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  Green light for war crimes — 2  

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  Noam Chomsky
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  Ashis Nandy
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  Ramakanta Rath
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Noam Chomsky

Australian Asia correspondent Lindsay Murdoch commented that "grave doubts exist that the guilty will be brought to justice. Indonesia’s legal system is riddled with corruption and has a poor record when dealing with human rights abuses." Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman is "a respected human rights advocate," but "the task he faces in bringing some of the country’s most powerful people to justice appears daunting, if not impossible," as illustrated by President Wahid’s apparently having "buckled to pressure from General Wiranto" by declaring that he would be pardoned if found guilty: "Any such pardon would be outrageous," Murdoch wrote.[12]

"You cannot have one-sided justice in human rights cases," Picado said. It is fairly safe, however, to predict that one-sided justice is the most that can be anticipated, and even that is a dubious prospect. Furthermore, it is hardly likely that the guilty parties, particularly the U.S. and U.K., will consider providing the "moral and material compensation" they owe to the victims, and there is no call for such action.

In the U.S., the Indonesian government report, with its call for an Indonesian inquiry restricted to the post-referendum period, was extensively reported, and supported. The UN report, calling for an international tribunal on crimes committed from January 1999, received only passing mention, and the crucial issues, scant attention.[13]

The restriction to the post-referendum period is important for the international collaborators in the "veiled operations" that preceded, not to speak of the earlier record. Under the post-referendum restriction, one might argue without utter absurdity that there was little time to respond. The Jakarta option has other advantages: East Timorese are unlikely to testify, pardons have already been announced, the pressures to evade the facts will be strong, and the great powers are immune from inspection. But even in an international tribunal the possibility that Western leaders would be held accountable for their responsibility is so slight as hardly to merit comment. Only by attaining a remarkable level of "intentional ignorance" can one fail to perceive that the international judicial process, like other aspects of international affairs, is subject to the rule of force, which overrules considerations of justice, human rights, or accountability.

In East Timor, the peacekeeping forces and the UN mission "have neither the means nor the authority to track down those responsible" for crimes, and little evidence is being unearthed:

"In contrast to Kosovo, where human-rights investigators began work as NATO forces took control on the ground, the UN in East Timor has no such capability."[14] "Meanwhile, in East Timor, the evidence of crimes against humanity—and so the chance of successful prosecutions—is literally rotting away because of inadequate resources." UN civilian police are finding many bodies and mass graves, but have no resources to investigate them. "The need for forensic experts is very, very urgent," said David Wimhurst, spokesman for UNAMET. "Neither Interfet nor Unamet is able to do this properly at the moment. It is crucial that investigative teams come into Dili as soon as possible." "When Nato went into Kosovo, teams of police, forensic scientists and lawyers from the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague were at work within days, sealing off and cataloguing mass grave sites. In East Timor, a few harassed policemen have the task of exhuming the bodies and collecting what evidence they can."[15]

The distinction between the two most prominent atrocities of 1999 is clear. In Kosovo, there was a desperate need for Tribunal indictment (for crimes committed after the bombing began, as the indictment reveals); and "proving the scale of the crimes is also important to NATO politically, to show why 78 days of airstrikes against Serbian forces and infrastructure were necessary," by the intriguing logic, conventional in Western doctrine, that crimes provide retrospective justification for the NATO bombing of which they were the anticipated consequence

The delays ensure that little will be found, even if forensic experts are ultimately sent. Much of the evidence was destroyed by TNI, bodies have been buried by local people, and more will be washed away or eaten by animals, Australian doctor Andrew McNaughtan informed the press, giving details; he has worked in East Timor for 7 years. Isabel Ferreira, who coordinates the East Timor Human Rights Commission in Dili, added that "when the rainy season begins, all the bodies will be washed away into the rivers and there will be no evidence left to investigate." Kosovo was swarming with police and medical forensic teams from the U.S. and other countries in the hope of discovering large-scale atrocities. In contrast, INTERFET had 10 investigators, no morgue, and no forensic capabilities. Australian forensic pathologists confirmed that with further delay, tropical heat and the onset of the rainy season would eliminate most evidence. UN Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello pleaded again for forensic experts and facilities at the end of November, in vain. A month later it was announced that "international forensic experts will arrive in January to help in investigations of mass graves" and to compile information on crimes, four months after the arrival of INTERFET, long after tropical rains and other factors have significantly reduced the likelihood of revealing the truth.[16]

The distinction between the two most prominent atrocities of 1999 is clear. In Kosovo, there was a desperate need for Tribunal indictment (for crimes committed after the bombing began, as the indictment reveals); and "proving the scale of the crimes is also important to NATO politically, to show why 78 days of airstrikes against Serbian forces and infrastructure were necessary," by the intriguing logic, conventional in Western doctrine, that crimes provide retrospective justification for the NATO bombing of which they were the anticipated consequence.[17] Putting logic aside, at least the immediate agent of the crimes is an official enemy, while in East Timor, the agents of the crimes were armed, trained, funded and supported by the U.S. and its allies from the beginning through the terrible denouement, so it is best to know as little as possible about them.

