APEC: Bush Cites Danger After Osama Tape
by Richard S. Ehrlich BANGKOK, Thailand - U.S. President George Bush said on Sunday (Oct. 19) Osama bin Laden's newest tape proves "there is still a danger," and thanked Thailand's military for sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hundreds of Thai civilians in a peaceful street protest, meanwhile, condemned Mr. Bush as "Mr. Imperialism" and demanded all U.S.-led forces withdraw from Iraq.
In an unusual coincidence, both Mr. Bush and Mr. bin Laden focused on their worldwide war against each other in the run-up to an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok which peaks on Oct. 20-21.
"The bin Laden tape should say to everybody the war on terror goes on, that there is still a danger for free nations and that free nations need to work together, more than ever, to share intelligence, cut off money and bring these potential killers or killers to justice," President Bush told journalists while sitting next to Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Sunday (Oct. 19).
In a separate statement, Mr. Bush told Thai troops not to listen to Mr. bin Laden or feel empathy for any terrorists.
"You must oppose the propaganda and hatred that feeds their cause," Mr. Bush said in a speech to Thai troops at the Royal Thai Army headquarters in Bangkok.
Mr. Bush was delighted with Bangkok for helping the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency capture an alleged senior Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali, during a raid in Thailand in August.
Mr. Bush's consideration of Thailand as a "major non-NATO ally," however, also coincided with Mr. bin Laden's broadcast against the U.S. president for "begging mercenaries from every corner of the world" to help the Pentagon.
"This begging has destroyed your [Mr. Bush's] pride and revealed how trivial and weak you are after claiming to defend the whole world," Mr. bin Laden said in a broadcast on Saturday (Oct. 18) translated by Qatar-based Al Jazeera television.
"He [Bush] is still following the mentality of his ancestors who killed the Native Americans to take their land and wealth," Mr. bin Laden said, referring to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Mr. bin Laden told U.S. troops: "You are spilling your blood to swell the bank accounts of the White House gang and their fellow arms dealers and the proprietors of great companies. And the greatest folly in life is to sell your life for the lives of others."
After arriving here on Saturday (Oct. 18), the U.S. president is to rub shoulders with 20 other Asia-Pacific leaders including Malaysia's prime minister, who warned on Saturday (Oct. 18) that Australian government officials could be arrested as "terrorists" in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Scorning Mr. Bush's description of Australia as an allied regional "sheriff", Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said: "I can assure Australia that if it acts as a sheriff in this country it will be treated as a terrorist and dealt with as a terrorist," The Australian newspaper reported on Sunday (Oct. 19).
Australia's opposition foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd said, "Mahathir's comments today are so extreme that it starts to become difficult to distinguish his statements from those of Osama bin Laden.
"An incitement to religious violence yesterday, followed by the description of Australia as a terrorist state today requires John Howard to use APEC in Bangkok to bring about comprehensive regional condemnation of this man."
In an interview with Mr. Bush before he embarked on his Asia trip, The Australian newspaper asked if he agreed with Australian Prime Minister John Howard's comment in 1999 that his nation was America's "deputy sheriff".
"No. We don't see it as a deputy sheriff. We see it as a sheriff," Mr. Bush replied.
In remarks which also disturbed some APEC leaders, Dr. Mahathir told an applauding, 57-nation Islamic conference on Oct. 17, "Today the Jews rule this world by proxy," and added, "1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews."
APEC, meanwhile, was also expected to consider Washington's currency dispute with Japan and China, plus America's problems with North Korea's nuclear aspirations and Southeast Asia's disagreement with U.S.-led sanctions against the military regime in Burma.
In a symbolic act which has raised eyebrows, an abandoned baby was nicknamed "Apec" after he was discovered unconscious in a garbage bag near a summit venue.
Thai police found the baby while patrolling an APEC motorcade route and named him accordingly, but the infant was in critical condition and fighting for its life on Sunday (Oct. 19) after being revived in a Bangkok hospital.
Mr. Bush is mid-way through his six-day, six-nation trip which included about 17 hours in Japan, eight hours in the Philippines and a planned three nights in Bangkok, followed by 15 hours in Singapore, three hours in Indonesia and 21 hours in Australia.
***** Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 25 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is