Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

11 September

Posted by butalidnl on 11 September 2006

It is now September 11, and the news media is full of “anniversary” coverage of the 2001 attacks in the US. It seems that, even now, the people in the US are much more into the event etc. than people in Europe. For us here in Europe, the terrorist bombing was terrible, but it did not really “change the world forever”, as Americans are prone to think. We don’t use the event as a dividing line in history, e.g. “in the post 9/11 world”, as Americans do. Why is that?  Well, for Europeans, terrorism has been there long before 9/11. True, before the 2001 bombings, we didn’t experience mass bombings by suicide bombers. What we had were urban guerillas – bombs went off, but usually with adequate warnings, or military targets get hit by “terrorists”. Sometimes there were dramatic kidnappings. But in a sense, “9/11” indicated an escalation of terrorism.  For people here, “9/11” did indicate that America had at last joined the rest of us, in that it too had been hit by terrorism. Before “9/11” Americans were rather snobbish towards European appeals to coordinate anti-terrorism measures; probably because they never got hit.

Where in the past the US was oblivious to the danger of terrorism, it is now paranoid about it. It declared a “war on terror” that it will wage throughout the world. Europe, on the other hand, has simply intensified its anti-terrorism measures, many of which were already in place. It now has to factor in the added danger posed by terrorists who are willing to die in the course of their bombings. Tactics against the RAF, Red Brigades and ETA, were no longer sufficient in the face of Islamic terrorists ready to blow themselves up. But taken together, the framework remains the same – the terrorist threat is a police/prevention matter mainly. Europeans do not agree with the US framework of a “war on terror”.
In fact, Europeans are rather turned off by the American attitude that since they were hit on 11 September 2001, the world should sympathize and support them in their “war on terror”. The Iraq war, which is quite unpopular here in Europe, and the many human rights violations by the CIA and the US troops done in the course of this war on terror have discredited it in Europe.  Americans shouldn’t be allowed to trample on other peoples just because they were hit on 11 September 2001. At this point, five years later, it is quite difficult to think of the US as the victim; after all, it has killed many tens of thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of “protecting the American way of life”.

For Overseas Filipinos, “9/11” and the “war on terror” has both positive and negative effects. On the “positive” side, the US harassment of workers from islamic countries has led to more job openings to Filipinos. Specifically, this applies to seafarers – Muslim seafarers have a hard time entering the US; thus, international shipping companies have tended to hire more Filipinos and other non-muslim seafarers to take their place.  On the other hand, there are a lot of Fil-Americans serving in the US military. Many FilAm soldiers have died in Iraq.  
The increased security on money-transfers imposed by the US on other countries as part of their war on terror, has made it impossible for our modest money-transfer business among Overseas Filipinos here in the Netherlands to continue to operate. Pasali Padala BV (mainly owned by sea-based Filipino workers in the Netherlands) had to cease operations in 2002  because of stricter (and in my opinion, unreasonable) rules on reporting and reserve requirements that were imposed by the Dutch central bank (DNB) in 2002.


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