Hollywood producer, director and screenwriter Oliver Stone.

ON Feb 9, 2017 at the Writers Guild Awards in Beverly Hills, California, highly acclaimed Hollywood producer, director and screenwriter Oliver Stone (pix) gave a moving acceptance speech for the Laurel Award for Screenwriting, about the costs of wars caused by the US. Here are the key parts of it:

“… in the 13 wars we’ve started over the last 30 years and the US$14 trillion (RM77 trillion) we have spent and the hundreds of thousands of lives that have perished from this Earth, remember that it wasn’t one leader but a system, both Republican and Democrat. Call it what you will … It’s a system that has been perpetuated under the guise that these are just wars justifiable in the name of our flag that flies so proudly over our lives.

“Our country has become more prosperous for many but in the name of that wealth, we cannot justify our system as a centre for the world’s values. But we continue to create such wars and chaos in the world … We know we’ve intervened in more than 100 countries with invasions, regime change, economic chaos. Or hired war, soft power. Whatever you want to call it. It’s war of some kind. In the end, it’s become a system leading to the death of this planet and the extinction of us all.”

Oliver Stone should know and can speak about the horrors of wars. From February 1967 to April 1968, he served in a US infantry division in the Vietnam War and was wounded twice in action. He subsequently graduated with a Fine Arts degree in film in 1971 from New York University.

Our small planet in modern history has witnessed two world wars, numerous regional wars and some near misses (such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis), which could have ended humanity.

Even common sense and the concept of mutually assured destruction among the superpowers may not assure us about the possibility of “accidentally firing”, actions by rogue soldiers or missile systems being hacked by extremists to launch a nuclear missile strike.

Or perhaps a mad man like Kim Jong-un launching a nuclear missile on South Korea or Japan or even further, to deliberately provoke the US to retaliate, which may trigger a regional conflict that may then escalate into a global war.

The current surge in violence in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli strife, with Israel trying to unilaterally expand its control over the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City, where all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) lay claims to parts of it, is a worrying sign and tension is spreading to the entire region.

I have written many articles in this column on the evils of wars and that there are no real winners, and often the victims are civilians and ordinary people who played no part in the conflicts. In my recent piece entitled “Superpowers gear up for World War III” I wrote about the new Cold War between Nato led by the US against Russia and its allies in Eastern Europe.

I gave as an example, about the Suwalki Gap (remember the name), a vulnerable 60-mile stretch of territory and a critical rail line separating Poland (member of Nato) from Lithuania (also a member of Nato) and linking Russian Kalingrad with its ally Belarus. A global analyst David Andelman, editor-emeritus of World Policy Journal, believes that World War III could start in this tense region as the Russian rail passes through Nato’s territories on both sides.

World War III may have already started in certain, sensitive regions of the world and many people are simply unaware of the danger ahead.

For those who say that wars fought far away have no impact on us only need to be reminded of the shooting down of our own MH17 on July 17, 2014 as a result of the Ukraine War.

Regardless of who did it, and of course the culprits must somehow be punished, the fact remains that our own civilian aircraft was a casualty of war fought far away from home.

In today’s globalised world, it would be stupid and dishonest for anyone to say that a war fought far away from our home would not affect us. It may even escalate into a global war and consume our country like the rest of Asean.

In our Asian region, there are two serious sources of conflict; one on the disputed territories in the South China Sea and the other is on the growth of militant Muslim extremism in parts of Asean such as southern Philippines. Our own Sabah (at Lahad Datu) was invaded in 2013 by armed elements claiming to represent the “Sultanate of Sulu”. The likes of IS are also gaining a foothold in Malaysia and the region in a coordinated effort, after their recent defeats and losses in Iraq and Syria.

It is important to understand that normal businessmen have the most to lose in a war as the main business beneficiaries are arms manufacturers and traders. Of course, the smugglers too, taking advantage of the chaos in enforcement.

Promoting peace should be accorded the highest priority or even be seen as the highest level of charity for business. In times of war the other normal charities, no matter how noble or well-intended, could be meaningless.

It is therefore strange that while most businesses around the world are prepared to support or engage in corporate social responsibility activities, such as on environment, community welfare and education (which are praiseworthy anyway), they tend to take a hands-off approach to promoting or preserving peace, citing it as “political” and “it is the government’s responsibility”. The exceptions to the rule are the media and some film makers and peace social enterprises.

Promoting peace does not have to be partisan or political, often peace seekers would have to promote constructive dialogues and diplomacy between warring parties rather than taking sides.

