The U.S. Sacrifice at the Indonesian Altar

excerpted from article

APEC, the US, and East Timor

by Mathew Jardine

Z magazine, January 1995

Whether by coincidence or design, President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger were visiting Indonesian President Suharto during the two days preceding the December 7, 1975 Indonesian invasion of the newly-independent East Timor. There is little doubt that the U.S. gave Suharto the green light to invade. In Jakarta the day before the invasion with President Ford, U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger told reporters that "the United States understands Indonesia's position on the question" of East Timor.

According to columnist Jack Anderson, Ford admitted that, given a choice between East Timor and Indonesia, the U.S. "had to be on the side of Indonesia." Suharto was eager to obtain U.S. support for the invasion because of ABRl's (the Indonesian Armed Forces) heavy reliance on U.S. weaponry which, by U.S. law, could only be used for defensive purposes. Since Ford and Kissinger's departure from Jakarta, well over 200,000 East Timorese-about one-third of the 1975 population-have lost their lives as a result of the invasion and ongoing occupation of the former Portuguese colony.

According to the State Department, U.S. companies supplied some 90 percent of the weapons used by ABRI during the invasion. When it looked as if Jakarta were actually running out of military equipment in late 1977 due to its activities in East Timor, the Carter "human rights" administration responded by authorizing U.S. $112 million in commercial arms sales for fiscal 1978 to Jakarta, up from U.S. $5.8 million the previous year (an almost 2,000 percent increase). U.S. arms sales to Indonesia peaked during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, exceeding U.S. $1 billion from 1982-84.

As in the case of arms sales, military assistance also increased. In the year following the invasion, the Ford administration more than doubled its military assistance (to U.S. $146 million) to Jakarta. Similarly, U.S. military aid increased during the Carter and Reagan administrations, during which the bulk of the killings were taking place in East Timor. Since the invasion, over 2,600 Indonesian military officers have received military training in the U.S. under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. There is even strong evidence to suggest that U.S. military advisers were present in Indonesian-occupied East Timor in the late 1970s.

The U.S. policy of complicity with Indonesia's occupation of East Timor remained essentially the same through the Bush Administration. As for [President]Clinton, East Timor supporters around the world saw some hopeful signs in the candidate who promised to put human rights in the center of U.S. foreign policy. Thus far, these signs have proven to be of little substance.


from Z magazine, January 1995

For more information contact:
East Timor Action Network / U.S., P.O. Box 1182, White Plains, NY 10602;
914-428-7299; Fax: 914-428-7383. Email:

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