Malaysia’s Mahathir inaugurates peace conference: ‘Bush, Blair have murdered more than Saddam, Qaeda’
* Former PM says powerful countries more ‘terrorist’ than suicide bombers
KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday accused United States President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of being more evil and greater murderers than former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the Sept 11 attackers.
In a speech to inaugurate a three-day conference organised by his non-government organisation, Perdana, and aimed at criminalising war, he said: “History should remember Blair and Bush as the killers of children, or as the lying prime minister and president . . What Blair and Bush have done is worse than what Saddam had done.”
The former premier, in an hour-long speech that was illustrated by pictures of wounded children, deformed babies and tortured men, went on to describe terrorist attacks, such as those of 9/11, as weak people’s retaliation against oppression by powerful countries, noting that the root cause of Islamist terrorism was the injustices of the West, especially in the Palestinian territories and Iraq.
While stressing that terrorism could not be condoned, Mahatir stressed nor could the “cruel retaliation by powerful countries”.
He went on to say that while the 9/11 attackers had killed about 3,000 people – the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had left approximately 600,000 dead.
“The terror caused (by powerful countries) is actually greater, and the powerful countries are much more terrorists than the suicide bombers.”
On Wednesday, conference delegates are expected to formally launch the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission to hold “trials’ for world leaders, including Bush and Blair, against whom common citizens file complaints.
While the war tribunal will neither enjoy the legal authority of any international organisation nor will be able to impose penalties, Mahatir, 81, stressed that its aim was to condemn the accused in history books.
“We should not hang Blair if the tribunal finds him guilty, but he should always carry the label ‘War Criminal, Killer of Children, Liar’,” Mahathir said. “And so should Bush and the pocket Bush of the Bushland of Australia,” he added, referring to Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch ally in Washington’s campaign against terrorism.
Seventeen people - nine from Iraq, five from the Palestinian territories and three from Lebanon - have arrived in Malaysia for the peace conference, where they will submit oral or written complaints to the tribunal.
After investigations, the commission will decide whether the leaders accused in the complaints should stand trial, albeit in absentia, before the war tribunal.
Among those scheduled to address the conference are former US lawmaker Cynthia McKinney, a Democrat who has branded illegal the American-led war in Iraq, and former United Nations assistant secretary general Hans von Sponeck, who participated in a similar attempt to establish an unofficial war crimes tribunal during a conference in Turkey in 2005.
Mahatir concluded his hour-long speech to a standing ovation by about 2,000 peace activists, including students and legions of his supporters.
Meanwhile, on the floor below the main conference hall, a War Crimes Exhibition kicked off, featuring a gruesome display of alleged war crimes – from Hiroshima to Iraq - committed by American, British and allied forces.
Visitors to the “house of horrors” exhibition, after being greeted by the tape-recorded screams of tortured mean and orphaned babies, start by walking through a mock spray of white phosphorus – a chemical agent that burns flesh – before entering a torture chamber labelled “Torture methods used here were used on prisoners of Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib”.
Here, figures of naked men are gagged and strapped upside down to a metal-framed bed. Another is strapped to a chair, his legs and arms bristling with nails driven into his flesh, while another is bombarded with loud, incessant disco music.
“Who would have imagined the cheerful music of Boney M could be used as an instrument of pain and torture?” a label reads.
The exhibit also takes visitors through the Vietnam War, including the My Lai massacre of civilians by US troops, then along a trail of mock blood through a scene representing the civilian casualties of Israel’s offensive in Lebanon last summer.
It also features Ali Shalah, billed as the man infamously pictured in a hood with electrodes attached to his fingers at Abu Ghraib – the US-run prison in Iraq – although The New York Times recently reported that he was not the man in the photo. “Anyone who has looked at the (conference) programme knows what this is all about,” a US embassy official said, declining to add any further comment. A British embassy spokesman could not be reached for comment. agencies