Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf was better known as Baghdad Bob and sometimes as Comical Ali, a humorous play on the name of his more sinister Iraqi colleague, Chemical Ali.
|Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf|
Baghdad Bob was notorious for his nonsensical press releases and propaganda under the Saddam Hussein regime, so much so he actually earned several laughs from his American enemies who looked at him or rather his press releases with humorous enjoyment.
|artefact of Mesopotamia|
Yet what he said in the above quote about Iraqi civilization pre-dating that in the West (Britain and the USA) was correct but of course not regarded seriously and sadly, considered as a joke, as one of his outrageous nonsense.
|ziggurat of Sumeria|
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf had so discredited himself that no one believed him when he spoke the truth, somewhat like the boy who cried wolf too many times.
Today when I read Malaysiakini's 'Progressives must use religion to counter ulama', an advice from Dr Mahathir Mohamad for those wanting to counter or challenge the conservative ulamas on the latter's extreme values, I felt somewhat saddened by the (interactive) comments of the majority of Malaysiakini readers who failed or refused to see the value of his advice, but instead took to disparaging and abusing him, with some on totally tangential issues.
Only one correctly pointed out (perhaps grudgingly) that Dr Mahathir does at times makes sense. Please add me as another who accepted his advice, as reported in the Malaysiakini article above, as relevant.
The automatic and very lamentable feral reactions to any of his advices, without even evaluating their individual worth, is a reflection of the bitter acrimonious and extreme partisanship existing within our Malaysian political landscape, ironically in large part contributed by Dr Mahathir himself.
Like Baghdad Bob, Dr Mahathir is no longer believed by many Malaysians. Unlike Baghdad Bob, Dr Mahathir (or his pronouncement) is not viewed with humour (but instead hatred) by the same crowd.
And he only has himself to blame for his lack of credibility, diminishing each day in tandem to his more and more outlandish remarks.
Some of his ridiculous nonsense have been aired in:
(i) Malaysiakini's Dr M: Soros wants to install puppet as PM, and
The Malaysian Insider's Dr M takes a swipe at ‘ungrateful’ Malays, warns of fate under PR rule
Outlandish like Baghdad Bob's nonsense?
I would say Dr Mahathir's are worse. For example, in the latter article by The Malaysian Insider, Dr Mahathir claimed that during British colonial days "... the Malays were only allowed to take on menial labour jobs and were made into drivers and orderlies or clerks and office-boys at most. There were assumed to be incapable of holding any responsibility. The Chinese and the Indians were even brought into the country to solve this problem of the Malays being stupid and incompetent ..."
Regrettably he failed or chose not to explain that the Malays in general (a) disliked the Pommie colonialists and had no desire to work with or for them, (b) owned land to work on and saw no necessity to seek employment with the Poms, ...
|Malay padi fields|
... or that the Chinese came to Malaya on their own (not brought in by the Brits) to seek their fortune, while the Indians were part of the Raj (British Indian) heritage where the colonialists had both access to as well as experience in using Indian labour, either in administrative or menial jobs.
Then he provided a one-sided perspective on the the treatment by Japanese military during the Japanese occupation of Malaya, where Malays even lost their lowly office jobs (held under the British) and were forced to become petty roadside traders selling goods like bananas.
Now, hasn't that been just naughty? Did the Chinese and Indians manage to keep their British provided jobs? Almost every Chinese were on the run as war refugees because they were the occupiers' bête noires, the race most disliked by the Japanese. My family ran off to Balik Pulau via (then) jungle tracks over the Ayer Itam - Balik Pulau hills and hid in a relative's chicken farm in Balik Pulau, abandoning and losing everything they owned in Georgetown.
Until the Brits reoccupied Penang, they lived for years in a shed meant for fowls, completed with chicken poo. One of my aunties, then newly born and unable to eat any solid, survived only on the fluid of rice gruel for more than a week, becoming weaker and weaker each day in front of her terrified mum's eyes. Her mum could not produce enough milk for her. I suppose her mum's daily prayers to her gods must have worked.
It must also be said that the US nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in the Jap Emperor's total capitulation (and unconditional surrender) to the Americans, saved my family from being 'collateral damage' to the naval bombardment of Penang by a mighty US-British fleet then amassing in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for an invasion of Malaya, Sumatra and Southern Thailand. The Japanese surrender negated the requirement for a forceful and damaging Normandy-like assault on Penang.
Additionally there was evidence that in general Malays collaborated with the Japanese invaders, not because they were quislings or traitors but because unlike the Chinese, they saw the Japanese as 'friends' for driving out the colonialist Poms - the old equation of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. Bearing in mind those times were during pre-independent Malaya, the Chinese reacted differently to the Malays because of their ethnic allegiance to China and the Japanese atrocities there, explaining why the Japs were particularly cruel to Chinese in Malaya and Singapore.
Alas, Dr Mahathir wanted to monopolise Malayan sufferings under the Japanese for only Malays when the reverse was true - a totally unhumorous Baghdad-Bob-ish nonsense.
Somewhat like the Old World’s fatalistic Jews who believed in their divine-ordained sufferings, Dr Mahathir continued with his attempt to corner all sufferings during Japanese occupation for Malays, narrating that when Malays “… failed to bow their heads low when walking by a Japanese soldier they would be forced to balance large chunks of rocks on their heads and shoulders until they would collapse from dizziness, or that they (the Malays) would be ordered to climb tall coconut trees to get the fruits for these Japanese soldiers, where on failing to achieve that, would be slapped and would have to crouch to seek forgiveness …”.
Ask any Chinese from that time or those who have or had parents or grandparents living under Japanese occupation to appreciate (only an iota of) their fears, sufferings and tormented lives in those dark days. Being slapped by the Japs would by comparison be like a Sunday school picnic.
It's sad that despite 22 years as Malaysia's PM, Dr Mahathir has today totally discredited himself in the eyes of many Malaysians principally because of his recent outrageous political comments, because what he had said in Malaysiakini's 'Progressives must use religion to counter ulama' has been really sound advice but alas, now automatically disregarded with scorn and derision by many.
Not quite Baghdad Bob but perhaps in some ways even worse.