Hostages have Pres. Arroyo and Spain to thank

The six new hostages in Iraq have the governments of the Philippines and Spain to thank for their current plight. Experts warned that giving in to terrorists' demands would only encourage more kidnappings, leading to more demands, and an ever—increasing spiral of abductions and murders. And for once the experts were right. Even the government ministers of the Philippines are not too stupid to make the obvious connection between capitulation to terrorists and more terrorism. Or perhaps Philippine history books tell a story different from Western texts, one in which British and French capitulation to Hitler at Munich did not lead to the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Russia, etc., etc.

Writing in the Philippine Daily Enquirer two days before the latest kidnapping, columnist Neal H. Cruz redefined Samuel Johnson's idea of heroism when he called Pres. Arroyo and the newly released Angelo de la Cruz heroes:

"It must have been very lonely up there as the president pondered on this quandary. She alone could decide whether Mr. De la Cruz would live or die ... Had the president allowed Mr. De la Cruz to be beheaded, she would have sent the wrong signal ... Is that any way to treat heroes? ... Ms. Arroyo just saved one and became one herself. Let's thank her, and God, for that."

Saved one and lost six. Six and counting. Curiously, in the Philippines one can become a hero simply by selling out your greatest ally.

A group called "The Holders of the Black Banners" is the latest entry in the terror sweepstakes. (Whatever happened to cool names like The Shining Path?) This time the hostages are three Indians, two Kenyans and an Egyptian. None of these countries is actually taking part in the 160,000—member coalition force in Iraq, but "The Holders of the Black Banners" cannot be expected to care about little details like that. And besides, it is enough that these foreigners are to be found in the Black Banner Holders' godforsaken country, trying to make a living driving beat up old trucks for a Kuwaiti trucking firm. Meanwhile the terrorists are evidently going nationality by nationality, testing the mettle of each country's leadership.

The terrorists' demands were sickeningly familiar: leave Iraq or we behead your captive countryman. This presents these nations with an interesting dilemma, since most Indian, Kenyon and Egyptian workers in Iraq are independent civilian contractors. Their governments may ask them nicely to go home, but the workers certainly don't have to obey. In their press statement, the "Black Banner Holders" have demanded that the truckers' employer close shop and leave Iraq. However, business being business, a pullout is unlikely no matter how many decapitated drivers.

Filipinos may be right that the Iraq War is not their conflict. But they are wrong to think that the War on Terror is not their war. Does hoisting the white flag mean the Philippines are suddenly safe from terrorist attacks? Don't bet on it. The southern island of Mindanao remains an incubator and hideout for some 200 Abu Sayyaf terrorists who in 2000 kidnapped a group of foreign tourists from a Malaysian resort island. For 30 years various Islamic groups have fought a guerilla war for an Islamic state in the Philippines. And just since 1994, Abu Sayyaf has bombed a Philippine airline, assassinated national leaders, kidnapped priests and businessmen, lobbed grenades into department stores, and attacked villages.

Pres. Arroyo's willingness to give in to terrorists to save her own political arse will certainly energize her homegrown Muslim fanatics. Contrary to Madame President's desired results, Filipinos are now far less safe than they were before her capitulation. And when the U.S. declines to renew its $30 million in development assistance to her country, Ms. Arroyo will doubtless regret biting the hand that fed her so well. Like all bullies and brigands, terrorists are emboldened by a show of fear. Show some spine and they will run off in search of weaker prey. Ms. Arroyo has shown herself and her government to be weak prey indeed.

The six new hostages in Iraq have the governments of the Philippines and Spain to thank for their current plight. Experts warned that giving in to terrorists' demands would only encourage more kidnappings, leading to more demands, and an ever—increasing spiral of abductions and murders. And for once the experts were right. Even the government ministers of the Philippines are not too stupid to make the obvious connection between capitulation to terrorists and more terrorism. Or perhaps Philippine history books tell a story different from Western texts, one in which British and French capitulation to Hitler at Munich did not lead to the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Russia, etc., etc.

Writing in the Philippine Daily Enquirer two days before the latest kidnapping, columnist Neal H. Cruz redefined Samuel Johnson's idea of heroism when he called Pres. Arroyo and the newly released Angelo de la Cruz heroes:

"It must have been very lonely up there as the president pondered on this quandary. She alone could decide whether Mr. De la Cruz would live or die ... Had the president allowed Mr. De la Cruz to be beheaded, she would have sent the wrong signal ... Is that any way to treat heroes? ... Ms. Arroyo just saved one and became one herself. Let's thank her, and God, for that."

Saved one and lost six. Six and counting. Curiously, in the Philippines one can become a hero simply by selling out your greatest ally.

A group called "The Holders of the Black Banners" is the latest entry in the terror sweepstakes. (Whatever happened to cool names like The Shining Path?) This time the hostages are three Indians, two Kenyans and an Egyptian. None of these countries is actually taking part in the 160,000—member coalition force in Iraq, but "The Holders of the Black Banners" cannot be expected to care about little details like that. And besides, it is enough that these foreigners are to be found in the Black Banner Holders' godforsaken country, trying to make a living driving beat up old trucks for a Kuwaiti trucking firm. Meanwhile the terrorists are evidently going nationality by nationality, testing the mettle of each country's leadership.

The terrorists' demands were sickeningly familiar: leave Iraq or we behead your captive countryman. This presents these nations with an interesting dilemma, since most Indian, Kenyon and Egyptian workers in Iraq are independent civilian contractors. Their governments may ask them nicely to go home, but the workers certainly don't have to obey. In their press statement, the "Black Banner Holders" have demanded that the truckers' employer close shop and leave Iraq. However, business being business, a pullout is unlikely no matter how many decapitated drivers.

Filipinos may be right that the Iraq War is not their conflict. But they are wrong to think that the War on Terror is not their war. Does hoisting the white flag mean the Philippines are suddenly safe from terrorist attacks? Don't bet on it. The southern island of Mindanao remains an incubator and hideout for some 200 Abu Sayyaf terrorists who in 2000 kidnapped a group of foreign tourists from a Malaysian resort island. For 30 years various Islamic groups have fought a guerilla war for an Islamic state in the Philippines. And just since 1994, Abu Sayyaf has bombed a Philippine airline, assassinated national leaders, kidnapped priests and businessmen, lobbed grenades into department stores, and attacked villages.

Pres. Arroyo's willingness to give in to terrorists to save her own political arse will certainly energize her homegrown Muslim fanatics. Contrary to Madame President's desired results, Filipinos are now far less safe than they were before her capitulation. And when the U.S. declines to renew its $30 million in development assistance to her country, Ms. Arroyo will doubtless regret biting the hand that fed her so well. Like all bullies and brigands, terrorists are emboldened by a show of fear. Show some spine and they will run off in search of weaker prey. Ms. Arroyo has shown herself and her government to be weak prey indeed.