DAP supports Mahathir writing to Bush to urge halt to airstrikes but it is more important for the Prime Minister to influence the ASEAN Summit in Brunei next week to make such a collective call

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Saturday): DAP supports the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad writing to President George W. Bush to ask the United States to stop its bombings of Afghanistan.

However, it is  more important that Mahathir uses his influence to get the seventh ASEAN Summit in Brunei  next week to  blaze the international path by being  the first regional grouping in the world  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.

It would be a great disappointment and even a tragedy if the ASEAN Summit in Brunei should just issue another declaration which is a pale shadow of the Shanghai APEC Summit Declaration  which merely condemns  the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennyslvania but dare not advert to the mounting  civilian casualties of the US aerial bombardment and the looming humanitarian crisis and disaster.

To strengthen Mahathir’s hand at the ASEAN Summit in Brunei, I reiterate my proposal that Parliament should suspend its debate on the 2002 budget on Monday to adopt an unanimous all-party resolution expressing the concern of all Malaysians on the United States  airstrikes in Afghanistan, civilian casualties, refugee crisis and the looming winter humanitarian  catastrophe, and to call for an immediate halt to the four-week US 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

If the Malaysian Parliament could adopt such an all-party unanimous vote, it will be the first Parliament in the world to make such a call, an example to the followed by other Parliaments.

The Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah should have an urgent discussion with the Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Datuk Fadzil Noor to work out a commonly-agreed wording for the historic unanimous motion calling for an immediate halt to the US air-strikes in Afghanistan.

Such a move has gained greater urgency with the return of the B-52s and the desperate resort to the tactic “carpet-bombing” in Afghanistan by the United States military  -  with every towering column of flame and smoke in the huge earth-shaking explosions obscuring ever more the appalling imagery of the collapse of the twin towers in New York!

Americans and the world have been promised that the days of carpet-bombing - a tactic straight out of Vietnam and the very symbol of the misguided use of American military power  - are over and  that there would be targetted, precision and proportionate bombing in Afghanistan.

It would appear that the Bush administration has  not learnt the lessons of Vietnam,  that bombing has only a limited impact on decentralised, undeveloped and rural societies as the Americans dropped more tons of explosives in Vietnam  than on all fronts during the Second World War and still could not stop the Vietcong.

Whether the return of B-52 thinking is born out of the impatience with the lack of results from the military campaign so far, it marks the failure of the American strategists and planners to learn the art of fighting terrorism without creating new terrorists and the centrality of getting to the root cause of international terrorism in a battle for hearts and minds - which is a menace not only to peace and prosperity in the United States but also to world order and security.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman