Bush should give a full accounting at the APEC Summit in Shanghai  as to whether the 12-day US-led airstrikes and military operations in Afghanistan have remained a just war or whether they have degenerated  into “pure acts of terror” for millions of innocent Afghan civilians

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Contradictory media reports as to what transpired at the pre-APEC Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Shanghai yesterday raised the question as to whether the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell had attended the same meeting.

The Star today reported Hamid as saying after a meeting with APEC foreign ministers which was also attended by Colin Powell that Malaysia is likely to call for a review of the US retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan at the APEC Summit this weekend although this call for a review was not included in the draft anti-terrorism declaration  to be issued by the APEC leaders.

Hamid told Associated Press (AP)  that at the meeting with Powell and the other  APEC foreign ministers yesterday, he had called for a speedy end to US-led attacks against Afghanistan, warning that the onset of the Muslim fasting season could intensify protests against the United States.

Reuters reported a different version of the pre-APEC Summit foreign ministers’ meeting when Powell told a news conference after the ministerial meeting that  he found support from Asia Pacific ministers for U.S.-led  military strikes against Afghanistan, and none had expressed  concern.

Reuters quoted Powell as saying:

"I found understanding among my colleagues. There was a hope that the military campaign would be ended  quickly on a note of success but I cannot say concerns were  expressed, just the hope that it would achieve its purpose soon.”

Hamid should explain how Powell could come away from the APEC foreign ministers’ meeting with the conviction that all the 21 APEC nations supported the US-led airstrikes and military operations in Afghanistan and none had even expressed concern, only hope for a quick end to the “military campaign”?

Had Powell misled the world or had he misunderstood what Hamid said at the meeting?

It has been reported that the APEC foreign ministers have agreed that the prepared statement, which APEC leaders will consider adopting this weekend, avoids any mention of the U.S. and British airstrikes on Afghanistan.

This is most ridiculous as it  will make the 2001 APEC Summit in Shanghai an international irrelevance, when  US President Bush had made it clear before he  left the  United States for Shanghai that his focus would not be the trade issues that traditionally dominate the APEC gathering but the  “war against terrorism”.

How can the annual APEC Summit be taken seriously when its leaders can meet in Shanghai and come out with a declaration on anti-terrorism just to   condemn the September 11 terrorist attacks and the  heinous crimes perpetrated against over 5,500 innocent civilians from 81 nations (including over 500 Muslims)  in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania without addressing the international concerns, outrage and opposition to the indiscriminate US-led airstrikes and military operations in an unjust war in  Afghanistan?

The least that Malaysia and other like-minded nations should do is to press for APEC Summit  endorsement of the call by United Nations human rights and aids agencies as well as international humanitarian organisations  for an immediate halt to  all hostilities in  Afghanistan, including western bombing, so that humanitarian supplies could be delivered urgently before winter  sets in next month.

Yesterday, three leading British aid agencies,  Oxfam International, Christian Aid and the Birmingham-based charity Islamic Relief said the US attacks  were making it impossible to distribute relief because labourers and truckers were afraid to unload food or  to stay overnight in towns.

Oxfam said it had confirmation of the first starvation deaths inside Afghanistan since the  military campaign began.

It will be the height of irresponsibility for the   APEC Summit to avoid the issue of the  unjust war of the US-led airstrikes and military operations in Afghanistan raining  slaughter, terror and the humanitarian catastrophe on millions of innocent Afghan civilians.

In the United Nations General Assembly debate on terrorism earlier this month, Malaysia had joined the international  call for a clear definition of terrorism to more effectively combat it, stressing the need to focus on   acts of pure terrorism  involving attacks against innocent civilian populations,  which cannot be justified under any circumstances.

Malaysia should ask Bush to give a full accounting at the APEC Summit whether the 12-day  US-led airstrikes and military operations in Afghanistan have remained a just war or whether they have degenerated into “pure acts of terrorism” for  the millions of innocent Afghan civilians.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman