11 July 2005

Terrorism in Singapore

The blogger John Lim has a post whereby he tries to imagine what life in Singapore would become, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack here.

Somehow I think that it is a matter of time before it happens. Terrorism is here to stay. The US invasion of Iraq will spawn new generations of terrorists for the next few decades. You can't just breach international law, invade a Muslim country on false pretexts, bomb lots of buildings and kill a lot of people and then expect the survivors to forgive and forget. As if nothing had happened at all.

Because terrorism is here to stay, it is only a matter of time before Singapore is hit by a terrorist attack. It could happen tomorrow. Or next month. Or next year, or in 2010 or 2015 or 2020. It could be a long time away. But it is only a matter of time. Same for other major cities with a pro-US stance.

Our security forces can be very vigilant and effective. This merely means that they'll foil many terrorist attempts and nab many terrorists, before the successful terrorist attack occurs. Time is on the terrorists' side. And thanks to the way that the US has handled the Iraqi situation, the number of potential recruits for terrorist groups are enormous.

The terrorist who plans a successful attack in Singapore in 15 years' time may be just a 10-year-old Iraqi child today. A boy whose innocent father was captured by the Americans and sexually abused in Abu Ghraib Prison. With a little cultivation, the seed of hate planted in that child's heart will grow. In time it may well turn him into a terrorist.

Blatta Orientalis Linnaeus (the oriental cockroach).
Nature's best bet for surviving global warming, atmospheric pollution
and the US invasion of the Middle East.


Ellipsis said...

Good guys or not, I think the point of this post is that the littlest actions can result in unforseen and amplified circumstances; even if the initial (and supposedly noble) objective was to remove a dictator from power. It must also be said that lack of foresight is not necessarily linked to a "strong and decisive" use of authority. The fact that terrorism is here to stay, has greater and more depressing implications for all of us than preserving the good memory of men and decisions that are not likely to outlive us.

tausarpiah said...

imagine a phrase "home-grown terrorist" ...

tscd said...

Do you think Singapore is important enough to attack?

I guess if terrorists can bomb a Bali nightclub, they could easily bomb zouk. But where would they hide?

Anonymous said...

...invade a Muslim country on false pretexts?

Can you justify your assumption, Mr Wang? Why do you assume that the US invaded Iraq on false pretexts?

Iraq has now in place a democratic leadership. Bush is pushing for democracy in the middle east and I think it is a good thing.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Sure. Here is the false pretext -

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

By now, even Bush has stopped pretending that this is true. Will you, please?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Look, I know you're American, so you would like to believe your own version of the truth and thereby enable yourself to sleep well at night.

So no, DON'T click on this link. DON'T read what the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix had himself said in April 2003, even without the hindsight that we all have in the year 2005.

Just go on believing that America is the super-hero of the world, ok? And while you're busy with that, why not also go persuade the other 50% of your OWN countrymen to share in your belief.

As I recall -

the US claimed that Iraq had WMDs and therefore attacked Iraq.

After attacking Iraq and finding no WMDs, it said that actually it attacked Iraq because Saddam had links to the Al-Queda.

After finding no links between Saddam and the Al-Queda, the US said that actually it attacked Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqi people.

And today, Baghdad has more car bombs and explosions each week than it ever had, when Saddam was in power.

And today, after bombing Iraq's infrastructure to bits, the US hands out highly profitable, money-making contracts to US and UK companies only, to rebuild Iraq.

Yeah, the Americans are real super heroes. And Mr Wang is Santa Claus.

Anonymous said...

I am not American, but have lived there for the past 2 years. I have made enough American friends to know that while there is much I can learn from them, they know jackshit about what goes on outside of their country. Heck, they don't seem to know much about what goes on outside their state.

Pardon my French.

muns, the first time GW visited Europe was when his daughter was in Italy on a study abroad program. Scary thought, that you're putting your faith behind a man like that.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Heh heh. Ben, somehow I don't think Muns is going to be terribly struck by your anecdote about GW. That's because many Americans have no clue how widely many non-Americans typically travel around the world.

