Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Crooked as they come

One of the issues that has been ignored by most US media has been the trial of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, USMC for the rape of a Filipina girl. Smith was convicted of a trial court in proceedings which have divided observers. Smith was originally one of alleged gang rapists in a trial that has become a cause celebre with the Philippine Left. But after it become obvious that there was no gang rape, Smith was nevertheless convicted of rape for having sex with an intoxicated woman whose diminished capacity prevented her, in the reasoning of the judge, from giving consent in any event. But the political undercurrents were never far beneath the surface. Smith's trial has become a test of strength -- or perhaps a bargaining chip -- between a Left which wants to cancel the status of forces agreement known as the VFA between the US and the Philippines, under which training and aid are provided to the Philippine Military, and the Arroyo government, which needs the assistance badly.

There is some disagreement among reasonable people as to whether or not Smith should have been convicted. But there seems little doubt that the trial was surrounded by a cloud of publicity from the first day. After Smith's conviction, he was removed from the custody of the US embassy to a local jail, despite provisions in the VFA that the accused should remain in US custody until legal proceedings are completed -- and they are not since Smith is allowed to appeal. After Smith was subsequently returned to US embassy -- without a court order and under irregular circumstances -- President Arroyo justified the Smith's transfer of custody in the following way.

Quezon City (2 January) -- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Tuesday said that convicted rapist US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was transferred to US custody even without a court order to stem the "further deterioration of the strategic relationship" of the Philippines and the US.

"The government had to take this action in order to forestall the further deterioration in our strategic relationship with the United States, which was being rapidly eroded by our non-compliance with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)," Mrs Arroyo said in a statement.

"I therefore ask all Filipinos to stand by it and to stand behind our alliance with the United States to fight terror and poverty," the President added. (PIA)

As it happens, I had dinner a few days ago with a lawyer who helped examine the legality of the Smith's detention at a local jail instead of at the US Embassy. He said that the text of the status of forces agreement was clear. Custody to the US until the legal proceedings were completed. He acknowledged that there were arguments based on the supposed spirit of the law which supported the contention that Smith, by this stage in the proceedings, should be turned over the host government. "But the spirit should be invoked only when the letter is equivocal. In this case it is not". But instead of basing her decision to transfer Smith back to the US embassy on the letter of the law -- although she backhandedly acknowledges it -- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo resorted to the weasely justification of arguing that she had to do it to save "the strategic relationship" with the United States. "The government had to take this action in order to forestall the further deterioration in our strategic relationship with the United States, which was being rapidly eroded by our non-compliance with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)," Mrs Arroyo said in a statement. In other words, Arroyo was arguing that Smith was released, not accordance with the legal obligations, though she acknowledges that sotto voce, but in order to please America.

This is exactly the kind of pandering that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo demonstrated when she agreed to withdraw the Philippine contingent to Iraq and pay a ransom of US $6 million after Iraqi insurgents had kidnapped a Filipino overseas worker. Arroyo joined the deployment in Iraq for political gain in Washington, then dumped Washington in order to please the Leftist section of her constituency. Now she is blaming Washington for simply abiding by her treaty obligations in order to please her Leftist constituency. The reason why Arroyo wants the VFA and the US military aid package is clear. The Philippine military has been starved and twisted by official corruption. The VFA means it gets needed combat support, like the evacuation of Filipino troops injured in action to hospitals. Left to Arroyo's government, wounded Filipino soldiers are sometimes given last priority in the use of Philippine Airforce helicopters. One Filipino unit suffered 4 WIA taking a radical Muslim base camp in Mindanao. The officer, one of the most highly decorated in the Philippine military, radioed for a medevac and was told that all the rotary wing assets were being used to ferry VIPs to a golf tournament. Three of the four WIA subsequently died.

A Philippine Appeals Court has washed its hands of the matter altogether, declaring the issue "moot". Since Smith was already in US custody, there was no point discussing anything further. But of course, the evasiveness of the Philippine authorities will mean the case, far from "moot" is guaranteed to take on a life of its own, a life in which the actual letter of the law and the actual innocence or guilt of Smith is secondary.

In a 38-page decision, the tribunal dismissed the petition since the Philippine and United States governments have agreed that the detention facility for Smith would be at the embassy compound. "All of the foregoing discussions notwithstanding, we are confronted with the latest agreement executed between Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto G. Romulo and Ambassador Kristie Kenney, who are the authorized signatories to bind state parties to an agreement," the decision read. ...

