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Saturday, 8 January, 2005
Divisions hinder Indonesia's aid relief
By Jonathan Head
BBCNews, BandaAceh, Indonesia

Indonesian soldiers say their tsunami relief work in the province of Aceh is being hindered by clashes with the rebels who have been fighting a bitter separatist conflict.   The rebels in turn accuse the military of using the disaster as a pretext for a renewed offensive.

Trucks dump bodies into mass grave
Indonesian soldiers have a new task — disposing of the dead

I counted more than 60 bodies packed in a mass of floating debris in the river below me.

And I did not know what to think any more.

Each one was so grossly bloated it bore no resemblance to the human being it had once been.

Squads of Indonesian soldiers moved around in rubber dinghies, hooking the corpses with ropes and pulling them back to the bank, where they were packed into body bags.

At least they had body bags now, a few days earlier they had simply been leaving them uncovered in rows beside the road.

They did their work quietly, and they were watched by a silent crowd on the bridge.

And then I looked again, and I saw one of the corpses was wearing a bra.

It was someone's mother, sister or wife.

And another, smaller, was in a striped t-shirt and underpants, somebody's daughter.

And I could not look anymore.

Nor could some of the bystanders on the bridge.   Nearly everyone here has lost numbers of close relatives.

Really lost them.
This was a natural phenomenon so brutally destructive it almost seems evil

Huge loss

They are probably dead, but their bodies are among the piles that are being dumped into mass graves outside the town, or crushed under mounds of concrete and mud, or floating in the river.

They will never be identified, never properly buried, just mourned without ceremony by survivors too shocked to make sense of their loss.

How are we supposed to report a human tragedy of this magnitude?

The words and phrases used to capture the scale of previous disasters seem hopelessly inadequate this time.

And there is no one to blame, no failures to rectify that could prevent a recurrence.

This was a natural phenomenon so brutally destructive it almost seems evil.
Scene of devastation in Aceh
Some parts of Aceh have been literally flattened by the disaster

Standing on the bridge and staring out at the mangled, foul-smelling mess of upturned cars and smashed fishing boats, and rubble stretching for miles, in what had once been a substantial neighbourhood, I found myself unable to imagine the power of something that could do all this, nor the terror of the people caught up in it.

You can see all the detritus, the evidence of once normal lives.

Shoes, clothes, plates, toothbrushes, photographs, torn and tossed together in a ghastly grey wasteland.

It seems so appallingly unfair.

Conflict and trauma

Aceh had already been dealt a lousy hand before the disaster, its people caught in a vicious war between separatist rebels and the Indonesian army.

It was a conflict the world took little notice of, even though thousands were killed.

Sealed off from help by martial law, Aceh is one of the poorest regions of Indonesia, ill-prepared to deal with destruction on this scale.

Countless Acehenese, I have spoken to, have asked what they could have done to offend God.

These are, for the most part, devout Muslims.   But nothing in their religion explains the suffering they have had to endure.

The world is here now.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Colin Powell, has visited areas ravaged by the tsunami

No one wants to miss the chance to take part in the most dramatic natural disaster of modern times , one day US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the next UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The Acehenese have never experienced such international scrutiny before.

Everywhere the TV crews scour the faces of the displaced in search of the personal tragedies that will bring the scale of this disaster home to their viewers.

You do not have to look far.

Every face tells a story, some so harrowing you wonder how these people have kept their wits.

Some have not.

Trauma is etched in the hollow eyes of many victims.
They are also bewildered by the relief effort, no one has ever cared about them before

The Acehenese are proud of their defiant history, fighting long wars against the Dutch, the Japanese and now the government in Jakarta, for more independence.

They have learnt to bear their suffering well, but I have just had a 56 year-old man sobbing uncontrollably in my arms, after telling me about his two sons, both missing, almost certainly among the countless unnamed corpses.

They are also bewildered by the relief effort, no one has ever cared about them before.

Certainly not their own government, which has sanctioned the harshest tactics by Indonesian soldiers to suppress their separatist dreams.

The temporary camps that have been established in almost every school, mosque or building are largely run by the displaced inhabitants themselves, with modest help from Indonesian volunteer groups.

They seem astonished to hear that so many people in the rest of the world want to help.

'Long-term presence'

But just how far is our commitment to the people of Aceh going to go?

We, the news media, will be gone in a couple of weeks.
Devastation in Banda Ache following the Asian tsunami
Recovery from the devastating tsunami will take years

And if the Indonesian government re-imposes its ban on foreign journalists, we will not be back.

The UN and the aid agencies say they must be allowed a long-term presence to help get Aceh back on its feet, but that still depends heavily on the co-operation of the Indonesian military, which really runs this province.

That co-operation could come at a price, of funds siphoned off, of soldiers directing the flow of aid away from areas considered sympathetic to the rebels.

The army's presence here is strikingly visible.   Already there are signs they are moving in to control the relief effort.

That is not to say the aid workers are not making a difference.

After a shaky start, life saving assistance is getting through to tens of thousands of victims, often through superhuman efforts.

But when I tell the Acehenese the international community is going to help them get their lives back together, they ask me when.

Who is going to give them the money to rebuild their houses, their shops and fishing boats, who should they ask.

And I tell them to be patient, it will come.

But knowing Aceh's wretched history of war, abuse and corruption, I cannot be sure that even now, they will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005
Thirty Years After the Indonesian Invasion of East Timor, Will the U.S. Be Held Accountable for its Role in the Slaughter?

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Thirty years ago, on December 7 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor.   Over 200,000 East Timorese lost their lives in one of the worst genocides of the 20th century.   A recently-completed East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses during the occupation makes use of extensive documents that show the US government knew in advance of the invasion and worked behind the scenes to hide it from public scrutiny.   The East Timorese government has asked parliament to withhold the report.   We speak with East Timor's ambassador to the UN and the US, and a professor at the National Security Archive.  
Thirty years ago today, on December 7 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor.   This began a brutal occupation that lasted almost a quarter of a century and led to the deaths of over 200,000 people.   Even the C.I.A. has described it as one of the worst mass-murders of the 20th century.

