February 21, 2007
See Cynthia and Mohammad Play Tag TeamBy Michael I. Krauss and J. Peter Pham
Last August, after the Lebanese/Hezbollah war on Israel ended, we observed the irony that one country sending troops to the new, purportedly more effective, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mandated to keep the peace by ensuring the security of Israel's northern frontier was Malaysia. As we noted, it would be risible were it not terrible that Malaysian troops were expected to serve as neutral buffers between militant Islamism and Israel, given that:
The last contingent of Malaysia's 360-man force arrived in Lebanon on January 22. Alas, as we also predicted, the presence of UNIFIL -led by European forces lacking in military capacity and political will-has not prevented Hezbollah from fully rearming. We are now waiting for the next attack on the Jewish state - and wondering what role UNIFIL's Malaysian forces will play when that attack happens.
Malaysia's former prime minister, meanwhile, is enhancing his "progressive" image. He runs the Perdana Leadership Foundation, a remarkably self-aggrandizing organization whose website describes it as being "set up in 2003 with the aim of preserving, developing and disseminating materials by and on Malaysia's past Prime Ministers." Since Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad-the full title of the man affectionately known to his supporters as "Dr. M"-ruled Malaysia from 1981 until handing off power in 2003 to his handpicked successor, he is the country's only living former head of government. Perdana's energies are therefore especially devoted to "preserving, developing and disseminating materials by and on" Dr. M.
Perdana just held a three-day "Global Peace Forum" in Kuala Lumpur, with the stated goal of "criminalizing war." The goal is most curious, as aggressive war has been outlawed since the UN Charter was adopted. Is Perdana purporting to criminalize non-aggressive war (a.k.a. self-defense)? It seems so, since the learned former Prime Minister (whose "valuable insights" Perdana is charged with disseminating) had this to say in the keynote address that, unsurprisingly, he was invited to deliver (note the subtle understanding of the difference between killing and murder):
Um, not. Justified killing is, by definition, not murder. This "valuable insight" conflates legitimate self-defense with aggressive war and, in effect, criminalizes it. Unless pacifism has been codified into international law while we were not looking, Dr. M has some backtracking to do. And backtracking he then does, further on in his interminable and contradictory "keynote address":
Since the international community has never come to the defense of Israel, Dr. M's definition makes it clear that that country did not defend itself in 1967 [against Syria, Jordan, and Egypt], in 1973 [against Egypt], in 1980 [against Iraq] , or in 2006 [against Lebanon]. Ipse dixit! Similarly, if Thailand decides to retaliate for Islamist terrorist attacks originating in the nearby Malaysian resort island of Langkawi (an island allegedly owned by Dr. M), that too will not be self-defense according to tortured logic of the former prime minister.
The "keynote address" was chock full of similar "valuable insights." It turns out that the United States and Great Britain are far more "terrorist" than, say, lil' ol' al-Qaeda, because over the years American forces have killed more people than has the Islamist group. Indeed, the "root causes" of the latter are the killings by the former, so it is al-Qaeda that is acting in self-defense, not Western countries! [But wait! The international community is not coming to the defense of al-Qaeda, so how can as-Qaeda be acting in self-defense? This must be an exception to the rule.] Similarly, every time Israel is attacked it manages to inflict more harm on its aggressors than it suffers itself. This proves that Israel is the greatest terrorist nation in the Middle East. Again, ipse dixit, case closed.
A whopping seventeen people (nine from Iraq, five from "Palestine" and three from Lebanon) had arrived at Perdana's "worldwide" peace conference in time for Dr. M's opening remarks, according to the Pakistani Daily Times. Speaking at the same session was none other than former Representative Cynthia McKinney, whose speech was entitled on her campaign website "THE WORLD CAN'T WAIT, WON'T WAIT, ISN'T WAITING," though it was listed on the conference program as "War Crimes-An American Perspective from One Who Dissents." After declaring it "among the greatest pleasures of my life to have been invited to participate in this conference," the ousted congresswoman stated:
Today many countries fight against U.S. tyranny, she noted.
We learned from Ms. McKinney that the U.S. administration stole both our 2000 and our 2004 presidential elections,
While not listening to other such speeches-including "War Crimes in Iraq," "War Crimes in Lebanon," and "War Crimes in Palestine"-attendees to the Global Peace Forum could visit its "War Crimes Exhibition," following, of course, its "formal opening ceremony" presided over by, surprise, Dr. M himself. This exhibit included a "Guantanamo exhibition," which featured "figures of a naked man ... strapped to a chair, legs and arms bristling with nails driven into his flesh, while another is bombarded with loud, incessant disco music."
Why does our press not report on such important events? Why are well-read Americans left believing that Islamist radicalism, not George Bush, is the greatest threat to civil rights in the world? If Cynthia knows who really won the 2004 elections, why are we left in the dark? Why, some actually believe that Ms. McKinney struck a Capitol policeman in the face with her fist because he dared ask her to go through a security checkpoint. When will they ever learn?
Apparently, they won't.
Maybe this casual appeal to sedition is what conference organizers had in mind when they concluded the Kuala Lumpur meeting with the "Acceptance of Petition of War Crimes Victims" by Dr. M, now evidently self-elevated to Judge of the World. Dr. M promptly reacted to the petition by inaugurating a "Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal" to adjudicate the petitioners' pleadings. This "Tribunal" then accepted a nine-count "indictment" of U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Australian Prime Minister John Howard "for the sufferings of the people in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine." [One wonders why Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was omitted from this list.]
Bush, Blair, and Howard are charged with: "crimes against peace"; "embarking on a systematic campaign to destroy Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine economically and militarily"; "ordering the destruction of vital facilities essential to civilian lives in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine"; "bombing of schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, residential areas and historical sites"; "allowing the use of weapons of mass destruction"; "fraudulently manipulat[ing] the United Nations and the Security Council as well as corrupting its members to commit crimes against peace and war times" [sic]; damaging "the environment of Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine"; "order[ing] and condon[ing] the violation of human rights, specifically the civilians in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as well as other prisons known and unknown in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and anywhere else in the world"; and "systematically control[ing] and manipulat[ing], direct[ing] and misinform[ing] the mass media so as to incite war to achieve their military objectives in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine."
Maybe one day, if Cynthia and Mohammad (and their "Tribunal") succeed in "changing the structure of U.S. politics," we can hold a Global Peace Forum in Washington. Until then, we can only hope, and pray.
Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.