Expected Obama Administration
Backing for Indonesian State Terror
by Stephen Lendman
Indonesia's National Armed Forces (TNI),
especially its thuggish Kopassus Special Forces Command, has a
long, sordid human rights record, including political killings
and massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians in East Timor,
Aceh, Papua, and elsewhere in the country.
In response to the November 12, 1991 Santa
Cruz cemetery massacre of over 270 demonstrators in Dili, East
Timor's capital, Congress restricted Indonesia's TNI from receiving
International Military Education and Training (IMET). It brings
foreign military officers to America for what's taught at the
infamous School of the Americas (SOA, renamed WHINSEC ) - namely,
the latest ways to kill, maim, torture, oppress, exterminate poor
and indigenous people, overthrown democratically elected governments,
suppress popular resistance movements, assassinate targeted leaders,
and work cooperatively with Washington to solidify hard-right
rule, intolerant of democratic rights, social justice, and progressive
The 1976 Arms Export Control Act requires
US military hardware sales use only for defense or to maintain
In addition, the 1961 Foreign Assistance
Act prohibits aiding governments that engage:
in a consistent pattern of gross violations
of internationally recognized human rights, including torture
or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged
detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons
by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or
other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security
of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy
people in such country.
The Leahy Law in the 2001 Foreign Operations
Appropriations Act (Sec. 8092 of PL 106-259) states:
None of the funds made available by this
Act may be used to support any training program involving a unit
of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of
Defense has received credible information from the Department
of State that a member of such unit has committed a gross violation
of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been
The 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations
Act prohibits funding foreign security forces that commit gross
human rights violations unless its government "is taking
effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security
forces unit to justice."
In its final 2005 report, East Timor's
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation called on nations
to make Indonesian military aid:
totally conditional on progress towards
full democratization, the subordination of the military to the
rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with
international human rights, including respect for the right of
In September 1999, Pentagon - Indonesian
military ties were severed over TNI and its militia proxies' response
to East Timorese independence, committing massacres and atrocities,
UNAMET (the UN East Timor Mission) stating:
The evidence for a direct link between
the militia and the military is beyond 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
UNAMET 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," skills the TNI and its Kopassas killers
honed since Indonesia's 1945 independence.
In 2005 (despite TNI's unbroken record
of human rights atrocities), the US State Department removed congressional
restrictions on aiding Indonesia militarily, stating:
"it is in the national security interests
of the United States to waive conditionality pertaining to Foreign
Military Financing (FMF) and defense exports to Indonesia."
In 2006, the Bush administration removed
remaining TNI restrictions for training, supplying weapons and
other forms of cooperation. In late 2007, it told Congress it
planned to train members of Kopassas and Brimob (mobile brigade),
Indonesia's militarized police special operations unit, also notorious
for committing well-documented human rights atrocities throughout
On March 18, 2010, in an open letter to
President Obama, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
welcomed his upcoming visit, rescheduled for June, urging him
"to avoid the destructive policies of the past" - specifically,
"not offer(ing) military assistance (to the) notorious Kopassus
special forces," restricting it to other forms of security
ETAN believes "training Kopassas
would violate US law which forbids training military units with
unresolved human rights violations." It's meant to prevent
future ones and encourage resolving others in the past. "This
has clearly not happened."
Calling Kopassus training "a bad
idea whose time has not come," ETAN's National Coordinator,
John M. Miller said:
Training Kopassas will set back efforts
to achieve accountability for past and recent human rights violations
and will do little or nothing to discourage future crimes. It's
impossible to credit Kopassas with human rights reform when it
retains active duty soldiers convicted of human rights violations.
For decades, the US military provided training and other assistance
to Kopassas, despite the demonstrated failure of international
assistance to improve its behavior. Its widely acknowledged abuses
and criminal activity simply continued" to this day.
Kopassas and Brimob have a long history
of terrorizing civilians, committing atrocities, and undermining
efforts for justice and human rights accountability. ETAN asked
Obama to respect US law and the recommendation of the Commission
for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR),
urging nations to make military sales conditional on recipients'
adherence to international human rights laws. TNI, (including
Kopassas) and Brimob systematically violate them.