If you tell a Singaporean that story about GW, the reaction you'd get would be something like:

"Golly, that's amazing! You mean, he never ever visited Canada or China or Thailand or Australia or France or England before that?!"

However, if you tell an American that same story about GW, the reaction would probably be:

"Uh .... so?"

The problem with insularity is that it doesn't recognise itself.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Look, the US isn't really on my mind that much. Read the title of my blog, ok. It's Commentary Singapore.

If you want to argue about how marvellous America has become nowadays, why not go pick your own fellow citizens to argue with. After all, many of them disagree quite violently with you. Look, here's an American's blog - I visit it now and then.


"Social commentary for free-thinking people" - is its self-description. And it talks a lot about how low America has sunk these days. And this guy doesn't even LIKE Michael Moore.

Point being, dear Muns, that you shouldn't be so quick to get into a "them versus us" attitude vis a viz non-Americans like me. There ARE intelligent, sensible Americans in America who share my views on lots of things about the US in recent years - why not go quibble with them?

You are crazy if you think I'm jealous of America. No, you're not. You're just insular & ignorant. You haven't seen the rest of the world yet, so you can still believe how marvellous you are.

If I had to pick countries to be jealous about -

I'd choose Finland for their education system; China for their vast economic potential; Switzerland for their foreign policy; Thailand for their gracious culture; New Zealand for their beautiful scenery; India for their vast capacity to generate huge numbers of excellent engineers & IT people; France for their sense of appreciation of the beautiful things in life;

....... oh wait! I forgot. You're an American. So you know nothing about all these countries I just mentioned.

for America, well, your movies suck; you consume too much of the world's oil resources; you contribute much more than your fair share of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere; your fast food is disgusting; your crime rates are awful; your Patriot Act is a disgrace to human rights; the divorce rates point to a crumbling of family values (AND Christian values - gee, I am so cruel to Muns for saying it); your leaders are dishonest and I don't just mean Mr and Mrs Clinton and Lewinsky; your budget deficit is horrendous; your dollar isn't worth much nowadays; you won't even let Schiavo die in peace; AND let's not even talk about the Iraq war;

the only things I could admire jealous about America are ... are ... hmmm ... umm ... Oh well, if I had to pick a couple of things, I'd pick Disneyland; Warren Buffett; Silicon Valley; Martin Luther King; Batman and U2.

Oh wait, one of those things is fictional and another is Irish. And another is dead.

Okay, okay. You know what I really like best about your country? The "max two terms" rule for your Presidents. That's really cool. It's America's greatest contribution to world peace. Prevents the same leader from harming the world for too long.

Ahhh .... I don't know why I'm so mean to you, Muns. I apologise. Nasty, nasty, nasty. Sorry, Muns. I hope God watches over you and your country too.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

That's your view. In my view, there are MANY serious defects about Singapore as a society and as a country. And I never allow my citizenship and roots here to blind me to that simple fact.

I have visited your country too. Down the West Coast. From Seattle (actually, from even further up north - Vancouver in Canada) down to Las Vegas. Nearly made it to Tijuana, Mexico too.

That was many years ago. I hear that the US has changed a lot. Unfortunately, mostly not for the better. Kerry would have been better for the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

So, dear muns, GW must have been about what, 40, when he visited Europe for the first time in his life. Europe, a continent of varied language and culture, which hopefully you've seen. As an avid traveller who believes in the axiom that the world is a book and without travelling, you've only read one page, GW's preference to remain in the United States disappoints, to say the least. Clearly, he was not without the resources to visit Europe. He chose not to. Do let me know if I'm wrong, because for all I know, he might have traversed Asia, Africa, South America, Australia and even Antartica before he turned 40, just not Europe.

