Dying Like Cattle
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘State Terrorism'? It is a taboo term. Our politicians never utter it. Never we hear it in our newspapers but it is by far the most menacing form of terrorism, for it can kill not 100, 1000, 10,000 but hundreds of thousands. In each shower of cluster bombs that fell on Iraq were countless Sari Clubs. The dropping of the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima alone was the equivalent of the horror of September 11 10,000 times over.
Indonesia has been scarred by state terrorism for the past 4 decades. And the source of the worst violence is the Indonesian army, of which the West itself had supported and armed. Today, troops continue to terrorize the provinces of Aceh (well at least until the Tsunami) and West Papua, where American Exxon oil company's holdings and the Freeport mine is protected by them. 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.
On December 7th 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.
We know that US President Gerald Ford and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with Suharto in Jakarta the day before the invasion of East Timor. Coincidence? By the time Indonesia's invasion of East Timor had commenced, Ford and Kissinger were already safely meeting with Marcos in Manila, spiritedly plotting how to recover from the humiliation suffered by the US that year, 1975 the year America fled from Saigon.
Then if some of you remember in 1999, East Timor finally had an opportunity to vote for independence and freedom. Despite being warned by Australia's intelligence agencies that the Indonesian army was setting up militias to terrorize the population, Howard and his foreign minister, Alexander Downer claimed they knew nothing. The massacres went ahead. Leaked documents have since revealed that they DID know. The government of John Howard betrayed them. Is he going to be tried for this ‘crime’? Nope.
This was only the latest in Australia's long complicity with state terrorism in Indonesia, which makes a mockery of the self- deluding declarations then that Australia had "lost its innocence" in Bali. Very few Australians are even aware that not far from their holiday hotels and bungalows in Bali are the mass graves with the remains of some of more than 80,000 people murdered in Bali (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 and in fact 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". Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of Britain called Suharto then "one of our very best and most valuable friends."
The then Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt, jokingly said: "With 500,000 to a million communist sympathizers knocked off, I think it's safe to assume a reorientation has taken place." This 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 been successful if the USA had 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 the then US President Johnson. This does not only mean that the highest levels of the US government was listening in to the murders live but in the American embassy, a senior official drew up an assassination list for Suharto, ticking off the names when each was murdered.
That bloodbath was the price of Indonesia becoming "a model pupil of the global economy” or so according to the World Bank. This was 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 many times over.
Today, Suharto has gone, but decades of foreign plunder 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. So it is HARDLY surprising there are resentments and tensions, and wide support for extreme religious groups.
What is likely is that the pressure that is exerted by America, Australia and Britain on the secular government in Jakarta to "crack down" on Islamicist groups. Hence in a mostly Islamic country, this will polarize communities. To some, this will seem a familiar game of the powerful nations. In the 1960s, the West backed the Islamicist groups when they thought Indonesia would "go communist". They were expendable. When Bush, Blair and Howard are next shedding their crocodile tears and grinding the language into a shitpot of fanciful terms and phrases about the "war on terror", those in Indonesia with long memories might be forgiven for thinking ‘Nothing has Changed’.
The great First World War poet Wilfred Owen, wrote a famous poem entitled 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and there is a verse in there that can be used for those who perish in today's secret wars and terrorist actions.