Welcome to Asia, President Obama!
And back? Smiles and more smiles… Obama speaks Malay! Damn, he can manage terima kasih – Malaysian for ‘thank you’! It is indeed very impressive, considering that G. W. was only able to manage this in Spanish, and at times, very rarely, in English.
Huge headlines were shouting from most of the Asian dailies… “Hello Malaysia”, the ‘Sunday Star’ which is a self-proclaimed ‘The people’s paper’, was depicting the beaming face of Barack Obama, adding its butler-style comment:
“Flashing his infectious smile, President Barack Obama stepped out of Air Force One, gave his customary right handed “hello” wave – and charmed every one of the dignitaries who met him as he arrived for his official visit to the country. It will be a busy day for him before he leaves for Manila tomorrow.”
That was all taking place on the 26th and 27th April 2014.
Welcome Barack Obama! You are the top!
Trade agreements, new military bases – let’s discuss anything, as long as you are here, our dear leader! We are open, wide open, for… business!
Of course, behind the curtains, things were very different.
Malaysia became a brand new addition to the list of US ‘allies’ in the region, although, to what extent, still remains to be seen.
And how exactly will Malaysia be used, is not too certain either.
President Obama confused local ‘opposition’ when he refused to meet Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian neo-con and free marketer, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993 to 1998 and Finance Minister from 1991 to 1998.
While the then Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was blaming currency speculators like George Soros for the 1997 Asian Financial Crises, Anwar Ibrahim was administering ‘market forces’, taking direct dictates from the IMF and introducing austerity packages. Eventually he fell out of grace, was accused of sodomy (the real one, not a metaphorical reference to the national situation) and corruption. Eventually he became a favorite betting horse for many Malaysian ‘opposition figures’ and NGO’s, who saw him as a person supported by the West and therefore an excellent channel for substantial funding. Obama’s refusal to an encounter with him means that he will soon be, most certainly, abandoned by many of his ‘loyal’ supporters.
As I landed at the habitually super-efficient KL International Airport on the 26th of April, long lines formed queues before the immigration counters, and arriving passengers were fingerprinted, something that is very rarely done in Malaysia.
The rail network had collapsed, express trains were running on local tracks, and I was told that many of the roads in the capital had been blocked.
Overall, in Malaysia, the entire ‘Presidential charade’ was thoroughly embarrassing, even from the point of view of the former ruler of the country, and one of the most outspoken critics of the West on Asian continent, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
The former Prime Minister particularly distrusted the proposed TPP or TPPA, which commits countries to lower import tariffs and therefore horrifies local producers.
A Malaysian filmmaker and TV producer, Ms Azreen Madzlan, shared her experience with me:
“According to former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during an interview with a local business channel Capital TV, for the show that I was producing, Malaysia should not be compelled to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) just because of President Obama’s visit to Malaysia this weekend. Tun M who has openly roasted Najib’s administration for its intention to sign on with the non-transparent deal continues to warn that TPPA is a controlled trade agreement put together by an impoverished nation trying to exploit the natural resources of other countries.”
But the Malaysian media had chosen to welcome the supreme leader of the Western world, by loud fanfares and even using the most poetic words.
The Western media opted for a wide range of attitudes, from hard-core propaganda, to the phlegmatic style adopted by the New York Times:
“On Sunday, President Obama visited Malaysia to underscore how much has changed in the past 16 years – not least in the country’s attitude toward the United States, which has evolved from deep suspicion, verging on contempt, to a cautious desire for cooperation.”
The legendary Malaysian political activist, Mr Hishamuddin Rais (he identifies himself as a ‘non-government individual’), wrote for this essay:
“Obama is trying to recreate the atmosphere of the Cold War in Asia in particular and globally… Obama’s trip to Malaysia in particular is aimed at the Malaysian leadership to open up and allow access to the Malaysian market. At the same time America is keen to have a military arrangement with Malaysia, i.e. the possibility of having a base.
