Philip Goldberg and the arrogance of power - adding America's wrongs against the Philippines

Friday December 30, 2016 ()

Goldberg and Duterte

In digesting the unsettling report, first published in The Manila Times on December 27, 2016, that the recently departed US ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, left behind him a blueprint or master plan for the overthrow or destabilization of President Rodrigo Duterte, we Filipinos should resist letting our imagination run wild, lest we transform what may be mere gossip or wishful thinking into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is a cooler and more thoughtful way to handle this tale, and that is to let it stew in its own delusions. Let it disclose its authors because if there is really a plot the plotters won't be able to resist the compulsion to rattle the seemingly imperturbable Duterte.

Philip Goldberg and the arrogance of power - adding America

Let the public speculate on the delicious coincidence that the three Ls of the anti-Duterte movement (Leni, Leila and Loida) happen to be in America today, all at the same time. Sooner or later, there will come homeward stories about how they met with Goldberg to plot their moves together.

Liberals emerge from foxholes

Let us contemplate the prospect that this plot, real or not, will probably induce the Liberal Party (LP) to finally proclaim itself as the political opposition to the Duterte administration. Let's watch how Franklin Drilon, Sonny Belmonte and other yellow cultists will emerge from their foxholes to signify that they still have a pulse.

There's nothing like Uncle Sam by your side to make you brave.

An incident-laden diplomatic career

And then allow the incident-laden career of Philip Goldberg to provide credence and plausibility to the destabilization plot. Reading about Goldberg on the Internet, I wondered whether there is a film or fiction that can match the high-level intrigue, scandal and threats that Goldberg generated wherever he was posted? Consider:

  1. Golderg served as US ambassador to Bolivia from October 13, 2006 to September 14, 2008. In August 2007, the US was accused by Bolivian Minister Juan Ramón Quintana of funding opposition to President Morales by providing opposition leaders and critical think-tanks with millions of dollars. On September 10, 2008, the Bolivian government gave Goldberg 72 hours to leave the country, after declaring him persona non grata. Bolivia expelled Ambassador Goldberg for fomenting civil unrest that threatened not only the country's first indigenous Indian president, Evo Morales, but the unity of the nation itself. Morales said in the official announcement: "Without fear of the empire, I declare Mr Goldberg, the US ambassador, 'persona non grata'. He is conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia."
  2. Goldberg served as US Ambassador to the Philippines from December 2, 2013 to November 4, 2016. During the 2016 campaign for the Philippine presidency, candidate Duterte joked about wishing to be first in raping a pretty Australian missionary during a hostage crisis in Davao City in 1989. Goldberg criticized DU30 for the vulgarism. On August 9, 2016, President Duterte told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Ambassador Goldberg was a "gay son of a bitch" for meddling in Philippine politics.
  3. Goldberg has a background in intelligence work. In the US state department, he served as assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research from February 16, 2010 to November 21, 2013. Rumor has it that he worked at one time for the CIA.
  4. Goldberg, now 60, is listed as a senior American diplomat. He has also served diplomatic stints in Chile, Columbia, Kosovo, South Africa and Bosnia. Speculations about Goldberg plotting against governments may or may not be justified. His presence during tumultuous events may not be accidental.

In the Philippines, talk of Goldberg plotting regime change will find adherents, because American interference in Philippine politics is well-known. The overthrow of president Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and the coronation of Cory Aquino as his successor are believed to be the handiwork of the US government.

Four cases of CIA plotting

That America engages in destabilization and regime change in other countries is incontrovertible. In one issue of Foreign Affairs (July/August 2014), the policy journal devoted a special report on four major cases where America, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), plotted the ouster of sitting heads of state and succeeded. Confidential documents were declassified under the US Freedom of Information Act.

The cases discussed in detail are:

  1. The coup in Iran against Prime Minister Mohammed Mossaddeq in 1953.
  2. The overthrow and murder of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1961.
  3. The coup in Chile against President Salvador Allende in September 1973.
  4. The split of Pakistan into two states and the genocide in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971.

The arrogance of power

Significantly, this year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of a remarkable speech given by Sen. William Fulbright. In 1966, he gave a series of lectures sponsored by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. One of them was entitled, "The Arrogance of Power."

I recall here his thesis on the arrogance of power, because of the light it casts on Goldberg's apparent pretensions and fantasies.

Fulbright presented his thesis as follows:

"Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is particularly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations–to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image ....

"The more I puzzle over the great wars of history, the more I am inclined to the view that the causes attributed to them–territory, markets, resources, the defense or perpetuation of great principles–were not the root causes at all but rather explanations or excuses for certain unfathomable drives of human nature. For lack of a clear and precise understanding of exactly what these motives are, I refer to them as the 'arrogance of power'–as a psychological need that nations seem to have in order to prove that they are bigger, better, or stronger than other nations."

Fulbright closed the lecture with these words:

"In her relations with Asian nations, as indeed in her relations with all of the revolutionary or potentially revolutionary societies of the world, America has an opportunity to perform services of which no great nation has ever before been capable. To do so we must acquire wisdom to match our power and humility to match our pride. Perhaps the single word above all others that expresses America's need is empathy.

"The inconstancy of American foreign policy is…an expression of two distinct sides of the American character. Both are characterized by a kind of moralism, but one is the morality of decent instincts tempered by the knowledge of human imperfection, and the other is the morality of absolute self-assurance fired by the crusading spirit ...

"The United States must decide which of the two sides of its national character is to predominate–the humanism of Lincoln, or the arrogance of those who would make America the world's policeman."

No apology for the Philippines

Goldberg's covert plotting, if confirmed, would be oddly out of sync with Obama's policy of rectifying and apologizing for the wrongs America has committed in the world.

The policy is why Obama has visited Hiroshima, Vietnam and Laos, and why he changed US policy in the Middle East.

But Obama has significantly avoided including in his apology tour the Philippines, where America's story as a global power began, and her capacity for barbarism was first bared in the Philippine- American War (1899-1902). Obama has visited Manila twice, but he did not apologize for America.

This may explain why Philip Goldberg would have no scruples about adding to America's wrongs against the Philippines.


  1. Philip Goldberg and the arrogance of power by Yen Makabenta, December 29, 2016 (The Manila Times)

(This article is adapted from the source listed above. We are unable to grant permission for any kind of reproduction other than social media shares.)


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