December 7, 2001
4:06 AM   Subscribe

In light of the Case Against Henry Kissinger, the National Security Archive published a collection of previously censored papers which show Ford and Kissinger approved the illegal invasion of East Timor, consciously “influence[d]” public opinion on the matter and continue to lie about the entire affair.
posted by raaka (9 comments total)
You know, it's getting harder and harder to be an idealist in this world.
posted by Irontom at 5:18 AM on December 7, 2001

Why's that? You were idealistic about Henry the K before? I'm idealistic about the power of information (to further the ends of democracy, hold elites accountable, etc.). Hitchens believes in it too, no matter what else you might say about him. In this case, information appears to be doing its job.
posted by raysmj at 5:47 AM on December 7, 2001

Kissinger has a much worse record on Chile. Definitely an EvilDoer. Gerald Ford has a much worse mark against him for pardoning an EvilDoer (Nixon.) When will Asscroft detain these evil ones and send them before Duhbya's tribunal?
Oops, I misspelled ASScroft, guess I know who that is knocking at my door......
posted by nofundy at 5:57 AM on December 7, 2001

Harpers has the transcript of a "panel discussion on the making of a war criminal", that is, K.
posted by mmarcos at 6:56 AM on December 7, 2001

I've suspected that one of the reasons that Hitchens has been such a supporter of the bombing of Afghanistan/pursuit of bin Laden is that he's trying to create precedence for international jurisdiction over criminals like Kissinger. If the United States can extract bin Laden and his generals for plotting the death of American civilians, why can't Cambodia or Chile extract Kissinger (other than the obvious fact that Kissinger is American, and might makes right, etc.)?
posted by Ty Webb at 8:03 AM on December 7, 2001

Not news. All Kissinger said was "Hey, guys, fine with us!". This has been known for years.

More interesting are accusations that persons like Ali Murtopo and Gen. Benny Moerdani were pushing to take East Timor over Suharto's objections. It's popular to bash Suharto, what with his family being so famously corrupt, but there is at least the chance that he wasn't the main instigator on this one, much less Dr. K.

People today forget the context of 1975-76 as well. An independent East Timor under Fretilin control in 1976 would have been a Communist aircraft carrier in the middle of U.S. allies. It would have been Australia's Cuba, less than an hour by air from Darwin. It was perfectly logical for Ford and Kissinger to support Indonesian intervention.

Oh, and the death toll among civilians--which was probably more like half the 200,000 that's continually requoted in the media--was more a case of massive criminal neglect than planned genocide. Wretchedly trained, undisciplined Indonesian forces took five years to do a job that was supposed to take no more than a month, totally wrecking the economy and ecology of a place (the Lesser Sundas) where in the best of times, life is nasty, brutish, and short. Screw around with planting season in a place like that, and yes, you're going to get famine, which is what most of the quoted deaths were from.

And another thing: the media never gets around to reporting the forced exile of tens of thousands of Muslim residents from East Timor, who have had to resettle in communities around the region that are already unstable. In the rush to support the romantic notion of an independent East Timor, nobody ever stopped to consider the regional consequences.

The real independence movement in East Timor can be summed up in two sentences: "We don't want to live under a repressive, corrupt regime from Jakarta. We want to live under a repressive, corrupt regime of our very own!"

In summary, nobody's hands are clean on this one. Not in Washington, not in Jakarta, not in Canberra, not in Dili, and certainly not in the meetings of a Campus Solidarity Committee near you.

There. That's my Timor rant for the day. Carry on.

posted by gimonca at 8:30 AM on December 7, 2001

Oh, and the death toll among civilians [...] was probably more like half the 200,000 that's continually requoted in the media

Only 100,000 then? Phew.
posted by Mocata at 9:26 AM on December 7, 2001

Ty, that’s very interesting. I certainly wouldn’t put it past Hitchens to be that conniving.

“All Kissinger said was ‘Hey, guys, fine with us!’.”

That is a gross simplification. The Ford Administration also sold American-made weaponry with the intent they be used for an invasion. As the article says, that is illegal. They lied about their knowledge of the affair for the express reason of swaying public opinion on the matter. That is more, much, much more, than simply giving the go-ahead for an invasion.

I’d like to know where you get numbers on the atrocities. While you may well be right — that only 100,000 instead of 200,000 completely innocent East Timorese were slaughtered because they were about to be free from foreign rule — that in no way excuses the terror campgaign (which continues) and invasion. Because a country might, in the future, choose a form of rule that is in opposition to another’s (be it Indonesia or the United States) is not a justification for atrocity on a national scale.

I'd also like to know how Xanana Gusmao could be described as repressive.
posted by raaka at 3:34 PM on December 7, 2001

I forgot the Harper's article was a two parter. The second part deals with East Timor.

“‘[P]ress secretary Ron Nessen later gave reporters a statement saying: "The United States is always concerned about the use of violence. The President hopes it can be resolved peacefully.’

“The literal incoherence of this official utterance--a peaceful resolution to a use of violence--may perhaps have possessed an inner coherence: the hope of a speedy victory for overwhelming force.”

Hitchens called it. Kissinger himself:

It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly ... We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens, happens after we return.
posted by raaka at 6:20 PM on December 7, 2001

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