Indonesia invaded East Timor almost entirely with U.S-made weapons and equipment.   Newly released documents by the National Security Archive show the U.S government knew this and explicitly approved of the invasion.   The formerly classified documents show how multiple U.S administrations concealed information on the invasion in order to continue selling weapons to Indonesia.

The documents show US officials were aware of the invasion plans nearly a year in advance.   They reveal that in 1977 the Carter Administration blocked declassification of a cable transcribing President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger's meeting with Suharto on December 6, 1975 in which they explicitly approved of the invasion.

The National Security Archive handed over the documents to an East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses that occurred between 1975 and 1999.   Last week East Timor President Xanana Gusmao gave the commission's report to the Timorese Parliament but wanted it withheld from the public.   Opposition politicians and human rights activists have called for the documents to be made public.
  • Massacre: The Story of East Timor, documentary produced by Amy Goodman and Alan Nairn.
  • Jose Luis Guterres, East Timorese ambassador to the United Nations and United States.
  • Brad Simpson, assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland and a research assistant at the National Security Archive.


JAMES BAKER:    Big countries with powerful military machines should not be permitted to invade, occupy and brutalize their peaceful neighbors.

AMY GOODMAN:    With these words, former Secretary of State James Baker explained why the United States was going to war against Iraq.   Yet, 16 years earlier, another big country, Indonesia, invaded a much smaller one, East Timor, with the support of the United States.   What followed was one of the greatest genocides of the 20th century.   It is estimated that up to one-third of the Timorese population has been killed through a policy of army massacre and enforced starvation.   Many of those who are left have been imprisoned and tortured by a military armed and trained by the United States.

East Timor, a quiet farming nation on a mountainous island about 300 miles north of Australia, had been a Portuguese colony until 1974, when there was a democratic revolution in Portugal and the new government decided to disband its empire.   Neighboring Indonesia, a military dictatorship more than 200 times East Timor's size, began attacking Timor in an effort to prevent the island nation from completing its move toward independence.   On December 7, 1975, Indonesia launched a full invasion.   Timorese shortwave radio, monitored by reporters in Australia, was heard putting out desperate calls for help.

TIMORESE SHORTWAVE RADIO:    A lot of people are being killed — I repeat — indiscriminately.   More than a thousand troops have been there.

AMY GOODMAN:    The night before the invasion, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Ford were in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, toasting General Suharto, the Indonesian ruler.

PRESIDENT GERALD FORD:    Our relationship involves a common concern for the right of every nation to pursue its destiny on its own independent and sovereign course.   On behalf of Mrs. Ford and myself, I raise my glass and propose a toast.

AMY GOODMAN:    Joao Carrascalao, the brother of the former governor of East Timor and himself a political leader now in exile, was working for the Indonesians at the time.

JOAO CARRASCALAO:    I arrived at Jakarta one hour before President Ford and Henry Kissinger landed in Jakarta.   And on the same night, I was informed by Colonel Suyanto – he was a top officer in the Jakarta administration — that America had given the green light for Indonesia to invade Timor.

AMY GOODMAN:    The United States, Suharto's main backer, supplied 90% of Indonesia’s arms.   The story of East Timor is a story few know about, except those who have lived through it.   Six foreign journalists who were there as Indonesia attacked were executed by the Indonesian military.   Australian TV correspondent, Greg Shackleton sent this report the night before the frontier town where he was visiting was seized by the Indonesian troops.

GREG SHACKLETON:    Why, they ask, are the Indonesians invading us?   Why, they ask, if the Indonesians believe that Fretilin is communist, do they not send a delegation to Dili to find out?   Why, they ask, are the Australians not helping us?   When the Japanese invaded, they did help us.   Why, they ask, are the Portuguese not helping us?   We're still a Portuguese colony.   Who, they ask, will pay for the terrible damage to our homes?

My main answer was that Australia would not send forces here.   That's impossible.   However, I said, we could ask that Australia raise this fighting at the United Nations.   That was possible.   At that, the second in charge rose to his feet, exclaimed, “Camerado journalist!,” shook my hand, the rest shook my hand, and we were applauded, because we are Australians.   That's all they want: for the United Nations to care about what is happening here.

AMY GOODMAN:    The following day, Indonesian troops moved in and executed Shackleton and his crew.   Though the government of Australia ended up siding with Indonesia, the U.N. Security Council denounced the invasion of East Timor and passed two resolutions like those later passed against Iraq, calling on Indonesia to withdraw its troops without delay, but United States lobbying prevented any U.N. action, and as Indonesia began to execute the Timorese en masse, Washington doubled its military aid.

Journalist Allan Nairn and I returned to East Timor for a historic event.   A special delegation from the United Nations and Portugal was due to visit East Timor.   The Timorese hoped the visit would finally lead to U.N. action and enforcement of the Security Council resolutions calling on Indonesia to withdraw from East Timor.

ALLAN NAIRN:    We were told in place after place that the army had been holding neighborhood and village meetings to warn the Timorese that if they tried to speak to the U.N. Portuguese delegation, they and their families would be killed.   And Bishop Belo, the bishop of East Timor, told us that the threat was: ‘We will kill your family to the seventh generation.’

AMY GOODMAN:    But despite the threats and a dramatic increase in disappearances, torture and deaths, Timorese had prepared to speak out.   They had met in secret, making banners and petitions for the delegation.   When the army tried to hunt them down, many had gone into hiding and sought refuge inside churches.   But under pressure from the United States, the visit of the delegation had been called off.   Three days later, with the world's spotlight removed, the army stormed the Moteal, Dili’s main Catholic church, and killed a young man named Sebastiao Gomes, who had taken refuge there.

And then came the morning of November 12.   The two-week commemoration of Sebastiao’s funeral.   A memorial mass and procession were planned to lay flowers on Sebastiao’s grave.   After the mass was held at the Moteal, people, young and old, came out into the street, and in a land where public speech and assembly had been forbidden over a decade, they started chanting.   The Timorese then held up banners drawn on bed sheets.   They had been prepared for the delegation that never came.   The banners called on Indonesia to leave East Timor and said things like “Why the Indonesian army shoot our church?”   The Timorese were facing a gauntlet of troops that stretched the length of Dili.   It was the boldest act of public protest occupied Timor had ever seen.

