US/UN/East Timor/Portugal

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at
Mon Oct 4 07:00:49 MDT 1999

Jose G. Perez wrote:

> 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
> invasion.
> 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
> Cubans.


> 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."

 Of course, I think you are totally correct here and this is extremely important
to stress. In fact, I never meant to say otherwise, though my expression may
have been unfortunate. I only met to say the US had no need (and no scruples
whatsoever on this regard) to go through Portugal to reach East Timor. And that
Portugal dropped East Timor mostly spontaneously, without being pushed around
specifically for that matter. In fact, there were many forces here whose intent
was to "enfilade that thing in Indonesia by any means". When the invasion
occurred, Portugal was already on the counter-revolutionary course. UDT, the
party favored by the portuguese right, was by then favorable to Indonesia
intervention, in fact appealed to it. The independentists were only FRETILIN, a
party that was very influenced at the time by the marxism-leninism of the
mozambican FRELIMO. In a way, the indonesian invasion December 7 was a
complement of the counter-revolutionary coup of November 25 in Portugal. It was
also an act of class war, the final defeat for the "foolish" aspirations of the
east-timorese popular masses. The administration of East-Timor, the 27th
province of Indonesia, was immediately confided to such UDTist stalwarts as
Francisco Lopes da Cruz and the Carrascalão brothers (previously, the
neo-colonialist darlings of the portuguese bourgeoisie).

There was only formal protest here. The portuguese government has ostensibly
broken diplomatic ties with Indonesia but secretly arranged for the repatriation
of governor Lemos Pires and his staff left in Atauro plus the freeing of 24
portuguese military caught and imprisoned in the East-Timorese mainland. This
was done in 1976 and from then on, portuguese protests were mostly formal and
the attitude was one of expectation that the situation would consolidate and the
wound heal naturally.

That's why the east-timorese struggle is so admirable. They had no friends
anywhere. Not in Lisboa, not in Canberra and certainly not in Washington. That's
why, in spite of the situation of extreme dependency of imperialism they are now
faced with, I am willing to extend to them some benevolent expectation. But I
don't want to re-open this debate.

> 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.

I'm not so sure about this. The MPLA was very weak at the time of the April 1974
revolution in Portugal. In fact, the military situation there was stable at the
time. FNLA activity in the North was sparse. Savimbi's UNITA, active in the
center, had been bought and coopted by the portuguese secret police. They would
only fight the occasional MPLA incursions from the East. From 1971 on, Savimbi
served as hound dog for the portuguese colonialists. The MPLA was profoundly
divided and weakened, for which the authocratic manners of Agostinho Neto were
largely to blame.

UPA/FNLA had been supported by the americans since Kennedy's time, when
Washington was "anti-colonialist". When Kennedy took office, he sent
instructions for his ambassador in Lisboa to tell Salazar he was to give
independence to Angola swiftly. Salazar was shocked. He told the ambassador if
that was all he had to say he could leave the room immediately.

I would say the americans could have done more in Angola in 1974-5. They
disposed of Mobutu's Zaire, FNLA, UNITA, the south africans and the right-wing
portuguese settlers. There was a chaotic situation of civil war. Instead, they
have permitted a cuban expedition to land there, which should be intolerable for
them. The revolutionary portuguese administration of admiral Rosa Coutinho
first, then the cubans, have practically baby-fed MPLA into power. I don't say
they have done absolutely nothing. But they sure had the means to do a lot more.
"Rabble", "psychopats" and "racists", must refer to Holden Roberto's men (who
were, of course, black), the FNLA, not the south-africans.

That's one of the reasons I give some credibility to the theory of a deal with
Moscow. Lisboa for us, Luanda for you and business as usual.

João Paulo Monteiro

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