Rodrigo Duterte, the new and controversial president of the Philippines, does not believe in mincing his words.
Addressing hundreds of Muslims during an Eid ul Fit'r congregation in Davao City on Friday, Duterte issued statements that may complicate relations with Washington, which counts the Philippines as a major non-NATO ally. Among other things, he said the U.S. destroyed the Middle East when it invaded Iraq in 2003.
“It is not that the Middle East is exporting terrorism to America; America imported terrorism (to the Middle East)," Duterte said.
Duterte also accused the U.S. and U.K. of feeding the public a view of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a tyrant for "forcing their way into the Iraq War."
He added the world is now paying for ex-British PM Tony Blair and former U.S. president George Bush's misguided, colonialist approach.
“After almost 10 years of investigation, it turned out there was no legal basis to declare war against Iraq. You see, it's a useless war," Duterte stated. “Look at Iraq now. Look what happened to Libya. Look what happened to Syria. Even children are being doused with gasoline. They were pushed to the wall for the failed promises."
While Duterte is notorious for adopting an aggressive approach toward drug lords, he doesn't believe the same could be done to tackle extremist groups in the Philippines.
He made it clear that he wanted to engage in peace talks with Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to discuss an agreement reached in 2014.
He was reluctant to refer to Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist militant group based in and around southwestern Philippines, as criminals, recognizing "they had been driven to desperation," thanks to unfulfilled promises of the previous governments.
Duterte also touched, albeit lightly, upon the religious contention in his own Christian-majority country. He remarked that everyone was "natives of the Sultanes" before the Spanish brought Christianity with them.
“So although religion is a very sensitive issue, let us not really do something that will inflame or agitate trouble about religion. We all believe in the same God,” he added.
Although Duterte is notorious for making outrageous and highly offensive remarks, his stance on the Iraq War is surprisingly correct.
An estimated 112,017-122,438 civilian deaths were recorded by Iraq Body Count between March 2003 and March 2013 during the Iraq War. Although the conflict came to an end in December 2011, the number of deaths is constantly increasing due to the ongoing insurgency the American invasion wrought.
Just last Sunday, on July 3, nearly 300 people were killed in Baghdad in the worst bombing over the last 15 years.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters