War and chicken hawks

Chicken hawks. People calling for war who have never been touched by war. They have never been to battle. They have not seen the death and the suffering. They are not likely to be drafted into an army nor serve as medical or humanitarian personnel. They lead rather comfortable lives in plush and peaceful homes. 

They are chickens actually. But they act like hawks calling for war because they do not understand the inhumanity of war. The term distinguishes them from the hawks (people who have at least seen war even if they endorse it) and the doves (peace makers, many of whom are against war because they have also been to war).

In countries where there are political dynasties like the Philippines and the US, chicken hawks can become very dangerous because they can hold power and start wars. For example, the mother of all chicken hawks (I guess we could call him a hen hawk) is George W. Bush. On the flimsiest excuse, that turned out to be a lie, he brought war to the Middle East by invading Iraq. This caused numerous deaths. But it also destabilized the region and contributed to the rise of terrorist organizations like ISIS. His father, Pres. George H.W. Bush (a hawk) had taken more cautious steps to war because H.W. had actually seen war. George W. had grown up privileged and spoiled and so had never really known any hardships. As commander-in-chief, he had the capacity to send people into war, which he did without truly understanding what he was getting into. 

We have the same situation now. Privileged sons of politician fathers hold national positions and call for war without ever having experienced war. They are so ready for revenge and punishment because 44 SAF died in the Mamasapano incident, that they have put the peace process in Mindanao in great peril.

I refer of course to Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Bongbong Marcos and to a certain extent, Chiz Escudero. There is also the actor Richard Gomez, who has been thumping his chest with great enthusiasm.

War movies

Alan Peter Cayetano, the Philippine hen hawk, has been the chief purveyor of anti-MILF misinformation. 

Citing old data and badgering witnesses whom he does not allow to finish their sentences lest they say something contradictory to his preconceptions, he has convinced himself and other chicken hawks that there is a solid case against the MILF and the peace process. He has made slurs and insinuations against all the actors in the peace process from negotiators Iqbal, Deles and Coronel to the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  

He insisted that MILF peace panel chairman, Mohagher Iqbal, respond to an outdated email that “proved” the MILF’s collusion with the terrorist Marwan. He also castigated the military for not firing artillery against the MILF despite the AFP’s repeated explanations that this was against their protocol because they were likely to hit the SAF commandos they were trying to save or hit innocent civilians.

I wondered what expertise Senator Cayetano might have for his startling insistence that there was something wrong with the military explanations. I asked myself if Senator Cayetano might have intelligence information superior to that of the US and the Philippine governments who have said that the MILF is not a terrorist organization

Nothing in his educational credentials seemed to indicate military and intelligence expertise. Then, in a moment of great insight, he bothered to tell us of the depth and extent of his military knowledge. He said, that “I watch all the movies.” Those are indeed the most excellent of chicken hawk credentials. Nothing like lying back in your lazy boy and watching others die in war, right?

Push back

Happily enough, netizens who have the sense of giving expertise its due (meaning one should take the word of a general on military matters, peace negotiator on peace processes, or even a doctor on medical ones) were quick to note that Senator Cayetano has been laying quite a few rotten eggs. I, on the other hand, have taken to wondering whether he did watch all the movies including, “The Sound of Music” which, after all, has Nazis in it.

The  biggest push-back came from the hawks and the doves, who have common disdain for chicken hawks. Former President Fidel V. Ramos, who was chief of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary during the dictatorship of Bongbong Marcos’s father, did not mince words when he said that those calling for all-out-war against the MILF, instead of resolving the conflict peacefully, had better be deported to Siberia or North Korea. 

Generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have also upheld the validity of the peace process in repeated statements made in and out of the Senate investigative hearings on the Mamapasano encounter. They admitted that one of the things they were worried about during and after the incident was its implications on the ongoing ceasefire with the MILF. Contrary to the chicken hawks’ desire to paint the MILF as dishonorable,  the AFP noted that it had been the SAF that had been violating the ceasefire agreements even before the Mamasapano incident.

It is not surprising that hawks and doves can come together for peace. Many of them know war. Many doves may have been former guerrillas or soldiers. As for the hawks calling for peace, they know what it is to hold the gun, to face the enemy, to lose your humanity in war. 

Thus, the push back against the actor and senators who have watched too many war movies, has also come from the doves. Peace advocates and scholars have warned against their incendiary words.

Similar to President Ramos’ call to exile chicken hawks to Siberia, peace advocate Aga Khan Sharieff, chair of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development, asked that Gomez be sent to Mamasapano to test his military skills in actual combat. 

Instant karma

But I wish this story was  merely about privileged boys playing at war being told off by grown up men and women. Because, like George W. Bush, they do manage to bring genuine harm. 

For one thing, our chance for real peace in Mindanao hangs in the balance partly because these boys wish to play at being manly men like their daddy. For another thing, the military, I believe in an attempt to satisfy the blood lust evoked by these chicken hawks, has gone to war in Mindanao. There are thousands of displaced families, yet again.

I wish for these chicken hawks instant karma. That they wake up tomorrow in a refugee camp with every muscle in their body aching from hours of running from danger. I wish for them the thirst, hunger, fear, separation from loved ones, the torture of hearing their children cry. I wish for them the fear of staring down the barrel of a gun while trying not to think about the bullet that will find them.

Then, they may realize that grown-ups do not use their privileges as a means to deprive others of what they take for granted. That there is more to courage than making threats and innuendos. That real manliness is proven by those who will not use the pain of loss to make political points for oneself. That courage comes from knowing one’s own limitations.That the brave walk the path of compassion, even when they are afraid or sad. That war is never to be started lightly nor prolonged unless there is dire cause. – Rappler.com