Sure, in general around the world, it is the government’s responsibility to preserve and promote peace but certain politicians are also the biggest culprits in causing wars.

So, it would be foolish for business people to rely solely on their respective governments and politicians and take a complacent attitude.

It is high time that businesses take a more proactive engagement in promoting peace by being more involved in educational and awareness projects that highlight the current threats to peace and the evils of wars.

The writer is a think tank analyst and management strategist who is also involved in the setting up of a heritage museum in Carcosa Seri Negara, Kuala Lumpur to promote peace, moderation and cultural diversity. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com

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HERE we go again, another horror and heart-breaking story in the news. The latest terror attack in London should serve as a wake-up call to all “unbelievers” on the threat of extremism on humanity. Extremism is the twin brother of terrorism. There would be no terror acts without an extremist ideology.

On June 3 near London Bridge, a van with three men (who were later killed by police) ploughed through a crowd and the men then started knifing people in the vicinity. At least seven people were killed and another 48 injured.

This attack was only less than two weeks from another major terror attack at a concert in Manchester on May 22 where a suicide bomber killed 22 mostly young people and injured more than 100 people. If we trace the terror attacks across the world over the last one year, the list would be endless.

The extremists, inspired and led by the likes of IS, would really want to have a “Clash of Civilisations” as predicted by the late US political scientist Samuel Huntington. They would want to instigate a Third World War. If they cannot have it their way, they would rather destroy the world. And they are prepared to die to see to it.

Such is the fury, anger, desperation and insanity of these extremists, mostly disenchanted and brainwashed Muslim youths, who also fear the loss of the IS- controlled territories in Iraq and Syria, that they are committing more terror acts for strategic and psychological reasons. They still have many sympathisers and support in the Muslim world.

Only last month, Donald Trump made his maiden trip overseas as the new US president to Saudi Arabia where he gave his much awaited speech about extremism and terrorism to Muslim leaders.

Trump’s speech in Riyadh on May 21, interestingly one day before the Manchester bombing, was correct in condemning extremism and terrorism and the injustice of harming people. He was right in saying that the civilised world needs to unite and work harder to drive the terrorists out of this planet. But beyond that, he did not offer any comprehensive solution, neither did he address the root causes of extremism and terrorism.

Here are key points that Trump missed.

First, the US (perceived to be representing the Christian world) played a major role in creating much resentment and anger in the Muslim world with its unjust handling, meddling and mismanagement of the Palestinian crisis since the violent creation of the state of Israel in 1948, which was based solely on the selfish geo-political interests of the US. There was no recognition for the rights of the Palestinian people, whose land was annexed by the Zionists in what was probably the “biggest legalised daylight robbery” in modern history.

And today, the Trump administration has been even more extreme in siding with Israel and pandering to the Zionist lobby in the US. He does not seem to favour the two-state solution, which the Palestinians have already compromised so much for the sake of peace, as the only viable option forward, supported even by his previous administrations, the UN and the other major powers.

Second, Trump in his speech, did not address the neglect, oppression and repression of the poor Muslims which are providing an ideal breeding ground for extremist ideologies to thrive.

Third, there have been many reports to suggest that the creation of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War and the IS during the Iraq War were partly attributed to the US’s past involvement in those two spheres of influence.

Until and unless the UN can set up an independent inquiry to investigate and clear the role of the US on the origins of these two largest terrorist groups in the world, the US must accept some responsibility based on documented reports and eyewitness accounts, including an admission by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2013 (when she was known to have said “Let’s remember here, the people we are fighting today we funded them 20 years ago …”) and also through her leaked emails which also implicated certain Arab governments.

Fourth, Trump is the most anti-Muslim US president ever with his anti-Muslim policies and pronouncements. He wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the US and then amended his policy to selected Muslim majority countries. Instead of making peace and seeking reconciliation with moderate Muslims, including the Palestinians, he has gone on a warpath to prove his racist and xenophobic credentials and to pander to his extreme rightwing supporters.

He had the gall to take the moral high ground in Riyadh and claimed that he was a friend of the Muslims.

Trump has announced the pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord of 2015 which was put together to save the world from global warming. He has turned his back on saving our planet, yet he wants to save humanity from terrorism.

How can Trump lead the global community to counter the tide of extremism and terrorism sweeping through the world?

Asean countries facing a greater terror threat than before must get their act together and focus on addressing the root causes of extremism and terrorism, using education, psychology and intelligence. It may not be good enough to promote moderation, the situation has become so critical that a stronger approach is needed to counter extremism to counter terrorism.

Perhaps the Asean Secretariat, with UN support and involvement, should urgently consider setting up a multimedia museum in either Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur using the latest technologies to make learning interesting to attract young people and educate them on the evils of extremism. If successful, similar museums can be set up in other Asean countries and even beyond.

Extremism, as a threat to humanity, must be made a compulsory subject in all schools.

Much needs to be done to speed up the learning process for our youths against extremism as the most effective and sustainable way to contain and ultimately defeat the surge in terror acts.

The writer is a think-tank analyst who has been warning for some years about the “clear and present danger” of extremism and terrorism engulfing the world. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com

Bagaimana melawan Islamofobia

Fobia Islam berleluasa selepas serangan selaras terhadap Amerika Syarikat pada 11 September 2011. – Foto Sumber internet
ISLAMOFOBIA adalah ketakutan, prasangka dan kebencian terhadap Islam dan Muslimin, lebih-lebih lagi di Barat. Ia berlandaskan anggapan secara berterusan semua Muslimin sebagai pelampau, gila dan/atau pengganas serta ia mungkin ancaman terbesar menghadapi dunia Islam masa kini.

Pada tahap sejagat, mungkin ada kejadian-kejadian tempatan berlandaskan ketakutan atau prasangka terhadap agama-agama lain tetapi tiada bandingannya terhadap darjah Islamofobia. Kenapa?

Islamofobia berleluasa selepas serangan selaras terhadap Amerika Syarikat pada 11 September 2011 oleh kumpulan pengganas Al-Qaeda, yang asalnya dari Afghanistan, selepas ia diduduki tentera Soviet pada masa itu (1978-1989). CIA bertanggungjawab mencipta Al-Qaeda pada masa itu untuk melayani kepentingan Amerika Syarikat menentang Soviet.

’11 September’ boleh dianggap sebagai penukaran permainan di dalam sejarah dunia apabila negara paling berkuasa di dunia dilemahkan 19 lelaki yang mengakui diri mereka sebagai ‘jihadi Muslim’, menggunakan pesawat-pesawat penumpang yang dirampas.

Hampir 3,000 orang terbunuh dan 6,000 cedera. Pusat Dagangan Dunia yang unggul itu dimusnahkan dan Pentagon (ibu pejabat Jabatan Pertahanan Amerika Syarikat) mengalami kerosakan.

Oleh kerana 19 pengganas itu mengakui secara terbuka sebagai ‘jihad Muslim’, tindak balas awam terhadap kaum Muslimin secara am di Amerika Syarikat dan Eropah adalah teruk.

Kerajaan Amerika Syarikat (AS) bertindak balas secara cenderung bersengketa, tidak semestinya betul kesemuanya terhadap negara-negara Islam pilihan seperti Yaman, Afghanistan dan Pakistan.

Segala apa yang terjadi dan bagaimana Al-Qaeda dilumpuhkan secara angkatan bersenjata dan pembunuhan ketua mereka, Osama bin Laden, pada 2 Mei 2011 (10 tahun kemudian) di Pakistan, kini menjadi sejarah.

Segala tindakan melalui serangan angkatan bersenjata, pesawat pengebom tanpa pemandu atau pun lain-lain cara sehingga hari ini, oleh kuasa Barat terhadap kumpulan dan negara Islam pilihan, telah diberi rangsangan utama oleh Presiden AS, Donald Trump, dianggap sebagai presiden Amerika paling anti-Islam.

Kebangkitan Islamofobia telah memberi kepercayaan kepada pemenuhan diri nu buatan teori ahli sains politik Amerika Samuel Huntington dalam penulisan beliau PertembunganTamadun (Clash of Civilisation).  Ia mengibaratkan keseluruhan dunia Islam berperang dengan dunia Kristian ataupun Islam lawan Kristian.

Ini mungkin menepati kehendak pelampau dari kedua-dua pihak (Muslim dan Kristian) tetapi haruskah orang-orang dari segala agama yang cintakan keamanan dan keadilan membenarkan hal ini?

Kedua-dua agama satu tuhan sejagat ini mempunyai lebih persamaan di dalam kandungan dan asal-usul mereka daripada tanggapan perbezaan yang kecil, di mana pelampau-pelampau memainkan dan memporak-perandakan berlebih-lebihan untuk menyebabkan persengketaan.

