Tongablog

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Tonga/Iraq/U.S.A.

Why oh why can I not escape politics?! This post is a candid reflection, which may be a tad controversial. But I am nothing if not opinionated, so here goes… Did you know that Tonga was a member of the “Coalition of the Willing?” Yes, it is true. In June 2004, a group of Tongan marines joined U.S. forces in Anbar province, the most dangerous of Iraq’s regions at the time. Yet four years later, Dec. 5, 2008, the 55 member Tongan delegation left Iraq. The goodbye ceremony (in Iraq) was complete with the performance of the sipi tau, a legendary Tongan war dance. I always felt a little uneasy, knowing that Tongan soldiers fought in what I recognize as an unjust war. It was hard enough to reconcile why U.S. forces were put in harm’s way in the immensely complicated region. We all know the “weapons of mass destruction” argument was a complete farce. Political analysts and experts all agree that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed, thousands of brave and noble American soldiers suffered and died. Why on earth would Tonga, an isolated Polynesian cluster of islands, send their soldiers on such a dangerous mission?! The average American cannot even find Tonga on a map! Well, last night we attended the swearing-in ceremony of Group 74. As the glorious sun set over the Pacific, we listened to a passionate speech delivered by the guest of honor, Tonga’s Prime Minister. He talked about Peace Corps’ 40 year history in Tonga, and how thankful the nation was for the 1400 Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Tonga. And then he explained that Tonga felt like they must “repay the favor.” Because Peace Corps had been so helpful, when the U.S.A. asked for their troops in Iraq, the Tongan government felt obliged to return the goodwill. So in exchange for a Peace Corps post (as well as defending the Pacific in World War II and liberal immigration policies), they joined “The Coalition of the Willing” as military allies. Ugh. This agreement is very hard for us to accept. I feel like a pawn of the Bush administration. It makes me question the entire mission of the Peace Corps. A look at its sordid past is disconcerting.. In the late 1970s, CIA operatives disguised themselves as Peace Corps Volunteers in Bolivia, for example. Yet I had blithely convinced myself that the institution had since been reformed into a benevolent mission of goodwill. 15 months into our service, I no longer choose to be so naive. I am glad that the Tongan troops are home safe, and hope that American soldiers will soon have the same fate.

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2 Comments»

  Trenton wrote @

Actually Karen, not to get into a heated debate, he actually said that the Tonga military went to Iraq because of the protection it had received during WWII from the American military. Also, another thing he didn’t mention was that, if they participated in the “coalition of the willing” that the US military would dump a ton of money into Tonga. The military was here earlier this year to assess where the money would best be used in Tonga.

  F Scot wrote @

Technically you are correct Trenton. I guess I had the luxury to go back and rewatch last nights activities and his reasons for sending Tongan troops to Iraq were three fold. The first of which was the protection of Tonga and the Pacific Islands nations during World War 2, second was for allowing nearly 60,000 Tongan immigrants into the United States “both legal and illegal”, and third was for Peace Corps being in Tonga for the past 40 years.

I will post the video in early January when I get it edited so it can be analyzed further and people can enjoy the swearing in of Group 74!

As for the second part of your comment, I am not privy to that information. If I were to analyze what you mentioned though it sounds like bribery to me.


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