Malaysian Members of Parliament are abdicating their national as well as global responsibilities in failing to schedule a full-scale debate on this issue, in order to make their contribution to stamp out the flames of war and the root causes of terrorism.
It is just not enough for the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahthir Mohamad to answer questions on Monday about the United States-led air strikes in Afghanistan, as the Malaysian Parliament should have risen to the occasion to express the national consensus on an issue which threatens not only international peace and stability but can also undermine national solidarity and cohesion as well.
Parliament should hold a special debate tomorrow to adopt an unanimous all-party motion to call for immediate end to all military operations in Afghanistan and the eradication of terrorism, including bringing the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist carnage to justice, through international co-operation and a global coalition under the aegis of the United Nations - especially as the dastardly terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 resulted in the death of some 5,500 persons, including nationals of 81 countries.
After a third day of airstrikes, the hi-tech military might of the United States had crushed Taliban air defenses, radars and airports to the extent that American warplanes can fly virtually unchallenged night and day, with US President Bush declaring that ``The skies are now free'' and the American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasting ``We believe we are now able to carry out strikes more or less around the clock as we wish''!
But the most legitimate question that must be asked is whether the the US is waging a war to end or favour terrorism as the US military operations bombing a Muslim country that has a standard of living close to the Middle Ages will make it much more difficult and complicated to eradicate terrorism.
Nobody believes that it is possible, even with the United States’ most sophisticated missiles, not to kill the innocent as well as the guilty in Afghanistan. The United Nations appeals for protection of civilians after four UN civilian staff of a demining agency were killed and four injured near Kabul in the second consecutive air strikes in Afghanistan on Monday night cannot be dismissed as baseless Taliban propaganda and proof of civilian casualties of US airstrikes.
Bush is not only unapologetic about the innocent civilian casualties, whose toll is unknown, it is highly immoral and dehumanising for American military officers to resort to the soldier-speak of “collateral damage” to refer to the killing of innocent civilians. Civilised nations do not indiscriminately kill innocents and then call it “collateral damage”.
But the biggest question the Malaysian Parliament should pose to the world is whether the US aerial bombardment of Afghanistan will unleash a World War III by destabilising the Middle East and South Asia, with the United States alienating its allies, creating new enemies and prompt a larger cycle of violence by pitting the West against one billion Muslims in a jihad which was repeated by an al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu-Gheith through the Qatar-based television network al Jazeera with 35 million Arab viewers.
In launching air strikes on Afghanistan, the United States has allowed Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network to whitewash their terrorism and crimes against humanity by hijacking the legitimate grievances against United States policy felt by peoples everywhere, not only just Arabs and Muslims.
As The Daily Star (Lebanon) editorial “It Will Take More Than
Bombs to Beat Al-Qaeda” said:
“One does not have to be an extremist to be appalled by the plight of the Iraqi people under stringent UN sanctions championed primarily by the United States; one does not have to be a terrorist to rage against what Israel has gotten away with in the Occupied Territories every day of every month of every year since 1967; and one does not have to be a militant to be angered by the fact that when the ‘Israel Defense Forces’ go on the offensive in the West Bank or Gaza, they do so with American-built warplanes, helicopters, bombs and missiles. Does this mean that reasonable people support the wholesale slaughter of civilians? No. But it does challenge Washington to prove bin Laden wrong by demonstrating its earnest desire to address the issues listed above and honoring its pledge that it has no intention of making war on Islam.
“Even if the Americans get lucky and bin Laden is killed in the air strikes, he will have won a victory of sorts, however tainted and Pyrrhic, if these and other questions are left hanging. This can best be accomplished by an immediate US push for a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then no one will even want to remember bin Laden, let alone support him.”
These are the very sentiments which should be endorsed and expressed by the Malaysian Parliament forcifully and with an united voice to the United States Government.
The Malaysian Parliament should also try to be the conscience of the world by expressing international concern at the counter-productive and even lethal consequences of the United States air-drop of 37,000 food packets on the first night of its aerial bombardments of Afghanistan. Each food packet contains around 2,200 calories roughly enough to sustain one person for one day.
Afghanistan is 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, including the Soviet policy of random mine drops in the 1980s.
There are still 10 to 15 mine incidents every day. Last year, an average of about 88 casualties per month were attributed to landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Afghanistan.
Hungry and desperate Afghans could get themselves blown up attempting to retrieve dropped food packets.
Sunday’s airdrop of a day’s worth of food for 37,000 on a land of 20 million people, some 7.5 million of whom are on the verge of starvation, is a drop in the ocean of Afghanistan’s daily need.
The US department of defence has announced that it possesses a further two million of these packs, which it might be prepared to drop. If so, they could feed 27% of the starving for one day.
Four weeks remain before winter envelops Afghanistan, during which enough food must be delivered to last until March. Yet, the United States could only drop, at its own best estimate, barely one quarter of one day’s needs.
The Malaysian Parliament must focus international attention on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which has been aggravated by the US air-strikes, sending some some one to two million Afghans as refugees to neighbouring countries.
Malaysian Members of Parliament, whether government or opposition, must speak out loud and clear and band together to call for an end to the military operations in Afghanistan by building an United Nations-led global anti-terrorism alliance that addresses the immediate task to ensure that the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks meet their just deserts, as well as the root causes of terrorism - resolving conflicts in all parts of the globe, including the search for lasting peace in the Middle East and an international commitment to eradicate poverty and under-development.