Enabling the Indonesian Military

This is a tale about politics, influence, money and murder. It began more than 40 years ago with a bloodletting so massive that no one quite knows how many people died. Half a million? A million? Through four decades, the story of the relationship between the United States and the Indonesian military has left a trail of misery and terror……

…..The Washington-Jakarta narrative begins in 1965 when the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) — the Indonesian Army — massacred as many as a million Indonesian leftists in a bloodletting in which the United States was a partner. According to the U.S. National Security Archives, the United States not only encouraged the annihilation of Indonesia’s left, it actually fingered individuals for the military death squads.

When Suharto, the dictator who took over after the 1965 massacres, decided to invade the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975, the Ford administration gave him a green light. Out of a population of 600,000 to 700,000, the invasion killed between 83,000 and 182,000, according to the Commission of Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation. “As a permanent member of the Security Council and superpower,” the Commission found, “the U.S. consented to the invasion and allowed Indonesia to use its military equipment in the knowledge that this violated U.S. law and would be used to suppress the right of self-determination.”

The United States was not alone in abetting the invasion. Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam “encouraged” the invasion, according to the Jakarta Post. Japan, Indonesia’s leading source of aid and trade, stayed on the sidelines. France and Britain increased trade and aid in the invasion’s aftermath, and in an effort to protect Indonesia’s Catholics, the Vatican remained silent. Later, when the Suharto dictatorship short-circuited a 1969 UN plebiscite on the future of West Papua, neither the United States nor its allies raised a protest.

A Dismal Record

Through six U.S. presidents — Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush, and Clinton — the TNI had carte blanche to brutally suppress autonomy movements and murder human rights activists in Aceh, Papua, and East Timor. read more


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