13 December 2001
Vol. 1, No. 20
Editor: Tom Barry
Self-Determination Crisis Watch is an electronic journal sponsored by Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), a joint project of the Interhemispheric Resource Center and the Institute for Policy Studies. FPIF, a “think tank without walls,” is dedicated to “making the U.S. a more responsible global leader and partner.” The project has received a grant from the Carnegie Corporation to advance new approaches to self-determination conflicts through web-based research and analysis. Crisis Watch presents the latest analysis about self-determination from our international network of experts. For more information, please visit our Self-Determination In Focus website at http://www.selfdetermine.org/index.html . We encourage readers to respond to opinions expressed in Crisis Watch as well as to send in unsolicited commentaries (send to firstname.lastname@example.org ) about self-determination issues.
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Table of Contents
*** CONFLICT PROFILE: UIGHUR MUSLIMS IN
By Sean L. Yom
*** CONFLICT PROFILE: DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
OF CONGO ***
By Thomas Turner
*** WASHINGTON GAVE GREEN LIGHT TO INVASION
OF EAST TIMOR ***
By Jim Lobe
*** OTHER CONFLICT NEWS ***
Washington Gave Green Light to Invasion of East Timor
By Jim Lobe
(S-DCW Editor’s Note: Excerpted from a Global Affairs Commentary, posted in its entirety at: http://www.selfdetermine.org/crisiswatch/0112timor.html .)
If Americans needed any reminding how, during the cold war, U.S. policymakers subordinated Wilsonian principles of self-determination to the larger anticommunist struggle, they should read several secret U.S. documents surrounding Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor obtained and released this week by the independent National Security Archive (NSA). The documents confirm that visiting U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave a green light to President Suharto for the invasion.
“For senior officials, the fate of a post-colonial East Timor paled in comparison to the strategic relationship with the anticommunist Suharto regime, especially in the wake of the communist victory in Vietnam, when Ford and Kissinger wanted to strengthen relations with anticommunists and check left-wing movements in the region,” according to William Burr and Michael Evans, authors of the NSA’s Electronic Briefing Book on the documents (available online at http://gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB62/ )."The callous disregard for the human rights and political aspirations of the East Timorese are rather breathtakingly exposed in these newly released documents,” according to Robert J. McMahon, a professor of history at the University of Florida and author of The Limits of Empire: the United States and Southeast Asia Since 1945.
As Jakarta’s closest Western ally and main source of military equipment since Suharto took power in the mid-1960s, Washington always enjoyed considerable influence with the former general during his reign. Indeed, in the late 1960s, it played a critical role in facilitating Indonesia’s absorption of West Papua, renamed Irian Jaya after Jakarta annexed it. It appears from the documents that Suharto was looking for similar backing for his moves on East Timor.
The territory had divided into various factions after the Portuguese revolution in 1974. The more popular group, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), eventually gained the upper hand and pushed for rapid independence.
As Fretelin gained control of most of the
territory, Jakarta began infiltrating troops. On November 28, Fretelin
declared East Timor’s independence, apparently in the hope that it could
persuade the United Nations to demand the withdrawal of Indonesia’s forces.
It was in that context that Ford and Kissinger, who had just completed
talks with China’s leadership in Beijing, landed in Jakarta.
As made clear by the newly disclosed documents, the overriding concern of U.S. policy in the region at the time was to reassure pro-Western countries like Indonesia that Washington would remain engaged in the region despite the defeat of its allies in Indochina in April.
“Ford and Kissinger plainly viewed the maintenance of warm ties with the Suharto regime as a foreign policy priority that far outweighed any secondary concerns about the possible Indonesian use of force in East Timor—even though the use of such force would constitute a clear violation of American laws,” said Robert McMahon, an expert on U.S. policy in Southeast Asia at the University of Florida.
The documents disclose that Suharto, in a July 1975 meeting with Ford at the presidential retreat at Camp David, had argued that independence for East Timor was not viable and that “the only way is to integrate (it) into Indonesia.” He also accused those Timorese who favored independence as being “Communist-influenced.” Similarly, memoranda dating from August 1975 quote Kissinger as stating that Indonesia would take over East Timor “sooner or later.”
After the invasion, Washington delayed new arms shipments to Indonesia pending an administrative review, supposedly to determine whether Jakarta had violated the ban on using U.S. weapons for offensive purposes. During the same period, however, military equipment already in the pipeline continued to be shipped to Jakarta, and new offers of military equipment, including spare parts for aircraft specifically needed for counterinsurgency operations, were made by Washington.
(Jim Lobe email@example.com is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy in Focus and a journalist with Inter Press Service, an international news agency.)
For more information, see:
FPIF Policy Brief: East Timor
By Lynn Fredriksson
FPIF Policy Brief: Papua-Another
By Abigail Abrash
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The goal of the FPIF project is to forge a new global affairs agenda for the U.S. Government and the U.S. people--one that makes the U.S. a more responsible global leader and global partner. The FPIF project - through its inclusive structure, multimedia character, comprehensive scope, and commitment to rethinking the operative principles of U.S. foreign policy--is playing a vital role in establishing a new vision and a cohesive policy framework for a more responsible U.S. role in the global community. The project's network of advocates, activists, and scholars serves as a think tank without walls, functioning as a dynamic base from which to reach out to the constituencies that are essential to ensuring that U.S. foreign policy represents a more broadly conceived understanding of U.S. national interests.
BD: Military and political aid to Indonesia - A collection of recent reports, articles and news
BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news