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Segment #7: AMY GOODMAN: Genocides in Indonesia and East Timor

Amy Goodman, Pacifica Radio journalist []:  “In Indonesia, you may well know the story about what the military regime has done to East Timor. But by chance, if even one of you doesn’t know it, I’ll tell it again because that is really what it is going to take for the situation to change, is that story told from one person to another, from one community to another, until people simply say they are not going to take it any more. They’re not going to let the U.S. government support these kind of regimes that are responsible for some of the worst genocides in the 20th century.”

“Indonesia, under Suharto, the military regime came to power in ‘65 in an incredible bloodbath.  Perhaps a half a million to a million people killed in Indonesia with the support of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.  Because of the reporting of one crusading journalist named Kathy Kadane, who went to journalism school simply to write this article.  She had met a CIA agent who had been working in Indonesia and he talked about how the U.S. CIA made up lists of dissidents in Indonesia and gave them over to the military under Suharto as he rose to power. And the military would go out and kill these people as the U.S. CIA would strike their names off the list.  And in this way they killed between a half a million and a million people from 1965 to 1967.  That was how the Suharto regime rose to power.” 

“In 1975, Indonesian military regime under Suharto, the dictator, (and we mustn’t confuse the Indonesian people with the Indonesian military), the Indonesian military invaded East Timor. East Timor is a small country about 300 miles north of Australia, it had been occupied by Portugal for more than 400 years.  Portugal went through a democratic revolution in 1974, was disbanding its empire in Africa as well as East Timor and East Timor was going through a decolonization process.  At the end of November 1975, they declared independence.  And then on December 7, 1975, just more than a week later, Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world, invaded East Timor.”

“But they didn’t invade before Suharto sat down with then U.S. President, Gerald Ford, and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who had come to visit Suharto, and got the go ahead for that invasion.  Suharto was concerned that if he launched this clearly offensive invasion that the U.S. would cut off military sales to Indonesia because we have a bilateral agreement with Indonesia that their weapons that they use will not be used for offensive purposes.  But once assured that that would not happen, Indonesia invaded by land, by air, by sea, East Timor. First, they went after the capital Dili and thousands of people who lived there dragging thousands of people down to the sea and shooting them into it as their loved ones counted them off.”

“Just before the invasion there were six journalists who were covering the events leading up to the invasion as the Indonesians came over from West Timor, the military and then ultimately had their full scale invasion on December 7th, and there were five journalist in a small town called Balibo and they lined them up against a house and they executed them.  They cut off their genitals, shoved them in their mouths and they suffocated to death as they shot them.  Indonesia full well knows how serious it is when word gets out and so they tried very hard not to let word get out about what was happening.  In fact, after the invasion of December 7th 1975, they closed East Timor to the outside world for more than a decade as they killed the Timorese inside, killing more than a third of the population.   One of the worst genocides in the late 20th century, proportionately worse than Cambodia.”

“You might wonder why we have heard a lot about Cambodia but almost nothing about East Timor until recent years.  And that’s because the U.S. government was official enemy of Pol Pot and Cambodia and so the President, Secretary of State would constantly speak out against it and the U.S. press would print what the President and Secretary of State would say. And that was good in terms of Cambodia because Pol Pot did commit a genocide there.”

“But, in the case of Indonesia, Indonesia was an official ally of the United States and so Ford, and then Carter, Reagan, Bush and then Clinton are not going to speak about the atrocities that Indonesia has committed in East Timor.  And because they didn’t and because the U.S. corporate media rarely diverges from the Washington agenda, the U.S. media hardly covered it at all.  One report, the day after the invasion, by Walter Cronkite, for 40 seconds, announced that Indonesia had invaded East Timor.  And then in the corporate press in the broadcast networks NBC, ABC, CBS, even PBS there was not a mention of East Timor for the next 17 years.”

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