Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Uri Party Lawmaker on Islamist terrorists: If we do what they want, the threat will disappear.

A coalition of Uri Party lawmakers and like-minded lawmakers from other parties, who have long opposed Roh Moohyun's US-ROK alliance-affirming measure to send troops to Iraq (the so-called Zaytun unit, located in the Kurd-dominated city of Irbil), is planning to vote en bloc for their return soon. They hope to submit and vote on a bill by September.

This should come as no surprise. The left wing of Roh's party has its share of lawmakers who view Bush and the US military and Bush with suspicion, if not outward hostility (which would make them no different from left-wing Democrats back in the United States).

But what I found most telling about these leftists' world view was this statement by Uri Party lawmaker Im Jong-in:
Threats of terrorism will disappear if the Zaytun troops return home.
That's right. The terrorists want Korea out of Iraq (and they brutally executed a Korean civilian to make this point), so if we don't want London- or Madrid-style terrorism in Seoul or Pusan, let's do what they want and get our troops out of there!

Never mind that this will show that South Korea will instantly cave to future demands by Islamist terrorists. I am not a huge fan of President Roh Moohyun, but he did the absolutely right thing by saying prior to Kim Sun-il's beheading that he could not give in to terrorist demands and remove his troops. Such a thing would be putting a target sign on every single Korean citizen around the world, both in and outside of Korea, particularly in places like the Philippines, Indonesia, and other places where Islamist terror occurs.

But it is places like Pusan that these lawmakers worry about. Korea's number-one port city is to host the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in November. Some worry this could make it a prime target for terrorists (the fact that the 7-7 attacks occurred while the G-8 summit was going on in the UK is not lost on these folks).

This coalition of the unwilling in the National Assembly says that democracy has been established and Iraq has re-gained its sovereignty, so "there is no justification or practical benefits" from keeping troops there.

But as anyone can see, the situation is less than stable. Coalition troops will be needed for some time. I myself was against the war, feeling Bush was rushing in on very flimsy evidence and an even flimsier pretext that would become clearly stronger or weaker if the UN's more moderate course of action could go forward first. But now that we're there, we have to stay and finish the job. That's our moral responsibility.

And it was pretty admirable and gutsy for Roh to not only send troops but to send the third-largest contingent after only the US and the UK. Roh, I believe, was demonstrating that he is firmly in favor of a continued US-ROK alliance, and he was doing his part, to the detriment of his core support base.

Reflecting Korea's ideological divide to some degree, many Koreans are against the deployment, fearing South Koreans will be put in harm's way and South Korea itself will be a terror target. Even those who generally support US-ROK relations were cool to the idea of sending troops to Iraq because this is seen as the unwarranted war of an overly belligerent Bush.

Supporters, on the other hand, see this as a way to enhance Korea's prestige, reaffirm the US-ROK alliance, gain practical overseas wartime experience it hasn't had since it was a major partner of the US during the Vietnam War (50,000 troops sent to do very serious fighting), and maybe create a good image with the local Iraqis whose cities they are helping rebuild. Korea Exchange Bank, in fact, uses the Zaytun troop image in one of its widely placed ads.

But to leftist lawmakers, suspicion of the ROK military runs as deep as suspicion of Bush. Why give them a chance to enhance their prestige?

And their lack of understanding of South Korea as a potential target of terrorism is just as deep. Representative Im thinks that taking the Zaytun out of Iraq will take South Korea off the terrorists' hit list, but he is mistaken. Islamist groups like al Qaeda would still see South Korea as a target because it is a Western nation, a largely Christian nation, a free-wheeling capitalist nation, an ally of the United States, and in general a place where people are free to do what they please. No shari'a, no peace.

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