The United States aircraft carrier USS George Washington sailed into Manila for a port call today after two days of exercises with the Philippine Navy. The Nimitz-class warship played a big part in the rescue and relief operations in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which ravaged the central islands of the Philippines in late 2013. Its contribution to saving tens of thousands of lives in the Philippines was enormous and unprecedented.
The top US commander in the Philippines told the BBC that US military support would be on an unprecedented scale.
The USS George Washington, carrying 5,000 crew and moored off the east of Samar island, will expand search-and-rescue operations and provide a platform for helicopters to move supplies, the White House said.
Two US destroyers are already in the Philippines and other US vessels are expected to arrive in about a week, the US Navy said.
Pallets loaded with food and water have been taken from the aircraft carrier to Tacloban, the capital of badly hit Leyte province, and Guiuan, which was also devastated by the typhoon, on Samar’s east coast.
US Marines were also a significant force of relief to the beleaguered victims…
The additional Marine forces Tuesday are part of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Four MV-22 Ospreys, three KC-130 cargo planes and 180 Marines and sailors departed Monday for storm-hit areas in the sprawling archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.
A Marine forward command element, which arrived Sunday, was still assessing damage and gauging needs. It set up staging areas at Villamor Air Base in Manila and the former Clark Air Base in Angeles City, according to a Marine spokesman on Okinawa.
According to a Philippine Star report published today, the USS George Washington is manned by a crew of “5,500 sailors, 320 of whom are Filipino-Americans.”
This raises an interesting point. US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, is currently being detained in the Philippines’ Camp Aquinaldo in Manila, the primary suspect in the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude last week in Olongapo City. Many Filipinos suspect that if it was indeed Pemberton who killed Laude, the motive may have had something to do with Laude possibly fraudulently representing himself as a natural woman to Pemberton when they met at a bar while he was on shore leave there.
This could have happened to any of the thousands of US military personnel who had been on rest-and-recreation (R&R) forays into any Philippine port — including one or any of the 320 Filipino-American crewmembers of the USS George Washington. One wonders then:
Had Pemberton been one of those 320 Filipino-American navy men in the USS George Washington, what would be the rallying cry of the ‘activist’ groups that had latched on to this circus today?
An interesting thought experiment to say the least — but one that could test the thought frameworks (if any) of those that now use this drama as an opportunity to demonise the US forces now working with the Philippine Government and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that governs this working relationship.
[Photo of the USS George Washington courtesy MilitaryFactory.com.]
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