Mahathir Backs Militants


Kuala Lumpur: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad urged Iraqi insurgents yesterday to make the United States “pay a very high price” for its occupation of Iraq.

In his most provocative public remarks on the Iraq war yet, Mahathir said he wanted to “congratulate the Iraqi resistance” for successfully turning public opinion against US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“Make sure that the Americans will pay a very high price for their adventure,” Mahathir said at an international anti-war conference in Kuala Lumpur.

“Unfortunately, you may have to kill a lot of Americans. When the coffins go back, when the body bags are carried back to America, it will help the Americans to change their minds,” Mahathir said to loud applause from 1,500 activists.

Strong critic Mahathir, long known for his strident criticism of Western countries, said American soldiers will go to Iraq “and many of them are going to die. They are going to go back in their coffins.”

“If President Bush is willing to lead his army, but from the front, then by all means let’s all go to war,” he said. “But since he’s not going to do that, I think we should strive with all our might to spread the new faith, the new belief that war is not an option, war is not a way of settling any dispute.”

War crimes tribunal

Mahathir spoke after launching a tribunal that plans to hold trials based on complaints by Iraqis and Palestinians against world leaders including Bush, Blair, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Israeli ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, which opened with a preliminary meeting, does not have the legal authority of an international organisation and cannot impose penalties, but its main aim is to condemn leaders in history books, Mahathir said.