East Timor Retrospective,

"Plan Colombia"

excerpted from the book

Rogue States

The Rule of Force in World Affairs

by Noam chomsky

South End Press, 2000, paper


East Timor Retrospective

It is not easy to write with feigned calm and dispassion about the events that have been unfolding in East Timor. Horror and shame are compounded by the fact that the crimes are so familiar and could so easily have been terminated. That has been true ever since Indonesia invaded in December 1975, relying on US diplomatic support and arms-used illegally, but with secret authorization, and even new arms shipments sent under the cover of an of ficial "embargo." There has been no need to threaten bombing or even sanctions. It would have sufficed for the US and its allies to withdraw their active participation, and to inform their close associates in the Indonesian military comrnand that the atrocities must be terminated and the territory granted the right of self-determination that has been upheld by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. We cannot undo the past, but we should at least be willing to recognize what we have done, and to face the moral responsibility of saving the remnants and providing ample reparations, a pathetic gesture of compensation for terrible crimes.

The latest chapter in this painful story of betrayal and complicity opened right after the referendum of August 30, 1999, when the population voted overwhelmingly for independence. At once, atrocities mounted sharply, organized and directed by the Indonesian military (TNI). The UN Mission (IJNAMET) gave its appraisal on September 11:

The evidence for a direct link between the militia and the military is beyond any dispute and has been overwhelmingly documented by UNAMET over the last four months. But the scale and thoroughness of the destruction of East Timor in the past week has demonstrated a new level of open participation of the military in the implementation of what was previously a more veiled operation.

The Mission warned that "the worst may be yet to come.... It cannot be ruled out that these are the first stages of a genocidal campaign to stamp out the East Timorese problem by force."'

Indonesia historian John Roosa, an of ficial observer of the vote, described the situation starkly:

Given that the pogrom was so predictable, it was easily preventable.... But in the weeks before the ballot, the Clinton administration refused to discuss with Australia and other countries the formation of [an international force]. Even afler the violence erupted, the administration dithered for days, until compelled by international (primarily Australian) and domestic pressure to make some timid gestures. Even these ambiguous messages sufficed to induce the Indonesian generals to reverse course and to accept an international presence, illustrating the latent power that has always been at hand.

The same power relations ensure that the UN can do nothing without Washington consent and initiative. While Clinton "dithered," almost half the population were expelled from their homes, according to UN estimates, and thousands murdered.3 The Air Force that excels in pinpoint destruction of civilian targets in Novi Sad, Belgrade, and Pancevo apparently lacked the capacity to drop food to people facing starvation in the mountains to which they were driven by the terror of the TNI forces armed and trained by the United States and its no less cynical allies.

The recent events will evoke bitter memories among those who do not prefer "intentional ignorance." We are witnessing a shameful replay of events of 20 years ago. After carrying out a huge slaughter in 1977-78 with the decisive support of the Carter administration, Indonesia felt confident enough to permit a brief visit by members of the Jakarta diplomatic corps, among them US Ambassador Edward Masters. They recognized that an enormous humanitarian catastrophe had been created. The aftermath was described by Benedict Anderson, one of the most distinguished Indonesia scholars. "For nine long months" of starvation and terror, Anderson testified at the United Nations, "Ambassador Masters deliberately refirained, even within the walls of the State Department, from proposing humanitarian aid to East Timor," waiting "until the generals in Jakarta gave him the green light"-until they felt "secure enough to permit foreign visitors," as an internal State Department document recorded. Only then did Washington consider taking some steps to deal with the consequences of its actions.4

As TNI forces and their paramilitaries were burning down the capital city of Dili in September 1999, murdering and rampaging with renewed intensity, the Pentagon announced that "a US-Indonesian training exercise focused on humanitarian and disaster relief activities concluded August 25," five days before the referendum that elicited the sharp escalation in crimes-precisely as the political leadership in Washington expected, at least if they were reading their own intelligence reports.5 The lessons of this cooperation were applied within days in the standard way, as all but the voluntarily blind must understand after many years of the same tales, the same outcomes.

