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Brutality indonesia { August 27 2001 }

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Published on Monday, August 27, 2001 in the Newsday
U.S. Is Supporting Military Brutality in Indonesia
by Peter Dale Scott

INDONESIA is in the center of the U.S. radar screen not only because it has a new president. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, visiting Australia, announced on July 29 that the Bush administration intends to resume aid and training for the Indonesian Army. A U.S.-Australian joint statement pledged support for maintaining Indonesia's territorial integrity.
Both moves were advocated in policy papers issued earlier this year by Rand Corp. and a Council on Foreign Relations task force, chaired by former Sen. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.).

Both papers stressed that resuming relations could move the Indonesian Army in a more humane and democratic direction. But this is hard to reconcile with their principal recommendation that the U.S. support Indonesia's territorial integrity.

"Territorial integrity" is a popular phrase in the Bush administration.

In Indonesia, maintaining territorial integrity means continuing the army's bloody suppression campaigns in the oil- and mineral-rich provinces of Aceh and West Papua.

The Rand and Council papers argue that revenues from these areas are vital for a stable Indonesia. They are also the sites of two of the largest U.S. investments in Indonesia: in Aceh, the Exxon-Mobil natural gas facility, which according to The Wall Street Journal, produced nearly a quarter of Mobil's earnings worldwide in the early 1990s; in West Papua, the huge mining development of Freeport-McMoran. It is hard to imagine that any campaign to ensure territorial integrity in these areas could be compatible with democracy and human rights. Some 6,000 people have been killed in Aceh in the last decade - more than 1,000 of them in the last six months .

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid tried to institute a cease-fire and peace process in Aceh, but the military ignored his directives, and in his waning months he consented to a renewed crackdown.

The army provided security for Exxon-Mobil installations, and human rights activists have charged that the company's facilities were used by the army for rape, torture and murder. The corporation is being sued in the United States by relatives of victims. U.S. aid to the Indonesian Army became a bone of contention between the Pentagon and Congress in 1994, when news of atrocities committed in East Timor by the Indonesian Special Command - Kopassus - led Congress to forbid further Pentagon contact with the unit.

But the Pentagon continued to train Kopassus secretly as part of another program until all U.S. aid was finally terminated in 1999, after a paramilitary rampage killed more than 600 East Timorese. Moreover, the CIA made headlines by trying to suppress a published study documenting U.S. collaboration with the Special Command in 1965 during an Indonesian army campaign that left as many as 1 million Indonesians dead.

A CIA spokesman justified recalling the State Department publication as a way to "avoid U.S. roiling relations at a time of political turmoil in Indonesia." More likely, the Pentagon worries that the ugly facts in the 1965 study will strengthen the arguments of members of Congress opposed to resuming aid to the Indonesian army.

Almost certainly, these opponents will have to deal with companies like Exxon-Mobil, which have been lobbying recently for increased U.S. military involvement in Colombia.

Congress may soon have to decide between two conflicting priorities: to protect human rights, or to protect overseas investments.

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat, has authored many commentaries on U.S. foreign policy. This is from the Pacific News Service.

Copyright 2001, Newsday, Inc.

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