Kumpulan pelampau seperti Al-Qaeda, IS dan Abu Sayyaf (di selatan Filipina) mungkin nampak seperti kalah secara angkatan bersenjata tetapi pengaruh mereka ke atas Taliban dan lain-lain kumpulan keganasan seluruh dunia tidak luntur dan tidak harus dipandang ringan.

Saya telah menulis dan memaklumkan kepada pembaca kolum ini sejak 2014, sebelum pun IS menjadi raksasa kejam sejagat (bukan sahaja di Syria dan Iraq), di atas perlunya, bukan sahaja mengalahkan gerakan keganasan berbahaya secara ketenteraan, tetapi mendidik pemuda Muslim yang diasingkan dan kecewa, yang tertarik dengan kepercayaan IS dan menjelaskan kepada mereka, kenapa ia tidak betul menyalahkan, melepaskan kemarahan dan memudaratkan orang-orang yang tidak bersalah, ke atas penderitaan kaum Muslimin, lebih-lebih lagi rakyat Palestin.

Sengketa Palestin nampaknya menjadi perjuangan terkenal yang digunakan pelampau Muslim dan pengganas untuk mengambil anggota baharu.

Hampir 30 tahun di Britain, semenjak saya belajar lagi, saya sudah menulis, berkempen dan tunjuk perasaan di kampus dan jalan raya membantah penindasan dan pencerobohan rejim Zionis.

Walaupun saya bukan Islam, saya telah menyokong dan berjuang untuk Palestin sebagai satu prinsip kebenaran dan keadilan, jadi ya, saya mempunyai pendirian mempertahankan orang Islam yang ditindas dan menulis mengenai hal-ehwal Islamofobia.

Seperti kebanyakan kempen-kempen mencomot, penyokong-penyokong Islamofobia mencipta dan merangsang tanggapan buruk ke atas kumpulan sasaran dibenci atau mereka ada agenda tersembunyi.

Seperti juga kempen mencomot yang lain, ada asas-asas yang digunakan oleh seteru lawan Islam untuk mewajarkan gambaran secara berterusan mengelap kaum Muslimin sebagai pelampau dan/atau pengganas.

Kumpulan pelampau dan pengganas-pengganas ini banyak bertanggungjawab menyebabkan Islamofobia.

Tetapi mereka jatuh terus ke dalam ‘jerat’ musuh-musuh Islam yang mencanangkan perasaan anti-Islam. Oleh kerana kebanyakan serangan keganasan disebabkan oleh orang yang kononnya ‘jihadi Muslim, amatlah senang bagi ketuanan putih haluan kanan menggunakan kejadian-kejadian ini untuk menggalakkan tanggapan gelap bagi kaum Muslimin dan Islam sejagat.

Kiasannya, pelampau-pelampau ketuanan Muslim di negara-negara suara ramainya orang Islam, termasuk di Malaysia, menggunakan hujah-hujah atau alasan-alasan yang sama terhadap bukan Islam yang tiada suara ramai seperti yang digunakan oleh pelampau ketuanan putih terhadap kaum Muslimin di barat, seperti orang Asia bukan Islam dan orang kulit hitam, juga menderita akibat sifat perkauman.

Boleh diandaikan bahawa pelampau Islam ini bekerjasama dengan puak pro-Zionis pelampau putih yang menindas penduduk Islam di Barat dan Palestin di Israel serta wilayah yang diduduki. Musuh Islam sebenarnya, lain dari Zionis dan ketuanan putih haluan kanan, adalah mereka yang mengakui diri sebagai ‘jihadi Muslim’ yang sanggup mengganas memudaratkan orang awam sekali gus menjejaskan gambaran Islam.

Setiap kali adanya keganasan oleh pelampau Muslim ini, kita mendengari kutukan keras oleh para pemimpin bukan Islam tetapi sebaliknya, tindak balas oleh masyarakat Muslimin yang sederhana dan berfikiran berakhlak secara umum terlalu bisu dan juga sunyi.

Di sini letaknya cabaran terbesar yang diperlukan untuk melawan Islamofobia. Tidak mencukupi untuk bersandar ke atas orang bukan Islam untuk mengutuk secara terbuka keganasan oleh mereka yang mengakui sebagai ‘jihadi Muslim’ seperti IS.

Sebenarnya, kedudukan seperti ini hanya menguatkan tanggapan gelap terhadap Islam.

Pemimpin Muslim bersederhana, sama ada di negara suara ramai penduduk Islam atau tidak, mesti bersuara dengan nada yang lebih tinggi dan jelas dan serentak terhadap keganasan di mana jua di dunia.

