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Lying through their teeth

By Lance Selfa | January 4, 2002 | Page 9

LAST MONTH the media revealed a "smoking gun" that showed an accused war criminal approving the massacre of thousands of civilians. This smoking gun didn't come from a grainy video in Afghanistan, but from the files of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.

Two recently declassified documents showed former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger giving then-Indonesian dictator Suharto a "green light" to invade and conquer East Timor in 1975.

For 26 years, Kissinger has denied he had foreknowledge of Suharto's planned annexation of East Timor. He has insisted that he and President Ford learned about the invasion only after they had completed a brief stop in Jakarta on the way back to Washington from a visit to China in December 1975.

The Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor killed more than 200,000 Timorese, most of them civilians.

The documents showed that Kissinger and Ford not only knew that the Indonesians were planning an invasion but approved of it. In their meeting with Suharto, a recipient of millions in U.S. military aid, he warned that forces pushing for East Timor's independence from Portugal were "communist-dominated."

"We want your understanding," a declassified State Department telegram quoted Suharto as saying. "If we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action." Ford didn't mince words: "We will understand you and not press you on the issue."

Kissinger, anticipating the congressional outcry that would result from the use of U.S.-supplied weapons in the invasion, pledged to run interference for the Indonesians.

If Kissinger had any concern for the thousands who would be killed--unlikely, since he had just presided over the deaths of a million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians--he didn't express them. Instead, he worried about how Suharto's actions would reflect on him and Ford.

"We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens after we return," Kissinger said. "If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the president returns home."

Coming in the midst of the "war on terrorism," the Kissinger revelation should be a reminder that much of what the government is saying today should be treated with skepticism--if not understood as outright lies.

Consider what should be a developing scandal over October's anthrax terror. President Bush and a legion of editorial writers and pundits linked the anthrax attacks to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein--on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

Amidst the hysteria, Attorney General John Ashcroft and a panicky Congress pushed through a virtual repeal of the Bill of Rights in the USA PATRIOT Act.

Three months later, even the Bush administration was forced to admit that the anthrax likely came from a U.S. government laboratory. And the army was forced to disclose that it has manufactured, since 1992, the "weaponized" variety of anthrax sent to Sen. Tom Daschle's office.

Since September 11, right-wingers have tried to force antiwar activists, leftists and other government critics to recant their beliefs.

Yet, who was right about East Timor: the Kissingers and Fords who issued public denials for years or the activists who insisted that the U.S. gave the "green light" to Indonesia's invasion?

Likewise, who has proven more correct about the anthrax attacks: the crackpots like former CIA Director James Woolsey, who tried to link them to Iraq, or many in the antiwar opposition, who said a domestic terrorist was the most likely culprit?

In case you wonder if officials today won't lie through their teeth if it serves them, just remember that when Kissinger and Ford were giving Suharto the "green light," Vice President Dick Cheney was White House chief of staff and Donald Rumsfeld was doing his first tour as defense secretary.

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