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MGG: The Colonialism Of The Mind
By M.G.G. Pillai
28/9/2001 7:09 am Fri
17 September 01
An American death is more horrific than a European death and
both far more horrific an African or Asian, especially if poor
and dispossessed of his chattel and dignity by misplaced Western
policies -- as the Middle East generally is.
The many letters malaysiakini published complaining of what
I wrote about the WTC and Pentagon reflects this mindnumbing
It is not novel, this maligning of opinion that goes against
the collective trend, but it reflects the unthinking view that
any who questions the prevailing mould ought to be run out of
town. This one should expect when one's lives, as now in
Malaysia, is dictated by what Astro dishes out. I grew up in a
time of books and discussion, do not watch TV regularly, and am
most comfortable in the company of my mind.
One letter was so sure that the Crusades was over and that
in this modern world, different conditions apply. No doubt this
is why President Bush called his pseudo "At War" declaration a
Crusade, and go after the enemy as the Crusades did Muslims.
Another questioned my reference to Osama Bin Laden as an American
Every CNN, CNBC and other TV news programmes on Astro
targetted Osman Bin Laden. There was no doubt in my mind -- as
there was none in 1991 in Washington's demonising of its former
ally, President Saddam Hussein -- the US is ready to strike him
down, Rambo-like, at his lair in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The United States could not destroy Fidel Castro, Saddam
Hussein, Ho Chi Minh; it had better Osama Bin Laden if it wants
its reputation in the Middle East to be other than as a staunch
ally of Israel.
So thoroughly colonised is one writer's mind that he
rewrites history: Malaysia was not a member of SEATO (South East
Asia Treaty Organisation), as he imagined, nor did SEATO come to
Malaysia's aid during Indonesia's confrontation of Malaysia; it
was the Anglo-Malaysian defence agreement that pitted British
forces against Indonesia.
That shook the British establishment to its roots, shedding
blood for Malaysians, even if a former colony: today, all that
exists is a toothless Five-Power Defence Arrangement in which the
five "powers" -- Malaysia, Singapore, Great Britain, Australia
and New Zealand -- would consult each other if one is attacked. A
far cry from the Nato promise to rush to America's aid in this
hour of her vengeance.
I see the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks for what
it is: a brilliantly-laid plan to bring terror into the citadels
of American power and the average American household. I do not
write this with elation or happiness, only neutrally that in
conditions of such hatred, in the United States and in the Middle
East, the only option one side has is to rein more terror on its
perceived enemies. If anything, this is only reinforced.
People will die needlessly, as victims of the World Trade
Centre and Pentagon, as the hundreds of thousands in the
maggot-ridden refugee camps set up in this fight for supremacy in
the Arab World. The United States is horrified people can gloat
at its misery, reacting sharply at Palestinians dancing in the
streets and dishing out sweets at the disaster, and send back
Chinese visitors to the United States for their exuberance in
celebrating the terrorist attacks.
That is not on, in Washington's view. What is, presumably,
is United States gloating at President Saddam Hussein's
predicament, in 1991, when CNN showed footage of film from the
attacking planes in which the gloating at the haplessness of the
victims was unmistakeable. But with Washington's shoe on the
other foot, it reacts in anger. But does pro forma grieving
prove that one grieves?
When a wounded lion is on the loose, most animals of the
forest would get out of its way. One gets the horrified feeling
that these countries are forced to go Washington's way in this
crusade against terrorism, not as policy but in fright and fear.
As during the pulverising of President Saddam Hussein in 1991.
Would it end the terrorism President Bush is out to root
out? I doubt it. Most likely, it would spawn other terrorist
groups to make life difficult for everyone. It makes Pakistan,
as a frontline state, most vulnerable. India gloats at this
prospect, but can India afford to have both Afghanistan and
Pakistan on its Western borders so destabilised? I doubt it.
The other curiousity in this tragic episode is that the
President's claim that the United States is "at war" means
nothing. It is the Senate that must declare war. It has not.
Probably would not.
What President Bush hopes for is a blanket licence to wage
war without Congressional oversight, as President Lyndon Johnson
with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, passed after he alleged North
Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked an American warship in the
Gulf; only later did it emerge that the warship had fired first.
But nearly 60,000 Americans died so that an American president
could go to war.
He might get it. But when Nato jumped in to insist that an
attack on one is an attack on all, it was again to score points
with Washington in the larger issues the European Union has with
the United States. It gave all the leaders a chance to bash at
terrorism, but with no intent their soldiers would shed blood.
War in Asia
Why should they when the United States only reluctantly
admits to casualties in this "prolonged" war, which official
Washington now conceds would be longer than the duration of World
War I and World War II combined.
The United States is not about to launch a war in Asia yet,
certainly not what could last a decade. But it does give her a
chance to show her resolve. Does that count for anything, when
she is frightened of military casualties?
So, nothing is resolved. What we have from Washington is
hot air it must release to keep the natives from going off their
heads in this tragedy in their midst. The message from
Washington then is no different from that from Baghdad in 1991: a
sense of helplessness and impotence at the tragedy at their
doorstep. President Bush reacts as President Saddam did.
Every move he makes masks his impotence. He would keep the
hot potato in the air until the people get on with their lives,
and forget about the tragedy. In this 50-year-old disturbance in
the Middle East, in which the United States plays a crucial part,
when all is said and done, what happened last week in New York
City and Washington DC gives the edge back to the dispossessed
and the marginalised in the Islamic diaspora of the world.
That is what the United States should counter to remain the
global policeman. She must be ready to shed blood, to put her
money where her mouth is. Getting countries around the world to
accept its definition of terrorism mean nothing. Killing Osama
bin Laden means nothing, though it would mean a lot, lot, more if
The casualties of this war will be the innocents, in the
United States and elsewhere in the world, and those thoroughly
colonised in the mind, as these four letter writers. And others
who believe the only news worth believing is what comes from the