One gruesome illustration was the coup that brought General Suharto to power in 1965. Army-led massacres slaughtered hundreds of thousands, mostly landless peasants, in a few months, destroying the mass-based political party of the left, the PKI. The achievement elicited unrestrained euphoria in the West and fulsome praise for the Indonesian "moderates," Suharto and his military accomplices, who had cleansed the society and opened it to foreign plunder. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara informed Congress that US military aid and training had "paid dividends"-including half a million corpses-"enormous dividends," a congressional report concluded. McNamara informed President Johnson that US military assistance "encouraged [the army] to move against the PKI when the opportunity was presented." Contacts with Indonesian military officers, including university programs, were "very significant factors in determining the favorable orientation of the new Indonesian political elite" (the army).

The degree of cooperation between Washington and Jakarta is impressive. US weapons sales to Indonesia amount to over $1 billion since the 1975 invasion. Military aid during the Clinton years is at about $150 million.

Through the 1990s, the US continued support for "our kind of guy," as General Suharto was described by the Clinton administration before he fell from grace by losing control and failing to implement harsh IMF orders with sufficient ardor. After the 1991 Dili massacre, Congress restricted arms sales and banned US training of the Indonesian military, but Clinton found devious ways to evade the ban. Congress expressed its "outrage," reiterating that "it was and is the intent of Congress to prohibit US military training for Indonesia," as readers of the Far Eastern Economic Review and dissident publications here could learn. But to no avail.

Inquiries about Clinton's programs received the routine response from the State Department: US military training serves the positive function of exposing foreign militaries to US values. These values were exhibited as military aid to Indonesia flowed and government-licensed sales of armaments increased fivefold from fiscal year 1997 to 1998. In April 1999, shortly after the massacre of dozens of refugees who had taken shelter in a church in Liquica, Admiral Dennis Blair, US Pacific commander, assured TNI commander General Wiranto of US support and assistance, proposing a new US training mission.

On September 19, 1999, the London Observer international news service reported Clinton's "Iron Balance" program, which trained the Indonesian military into 1998, in violation of congressional restrictions. Included were Kopassus units, the murderous forces that organized and directed the "militias," and participated directly in their atrocities, as Washington was well aware. "Iron Balance" provided these forces with more training in coumterinsurgency and "psychological operations," expertise that they put to use effectively at once.

All of this found its way to the memory hole that contains the past record of the crucial US support for the atrocities, granted the same (null) coverage as many other events of the past year; for example, the unanimous Senate vote on June 30, 1999, calling on the Clinton administration to link Indonesian military actions in East Timor to "any loan or financial assistance to Indonesia," as readers could learn from the Irish Times.

In the face of this record, only briefly sampled, and duplicated repeatedly elsewhere, the government lauds "the value of the years of training given to Indonesia's future military leaders in the United States and the millions of dollars in military aid for Indonesia," urging more of the same for Indonesia and throughout the world.

... The reasons for the disgraceful record have sometimes been honestly recognized. During the latest phase of atrocities, a senior diplomat in Jakarta described "the dilemma" faced by the great powers: "Indonesia matters, and East Timor doesn't."9 It is therefore understandable that Washington should keep to ineffectual gestures of disapproval while insisting that internal security in East Timor "is the responsibility of the government of Indonesia, and we don't want to take that responsibility away from them"-the of ficial stance a few days before the August referendum, repeated in full knowledge of how that "responsibility" had been carried out, and maintained as the most dire predictions were quickly fulfilled.

The reasoning of the senior diplomat was spelled out more fully by two Asia specialists of the New York Times: the Clinton administration, they write, "has made the calculation that the United States must put its relationship with Indonesia, a mineral-rich nation of more than 200 million people, ahead of its concern over the political fate of East Timor, a tiny impoverished territory of 800,000 people that is seeking independence." The second national journal quotes Douglas Paal, president of the Asia Pacific Policy Center, stating the facts of life: "Timor is a speed bump on the road to dealing with Jakarta, and we've got to get over it safely. Indonesia is such a big place and so central to the stability of the region."