ALLAN NAIRN:    More and more Timorese joined the procession.   They came from huts and schools and offices along the way.   And there was this building feeling of exhilaration, as well as fear, among the Timorese.   And when they reached the cemetery, the crowd had swelled to maybe 5,000 people.   Some went inside to lay flowers on Sebastiao’s grave.   Most of the crowd was still outside, and then suddenly, someone looked up, and we saw that marching up along the same route that the Timorese had come came a long column of Indonesian troops, dressed in brown, holding M-16s in front of them, marching in a very slow, deliberate fashion; hundreds and hundreds of troops, coming straight at the Timorese.

AMY GOODMAN:    Allan suggested we walk to the front of the crowd between the soldiers and the Timorese, because although we knew that the army had committed many massacres, we hoped that we, as a foreign journalists, could serve as a shield for the Timorese.   Standing with headphones on and microphone and camera out in full view, we went and stood in the middle of the road, looking straight at the approaching troops.   Behind us, the crowd was hushed as some Timorese tried to turn away, but they were hemmed in by cemetery walls.

ALLAN NAIRN:    The soldiers marched straight up to us.   They never broke their stride.   We were enveloped by the troops, and when they got a few yards past us, within a dozen yards of the Timorese, they raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once, and they opened fire.   The Timorese, in an instant, were down, just torn apart by the bullets.   The street was covered with bodies covered with blood.   And the soldiers just kept on coming.   They poured in, one rank after another.   They leaped over the bodies of those who were down.   They were aiming and shooting people in the back.   I could see their limbs being torn, their bodies exploding.   There was blood spurting out into the air.   The pop of the bullets, everywhere.   And it was very organized, very systematic.   The soldiers did not stop.   They just kept on shooting until no one was left standing.

AMY GOODMAN:    A group of soldiers grabbed my microphone and threw me to the ground, kicking and punching me.   At that point, Allan threw himself on top of me, protecting me from further injury.   The soldiers then used their rifle butts like baseball bats, beating Allan until they fractured his skull.   As we sat on the ground, Allan, covered in blood, a group of soldiers lined up and pointed their M-16s at our heads.   They had stripped us of all of our equipment.   We just kept shouting, “We're from America!” In the end, they decided not to execute us.

ALLAN NAIRN:    The soldiers beat us, but we actually had received privileged treatment.   We were still alive.   They kept on firing into the Timorese.   We were able to get onto a passing civilian truck, went into hiding, but the Timorese, who had been with us there on the cemetery road, most of them were dead.

AMY GOODMAN:    Inside the cemetery walls, Max Stahl, a filmmaker on assignment with Yorkshire TV, had had his video camera running.

MAX STAHL:    The soldiers began at that point to encircle the entire cemetery.   I saw the soldiers as they gradually moved towards the middle, picking out people who were wounded or taking refuge between the tombstones, and when they got to them, they beat them and assembled them in the back of the cemetery.   People were stripped to their waists.   They had their thumbs tied behind their backs, and they were made to look at the ground.   And if they looked up, they were immediately beaten, usually with a rifle butt.

AMY GOODMAN:    Max Stahl was filming near a crypt in the middle of the cemetery.   Some of the wounded and those too scared to run were huddled inside praying.   As Stahl filmed, he buried his videocassettes in a fresh grave.   Then he was arrested by the troops.

MAX STAHL:    Whilst I was being interrogated, I observed these trucks driving by with more people in them.   These people were clearly in a kind of paralysis of fear.   They were not able to move.   Some of them, at least in the cemetery and, indeed, even in the trucks, when I saw them going by, were barely breathing.   And people were that terrified.   It's quite often difficult to tell if they're dead or alive.

AMY GOODMAN:    After nine hours in custody, Stahl went back to the cemetery under cover of night, dug up his videocassettes and had them smuggled out of the country.   Allan Nairn and I had managed to leave East Timor a few hours after the massacre.   From a hospital on Guam, we reported what had happened to dozens of newspapers, radio and television outlets around the world.

PACIFICA REPORT:    From Washington, this is the Pacifica report for Tuesday, November 12, 1991.   A massacre in East Timor.   Among those injured were two journalists, including a news editor of Pacifica station WBAI in New York.

AMY GOODMAN:    They beat me and dragged me over and started slamming me with rifle butts, and kicks and punches, and then Allan jumped on top of me, and they beat him very badly.   But that was the least of what they did.   They opened fire on the people, and these were truly defenseless ?  

MONTAGE OF WORLD NEWS FOOTAGE:    When Indonesian troops opened fire on a crowd ?   This is CBC Radio ?   The massacre of a hundred unarmed Timorese by the Indonesian military — Photographs of the bloody massacre during the fight for freedom — This is the CBS Evening News.
AMY GOODMAN:    An excerpt of the documentary, Massacre: The Story of East Timor, produced with journalist Allan Nairn, as we turn now to the report that has been released by the East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses that occurred between 1975 and 1999.   The Indonesian invasion of Timor 30 years ago today.   Last week, the East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao gave the commission's report to the Timorese parliament, but wanted it withheld from the public.   Opposition politicians and human rights activists have called for the documents to be made public.   We're joined from Baltimore by Brad Simpson, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Research Assistant to the National Security Archive.   We are also joined in our New York studio by Jose Luis Guterres.   He is the East Timorese Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States.   Jose Luis Guterres: Thirty years ago today, Indonesia invaded Timor.   You celebrated your freedom, your independence, three years ago.   What are your thoughts on this day?   Where were you December 7, 1975?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES:    Well, I was still a student in Lisbon, and it was the saddest day of our life; as Timorese, we have lost over the years one-third of our population.   At the same time, looking back, we had a privilege of having many friends.   You and Allan did a very important – played a very important role during the 1991 massacre in Santa Cruz in East Timor, and help that we had also in the U.S., many of our friends in Congress, that all over the years, the grassroots movement that were able to maintain alive the struggle for self-determination, independence and freedom in my country.

