In Malaysia, the public opinion was however carefully manufactured, as Mahathir Mohamad sought to capitalise on the situation by portraying himself as at the forefront against what the Malaysian Muslim community - and he himself particularly - perceived as yet another example of US hegemony in the Middle East.
Anti-war rhetoric was all over the media, and Umno-linked newspapers churned out one article after another condemning the propaganda machine from the White House. Of course, these Umno mouthpieces would conveniently forget that they, too, only sing from the song sheet given by the Malaysian government.
I remember attending a talk at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur, at which Karim Raslan openly derided an American Muslim who was there to defend the Bush administration’s pursuit of war as ‘Uncle Tom’, to resounding applause from the floor. The American guest was thoroughly humiliated and I could not have felt more sorry for him.
While I shared some of the anti-war sentiments, the jingoistic language employed by the Malaysian speakers was making me equally uneasy. But I was at the same time cognisant of the fact that they were there as proxies of Mahathir, with a view to running down American policy without taking stock of the human rights violations at home.
The Iraq War has now come and gone, leaving millions in misery in the country.
Fast forward a decade later, things remain precarious in the Middle East; what has changed drastically is the position of the Malaysian government. Although the western countries are again drumming up a phony war against both Syria and Iran, Najib Abdul Razak appears least interested to make a stand.
Perhaps most disturbing to his mind is how to ensure an electoral victory by hook or by crook, or all the allegations of his involvement in the submarine scandal. Even James Wong, a high priest of war, has gone silent after George W Bush’s weapons of mass deception were exposed.
The recent killings of more than 100 civilians - including many children - in Syria were shocking, and sparked outrage from Washington, Paris to Ankara. Syrian ambassadors are now given short notice to leave, even though the circumstances of the attack remain unclear. To me, it is rather inconceivable that Bashar al-Assad would have allowed himself to be shot in the foot when the world media had been conspiring against him. As always, truth is the first victim of war.
Clipping Russian and Chinese influence
The world has not changed much. After the euphoria over the ignominious fall and death of Colonel Qaddafi, Libya’s civil war is only escalating. Still, many have their eye set on Syria in an attempt to isolate Iran. Once these objectives are achieved, the presence of Russia and China’s effort to exert its influence in the region would be severely clipped, if not eliminated.
Unfortunately, Moscow’s and Beijing’s unequivocal objection to tougher UN Security Council action presents a major obstacle, and Hilary Clinton’s (right) dismay is only expected.
The Free Syrian Army is determined to go the full mile and certain western powers are ready to back them. Like Iraq, Syria is a diverse country with various ethnic groups. Should this come to pass, waves of sectarian violence are a sure outcome, providing real terrorists with a passport to roam around and to present a far greater threat to a region already strewn with insecurity.
But how long would Russia and China hold on to their position is anybody’s guess. After all, state and strategic interests trump solidarity in international politics.
While the atrocities of the al-Assad regime over the years are undisputed, it is worth asking why the same international media have not shown the same degree of keen interest in Bahrain, where civilians are routinely beaten up and even killed for speaking against the royal family.
Al Jazeera has legitimately and rightfully cried foul over the censorship by the Malaysian government over its coverage of the Bersih 3.0 rally, but the so-called alternative to the BBC and CNN, owned by the Qatar Media Corporation, too, has been playing down anti-establishment movements in Bahrain in its Arabic programmes while never failing to highlight Syria.
And news on the daily drones by the US authorities continues to receive minimal attention.
As Micah Zenko and Emma Welch argue in Foreign Policy, the overseas use of drones has expanded across the battlefields of Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq, targeting “suspected militants and terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as to conduct surveillance missions over Colombia, Haiti, Iran, Mexico, North Korea, the Philippines, Turkey, and beyond”. What the two authors have not mentioned is the high civilian deaths in the adventures.
Confronted with all the double standard practiced by media from west to east, I could not help but feel an immense sense of liberation when I finally unsubscribed from Astro. So long!
JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.