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Heaven or hell? Take your pick

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What exactly are the takeaways one can get from the fall of Kabul?

As the dreaded Taliban retakes the capital, Afghanistan has once again become an extremely dangerous place to be, more so for a woman.

Back, as expected, are the repressive rules and violence that characterized its rule before it capitulated in 2001.

The fall of Afghanistan means the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist terrorists will have a safe haven of operations again. This means a higher threat level for Muslim separatists in Mindanao. It has made Muslim autonomy an election issue, particularly with funding and the ongoing implementation of the peace agreement and the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Scary, but one could only imagine the hell that is about to unfold in the mountainous, landlocked country located in the heart of south-central Asia.

Despite 20 years of propagation and embedding of western liberal values as the United States took control, Afghanistan has remained a partial and fragile enterprise that needs to be liberated soon according to US President Joe Biden, because “an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable.” Only Afghans could save themselves, he was quoted as saying.

Biden couldn’t wait. The United States had to pull out soonest lest his popularity takes a nosedive. There was hardly any exit strategy. Critics say he could have waited until the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government produced concrete results in Doha. The Taliban, they say, could have been kept at bay and eventually compelled into a genuine power sharing agreement with the democratically elected leaders.

But no, they have gotten what they came for in the first place. Top terrorist Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the 9-11 World Trade disaster, is dead and his al-Qaeda a mere shadow of its ferocious self.

This development only serves as a chilly warning to American allies all over the world. The US defers to no interests other than its own. It happened in Vietnam. It happened to us. It’s happening now.

After World War II, Washington left its only colony in shambles, focusing only on Japan. There was no Marshall Plan for rebuilding the Philippines. Although it gave the country its independence in 1946, it was, for all purposes, only on paper as it made sure the Constitution was amended so that Americans could still enjoy parity rights. We were treated like vassals.

The Americans kept their bases and that’s what really mattered to them. That is why we do understand why at some point President Duterte refuses to kowtow to American wishes. We also understand why he has to play a delicate balancing act between the US and China. A shooting war, he points us, would have the Philippines caught right smack in the middle.

Some 75 years after a similar American pullout here, the Philippines had gone from a promising beacon of American values in the Pacific to a sad caricature of the American way that it is today.

We have actually become a country that is only superficially American in form except in substance and in practice. We are more of a society that adores America and the American way, but we still have to find a niche of our own.

Maybe that’s what Biden is driving at. If you want to live a certain way of life, you have to fight for it and defend it.

During the battle of Marawi, the Filipino soldier refused the American offer of sending soldiers to help. It was our fight, our way of living. We had to fight to defend our liberties, our way of life. We can’t just roll over and die against the terrorists.

It is probably this pride that had Filipinos recognizing 12 June 1898 as their real Independence Day instead of the 4th of July 1946, the date the US granted the islands its independence.

Let’s stop imagining how we could have been had America stayed. No less than Manuel L. Quezon, president of the Philippine Commonwealth, had reiterated a few times that he’d rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans.

Then again, maybe we should stop thinking about the hell that is about to unfold in Afghanistan. But, should we look away or intervene? As one wag said, even the mightiest nation like the United States did and failed. They’re not the good guys, as some of us would like to think.

After all, who is the ultimate authority to determine what is heaven and what is hell? History does not offer a clear answer. Neither does America.

At this point, we could probably just watch in horror as hell unfolds.

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