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José Ramos-Horta, East Timor

October 10, 2001

As human beings we must always pause and ask ourselves if the use of force to deter violence or to halt the perpetrators of terrorism and genocide is the only option available.

I have often agonized over this dilemma. As a human being, I agonized over NATO’s use of force in Kosovo. I supported it once I concluded that all diplomatic channels and efforts to stop the ethnic cleansing of Kosovars by the Milosevic regime had failed.

Again I have reflected on the decision by the US and its allies to use force against the Taliban regime and Osama Bin Laden terror network. In confronting this painful and agonizing question, my conscience tells me that the use of force was inevitable and necessary.

In 1999, the East Timorese people were brutalized, murdered, and the country thoroughly destroyed. We appealed to the US, Australia, Portugal and the UN to send in forces to save our people. More than 30 countries responded and an international force finally landed in our country. They saved our people.

How could we East Timorese, today, profess a false “pacifism” in the face of the barbaric act of September 11, that victimized thousands of people at the World Trade Center, and in the face of the barbaric Taliban regime that has enslaved millions of Afghans?

As human beings we must always pause, reflect and resist the temptation to use force and the practice of an eye for an eye. However, there are times, when the use of force is legitimate and necessary. In the face of evil, invocation of false pacifism leads to inaction and betrayal of the victims of oppression. For this reason, as I stand here today, I endorse the use of force against the Taliban regime that oppresses its own people, has taken Afghanistan back to the Dark Ages, and is harboring an international terrorist network.

I can only hope that once the dust settles, the G8 countries, with the UN and the World Bank, and the private sector around the world, forge a Marshall Plan to eradicate poverty.

The US has shown that when there is political will it can mobilize the international community on a common cause. If there is the political will and leadership to forge this impressive coalition that spans the globe in the fight against global terrorism, then surely there must also be the good will, leadership and vision to forge a new international coalition against hunger, abject poverty, malaria and aids. Extreme poverty is an affront to all. It should shame us that governments can readily allocate billions of dollars to fight wars and yet refuse to spend modest sums to fight poverty. As a human being I am ashamed.

Dr. José Ramos-Horta,
Nobel Peace Laureate and Foreign Minister,
East Timor