US/UN/East Timor/Portugal

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sun Oct 3 15:09:30 MDT 1999

>>I think it is unfair to say the US are to blame for the fate of the
east-Timorese in other ways than its clear acquiescence for the Indonesian
invasion. President Ford and Kissinger had been in Jakarta six days before
the launch of the operation and gave their consent for it, if not
encouragement. But I believe this has had little to do with the CIA
operations in Portugal. <<

I think it is fundamentally false to say the US did no more than acquiesce
to the Indonesian invasion.

If you look at, for example, Angola, you will also see that the U.S. ALSO
tried to hide its role, but that it did everything it could think of to
forestall an MPLA victory. The CIA --with Kissinger and Ford's blessing--
even went behind the backs of the U.S. National Security Council in the
White House, in carrying out the dirty war.

Indeed, it seems totally extraordinary that the President and Kissinger
would serve as messenger boys of "acquiescence" by the most powerful
imperialist power in the world. They were there not to express indifference
but to assure Suharto of active US material support, especially given that,
in the complicated diplomatic game of the time, the US would be talking out
of both sides of its mouth. They wanted to tell Suharto to pay no attention
to what US diplomats may be saying at the UN. That's the reason the
"acquiescence" was communicated at such a high level. We may not yet know
all the details. But the United States bought and paid for that Indonesian

The strategic interest of the US in East Timor was above all political. In
the world of 1975, only months after the Vietnamese marched into Saigon, the
idea of another Cuba emerging anywhere in the world terrified the
Americans -- and inspired revolutionaries the world over, and especially the

In Angola, the US got Holden Roberto's force to attack from the North, and
Savimbi to attack from the South, backed by a powerful armored South African
column that had penetrated hundreds of miles into Angolan territory. The
United States was so desperate they were willing to ally with "rabble" and
"psychopaths" and, of course, "racists" against the MPLA. (The words in
quotes are not my description but the those of Stockdale, the CIA person in
charge of the operation, describing the elements of the forces he put
together.) Only days before the official proclamation of independence were
the South Africans handed a decisive defeat by the Cuban-Angolan forces.

Now, the United States COULD HAVE tried to stop the Indonesian war and
occupation at any time; instead, they continued arming, training and
supplying the Indonesian armed forces. There's an old Spanish saying, "dime
con quien andas y te dire quien eres" or, alternatively, take the English
dicho, "don't watch what they say, watch what they do."


-----Original Message-----
From: João Paulo Monteiro <jpmonteiro at>
To: marxism at <marxism at>
Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 11:05 PM
Subject: Re: US/UN/East Timor/Portugal