Since its 1952 founding, Kopassas has
an unbroken reign of terror record that includes politically motivated
arrests, assassinations/murders, massacres, brutal beatings, kidnappings/disappearances,
bombings, and other crimes against humanity, still ongoing throughout
On March 21, investigative journalist
Allan Nairn reported that:
According to senior Indonesian officials
and police and details from government files, the US-backed Indonesian
armed forces (TNI), now due for fresh American aid, assassinated
a series of civilian activists during 2009.
They were part of a secret government
program, "coordinated in part by an active-duty, US-trained
Kopassus special forces General who has just acknowledged on the
record that his TNI men had a role in the killings."
The news comes ahead of Obama's expected
announcement of new military aid, falsely claiming TNI and Kopassas
"no longer murder civilians." They always did and now
do, according to a senior Indonesian official (unnamed for his
safety), speaking out because he opposes the practice.
"TNI still practices political murder."
Yet America rewards it, despite being legally bound not to and
to provide Congress with relevant information.
Verified incidents include:
- "a series of assassinations and
bombings in Aceh (where) elections were being contested by the
historically pro-independence Partia Aceh (PA)," the renamed
former GAM (Free Aceh) rebel movement.
In the run-up to the April elections,
"At least eight PA activists were assassinated according
to officials with (specific) knowledge of the program" to
suppress democratic speech in Aceh and throughout the country.
General Sunarko, the PANGDAM Aceh (TNI
forces chief) coordinated the killings. He was recently "sent
to Aceh by the President, Gen. Susilo, after having been the nationwide
commander of Kopassas. (Previously, he was) chief of staff of
Kostrad, the (TNI's) huge Strategic Reserve Command that operates
across the archipelago and is headquartered in Jarkata"
Earlier he oversaw occupied Timor militias,
and "was a Kopassas intelligence chief there during the 1999
Indonesian National Police (POLRI) confirmed
the above account, but "with evident reluctance, even fear."
(POLRI) also kills and tortures civilians, and mounts joint task
forces with TNI, (but TNI) has more guns and cash, and (they're
unencumbered by) POLRI's political burden of having to claim that
they're enforcing the murder laws."
General Sunarko told Nairn "that
he was an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama's plan to
boost aid to Kopassas and to TNI generally. (He said America and
TNI have had) a long, close partnership that had 'raised the capacity
of TNI,' and that Obama's (full) restoration of aid would make
for 'a still more intimate collaboration." Since the 1980s,
he, in fact, was US-trained at various Indonesian sites along
with many other TNI officers.
In June, when Obama visits Indonesian
leaders, "on the table is a big aid package for TNI, negotiated
over recent months, the political centerpiece of which is an apparent
renewal of open aid for Kopassas."
Among all Indonesian units implicated
in past atrocities:
"those of Kopassas are the most celebrated,
and, as their former commander, the US-trained Gen. Prabowo, once
told me, they have historically been the unit most closely identified
with Washington.Obama's planned (restoration of aid) to Kopassas
is now awaited by TNI as sweet vindication, and by many of (its)
survivors" as the green light for terror.
Other TNI components are also implicated,
including "BAIS intelligence and the mainline regional and
local commands, KODAM, KOREM, and KODIM, all of them, most importantly,
reporting ultimately to" top TNI commanders and theirs in
Importantly, whether or not Kopassas aid
is restored, "TNI as a whole already has the green light,"
2,800 of its forces "being trained in the US (according to)
Indonesia's Defense Minister." The Pentagon wants other weapons
and equipment sales and US loans to "further empower TNI
Also, in advance of Obama's trip, "the
Kopassas commanding general came to Washington and was welcomed
by the Obama team." Back home, they're confident of being
green-lighted to continue their old ways, ones never ended to
receive full Obama administration backing.
A Final Note
On March 24, Nairn reported that the TNI
threatened to arrest him for revealing its hit squad assassinations,
"presumably on criminal defamation charges."
On March 25, he added the following:
The Indonesian news channel TV One is
running text scrolls on their screen (saying the TNI) is either
planning to or has already filed criminal charges against me.
The crime, the scrolls say, consists of 'defiling the good name
of TNI.' In today's Indonesia it can be a crime to report assassinations,
but, given that no Generals have gone to prison for such murders,
it is not treated as a crime to commit them.
Not is it in Washington to support or
commit crimes of war, against humanity, or political killings.
CIA and Pentagon hit squads do it daily.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. Contact
him at: email@example.com.
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