However, Smith was spirited out of the Makati City jail on the late evening of December 29 under the supervision of the Department of Interior and Local Government and four guards of the US Embassy. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo admitted Tuesday having allowed the transfer without prior court approval to save diplomatic relations between the Philippines and America.

Some local observers had hoped that Smith's conviction would send reassuring signals to the Left that the Philippines and the United States had "normal" relations. That is to say, any alleged crimes committed by US personnel under the status of forces agreement would be treated in a routine and legal manner. But by engaging in the Blame America game, both the Left and Arroyo have cast the Smith case in the light of a superpower bullying a weaker nation. Rather than mollifying the Left, the whole Smith case has doubly angered them. But in fact Smith was detained before boarding ship by US authorities after local police had filed a complaint; in fact the US authorities assisted in the investigation; and there is little doubt that the US would have handed custody of Smith over to the Philippines had he lost on appeal. And now the case is exactly what the Left and Arroyo have let it become: a political issue between the two countries simply because Arroyo refused to treat it as routine and made the whole sad affair unmistakably political. No other construction can be placed on the act of a President seizing a prisoner from the courts and arguing that America made her do it.

Of course, none of this behavior is new. The Philippine government routinely justifies the abolition of unsupportable subsidies and the dismantling of monopolies by claiming that the "IMF and World Bank made them do it". Blaming America is a time-tested method of avoiding the onus for unpopular but wholly rational acts. But at some point this finger-pointing must stop. If Arroyo doesn't think the status of forces agreement and the lives of her own men are worth standing up for, then she should take steps to cancel it forthwith, along with the golf tournaments the Philippine Airforce is running taxi service for. Then she'll have to choose between losing parts of Mindanao to the Islamic extremists or pandering to her Leftist constituency. Who said life was easy? It certainly will not be easier for Smith, who it may be remembered, still has his case on appeal. He is now part of what the Philippine press is calling a "constitutional crisis". Smith is now laboring under the distinct disadvantage of having his case tainted by the most underhanded, double-crossing and shifty advocate possible: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.


A reader writes to correct me on the proper use of "visiting forces agreement" versus "status of forces agreement", and I stand corrected. The quotable part of the email is below.

In our post on GMA and LCPL Smith, you tended to use Status of Forces (SOFA) and Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) interchangeably. They are 2 completely separate animals. SOFA are in place between the US and the host nation when US forces are home based on foreign territory. We have SOFA with ROK, Japan, Germany, England, etc. The US and RP had a SOFA up until the bases at Subic and Clark were closed in the early 90s. The VFA is a relatively recent addition for protection of US forces not permanently stationed. In broad term, a SOFA offers US forces much greater latitude and protection from host nation prosecution (think recent rape case in Japan where the US actually had first right of refusal to prosecute the accused Marine but gave it to the GOJ). Under the VFA, the RP had the right of prosecution all along.


Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Like the festering anger of the Shia against their Sunni tormentors, the US will be hated and vilified by the Left until they commit national Hare-Kari, which demographically, it is doing very well with. In the politically correct world it fair game to be hateful and intolerant of the right people, Americans and obese people, and, in particular, obese Americans.

This witch hunt is fueled by the same hatred that brought us the vicious accusations against the Duke La Crosse team.

Speaking of “life of its own”, Smiths life is effectively over. Imagine spending the rest of your life in the pleasure of a Philippine prison. This world’s policeman thing is tedious when peoples appreciate your blood and treasure. It is a farce when it breeds contempt; US out of Everywhere.

1/03/2007 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

US out of Everywhere ... including withdrawal of all aid monies, too.

1/03/2007 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

annoy mouse,

Ironically it's a little more complicated than that. The same people who want America out are desperate to keep America in -- to do the dirty work. Almost none of the Sunni countries want America out of Iraq. Almost none of the European countries wanted America to leave them alone against the Sovs. Most countries in Asia would have fits if America abandoned Korea. Everyone wants America to stay in the UN. Cuba is drooling to get America to trade with it. The Left is just itching to get America into Darfur. But if America is so awful, then why?

All over the world there is the desire to put America to work and kick it at the same time. Now wanting one or the other is a choice, but wanting both simultaneously is stupid and cruel. But less stupid than agreeing to work and be kicked at the same time.

From a certain point of view Arroyo is treating Smith as respectfully as she treats her own wounded soldiers: with all the courtesy that is due to disposable tissue. Both the Left and Arroyo have played the American Card, which is the local equivalent of the race card in America. Whatever the outcome of his appeal he will be as innocent as OJ Simpson or as guilty as the Duke Lacrosse players. Unfortunately the rape victim has a name; and equally unfortunately the face on the American card has an individual face: Lance Corporal Smith. But who cares? Nobody said life was fair.

