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.