The term "stability" has long served as a code word, referring to a "favorable orientation of the political elite"-favorable not to their populations, but to foreign investors and global managers.

Commenting on Washington's refusal to lift a finger to help the victims of its crimes, the veteran Australian diplomat Richard Butler observed that "it has been made very clear to me by senior American analysts that the facts of the alliance essentially are that: the US will respond proportionally, defined largely in terms of its own interests and threat assessment." The remarks were not offered in criticism of Washington; rather, of his fellow Australians, who do not comprehend the facts of life: that others are to shoulder the burdens, and face the costs- which for Australia, may not be slight. It will hardly come as a great shock if a few years hence US corporations are cheerfully picking up the pieces in an Indonesia that resents Australian actions, but has few complaints about the overlord.

The chorus of self-adulation has subsided a bit, though not much. Far more important than these shameful performances is the failure to act-at once, and decisively-to cast aside mythology and face the causes and consequences of our actions, and to save the remnants of one of the most terrible tragedies of this awful century.


"Plan Colombia"

In 1999, Colombia became the leading recipient of US military and police assistance, replacing Turkey (Israel and Egypt are in a separate category). Colombia receives more US military aid than the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean combined. The total for 1999 reached about $300 million, along with $60 million in arms sales, approximately a threefold increase from 1998. The figure is scheduled to increase still more sharply with the anticipated passage of some version of Clinton's Colombia Plan, submitted to Congress in April 2000, which called for a $ 1.6 billion "emergency aid" package for two years. Through the 1990s, Colombia has been by far the leading recipient of US military aid in Latin America, and has also compiled by far the worst human rights record, in conformity with a well-established and long-standing correlation.'

We can often learn from systematic patterns, so let us tarry for a moment on the previous champion, Turkey. As a major US military ally and strategic outpost, Turkey has received substantial military aid from the origins of the Cold War. But arms deliveries began to increase sharply in 1984. Evidently, there was no Cold War connection at all. Rather, that was the year when Turkey initiated a large-scale counterinsurgency campaign in the Kurdish southeast, which also is the site of major US air bases and the locus of regional surveillance, so that everything that happens there is well known in Washington. Arms deliveries peaked in 1997. In that year alone, they exceeded the total from the entire period 1950-83. US arms amounted to about 80 percent of Turkish military equipment, including heavy armaments (jet planes, tanks, etc.), often evading congressional restrictions.

By 1999, Turkey had largely suppressed Kurdish resistance by extreme terror and ethnic cleansing, leaving some 2 to 3 million refugees, 3,500 villages destroyed (seven times as high as in Kosovo under NATO bombs), and tens of thousands killed, primarily during the Clinton years. A huge flow of US arms was no longer needed to accomplish these objectives. Turkey can therefore be singled out for praise for its "positive experiences" in showing how "tough counterterrorism measures plus political dialogue with non-terrorist opposition groups" can overcome the plague of violence and atrocities, so we learn from the lead article in the New York Times on the State Department's "latest annual report describing the administration's efforts to combat terrorism." More evidence, if such is needed, that cynicism is utterly without limits.

In Colombia, however, the military armed and trained by the United States has not crushed domestic resistance, though it continues to produce its regular annual toll of atrocities. Each year, some 300,000 new refugees are driven from their homes, with a death toll of about 3,000 and many horrible massacres. The great majority of atrocities are attributed to paramilitary forces. These are closely linked to the military, as documented in considerable and shocking detail once again in February 2000 by Human Rights Watch, and in April 2000 by a UN study which reported that the Colombian security forces that are to be greatly strengthened by the Colombia Plan maintain an intimate relationship with death squads, organize paramilitary forces, and either participate in their massacres directly or, by failing to take action, have "undoubtedly enabled the paramilitary groups to achieve their exterminating objectives." In more muted terms, the State Department confirms the general picture in its annual human rights reports, again in the report covering 1999, which concludes that "security forces actively collaborated with members of paramilitary groups" while "government forces continued to commit numerous, serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings, at a level that was roughly similar to that of 1998," when the report attributed about 80 percent of attributable atrocities to the military and paramilitaries. The picture is confirmed as well by the Colombian Office of UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson. Its director, a respected Swedish diplomat, assigns the responsibility for "the magnitude and complexity ofthe paramilitary phenomenon" to the Colombian government, hence indirectly to its US sponsor.

