At the conference on human rights in Kuala Lumpur ten days ago, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stirred up a diplomatic storm when he denounced British and American pilots who took part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, calling them terrorists who simply did the bidding of their terrorist masters.
This attack by Mahathir, who left office in 2003 after 22 years in power, was most unexpected since he had long supported the Ango-American war on terror, though he did not support either the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan or for Saddam Hussein's ouster. More surprising when it occurred, Britain's High Commissioner to Mayalsia Bruce Cleghorn and several unidentified American diplomats, apparently including Ambassdor Christopher LaFleur, made unprecedented, hasty departures, raising eyebrows even among the usually staid diplomatic corps and media. The fact that Britain's Queen Elizabeth is Malaysia's chief of state, and Cleghorn is her representative made his leading the charge out, no matter what Mahathir said, doubly insulting to Malaysian democracy.
Certainly, Mahathir could hardly expect to be winning friends among them by saying things like this about the wars' conduct: "The British and American bomber pilots came, unopposed, safe and cozy in their state of the art aircraft, pressing buttons to drop bombs, to kill and maim. And these murderers, for this is what they are, would go back to celebrate 'Mission Accomplished' " - repeating in a most pointed way what President Bush, sporting a flight jacket, had uttered from the deck of an American aircraft carrier upon the fall of Iraq's dictator. Then Mahathir added what soldiers on the ground - more terrorists - were doing to defenceless Iraqi civilians with impunity and without any accounting.
Still, the former Malaysian leader was not without similar problems of his own, having locked up many Islamic radicals without charge after the 9/11 attacks - recalling what Attorney General John Ashcroft had done in the States - and jailing his former deputy, Islamist Anwar Ibrahim, who was leading demonstrations against the government, on trumped-up charges of sodomy and corruption, so why all the fuss over what the retired leader said? It seems that his comments were just the tip of the iceberg - what the American and British diplomats anticipated, and pre-empted discovery of by the unprecedented walkout. The very idea of Mahathir being the guest speaker at a Suhakam conference on human rights was a invitation to disaster which must be downsized as soon and as much as possible.
In the absence of the British and American diplomats, the Malaysian leader still pressed on, denouncing their justifications of the wars in this contemptuous fashion: "As we all know it was a lie." As for what has happened since, he added: "Worse still, the powers which are supposed to save the Iraqi people have broken laws on human rights by detaining Iraqis and others and torturing them at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere" - an allusion to the rendition of suspected terrorists to the countries of their origin or to regimes noted for their ability in gaining confessions.
It was at another conference, the 10th Session of Islamic Summit Conference, less than two years before at Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital, that a renewed Mahathir had been much more diplomatic and optimistic about the country's prospects. With Anwar safely locked up, and successor Abdulla Ahmad Badawi being groomed to take over, the Malaysian Prime Minister spoke most positively about the possibilities of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims making their weight felt despite their lack of governments with military clout, and responsive to their needs, now that its economic meltdown because of the IT slump in 2000 was being overcome.
Now that the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were completed, Mahathir explained, the West was beginning to make mistakes in its occupation of them which was providing opportunities for Islam. Recalling the Prophet's troubles during his first 22 years - what resulted in great success the following one - he called his colleagues to work together, using their brains to defeat the designs of the Zionist-backed enemy, now that a clear window of opportunity had opened.
Mahathir sounded almost like his old self during the 1990s when Malaysia was the ASEAN economic Tiger. By then, the country of 23,000,000 people, and based on the peninsula and in North Borneo had become a multi-sector economy, thanks to its vast resources, extensive internal development, and a well-educated workforce. Coupled with its holdings of oil, natural gas, tin, iron ore, bauxite, copper, timber and rubber was a developed export market in electronics. When this slumped, Malaysia did not have the necessary foreign currency reserves, and a small enough external debt to prevent the country from sliding into recession - what Mahathir had remedied before he stepped down.
It was hardly surprising then that during the 1990s Malaysia had gone to considerable efforts to avoid, or at least minimize, the difficulties caused by its less developed, more unstable neighbors, particularly Indonesia. While Kuala Lumpur was continually complaining about Jakarta's human rights abuses in places like Aceh and East Timor, it was taking steps to alievate the pollution, especially smoke, that its most primitive agricultural sector was creating. Unlike Indonesia, Malaysia was a self-sufficient, developed country which was not threatening its neighbors in any way.
Under the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that Kuala Lumpur, under the direction of its Mininter of Science Datuk Law Hieng Ding, looked for ways to clean up the environment, especially its own. While Malaysia had no nuclear plants nor plans for their construction, as Ding explained to a Regional Workshop on Nuclear Safety Information for Decision-Makers in Kuala Lumpur in March 2000, he stressed the needs of clarifying what nuclear power really meant so that peaceful, clean energy could safely be produced: "As is the case with other fields of technology, nuclear power brought with it certain risks."
As its risks must be surmounted so it could be used, so should the power of nature, especially cyclones, given the growing smoke problems plaguing Malaysia's cites, and pollution damaging its coastline. To seed cyclones to clear its air, and clean up its beaches, especially in the West Coast states of the peninsula, Ding, it seems, contracted in 1997 with some Pentagon supplier - possibly E-Systems of Raytheon, and using Bernard J. Eastlund's patents - to seed the necessary tropical depressions, so that they could do the job Malaysia required.
The Pentagon, of course, threw up all kinds of smokescreens about what was happening. In April 1997, SOD William Cohen, a former Republican Senator who had been in the thick of America's secret operations and programs, addressed a conference called by Georgia Senator Sam Nunn on counterterrorism in this alarmist way: "Others are engaging even in eco-type terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves...So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations...It's real and that's the reason why we have to intensify our efforts."
