US, UK and Other Support of Indonesia

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  • by Anup Shah
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"No help came, because the western democracies were secret partners in a crime as great and enduring as any this century; proportionally, not even Pol Pot matched Suharto's spree. Air Force One, carrying President Ford and his secretary of state Henry Kissinger, climbed out of Indonesian airspace the day the bloodbath began. "They came and gave Suharto the green light," Philip Liechty, the CIA desk officer in Jakarta at the time, told me. "The invasion was delayed two days so they could get the hell out. We were ordered to give the Indonesian military everything they wanted. I saw all the hard intelligence; the place was a free-fire zone. Women and children were herded into school buildings that were set alight - and all because we didn't want some little country being neutral or leftist at the United Nations." And all because western capital regarded Indonesia as a "prize"."

"Jakarta Godfathers" by John Pilger, 7 September, 1999.

On this page:

  1. US Support for Indonesia
  2. UK Support for Indonesia
  3. Other's Support for Indonesia or Inaction

US Support for Indonesia

"So there's no talk about the Air Force dropping food to starving refugees. The Air Force is quite capable of destroying civilian targets in a country whose sovereignty doesn't matter. There, we can - apply pinpoint bombing, destroy civilian targets, and so on - it's fine. But we're not capable of dropping food to starving people. That's not ancient history, like last week, that's today."

Noam Chomsky, Sovereignty and World Order, Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas, September 20, 1999, Transcribed by James R. Benkard

When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, it was with the OK from the then US President, Ford. Ever since then, the US, UK and Australia have been criticized for their support of the regime. It has also been reported that Washington trained death squads, sponsored by the Clinton Administration.

The US has provided military support even to this latest crackdown, according to this investigation. (The previous link is a real audio link. You can also read the same thing, from journalist Alan Nairn, in an article titled "US Complicity in Timor".)

As reported back in May 1998, the continued training of Indonesian military had drawn criticism (see last half of report from the previous link). It has now emerged that as well as Washington training death squads, sponsored by the Clinton Administration as late as last year, the UK also spent about a million pounds training members of the Indonesian military.

The long standing US business interests in Indonesia has also been a factor in the slow response from the US.

Also check out this short interview with Noam Chomsky on what is happening, why and the US role.

"While Schneider hopes that these military-to-military contacts will spread U.S. values and deter human rights abuses, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin is less sanguine. "I have seen no evidence in my 24 years in Congress," he recently told the New York Times, "of one instance, where because of American military involvement with another military, that the Americans have stopped that foreign army from carrying out atrocities against their own people."

School Ties. What are Indonesia's special forces doing in Vermont?, In The Times

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UK Support for Indonesia

The UK has come under much criticism for selling arms to Indonesia which are known to then be used to suppress the people of East Timor in a brutal regime. (For more about the arms trade check out the Arms Trade section of the globalissues web site.)

In the Guardian, journalist John Pilger pointed out that the Labor government in 1998 approved "the sale of 625 billion pounds in arms (to Indonesia), a record never reached by the Tories (Conservatives) and surpassed only by the US." One of the ironic things about this was that the UK have been proclaiming to conduct an "ethical foreign policy".

Among the various controversial actions by the UK has been the recent Indonesian invitation to one of the largest British arms shows ever. In fact it has caused a huge uproar, and UK was only saved some additional embarrassment by Indonesia declining the offer!

Britain's Robin Cook has claimed that there has been a fairly clean sheet in terms of arms deals over the last couple of years. That doesn't mean much when it has been reported that British-made Hawks have been seen on bombing campaigns in East Timor.

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Other's Support for Indonesia or Inaction

Australia has been the only country to recognize officially the Indonesian occupation of East Timor as part of Indonesian sovereignty. It has interests in the Timor Gap Treaty with Indonesia that determines the division of oil and natural gas reserves off Timorese shores and therefore it's peacekeeping leadership perhaps some additional motives.

Recently released documents also show that as well as the US, Australia knew about the planned invasion of East Timor in 1975, and gave its tacit approval.

Regional power China, could have used this opportunity to take leadership but predictably did not, regarding this as as an internal affair, so if it did try to participate then they would no doubt face stern criticism for various disputable affairs "internal" to China too. Because of this as well, the UN Security Council seemed to be in a stalemate for decisive action -- while authorizing a UN-led peacekeeping force etc, they were not so vocally critical at the Indonesian regime as they have been in other regions. This political indicisiveness was all while people were being slaughtered.

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Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
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