This is a move partly to control the Southeast Asian market and also to contain what Americans term as the danger of China. Obama is trying to create a wedge between ASEAN nations and China.
In Malaysia in particular, with the weak government of Najib Razak, Obama will force Najib to sign the TPPA trade agreement. It is a fact that TPPA will be destructive to the domestic market.”
There was plenty of cliché propaganda talk from US officials, as always… about ‘defending democracy’, about freedom and trade, and about all those ‘terrible countries’ that the ‘benevolent and wise West’ has to ‘deal with’.
Most of the Western media (widely distributed and reprinted all over Asia Pacific), had been actually painting President Obama as some peacenik, who is being criticized for not standing decisively and militarily against Syria, Russia, even China!
Not a word about the West creating, building and arming ‘opposition movements’ all over the world, attempting to destabilize countries like Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Russia, China, Syria and many others.
On May 1 2014, International New York Times wrote:
“Despite his frustration, Mr. Obama had some small victories in Asia. The 10-year deal with the Philippines will give American troops, ships and planes expanded access to bases here, something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, after fierce public opposition forced the United States to relinquish its naval base at Subic Bay.”
‘A small victory’ is basically a willingness to rape the constitution of the Philippines, which prohibits the US military forces on the territory of the country.
Officially, it is all being justified by ‘protecting’ the Philippines from the rising ‘threat’ of China. Although many of the intellectuals in Manila, naturally, see the United States as pitching Southeast nations against its great neighbor and natural ally.
Eduardo C Tadem, a leading Philippine academic and professor of Asian studies at the University of the Philippines, commented for this report:
“The Obama administration has not departed substantially from the policies of its predecessors as far as foreign policy is concerned. Given this, it does not possess the moral authority to lecture China on the proper behavior of a big power in the Asia-Pacific region. Granted that China has not been on its best behavior with respect to the territorial disputes it is embroiled with in the region, it is the US, on the whole, that has done much more damage against Asian peoples and societies with its imperial policies in both the economic and political spheres. Neither does it have the moral authority to lead Asian societies in charting a new economic order given its own failed economy with high unemployment and continually rising inequalities.”
The increasingly aggressive role of the United States and the ‘Western world’ has not been discussed in the suddenly over-polite local media outlets.
It should have been. Because between the lines, it was clear that the goal of Obama’s journey was to flex muscles, and to show Asia who is still in charge here.
And of course, to re-pledge support for the most obedient ones, like South Korea and Philippines, over their policy towards China, or in the case of Japan, its open hostility towards the great neighbor.
It would be desirable that the Asian countries that are now willing to collaborate with the West, would realize that they are actually becoming co-responsible for what can be best described as the imperialist, neo-colonialist, even fascist adventurism of North America and Europe all over the world.
In the future, history may judge the collaborators as harshly as their masters!
There were speeches clearly aimed at swelling anti-Chinese and anti-North Korean sentiments, and there were promises to ‘defend’ certain countries, including South Korea and Japan, although both of them appear to be more belligerent than their alleged Communist adversaries.
There was an immediate reaction from Pyongyang, calling South Korean President Park Geun-Hye ‘a prostitute’, and there was an ice-cold reaction from Beijing, calling on the US and Japan to “abandon their cold war mentality”.
The language of the Empire was, as always, patronizing, even insulting. As The New York Times reported:
“Jeffrey A. Bader, who was the senior China adviser on the National Security Council until 2011, said: “The message is: Don’t think that what Putin is doing in eastern Ukraine is so brilliant that you should be inspired by it. Don’t think that this is a model that could work for you.””
This kind of unsavory preaching is naturally despised in China and in many other countries. It is provocative and insulting, and it should not be tolerated for much longer.
And so, Mr Obama, welcome to the continent that your country, and several other Western countries, plundered and ravaged for such long and arduous decades.
