Tuesday, July 19, 2005

John Pilger Primer on the Horrors of Modern Indonesian History

Trust John Pilger to sum it all up neatly. This article extract from The Mirror in England has a Balinese angle, taking as its fulcrum the then-recent Bali bombings:
'State terrorism, backed by America, Britain and Australia, has scarred Indonesia for the past 40 years. For example, the source of the worst violence is the Indonesian army, which the West has supported and armed. Today, troops continue to terrorise the provinces of Aceh and West Papua, where they are "protecting" the American Exxon oil company's holdings and the Freeport mine.

In West Papua, the army openly supports an Islamic group, Lashkar Jihad, which is linked to al-Qaeda.

This is the same army which the Australian government trained for decades and publicly defended when its terrorism became too blatant.

In 1999, when the people of Australia's closest northern neighbour, East Timor, which had been invaded and annexed by the Indonesia dictatorship of General Suharto, finally had an opportunity to vote for independence and freedom, it was the government of John Howard that betrayed them. Although warned by Australia's intelligence agencies that the Indonesian army was setting up militias to terrorise the population, Howard and his foreign minister, Alexander Downer, claimed they knew nothing; and the massacres went ahead. As leaked documents have since revealed, they did know.

This was only the latest in Australia's long complicity with state terrorism in Indonesia, which makes a mockery of the self-deluding declarations last week that Australia had "lost its innocence" in Bali. Certainly, few Australians are aware that not far from their holiday hotels are mass graves with the remains of some of more than 80,000 people murdered in Bali in 1965-66 with the connivance of the Australian government.

Recently-released files reveal that when the Indonesian tyrant General Suharto seized power in the 1960s, he did so with the secret backing of the American, British and Australian governments, which looked the other way or actively encouraged the slaughter of more than half a million "communists". This was later described by the CIA as "one of the worst mass murders of the 20th Century".

The Australian Prime Minister at the time, Harold Holt, quipped: "With 500,000 to a million communist sympathisers knocked off, I think it's safe to assume a reorientation has taken place." Holt's remark accurately reflected the collaboration of the Australian foreign affairs and political establishment. The Australian embassy in Jakarta described the massacres as a "cleansing process". In Canberra, officials in the Prime Minister's department expressed support for "any measures to assist the Indonesian army cope with the internal situation".

Suharto's bloody rise might not have succeeded had the United States not secretly equipped his troops. A state-of-the-art field communications system, flown in at night by the US Air Force planes, had high frequencies that were linked directly to the CIA and the National Security Agency advising President Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto's generals to co-ordinate the killings, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration were listening in and that Suharto could seal off large areas of the country. In the American embassy, a senior official drew up assassination lists for Suharto, then ticked off the names when each was murdered.

The bloodbath was the price of Indonesia becoming, as the World Bank described it, "a model pupil of the global economy". That meant a green light for western corporations to exploit Indonesia's abundant natural resources. The Freeport Company got a mountain of copper and gold in the province of West Papua. An American and European consortium got the nickel. The giant Alcoa company got the biggest slice of Indonesia's bauxite. Other companies took the tropical forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan; and Suharto and his cronies got a cut that made them millionaires and billionaires.

IN 1975, the violence that had brought Suharto to power was transferred to the Portuguese colony of East Timor. Suharto's troops invaded, and over the next 23 years more than 200,000 people, a third of the population, perished. During much of East Timor's bloody occupation, Suharto's biggest supplier of arms and military equipment was Britain. In one year, a billion pounds' worth of Export Credit Guarantee loans went to Indonesia so that Suharto could buy British Aerospace Hawk jets.

Today, Suharto has gone, but decades of foreign plunder, in league with one of the greatest mass murderers, have produced fault-lines right across Indonesian society. The "model pupil" of the global economy is more indebted than any country; and millions of Indonesians have descended into abject poverty. It is hardly surprising there are resentments and tensions, and support for extreme religious groups.'


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