Mereka mesti memainkan peranan yang pro-aktif dan pencegahan dalam mendidik pemuda-pemuda Muslim mengenai kezaliman melampau dan keganasan.

Mereka mesti selalu mengingatkan Muslimin bahawa ia adalah salah, tidak adil dan anti-Islam (menyatakan tidak Islam tidak cukup kuat) untuk memudaratkan, membunuh dan membunuh beramai-ramai orang yang tidak bersalah yang tidak memainkan peranan menindas orang Palestin atau lain-lain orang Islam.

Islam adalah agama keamanan, keadilan, belas kasihan dan tiada pelampau Islam boleh merampas atau memfitnah nama baik Islam.

Penulis adalah rakan dan penyokong manusia yang ditindas, lebih-lebih lagi Islam di Israel, wilayah-wilayah yang diduduki dan negara yang mana suara-suara mereka tidak didengari.

Sept 11 can be considered a game changer in world history.

ISLAMOPHOBIA is the fear, prejudice and hatred against Islam and Muslims, especially in the West. It is based on stereotyping all Muslims as extremists, lunatics and/or terrorists and is probably the greatest threat confronting the Muslim world today.

On a global level, there may be some localised incidents based on fears or prejudices against other religions, but nothing comparable to the scale of Islamophobia. Why?

Islamophobia became more widespread after the co-ordinated attacks in the US 16 years ago, on Sept 11, 2001 by the terror group called Al-Qaeda, which had its origins in Afghanistan when it was under military occupation by the then Soviet Union (1978-1989). The CIA was responsible for creating Al-Qaeda at that time to serve US interests against the Soviets.

“Sept 11” can be considered a game changer in world history when the most powerful country in the world was seemingly brought to its knees by 19 self-professed “Muslim jihadists”, using four hijacked passenger planes. Nearly 3,000 people were killed and 6,000 people injured. The iconic World Trade Centre was destroyed and the Pentagon (Department of Defence) partly damaged.

Because the 19 terrorists openly proclaimed themselves to be “Muslim jihadists”, the public backlash against Muslims in general in the US and Europe was severe.

The US government retaliated aggressively, not necessarily correctly in all cases, against selective Muslim countries such as Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The rest of what happened and how Al-Qaeda was crippled militarily and the killing of its leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 (about 10 years later) in Pakistan, is now history.

The actions via military attacks, drones or otherwise until today, by the Western powers against selective Muslim groups and countries, have been given a major boost by the new US president, Donald Trump, who is widely perceived to be the most anti-Muslim US president ever. These actions have subtly reinforced the psychology of Islamophobia in the subconscious minds of many non-Muslims.

The rise in Islamophobia is giving credence to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the late US political scientist Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “Clash of Civilisations”. It is as though the entire Muslim world is at war with the Christian world or it is Islam versus Christianity.

This may be precisely what the extremists from both sides (Muslims and Christians) want but why should the peace and justice loving people of all religions allow it? Both these global monotheist religions have far more similarities in content and origin than their perceived minor differences, which the extremists are playing up and exploiting to the hilt to cause strife.

Extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, IS (in Syria and Iraq) and the Abu Sayyaf (in southern Philippines) may seem to be losing militarily, but their influence like the Taliban and other terror groups around the world have not waned and should never be underestimated.

I have written and alerted readers in this column as far back as 2014, even before IS became a global monster (not just in Syria and Iraq), on the need, not only to defeat this insidious terror movement militarily but also to educate the alienated and disenchanted Muslim youths who are attracted to IS ideology and to explain to them why it is so wrong to blame, vent their anger and inflict harm on innocent people for the suffering of the Muslims, especially the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian conflict appears to be the cause celebre used by Muslim extremists and terrorists to recruit disenchanted Muslim youths to join their movements.

For nearly 30 years since my student days in Britain, I have written about, campaigned and demonstrated in the campuses and streets for the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people against the Zionist aggressor, Israel. Even though I am a non-Muslim, I have supported and fought for the Palestinian cause on a matter of principle based on truth and justice, so yes, I do have the locus standi to defend the oppressed Muslim people and to write about the subject of Islamophobia.

Like most smear campaigns, the proponents of Islamophobia created and promoted negative perceptions of a targeted group that they do not like or have a hidden agenda against. And like other smear campaigns, there are some basis used by the opponents of Islam to justify the negative stereotyping of Muslims as extremists and/or terrorists.