1/03/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Once the giant strives to gain the affection of all in its dominion, it has empowered its adversaries with the very tools in which to control it and turn it into a beast of burden. The average American wage earner shoulders the debt of government largesse. The welfare recipient’s worldwide do not respect the American taxpayer, nor, for that matter does the US government. Somehow they forget that we too are a nation born of revolution. That said, we try too hard to be loved and in the end we are disrespected. It pains me to no end. I wonder time and again what would be the up shot for the common American if we were to pull out of the world’s garden spots and vigorously defend our markets from predatory pricing and competing foreign labor, China, Mexico, et al. My instincts are nationalistic by nature, what the hell, take care of your own first. When you got that sorted out, make your donations payable to the United Nations.

1/03/2007 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

But if America is so awful, then why?

They want us to give them for free our money, our soldiers and our toys so that they can then enjoy the power we have. But we're supposed to just hand all those things over with no strings attached, like good little socialist/marxists.

See Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac/NATO for the most blatent examples if this wishful dreaminess.

1/03/2007 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

annoy mouse, your dictum on management restated: If you're liked then the project will fail, if you're respected then the project will succeed.

1/03/2007 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Deany Bocobo said...

There is one important aspect of this whole affair that I consider most significant--it is the utter indifference of the vast majority of the Filipino People to the constant and transparent attempt of the Left and its media comrades, from Day One, to try and start a mass movement against the VFA and to use the rape case for the usual purposes. They have completely failed in this regard, no matter what impression others may get from some newspapers and other media.

In fact, there are people like Father James Reuters, a well respected Jesuit priest who has lived almost all his long life here, who aver that Smith is in fact innocent. This by the way is also key. It is widely ignored by the Left and the America haters that in fact Smith has NOT lost the presumption of innocence.And that is the real reason, the principle, why "judicial proceedings" have not ended.

Regarding the President, she has indeed been unprincipled and given to playing "transactional politics" instead, in her bid for survival from a plethora of charges, of which to me the most serious is that she has not cared enough about the the country's national security to discover who it was that actually wiretapped her and the Commissioner on Elections Virgilio Garcillano in 2004. (Perhaps because she knows who it is).

The People will deal with this during the 2007 midterm elections.

Watch the Filipinos...they are maturing, they are not stupid, they know who their real friends and who their real enemies are!

1/03/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Send Arroyo a box of thongs (that's the feet kind). Maybe Kerry can loan her his.

1/03/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/03/2007 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

An interesting interview with Wretchard on the hugh hewitt show . Go to first hour and listen.

Good show wretchard!

1/03/2007 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The mystery to me isn't what has happened, but what has not.

Geographically speaking, the Philippines looks like an excellent place for growing and distributing illicit drugs. It seems to have an interesting combination of English education, poverty, lawlessness, and proximity to major markets that would seem to facilitate criminal organizations.

Just as the labor unions could never control the Mafia and the Iranian Left could never control the Islamists, modern criminal organizations are unlikely to care about what leftists think. The winners from a collapse of the Philippine military would not be the Manila Left, but ruthless gangsters who kill anybody who gets in their way (and a few who don't).

1/04/2007 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Complex Greeting

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to John Kerry.

The senator from Massachusetts and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sent out 75,000 Christmas cards with pictures of trees at each season. The Kerrys gushed over their "gratitude for the beauty of these trees and the life they represent."

But it didn't end there.

The card came in an odd-looking envelope, one of those with a return-mail flap and instructions to send it to . . . well, to a recycling company, so "it can be made into new carpet tile."

Carpet tile?

We want a "world without waste . . . where every product either returns safely to the soil or becomes a new product."

So the card instructs: "1. Remove this panel and insert it along with the card into the envelope. 2. Expose adhesive strip and fold the flap over to seal the envelope. 3. Drop this mailer into any U.S. mailbox."

Who else would send a Christmas card with a to-do list?

1/04/2007 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wretchard said,
" The same people who want America out are desperate to keep America in -- to do the dirty work."
Michael Totten says many of the Same Individuals that shout "Death to America" want to come here and live and prosper!
...they qualify it along the lines of "we're against The Government of America."
Very informative interview which explains in 20 minutes the interworkings of the parties/relions in Lebanon.
...also an interview with some guy named "Wretchard."
Wednesday January 3, 2007
Wretchard, Sunsara Taylor With Hugh Hewitt
Hewitt: Hour 2 - Belmont Club blogger Wretchard, plus an enlightening interview with a member of the fever swamp, World Can't Wait's Sunsara Taylor.

