By Andre Vltchek
In February, the people of Asia stood shoulder to shoulder, protesting in front of their US embassies against the forthcoming war against Iraq. They marched through rain, snow and tropical heat, their numbers varying from several hundreds to hundreds of thousands. But their message was unanimous: “We are not irrelevant. We, the people of the largest and the most populous continent on earth are against the war and against the Western hegemony. And we want our voices to be heard.”
Even in Japan, a country often described as the staunchest supporter of US foreign policy, around 80% of the population is against the war. There is no major nation on the Asian continent that is cheering for an invasion of Iraq.
From Indonesia to Iran, from Japan to Sri Lanka, people are asking the same question: who gave the moral mandate to the United States and the rest of the Western world to preside over the fate of the country that is located thousands of miles from their national boundaries?
Asian unity on the issue of war against Iraq was clearly visible during the summit of Non-Aligned Nations in Kuala Lumpur. The Non-Aligned Movement unites 116 countries: two-thirds of the countries that make up the United Nations. The great majority of Asian nations are also members of the NAM.
Malaysian PM, Mahathir Mohamad, declared “Uncertainties of today’s world are due not to ‘a clash of civilizations’ between the West and Islam, but to a revival of the old European trait of wanting to dominate the world. The expression of this trait invariably involves injustices and oppression of people of other ethnic origins and colours. It is no longer just a war against terrorism. It is, in fact, a war to dominate the world.”
While the newspapers in South East Asia were full of quotes from Mohathir’s speeches, the Western media exhibited a profound disinterest and disrespect to the opinion of people from the great majority of the world, openly expressed by their leaders at the summit of NAM.
“The West talks about some disagreements between the US and Germany and between the US and France”, said a painter in Ubud (he didn’t want to be identified), a small town on the Hindu island of Bali.
“These Western countries have just some small disagreements. They all say that Iraq has to comply with their will and that it has to disarm, they just differ in their views about how it should be achieved. In the end, France and Germany will not defend Iraq from US aggression. We in Asia say: the West terrorized this continent for centuries and, in many ways, still does. We all suffered more from Europeans than from Iraqis. Why should we now listen to the West? It has no moral mandate, no right to define for all of us what is right and what is wrong.”
“Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the ‘other superpower’ has embarked on a mission to satisfy its ‘instinctive sense of superiority’?E, announced Iran’s President Mohamad Khatami at the NAM summit. He also spoke about the “fanatical fundamentalism” of the sole superpower’s project to make its own moral and cultural values into eternal and ever-lasting truths.
Even the Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri decided to join the critics of the US administration: “No matter how powerful the country is, that does not give it the right to act unilaterally against another.”
“When seen from Asia, the looming war against Iraq appears to have all the hallmarks of an Anglo-Saxon adventure”, wrote influential Sri Lankan journalist Marwaan Macan-Markar in his article for the IPS.
Many Asians feel that it is not just the UN that Bush threatens to make irrelevant. It is the entire world that is not white, the entire world that strives to remain culturally different and opposes the world order and one-way globalisation.
While the Western media concentrates its attention on the details and minor disagreements between the US and its European allies, men and women in all major Asian cities try to grasp the essence of the issue, asking questions such as: Why doesn’t NATO have to disarm if Iraq and other countries do? Why does the US insist on going to war if the great majority of people all over the world oppose such aggression?
Asia suffered tremendously from Western terror. British colonial rulers didn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons and extermination techniques against the people of the Middle East (Blair never mentions this when he muses about the “civilized world”). The French ruled brutally over entire Indochina, and the Dutch over Indonesia. And so on!
East Timor lost more than one third of its population during the Indonesian occupation which received a green light from the US and Australia (and was subsequently fuelled by the British military industry).
The whole of South Asia and large areas of the Middle East and Far East experienced the “civilized” whip and greed of the British Empire. The Iraqi people suffered from the coup led by Saddam Hussein, supported by the CIA. Iran lost around one million people after it had been invaded by Iraq, armed simultaneously by the US and the USSR.
The US managed to kill millions of innocent people in Indochina, bombing the Cambodian countryside, supporting corrupt and brutal dictatorships in both Southern Vietnam and Cambodia (paving the way for Khmer Rouge to take power). It carpet-bombed the poor people of isolated Laos. It butchered between one and three millions of Vietnamese men, women and children, not even caring to find out how many really died – they hardly considered them to be human, anyway.
Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese people, and particularly children are still losing their limbs and lives in countryside where multitudes of unexploded “bombies” rest at the bottoms of rice fields and elsewhere. The US doesn’t even bother to cooperate with de-mining agencies.
And on the cultured and civilized front ….? What little is left after the intense American bombing of the magnificent towers of the My Son Sanctuary, the spiritual heart of the ancient Champa Kingdom and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remains a minefield. The great citadel of Imperial Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam and another UNESCO Heritage, is still largely a ruin after a devastating US bombardment.
Why on earth should the Asians trust us? Why should they believe that we have a mandate to police the world? We dropped two nukes, they didn’t. We had been invading them for centuries, building our glorious “civilized” cities from the theft of their natural resources and the slave labour of their men, women and children. We carpet-bombed them, utilizing all possible weapons of mass destruction, including the notorious ‘Agent Orange’ that is still poisoning the earth of Indochina.
For millions of Asians whose relatives died, whose economies were ruined and whose entire land areas were reduced to pre-industrial devastation, our past and present involvements are just one terrible reality. It’s not like the ‘reality’ of those who are discussing foreign policy in Parisian cafes, in the wine bars of New York or in the clubs of London. For Asians, it’s real reality, it stinks, it makes them shiver in the winter and suffer from horrendous illnesses. It’s a reality that leaves millions of people still hungry – people in countries that we tried to “liberate”, to “civilize”, to make “safe”.
And we still sit on our nukes, we still cling to our veto powers, we still push our economic system, our culture and our system of government down the throat of the entire remainder of the world.
The truth is, the rest of the world doesn’t like it. And they don’t like us. They’ve had enough of our colonialism, neo-colonialism, arrogance, and wars. They’ve had enough of our WTOs, IMFs, and World Banks. And it’s billions of them, and that’s only in Asia.
The CIA, instead of chasing Muslim extremists all over the world, should send their spies to small villages and towns in counties like Indonesia and listen to the voices of the people there. Then they should report back to their masters: report the truth that most Asians are absolutely tired with our hegemony on power. They are restless and ready to act.
It never made it into any newspaper in the West, but after the brutal terrorist attacks on September 11, Vietnamese villagers were firing home made rockets celebrating the attacks that Vietnamese government (quite correctly) denounced with all its force. Shocking? But remember that they lost millions of people, and nobody even told them: “sorry guys, excuse us, we were wrong. Maybe we should at least give some medical help to your children that we maimed or poisoned”. Behaving as we do, we can hardly expect much love and sympathy in this part of the world.
With all the terror and suffering (past and present) that we caused, the only way we can create real peace and stability is to stop, to apologize and to start working with Asian (and of course, Latin American and African) countries on an equal footing. And, of course, to pay our dues and help to clean up the mess that we created.
Then, and only then, there is chance that we can be truly supported, appreciated, liked and respected. And above all, forgiven. Instead, Bush and Blair are pushing Asia and the entire planet towards a catastrophe.
Instead of forcing other countries to disarm, we should disarm ourselves. No local dictator managed to bring so much grief on this planet as we did – as our Western civilization did. Let’s disarm and then let’s (politely) ask others to do the same.
And let’s listen to the others, to the majority of people in this world, in all the different parts of the world, instead of applauding the hardly coherent mumblings that are coming from the governments in Paris and Berlin – they have the same goals, but want to use different means. And the reason they are asking for “more time” is because they are still bit more afraid of their own people than they are of Bush and his entourage.
We are not the chosen people and our truth is not the only truth. There are only two groups that should be allowed to disarm the Iraqi President: one group consists of the Iraqi people themselves. Another group is called ‘the people of the world’ – the majority of the countries of the General Assembly of UN. The same majority should also have a right to tell us – the West – to disarm as well as to tell us to comply with the UN resolutions.
Yes, we are all laughing now. We all know that such a suggestion is na?Ee and absurd. But our laughter may not last too long. It is enough to listen to the words of Malaysian Prime Minister (and each and every journalist working in this part of the world will confirm his words) to have chills running down our spines:
“Our people are getting restless. They want us to do something. If we don’t they will, and they will go against us unable to mount a conventional war they will resort to guerrilla warfare, terrorism against us.”
Bio for the author:
Andre Vltchek is a Czech/American novelist, non-fiction writer and left-wing journalist. He writes for several publications in the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America, besides running his own journal “WCN” ( www.worldconfrontationnow.com ). Currently he resides in Viet Nam, Japan and Latin America
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