U.S. Criminal History in Indonesia

November 1, 1999

U.S. SENATOR SPARKMAN: “At a time when Indonesia was kicking up pretty badly–when we were getting a lot of criticism for continuing military aid–at that time we could not say what that military aid was for. Is it secret anymore?”
U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT MCNAMARA: “I think in retrospect, that the aid was well justified.”
SPARKMAN: “You think it paid dividends?”
MCNAMARA: “I do, sir.”

Hearings on Foreign Assistance, 1966,
before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

“The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.”

–Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, in a cable to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Jan. 23, 1976 muting U.N. opposition to Indonesia’s Dec. 7, 1975 invasion of East Timor

“It is the explicit policy of the Indonesian security forces to meet peaceful and unarmed civilian protests with force. Military training from the United States thus directly undermines the democratic movement in Indonesia.”

–Megawati Soekainoputri, Indonesian dissident,
in a March 18, 1998 letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton

When Indonesia won its independence from the Dutch in 1954, the U.S. took notice. The fourth most populous nation, the largest archipelago-state in the world made up of thousands of mineral-rich islands stretching 3,000 miles across, was no longer in the hands of the “West.” President Sukarno was considered a “neutralist” and a leader of the “Third World” nonaligned nations seeking self-determination, a movement threatening western control.

As early as 1955 the CIA and the Pentagon were attempting to undermine Sukarno. This interference included attempts to steal elections, creation of paramilitary sabotage units, building networks with the military, and assassination plans.

Dedicated to raising standards of living, President Sukarno nationalized Dutch-owned industries, including in 1965 the oil reserves. In October l965 General Suharto siezed power, a man who had served both the Dutch and the Japanese. What followed has been called “One of the most savage mass slaughters of modern political history” (New York Times, March 12, 1966), a conclusion echoed in a 1968 CIA report. An extraordinarily brutal campaign of repression of Indonesia’s population was coordinated by Suharto and his cohorts with international corporations and investors, freeing them to plunder Indonesia’s extensive oil and natural gas reserves, rich mineral deposits and dense forests.

The relationship between the U.S. and Indonesian military under Suharto intensified with training and provision of weapons. Subsequently, U.S. diplomats and CIA agents disclosed that they had systematically compiled “death lists” of “Communist” operatives, from top echelons to village cadres, regularly providing names to the Indonesian military. Howard Federspiel, an Indonesia expert at the State Department in 1965, declared, “No one cared, as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered.” Torture was routine and death squads murdered at will. Estimates range from 500,000 murdered to more than one million, with 750,000 political prisoners, uncounted thousands of whom died of malnutrition and untreated illness.

On December 7, l975, Indonesia’s armed forces invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, only hours after the departure from Jakarta of U.S. Pres. Ford and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Columnist Jack Anderson reported that Pres. Ford had declared: “We had to be on the side of Indonesia.” Subsequently Henry Kissinger has confirmed they approved the invasion. Anderson also reported that “five days after the invasion, the United Nations voted to condemn the attack as an arrant act of international aggression. The U.S. abstained…The U.S. delegate (Daniel Patrick Moynihan) maneuvered behind the scenes to resist U.N. moves aimed at forcing Indonesia to give up its conquest.” By 1989, Amnesty International estimated that Indonesian military forces had murdered 200,000 E. Timorese of a population of 600,000-700,000, a holocaust proportionately more brutal than the simultaneous campaign of Pol Pot in Cambodia.

The U.S. State Department has consistently supported Indonesia’s (illegal) claims to East Timor while downplaying the slaughter. Since the invasion, the U.S. has continually trained Indonesia military while approving sales of over $1 billion in weaponry, including aircraft and assault rifles. Under President Clinton $148 million worth of military hardware has been granted as well as secret Green Berets training to Indonesia’s feared Kopassus counterinsurgency units in defiance of Congressional prohibitions.

Western governments, including the U.S., knew from intelligence sources as early as July l998, that the Indonesian military was working with recruited armed militias to destroy the impending independence referendum. Nonetheless, the U.S. was providing training to the Indonesian Air Force as recently as summer 1999, and U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen reported that only a week before the August 1999 referendum U.S. and Indonesian military personnel were conducting joint operations.

The incredulous “necessary” illusions about Indonesia are revealed by Clinton administration officials recently referring to Suharto as “our kind of guy,” and Clinton’s recent statement that E. Timor is “still a part of Indonesia.” E. Timor has never been a part of Indonesia! The history of U.S support for Indonesia’s repression represents the normal pattern of U.S. global hegemonic policies. This behavior can be understood partially by recognizing a huge structural problem: the 4.5% of the world’s population living in the U.S. consume collectively nearly half the world’s resources. To continue this extraordinary exploitation requires belief in an ideology that nobly justifies (or conveniently denies) lawless interventions that cause extreme violations of human rights. An arrogance gone mad, explains with incredible double speak, policies of imperialism, no matter the form.

The people here as well as elsewhere deserve a U.S. government committed to upholding international law and the preservation of human rights for all people, everywhere. The hope is in a popular movement that can effectively demand such compliance, while understanding the necessary linkage between domestic values and exploitive policies in order to seek an alignment rooted in justice for all.


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