Friday, May 14, 2004


José Ramos-Horta is the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in East Timor. Unlike too many Nobel Peace Prize winners, he actually deserved it, and he actually has the ability to think about the world, not simply react against America.

His Wall Street Journal op-ed from yesterday is brilliant. Sometimes, a War Saves People: We must be willing to bring the fight to those who would do evil contains a plea for Washington to give the U.N. a greater role in Iraq. Not everyone is convinced that will work, or that it is desirable. But Mr. Ramos-Horta's argument is much easier to accept, and to subject to serious consideration, for the sake of his common sense:

As a Nobel Peace laureate, I, like most people, agonize 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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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 U.S.-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 neighbors lived each day in fear, so long as Saddam remained in power.

... In almost 30 years of political life, I have supported the use of force on several occasions and sometimes wonder whether I am a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace prize. Certainly I am not in the same category as Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela. But Mr. Mandela, too, recognized the need to resort to violence in the struggle against white oppression. The consequences of doing nothing in the face of evil were demonstrated when the world did not stop the Rwandan genocide that killed almost a million people in 1994. Where were the peace protesters then? They were just as silent as they are today in the face of the barbaric behavior of religious fanatics.

Some may accuse me of being more of a warmonger than a Nobel laureate, but I stand ready to face my critics. It is always easier to say no to war, even at the price of appeasement. But being politically correct means leaving the innocent to suffer the world over, from Phnom Penh to Baghdad. And that is what those who would cut and run from Iraq risk doing.