Though Jakarta had indeed considered East Timor to be "its sovereign territory," nevertheless no actual issue of sovereignty arose in this case, as distinct from Kosovo, which the U.S. and its allies insist must be under the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (specifically Serbia), probably out of fear of a "greater Albania." Even Australia, the one Western country to have granted de jure recognition to the Indonesian annexation (in large measure because of its interest in joint exploitation of Timorese oil), had renounced that stand in January 1999. Indonesia’s "sovereign rights" were comparable to those of Nazi Germany in occupied Europe; they rested solely on great power ratification of aggression and massacre in this Portuguese-administered territory, a UN responsibility. Nonetheless, the non-existent claim to sovereignty was accorded the most scrupulous respect under the principles of the new humanism that had been proclaimed a few months earlier,[18] while those assigned responsibility for security proceeded to kill and terrorize.

In the light of the absence of any legitimate claim to sovereignty, and the refusal to send peacekeeping forces until after the Indonesian generals agreed to withdraw, having at last been informed by Washington that the game was over, the term "intervention" is out of place. A fortiori, the issue of "humanitarian intervention" does not arise, though this is one of the rare cases when it is possible to speak seriously of humanitarian intent, at least on the part of Australia, or more accurately, its population, who were bitterly critical of the government’s failure to react.

As TNI forces and their paramilitaries were burning down the capital city of Dili in September 1999, murdering and rampaging with renewed intensity, the Pentagon announced that "A U.S.-Indonesian training exercise focused on humanitarian and disaster relief activities concluded Aug. 25," five days before the referendum.[19] The lessons were quickly applied in a familiar way, as all but the voluntarily blind must recognize after many years of the same tales, the same outcomes.

One gruesome illustration was the coup that brought General Suharto to power in 1965. Army-led massacres slaughtered hundreds of thousands in a few months, mostly landless peasants, destroying the mass-based political party of the left, the PKI, in "one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century," the CIA concluded, ranking with "the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War, and the Maoist bloodbath of the early 1950s."[20] This Rwanda-style slaughter elicited unrestrained euphoria in the West and fulsome praise for the Indonesian "moderates," Suharto and his military accomplices, who had cleansed the society. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara informed Congress that U.S. military aid and training had "paid dividends"—including half a million or more corpses;

"enormous dividends," a congressional report concluded. McNamara informed President Johnson that U.S. military assistance "encouraged [the army] to move against the PKI when the opportunity was presented." Contacts with Indonesian military officers, including university programs, were "very significant factors in determining the favorable orientation of the new Indonesian political elite" (the army). The U.S. had "trained 4000 Indonesian army officers—half the total officer corps, including one-third of the general staff," two Australian analysts observe.[21]

The U.S. is a global power, and policies tend to be consistent worldwide. Not surprisingly, at the same time the same planners were helping to institute murderous military terror states elsewhere, on the principle, explained by McNamara to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, that it is the task of the military to remove civilian leaders from office "whenever, in the judgment of the military, the conduct of these leaders is injurious to the welfare of the nation," a necessity in "the Latin American cultural environment," and likely to be carried out properly now that the judgment of the military is based upon "the understanding of, and orientation toward, U.S. objectives" as a result of the military aid and training provided by the Kennedy Administration.[22]

So matters continued in Indonesia for three decades of military aid, training, and friendly interaction with the great mass murderer and torturer who was "at heart benign," the London Economist explained, unfairly condemned by "propagandists for the guerrillas" in East Timor and West Papua (Irian Jaya) who "talk of the army’s savagery and use of torture." The unnamed propagandists were the major human rights groups, the Church, and others who failed to see the merits of "our kind of guy," as the Clinton Administration admiringly described Suharto when he was welcomed to Washington in October 1995. His son-in-law General Prabowo, "the leader of Indonesia’s paramilitary death squads, who has authorised mass killings and rapes" and was finally sent to Jordan as an embarrassment after the fall of Suharto, was "an ‘enlightened’ military leader who deserved to have his demands treated promptly and with courtesy by British politicians," according to British Defence Minister George Robertson, "liberator of oppressed muslims of Kosovo."[23]