And today we can say that the country is stable with democratic institutions, and one of the most important days for us also was in 1990 when we had to vote in that referendum where the people chose to be independent.   After that, you remember that some Indonesian troops in the militia, they destroyed 85% of the country and killed so many Timorese at that time.   And also, it was important also to remember that by the time – it was during the President Clinton administration and it was very, very important for East Timor that President Clinton, Tony Blair and other leaders, they played very important role in sending the U.N. troops to East Timor in order to end the violence and massacring in East Timor.

So, looking back, in history, some struggles are still going on, happily that in East Timor after many years of sacrifice and many people died, we are able today to be free, have an independent country, be a member of the United Nations, and be here and talk to you in a free country.   And so, I'm very happy to be here on this program.

AMY GOODMAN:    What about, Ambassador, the issue of accountability?   The East Timorese commission of inquiry hands in a report, makes recommendations about accountability, and the President, Xanana Gusmao, refuses to make it public.

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES:    Well, I think that it is a question of time.   Right now, the Parliament is analyzing the documents and the report.   And I believe that after that, it will – most probably that they will publicize it, because this is really a history – it's part of history of the Timorese people, and I don't think that the President or any other government will not give these documents to the public.

AMY GOODMAN:    Brad Simpson, what are your concerns?   You have applied under the Freedom of Information Act for a lot of the documents that the commission of inquiry is basing its information on right now.   Can you talk about what they say and what you feel needs to be done?

BRAD SIMPSON:    Yes.   These documents lay out a 25-year pattern of deceit by successive U.S. administrations.   Keeping the details of Indonesia's planned invasion of East Timor from the American public and from the international community, systematically suppressing or discounting credible reports of massacres taking place in East Timor through the mid-1980s, and working to circumvent possible congressional bans on military systems to keep the pipeline of weapons flowing.   We gave the East Timorese Truth Commission more than 4,000 pages of documents, and the most important conclusions that they reached so far that we know are that the United States, Britain and other Western powers which supported Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor should be required to pay reparations to the people of East Timor, and that, furthermore, western arms manufacturers, who supplied weapons to Indonesia should also be required to pay reparations to the people of East Timor.

These were extraordinarily damning recommendations — extraordinarily damning conclusions that these documents contributed to, which the East Timorese Truth Commission has put forth.   And I think it's incumbent upon us, not just as Americans, but also as members of the international community, which for so long supported Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor, to really study these conclusions and face up to our own country's history of support for one of the great massacres of modern history.   And I think that President Gusmao’s concern is a real one.   East Timor is small.   It's weak; it's surrounded by larger neighbors who either invaded it or supported the invasion and occupation of their country, and they understand the concern of East Timorese leaders, that calls for genuine justice and accountability might not play well in Washington, might not play well in Jakarta and other world capitals.

But not a single high-ranking Indonesian official has been ever been held accountable for more than 25 years of systematic atrocities.   Not a single U.S. administration has ever been held accountable, has ever apologized for U.S. support for the invasion and occupation of East Timor.   This process of truth and accountability is not just needed in East Timor, it's also needed in Jakarta, and as an American, I would say it's also needed here in the United States, as well.

AMY GOODMAN:    Ambassador, your response?   Why not release the documents now?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES:    I don't have an immediate response or answer on this.   But from what I know, I firmly believe that the government and the President will release the documents for public knowledge.   At the same time, it's – the report contains public information.   There is no secret, and even the recommendation is already known by Timorese public.   So I don't see any reason for not to publicize these documents.

AMY GOODMAN:    So is there a rift in your government?   Are you, as the ambassador from Timor to the United States, disagreeing with the President and the foreign ministers?

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES:    Well, the only problem is – the only question is that I haven't seen any official directive from the government to inform us that, you know, this paper will not be published.   It is a public information.   Recommendation also is known, so I really don't see why it will not – I'm sure that it will be published in the near future.   But I would like to say also that we share the idea that crimes cannot go unpunished.   Justice is very important for any country having freedom, democracy, institutions and freedom to be sustained, you have really to respect human rights and justice.

And at the same time many Timorese families, as you know, lost at least one of their family, their relatives.   Certainly, that – on the diplomatic side in the international relations with neighboring countries, East Timor is small and vulnerable, but at the same time, the state of East Timor cannot deny to their own citizens the possibility for them to defend in our interests and search for justice for the loved ones that died during these years.

Officially, we know that it is true that the government of East Timor is not seeking any compensation.   We had the Portuguese occupy East Timor for 400 years, the Japanese during the Second World War, and later, Indonesia for – since 1975 up to 1999.   And the official policy is that we prefer to look into the future and try to establish the best relation as possible with our neighbors and with the international community, and we – indeed, we are very happy, including the United States, to have today very good relations.   President Xanana was in visit the U.S. many times.   He met with President Bush, I believe, three times already, and during that meeting, we feel that there is a strong interest and support from the U.S. present Bush administration to East Timor.

And at the same time, it is a small and vulnerable nation living in a very close to Indonesia.   Indonesia that is not yet – we know that the military still have a lot of power in Indonesia.   We are all working towards to having a more democratic Indonesia where the military can play their own role without interfering in the political affairs.   So these are the main, how do you say, picture that we are looking for.

AMY GOODMAN:    Brad Simpson, final comment?

BRAD SIMPSON:    This process of accountability is important, not just for East Timor and the United States, but also for the process of democratization in Indonesia itself.   The Indonesian military is still an unrepentant, unreformed institution, and I think it's very important to again recall that not a single Indonesian official has been held accountable for any of these atrocities.   While the United States is overseeing the trial of Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity in Baghdad, the Bush administration has just lifted conditions on the provision of military assistance to Indonesia.   And I think that this is a real test case of the Bush administration's commitment to the rule of law, to accountability.   If the United States is going to assert that Saddam Hussein should be held accountable for crimes committed 20 years ago in Iraq, I'm hard-pressed to believe why Indonesian officials and American officials should not be held accountable for similar crimes against humanity that have taken place in East Timor over the last 25 years.