Here in Asia you get away with just about anything. Isn’t it nice, Mr. President? You can tell any bullshit, any lie, and nobody will rebuff you, or laugh at you. With a straight face, you can call North Korea, a pariah state. And nobody replies: ‘and what about your own country, Mr. President? What should your country be called?’
In Venezuela, Bolivia, even Brazil and Chile, you would be met by hundreds of thousands of angry people, who all remember that horror that the West had spread there, for decades and centuries.
Somehow, these days, suddenly, almost everyone in Asia is so nice and hushed about these crimes.
It is maybe because here, people are really scared to talk about the role that the Empire has been playing, and to write about it as well. In some countries, like the Philippines, outspoken individuals and especially journalists can easily disappear without a trace, as that ‘democratic’ nation has one of the most terrible records of violence against the journalists, anywhere in the world.
In Japan, to criticize the Empire would clearly mean losing one’s job, as Japan has one of the most disciplined, obedient and servile mass media anywhere in the world. That is why it is designated to ‘teach’ – to basically brainwash – tens of thousands of students from the rest of Asia, giving them scholarships and turning them into lobotomized idiots with legitimate diplomas.
And so the media field is clear. The leader of the Empire – the Supreme Leader, Dear Leader – is here, with fanfare, facing almost no protests, and no criticism (except for not being ‘martial enough’).
In a way, he is quite an honest bloke. He is not hiding his goal to side with Japan against China, he sends strategic bombers – B-52’s – to openly provoke the most populous nation on earth, and if one reads between the lines, Mr. Obama is quite candid about his desire to re-introduce the Cold War to all regions of the planet.
But, these days, almost no one, in the West or here, is trained to read between the lines.
The West, including the United States, has embarked on all sorts of genocidal projects, all over Asia Pacific, for centuries. It has terrorized this part of the world, with tremendous force and determination, from Vladivostok to East Timor.
Be it not for the servility of Asian leaders, and for the total manipulation of history, Air Force One would have been met with jet fighters and interceptors, not with flowers, and national anthems.
The problem is that in Asia Pacific, in many parts of it at least, the countries are governed by thoroughly shameless ‘elites’ (read thugs, bandits), and these individuals are united with Western economic and political ‘leaders’, in their determination to plunder and mug everything, that grows, hides below the surface, and even that which walks and talks.
This is especially true about places like the Philippines and Indonesia, but also about Thailand, Cambodia, and even, to a lesser extent, South Korea.
Japan is an exception, as it has willingly and shamelessly been exchanging its independence for a rich and comfortable quality of life, willingly accepting the role of an obedient, sclerotic and depressed (but extremely well paid) servant of the West, on the Asian continent.
David McNeill, a leading expert on Japan and a Professor at Sophia University, recently explained during our conversation and the filming of my Okinawa documentary, in Tokyo:
“Japan, after the Second World War, aligned itself very quickly with America… And Japan’s military alliance with America is also accompanied with, what critics would say, its subservient attitude towards Washington.”
Let’s just revisit a few of the most horrifying atrocities the West performed in Asia Pacific, in the last hundred years or so.
Both British and US forces occupied, brutally, the city of Vladivostok, in the Russian ‘Far East’, after the Bolshevik Revolution.
China was plundered and colonized by European forces, brutally and relentlessly.
Korea was terrorized by mainly North American troops, with the most horrific toll on the local, mainly civilian population, with an estimated death toll of over four million people.
During WWII, Japan endured firebombing and the carpet-bombing of its cities, including Tokyo, as well as basically, two nuclear experiments against its population in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The French barbarically tortured, raped, and mutilated the people of Vietnam, but also those of Laos and Cambodia. The savagery exceeded even that of the later US ‘involvement’, as many local people, whilst I was lived in Hanoi for three years, explained to me.
In ‘Indochina’, the US, of course, bombed to ashes entire cities, and it poisoned the countryside, raped the female population of entire villages, and committed atrocities comparable only to those they themselves had earlier committed in Korea. Historians are still arguing about the death toll: Was it six million or ten million, during what they called the ‘Vietnam War’ and the ‘Secret War in Laos’ (in that part of the world, that genocide is squarely identified as the ‘American War’)?
