Former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was interviewed by Yvonne Ridley of U.K.'s Islam (TV) Channel, on August 23. Yvonne is former Sunday Express journalist who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and who converted to Islam after her release.
Yvonne Ridley is well known in the Muslim world for her outspoken views and defence of Islam. She endeared herself to the Muslim community in Britain when she reverted to Islam 30 months after making international headlines when she was captured by the Taliban on an undercover assignment in Afghanistan.
According to Islam Channel, its vision is to present the "Islamic perspective" and act "as an interface between Muslims and non-Muslims to remove the misconceptions people have about Islam." The channel also intends to be "the world's choice among international broadcasters for authoritative and impartial Islamic information" and to target the English-speaking Muslim community in the UK, which it states is 1.5 million in number.
The following are excerpts from the interview courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
On the United States.
Dr Mahathir: "What enabled the Israelis to do what they are doing now is the United States, so the main culprit is the United States, in particular the present government of the United States. I wouldn't blame all the Americans. A lot of Americans do not like this war, but their leadership advocates war, as a solution - not only to major problems, (but) even (to) minor problems - we have to kill people. These are really war criminals. That is why we think that something has to be done against the United States."
Yvonne Ridley: "What can you do against the United States? It's a very big country, and it has an arsenal of weapons greater than the next 27 collective armies?"
Dr Mahathir: "Yes, there is of course, to this thing. When you do something to the United States they are going to retaliate. But the United States is not as powerful as it's made out to be. It is, for example, a bankrupt nation. It owes the world $14 trillion, and it is truly able to finance itself and the war and the supply of arms to Israel, through the money that is lent to the United States by rich countries, some of which are Muslim countries. And if you stop using U.S. dollar ... Even if you want to sell oil, you can continue to sell oil, but insist on being paid in euros, or yen, or whatever ... If you do that, then the U.S. dollar will not be half the value that it has today, and if it doesn't have the value that it has today, it cannot spend money producing arms and supporting aggressive actions by the israelis."
Yvonne Ridley: "So do you really think that there are Arab leaders who, if they had the will to change currency, that they could bring America to its knees?"
Dr Mahathir: "There may not be anybody who is willing to be high profile in this matter, but they can do this quietly. There are ways of doing this which would be just as effective, not sounding very belligent."
On the United Nations
"The U.N. was set up by powerful countries, and the powerful countries consider the U.N. as their instrument, and the most powerful of all is, of course, the United States. The U.N. cannot make any decision unless the United States sanctions it. So the U.N. is not the U.N. anymore. It is just an extension of the United States."
On Tony Blair
"Well, that's the poodle. He's a satellite of the U.S. He dances according to the tune played by the U.S. Britain is a third-rate power now. It has ... The only thing that it can (do) is to shine in the light of some other, more illustrious, country. So he wants to be close to the U.S., to have a little bit of his old greatness, but actually he is just doing the bidding of the U.S.."
Yvonne Ridley: "We had a bizarre scene recently where a microphone was switched on, in which the whole world could eavesdrop into the special relationship between george Bush and Tony Blair, and we heard the president of the United States, with a mouth full of food, yell: "Yo, Blair." And some ... There are those who felt that the way he spoke to Tony Blair was humiliating for the British prime minister. How did you view that scenario?"
Dr Mahathir: " I'm not surprised at all at the way that Bush treats blair, because Blair, actually, does everything that he is asked to do by Bush. I remember (former British foreign secretary) Jack Straw coming here (Kuala Lumpur) when I was prime minister, and I told Jack Straw that Britain should not be supporting the U.S. And Jack Straw told me: 'No, we are there to try and persuade the U.S.' In the end, it was they who were persuaded by the U.S. So, they think that they have influence, but actually, they have no influence."
On Secretary Rice
Yvonne Ridley: "During her visit to the region, she also dropped by in Kuala Lumpur, and performed a piano concerto in one of the capital's hotels in front of an appreciative audience. Were you there?"
Dr Mahathir: "I was not there."
Yvonne Ridley: "Were you invited?"
Dr Mahathir: "I was not invited."
Yvonne Ridley: "For someone who wants to see warmongers treated as social pariahs, how did you feel when you heard about her visit to Kuala Lumpur, and the way she was received?"
Dr Mahathir: "Apart from the fact that she is visiting Kuala Lumpur, not actually to visit Kuala Lumpur, but actually, to participate an international forum (Post ASEAN Ministerial Meeting), I wouldn't receive her at all. I wouldn't even shake her hands."