Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ramos-Horta: A disgrace to Nobel values!

The Jakarta Post
23 November 2005

By Thang D. Nguyen, Jakarta

In 1996, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded one half of the Nobel Peace Prize to Jose Ramos-Horta, who currently serves as East Timor's senior minister for foreign affairs and cooperation.

The other half of the prize went to his fellow countryman, then East Timor 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, 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.

Unfortunately, the Nobel Committee's decision to give Horta the peace prize has turned out to be a mistake: He likes war, not peace!

Nowhere else does he reveal his true color as a war-lover more clearly than his commentaries in which he defends the Iraq War.

In one article, published in The Asian Wall Street Journal on Oct. 17, he argued against a U.S. withdrawal, calling U.S. soldiers "the real heroes in Iraq".

As a student of peace studies, Mr. Ramos-Horta probably bases his defense of the U.S. 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 force, as in a war, if the cause is justifiable or just.

Examples of both just and unjust wars are plenty. The war waged by the Allies against Hitler's Germany in World War II, for example, was a just war as a failure to wage war would have resulted in the deaths of billions of innocent people, and Fascism, or totalitarianism, would have prevailed.

In contrast, the U.S. 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 U.S. attack.

Unfortunately, the presentation was 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 -- Ibrahim al-Marashi, a research associate at the Center for Non-proliferation Studies in Monterey, California.

Most importantly, however, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- which was recently awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with its director, Mohamed El Baradei -- 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 had saved the Iraqi people from living under tyranny and dictatorship. To be sure, Saddam was 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 good enough a reason to go to war, why hasn't the U.S. 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 U.S. gone to war with Myanmar to overthrow the 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?

Could it be because neither North Korea nor Myanmar has oil?

It is sad that the main beneficiary of the Iraq War is none other than corporate America, namely the defense, energy, and construction industries. Their profits comes at the expense of both the Americans and Iraqis who have died thus far in Iraq, as well as U.S. taxpayers back home.

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

Nevertheless, Ramos-Horta defends it shamelessly.

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

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

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

The writer is a Jakarta-based columnist.