The Muslim extremists and terrorists are largely responsible for Islamophobia. They are falling straight into the “trap” of the enemies of Islam who are whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments. Since most terror attacks are caused by people professing to be “Muslim jihadists”, it is easy for the right-wing white supremacists to use these incidents to promote the negative perceptions of Muslims and Islam.

The irony is that extremist Muslim supremacists in Muslim majority countries, including Malaysia, are using similar arguments or rationale against non-Muslim minorities as the ones used by the extremist white supremacists against Muslim minorities in the West, who, like the non-Muslim Asians and black people, also suffer from racism.

It is as though these extremist Muslims are working in cohorts with the pro-Zionist white extremists who are oppressing the Muslim minorities in the West and the Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. The real enemies of Islam, besides the Zionists and the right-wing white supremacists, are the self-professed “Muslim jihadists” who resort to acts of terror to harm people, thereby undermining the image of Islam.

Every time there is an act of terror committed by Muslim extremists, we hear strong condemnations by the non-Muslim leaders but somehow, the reactions from the moderate and civil-minded Muslim community leaders in general seem to be rather mute or even silent. This gives the false impression that they sympathise with the terrorists or are condoning their acts.

Herein lies the biggest challenge needed to counter Islamophobia.

It is not enough to rely mostly on non-Muslim leaders to openly condemn acts of terrorism by self-professed “Muslim jihadists” such as the IS. In fact, such a scenario would only reinforce the negative perception of Muslims.

Moderate Muslim leaders, either in the Muslim minority or Muslim majority countries, must do much more to speak out loudly and clearly and in unison against acts of terror anywhere in the world.

They must also play a more pro active and pre-emptive role in educating Muslim youths about the evils of extremism and terrorism.

They must constantly remind Muslims that it is wrong, unjust and anti-Islamic (saying “un-Islamic” is not strong enough) to harm, kill or massacre innocent people who play no role in oppressing the Palestinians or other Muslims.

Islam is a religion of peace, justice and compassion and no Muslim extremists should be allowed to hijack and/or defame the good name of Islam.

The writer is a friend and supporter of all oppressed people, especially the Muslims in Israel, occupied territories and in many other countries where they are the minority. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com

Trying times for Trump. Will he be able to wriggle his way out of the 'Russian scandal'?

Trying times for Trump. Will he be able to wriggle his way out of the ‘Russian scandal’?

THERE is a saying that “pride comes before a fall” but in US President Donald Trump’s case it is more about his “super arrogance”. So if, or rather when, he falls it would be a very hard and heavy one.

In my two recent articles in February about the new US president just after his inauguration, all the signs about his arrogant outlook and politics were already there. Without hesitation, he took on three of the most influential US institutions – the intelligence community, media and the judiciary. This might be his biggest mistake.

Trump made scornful remarks against the intelligence community, before and after the 2016 election, when they came out to reveal that the Russian government directed the cyber-attacks and hacking to interfere with the US election process.

One of his first acts as president confirmed that he was one of the biggest promoters of Islamophobia with his travel ban on seven selected Muslim-majority countries, which was overturned by the judiciary. Even his revised second travel ban was also stopped by the judiciary on legal grounds. He made disparaging remarks against the judges involved and also against the media for portraying him in a bad light.

Then he committed another unfriendly, anti-Muslim and pro-Israeli act, when during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Feb 15, he criticised the UN-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Paris in January, dismissed the two-state solution (which the Palestinians have already compromised much for the sake of peace) and only pleaded gently with the Israeli prime minister instead of condemning him on the illegal settlements (more like daylight robbery) by Israelis on Palestinian land in the West Bank. Only last month, a UN agency came out with a report accusing Israel for practising apartheid against the Palestinian people.

The ordinary, moderate and peace-loving Muslims and the rest of the civilised world would have no problem at all if Trump takes a more aggressive position to fight and eliminate the Islamic extremists and the likes of IS, which the US was partly responsible for creating in the first place. But for Trump to treat and target ordinary Muslims as extremists or potential terrorists and use them as scapegoats, like what Hitler did with the Jews, is grossly unjust and inexcusable.

Trump has already alienated Muslims and other minorities such as Afro-Americans and Hispanics, and he has also offended women with his sexist remarks even before he was elected.

He continues to attack the US news media every time they legitimately question or criticise him as a top public official, even accusing them of spreading “fake news”.

Last month, he also insinuated that the intelligence agencies wire-tapped his Trump Tower on orders from former president Barack Obama during the 2016 election. This has now been proven to be totally untrue and could have been a diversionary tactic.

