Hortatory Jose

Over the last decade or so, the Nobel Peace Prize has thrown up some dubiously worthy (at best) Laureates, including former US President Jimmy Carter, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and, of all people, Yasser Arafat. I suppose at least they didn’t present the Nobel to Osama Bin Laden, so we should be thankful for small mercies.

However, even a bunch of confused Norwegians occasionally get it right, and one of the most undeniably distinguished Laureates is 1996 co-winner (along with Bishop Carlos Bello) Jose Ramos-Horta, Foreign Minister of Timor Leste. In this morning’s Australian, Horta again deploys the courage he showed in leading his people’s long resistance to Indonesian thuggery, and stands up against the nonsense being spouted by the politically-correct brigade about Iraq:

As a Nobel Peace laureate, I, like most people, agonise over the use of force. But when it comes to rescuing an innocent people from tyranny or genocide, I’ve never questioned the justification for resorting to force. That’s why I supported Vietnam’s 1978 invasion of Cambodia, which ended Pol Pot’s regime, and Tanzania’s invasion of Uganda in 1979, to oust Idi Amin. In both cases, those countries acted without UN or international approval — and in both cases they were right to do so.

Perhaps the French have forgotten how they, too, toppled one of the worst human-rights violators without UN approval. I applauded in the early ’80s when French paratroopers landed in the dilapidated capital of the then Central African Empire and deposed “Emperor” Jean-Bedel Bokassa, renowned for cannibalism.

Almost two decades later, I applauded again as NATO intervened — without a UN mandate — to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and liberate an oppressed European Muslim community from Serbian tyranny. And I rejoiced once more in 2001 after the US-led overthrow of the Taliban liberated Afghanistan from one of the world’s most barbaric regimes.

So why do some think Iraq should be any different? Only a year after his overthrow, they seem to have forgotten how hundreds of thousands perished during Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, under a regime whose hallmark was terror, summary execution, torture and rape. Forgotten, too, is how the Kurds and Iraq’s neighbours lived each day in fear, so long as Saddam remained in power.

None of this negates the longer-term need (discussed in my post yesterday) for the international community to devise a workable normative basis for humanitarian-motivated military interventions that breach normal principles of national sovereignty, but Horta’s article does serve as a salutary reminder that this is anything but a mere abstract intellectual issue of international law. It also reminds us that it isn’t only Right Wing Death Beasts who continue to support the liberation of Iraq, despite increasing concerns about some aspects of US behaviour.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Jock
2022 years ago

Horta gives a convincing argument that should be given serious consideration, given his respected reputation. He realises that despite all the crap that the Bush Administration has pumped out about Iraq, the Iraqi people are still worth saving. It’s the ultimate pragmatic position, ignoring the distractions of what has gone before and standing firm on what really matters.

zoot
zoot
2022 years ago

It is indeed a convincing argument. Why is it not being used in regard to North Korea, Zimbabwe and Burma (to name just three). Why are only the Iraqi people worth saving?

snuh
snuh
2022 years ago

for god’s sake, stop saying “politically correct”. intellectually speaking, it’s extraordinarily sloppy.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“for god’s sake, stop saying “politically correct”. intellectually speaking, it’s extraordinarily sloppy.’

I’d say that “politically correct’ has hit the spot with you snuh. I understand it to mean an insistence on using a language that prioritises PoMo perceptions of an idealised reality over perceptions of how reality actually is. And the only “intellectually sloppy” aspect to the current discourse that I can detect is your dangerously pretentious insistence that there is one.

David
2022 years ago

“So why do some think Iraq should be any different?”

Well, perhaps because rescuing innocent people from tyranny or genocide was really an also-ran justification for intervention rather than the key reason.

snuh
snuh
2022 years ago

“I understand it to mean an insistence on using a language that prioritises PoMo perceptions of an idealised reality over perceptions of how reality actually is.”

i have literally no idea what this means.

i say that the overuse of “politically correct” is sloppy on account of the term usually being used in an epithetic sense, as it is here.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

Well, perhaps because rescuing innocent people from tyranny or genocide was really an also-ran justification for intervention rather than the key reason.

Another PoMo arguement; action is taken and those predisposed to do start questioning motives. Not always relevant, and this is one of those times.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

Whoops (see above), one of those times when it isn’t relevant.

David
2022 years ago

James, you don’t explain why you think that the motive for US / coalition of the willing intervention in Iraq was not relevant. In any case the US was quite vocal about motives *before* the action was taken, and it was as much then as after the action that people questioned the motives. Are you saying that the debate was irrelevant, that provided advancement of human rights was likely to be one of the outcomes, the justification provided by the US and the arguments against made by others was all irrelevant? How long does this motive vacuum last and when does it start? Would it expire if a year from now Iraq descends into something close to or worse than the previous regime? Would we then be allowed to ask whether such a fall could have been avoided if further effort had been given to gaining broader international (including UN) support?