Bush to restart military aid to Indonesia
By Nicole Colson | May 24, 2002 | Page 2
AFTER 24 years of a horrific occupation by Indonesia, East Timor officially achieved its independence last week. But even as Bill Clinton flew in to represent the U.S. government at the ceremony, Washington was preparing to restart its program of supplying weapons and training to Indonesia's military killers.
East Timor's independence was won at a terrible price. Human rights groups believe that one-third of the Timorese population was killed after the Indonesian occupation began--in 1976, after an invasion that was given the green light by President Gerald Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.
Clinton--who as president hosted a visit from the former Indonesian dictator Suharto, the butcher responsible for genocide in East Timor--tried to be tactful about the U.S. record of support for mass murder. The U.S. wasn't "as sensitive to the suffering of the people of East Timor as we should have been," Clinton said.
In 1999, after the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence, government-backed death squads went on a new rampage, killing hundreds of people and laying waste to the countryside. Only then did the Clinton administration cut off arms sales to Indonesia's killers.
The Indonesian military hasn't cleaned up its act. The most recent State Department report on Indonesia rated the country's human rights record as poor. "Security forces were responsible for numerous instances of, at times, indiscriminate shooting of civilians, torture, rape, beatings and other abuse," according to the report.
But George W. Bush has a "war on terrorism" to fight--and he figures Indonesia's generals would make fine allies.
In a funding request buried in a foreign aid bill for Afghanistan and Pakistan, $16 million is earmarked to train and equip a "domestic peacekeeping force" in Indonesia--supposedly to fight Islamic "terrorists." But the real goal of the "peacekeepers" would be to suppress secession movements inspired by the successful struggle in East Timor.
Bush doesn't want to let minor matters like human rights to get in the way of his "war on terror."