Since the failure of his healthcare bill last month to replace Obamacare, his biggest legislative setback so far, he has blamed and even threatened members of his own Republican Party who did not support his bill.

He seems to be offending more groups unnecessarily. One wonders how far he would go to alienate more groups before “someone dares to tell the emperor that he has no clothes”. Perhaps his charming daughter Ivanka would do so.

However, the biggest challenge today to Trump is about the “Russia scandal” allegations, that his aides and election campaign managers, wittingly or unwittingly, had inappropriate ties with Russia, still the number one adversary of the US. There is evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and may be involved in other ways (being investigated now), which may compromise US security.

The scandal started off with allegations that Russian intelligence was hacking into the Democratic Party email system to discredit Hilary Clinton and favour Trump in the election but the current investigation by the FBI is expanding into an integrated analysis on how the entire administration may have been compromised.

The chips started to fall when his own National Security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign on Feb 13 for misleading Vice-President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US, even before Trump took over as president.

More revelations are coming out on the communications between his campaign managers, White House officials, including his son-in-law and senior adviser (Jared Kushner) and Russian officials or agents. Senior past and present White House officials, including Flynn, are now prepared to testify before Congress in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The “White House of Cards” may be crumbling under severe pressure from these extremely serious allegations about the likelihood of the president’s men “working with the enemy”, with or without his knowledge.

The FBI, which is investigating these allegations, will leave no stone unturned and report the findings to Congress. No sitting president would be allowed to interfere in such an investigation and the case is leaning more towards a major security and intelligence scandal, even if Donald Trump is not personally implicated.

Perhaps the powerful FBI director James Comey knew what was coming when, just about a week before the polling in the 2016 election, he revealed some additional vague information on the so-called “email scandal” involving Hilary Clinton when she was secretary of state, which appeared to be damaging to her, but he then decided not to further pursue it after (expectedly) getting a storm of protests from Clinton, her aides and supporters.

Comey, as a true US patriot, might have reasons to believe that Trump would win the election anyway and he might also have reasons to believe then that the new Trump administration might be compromised somehow. So Comey acted against Hilary Clinton in a seemingly damaging manner (but perhaps believing that his actions would not affect the election outcome anyway). Today, if he were to report and act against the president and/or his officials, he would not be accused of being biased or unfair.

Would Trump be able to wriggle his way out of the “Russia scandal”? If he can, many people, including his opponents, would certainly take the hat out for him.

However, it would be most discomforting for global stability and security if the FBI investigation concludes that the administration of the commander-in-chief of the most powerful country in the world has been significantly compromised by its main adversary.

I have predicted, with good reasons, in my two previous articles about Trump not being able to survive a full term of office and some readers had taken me to task for suggesting it. We shall see, hopefully soon, if my prognosis will hold water.

The writer, a political analyst based in Kuala Lumpur, believes that Trump’s arrogance and living in denial would lead to his downfall. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com

LESSONS FROM LA LA LAND

Posted: March 18, 2017 in Uncategorized
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WHEN I heard and read about the raving reviews and the outstanding film awards for the latest and probably best musical blockbuster from Hollywood, and as a music lover myself, I had to see it, no matter how busy I was.

It was a fun, entertaining and well-choreographed show, the music was superb and the scenes were so innocently and politely romantic, all done in good taste, even for more conservative audiences.

In the “City of Stars” (also the name of the theme song), also known as La La Land (name of the film) or Los Angeles, the Hollywood city known for “destroying hopes and breaking hearts”, Boy (Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician) meets Girl (Mia, an aspiring actress) in a number of coincidental events and after a series of humorous hiccups, fall in love with each other.

Both are idealistic and broke but manage to earn a living to support their simple lifestyle while working towards their dreams, for Sebastian to own a jazz club and Mia to become a successful actress.

It is an uphill struggle for both, but Sebastian gets an early break when he joins a band and has to tour with it. A depressed Mia, who is not getting the breaks that she needed, is not in favour of Sebastian taking on this new role. She is not keen to join the tour and she dislikes not having him around.

Sebastian loves Mia deeply and wants to help her get a breakthrough to become a successful actress. When a casting director, whom Sebastian knows, is looking for an actress to play an important role for a film production in Paris, a reluctant Mia is coaxed by Sebastian to go for the audition.

She succeeds in the audition and they part, while professing their love for each other but with a still uncertain future.

Then the film fast forwards five years; Mia has achieved her dream of becoming a successful actress and comes back to La La Land. She is happily married to another man with whom she has a daughter. One night, she and her husband unwittingly end up in a jazz bar and she soon discovers that it belongs to Sebastian. So he had also achieved his dream.

