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Thesun 2009-04-13 Page09 Us Plans For Colonial Warfare





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| MONDAY APRIL 13 2009


US plans for colonial warfare
by Eric S. Margolis


[email protected]

Better deal for rakyat with shadow cabinet
I REFER to reports on a plot to topple government published on April 12, whereby Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was quoted as saying that Pakatan Rakyat’s decision to form a shadow cabinet is aimed at toppling the government. A shadow cabinet is the norm in many Commonwealth countries. The UK, Canada and Australia refer to their shadow cabinet ministers as the Loyal Opposition. A shadow cabinet should not be construed as disputing the sovereign’s right to the throne and the legitimacy of the government. The shadow cabinet in many countries provides an alternative to the cabinet and its members shadow or mark each minister. In Westminster for example, it is the shadow cabinet’s responsibility to pass criticism on the British government and its legislation, as well as offer alternative policies. It is a healthy form of check and balance and effectively raises the performance of the government. In the spirit of getting rid of the “government knows best” policy as declared by the prime minister last week, this could have been the best example of where the government walks its talk. Regardless of whether the country is moving to a two-party political system or otherwise, the existence of a shadow cabinet provides a very effective opposition. As a result, the rakyat will be able to tap the benefits of both the government and the opposition working hard to establish a united country and a prosperous economy. Klang Boy Via email

A FURIOUS debate has raged in the Pentagon over the future and mission of US military forces ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Pentagon has been divided over whether the US military should be configured to fight conventional wars against Russia and China, or be transformed into an agile force to combat Third World guerillas? Early this month, US Defence secretary Robert Gates put an end to this debate. Gate’s newly announced defence budget makes clear that America’s military future lies in what the Pentagon calls, “expeditionary warfare” or “counter-insurgency operations”. The British, less given to euphemisms than Americans, used to call their distant operations against unruly natives, “colonial warfare” or “little wars”. But in 1914, the British Empire’s army, trained to fight colonial wars against Zulu, Dervishes and Afghans, met the modern Imperial German Army and suffered a bloodbath. While Gates waved his big stick and warned all misbehaving Muslims, President Barack Obama was playing good cop on his visit to Turkey, offering the “hand of friendship” to the very same Muslim world to which Gates was planning to dispatch more US troops and killer drones. Though the US deficit just reached a staggering US$1 trillion (RM3.59 trillion) for the first half of 2008, military spending will still rise 4%. The Afghan and Iraq wars are costing US$200 billion (RM718.6 billion) alone this year. So much for Obama’s promised government austerity. No wonder many defence stocks rose on news of the Pentagon’s new budget. Congressmen and lobbyists will scream to high heaven when some major weapons programmes are terminated, but overall, the US military industrial complex is hardly suffering. Supporting the Afghan and Iraq wars is now the Pentagon’s priority. Fifty more deadly Predator and Reaper drones will be acquired. They are the Pentagon’s favourite tool for “taking out” foes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The British writer George Orwell called using such euphemisms, “making murder respectable”. More special forces and advanced ground and air sensors to target “terrorists” and “insurgents” (ie those resisting the American Raj) will be deployed. Over 500 more versatile F-35 strike aircraft will be bought. Production of the magnificent stealth F-22’s, costing US$140 million (RM503 million) a piece, will shortly end. The army loses heavy combat vehicles and artillery systems. The US Navy loses one of its eleven carriers and some planned high-tech destroyers. Coastal combat vessels for shallow water Gulf and Third World operations will be added. These realignments of defence spending clearly show the Obama administration intends to pursue a long-war strategy in Afghanistan, Iraq, perhaps Somalia, and in other future Third World hot spots located near major oil deposits. Bush’s so-called “war on terror” cost taxpayers US$808 billion (RM2.9 trillion). Obama has renamed it “overseas contingency operations”, but otherwise he seems to be following Bush’s lead. What caused so much heated debate in the Pentagon – and the heads of some senior generals – is the concern that reconfiguring the US military to fight “counter-insurgency” wars in the Muslim world will undermine national defence and America’s ability to wage future wars against other great powers like China, Russia or even India and Europe. The US Navy’s carriers, America’s key to strategic power projection, are now seriously threatened by three new weapons. China’s improved, 2,000km range DF-21 missile that can be guided onto carriers by radar, satellite and drones; Russia’s 300kph “Shkvall” torpedo; and the Russo-Indians supersonic BrahMos 300km range antiship missile. They may make US carriers sitting ducks. It takes decades to order and deploy new weapons systems. The Obama administration has now locked the US military on a course that cannot be quickly changed if new strategic threats emerge. Eric S. Margolis is a contributing editor to the Toronto Sun chain of newspapers, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia. Comments: [email protected]

Refund airport taxes for cancelled flights
I MADE reservations to fly with AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok for December, 2007, and changed it to February, 2008; and another flight from Kuala Lumpur to Saigon for August, 2008. In both cases the trips were planned for medical reasons as I am a 55-year-old American visiting in your country and who came to this part of the world for help. The doctors at the destinations changed their plans and I was forced to cancel the flights. It is hardly AirAsia’s fault, but it’s also not mine. According to the terms, flights can be changed for a fee but that the tickets are non-refundable. But “ticket” contains several components. The fare is understood to be non-refundable since AirAsia held that seat for me. Agreed, it’s my risk. But the taxes, including airport taxes, were not expenses which caused any suffering on your part, they were due to third parties who also were not hurt by my cancellation. Money collected from passengers would in theory simply be passed on and it’s those fees that I think should be refunded to passengers who cancel trips. After all, since there was no harm and no use of airport facilities by me, and others in my situation, the holding of that money is grossly unfair. I write not only for myself but for a general policy change regarding cancelled flights. I’m also asking for a refund of taxes on the cancelled flights and this can be in the form of cash or vouchers for future trips. Charles Vasels Kuala Lumpur