The Art Of Playing Dumb

The U.S. Charge d’ affaires Joseph Mussomeli is one diplomat breaking the rules of diplomacy---and that at such a slipshod conduct. According to the U.S. number two man here, certain parts of Mindanao are so “porous” and “lawless” that he sees an Afghanistan situation brimming there if nothing is done to improve the effort against terrorism in this country. And then he has to say those critical lamentations before the foreign media. What a way of “diplomatizing”. It must be the new American way of making friends. I suspect that some of the guys put there in the U.S. Embassy are CIA first and diplomat secondarily for they sure talk the talk of international blackmailing and dark-clouding the way those American undercover are always good at.

Mussomeli knew very well that we are in such a dire fiscal crisis that he had a problem in fact why our politicians are mostly occupied with economic concerns—like raising taxes—and not fighting terrorism and yet he had to say something that would further shoo away the dollars trickling towards our shores. With the unflattering declarations that he made before the Australian media, Mussomeli might just have added some nails into our economic coffin. If it indeed it were true---as Mussomeli tried to paint before international media---that there is an Afghanistan situation in this part of the world, no tourists would bathe in our tropical seas even if they are nearly paradise and not even the most profit-hungry capitalist would put top dollar in our market. What Mussomeli did might just have brought our economy nearly an eon back, where foreign capital is rarer than diamonds and tourists receipts an alien thing. And beside that, our Standards and Poor credit ratings would further be set into a downward spiral, and that would mean no easy dollar loans for our private sector, and our government bonds wouldn’t be able to float easily in the big global money market. (I felt at times that the credit rating agency Standard and Poor is somewhat a form heckling towards third-word countries for how come they had to choose such name; I mean, who is “standard” and who is “poor”?)

If we have friends like Mussomeli, why do we need enemies?

What we got here is but another harsh treatment of what I call as “The Art of Playing Dumb”. It is a kind of foreign policy thing being applied by first world countries like America and some other. Powerful nations with hidden agendas would play dumb and ignorant in order for them to gain some end, by way of applying ugly means to justify their aims. Here how it operates. Usually, as a matter of policy, some hatchet men would pretend that they are so dumb that they do not know anything about a certain region and announce to the international media some general declarations that do not entirely reflect the real situation there, and as the wrong picture is painted, chaos and disorder would ensue, or least it would be believed that chaos and mayhem had really ensued, and whatever that country would decide to do to “remedy the situation” would be seen as a heroic effort in the eyes of the international community and in that manner, they get away with murder.

In this particular situation, we all know that Mindanao may be in such trouble now but the situation there is nothing near the hellish disorder appertaining to Afghanistan in the Taliban days---the kind of situation that had “justified” its invasion by America. But Mussomeli had to make some “irresponsible” and “unreflective” comments even though we know that any person who had been in this country for at least a month or two would have surely known that Mindanao is never at the level of an Afghanistan mayhem. It doesn’t have to take a rocket scientist to know this easily verifiable data. The U.S. Embassy surely has some highly reliable intelligence network operating here that for certain, Mussomeli must have known that Mindanao is in no way near an Afghanistan situation. But for some reason, Mussomeli spoke like he was a “dumb” person who has no education in his head. And so I suspect that he was just “playing dumb”.

I come from Mindanao and I have not seen any woman wearing burkas here or some public execution done in a sports stadium. Of course, we got bombs exploding every now and then in some unfortunate urban places, but Israel and Pakistan had more and yet nobody is saying that they are the next Afghanistan.

So what could have lead Mr. Mussomeli to say those “dumb” things. It might be because of some veiled agendas or secret aims. Maybe the United States government is really hell-bent on re-establishing a major military presence here that they have to play dumb and say something hellish about the Philippines, in order sell the idea of another Subic or Clark here. Maybe they want a military base in Mindanao. Or maybe they are just negotiating for more military aids from their own government on the sincere intention to help the Philippines get more war money and military toys. Yes, sometimes this game of playing dumb may be grounded on a heartfelt intention to help---but more often they are not.

Playing dumb as a method of pushing a major foreign policy has been employed by many countries like America in the past and sometimes they work but often they do not. And even if the aims are achieved, the backlash is often unkindly and devastating. The most recent example of this kind of international endgame was America’s claim that Saddam Hussein had links with Osama bin Laden and that chemical weapons were all abound in Baghdad. To this day, no chemical weapon cache was found in any place in Iraq despite incessant search and the Saddam and Osama link appears to be just an amateurish rhetoric. Yet, America had to play dumb and claim the wrong things in order for them to gain justification to invade Iraq. Now that Iraq is embracing democracy, the method of playing dumb may have worked just as well for President George W. Bush and democracy in general, but many still see it as an ugly interference by one country to another and a form of shameless bullying.

In the years leading to the World War II, major western powers like America and Great Britain “played dumb” and disregarded the warning from many insiders that Hitler was actually harboring a megalomaniac ambition to rule the world and was already then murdering thousands of Jews in Auschwitz. The British Prime Minister then had even acquiesced with Adolf Hitler’s invasion of the Slavic region believing it would be for the best. The negligence and “playing dumb” of the western powers at that time resulted to the most traumatic events of our modern history, that is, the devilish murder of thousands of Jews---an unforgettable tragedy that could have been prevented if the western powers had taken action much earlier.

When I was working then for a World Bank-funded project agency, we had to make a tour of the whole Mindanao area with some of the World Bank guys and we made a brief sojourn into the Saranggani Bay area near General Santos City. Some people from MalacaƱang where with us and I somehow overheard them in a passing conversation how the bay there was such a fine place for the U.S. Military Base and they were talking about it like it was a sure thing to come and not in any uncertain manner. I had wondered then if the plan was true at all. I had suspected then that the plan for putting up a U.S. Military Base in Mindanao was some form of a secret agenda of the Philippine and U.S. government which I had gotten to learn somehow through some careless remarks made while an “outsider” like me was present. Of course until now, I still doubt if there was such a grand plan to put up a U.S. Military base in Mindanao but it helps to point out that the new and very modern international airport found General Santos City, one that could handle even the biggest Boeing airliner, was funded entirely by the U.S. Government (I couldn’t confirm this data, but this I heard). So perhaps, America really has a well drawn-out plan to re-establish major military presence here in our country and this notion is not farfetched knowing that the Philippines is considered as a very strategic region in relation to America’s aim to establish a very strong presence in Asia. I am not saying these things because I am viciously anti-American, or like I was a communist, but I am just saying these things as a backgrounder of what perhaps could have led the American Embassy to issue some “dumb” observations of our country (like calling it the next Afghanistan) knowing fully well how disparaging those comments are to our ailing economy.

Now we see perhaps why at times personalities like Mussomeli had to play dumb at times. Although at one point there, I really thought Joseph Mussomeli was really dumb and irresponsible.
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