them into Libya, Syria, Chechnya in Russia or Xinjiang in China.[11] One of the aims is to not only continue the military encirclement of Red China, but to disrupt  the mammoth New Silk Road Eurasian infrastructure projects that only a gargantuan socialist economy such as China’s could offer. Wars, conflict and chaos in all the areas targeted for infrastructure and trade development by the New Silk Road clearly benefits the US state at the expense of China, the world’s most powerful workers state. The US cannot tolerate any rival, let alone one based on the Marxist precepts of collective ownership and a planned economy. Canberra itches, as usual, to prove it is even more loyal to the project of hybrid war against China than the US itself.

For an anti-war movement

At the very least, what working people need is a serious anti-war movement, which can contribute to a recalibration of class struggle in this country. Unfortunately, the previous six years have seen a vanishing of anti-war activity, despite many urging its reanimation. Large responsibility lies with the conservative Trade Union bureaucracy, from the national peak bodies down to local Union secretaries. To our knowledge, not one of them have spoken out against the criminal wars for regime change in Libya and Syria, let alone condemn the Australian military’s participation in them. Along with their virtual silence in the face of the decimation of jobs and wages in times of economic recession, their silence in the face of impending world war testifies to the high salaries their careers ensure. Tailing after this pro-capitalist bureaucracy we find some left parties, who also struggle to break from the foreign policy of Australian capital, and thus come behind US imperialist adventures, muttering pleas against “dictators”.

Workers here, and internationally, on the other hand, are irrevocably opposed to imperialist wars, especially ones that could lead to world war. Despite the abject murder of the peace movement by corporate funded NGOs, conservative Union officials and some left parties, there is a mass base of millions of workers and their supporters ready and willing to take action to arrest the drift to war. Politically savvy working people are already aware that the series of never-ending wars is linked to the problem of mass unemployment, unaffordable housing, skyrocketing electricity, gas and water prices, the shredding of pay and working conditions for those still in employment and the ever-worsening danger of climate collapse. While this is occurring, not one cent of taxpayer’s money should be used for Australian military hardware and soldiers marauding their way around the Philippines, under the flimsy pretext of “fighting ISIS”. The bitter experience of the war on Syria demonstrated that ISIS is the horrific creation of the US led imperialist powers themselves, and that unity of the anti-imperialist governments and workers of the world can put them to the sword.

The horror of modern day war is not the result of mad leaders such as US President Trump, or servile Australian politicians. Today, imperialist war is the ultimate result of the impasse of the falling rate of profit for the “captains of industry”, whose capitalist economy continues to spiral downwards with recessionary rates of growth. It follows that imperialist war itself cannot be abolished without the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, and the collectivisation of industry in the hands of the workers.  Leading this struggle will require an anti-imperialist vanguard party, which can spark the nearly dormant anti-war and Union movements into action. AUSTRALIAN TROOPS: OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!


PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012



[1] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/905605/armed-us-troops-support-afp-operations-in-marawi (09-09-17)

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-08/australia-sending-troops-to-marawi-in-support-roles/8887384 (09-09-17)

[3] http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/article/2098544/what-now-dutertes-china-pivot-marawi-cements-us-importance-philippines (09-09-17)

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/23/philippine-president-rodrigo-duterte-moscow-meet-favourite-hero-vladimir-putin (09-09-17)

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/22/duterte-faces-nationwide-revolt-drugs-war-killing-schoolboy/ (09-09-17)

[6] https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/28/philippines-dutertes-first-year-human-rights-calamity (09-09-17)

[7] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/06/philippines-dutertes-bloody-and-lawless-year-in-power/ (09-09-17)

[8] http://www.globalresearch.ca/philippines-western-media-is-distorting-reality-people-and-army-unite-to-battle-isis/5600985 (09-09-17)

[9] http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/07/21/17/with-duterte-cold-on-peace-talks-npa-braces-for-hostilities (10-09-17)

[10] http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-07/us-preparing-airstrikes-against-isis-philippines (10-09-17)

[11] https://journal-neo.org/2017/05/30/the-cia-s-cloddish-isis-attack-on-duterte/ (10-09-17)

Section of Marawi showing an ISIS flag in the street. http://www.bbc.com

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