U.S. Carrier That Buried Osama Heading to Manila

U.S. Carrier That Buried Osama Heading to Manila

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MANILA, Phils. -- The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson faces the risk of sailing into sensitive waters when it steams into Manila Bay on Sunday for a four-day visit.

The Carl Vinson is the same warship that buried Osama bin Laden in the North Arabian Sea after the al-Qaeda chief was killed during a raid by US commandos on his Pakistani hideout earlier this month.

Escorted by three other U.S. vessels, the Carl Vinson, together with its escorts -- the USS Bunker Hill, USS Shiloh and the destroyer USS Gridley, is scheduled to dock in Manila Bay from May 15 to 18 “for a routine replenishment, maintenance of shipboard systems and crew liberty,” according to an official of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (PCVFA).

Asked for comment, University of the Philippines political science professor Clarita Carlos on Friday said Filipinos must “pay attention to the sensitivity of our Muslim brothers considering that it has been claimed that this is the same U.S. carrier that buried Osama bin Laden’s body at the sea.”

Carlos said that when the U.S. government announced to the world the death of Bin Laden, other countries which saw his killing as a violation of international laws and of human rights “may not have been equally jubilant.”

“Not to condone terrorist activities, but we must also think about our domestic concerns and think about our Muslim brothers and not push them towards the direction of extremists,” Carlos said. “What the U.S. did sets a very bad example regarding the concept of justice, which is really vengeance.”

The PCFVA said there was nothing irregular about the port of call.

The warships' visit is an “approved activity of both the Philippine and U.S. governments” and is covered by the provisions of the VFA, Foreign Undersecretary and PCVFA executive director Edilberto Adan told the INQUIRER.

However, Adan said the 6,000 crew of the Carl Vinson and its escorts—the guided missile cruisers USS Bunker Hill and USS Shiloh and the destroyer USS Gridley—“should be briefed on the VFA provisions, particularly on their obligation to respect Philippine laws.”

According to Adan, the carrier group’s visit “highlights the historic relationship and defense partnership between the two countries.”

The U.S. Embassy said the routine port call “highlights the strong, historic community and military connections between the US and the Philippines.”

The Carl Vinson is coming to Manila from Singapore, its first stop after its North Arabian Sea mission. From Manila it is expected to proceed to Singapore.

“While in Manila, they will undertake community relations activities, professional visits, educational tours for the Philippine Navy, and courtesy calls on select (government) officials,” Adan said.

He said security measures had been taken “to ensure the safety and security of the visitors.”

But for Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, the visit is “proof that the U.S. is enforcing its selfish interests, not its purported charity missions.”

“Philippine officials should disallow this ship of death from visiting our shores,” Palatino said, warning the visit “could attract terror groups and al-Qaida cells seeking revenge and endanger the lives of Filipinos.”

Terry Ridon, chair of the League of Filipino Students, said: “The U.S. warships better be ready with our protests.”

“They are certainly not welcome and should pull out. Their arrival will (be) but a reminder of US military atrocities and violation of the country’s sovereignty,” Anakbayan chair Vencer Crisostomo said.

Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said it was “shameful for the government to play host to the U.S. war machine.”

The VFA is currently being reviewed by Malacañang [ the Philippines' White House].

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs has defended the treaty as indispensable to the nation’s security. It also said the accord had allowed the Armed Forces of the Philippines access to new military technology, systems and practices.

Commissioned in 1982, the Carl Vinson is 1,092 feet long, has a speed of over 30 knots and a displacement of 101,300 tons.

Powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors and four steam turbines, the ship has essentially unlimited travel distance.

In October 2001, it moved to the North Arabian Sea, where it launched the first air strikes in support of the so-called “Operation Enduring Freedom” against Iraq.

On Jan. 12, 2010, it was deployed to Haiti to take part in the U.S. relief effort in the quake-devastated country.

Early this month, two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the carrier took a low-level flight across Pakistan to deliver the U.S. Navy Seal unit that took part in raiding Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.

After the raid, Bin Laden’s body was transferred to the Carl Vinson.

U.S. media reports said that the body was washed and placed in a white sheet in keeping with tradition. After religious remarks were read, the body was placed on a prepared flat board and eased into the sea.