(Published in Malaysiakini & Criminalise War website on November 11, 2008)
On October 24, I braved a mean traffic crawl along Jalan Tun Razak, en route PWTC, to attend a charity dinner hosted by KL Foundation to Criminalise Law.
Despite the glaring lapse of time after the event ended, I am still bereft of words to describe the cause champions by the foundation into a decent composition: guilt, anger and hopelessness consumed every fiber of my being in so far as any war is concerned.
According to of the foundation committee chairman, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah, the royal charity dinner was held to raise funds to facilitate the foundation’s voluntary programmes on a national and global basis as well as to acquire a suitable premise to serve as the foundation’s headquarters.
His Majesty, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, launched the foundation at this royal charity dinner.
One unforgettable aspect of the royal charity dinner was the ten-minute-long video footage featuring what casualties of war – mainly children and women – had to endure as hostile fire destroyed their homes and blown their family members into pieces.
Gory images of a massacre; maimed children bodies lumped into a mass grave; children soldier mechanically firing the guns away with little thought on humanity let alone compassion; torn limbs mounded up on a deserted ground; a howling mother beside a charred remains, one could only assume to be of her child; a teenager lying on a hospital bed with fleshless midriff.
As the guests cringed in their seat, in fact, some turned away from the giant screens around Merdeka Hall, Tun Dr. Mahathir thought that it is imperative for us to see the bloody images of war:
“It is not a pleasant thing to see, this video clip, but then if we do not see these we will not understand the horrors of war. If we not understand then we will not be concerned about the facts of these young victims, especially, and we will continue to subscribe to the idea that killing people, destroying countries is a legitimate way to solve problems between nations.”
What dawned on me – beside the generosity of corporate tycoons in Malaysia – is the fact that, here in our safe cocoon, we are relatively unperturbed with the hostility of war. We bask in our safe haven of domestic stability and economic growth since the Independence, with no armed conflicts at all, save and except for May 13, 1969. Even May 13, is pale in comparison with the recent war waged in Middle East and African countries.
But war, by any other names, has profound effect only on the helpless: women and children.
History and statistic by Amnesty International reveals that war has seen women being oppressed, raped, impregnated and infected with the deadly HIV virus. Children have been reduced to orphans and their basic needs of decent shelter, food and education sorely neglected.
Meanwhile citizens of war-torn countries are being illegally trafficked across the globe as prostitutes, cheap laborers or even to facilitate illegal adoption.
The repercussion of armed conflict robs a nation’s fabric of history and culture. Political upheavals in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen its museums looted, records destroyed and historical books torn apart.
In addition thereto, war is a multifaceted beast extending its formidable arm on the environment.
The residues from firearm and bombing activities cause radiological and chemical pollution which threaten our fragile environment. Million others face the risk of unexploded ordnance left after the conflict ended.
While we strive to be a developed nation with exemplary social, political and economic platforms, we must never take our country’s peace for granted, for the price of a conflict – be it political or otherwise – is just too expensive for us to pay.
Dwight Eisenhower was right when he said:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
Make war a crime – that is the least one could do.
p/s: Thanks Rocky for the seat!
(Image stolen from here)