Saturday, February 29

What a way to welcome the new year

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Not another government killing, please. File photo from Jan 8, 2020 shows rescue teams working amidst the debris of the crashed Ukrainian plane near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. — AFP photo

THE first week of this year saw horrible events in the Middle East: killings of human beings by governments. The proxy confrontation between the USA and Iran has become an open war between two nations.

Normally, no government would openly admit to the killing of an enemy except in a war, but the killer governments, in our case, USA and Iran, were the exception to the rule.

At first, Iran denied that its forces had shot down a passenger plane, but when presented with solid ground evidence, its leaders finally admitted that it was their Revolutionary Guards who had mistaken the Ukraine International Airline plane for a cruise missile. Silly mistake, sorry about that … The scapegoat is the man who pressed the button.

The trigger-happy chap must have been under extreme pressure to shoot at any moving thing in the sky, without having first ascertained whether or not the object was a civil plane or a hostile missile. So goes the official explanation anyway.

This reminds me of a true story that happened in my village many years ago. My uncle, Aban, was shot in the stomach by a member of his team of hunters. Fortunately, he survived to tell the tale.

During a hunting operation (ngipa) such as this, the man with the gun has nothing else on his mind except his target, the wild boar! Anything that moves must be a boar. Similarly, the Iranian soldier manning the rocket launcher must have felt the same: he was told to shoot at anything that could be an American missile. Unfortunately, the ‘missile’ was a passenger plane! There were Iranians among the passengers, too. That’s just too bad.

The same state of mind might have influenced the bad people who brought down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine a few years ago. That plane, killing a Malaysian crew and many passengers, was shot down by missiles emanating from the war-torn Ukraine territory. So many precious human lives were lost. Any object flying above you is to be treated as an enemy plane, never mind the consequences. Reckless, you say, but since human lives are lost, the killer and his government must be responsible for his act. Which one – Ukraine or Russian?

The moral of the story is simple. No civilian plane is safe when flying over a territory where there’s a war going on. Avoid flying over such a territory. The sad thing about the whole episode in Iran this last week is that while the authorities did not readily admit the killing of innocent human beings until three days later, they eventually owned up to shooting down a civilian plane ‘unintentionally’.

On the other hand, President Donald Trump of USA was gloating and showing off the capability of a drone to go after ‘a target’, a top Iranian general and a potential successor to the supreme leader in Iran.

For public consumption, however, the reasons given by the Americans were that the general in Iraq at the time of killing was planning to kill all the Americans there. A pre-emptive strike would solve the problem in the Middle East, it must have been calculated. It will not reduce the tension in that part of the world. Instead, there will be attacks and counter-attacks and the killing goes as usual.

For General Qassem Soleimani’s death, the Iranian authorities promised revenge in equal measure. In a tit-for-tat operation, they did launch missile attacks on the American bases in Iraq. Those missiles could have killed many servicemen from several other countries, stationed in Iraq to help the country fight the remnants of the Islamic State jihadists. Were there any deaths among the other nationals, their countries would have been dragged into a wider confrontation in the part of the Middle East. Hopefully, there will be no full scale war in that part of the world.

According to the Americans, no one was killed in these attacks on the bases. Big deal – the point is that counter attacks are to be expected in the future.

Unfortunately, in the process, civilians, innocent people, without interest in power politics and the control of resources such as petroleum or the sale of weapons, are the victims.

Although Malaysia is not directly involved in any war at the moment, yet our country has become a victim of this kind of war for we lost our people and our plane in Ukraine.

I was greatly moved when I read one posting on social media. A father posted a photo of his nine-year-old daughter playing the piano.

Appreciative applause was heard in the background. Did you know that she and her mother were passengers on that fateful flight of the Ukraine plane.

For once, I hope that the story is fake.

Human beings never change

During a war, lives are lost. The soldiers go to war to kill or be killed.

Unfortunately, this has been the culture of the human beings since the time the first group of them appeared on the face of the earth. Human beings have not changed since then. They continue killing one another. At first they used axes or stone, then arrows, then blowpipes, then automatic weapons of various kinds, and now they are using drones.

Who says that we humans are civilised because we have the latest means of communication, living in luxurious homes and enjoying holidays, and praying everyday by invoking God’s name?

When two countries are bent on showing off to the world who is the greatest, human lives count very little. The shooting down of the Ukraine airliner was claimed to be an accident by Iranian authorities. It was an accident, meaning it was the wrong plane that got shot. Human error, no excuse for any holding a dangerous weapon.

From the viewpoint of the Iranian rulers, bringing down the plane would have been justified if it had been an American plane. Frankly, mankind has a long way to go before we can consider out species as being ‘advanced’, ‘civilised’, or ‘progressive’.

We have not changed if we still covet our neighbour’s land, his oil and gas, his forests, his rivers, his gold, his minerals.

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