East Timor as a UN Colony

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Mon Apr 24 17:52:10 PDT 2000


>Yoshie wrote:
> >We should have _clearly_ opposed "peace-keepers" and argued against
> >the ETAN, Australian unionists, etc. that called for an imperial
> >military intervention. An unpopular position among liberals &
> >leftists at that time, yes, but we should have.
>So that tens of thousands more East Timorese could have been killed? Ah,
>yes. At least you have your principles. Too bad they don't deflect bullets
>and machetes.
>People familiar with ET's history and who cared about what happened to the
>Timorese (as opposed to those who, at a comfortable distance, use the
>situation to bludgeon other leftists) had an extremely difficult decision
>to make: support the intervention, and stop the killing but risk ET
>becoming a UN fiefdom; or oppose the intervention and, well,
>see-what-happens. In other words, a decision with a tremendous amount of
>moral consequence. Your self-assured and unsubtle (and, I might add, late
>in arriving) should-haves don't factor in any of it. As Emily Dickinson
>might say (if I coached her a bit): "She sweeps with single-colored
>Brooms--/ And leaves the Shreds behind--"

There were other alternatives besides the above two (e.g., oppose a military intervention, but protest against one's own government's support of Indonesian persecution of the East Timorese), but, in any case, having considered all available alternatives, one must make a moral & political decision after all *in time*. One can't hold two or more mutually incompatible political positions at the same time (e.g., one can't call for and oppose a military intervention at the same time); pretending to be able to do so is not called subtlety -- it is either stupidity or incapacity to make up one's mind. The law of the excluded middle holds in this instance: yes or no to a military intervention & UN colonization of East Timor. Subtlety matters in tactical discussion of how to accomplish your goal once you decide on yes or no (for instance, if you oppose an Australian military intervention, how do you reply to your fellow activists who may ask, "So that tens of thousands more East Timorese may be killed?"), but the choice between yes or no itself can't be subtle. Saying "yes and no" on such issues as a military intervention in East Timor doesn't communicate your political message to your fellow activists. The lack of clarity entails a "tremendous amount of moral consequence."

>Instead of viewing these
>"humanitarian interventions" as a part of the continuum of imperialism, you
>see it as a betrayal by those who are supposed to be on your side--just as
>your automatic and absolute conflation of intervention and imperialism
>ensures that you will never have to make a complicated decision.

I view "humanitarian interventions" as a part of the continuum of imperialism.

> >BTW, I saw a few people who were carrying "Free Tibet" placards in
> >the Ellipse on A16. It's good that there weren't many more, but it's
> >disturbing that there were some.
>BTW, can you read these sentences and still not understand why someone
>might call you a Stalinist?

Dogmatic Stalinists & Trotskyists should support the national independence for Tibet*, but I'm neither dogmatic nor Stalinist nor Trotskyist; besides, my principles do not include automatic support for all movements that claim to be working for national independence. I'd only support progressive ones, and I don't consider the Free Tibet crowd to be progressive. If you support the independence for Tibet, that's your choice, and you're in good company (e.g. many beautiful people in Hollywood).


* See, for instance, Stalin, "Marxism and the National Question" at <http://gate.cruzio.com/~marx2mao/Stalin/MNQ12.html>:

"The right of self-determination means that only the nation itself has the right to determine its destiny, that no one has the right forcibly to interfere in the life of the nation, to destroy its schools and other institutions, to violate its habits and customs, to repress its language, or curtail its rights.

This, of course, does not mean that Social-Democracy will support every custom and institution of a nation. While combating the coercion of any nation, it will uphold only the right of the nation itself to determine its own destiny, at the same time agitating against harmful customs and institutions of that nation in order to enable the toiling strata of the nation to emancipate themselves from them.

The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights."

According to Stalin's criteria of what characterizes a nation, Tibet should count as a nation. Therefore, based upon the Stalinist principles on the national question, you may as well wave a "Free Tibet" banner.

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