Direct U.S. support for Indonesian occupation forces in East Timor was hampered after they massacred several hundred people in Dili in 1991. In reaction, Congress banned small arms sales and cut off funds for military training, compelling the Clinton Administration to resort to some intricate maneuvers to evade the legislative restrictions. The State Department commemorated the anniversary of the Indonesian invasion by determining that "Congress’s action did not ban Indonesia’s purchase of training with its own funds," so the training can proceed despite the ban, with Washington perhaps paying from some other pocket. The announcement received scant notice and no comment in the press, but it did lead Congress to express its "outrage," reiterating that "it was and is the intent of Congress to prohibit U.S. military training for Indonesia" (House Appropriations Committee): "we don’t want employees of the US Government training Indonesians," a staff member reiterated forcefully, but without effect.[24]

Government-approved weapons sales come to over $1 billion since the 1975 invasion, including $150 million during the Clinton years; government-licensed sales of armaments increased from $3.3 million to $16.3 million from fiscal 1997 to 1998.[25] As atrocities peaked in 1977-78, the U.K., France, and others joined the U.S. in providing arms for the killers as well as diplomatic protection. Britain’s Hawk jets proved to be particularly effective for killing and terrorizing civilians. The current Labour government continued to deliver Hawk jets secretly to Indonesia, using public funds, as late as September 23, 1999, two weeks after the European Union had imposed an embargo, several days after INTERFET had landed, well after it had been revealed that these aircraft had been deployed over East Timor once again, this time as part of the pre-referendum intimidation operation, two weeks days after the Indonesian Air Force had deployed Hawk jets at the Kupang Airbase in West Timor "to anticipate any intrusion of foreign aircraft into the eastern part of Indonesian territory, especially East Timor," also installing a early warning radar system in Kupang. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, the author of the new "ethical foreign policy," explained that "the government is committed to the maintenance of a strong defence industry, which is a strategic part of our industrial base," as in the U.S. and elsewhere. For the same reasons, Prime Minister Tony Blair later gave "the go-ahead for the sale of spare parts to Zimbabwe for British Hawk fighter jets being used in an African civil war that has cost tens of thousands of lives."[26]

These are altogether unsurprising illustrations of the new humanism, a grand new era in world affairs led by the United States, now "at the height of its glory,"[27] and its British partner.

In 1997 the Pentagon was still training Indonesian military forces. The programs continued into 1998 under the code name "Iron Balance," "hidden from legislators and the public" because they were in violation of the clear intent of congressional restrictions. "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. Training focused on "military expertise that could only be used internally against civilians, such as urban guerrilla warfare, surveillance, counter-intelligence, sniper marksmanship and ‘psychological operations’." Among commanders trained were those implicated in the renewed outburst of violence in 1999, as well as earlier massacres, including Krasas 1983 and Dili 1991. "Loyal" Timorese also received U.S. training. Britain was carrying out similar programs.[28]

In November 1998, Kopassus forces arrived in a port town in East Timor, entering in disguise along with the first of 5000 new TNI forces recruited from West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia. These became the core elements of the paramilitaries ("militias") that initiated massive violence in operation "Clean Sweep" from February 1999, with "the aim, quite simply,...to destroy a nation." As senior military adviser, the military command sent General Makarim, a U.S.-trained intelligence specialist with experience in East Timor and "a reputation for callous violence"; he was also assigned the role of liaison with the UN observer mission. The plans and their implementation were, surely, known to Western intelligence, as has been the case since the planning of the 1975 invasion.[29]

There is substantial evidence from many sources that from the beginning of 1999, the atrocities attributed to militias were organized, directed, and sometimes carried out by elite units of Kopassus, the "crack special forces unit" that had "been training regularly with US and Australian forces until their behaviour became too much of an embarrassment for their foreign friends," veteran Asia correspondent David Jenkins reports; though not their friends in Washington, it appears. These forces are "legendary for their cruelty," Benedict Anderson observes: in East Timor they "became the pioneer and exemplar for every kind of atrocity," including systematic rapes, tortures and executions, and organization of hooded gangsters. They adopted the tactics of the U.S. Phoenix program in South Vietnam that killed tens of thousands of peasants and much of the indigenous South Vietnamese leadership, Jenkins writes, as well as "the tactics employed by the Contras" in Nicaragua, following lessons taught by their CIA mentors. The state terrorists were "not simply going after the most radical pro-independence people but going after the moderates, the people who have influence in their community." "It’s Phoenix," a well-placed source in Jakarta reported: the aim is "to terrorise everyone"—the NGOs, the Red Cross, the UN, the journalists.[30]

Again, U.S. and British intelligence must have known all of this, doubtless far more, and it is hard to imagine that the civilian authorities were unaware of what they were supporting.

p. 1 p. 2 p. 3 Endnotes

Noam Chomsky is Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA. A political analyst, he is believed to be the most quoted author alive