>Michael Hoover wrote:
>> US role in East Timor cannot be separated from its role in undermining
>> Portugese Revolution of 1974-75.  Not until overthrow of dictator
>> Antonio de Oliveira Salazar did Portugal initiate de-colonization (East
>> Timor first appeared on UN de-colonization list in 1960).  Salazar had
>> ignored UN condemnations of his colonial policies and continued to
>> use military force in Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde & Guinea-
>> Bissau.  The military coup that ousted Salazar unleashed multiple
>> progressive social movements and the new regime moved quickly to
>> the left.  There were Communist ministers in West European cabinet
>> for the first time since 1947.
>Not bad, for a brief conspectus.
>Unfortunately, Antonio Salazar (1889-1970) was not overthrown. He died in
>bed, surrounded by high representatives of the regime, who mocked councils
>ministers for him to preside and handed him fake newspapers with the most
>glorious stories. He effectively fell from power in a very metaphoric way.
>1968, in his private office, he fell from a chair and suffered an
>brain injury. Poor chap. As a conservative man, he only trusted his old
>furniture. José Saramago has a delicious novel glorifying the protracted
>patient work of the termites that so decisively has undermined Salazar's
hold on
>power. He had ruled in the most autocratic way for 40 years.
>He was succeeded by Marcelo Caetano, a law professor and ideologue of the
>He tried to make some very mild liberal overtures but was caught by the
>rigidity of the regime and his own indecision about ending the colonial
>This was the man who surrendered power to the democratic military coup on
25 of
>April 1974 (the revolution of the carnations).
>> Secretary of State Kissinger used same CIA tactics to destabilize
>> Portugal that he had used previously against Salvador Allende and
>> Popular Unity in Chile and that he was using against Michael Manley
>> and People's National Party in Jamaica - channeling money to
>> conservative groups and parties, disseminating disinformation though
>> the media, working with religious officialdom (US covert operations
>> in Portugal occurred at the very time such activities were being
>> investigated in Congress).  The left-ward march of the revolution
>> would wane, the Soviets would opt for continuing detente, moderate
>> Socialists would win parliamentary elections, the new government
>> would abandon pledges to assist in transition to East Timorese
>> sovereignty, and Portugal would remain with the West.
>This is also accurate, on the whole. However, the problem of East-Timor was
>very minor question in those years, both for Portugal and for the global
>contenders in the cold war. I think it is unfair to say the US are to blame
>the fate of the east-timorese in other ways than its clear acquiescence for
>indonesian invasion. President Ford and Kissinger had been in Jakarta six
>before the launch of the operation and gave their consent for it, if not
>encouragement. But I believe this has had little to do with the CIA
operations in
>Portugal. Political events in Portugal have had important repercussions in
>East-Timor, but when the americans were interfering with cover actions in
>portuguese affairs I believe they weren't particularly thinking on any
>half-an-island on the other side of the world.
>It didn't take imperialist destabilization for Portugal to have completely
>control of the situation on the territory. The portuguese revolution has
>liberated social and political forces that, on the case of East-Timor (that
>hadn't have an organized liberation movement), were still very immature. On
>other hand, the portuguese garrison was very weak, divided among the
>political sensibilities of the time and in absolutely no mood for fighting.
>fact, military discipline was very lax. The political situation in Lisboa
>confuse (with coups and counter-coups), the orientations weren't clear and
>contacts were difficult and sparse.
>There were three main political parties in East-Timor, all of them formed
>the revolution: UDT (bourgeois and neo-colonialist), APODETI
(pro-indonesian) and
>FRETILIN (leftist and radical nationalist). First UDT made an alliance with
>FRETILIN in order to marginalize the pro-indonesians. The broad guide-lines
for a
>transitional process towards independence were then settled with the
>A conference between the portuguese administration and the three parties
>called for Macau, in June 1975, to set the time-table. But FRETILIN,
>with the events in Lisboa (and by some portuguese military leftists on the
>territory), was now very radicalized. It protested against the presence of
>APODETI and boycotted the conference. UDT and APODETI were now hand in
hand. The
>conference called for elections to a popular assembly to be held in October
>This assembly would define the political destiny of the territory and
>sovereignty would, either way, end in October 1978.
>FRETILIN would accept nothing of the sort. It said independence was
>non-negotiable and started with a policy of military maneuvers and
>zones". UDT and APODETI protested against what they claimed to be the
>and connivance of some portuguese officers with FRETILIN's activities. By
>time, portuguese control of the politico-military situation was in fact
>deteriorating very, very fast. Having no reply to their demands, UDT then
>a coup in Dili and Baucau on August 10, 1975. The indonesian army was on
>near the frontier. Negotiations ensued, between UDT and FRETILIN, but came
>nothing. The timorese soldiers of the portuguese army divided themselves
>the two feuding parties. FRETILIN counter-attacked very effectively.
>The portuguese administration and army then retreated for the little island
>Atauro, just in front of Dili. FRETILIN rapidly gained complete control of
>situation and made repeated pleas for the portuguese to return and resume
>transition process. But the governor Lemos Pires just wouldn't come back.
It was
>ridiculous and went on for months. Then there was the right-wing military
coup of
>November 25, in Portugal, which effectively put an end to the revolution.
>FRETILIN felt the times were no longer favourable for deals with the
>and proclaimed independence unilaterally on November 29, 1975. The
>begun border provocations and launched a full scale invasion on December 7.
>João Paulo Monteiro


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