Uncle Sam to the Rescue? The Political Impact of American Involvement in ASEAN Security and Political Issues in the Wake of 9/11

  • Farish A. Noor
Part of the The CERI Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (CERI)


Political realities are just as much the result of discursive activity as they are rooted in concrete facts and figures. This fact was demonstrated most explicitly in the discursive and ideological acrobatics performed by the leaders of Western and Southeast Asian countries in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America on September 11, 2001. To bring home the reality of the events that took place thousands of miles away, the Kuala Lumpur Commercial Centre (KLCC) twin towers in Malaysia were evacuated the following day, after a bomb scare that came just as Malaysians were coming to terms with the loss of Malaysian workers who were lost or killed in the New York attacks. The form and content of Malaysian political discourse was subsequently altered on the basis of a simple rumor.


Central Intelligence Agency American Government Muslim Minority Structural Adjustment Policy American Troop 
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  1. 1.
    On the same day (October 8) that the United States invaded Afghanistan, the leaders of PAS came out with their strongest statement against the Americans yet. For the Murshid’ul Am (spiritual leader) of PAS, Tuan Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the attack on Afghanistan was clearly an attack on Islam and Muslims in general. Speaking out in defence of the Taliban government, he claimed that: “The US hates the Taliban because the latter is firmly committed to upholding Islamic values. Osama bin Laden is just an excuse for the US, which has time and again shown its hostility towards Islam, to wage war against the religion,” Mohd Irfan Isa, Osama an Excuse to Wage War against Islam: Nik Aziz (, October 10, 2001). PAS’s (then) president Ustaz Fadzil Noor also stated that the attacks were not only against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime but that they constituted a direct assault on Muslims the world over. Speaking to local and foreign journalists in a press conference of his own, Fadzil Noor said that “America has attacked a small and defenceless country like Afghanistan without showing the world strong reason or proof, (and) they are war criminals,” US Embassy under Guard, PAS Labels AmericansWar Criminals” (, October 8, 2001). He then added: “If the Americans are really waging a war against terrorism, why don’t they attack Israel, who are terrorists against the Palestinians?” (ibid.) The President of the Islamist party ended the interview with a clarion call to arms when he stated that: “all Muslims must oppose these criminals—this time, there is no denying a call for Jihad.” (Ibid.)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Tong Yee Siong, US Thanks Mahathir for Support, Understands Malaysia’s Dilemma (, October 15, 2001). At a special press conference held in Kuala Lumpur, the U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick stated that the United States “respects Malaysia for all the internal challenges and tensions it has to deal with, which makes its support more meaningful.” He also denied that the Mahathir government’s objection to the U.S. air strike on Afghanistan could jeopardize the countries’ bilateral trade: “Our trade ties are based on close economic relationship. The support we received in many areas will only strengthen the nature of our relationship.” He added that “I don’t see any negative variety [of views] in there. The difference of views is understandable.”Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See Rohan Gunaratna, Inside al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (London: Hurst and Co., 2002).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    See Farish A. Noor, Fighting Demons of Their Own Making, in, July 6, 2002.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Robert J. McMahon, The Limits of Empire: The United States and Southeast Asia Since World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Robert J. McMahon, The Limits of Empire: The United States and Southeast Asia Since World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), p. 85.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    For a more detailed account of the development of American policy toward the Moros, see Thomas C. McKenna, “Appreciating Islam in the Muslim Philippines,” in Islam in the Age of Nation-States, edited by Hefner and Horvatich (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 48–67.Google Scholar
  8. 21.
    William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995), p. 41.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    See Edward G. Landsdale, In the Midst of Wars (New York, 1972); Blum, Killing Hope. Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    See Mohd Irfan Isa, Osama—an Excuse to Wage War against Islam: Nik Aziz (, October 10, 2001).Google Scholar
  11. 29.
    See Tong Yee Siong, Mahfuz Wants Gov’t to Provide Military Aid to Taliban (, October 11, 2001).Google Scholar
  12. 33.
    Quoted in BBC, US Pleases Troops for Philippines, May 19, 2003 (BBC world service— Scholar
  13. 35.
    See BBC, US Pledges Troops for Philippines, May 19, 2003 (BBC world service— Scholar
  14. 36.
    See BBC, Schools Torched in Aceh Conflict, May 20, 2003 (BBC world service— Scholar

Copyright information

© Tony Judt and Denis Lacorne 2005

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  • Farish A. Noor

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