The US will concentrate on military operations [in Colombia] which, incidentally, happen to benefit the high-tech industries that produce military equipment and are engaged in "extensive lobbying" for the Colombia Plan, along with Occidental Petroleum, which has large investments in Colombia, and other corporations.

Furthermore, IMF-World Bank programs demand that countries open their borders to a flood of (heavily subsidized) agricultural products from the rich countries, with the obvious effect of undermining local production. Those displaced are either driven to urban slums (thus lowering wage rates for foreign investors) or instructed to become "rational peasants," producing for the export market and seeking the highest prices-which translates as "coca, cannibis, opium." Having learned their lessons properly, they are rewarded by attack by military gunships while their fields are destroyed by chemical and biological warfare, courtesy of Washington.

Much the same is true throughout the Andean region. The issues broke through briefly to the public eye just as the Colombia Plan was being debated in Washington. On April 8, 2000, the government of Bolivia declared a state of emergency after widespread protests closed down the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia's third largest. The protests were over the privatization of the public water system and the sharp increase in water rates to a level beyond the reach of much of the population. In the background is an economic crisis attributed in part to the neoliberal policies that culminate in the drug war, which has destroyed more than half of the country's coca-leaf production, leaving the "rational peasants" destitute. A week later, farmers blockaded a highway near the capital city of La Paz to protest the eradication of coca leaf, the only mode of survival left to them under the "reforms," as actually implemented.

Reporting on the protests over water prices and the eradication programs, the Financial Times observes that "the World Bank and the IMF saw Bolivia as something of a model," one of the great success stories of the "Washington consensus," but the April protests reveal that "the success of eradication programs in Peru and Bolivia has carried a high social cost." The journal quotes a European diplomat in Bolivia who says that "until a couple of weeks ago, Bolivia was regarded as a success story"-by those who "regard" a country while disregarding its people. But now, he continues, "the international community has to recognize that the economic reforms have not really done anything to solve the growing problems of poverty"; they may well have deepened it. The secretary of the Bolivian bishops' conference, which mediated an agreement to end the crisis, described the protest movement as "the result of dire poverty. The demands of the rural population must be listened to if we want lasting peace."

The Cochabamba protests were aimed at the World Bank and the San Francisco/London-based Bechtel corporation, the main financial power behind the transnational conglomerate that bought the public water system amidst serious charges of corruption and give-away, then doubled rates for many poor customers. Under Bank pressure, Bolivia has sold major assets to private (almost always foreign) corporations. The sale of the public water system and rate increases set off months of protest culminating in the demonstration that paralyzed the city. Government policies adhered to World Bank recommendations that "no subsidies should be given to ameliorate the increase in water tariffs in Cochabamba"; all users, including the very poor, must pay full costs. Using the internet, activists in Bolivia called for international protests, which had a significant impact, presumably amplified by the Washington protests over World Bank-IMF policies then underway. Bechtel backed off, and the government rescinded the sale.4' But a long and difficult struggle lies ahead.

As martial law was declared in Bolivia, a report from southern Colombia described the spreading fears that fumigation planes were coming to "drop their poison on the coca fields, which would also kill the farmers' subsistence crops, cause massive social disruption, and stir up the ever-present threat of violence." The pervasive fear and anger reflect "the level of dread and confusion in this part of Colombia."

Another question lurks not too far in the background. Just what right does the US have to carry out military operations and chemicalbiological warfare in other countries to destroy a crop it doesn't like? We can put aside the cynical response that the governments requested this "assistance"; or else. We therefore must ask whether others have the same extraterritorial right to violence and destruction that the US demands.

