Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Jose Ramos-Horta on Iraq

Unlike most pundits, this one know the horror of living under tyranny, he also knows the sweet tatse of freedom and democracy. Jose Ramos-Horta was the receipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 1996. In the recent article in the Asian Wall Street Journal (October 17, 2005), he offered his thought on Iraq.
U.S. Soldiers Are The Real Heroes In Iraq
By Jose Ramos-Horta

Time and again as I watch the barbarity inflicted on innocent Iraqi civilians, often women and children, pass with seeming silence and indifference from the rest of the world, I ask where are those who are so quick to take to the streets to protest every alleged U.S. sin -- be it real or imaginary? If they are so appalled at the graphic photos showing the depraved acts committed by a small number of American servicemen -- photos that, never let it be forgotten, were unearthed as a result of the U.S. Army's own investigation -- surely they should be even more appalled by the daily carnage inflicted on the Shia majority in Iraq. Instead, those who hate the U.S. seem to believe that every wrong committed by an American serviceman must not only be loudly condemned but portrayed as a deliberate act by the U.S. government, while the systematic and daily barbarities perpetrated predominantly by Sunni Muslims upon their fellow Muslims pass without comment.

Such hypocrisy and unwarranted attacks increase the pressure on the U.S. to cut and run from Iraq. In the face of a mounting death toll and growing financial burden, it's understandable that some have begun to have doubts about whether America should continue to send its brave young soldiers to die in a battle so far away.

To those who harbor such doubts, I say remember the lessons of history. In Lebanon in the 1980s under a Republic Administration and Somalia in the 1990s under a Democratic Administration, the U.S. retreated in the face of American casualties. As a result, both countries fell into the grip of terrorists -- a state from which it took Lebanon many long years to emerge, while Somalia still remains mired in lawlessness. Any such instance of the superpower vacillation emboldens its sworn enemies, while causing anxiety among its friends. And Lebanon and Somalia are but small dots when compared with the vital strategic importance of Iraq.

Retreat is not a viable option for the costs would be far too high for U.S. vital interests in the Middle East and the world as a whole. Iraq would inevitably descend into a Somalia-like failed state with dire implications for its neighbors. Oil prices would skyrocket, bankrupting many non-oil producing countries, and triggering recessions in industrialized economies.

In addition to such strategic considerations, there is the moral and ethical dimension of betraying the Shia majority and all those, Kurdish and Sunni democrats who have put so much faith in the U.S. and in the international community to stand with them in their struggle for a secular and democratic Iraq. The Shia leadership, in particular, have shown enormous restraint in the face of daily provocations and attacks, as they struggle to grasp this historic opportunity to overcome many centuries of oppression by the Sunni minority.

All these are reasons why it is in the world's interests to see the U.S. stay the course. But other countries also have a part to play. In particular, Iraq's neighbors need to do far more to prevent their territory from being used as a training ground, safe heaven and transit route for mercenaries and weapons. For all Syria and Iran's denials of actively aiding the extremists in Iraq, at the very least they are not doing enough to assist the democratic government in Baghdad win the battle against the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam Hussein.

Europe too has a role to play. It is a great relief that the acrimonious trans-Atlantic tirades over Iraq have given way to a far healthier discussion on how best to assist the Iraqis. Many Europeans remain critical of U.S. policies, and there are some who are never prepared to accept that America can do anything good. But there are many more whom are realistic enough to accept that there is no substitute for the U.S. as a guarantor of international peace. They understand full well that America provides a vital security umbrella and strategic balance, especially in areas of the world where regional rivalries could easily escalate into open conflict without the stability provided by a U.S. presence.

For all the present violence, in a few years Iraq could easily evolve into a peaceful and democratic country. Whether that transpires ultimately rests in the hands of the millions of Iraqis who defied the terrorists by bravely turning out to vote earlier this year. But they cannot succeed if they are abandoned. And the brave, young American soldiers whom we today see cruising the treacherous streets of Iraq, sometimes battling the terrorists, sometimes conversing with ordinary Iraqis, will be remembered as the heroes who made this possible.


Blogger Pedro said...

I went to see Ramos-Horta speak back in 1998, alongside several other Peace Prize winners. I didn't know much about East Timor back then, but I know that Ramos-Horta struck me as different, because, unlike Jody Williams (the 1997 winner), he seemed more interested in REAL results and REAL peace, not just making meaningless overtures that sound good to UN and pacifist types.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Thang D. Nguyen said...

Unfortunately, you, like many others, do not see the real, ugly color of Ramos-Horta! How can you not see that he is a dirty brown-nose who is kissing Bush's ass in return for money?

Here is my opinion on the piece of shit that he wrote last month in the AWSJ. You can see my comment in the Jakarta Post tomorrow, too.

Enjoy reading, and I hope it will open your eyes!

Ramos-Horta: A Shameful Nobel Laureate!

By Thang D. Nguyen

JAKARTA—Jesus Christ had to choose only 12 disciples, but he made a fatal mistake when chose Judas, who betrayed him in the end.

