No winners in war

TOWARDS the end of the year, I often view one of my all-time favourites by John Lennon, Happy Xmas (War Is Over). Every time I watch this profoundly moving anti-war Youtube video, it reminds me of the hypocrisy and evils of warmongers. Watch this short video and you will know what I mean.

Environmental catastrophe and wars, both man-made, are the two greatest threats to mankind. This piece is about wars and the rise of new religious extremism as the agent provocateur of wars today.

The world has already suffered two world wars and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which could have obliterated humanity, if not for cool heads to eventually prevail at the White House and Kremlin. If the then US president, John F. Kennedy had heeded his hawkish advisers, you would not be alive and reading this article today as the human race would have ended then.

The total human casualties for World War 1 (1914-1918), mostly fought in Europe, was more than 37 million with over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded.

World War II (1939-1945) was far more devastating with estimates of total deaths of 60-85 million, including 19-25 million civilian deaths from war-related diseases and famine and 5 million deaths from prisoners of war. It was certainly the deadliest war in world history.

When you are next in London, go visit the Imperial War Museum to understand the horrors of wars and why we cannot afford another world war, even a conventional one.

There have been many devastating regional wars and here are some notable examples.

The total deaths of the Vietnam War (1955-1975) were 3.4 million. It was one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in history involving other Indochina states. The United States was trying to subjugate a smaller and divided Asian country and put it under its control and sphere of influence. But it failed miserably when public opinion in the US turned against the war after television broadcasting brought to the homes of American people the reality, injustice and atrocities of a war thousands of miles away, which their government claimed to be fighting on their behalf.

The estimated death toll for the horrific Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) was 1.25 million. Both the governments tried very hard to cover up and play down the actual deaths and casualties on their side.

As for the Iraq War, from 2003 to 2011 (when the US withdrew its forces), there was a total of 4,491 US troops killed and more than a million deaths as the direct and indirect results of the war. This war was similar to the Vietnam War, where the US was fighting for its sphere of influence and control in a strategic region rich in energy resources (oil and gas) until the US government realised that the "costs" involved (especially American casualties) were too high and it was unwinnable.

The main cause of the two world wars was the struggle for world domination and control of resource rich countries and colonies between an alliance of aggressive emerging nations (led by Germany) and existing empires (led by Britain). The new emerging powers, especially in the case of WWII, needed an ideology (fascism and racism) to justify their brutality and cruelty against the people they had conquered. Germany and Japan used an ideology of their racial supremacy over the vanquished.

Before and during WWII, the Japanese Imperial forces had committed the worst atrocities known in human history, where civilians including children and babies were butchered with impunity.

Many were used as guinea pigs in chemical warfare tests. Yet, many of the Japanese officials implicated made a deal with the US leadership and were not put on trial at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials (1946-1948).

Many right-wing leaders in Japan today have still not learnt their lessons despite their ignominious defeat after the dropping of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The victims of Japanese atrocities would have preferred most of Japan to be bombed similar to the carpet bombings that destroyed most of Germany and taught them a lesson they would never forget. The Germans have become the leading pacifists in the world today.

The causes of most regional wars have been mainly geo-political. But since Sept 11, new religious extremism has now become the main cause or trigger of many regional wars (such as in Syria and Iraq).

Just like the fascists in Germany and Japan who needed an ideology to justify their barbaric treatment of others, the new Islamic militants (especially IS) have developed their own fascist ideology (which they falsely claim as their interpretation of Islam) to justify the cruel treatment, such as beheading and torture, of any person who disagrees with them and to brainwash people under their control, from an early age, to hate and kill people of all other religions including moderate-minded people of their own religion.

The new religious extremists want to destroy the world they cannot control. They believe that material progress is evil and they must all kill and die for the afterlife. The IS ideology is probably the most extreme form that the world has ever seen and the US must take some blame for its creation just like the Taliban movement many years ago.

These leaders are using suicide bombers effectively. The senseless killings and carnage in regions such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the Middle East and in parts of Africa and Asia can provide the escalation for the next world war. The United Nations should set up a special multinational task force to seek and hunt down these leaders.

The whole world also needs to truly unite and stand up for peace and moderation without fear, by promoting multi-culturalism and genuine mutual respect and acceptance of all religions.

The IS ideology appears to be creeping into our country. The authorities have already declared it a national security threat after several Malaysians were recruited to fight in Iraq and Syria and to return later to cause havoc here. If not checked, this divisive religious extremism can also pose the biggest threat to the social and economic progress of the Malays due to the ideology's fatalistic, anti-progress, anti-science and negative positions, just like the communist ideology was a threat to the Chinese many years ago.

Asia has its fair share of conflicts over disputed islands and cultural heritage issues and if not checked or controlled, it is possible for wars to break out, which can be catastrophic for the socio-economic development of our country.

If any Malaysian should think that wars are something which do not concern us, I would like to remind them of the shooting down of MH17. It was a direct casualty of a war (in Ukraine) taking place thousands of miles from home.

We cannot take peace for granted or our future generations will blame us for not doing our part to prevent the end of the world.

Human civilisation started about 400 generations or about 10,000 years ago and the writer believes that the activities of the next three generations will be most crucial to determine if humanity can survive for another 1,000 years. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com