The number of Colombians who die from US-produced lethal drugs exceeds the number of North Americans who die from cocaine, and is far greater relative to population. In East and Southeast Asia, US-produced lethal drugs contribute to millions of deaths. These countries are compelled not only to accept the products but also advertising for them, under threat of trade sanctions. The effects of "aggressive marketing and advertising by American firms is, in a good measure, responsible for ... a sizeable increase in smoking rates for women and youth in Asian countries where doors were forced open by threat of severe US trade sanctions," public health researchers conclude.43 The Colombian cartels, in contrast, are not permitted to run huge advertising campaigns in which a Joe Camel counterpart extols the wonders of cocaine.

Thanks to the US passion for "free trade" and "freedom of speech" for advertisers of murderous substances, global cigarette exports have expanded sharply, with a fivefold increase from 1975 to 1996,44 a dramatic illustration of some of the welfare outcomes of the fanatic political theology that elevates "trade" to the highest rank among human values-"trade" in quotes, because of the highly ideological construction of the concept.

We are therefore entitled, indeed, morally obligated, to ask whether Colombia, Thailand, China, and other targets of US trade policies and aggressive promotion of lethal exports have the right to conduct military, chemical, and biological warfare in North Carolina. And if not, why not?

We might also ask why there are no Delta Force raids on US banks and chemical corporations, though it is no secret that they too are engaged in the narcotrafficking business. We might ask further why the Pentagon is not gearing up to attack Canada, now displacing Colombia and Mexico as a supplier of marijuana; high-potency varieties have become British Columbia's most valuable agricultural product and one of the most important sectors of the economy (in Quebec and Manitoba as well), with a tenfold increase in the past two years. Or to attack the United States, a major producer of marijuana with production rapidly expanding, including hydroponic groweries, and long the center of manufacture of high-tech illicit drugs (ATS, amphetamine-type stimulants), the fastest-growing sector of drug abuse, with 30 million users worldwide, probably surpassing heroin and cocaine.

... the "drug war" is crafted to target poor peasants abroad and poor people at home; by the use of force, not constructive measures to alleviate the problems that allegedly motivate it, at a fraction of the cost.

While Clinton's Colombia Plan was being formulated, senior administration of ficials discussed a proposal by the Of fice of Management and Budget to take $100 million from the $1.3 billion then planned for Colombia, to be used for treatment for US addicts. There was nearunanimous opposition, particularly from "drug czar" General Barry McCaffrey, and the proposal was dropped. In contrast, when Richard Nixon-in many respects the last liberal president-declared a drug war in 1971, two-thirds of the funding went to treatment, which reached record numbers of addicts; there was a sharp drop in drug-related arrests and the number of federal prison inmates. Since 1980, however, "the war on drugs has shifted to punishing offenders, border surveillance, and fighting production at the source countries." One consequence is an enormous increase in drug-related (often victimless) crimes and an explosion in the prison population, reaching levels far beyond that in any industrial country and possibly a world record, with no detectable effect on availability or price of drugs.

Such observations, hardly obscure, raise the question of what the drug war is all about. It is recognized widely that it fails to achieve its stated ends, and the failed methods are then pursued more vigorously, while effective ways to reach the stated goals are rejected. It is therefore only reasonable to conclude that the "drug war," cast in the harshly punitive form implemented in the past 20 years, is achieving its goals, not failing. What are these goals? A plausible answer is implicit in a comment by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the few senators to pay close attention to social statistics, as the latest phase of the "drug war" was declared. By adopting these measures, he observed, "we are choosing to have an intense crime problem concentrated among minorities." Criminologist Michael Tonry concludes that "the war's planners knew exactly what they were doing." What they were doing is, first, getting rid of the "superfluous population," the "disposable people"- "desechables," as they are called in Colombia, where they are eliminated by "social cleansing"; and second, frightening everyone else, not an unimportant task in a period when a domestic form of "structural adjustment" is being imposed, with significant costs for the majority of the population.

"While the War on Drugs only occasionally serves and more often degrades public health and safety," a well-informed and insightful review concludes, "it regularly serves the interests of private wealth: interests revealed by the pattern of winners and losers, targets and non-targets, well-funded and underfunded," in accord with "the main interests of US foreign and domestic policy generally" and the private sector that "has overriding influence on policy."

Rogue States

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