In 1996, the Nobel Prize Committee made a similar mistake when it awarded one half of the Nobel Peace Prize—the highest honor in the world—to Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor’s senior minister for foreign affairs and cooperation. The other half of the prize went to his fellow countryman, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, "for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor".

Since he got the Nobel Prize, Mr. Ramos-Horta has gained respect from around the world as a champion of peace in East Timor, which became the world’s youngest nation in 2002, following a UN-sanctioned referendum in 1999 that led to its independence from Indonesia.

But his true color as a war-lover, not a peace-maker, came out on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq two years ago.

Mr. Ramos-Horta has since written several articles in defense of the Iraq War. In his latest one, recently published in The Asian Wall Street Journal, he argued against a US withdrawal, calling US soldiers “the real heroes in Iraq”.

As a student of peace studies, Mr. Ramos-Horta probably bases his defense of the US invasion of Iraq on an international relations theory called “just war”. In a nutshell, the just war theory holds that it is morally and legally acceptable to use armed forces as in a war if its causes are justifiable or just.

Examples of both just and unjust wars are plenty. The attacks of the Allies against Hitler’s Germany in World War II, for example, made it a just war because a failure to do so would result in billions of innocent deaths, and Fascism, or totalitarianism, would prevail.

In contrast, the US invasion of Iraq is an unjust war. The pretext with which the Bush government took America to war in Iraq was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Former Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a presentation before the UN to claim that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and thereby justified the US attack.

Unfortunately, the presentation had been based on false and plagiarized information provided by British intelligence authorities; in fact, the British government later admitted that the report it had given to Mr. Powell came from a paper by an American academic—Mr. Ibrahim al-Marashi, a research associate at the Center for Non-proliferation Studies in Monterey, California.

Most important, however, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—which was recently chosen for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with its director, Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei—found that Saddam Hussein had no nukes!

What is more, the Bush administration tried to justify the Iraq War further by saying that, having taken Saddam Hussein out, it has saved the Iraqi people from living under tyranny or dictatorship. To be sure, he is no angel, but was his dictatorship enough to justify an invasion that looks increasingly like another Vietnam War?

And if Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was justifiable enough to go to war, why hasn’t the US gone to war with North Korea, which (by the way) claims to have WMDs, and taken its dictator Kim Jong-Il out?

And, for that matter, why hasn’t the US gone to war with Myanmar to change its junta regime, which has been oppressing its people for decades, and thereby save the Nobel peace Prize laureate and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi?

Or is it because neither North Korea nor Myanmar has oil?

It is sad that the very beneficiary of the Iraq war is no one other than corporate America, namely the defense, energy, and construction industries. Their profit comes at the expense of both Americans and Iraqis who have died thus far in Iraq as well as US taxpayers back home.

So, there is nothing just about the Iraq War; it is neither justifiable nor justified.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ramos-Horta defends it shamelessly.

Is it, perhaps, because he is trying to please the White House in hope for financial support with which to build his newly independent country?

Lest he forgets, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 with support of and advice from—you guessed it—the US.

Whatever his rationale for defending the Iraq War may be, Mr. Ramos-Horta has shown himself to be an undeserving, shameful Nobel laureate.

The Nobel Peace Prize was established to honor those who honor peace and denounce war. Unfortunately, Mr. Ramos-Horta is not one of them and, thus, he should give it back!

Mr. Thang D. Nguyen is a Jakarta-based columnist, whose writing can be read at http://thangthecolumnist.blogspot.com.

8:22 PM  
Blogger tim said...

Thang Nguyen is so right! What a disgrace, for the minister of a little country that has the fight against imperialism and colonialism embedded in its national anthem, to support that genocidal war of aggression against the Iraqi people! And pupet governbments equal democracy - let's hope the East Timorese don't ever have to experience Ramos Horta as PM.
Tim Anderson, Sydney Australia

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Tim, your denunciation of the Iraq Occupation as a "genocidal war" conveniantly ignores the fact that the vast majority of civilian deaths were caused by the same Iraqi insurgents that the US is fighting. For example, the insurgents repeatedly hit the Haditha pet market with suicide bombers, killing nearly two hundred people per attempt. And you want the US to leave the country and let these fundamentalists tear it apart? That would be genocidal.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

calling the Iraq War a war for resources is also faulty because the group benefiting the most from Iraqi oil is the Iraqi government, which has used the competition to demand massive price hikes from interested comapnies (including several from Russia and China).

It is also faulty because the unstable country with the most valuable deposit of natural resources is not Iraq, but the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which contains, in addition to a nonfunctioning government, 80% of the world's supply of coltan, a resource significantly more valuable than oil (for those that don't know, coltan is essential to the production of virtually every electronic gadget from TVs to Xboxes). The COngo also has large supplies of diamonds, gold, and cobalt.

In conclusion, was the Iraq War misguided: yes. But for resources? No.

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