As I have also mentioned, from my interaction with Americans, the least travelled also tend to be the least knowledgeable about the rest of the world. Not necessarily a truism in our times, with the internet, but empirically true. It's fine if you're just flipping burgers, but here I'm talking about the most powerful man in the world who negotiates crucial diplomatic relationships as part of his job. Wouldn't you think his lack of interest in the rest of the world is an impediment to the successful discharge of his duties?

"We are the most powerful country in the world economically, militarily, technologically, etc. Many countries build walls to keep their people in; we have to build walls to keep people out. There is a reason for that - people WANT to live in America."

Ok, you are that powerful by a stroke of luck. Don't congratulate yourself too much. Thank your geographical position instead that you weren't overrun by the Germans in WWII and subsequently became rich by supplying other nations with arms. Be thankful that you didn't have to go through a painful period of reconstruction after the war. And let's not forget that America's continued prosperity is in a large way supported by its defence industry which makes its millions on the misery of others.

As for the people who WANT to live in America, I guess you must buy into the same fabled image of America, land of the free, often portrayed in movies, that these immigrants do. I don't know which state you're from, but I hope you at least have some knowledge of the immense discrimination that many immigrants face in the routine of their daily lives. If anything, Americans are great at marketing. They've revolutionized the selling of a product. No one else is quite as slick. A whole bunch of the people who WANT to live in America probably have not visited it, and they only WANT to live in America thanks to mythologized images of golden arches.

And, I think it's pertinent to mention, the insular Americans I've met do not come from the Midwest or the South, areas often associated with inward-looking people. Nope, almost all Americans I know are Californians, who originate from the LA metropolitan region or the Bay Area and who attend one of the top colleges in the nation. Heck, a recent survey by the British rated it as one of the best in the world. Maybe I should forgive them their youth.

Everything else has been eloquently expounded by Mr Wang.

Anonymous said...

Well muns, I give credit where it's due. But before I continue, Mr Wang, if you're reading this, I hope you don't mind that we're having an exchange here. If you preferred, we could take it somewhere else, like muns' blog.

Back to you muns. Nice to see you think my posts are "clever and articulate". I can also be a little candid. Maybe too much for some tastes.

A stroke of luck? Yes. Again, I reiterate that I give credit where it's due and that will be a theme in my posts. How will you suggest "the most powerful nation in the world" achieved its standing? Let me suggest a few factors that could have contributed to that. Abundant natural resources and a hardworking work ethic come to mind. Also, I suppose America has a high concentration of brilliant minds. However, I don't believe Americans are the only hardworking and smart people. What worked in their favor was their very abundant natural resources and the fact that no modern war has touched American soil. And that is your stroke of luck. The effect of that stroke of luck has also been multiplied through the immigration of aforementioned brilliant minds such as Albert Einstein and Walter Gropius. And what were they doing? As far as I remember, escaping the war in Europe.

On to immigration. "America bends over backwards for immigrants". And very well they should. I hope you've not forgotten that America is a nation of immigrants. Unless you're Native American, I'd like to remind you that you too have benefited from America bending backwards for immigrants. And, if you think about it, the original Americans did bend really far backwards to accommodate your forefathers.

America has been built on the backs of immigrants of extremely diverse origin and in principle should continue to welcome them. Presumably these immigrants are also the most resourceful and tenacious ones from their home countries, to have been able to leave, further contributing to the human capital in the US.

Your personal experience of the virtues of your country are only possible due to the efforts of your forebears. I can only hope that the children of immigrants will be able to have the kind of experience that you've had. So, I hope you (meaning all of you and not just you, muns) can be nice to immigrants (and let's not forget the minorities, which from your posts I assume you're not a part of) and that they will all be able to achieve their American Dream.

As I've said, I give credit where it's due. I don't find the US repugnant. America is indeed a great country, the result of factors which I've already mentioned. And on the whole I have enjoyed the two years I've spent there and I'm looking forward to at least one more year of that very enriching life experience. This experience has in large part been contributed to by many Americans, some of whom I count amongst my closest friends. They're awesome people, to use American vernacular.

