an area of the map for world news.
January 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 1)
the United States, and the War on Terror
Shanghai Rendezvous of
(Internet newspaper), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Oct. 25, 2001
government is ecstatic that the United States is at last heeding
the advice that only third-degree methods under the most odious
and unconstitutional of laws can fight terror. This is what
we are told in order to explain Malaysias closeness to
the United States in recent months, especially since Sept. 11.
President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
are now the best of pals, so Malaysias mainstream newspapers
tell us, with a common agenda to fight terror. In practice,
this means: I shall deal with my terrorists as I please,
and you yours; and dont you dare question my tactics!
After the Asian-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit in
Shanghai this week, this [conclusion] comes with Washingtons
The Shanghai meeting saved Mahathirs skin. He had wanted
to meet Bush over tea and scones at the White House. He could
not. Then came Sept. 11, and he got his appointment. President
Bush could not refuse to come, as previous presidents have,
since he needs the support of other world leaders in the war
against terror. Mahathir has neutralized the opposition in Malaysia
yet again, this time making them run in circles, with the likelihood
of detention under the Internal Security Act, but this time
with the gloves off.
Kuala Lumpur can all but ignore State Department concerns about
all this, as it once could not.
The APEC meeting became an open sesame for leaders in the Asia
Pacific, as well as for the United States, to be as autocratic
as they can get away with.
The Sept. 11 attacks are a convenient means of restricting public
debate, threatening opponents, and staying in power in the name
of a national emergency.
The United States, as leader, finds it must adopt some of the
harsher laws of its fellow members to prove it is on top of
this made-for-the-U.S.-drama called The War Against Terror.
For all the support the United States mustered against the bombing
of Afghanistan, curiously only Britain and its colonial staff-sergeant,
Australia, committed troops.
The terror hysteria Washington drummed up has reached the four
corners of the world. Instead of trade, which is what APEC was
set up for, the conference focused on terror; not how to overcome
it, but how to spread it around among its citizens and so-called
enemies of the state.
Since Washington exhorts the world to follow how the United
States treats its citizens in areas it thinks others are deficient,
like free elections, these countries can now look to the United
States to justify torture and other disagreeable methods to
extract confessions and rein in otherwise determined political
The FBI now wants to apply third-degree methods on those arrested
after Sept. 11. That would be music in many leaders ears
in the region and elsewhere. If the United States can beat a
suspect into submission, then why cant Ougadougou [Burkina
In global policies, the United States, as the sole superpower,
has a one-track mind. Globalization is desirable, and anyone
who challenges it is, to use the current phraseology, evil.
But the downside of any good proposal is ignored.
When there is a sole superpower deciding what it should do,
usually in its own interest, there is a challenger to slow it
down. It does not matter who it is. Once, it was the Soviet
Union. In 2001, it is terrorism, especially, or so we are led
to believe, Islamic terrorism. This is not a war against Muslims
or Islam, yet Canada would not allow a Malaysian with a Bin
or a Mohammad in his name into the country.
Mahathir would have understood what this meant if he were still
a medical doctor in private practice in Alor Star and were planning
a visit to Toronto. In Hong Kong, immigration hauls up any person
with a Bin in his name. Any Muslim traveling in
Europe faces hassles. One world-renowned economist, not a Caucasian,
was made to look like a criminal when leaving New York for his
residence in England; and it appeared to him that they were
trying to trip him up so that he could be detained under the
new terrorism laws in the United States.
The APEC precedent is dangerous. It is equally important, they
decided, that with globalized trade must come globalized terror.
It is one precedent every member of APEC is comfortable with.
If we listen to Washington when it calls for democracy, then
surely we must also listen to Washington when it calls for unconstitutional
and brutal third-degree methods to winkle out terrorists.
It matters not that your terrorist is my freedom fighter, and
vice versa. It only matters that what he fights for upsets your
equanimity. That is enough to finish him. That is the rule of
democracy and goodwill we are now asked to follow and to accept.
It is not a good sign. For when recourse to the courts is not
allowed, and guardians of the law are unquestionable, excesses
must occur. Ask anyone who has been locked up in the course
of investigations for a crime.
The APEC meeting restricts democracy and the interests of citizens
in ways that few regional pacts have. With the United States
agreeing to it, terror gains respectability because it is dispensed