When he ran for president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte was a mini Donald Trump shooting from the hip to excite populist mob support for his presidential candidacy. Once in office, he followed up on his bloodthirsty rhetoric by encouraging a death-squad sweep through the island nation that has so far accounted for over two thousands assassinations or executions, whichever term one likes. Reports describe bodies appearing in the streets every morning with signs attached to them suggesting they were drug addicts or dealers -- gruesome echoes from the late 70s and early 80s in El Salvador. Dubbed Dirty Harry in the tabloids,  President Duterte applauds the piling up of corpses and deems his program a success because drug users are turning themselves in in droves, lest they be murdered. They end up jammed into overcrowded hell-holes . Some end up dead anyway.
As the "leader of the free world," President Obama was touring Asia shilling for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He was eager to "send a clear message that, as a Pacific nation we [the United States] are here to stay." He planned on visiting Duterte in the Philippines to scold the new leader on his murderous campaign, but he canceled that visit when Duterte gave a saliva-spitting speech in which he called the president "a son of a prostitute." Given his tiny island nation is a client state of the powerful United States, after his insult-riddled speech, the volatile Filipino president reportedly began to suffer painful migraine headaches. President Duterte has apparently called many people "a son of a prostitute," including the Pope; and while hijo de puta in Spanish as spoken in the Philippines means son of a prostitute, it's such a common expression it probably should be translated into English as son of a b*tch. A prudent, cool-headed Obama shook off the choice insult. That is, he didn't respond by calling Mr. Duterte a fish-eating wog or a psychopathic lunatic. Instead, the two men "exchanged pleasantries" at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Vientiane, Laos.
The hijo de puta flap fortunately did not overshadow the really important news from Obama's Asian trip, namely that the President of the United States of America "acknowledged" (he pointedly did not apologize for) the U.S. bombing of Laos  between 1964 and 1973. "Villages and entire valleys were obliterated," Obama said. "Countless civilians were killed." The adjective innocent should have been added between the words countless and civilians. (The U.S. dropped more than two million tons of bombs on Laos; the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years.) What the U.S. rained down on Laotian peasantry has been described as, per capita, the heaviest bombing campaign in world history. This is one of many bloody military secrets in our archives; these archives have been open for some years, but the bombing is still not recognized by most Americans for the evil it was. For years, our government kept the secret from Americans; it was obviously never a secret to the Laotian people.
This is the same U.S. president who launched the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War  in 2012 with a speech at the Vietnam War wall in Washington D.C. That well-funded, controversial campaign is designed to whitewash the Vietnam War within the domestic United States; it ignores, or employs tons of misleading rhetorical sludge, around incidents like the Mai Lai massacre and the killing in Laos of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and the obliteration of villages and agricultural land. In Southeast Asia, the war's death toll is estimated between two and three million souls. The 50th Commemoration is about PR and emphasizes American sacrifice and heroism. The truth is buried.
President Obama didn't go as far as many would have liked in his acknowledgment of the immoral slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Laotians. In 1945, if U.S. leaders had been more concerned for humanity and morality, they would have endorsed our Vietnamese ally against the Japanese and supported Vietnamese independence from a resurgent French colonialism. There would have been no bombing of Laos. Thanks to Cold War hysteria, President Truman made a terrible decision. It has always seemed significant to me that while the Vietnam War and mass bombings were going in Laos President Obama was a young boy living in Indonesia in the home of an Asian stepfather whose family had suffered at the hands of brutal Dutch colonial soldiers. This must give the man a unique international mindset. Besides his race, it's another biographical fact that must drive the retrograde right nuts.
A Skirmish in the Failed Drug War
The hijo de puta incident amounted to a skirmish in the Drug War. President Duterte's draconian program of killing drug dealers and users without concern for justice or collateral damage amounts to our current Drug War policy taken to its "final solution" level. If the US has any moral weight in the world (which is a good question these days) the least President Obama should do is put the Duterte regime on a human rights violator watch list and somehow personally squeeze the president and his cronies without hurting the Filipino people. Sadly, if past is prologue, our lame duck imperial president will probably do as he has done with Egypt and Honduras, distract us from the murderous reality and run cover for the killers. The Ronald Reagan model from El Salvador remains the U.S. government standard: Every six months have Congress wink-and-nod and affirm the bloody regime in question has made progress -- as the bodies pile higher and higher.