However, what I do take issue with is the unfortunate condescension with which some Americans view the rest of the world. I take issue with Americans who think anyone opposing the war in Iraq is an "idiot". I take issue with Americans who continue to see the world only in black and white and who persist in insisting that they are the "good guys". I take issue with Americans who "thank God for GW", someone with less-than-distinguished military service but who has nonetheless sent countless of his fellow citizens to injury or death. Is it really that difficult to empathize and see things from a different perspective?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Hi Muns and Ben,

Feel free to carry on here. I'm still reading. :)

I wanted to say something here, but I thought I'd wait and hear what Mun has to say on your latest comment first.

Anonymous said...

"They followed the system which is designed to control the numbers so as to accomodate assimilation."

The same system that legislated the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882? The one that restricted entry into the US by Chinese men to just enough of them to build the railroads and virtually denied entry to Chinese women? I guess it delayed the onset of the "Yellow Plague", at least until 1965's Immigration Act, and as such can be considered to have accommodated the assimilation process.

"However, I believe what I believe down to my core and because of that, it is difficult to "see" things from a different perspective."

Alright, alright, I can't argue with that can I? All I'll do is to point out that that is a sentiment probably expressed by religious and ideological extremists of every persuasion, which hopefully, you're not.

So muns, I guess I too will agree to disagree. While I certainly don't share your appreciation of midget wrestlers, I will choose to believe that you're a good man and a good father. So you too take care.

Mr Wang, arbitrate away, please.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Actually, if you really want to look at history to see how Americans treat minorities and such, the most compelling example of course is slavery.

But perhaps we're going too far back in time. If you ask Muslims how they feel about being in the US today, then I think you'll get a more realistic picture of America today. Actually, you don't even have to be Muslim. You just need to have your skin colour such that people think you might be Muslim.

On a related noted, there are people who study patriotism and such, and it is well-known from the studies that in times of war and in the period thereafter, the people of that nation will tend to become sharply more patriotic. There will be a powerful psychological tendency to rally around collectives - "nation" and "religion" being two such collectives.

It is therefore not surprising that after 11 Sep 2001, Muns feels the way he feels, and many in America feel the way they feel. George Bush of course exploited this quite well, and used the Christian line quite well to collect his votes among the conservative Christians.

America is of course the most powerful country in the world right now. However, even if I were an American, I do not think this is something I personally would feel proud of. In fact, it is something I would feel frightened of. The country with overwhelmingly the most weapons of mass destruction goes around falsely accusing other countries of having WMDs, then proceeds to bomb them to bits, and doesn't even offer anything remotely close to an apology. It is very frightening.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Georgie, I decided to take a second look at Fahrenheit 9/11. It's been oft commented that it's a biased movie. However, both times I've seen it, I'm left thinking that if you leave the clever editing aside, this film is essential viewing for anyone who wants a balanced perspective on the war in Iraq. It brings up many issues, which in the collective post-9/11 grief and anger, many have chosen to ignore.

I don't think anyone with a conscience who's seen it and who's taken time to think about its message can sincerely think that invading Iraq was justified.

Anonymous said...

As for the treatment of minorities, what I know is what I've learnt in class and through research, but also through interaction with people in school (I'm sure you've gathered by now that I'm a college student) and from observing the community in the working-class neighborhood I've lived in for the past year.

Discrimination tends not to be overt, because in a state like California, you're asking to be lynched if you openly discriminate. What is true is that people are seldom interested in getting to know someone from a different culture and stereotypes persist in the perspectives different ethnicities have of each other. That alone saddens me as the diversity found in America presents enormous potential for people to learn from one another (America is way more multi-cultural than Singapore), but people seldom take that initiative.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I thought you had let it rest.

Nice try at irony, but do you really fail to see how different the circumstances are? San Francisco is one of the most liberated cities in the US and they celebrate that liberation in harmless costume partying.

Your goons at Abu Ghraib on the other hand clearly relish the lack of consequence (or so they perceive) in acting out their cruellest perversions on unwilling participants.