No sooner had Malaysia received the go-ahead for the capability it desired than The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper most closely associated with America's warfare state, published an article by Chen May Yee, "Malaysia to Battle Smog with Cyclones," claiming that it would be supplied by Igor Pirogoff's Russian company, Elate Intelligent Technologies, Inc. Ding said that a memorandum of understanding that already been approved, and that the cyclone would be a big one or Malaysia would get its money back. Pirogoff had been featured by the same publication five years earlier, claiming that he would make weather to order for as little as $200 a day. Hurricane Andrew, one of America's most destructive, could have been reduced to "a wimpy little squall," Pirogoff contended, if only his services had been purchased.
No matter what Russia's alleged capability in this area was, and it seems to have been vastly overstated by the Americans, there was no way that Pirogoff could have altered the weather in the South Pacific without arousing a storm from Washington. Pirogoff - though there is no other evidence that he even existed, much less could do what the Pentagon was claiming - was only suggesting that he could alter the jet stream over Siberia - what could help the development of its oil resources, and might explain why Washington developed Project HAARP in Alaska to counteract. If a Russian company, obviously connected to the Kremlin, were creating a weather-altering operation over Borneo - where NASA conveniently had an earth-orbiting satellite - alarm bells would have been ringing in Washington.
The fact that this was merely a cover story for an American operation - one which would allow it to develop its weather-making capability while helping the most westward-looking regime develop its capabilities - was well demonstrated when The Wall Street Journal, especially reporter Lowell Ponte, continued to crank out stories that the Russians were the culprits. The fact that the discredited Carter administration had signed the UN Convention against the hostile use of environmental modification for military purposes was constantly cited as evidence that Washington was not the troublemaker, though the Reagan administration repeatedly vetoed any UN resolution reducing its war-making potential in space.
Ponte even wrote a column for Star Magazine in July 1982, "Pentagon and Kremlin Are Playing With Our Weather And Giving Us Storms And Floods," contending that the Soviets were using weather modification to melt the ice caps and glaciers, changing the course of rivers through causing floods, exploding devices in space to alter the jet streams, so that they could control the world's weather. The idea that only the Russians had the capability was disputed in 1996 when a seven-man group of US Air Force pilots claimed that weather modification was the career for "warriors of the future".
While Malaysia was regaining its economic strength, GDP increasing to 7% in 2004 - thanks to weather modification in cyclones like Zoe - the tsunami of December last year caught it totally by surprise. Thinking that it too had suffered monumental losses like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Somalia, India, and Bangladesh - countries wracked by terrorism - Malaysia was completely outdone by the Americans in the salvage effort. While the Pentagon was rushing the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and the rescue vessel USS Bataan to the scene, almost as if it were prepared for it, Malaysia did lilttle more than count its dead, 68 apparently, and survey its wreckage.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, the apparent planner of it all, had arrived on the scene, consulted with the Indonesian military about the fallout in Aceh, and had called upon ASEAN countries to do more in helping themselves before paltray aid from Kuala Lumpur had even arrived.
US Ambassador La Fleur rubbed the result in when he opened the Second ASEAN Leadership Forum,"Asean on the Move: Building on Success", on March 18, 2005. After stating that the US relationship with the area has never been better, and before describing the man-made risks facing it - terrorism, nuclear proliferation, maritime insecuirty, and economic difficulties - he mentioned nature's tsunami, and the massive efforts America had made to allievate its destruction and prevent its recurrence. "In short," he concluded, "it showed us how fragile we are. But it also showed us how resourceful we can be when we work together to overcome adversity."
Then Malaysia was wracked by Hurricane Katrina. Though, of course, it was not affected in any physical way by what happened in the Gulf area, it was immediately dragged into the controversy about its necessity in a most negative way. The need for such countermeasures had been supplied by the popular American novelist Sydney Sheldon, noted for his action-packed though rather unrealistic best sellers. His latest one, Are You Afriad of the Dark?, concerned a most evil CEO Tanner whose firm, Kingsley International Group, was attempting to take over the world by controlling its weather.
To make the novel more believeable, Sheldon added this most intriguing afterword: "Weather is the most powerful force we know. Whoever controls it can disrupt world economies with perpetual rainstroms and tornadoes; wipe out crops in a drought; cause earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamies; close world airports and cause devastation on enemy battlefields."
To make Americans feel better about the possibilities of this prospect, Mike Blair wrote a piece, "Harnessing Weather: Allegations Surface that US, Russia Have Technology to Manage Hurricanes," for the American Free Press on September 5th. After citing Sheldon's afterword about man now being able to do something about the weather, he repeated everything that had been written, especially in the WSJ, about Malaysia's efforts in the process.
Then Blair, sounding much like British officials involved in counterterrorism with the same last name, called the Malaysian Embassies in Washington and New York to confirm it. While Blair came up with nothing in the nation's capital, Hasny Agam's people at the UN confirmed the claims - the Russians had created cyclones for Kuala Lumpur.
Little wonder then, that Mahathir went ballistic about Britain's and America's role in the world the first chance he got back in Malaysia.
To complement Blair's efforts in a most reassuring way, Lowell Ponte then wrote another of his "Ponte fications" for FrontPageMag.com, "Katrina and the Politics of Pre-emption," repeating yet again that America had never done anything serious about manipulating the weather, going all the way back to the NOAA Project Stormfury in 1962. "But President Bush and future presidents," Ponte hypothesized, "may face a more difficult decision: whether to attempt to use cloud seeding or other techniques to preempt or deflect hurricanes that threaten major cities where thousands could die."
This could only have made Mahathir madder.