And this is a process which is still ongoing, and I think one of the reasons why President Gusmao is reluctant to release this report is that its conclusions largely echo those of the United Nations commission of experts which called for the convening of an international tribunal to hold Indonesian officials accountable for the crimes of 1999 and the crimes that have taken place over the last 24 years.   And I think that it's really important for activists in the United States and elsewhere who have long supported the East Timorese to try and put pressure on the U.S. Congress, to try and put pressure on the Bush administration to guarantee that we will not maintain and improve or provide military assistance to Indonesia, unless they demonstrate the same sort of accountability, which we are now demanding of Saddam Hussein and others who commit these kinds of atrocities in other countries.

AMY GOODMAN:    We'll have to leave it there, Brad Simpson of the University of Maryland and the National Security Archive.   And we'll link to the documents that the National Security Archive has on its website, those declassified documents.   And Ambassador Jose Luis Guterres, I want to thank you for being with us, ambassador from East Timor to the United States and the United Nations.

slide cursor underneath or side of photos

1999 — Information not passed to U.N. troops on the ground.   Australia sought to conceal evidence.
47 people hacked to death with machetes.

Captain Andrew Plunkett, an intelligence office for the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, who served in East Timor said that the Australian intelligence agencies instructed his and other units to conceal evidence of war crimes by the Indonesia army and militias.

Plunkett, who now faces prosecution for violating government secrecy laws, charges that the Australian military ignored intelligence reports about the impending massacre of 50 people at a police station in the East Timor border town of Maliana in September, 1999.   "Australian intelligence sources had accurately reported on Indonesian plans to kill independence supporters in Maliana, but those reports were pushed up the chain of command, hosed down and politically wordsmithed by the Asia Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade", Plunkett told the Australian TV show Dateline on May 9 of this year.   "None of this information was passed on to the UN troops on the ground."

When Indonesian militias attacked independence demonstrators in and around Maliana, the UN told the people to go to the local police station where they would be protected by Indonesian police.   Instead, the police and Indonesian soldiers trapped several thousand people on the police grounds and allowed militiamen to hack at least 47 people to death with machetes.

Plunkett, who was assigned the task of examining mass graves, also said that Australian soldiers were instructed to undercount the death toll.   The official death count at Maliana was 12.   But Plunkett says that the Australians and the UN knew that many of the bodies had been put in mass graves or dumped in rivers or the ocean.   Plunkett says that he examined more than 60 bodies himself in the Maliana area.

June 16, 2003
US Weapons Aid the Repression
Death in Aceh
F ar from the spotlight and far from Baghdad, another shock and awe campaign is underway.   On May 19th, Indonesia launched a military campaign to "strike and paralyze" a small band of separatist rebels in the Aceh province.   In a made-for-TV photo op, 458 soldiers parachuted onto the island from six C-130 Hercules transport aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the United States' largest defense contractor.

As many as 40,000 Indonesian troops and a police force of 10,000 followed close behind, backed up by warships, fighter planes, and other high-tech military equipment, declaring war on 5,000 separatist guerillas armed with automatic weapons, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades.

The attack, which is Indonesia's biggest military campaign since its invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1975, follows the breakdown of five months of peace talks between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government.

Nongovernmental organizations working to bridge the gap between GAM's assertion of total Acehnese independence and Jakarta's insistence that Aceh remain part of the nation, campaigned for both sides to accept greater Acehnese autonomy and at least have some say over how profits from the island's rich resources — including oil and gas reserves — are apportioned.

While there was popular support for these compromises throughout Indonesia, and the peace talks had broad support — including from the Bush administration and international lending institutions — the negotiations broke off in mid-May.

Indiscriminate Killing

Acehnese rebels have been fighting for independence for 27 years, in a guerrilla war that has cost the lives of 10,000 civilians and forced tens of thousands more to leave their homes.

While Indonesian military officials claim to be targeting armed rebels, they are employing "drain the ocean to kill the fish" tactics, with brutality and indiscriminate killing.

On May 21st, Indonesian soldiers carried out two massacres; killing at least 14 unarmed people, including two 12-year-old boys.   That was not an isolated incident.

According to Amnesty International, the Indonesian military has engaged in extrajudicial executions of civilians — even children.


The human rights group also charges that there is "widespread torture of detainees in both military and police custody."

Two weeks into the intervention, the Indonesian military claims that it has killed 112 GAM fighters and captured 160, with an additional 92 surrendering.

It also says that its own casualties and civilian deaths have been kept to a minimum, reporting that 10 soldiers and one civilian have been killed.

Rebel sources contest these figures, saying that scores of civilians and hundreds of government soldiers have been killed.

While the true number of civilians killed in this intervention probably lie somewhere between the GAM and military counts, the displacement of civilians by the military is ongoing and well-documented by outside sources.

200,000 to be interned

The London-based Times quotes the Jakarta government as saying that as many as 200,000 civilians living in GAM strongholds will be interned in "strategic hamlets" for the duration of the war.

The majority of the schools in the region have been burned to the ground.

While GAM and the Indonesian military each blame the other for the arson, the destruction was well orchestrated, which points to the military as the culprit.

This seems to be part of a larger plan to draw popular support away from the rebels.

U.S. Weapons Do Not Equal Influence

In addition to the well-publicized use of U.S. origin C-130s, the Indonesian Air Force has deployed Rockwell International OV-10 Bronco attack planes, firing air-to-surface missiles at targets in Aceh.

Other U.S. systems, like the F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighter jets, S-58 Twinpack helicopters, and numerous small arms, are ready for deployment.

The United States Arms Export Control Act stipulates that weapons are transferred to other countries to be used for self-defense, internal security, and participation in UN operations.

It is difficult to see how one could classify what is going on in Aceh as meeting any of these three criteria.

