jwe21 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Sat Mar 1 13:53:41 MST 2003
I'm currently enrolled in a course at the local polytech in a class of 18. As far
as I can tell, all of them oppose a war in Iraq. But I was sitting with a few of
them yesterday and the subject of Ramos Horta' statement came up. I decided to
listen before giving my views and ended up without time to respond, but the
discussion went something like this:
Lee (middle class housewife) : I'm a pacifist so I absolutely oppose the war in
Iraq, but I saw an article by a guy from East Timor. It's the only pro war thing
I've read that I agreed with. It brought tears to my eyes.
Me: That's Jose Ramos Horta, I'll say something about him later.
Bruce (Polytech teacher and ex-Army Seargent Major) makes various statements
about how Ramos Horta makes sense. Bruce is a cynic. He opposes the war but has
quite colonialist ideas - Iraqis need a dictator to control tribalism etc.
Lee (who was in Saudi in the late 80s-early 90s: I was talking to an Iraqi woman
at the time of the Gulf War who said that. "You don't understand us", she said.
"We identify with our tribe, We need a strong leader".
The discussion continued with others at the table making similar observations.
None of these antiwar people objected to Western meddling in the affairs of other
countries. Ramos Horta's views only confirmed their position, gave it
So Ramos Horta's article served to confirm even in antiwar people the place of
humanitarian intervention. Stuff like that is important because people who are
wavering can easily be swayed by that kind of thing. In New Zealand, as Phil
Ferguson has mentioned, support for "our boys" going to East Timor to save the
natives is very deep rooted. The importanceof the fact that 25 years of
supporting the Indonesian dictatorship, training its troops etc had paved the way
for this glorious intervention is not inderstood, except that it was good that we
"made amends" for our past inaction. When the left concurs with this, there is
something seriously wrong with our movement. Thankfully in Christchurch, chunks
of the peace movement seem to be moving, albeit slowly, towards a position of
anti-imperialism and are starting to question the role of the UN. Cheer leading
for the intervention into East Timor works completely against this.
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