Malaysian Members of Parliament from different political parties, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP, have different positions on the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the US-led war in Afghanistan to close down al Qaeda, bring Osama bin Laden to justice and remove the Taliban regime - but there is no reason why the 193 MPs cannot sink their political differences to pass an unanimous parliamentary vote to call for a halt to the US-led aerial bombardments in Afghanistan to end the maiming and killing of innocent Afghan civilians and avert a looming humanitarian catastrophe of 7.5 million Afghans facing starvation with the onset of winter.
In Kuwait, half of its elected MPs signed a statement calling for an end to the bombing in Afghanistan.
But no resolution or vote had been taken by the Malaysian MPs, although there was a desultory and inconclusive debate on the US airstrikes in Afghanistan on 10th October 2001 by way of a motion of urgent, definite public importance, as such a motion under Standing Order 18 only allows for a debate but not for a resolution or vote to be taken.
The 193 Malaysian MPs should demonstrate that they can rise up to one of humanity’s greatest challenges of the times, to put aside their political differences and send out a loud and clear message to the world reflecting the considered position not just of the government but of all political parties and all segments of the Malaysian population on the war against international terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks.
The Malaysian Parliament should give top priority when it meets on Monday to adopt an unanimous all-party resolution to call for an immediate halt to the four-week US-led aerial bombardments in Afghanistan, especially as the US “war against terrorism” against Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and Taliban has degenerated into a “war of terror” against innocent Afghan civilians with more and more humanitarian groups urging the United States to take more care in its military campaign to avoid hurting Afghans already suffering from hunger and drought.
The US military strikes on power plants creating major health and sanitation concerns in Kandahar are the latest in a catalogue of international humanitarian concerns, including the unexploded yellow cluster bombs, which look similar to U.S. food packages wrapped in yellow.
A cluster bomb contains 147 bomblets, primarily firing a plasma-jet able to penetrate armour but having a secondary anti-personnel effect with over 2,000 sharpened pieces cutting into the casing - and it has been estimated that 70 per cent of these bombs, each with 147 bomblets and 2,000 shrapnel pieces, do not hit their targets and thousands of them have been dropped in the past four weeks in Afghanistan. Even before the US airstrikes, Afghanistan was already the world’s biggest minefield, with an estimated ten million landmines littering the countryside - a deadly legacy of more than 20 years of civil war, due in particular to the Soviet policy of random mine drops in the 1980s. The Americans have now made Afghanistan into a more lethal minefield.
It is important that the Malaysian Parliament adopt an resolution and vote on the US relentless airstrikes, the mounting toll of civilian casualties, the refugee crisis and the looming winter humanitarian catastrophe so as to influence the seventh ASEAN Summit in Brunei next week to blaze the path in the international arena by being the first regional grouping to make a collective call for a halt to the US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan - not just because of Ramadan and Christmas but to stop the maiming and killing of innocent Afghan civilians and avert the winter humanitarian catastrophe.
There is the Afghan national epigram: “When God wants to punish a nation, he makes them invade Afghanistan.”
The eminent British military historian Professor Sir Michael Howard had compared the continued aerial bombardment of Afghanistan to “trying to eradicate cancer cells with a blow torch”.
It had put the al Qaeda network in a “win-win” situation and the longer it goes on, the worse the consequences would be.
Speaking at a recent conference in London examining the key issues and challenges facing the international community in the aftermath of September 11, Michael praised United States President Bush for moving away from the unilateralism and isolationism that had characterised recent US policy but believed that the administration had made a “terrible and irreversible” mistake in calling its anti-terrorism campaign a war.
It had granted al Qaeda a status it did not deserve and created overwhelming public demand for military action.
He said: “Many people would have preferred a police operation conducted under the auspices of the UN on behalf of the international community as a whole, against a criminal conspiracy, whose members should be hunted down and brought before an international court.
“Terrorists can be successfully destroyed only if public opinion supports the authorities in regarding them as criminals rather than heroes.”
He scorned the idea that al Qaeda could be defeated by the removal of the “evil genius” Osama bin Laden and warned: “It is hard to believe that a global network apparently consisting of people as intelligent and well-educated as they are dedicated and ruthless will not continue to function effectively until they are traced and dug out by patient operations of police and international forces”.
According to one estimate, al Qaeda can count on 50,000 sympathisers around the world, another 10,000 activists, including 2,000 who would be ready to kill and be killed and 800 who qualify as leaders - a huge global network with cells in some 60 countries.
Michael’s views deserve serious consideration, and should be reflected in national and international debates and positions on the US “war against terrorism” and its disproportionate and indiscriminate airstrikes in Afghanistan - starting with the Malaysian Parliament on Monday.