Friday, February 27, 2009

Secret American Empire - Ch.7

United States-Supported Slaughter

Some of the worst Indonesian human rights and environmental violations began in East Timor about the time I was living in Ujung Pandang. Like Sulawesi, East Timor was a remote island that was considered to be rich in oil and gas deposits, in addition to gold and manganese. Unlike Sulawesi, which was part of Indonesia, East Timor had been governed by the Portuguese for four centuries. While 90 percent of Indonesians were Muslim, East Timor was predominantly Roman Catholic.

East Timor declared itself independent from Portugal on November 28, 1975. Nine days later Indonesia invaded. The brutal occupation forces slaughtered an estimated 200,000 people, one third of the population of East Timor.

Documents released by the National Security Archive establish that the US government not only supplied the weapons used in the massacre but also explicitly approved the invasion. According to these records, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with Suharto on December 6, 1975, and agreed with his planned attack, which was launched the next day. The documents also reveal that the Carter administration blocked declassification of this information in 1977.

Joao Carrascalao, brother of the former governor of East Timor and a political leader now in exile, was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! Thirty-five years to the day after the invasion. He stated: “I arrived at Jakarta one hour before President Ford and Henry Kissinger landed in Jakarta. And on the same night, I was informed by Colonel Suyanto – he was a top officer in the Jakarta administration – that America had given the green light for Indonesia to invade Timor.”

Brad Simpson, assistant professor of history at the University of Marylnad and research assistant to the National Security Archive, told Amy: “These documents lay out a 25-year pattern of deceit by successive US administrations. Keeping the details of Indonesia's planned invasion of East Timor from the American public and from the international community, systematically suppressing or discounting credible reports of massacres taking place in East Timor through the mid-1980s, and working to circumvent possible congressional bans on military systems to keep the pipeline of weapons flowing.”

Twenty years after the invasion, two of Indonesia's most vocal critics were elevated to international status. East Timorese activists Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. The award sent shock waves through Jakarta, Washington, and into the corridors of Wall Street.

The East Timor massacre is just one of many police-state policies carried out under Suharto. Dispatching the military to these independence-minded regions was justified as necessary to halt communism during the 1970s. The idea that most rebellions were driven by a desperate desire to shake off the yoke of Suharto's repressive regime and that the rebels turned to countries like China only as a last resort – for military and medical assistance – was ignored by the mainstream US press. Also ignored by the media was the fact that bolstering Suharto served the corporatocracy's interests. Suharto's determination to control the entire archipelago – even regions that did not possess coveted resources – was taken very seriously by both Washington and Wall Street. The corporatocracy understood that it had to support the dictator's grandiose vision of a united Indonesia if it wanted to enjoy a free reign over areas that possessed the resources it craved.

On the northern tip of Sumatra, in oil-and gas-rich Aceh province, more than ten thousand people have been killed by the military since the time I lived in Indonesia. Thousands more died in clashes in the Molucca Islands, West Kalimantan (Borneo), and Irian Jaya (New Guinea). In case after case the true objective of the armed forces was to secure resources coveted by multinational corporations that, in essence, funded Suharto's government. Although oil- and other mineral-extracting companies took the lead, they were joined by a wide variety of corporations that benefited from Indonesia's cheap labor, natural resources, and markets for development projects and consumer goods. Indonesia is a prime example of an economy built around investment by the international banking and commercial communities. Backed by the promise of paying off loans through its resources, it went deep into debt to finance infrastructure projects that in turn generated demand for hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and the construction, service, banking, and transportation activities that accompany these. Wealthy Indonesians and foreigners gained, while the majority of Indonesians suffered. Resistance movements were beaten back by the armed forces.

Like the people, Indonesia's environment suffered severely. Mines, pulp and paper factories, and other resource-exploiting industries denuded enormous areas of one of the world's largest rain-forests. Rivers were clogged with toxic wastes. The air around industrial sites and cites was laden with pollution. In 1997, Southeast Asia made world headlines when it was covered in a haze of noxious smoke generated by out-of-control forest fires in Indonesia – the consequence of EHM-induced corruption.

Other victims of the “economic miracle” are the Bugis, Dyaks, Melanesias, and other indigenous cultures; their lands have been stolen and their lives and traditions destroyed. This modern genocide cannot be measured solely in terms of human suffering; it is an attack on the soul of humanity, and especially discouraging in light of earlier genocides, including ones conducted in the United States against our indigenous people. While those are condemned today, the model is repeated – and financed by the US government and our corporations.

When the growing economic crisis began to severely impact his country, Suharto bought into the IMF Structural Adjustment Package (SAP). The IMF recommended that Suharto drop fuel and food subsidies and many other social services to decrease spending. Blatantly imbalanced in favor of the rich, these policies resulted in increased starvation, disease, and antagonism.

Masses of Indonesians finally took to the streets. Even the wealthy, fearing increased mayhem, demanded change. Suharto was forced to resign in May 1998, ending his thirty-two years of dictatorial rule. In September 1999, the Clinton administration severed all military ties with the Indonesian military.

However, these events by no means marked the end for the corporatocracy. On the contrary, they ultimately strengthened its position. Indonesians in power took credit for ousting the dictator and portrayed themselves as friends of the people. The US government and multinational corporations hailed Suharto's downfall and supported the new regime. Then on December 26, 2004, a tragedy occurred that would provide new opportunities for the corporatocracy to entrench itself. The day after Christmas, the tsunami struck.

Around a quarter million people would ultimately die from the huge waves. However, the businesses involved in the reconstruction – many of the US firms – saw the devastation as a profit-making occasion. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis kill hundreds of thousands of people and destroy property, yet they boost GDP. The death and destruction does not make it into the economic statistics books; yet the billions of dollars spent on reconstruction do, creating a falsely positive impression.

Most US citizens are not aware that national disasters are like wars. They are highly profitable for big business. A great deal of the money for rebuilding after disasters is earmarked for US engineering firms and for multinational corporations that own hotel, restaurant, and retail chains, communications and transportation networks, banks, insurance companies, and other corporatocracy industries. Rather than helping subsistence farmers, fishermen, mom-and-pop restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, and local entrepreneurs, “disaster relief” programs provide one more vehicle for channeling money to the empire builders.

- pages 45-49, The Secret History of the American Empire

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