Bush — weak criticism

In light of these violations of U.S. law and the fact the Washington backed the peace talks between GAM and Jakarta, the criticism of the military operation from the Bush administration has been exceedingly weak.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who served as Ambassador to Indonesia under President Reagan and was friendly with Dictator Suharto, issued a statement saying that "it would be helpful if Indonesia would make sure that the actions of its forces are transparent.   It will help encourage the world that Indonesia is behaving professionally and carefully."

While the Indonesian military has taken a page from the U.S. war in Iraq, embedding journalists and providing media access, its actions are far from transparent.

Members of the media have been fired upon, threatened, and detained in the conflict area, and the military authorities have sought to curtail what news does appear, demanding for instance that journalists stop quoting GAM leaders.

Local human rights organizations have been attacked and international observers dispelled from the region, triggering concerns about the safety of civilians and the "transparency" with which the operation is being carried out.

U.S. transferred more than $1 billion in weaponry to Jakarta

For many years, the U.S. was Indonesia's largest weapons source, equipping the country with everything from F-16 fighter planes to M-16 combat rifles.

From the bloody 1975 invasion through the 1990s, the U.S. transferred more than $1 billion in weaponry to Jakarta.

Congress moved to ban some military exports to and training for Indonesia after the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor, where soldiers wielding U.S.   M-16s mowed down more than 270 unarmed people.

And then, in response to military and paramilitary violence after East Timor's vote for independence in 1999, Congress strengthened the ban, establishing a set of criteria Indonesia must meet before military ties can be resumed.

None of the criteria, including the transparency in military budget and the prosecution of soldiers involved in human rights violations, have been fully met.

Judicial Process Gives Military a Free Pass

While the Indonesian government claims it is making strides to address human rights and military impunity, all the signs point in the exact opposite direction.

In January an Indonesian court acquitted Brigadier General Tono Suratman, who was accused of human rights violations in East Timor.   He is the 12th defendant acquitted by the court.

Even worse is the case of Major General Adam Damiri, who is on trial before a Jakarta human rights court for perpetrating crimes against humanity in East Timor.

He has missed three consecutive court appearances because he is helping supervise the military assault on Aceh.

Now the Indonesian prosecutors have recommended that all charges against him be dropped.

No penalties against the Indonesian military for its brutality in East Timor

This action makes it likely that there will be no serious penalties levied against the Indonesian military for its brutality in East Timor.

Despite the worsening crisis in Indonesia, the U.S.'s military embargo is under serious pressure as the Bush administration seeks a closer relationship with the world's largest Muslim democracy.

In an effort to win support in the war on terrorism, the White House is seeking to renew military aid and training.

The embargo on commercial sales of non-lethal defense articles has been lifted and contact between the two militaries is on the rise.

Now, Indonesia's military benefits from the Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program, a $17.9 million military training program for Asian militaries.

These steps send a message of support to Jakarta, even as many of the problems that sparked Congress' decision to freeze all military aid have not been resolved.

There has been some good news though.   The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently passed an amendment restricting International Military Education and Training (IMET) for 2004 for Indonesia until the government takes "effective measures" to investigate and criminally prosecute those responsible for a 2002 attack on U.S. citizens.

Indonesian police and NGO investigations have implicated the Indonesian military (TNI) in the attack, which killed two Americans.   This is a step in the right direction, but the Indonesia military technically still has access to IMET funding for 2003.

Washington often argues that weapons sales allow the administration to wield influence over the policies of purchasing nations.

Well, Indonesian General Endriartono Sutarto has a response to that.

When asked about the use of UK-origin Hawk fighters in Aceh, he said, "I am going to use what I have.   After all, I have paid already."

Bronco planes bombing Aceh today

The same can be said for U.S. weapons.   These weapons do not go away.

The Bronco planes bombing Aceh today are very likely the same ones that dropped napalm and missiles (and maybe even the bomb that killed the sister of Nobel Prize-winning Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta) in East Timor in 1975.

Given the central role of U.S. weapons in this new round of government sanctioned killing, weapons that Indonesia has paid for already, how can the Bush administration wield its influence to demand more from our ally than "transparent" indiscriminate killing?

If the assertions that weapons sales equal influence are to be believed, the White House and Congress must muster the courage and compassion to demand an immediate cessation of military activities and a return to the negotiating table.

Otherwise, our government bears some responsibility for the indiscriminate (but transparent) killing of unarmed Acehnese civilians.

Frida Berrigan is a senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center, a project of the World Policy Institute.   She writes regularly for Foreign Policy In Focus.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005
US restores Jakarta military link
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, right, and US President Bush shake hands after Yudhoyono's speech in the East Room of the White House Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, right, and US President Bush shake hands after Yudhoyono's speech in the East Room of the White House Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ties have warmed between Washington and Jakarta

The US is to restore military ties with Indonesia in light of "significant progress in advancing its democratic institutions", a spokesman has said.

The US partially lifted a ban on military sales to Indonesia in the spring when its president visited.

Human rights groups attacked that move, saying that despite efforts to make Indonesia's military more accountable, its rights record was unsatisfactory.

The US cut military ties with Indonesia in 1992 over its actions in East Timor.

The Indonesian army killed more than 200 protesters in East Timor that year.

The embargo was tightened seven years later when the military unsuccessfully attempted to prevent East Timor's people voting to split from Indonesia.


"Indonesia is a voice of moderation in the Islamic world," state department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement quoted by the Reuters news agency.

The US described its partial lifting of the arms embargo in May as a reward for the improvements Indonesia has made in curbing the abuses of its military.

Washington maintained a block on the sale of weapons at the time.

It is not clear if Tuesday's announcement completely lifts the ban.

The warming relationship between Washington and Jakarta has been driven by both President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's reformist programme and Indonesia's position on the front line in the war on terror.

Although Indonesia — with the largest Muslim population in the world — is no supporter of the war in Iraq, it has come down hard on its home-grown Islamic militants, and has co-operated well with the US on other joint threats.

Monday, 26 December 2005
A year after the tsunami

By Iolo ap Dafydd
BBC Wales

Aceh after tsunami
Much of Aceh was completely flattened

As the world remembers the tsunami that hit south-east Asia a year ago, BBC Wales reporter Iolo ap Dafydd travelled to Indonesia to see how the people of Sumatra have coped as they try to rebuild their lives.

