Pact With The Devil

Troops from the Philippines are coming home a month early from Iraq – soon all fifty-one of them, from their strictly humanitarian-aid duties there – as the Filipino truck-driver Angelo de la Cruz remains hostage to Islamic militants. Many in the world are dismayed at this apparent climb-down by Philippines president Gloria Arroyo in the face of terrorist threats, and this includes the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, whose writer Paul Høi takes Arroyo to task in an editorial entitled Arroyo Makes the Same Mistake as Doctor Faustus.

Doctor Faustus of course refers to the immortal literary theme, from back in the European Middle Ages, of the man who sells his soul to the devil to gain superhuman powers, a theme treated most famously by Goethe and Christopher Marlowe. Here, Høi invokes Faust as a tale of the devil tempting man with an easy solution to what is otherwise a seemingly insoluble problem – but with punishment that comes later.

From the “Faust” stories, he writes, “the moral was clear and distinct: Man cannot control Evil. The control in fact goes in the other direction.” Similarly, Arroyo may think she has come up with the best solution for saving De La Cruz, who is the father of eight children, and has uncles and aunts and cousins, etc., all of whom have naturally been loud in calling for the Philippines to do what the militants demand in order to save his life. After all, those troops were scheduled to be re-deployed home soon anyway.

But terrorists do not show thanks or gratitude, Høi reminds us, and just because the troops will all be home soon does not mean, as he puts it, that Arroyo can then draw a line in the sand and declare “no more deals with me.” There’s nothing to stop hostages from being taken right there in the Philippines, or bombs exploding – or threatening to explode. For that matter: Has De La Cruz even been released unharmed yet?


There is even less to stop further hostages from being taken in Iraq from the coalition forces there of various nations or their civilian countrymen, and it is the Philippine’s precedent of yielding to demands that makes this all the more likely. With its own troops still on the ground there, Denmark certainly has a right to complain, and Høi does a round-up of criticism for Arroyo’s action from other countries that are still active coalition members: Australia, the US, Japan, and South Korea, all of which have repeated their own stance that they do not deal with terrorists. Høi even cites anonymous sources in Washington who speak of the Philippines’ “stab in the back,” which is certain to cool relations between the two countries.

Such relations are already cool between the US and Spain, which Washington and several of its allies now regard even as a “deserter” nation because of the precipitate withdrawal of its troops from Iraq after last March 11’s multiple bombings in Madrid and the subsequent election of a new Spanish government. There, Høi states, the terrorists “bombed the elections and achieved what they wanted to achieve.” Let’s remember that that’s not a view about the Madrid bombings shared by all; as we saw in an earlier €S entry a few months back, some in the German press, at least, consider that the Spanish electorate threw out José Maria Aznar’s government back then for other reasons relating to those bombings, and/or perhaps for completely unrelated other reasons. But there’s clearly frustration among remaining coalition members, as one-by-one countries which have up to now stood in solidarity and contributed forces to Iraq now head for the exit door.

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