When Sebastian takes the stage to play the piano he spots Mia in the crowd and both are pensive.

Sebastian begins to play their love theme, prompting the two to imagine “what could have been” if everything went their way and they ended up together as a couple.

When the song ends, Mia feels she has to leave before emotions surface. Before departing, she takes one last look at Sebastian and they both give an approving nod but with a sad smile to each other. The ending scene is the most touching moment of all.

Besides the beautiful romance, music and great acting, what are the important lessons of life from the film?

The first lesson is that, like Sebastian and Mia, we must have our own dreams in life. Believe in our dreams but be realistic and stay focused on what we want to do.

The second lesson is that whatever our dreams, we must be prepared to face obstacles and even sacrifices like what Sebastian and Mia did.

The third lesson is that whatever the outcome, based on our own decisions and actions, we must take full responsibility for it and not blame others for it. Even in the ending scene, there was a clear acknowledgement from both Sebastian and Mia, that, much as they were both sad for not ending up together, they accepted the full responsibility of what they had decided to do earlier. As the saying goes “you made your bed, you lie on it”.

The fourth lesson from the film is that, often in life, not everything is as bad as it seems. Perceived rejections or failures can actually be blessings in disguise. Even though Sebastian and Mia did not end up as a couple, they were both doing well in their life, so it might have been fated that they did not end up as a couple. Maybe they were only meant for each other for a certain phase of their life.

Those of us who did not end up with a past lover may feel more melancholic and nostalgic as we often wonder how our life would have been if we had ended up with that person.

And the fifth, and probably the most important lesson of life from the film, is that often we cannot have everything the way we want in our life. Life seems to be full of trade-offs and compromises and while we are often given choices, usually, to get one aspect of what we want, we would have to give away another.

Both Sebastian and Mia felt their career was their priority and they even had to sacrifice their love for it. Not that they did not want to be a couple but they had to choose which came first. It might seem to be Sebastian’s “fault” for pushing Mia for the audition that resulted in her having to leave him for Paris, but it was a “price” that he was prepared to pay as he loved her unselfishly and wanted to give her the break she needed desperately.

Moving forward with our dreams, once we have decided what we want to achieve in our life, we must learn how to juggle the various demands. It can be considered a success if we are able to achieve 80% of what we set out to do.

To be able to achieve our dreams in today’s complex and competitive world, we must also learn to be good at adapting and adjusting to changes or change management. It is not about being fickle or flip-flopping but dealing with situations beyond your control.

It may be that we would need to change plans on our dreams if we are to face insurmountable obstacles. If that happens, it is time to think “beyond the wall” and with an innovative or creative mindset but we must stay honest to our ideals and principles.

The writer, a think-tank strategist, believes that good films are a very powerful medium to communicate important messages about life. Comments: kktan@thesundaily.com

I REFER to Constitutional grounds for temporary US travel ban (Letters, Feb 16) referring to How Trump’s politics affect us (Beyond the Wall, Feb 10).

The letter covers the technicalities of the US president having the constitutional power to commit the acts and has missed the whole point about my article. I am more interested in justice and the integrity of the US president.

It did not matter whether the ban was temporary or only covered seven Muslim majority countries, it’s about the morality, effectiveness (to prevent terrorism) and fairness of the order. The order did not prove anything about Trump’s sincerity in fighting terrorism.

On the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”, Trump has not shown any credible evidence that the immigration order against the seven countries can help to prevent terrorism in the US, in fact, most studies point to the opposite. Even most of the president’s own administration officials and his own intelligence agencies were against the order because it was unjust, racist and counter-productive.

I respect the democratic and check-and-balance system in the US, including a free press and an independent judiciary, to block their president, if necessary, from committing injustices. I would let the US legal system sort itself out.

The US government has been partly responsible for creating refugees by being involved in many modern-day wars and conflicts all over the world where millions of innocent people were also maimed and killed.

Many independent analysts believe (with historical facts) that the US’ geo-political involvements in Afghanistan and the Middle East conflicts, including siding with Zionist Israel against the Palestinian people, were also partly responsible for the creation of Al Qaeda and IS.

My past articles have also explained the situation and I have commended peace-loving, neutral (not involved in creating the Syrian refugee crisis) and anti-terrorism Germany for taking in more than a million Syrian refugees when despotic Arab countries and now the new US president have shunned them.

God bless America and the rest of the world.

K.K. Tan