If you can imagine a 90ft wave with the destructive power equivalent to 100bn tonnes crashing onto Prestatyn or Rhyl along the north Wales coast, you might have some idea of what Sumatra in Indonesia endured a year ago.

When the Boxing Day earthquake erupted, lifting the sea floor, it created a wall of water.

The nearest land was Sumatra's west coast and Aceh province in the northern tip.

Up to 250,000 people died as a result of the tsunami, in a dozen different countries, but none suffered as great a loss as Indonesia.

Mile after mile of the coastline is desolate, and barren wasteland.   In parts it resembles a huge bomb site — like Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
Girls in Aceh
More than 100,000 are still living in tents

And yet many locals told me: "You should have seen it a year ago."

In some coastal villages, new wooden houses are being built.   Nowhere near enough, as Naveed Chaudhri from Oxfam told me.

"It's a complicated business," he said.   "We've been able to build since last May.   We've completed some 200 houses, and we're working in these three villages near Banda Aceh.

"In this particular village Aloe Deah Teungoh we've got about 54 houses built another 27 under construction.   We hope to have — across all our work in Aceh — over 700 houses built by the end of this month."

Mr Chaudhri has family in mid and west Wales, but he is normally based at Oxfam's headquarters in Oxford.

He agrees more houses should be built, and quicker, but points out that, in a district called Meuraxa, more than 31,000 people lived in 17 villages before the tsunami.   Now that number is less than 6,500.   The conclusion is obvious: fewer houses are needed now.

Camp sanctuary

Many locals might disagree with that argument.   With half a million displaced people still in the Indonesian province, 100,000 have braved a whole year living in tents.

Arjiani is a 30-year-old widow caring for two sons, aged five and two.   Her husband was a fisherman in Calang.   He died last December and she walked for seven days to reach the safety of the camp on the outskirts of Banda Aceh.

"What can I do? " she asked.   "If I go, there's no house at home anymore.   If I could go back I would.   But I can't, so I have to stay here."

At the camp in Lamreung there is clean water and supplies of food which are delivered by charities like Care and Oxfam to the 1,100 people who live there.

Arjian is certainly not alone — there are 50 other "female-headed families".   That is the phrase used by international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to classify the families where the men have died.

Eric Morris, who is co-ordinating the United Nations' response to Aceh, said the the plight of the 100,000 people who have lived for 12 months under canvas is "unacceptable".

Over the next few months, the International Federation of the Red Cross aims to deliver 20,000 steel structures as temporary homes, to try to improve the situation.

15 September 2005
Interview: Aceh rebel leader
Gam rebels with weapons — 13/9/05
Gam's fighters say they are ready to go home
As rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (Gam) prepared to hand over their weapons on Thursday, the BBC's Rachel Harvey met Suwardi Suleiman, a Gam rebel leader.

Mr Suleiman, 27, joined Gam five years ago and describes himself as the information officer for the region.

He is slightly built with close-cropped hair.   He was not wearing a uniform and was not carrying a gun.   He did not really look like a rebel.

What do you think about the peace deal that has just been signed?

"We've read what has been decided in the peace agreements, and we've studied it, and we think it's a very good agreement.   What we have to see now, though, is how it is implemented on the ground, because we've learned from the past that sometimes Indonesia breaks its commitments.

"Regarding independence, we've put that to one side for now because of what happened to Aceh with the tsunami.   In 120 years it was the worst disaster to affect Aceh, so right now we want people to have peace, so that they can rebuild their lives."

So you have not completely given up your wish for independence — it is just an issue you have put to one side?

"We've put it aside.   The most important thing now is to rehabilitate the lives of Acehnese people.   We have an expression: first you fall off the ladder, then the ladder falls and hits you.   That's how it is here.   First the Acehnese people were living with the conflict, then they were hit by the tsunami.   They really need humanitarian help.   Politics and freedom? We can talk about that later on, we'll see how the peace agreement is implemented first.

You have made clear you do not completely trust the Indonesian government and Indonesian army, but can you guarantee that your old soldiers will do exactly as they are told?

"We're 100% sure that everyone in Gam will commit to this agreement.   We've spread the information through every level of the command.   We've already gathered all our weapons and handed them in to our commander.   So far everyone has followed that order, so we're very sure about our commitment."

The conflict in Aceh has been going on for almost 30 years now, all of your life.   How will it affect you personally if peace really does hold? What will you do with the rest of your life?

"I will go back to my community and settle back in there again.   I also want to continue my studies.   I have some background in law and in journalism.   I want to learn more, then go back to my people to be a teacher.

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The Secret War Against the Defenseless People of West Papua
By John Pilger
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 09 March 2006

In 1993, I and four others traveled clandestinely across East Timor to gather evidence of the genocide committed by the Indonesian dictatorship.   Such was the depth of silence about this tiny country that the only map I could find before I set out was one with blank spaces stamped "Relief Data Incomplete."

Defiled and abused

Yet few places had been as defiled and abused by murderous forces.   Not even Pol Pot had succeeded in dispatching, proportionally, as many people as the Indonesian tyrant Suharto had done in collusion with the "international community."

In East Timor, I found a country littered with graves, their black crosses crowding the eye: crosses on peaks, crosses in tiers on the hillsides, crosses beside the road.   They announced the murder of entire communities, from babies to the elderly.

In 2000, when the East Timorese, displaying a collective act of courage with few historical parallels, finally won their freedom, the United Nations set up a truth commission; on 24 January, its 2,500 pages were published.

I have never read anything like it.   Using mostly official documents, it recounts in painful detail the entire disgrace of East Timor's blood sacrifice.   It says that 180,000 East Timorese were killed by Indonesian troops or died from enforced starvation.

Primary roles: United States, Britain and Australia

It describes the "primary roles" in this carnage of the governments of the United States, Britain and Australia.   America's "political and military support were fundamental" in crimes that ranged from "mass executions to forced resettlements, sexual and other horrific forms of torture as well as abuse against children."   Britain, a co-conspirator in the invasion, was the main arms supplier.   If you want to see through the smokescreen currently around Iraq, and understand true terrorism, read this document.

