US hands off the Philippines – aid not troops

Thousands feared dead as Typhoon Haiyan hits Philippines

By Paul Roberts

In the wake of the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines last week the US is moving to re-establish its military presence in its former colony.

The storm, one of the most powerful on record, has left millions of people homeless and without life’s basic necessities. Several thousand people have already died and more are continuing to die. The UN says that 11 million people are affected.

Vast quantities of shelters, medicines, food, water and clothing are urgently needed for a country with one of the poorest populations in the region, where two-fifths live on less than $2 a day.

Whilst aid agencies desperately appeal for substantial resources to meet these needs, the US, under the guise of ‘humanitarian assistance’, is re- deploying its armed forces back to the Philippines. Its aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, on its way and Britain is also sending a warship.

As part of its ‘pivot’ to the Pacific – to ramp up the military encirclement of China – the US is seeking to re-install itself in its former bases. Till 1991 the Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay Naval Base were the US’s two largest overseas military facilities. Forced to abandon them when the Philippine Senate refused to ratify a leasing treaty, the former colonial overlord is now returning,

An account of how the US this year has been stepping up its military presence in the Philippines can be read here.

Of course US forces do not follow aid agency priorities, they pursue military objectives. Their post-disaster dispatch into countries even exacerbates humanitarian crisis. When US troops occupied Haiti, after its earthquake three years ago, they added to the chaos and cholera spread amongst the population.

That some of the poorest of humanity today are desperately struggling to survive the after-effects of this storm, points out yet again how it is the former colonies where life is most endangered by the effects of climate change. The Philippines government has called for the current climate talks in Poland to stop procrastinating and agree action.

US imperialism, indifferent to these appeals, instead is seizing the ‘opportunity’ of a humanitarian catastrophe to enhance its military presence.