Sunday, May 29, 2005 12:28 PM
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's comments about the power and influence of world Jewry are remarkable. They dramatize the bizarre nature and yet simplicity of international geopolitics, certainly with respect to American foreign policy in the Middle East. Maybe The Guardian should make this an annual affair.
Check in with Mahathir immediately after AIPAC's muscle-flexing, annual "Policy Conference" in Washington. From the warm bath to the cold plunge. From blather to straight talk. In any event, Mahathir has correctly diagnosed George Bush and Dick Cheney. Washington should listen to his advice, but can’t.
'Father' of Malaysia savages Bush and Blair
Mahathir brands US a rogue nation terrorising innocents and stands by claim that Jews 'rule the world by proxy'
Simon Tisdall in Kuala Lumpur
Friday May 27, 2005
Mahathir Mohamad, modern Malaysia's founding father and moderate Islam's self-styled champion, denounced the Bush administration yesterday as a "rogue regime" bent on terrorising innocent civilians. He also said he was disappointed that Tony Blair-- who he called a "proven liar"--had won re-election after joining the US invasion of Iraq.
Reflecting the rage felt across the Muslim world over abuse scandals in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, and continuing violence in Palestine and Iraq, Mr Mahathir said President George Bush and other US politicians were "ignorant" people who believed might made right--a return to colonial era "old thinking".
Speaking to the Guardian at his offices in Putrajaya, near Kuala Lumpur, Mr Mahathir also claimed that the Israeli government had been given a free hand by Washington to continue to expropriate Palestinian land and entrench its control over Jerusalem. The war on terror would not end until the Middle East conflict was justly resolved, he said.
Asked whether he regretted his statement that "Jews rule the world by proxy", which caused an international furore in 2003, Mr Mahathir said he took nothing back.
"US politicians are scared stiff of the Jews because anybody who votes against the Jews will lose elections. The Jews in America are supporting the Jews in Israel. Israel and other Jews control the most powerful nation in the world. And that is what I mean [about Jews controlling the world]. I stand by that view."
On his balcony overlooking the tower blocks, mosques, bridges and artificial lakes of Putrajaya, Malaysia's new administrative capital which he created in the 1990s, Mr Mahathir, 79, cuts a slight, almost self-effacing figure. His personal manner is reserved and courteous to a fault.
Earlier in the day, he had lectured students at his Perdana Leadership Foundation on the importance of education and development in the Muslim world to defend the Islamic faith. The problem was not Islam itself, he said, but the many incorrect interpretations of the Qur'an that were exploited by extremists.
"Islam is a positive, not a negative force. Today most Muslim countries seem incapable of developing good governments, they are always fighting each other, assassinating each other and doing all the wrong things." Distortions of the Prophet's teachings had held back the peoples of many Muslim countries, he said.
But Mr Mahathir's strongest criticism was directed outwards. Even though he retired as Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister in 2003, many in the region still regard him as the country's leader and one of Asia's most influential voices. His anger is undimmed; his rhetoric flows unstaunched.
"The US is the most powerful nation," he said. "It can ignore the world if it wants to do anything. It breaks international law. It arrests people outside their countries; it charges them under American law. It kills them.
"The US war on terror is a way of terrorising people. If you are an Iraqi and you are expecting to be bombed, aren't you terrified? If you have done nothing, if you are an innocent Iraqi citizen and you are expecting any time a rocket to fly in and blow you to pieces, aren't you terrified?
"That is terror [and] the US is as guilty of terrorism as the people who crashed their planes into the buildings ... Bush doesn't understand the rest of the world. He thinks everybody should be a neocon like him."
Mr Mahathir was equally scathing about Israeli policies in Palestine. He said his visit to the West Bank last month had been deliberately disrupted by the Israeli government. Specifically, he said he was blocked from travelling to Jerusalem and Jenin, scene of some of the worst Israeli violence in 2002, where he was to open a school funded by Malaysia. Israel has denied impeding his visit.
"I suppose I was mistaken in thinking that there are parts of Palestine that are under the control of the Palestinians. But apparently the Israelis have occupied the whole of Palestine. They do anything they like there," he said.
Mr Blair had discredited himself and Britain in Muslim eyes by backing the Iraq war, Mr Mahathir said. "He was wrong and he was more wrong because he tells lies. You know, Jack Straw came to see me [on the eve of the war in January 2003] and I asked him, 'Why are you with the Americans?' He said we're trying to influence the Americans not to take that kind of action. But it seems it was the other way round.
"They [Britain] were influenced in supporting America to do something that they knew was wrong ... They knew they were being lied to, and yet they supported the Americans and today 300,000 Iraqis are dead because of these lies.
"I think a person like Blair would feel very guilty and I am disappointed that the British people would re-elect a person who obviously told lies ... We're beginning to lose faith in the present leadership of Britain." One eventual consequence, he suggested, could be Malaysia's withdrawal from the Commonwealth.
Malaysia, which is encircled by conflicts in western Indonesia, the Philippines and southern Thailand, fully supported the fight against religious and political fanaticism, he said. But the west was going about it the wrong way.
"Even if you get Bin Laden, you can't be sure there won't be another Bin Laden. You cannot get terrorists to sign a peace treaty. The only way to beat terror is to go for the basic causes.
"They don't blow themselves up for no reason, they're angry, they're frustrated. And why are they angry? Look at the Palestinian situation. Fifty years after you created the state of Israel, things are going from bad to worse.
"If you don't settle that, there will be no end to the war on terror. For how long are you going to go on examining people's shoes?"
From GP to PM
Mahathir Mohamad, 79. GP turned politician. Malaysian prime minister, 1981-2003.
Developed Malaysia into tightly-controlled democracy with moderate Islamic bent and open market economy. Achieved through emasculating the judiciary, restricting media freedoms and stifling virtually all political dissent, including jailing his deputy in 1998.
Most high-profile of many roles is adviser to national car company, Proton, one of the nation's flagship industrial enterprises. Formally eschews limelight, but still regarded as influential political heavyweight.
Most famous for
Slagging off western nations at every opportunity. Ignoring the International Monetary Fund during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. After ridiculing his policies at the time, the IMF has admitted Mr Mahathir's action proved extremely effective.
Bringing Formula One motor racing to Malaysia.
Most infamous for
Grand, often wasteful, infrastructure projects. These include the Petronas towers - until 2003 the world's tallest buildings - and Putrajaya, a, purpose-built capital city.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005