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Jeremy Rose: Pacifism And Genocide

In the first guest commentary of the Scoop Special on East Timor, Wellington journalist - and committed pacifist - Jeremy Rose struggles with the question of when an armed intervention is warranted.

Pacifism And Genocide

Since first reading Archibald Baxter¹s classic autobiographical account of being a conscientious objector in the first world war, We Shall Not Cease, as a 13-year-old I've considered myself a pacifist.

There hasn¹t been a conflict in the world since I first read the book, in 1979, that has seriously made me question that pacifism. Although I sympathised with the ANC and other guerilla movements fighting violently oppressive regimes I felt that a Gandhi-type passive resistance would in the long run be more effective and less costly in human lives.

The pacifism, however, was never quite absolute. As the grandchild of Jewish refugees who fled Austria, with my then two-year-old mother, in 1937 I grew up with an awareness of the horrific potential of military machines with genocidal intentions.

Pacifists have argued that a campaign of passive resistance against European fascism would have eventually overcome the Nazi regime and at less human cost. And they might be right. But, it¹s almost certain, there wouldn¹t have been a Jew or Gypsy left on the continent.

Faced with that sort of unrestrained genocidal brutality my pacifism withers and I find myself willing to support those calling for a military response to unrestrained military brutality.

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The world is faced with a similar dilemma in East Timor. There are those who argue that sending peace keeping troops into East Timor without Indonesian consent will ultimately cost more lives than doing nothing at all. And, it has to be said, in a worst case scenario that could be right. But doing nothing is surely not an option. All the indications are that we are in for a repeat of the slaughter of 1975 when 60,000 East Timorese were killed by Indonesian invaders. Over the following three years the figur To our shame New Zealand, Australia and the USA not only did nothing to stop the slaughter in 1975 we rewarded Indonesia for its crimes by providing on-going military aid and political respectability to one of the world¹s most brutal dictatorships.

And once again we appear to be doing nothing. Don McKinnon dismisses calls to end military cooperation with Indonesia as irrelevant, calls for sanctions against Indonesia are ruled out because they will hurt ordinary Indonesians (an argument dismissed by McKinnon in the case of Iraq), and peace keeping troops can only be sent with the approval of the Indonesian regime - the very regime responsible for the massacres the peace keepers would be attempting to end.

After nearly two decades of ignoring the desire of East Timorese for independence the time has arrived for New Zealand to take a moral stand and start listening to, and acting on, the advice of the legitimate leaders of East Timor.

If Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta believe economic and military sanctions against Indonesia will help the plight of East Timorese then New Zealand should boycott Indonesia unilaterally and start lobbying for international sanctions, if Horta and Gusmao support sending peace keeping troops into East Timor with or without Indonesia¹s permission then New Zealand should announce its willingness to be part of any coalition ready to send in those troops.

New Zealanders as a whole should take their lead from the Australian union movement and boycott all trade with Indonesian industry. Pressure should go on importers of Indonesian goods, holidays to Bali should be cancelled and New Zealand politicians must be lobbied to take a truly active stand against the genocidal slaughter of the people of East Timor.

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