As I read it, my mind went back to the letters Foreign Office officials wrote to concerned members of the public and MPs following the showing of my film Death of a Nation.   Knowing the truth, they denied that British-supplied Hawk jets were blowing straw-roofed villages to bits and that British-supplied Heckler & Koch machine guns were finishing off the occupants.   They even lied about the scale of suffering.

Brutal occupation of West Papua

And it is all happening again, wrapped in the same silence and with the "international community" playing the same part as backer and beneficiary of the crushing of a defenseless people.   Indonesia's brutal occupation of West Papua, a vast, resource-rich province — stolen from its people, like East Timor — is one of the great secrets of our time.   Recently, the Australian minister of "communications," Senator Helen Coonan, failed to place it on the map of her own region, as if it did not exist.

An estimated 100,000 Papuans, or 10 per cent of the population, have been killed by the Indonesian military.   This is a fraction of the true figure, according to refugees.   In January, 43 West Papuans reached Australia's north coast after a hazardous six-week journey in a dugout.   They had no food, and had dribbled their last fresh water into their children's mouths.

"We knew," said Herman Wainggai, the leader, "that if the Indonesian military had caught us, most of us would have died.   They treat West Papuans like animals.   They kill us like animals.   They have created militias and jihadis to do just that.   It is the same as East Timor."

Separate geographic and ethnic entity

For over a year, an estimated 6,000 people have been hiding in dense jungle after their villages and crops were destroyed by Indonesian Special Forces.   Raising the West Papuan flag is "treason."   Two men are serving ten- and 15-year sentences for merely trying.   Following an attack on one village, a man was presented as an "example" and petrol poured over him and his hair set alight.

When the Netherlands gave Indonesia its independence in 1949, it argued that West Papua was a separate geographic and ethnic entity with a distinctive national character.

A report published last November by the Institute of Netherlands History in The Hague revealed that the Dutch had secretly recognized the "unmistakable beginning of the formation of a Papuan state," but were bullied by the administration of John F. Kennedy to accept "temporary" Indonesian control over what a White House adviser called "a few thousand miles of cannibal land."

Out of population of 800,000, some 1,000 West Papuans "voted."

The West Papuans were conned.   The Dutch, Americans, British and Australians backed an "Act of Free Choice" ostensibly run by the UN.   The movements of a UN monitoring team of 25 were restricted by the Indonesian military and they were denied interpreters.   In 1969, out of a population of 800,000, some 1,000 West Papuans "voted."   All were selected by the Indonesians.

At gunpoint, they "agreed" to remain under the rule of General Suharto — who had seized power in 1965 in what the CIA later described as "one of the worst mass murders of the late 20th century."   In 1981, the Tribunal on Human Rights in West Papua, held in exile, heard from Eliezer Bonay, Indonesia's first governor of the province, that approximately 30,000 West Papuans had been murdered during 1963-69.   Little of this was reported in the West.

Wealth of West Papua

The silence of the "international community" is explained by the fabulous wealth of West Papua.   In November 1967, soon after Suharto had consolidated his seizure of power, the Time-Life Corporation sponsored an extraordinary conference in Geneva.

The participants included the most powerful capitalists in the world, led by the banker David Rockefeller.   Sitting opposite them were Suharto's men, known as the "Berkeley mafia," as several had enjoyed US government scholarships to the University of California at Berkeley.

Copper, nickel, forests, gold — Henry Kissinger

Over three days, the Indonesian economy was carved up, sector by sector.   An American and European consortium was handed West Papua's nickel; American, Japanese and French companies got its forests.   However, the prize — the world's largest gold reserve and third-largest copper deposit, literally a mountain of copper and gold — went to the US mining giant Freeport-McMoran.   On the board is Henry Kissinger, who, as US secretary of state, gave the "green light" to Suharto to invade East Timor, says the Dutch report.

Freeport is today probably the biggest single source of revenue for the Indonesian regime: the company is said to have handed Jakarta $33 billion between 1992 and 2004.   Little of this has reached the people of West Papua.

Starved to death

Last December, 55 people reportedly starved to death in the district of Yahukimo.   The Jakarta Post noted the "horrible irony" of hunger in such an "immensely rich" province.   According to the World Bank, "38 per cent of Papua's population is living in poverty, more than double the national average."

The Freeport mines are guarded by Indonesia's Special Forces, who are among the world's most seasoned terrorists, as their documented crimes in East Timor demonstrate.

Known as Kopassus, they have been armed by the British and trained by the Australians.   Last December, the Howard government in Canberra announced that it would resume "co-operation" with Kopassus at the Australian SAS base near Perth.  

In an inversion of the truth, the then-Australian defense minister, Senator Robert Hill, described Kopassus as having "the most effective capability to respond to a counter-hijack or hostage recovery threat."

Kopassus terrorism

The files of human-rights organizations overflow with evidence of Kopassus's terrorism.   On 6 July 1998, on the West Papuan island of Biak, just north of Australia, Special Forces massacred more than 100 people, most of them women.

However, the Indonesian military has not been able to crush the popular Free Papua Movement (OPM).   Since 1965, almost alone, the OPM has reminded the Indonesians, often audaciously, that they are invaders.

In the past two months, the resistance has caused the Indonesians to rush more troops to West Papua.   Two British-supplied Tactical armored personnel carriers fitted with water cannons have arrived from Jakarta.   These were first delivered during the late Robin Cook's "ethical dimension" in foreign policy.   Hawk fighter-bombers, made by BAE Systems, have been used against West Papuan villages.

The fate of the 43 asylum-seekers in Australia is precarious.   In contravention of international law, the Howard government has moved them from the mainland to Christmas Island, which is part of an Australian "exclusion zone" for refugees.

We should watch carefully what happens to these people.   If the history of human rights is not the history of great power's impunity, the UN must return to West Papua, as it did finally to East Timor.   Or do we always have to wait for the crosses to multiply?

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© : t r u t h o u t 2006


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