The shocking feature of this report from the Observer (UK) is not so much
that the USA trained the butchers of East Timor, since it is well known
that the "School of the Americas" in Georgia, formerly in Panama, and
often referred to as the "School pf Assassins", trained over the last
half-century almost 60,000 Latin American military, police and
paramilitary in "counter-revolutionary" methods that they proceeded to
employ throughout the continent, to appalling effect - countless
assassinations, torture victims, and massacres;
But that the UK, which stood aloof like Canada from Vietnam with its
Operation Phoenix, is now as deeply embroiled as the USA in state
AND the fact that for a quarter of a century the western media, including
of course our own, were almost completely silent as the genocide
of the East Timorese proceeded, with the full knowledge and indeed
approval of the USA [see John Pilger below];
AND the fact that our Canadian media, and presumably the US media,
continue to ignore the roots of the violence in Indonesia - Marcus Gee
writing in the Globe and Mail this week, just back from Indonesia, tells
us that only now following the economic crisis last Fall and the
deposition of Suharto are we able to exert the pressure needed to insist
on independence for East Timor.
He surely knows, but isn't saying, that ever since Suharto came to power
in 1965 after a blood-bath of more than half-a-million so-called
communists, Indonesia has been generously armed by the USA and UK, while
the multinationals exploiting their cheap labour and plundering their rich
resources have been the mainstay of the economy - so that Indonesia could
always have been persuaded by the threat of economic sanctions or by
cutting off arms supplies.
The hypocrisy is stupefying!
John Pilger in The Guardian (UK) comments on September 21
In December 1975, after US secretary of state Henry Kissinger returned
from Jakarta, having given Suharto the green light to invade East Timor,
he called his staff together and discussed how a congressional ban on arms
to Indonesia could be circumvented. 'Can't we construe a communist
government (in East Timor) as self-defence?" he asked. Told this would not
work, Kissinger gave orders that he wanted arms shipments secretly
'started again in January".
A few weeks later, on January 23 1976, the US ambassador to the United
Nations, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, sent a top-secret cable to Kissinger in
which he boasted about the 'considerable progress" he had made in blocking
UN action on East Timor. Moynihan later wrote: 'The department of state
desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective (on East Timor).
This task was given to me, and I carried it through with no inconsiderable
The program aimed at de-populating East Timor was directed by none other
than General Wiranto, the defence minister. who was visited in April,
1999, by Admiral Dennis Blair, US commander in chief in the Pacific.
Blair assured him of continued US backing; "Wiranto was delighted,"
reported Alan Nairn in the New York Nation, '(and) took this as a green
light to proceed with the militia operation." Two weeks ago, President
Clinton declared East Timor 'still part of Indonesia" - a little like
saying, in 1940, that occupied France was part of Nazi Germany.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 1999
How US trained butchers of Timor
Exclusive: Washington trained death squads in secret, while Britain has
spent £1m helping Indonesian army Indonesia and East Timor: special
report Ed Vulliamy in New York and Antony Barnett Sunday September 19,
1999. Indonesian military forces linked to the carnage in East Timor were
trained in the United States under a covert programme sponsored by the
Clinton Administration which continued until last year.
The Observer can also disclose that the British Government has spent about
£1 million in training more than 50 members of the Indonesian military in
Britain since it came to power. Human rights campaigners claim a number of
these are likely to have links with those complicit in the atrocities.
The US programme, codenamed 'Iron Balance', was hidden from legislators
and the public when Congress curbed the official schooling of Indonesia's
army after a massacre in 1991. Principal among the units that continued to
be trained was the Kopassus - an elite force with a bloody history - which
was more rigorously trained by the US than any other Indonesian unit,
according to Pentagon documents passed to The Observer last week. Kopassus
was built up with American expertise despite US awareness of its role in
the genocide of about 200,000 people in the years after the invasion of
East Timor in 1975, and in a string of massacres and disappearances since
the bloodbath. Amnesty International describes Kopassus as 'responsible
for some of the worst human rights violations in Indonesia's history'.
The Pentagon documents - obtained by the US-based East Timor Action
Network and Illinois congressman Lane Evans - detail every exercise in the
covert training programme, conducted under a Pentagon project called JCET
(Joint Combined Education and Training). They show the training was in
military expertise that could only be used internally against civilians,
such as urban guerrilla warfare, surveillance, counter-intelligence,
sniper marksmanship and 'psychological operations'.
Specific commanders trained under the US programme have been tied to the
current violence and to some of the worst massacres of the past 20 years,
including the slaughter at Kraras in 1983 and at Santa Cruz in 1991. The
US-trained commanders include the son-in-law of the late dictator General
Suharto, Prabowo Subianto, and his mentor, General Kiki Syahnakri - the
man appointed last week by the so-called 'reform' government as
commissioner for martial law in East Timor.
The secret programme unveiled in the document became the focus for
military training when above-board aid was curtailed by Congress after the
Santa Cruz massacre. Congress had stepped in after up to 270 peaceful
protesters - many of them schoolchildren - were murdered by Kopassus shock
troops as they paraded through Dili.
American sponsorship of the Indonesian regime began as a matter of Cold
War ideology, in the wake of defeat in Vietnam. The left-wing movement in
East Timor was feared by Jakarta and seen by the US as an echo of those in
southern Africa and of Salvador Allende's government in Chile. Jakarta's
harassment of the Timor government and the invasion of 1975 were duly
encouraged by the United States. The training of Indonesia's officer corps
peaked during the mid-Eighties. In 1990 a former official at the US
Embassy in Jakarta cabled the State Department to say US sponsorship had
been 'a big help to the (Indonesian) army. They probably killed a lot of
people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands'.
But the horror of Santa Cruz in 1991, when trucks were seen dumping bodies
in the sea, was too much. The US decided that the training, while still
available, should be paid for by the recipient nation - in other words, it
would no longer be military aid. The covert programme then became the main
means of training Indonesia's military - still at the American taxpayers'
In an undated prospectus, the Pentagon says the prime mission was to '
develop, organise, equip, train, advise and direct indigenous militaries'.
The scale was small, to offer concentrated 'significant special training'
which would create 'self-sufficient small units'. In 1996, for instance,
10 exercises involved 376 US personnel and 838 Indonesians or 'loyal'
Timorese. Britain also made a significant contribution to Indonesia's
The Observer has established that, since May 1997, 24 senior members of
Indonesia's forces have been trained in UK military colleges. This
included training in running military units efficiently and how to used
technical equipment like guided missiles. In addition, 29 Indonesian
officers have studied at non-military establishments. Revelations of the
extent to which Labour has used taxpayers' money to aid the Indonesian
military has angered many MPs, who claim it makes a mockery of Foreign
Secretary Robin Cook's 'ethical foreign policy'. In the last four years of
the Tory Government, only one Indonesian soldier was trained in the UK.
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