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Thursday, March 16, 2006

USA and Indonesia: The Friendship of Slaughter Continues

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently visited Indonesia and praised the nation for setting an example of "moderation, tolerance and inclusiveness."  Undoubtedly, most people who are aware of Indonesia’s and the USA’s past collaboration on committing human rights abuses burst out laughing. 


Indonesia and the USA: Past Partners in Slaughter


Human Rights Watch provides one example of Indonesia’s glorious record in honoring the human rights of its citizens in the past:


September 30, 2005, marked the fortieth anniversary of the alleged coup attempt that precipitated former Indonesian President Soeharto’s rise to power. The Indonesian Communist Party remains banned for allegedly plotting the coup attempt, and former members or supporters continue to suffer discrimination. At least half a million people were killed in anti-communist purges after the coup attempt, and hundreds of thousands more were imprisoned without charge or trial. To date there has been no accountability for atrocities committed in 1965 and 1966. There has also been no legal accounting for the majority of atrocities committed during Soeharto’s more than three decades in power, or for the violence instigated by pro-Soeharto forces in a failed attempt to stave off his 1998 fall from power. (link)


By most accounts the slaughter of 500,000 of Indonesia’s leftists is a conservative figure.  Some place the number as high as 1 million.  The number, of course, had to be high since leftist parties in the mid-sixties constituted the largest political parties in the nation, as much as one-fifth of the electorate belonged to the Communist Party alone.  You just can’t let the majority of a nation be leftists simply because they want to.  That’s too effeminately democratic.


Murdering one-half million people or more is an impressive kill rate, but, of course, they had considerable help from their friends:

Twenty-five years later [after the mass murders in Indonesia], American diplomats disclosed that they had systematically compiled comprehensive lists of "Communist" operatives, from top echelons down to village cadres, and turned over as many as 5,000 names to the Indonesian army, which hunted those persons down and killed them. The Americans would then check off the names of those who had been killed or captured. Robert Martens, a former member of the US Embassy's political section in Jakarta, stated in 1990: "It really was a big help to the army. They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment."

"I know we had a lot more information [about the PKI] than the Indonesians themselves," said Marshall Green, US Ambassador to Indonesia at the time of the coup. Martens "told me on a number of occasions that ... the government did not have very good information on the Communist setup, and he gave me the impression that this information was superior to anything they had."

"No one cared, as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered," said Howard Federspiel, who in 1965 was the Indonesia expert at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. "No one was getting very worked up about it." (link)

But the USA didn’t merely provide kill-lists.  They also provided the guns and bullets too. 


The USA also provided Indonesia with guns and bullets when they later slaughtered 200,000 East Timorese:


The Indonesian invasion was launched over the western border on 16 October 1975. The day before the invasion of Dili and subsequent annexation, U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had met President Suharto in Jakarta where Ford made clear that "we will not press you on the issue." Several U.S. administrations up to and including that of Bill Clinton did not ban arms sales to the Indonesian government, though the latter did eventually end U.S. support of Suharto's regime….


During the invasion and 24-year occupation, 100,000 to 250,000 people were killed out of an initial population of about 600,000 at the time of the invasion. The attacks on civilian populations were only nominally reported in the western press, especially in the United States, where the atrocities of Pol Pot were given far greater attention. (link)


Therefore, approximately one-third of the people of East Timor were slaughtered by Indonesia, assisted by USA military aid.  Military aid and probably then some…

Throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s, US State Department officials, in statements to the press and in testimony before Congress, consistently supported Indonesia's claim to East Timor (unlike the United Nations and the European Community), and downplayed the slaughter to a remarkable extent. Meanwhile, the omnipresent American military advisers, the training, the weapons, the helicopter gunships, and all the other instruments indispensable to efficient, modern, counter-insurgency warfare, were kept flowing into the hands of the Indonesian military. This may not be all, for Fretilin reported on a number of occasions that American advisers were directing and even participating in the combat. (link)

In short, comparatively speaking, the genocide of one-third of the East Timorese would be the equivalent of an invading and occupying army murdering 92 million Americans.  The butchering of the East Timorese didn’t end until the year 2000. 


And you paid for the bullets.


Indonesia’s Human Rights Record Today


Not a single high-ranking official in the Indonesian military has ever been brought to trial for the genocide of the East Timorese people:


Not one Indonesian officer has served a day in jail for crimes against humanity inflicted on the people of East Timor and the UN mission in 1999 or before. In the small number of other cases that have gone to trial, defendants have been limited to low-level officials, sentences are consistently not commensurate with crimes, and command responsibility is neither assessed nor pursued. This cycle of impunity encourages military personnel to commit abuse and intimidates those who seek to stop it.  (link)

But that’s just for Indonesia’s past abuses.  The government is working on some new ones now, again with USA military aid:


The Indonesian armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) continue to violate international human rights and humanitarian law with impunity. Military operations in Papua and Aceh are characterized by undisciplined and unaccountable troops committing widespread abuses against civilians, including extrajudicial executions, torture, forced disappearances, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and drastic limits on freedom of movement. Torture of detainees in police and military custody is also widespread across the country; some of the detainees tortured are children. Indonesia’s executive and judicial branches regularly fail to address such abuses. (link)


Yet Secretary Rice finds such behavior inspiring: “Indonesia is an inspiration to those around the world who struggle with the many differences [that people have] in terms of race, ethnicity and religion."


Doesn’t it make you proud?