The US also made sure to open the doors to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (by carpet-bombing most of the Cambodian countryside into the stone ages), later vocally demanding their return to power, from the floor of the United Nations and other organizations. All that, of course, happened after the Vietnamese troops, had kicked out Pol Pot’s boys and girls from power (the US considered it a great crime).
Kissinger had it very clear: He suggested that ‘anything that flies should be used against anything that moves’, and he had it his way. And, he never faced a firing squad for this, although his tactics were not too different from those employed by the German Nazis.
In the Philippines, the US committed much greater atrocities than Japan (including the Balanginga massacre), but a brainwashing campaign and the servility of most of the local media, made it impossible to discuss these topics openly.
The Philippines were brutally colonized by both Spain and the United States, but the US propagandists have managed to re-narrate the entire history of the archipelago.
British rule in what is now Malaysia and Singapore was very far from benevolent.
The Thai Western ally murdered its Communists, as well as student protesters, and placed its territory at the disposal of the West, during the Vietnam War.
Indonesia was repeatedly attacked by the United States from its bases in Philippines, during the reign of the progressive and anti-Western President Sukarno.
The US-sponsored military coup brought the military junta to power, and some 2-3 million Indonesians were murdered, mainly Communists, Chinese citizens and intellectuals. Fascist Indonesia then occupied (with the support of the West) tiny East Timor, where some 30% of the population lost their lives in a horrific genocide. Western media hushes up coverage of the ongoing genocide against the Papuan population, as it greatly benefits the interests of Western mining companies.
Still, collaboration with the Empire appears to be an attractive option to many governments in the region.
China is watching, and, not surprisingly, it appears that it does not like what it sees at all. Russia, another great ‘Asian’ power is even more outraged. North Korea is, as always, ‘ready’.
Mr. Obama may count on the weak and submissive allies. But Asia is changing, too. It is evolving. It is watching. It may soon begin saying “No”.
Mr. Obama decided to visit South Korea but not China.
Does it matter? Maybe… but for how long?
“If you come or do not come, we will be here,” said the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
Obama’s visit was disastrous on many fronts. There were trade deals proposed but that never fully materialized, including those between the United States and Japan.
There were constant insults and provocations, doublespeak, maneuvering and manipulations.
Those who had any illusions left about the Western press have, perhaps, finally lost them.
Perhaps the main reason why President Obama‘s visit felt so unsettling was because the danger of what the West is trying to achieve on all the continents of the world is now so obvious, but also blurred by massive propaganda. People feel, they fear, but they do not fully understand – cannot fully define what is going on.
Mr Obama came as the head of a junta, of the regime, which is supervising the killing of millions, directly and indirectly. In Congo and Ukraine, in Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Papua, to name just a few places.
And the more crimes are committed; the more twisted the truth gets. Fingers are pointed at Russia and China, who are basically doing nothing. Or Iran, which has never attacked anyone in modern history
Would any other nation act the way the US does, there would be an immediate war.
If the mass media in any other part of the world, outside of North America and Europe, were to apply such self-censorship and use outright lies, it would be immediately accused of being nothing more than just a propaganda tool.
After decades of the absolute horrors administered by Western imperialism, much of Asia Pacific has turned into a spineless, scared group of nations. Tens of millions have vanished between Hiroshima and now. The racist spite with which the West has been exterminating local people has no comparison in modern history, with the exception of the Western annihilation of African people.
Despite all that flowery rhetoric that we have just witnessed during the visit of the US President to Asia, there were no traces of love, or friendship.
From Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur, it was tense maneuvering – very tense and very dangerous.
Terima kasih, Encik Presiden!
One should always remember: The West never came in peace here. Not once. Wherever it has engaged, millions have died… millions of, exclusively, Asian people.
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.