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.