2 .
Wednesday January 3, 2007
Michael Totten, Zach Wamp With Hugh Hewitt
Hewitt: Hour 1 - Lebanon blogger Michael Totten updates us on the status in that country after returning from a three week stay. Later, Congressman Zach Wamp's reading list.

1/04/2007 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and "the quaint, frightening and messianic Maronite character," Michel Aoun.

1/04/2007 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> All over the world there is the desire to put America to work and kick it at the same time.

That applies well to Iraq. Both Sunnis and Shiites say we should get out, and hit us with IEDs and sniper fire, yet they secretly want us to protect their people against ethnic cleansing from the other sides' militias.

(An article about it:)

> But less stupid than agreeing to work and be kicked at the same time.

That's the issue a lot of people have with "surging" and this phase II of the war. The US is supposed to defend Baghdad from the Sunni / Shiite militias, while they refuse to defend their own people, kill us with bombs and sniper fire, and ask when the hell we are getting out of their country.

1/04/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger john marzan said...

US out of Everywhere ... including withdrawal of all aid monies, too.

Well, there's the "China Card" option. Arroyo played it before, there's no reason why she can't play it again.

And coupled with a potential move like this from Arroyo, things could get ugly.

This is exactly the kind of pandering that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo demonstrated when she agreed to withdraw the Philippine contingent to Iraq and pay a ransom of US $6 million after Iraqi insurgents had kidnapped a Filipino overseas worker. Arroyo joined the deployment in Iraq for political gain in Washington, then dumped Washington in order to please the Leftist section of her constituency. Now she is blaming Washington for simply abiding by her treaty obligations in order to please her Leftist constituency.

Here's how I see it. US political support is one of the few things helping keep this corrupt, unethical, and illegitimate president in power.

Arroyo has twice sought a strong US alliance during her term.

the first time was after 9/11 (from 2001-2004). She did that because of her legitimacy issue and other political problems, especially after edsa tres. She ascended the presidency under unusual and extra-constitutional circumstances (okey, a coup) and many people were questioning her legitimacy.

Then after “winning” her re-election and gaining her “legitimacy”, she made a calculated move to become more “independent” of the US and distanced herself from the Coalition and Iraq. That's why it was so easy for her kowtow to the kidnappers and bow out of iraq prematurely.

Of course, that got the US angry, which meant aid cuts. But arroyo had a backup plan. She also immediately began courting China to offset the expected decrease in US aid and support. She played the China Card, not knowing that she will need the US again when her legitimacy issue will surface again.

the worsening "cold war" between the US and RP from late 2004-mid 2005 got so bad, that the ARroyo administration at one time even made a move to recall all the Pinoy contract workers working in iraq (this is different from the RP troop pullout). take note of the article's date (April 27, 2005). Meaning Before "GLORIAGATE."


MANILA, April 27, 2005 (STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - The United States is troubled by the Philippine government’s attempts to persuade Filipino workers to leave Iraq.

US officials in Manila have repeatedly aired their concerns over the repatriation of Filipinos working in military bases in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said Monday night.

But Romulo said he had told the US embassy officials that the priority of the Philippine government is the security of Filipino workers.

"We have to explain to them that our obligation is to our citizens," he said.

Romulo said the US cannot make the Philippines change its stand.

"We are a sovereign country, and we have to protect our citizens. That’s the law. That’s in the Constitution," he said.

The government has urged all Filipino workers in Iraq to avail of voluntary repatriation following the death of two Filipinos in two suspected militant attacks this month.

Records from the Department of Foreign Affairs showed that around 6,000 Filipinos still work in US military camps in Iraq.

Most of the workers provide non-military services as food servers and kitchen helpers to the troops.

Their withdrawal from Iraq is expected to have an adverse impact on the operation of the camps since Filipinos make up the largest number of foreign workers in the camps.

the second time Arroyo pledged loyalty to the US was after the gloriagate tapes surfaced.

the reason why the US has supported her again (after dropping her off from the “Coalition of the Willing”) is because arroyo has twice during her term pledged to protect their interests in exchange for political support, so there’s really no reason for the US to “rock the boat”.

This is a classic example of the Scowcroftian “realist policy”, the one the US practiced during Marcos' time.

1/06/2007 02:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

poor smith, victim of too-drunk-for-a-consentful-sex-turned-constituitional-crisis

1/18/2007 10:35:00 AM  

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