East Timor

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at SPAMmail.telepac.pt
Thu Sep 9 18:56:01 MDT 1999

R.J.G. Alves wrote:

>  I am appalled by the sectarianism displayed by some people in
> the list. The disgust by being side-by-side with sections
> of bourgeoisie seems to be clouding the judgement of many.
> Healthy as distrust in principle of anything that the
> "international community" does may seems, the truth is
> that at this point the only good option left for any
> progressives is to support intervention under the UNO
> flag, wether it is with australian, portuguese,
> or NZ's troops.

I AM indeed very distrustful of the *international community*. But the
proof that I don't let my judgment be clouded by it is that my position
at this point is roughly the same of the imperialist mainstream:
A U.N. peace force, yes, with Jakarta's consent or, better still, at its
request. Preferably a multi-national force composed of countries of that
region. Say, Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Australia/NZ, Thailand.
Lets keep Portugal out of it
Intervention without Indonesia's consent (explicit or implicit) means
There is no evidence of genocide so far. Only sparse shootings, some
ugly murders, lots of looting, arson, intimidation and deportations.
Extreme brutality, yes. Holocaust, no.
War would mean much worse than that, first of all to the timorese.

>  There are two things to be said here. Firstly, the
> "bourgeoisie" is far from being enthusiastic about this
> intervention. There was so much talk of humanitarianism
> during the war against Yugoslavia, that it now makes it
> almost pornographic not to act.

I don't mind that the contradictions of *humanitarian interventionism*
exposed. In fact, I'm delighted with it. But I still find intervention
be stupid. And that from a strictly human point of view. That is, from
the point of view of the immediate result in human suffering of doing it
or not. No politics. Politically, of course, I am against imperialist
military interventions anywhere.

> Also, East Timor is not
> legally part of Indonesia, and a UN-sponsored vote has
> taken place there.

As to the vote, you must be aware that the New York agreement recognizes
Indonesia's sovereignty on the territory throughout this phase. At least
until the results are homologated by the indonesian parliament. Anyway,
these are all just legal niceties. There are 26.000 indonesian troops
police in East-Timor now. There may be different political currents
their commands, but they would surely react in a unified way to what
perceive as a foreign invasion. Do you share Guterres' and Freitas do
Amaral's opinion that a mere 200-300 white soldiers would make them all
run like rabbits?

> Furthermore, the atrocities in
> the 1965 coup and after the 1975 invasion of Timor were
> in a cold war context. There is no "communist threat" excuse
> anymore to justify western support for clearly genocidal
> regimes.

The "West" has supported genocidal regimes before, still does and will
so again and again, whenever it suits its interests. Take Rwanda,
Colombia or Guatemala. The *West* as a whole is in fact conducting
genocide in Iraq right now.

> So there are simply too many things, but even so the
> West is being pushed into Timor in the same reluctant way that
> it was pushed into Somalia after the Gulf war.
>  Secondly, it is rather dogmatic to take a stand of
> "revolution or nothing". The options that ET is contemplating
> are either Indonesia's rule with genocide, or intervention of
> an international force, probably implying quite pro-western
> self-government in the long run. The later keeps more people
> alive, and gives ET a chance of being decolonized, which is
> all that the Timoreans can expect at this point. Giving them
> the basic national rights at this point should be the
> priority.

Timor Lorosae will be independent. If not this year, then surely the
next. The indonesians will go, on their own free will. That's why they
signed the accords. They're going to keep them. To go back now after the
referendum is unthinkable. But they sure don't want to be humiliated in
the process. From their perspective, they have tried their best in East
Timor. It failed. So they are leaving. Period. No recriminations. No
moral lessons.
The problem is that there is a very delicate balance of forces, at the
political and military levels, both in Jakarta and in East Timor.
In East Timor, there are many people who face losing 24 years of their
lives. Everything they have worked for and believed in is in tatters.
the only thing they get from the *international community* (who doesn't
know shit of what has been life in there for all these years) is
East Timor suffers from a problem of endemic violence and is facing a
very, very dire strait. Things are not helped by an attitude of
self-righteous white men's arrogance and the liberator spirit which was
the one employed by Portugal and UNAMET and that, in my opinion, is one
of the main responsibles for the present calamity. The integrationists
were treated like rubbish. They were not aloud on the voting tables (on
the grounds that they would intimidate the voters) and were not aloud on
the counting of the votes. It was all done by the UN staff and hired
local personnel (all independentists). Portugal and UNAMET thought (in
fact still think) that the only way to deal with the indonesians and the
integrationists is with the stick. Only, alas, they had no stick. Now
UNAMET is courageously leaving the territory (before that they have
the time to burn all their documents and all the materials of the
electoral process, INCLUDING THE VOTES) and who gets the stick are the

After about a week of chaos, the indonesians are beginning to restore
order in the territory. THEIR ORDER. It will be so until they leave.
Portugal and the UN should face it as it is and resume the process. No
armed interventions, no bombings, intelligent or otherwise. No more
threats and deadlines. Just talk it over and proceed with the
independence process. That's what they owe to the timorese.

>  One final note on Joao Paulo Monteiro's remarks on the
> "colonialist nostalgia" of the portuguese bourgeoisie. It
> is true that there is an element that can be read like that.
> However, there is also an amazing enthusiasm of the otherwise
> non-political portuguese masses for this cause. And I certainly
> prefer the attitude of the portuguese elites (wether
> "third-worldist" or simply nostalgic) over the one of most
> of the "western" countries east of Lisbon (UK, Germany,...)
> where nobody gives a damn about those dark-skinned folks on
> the other side of the planet.

I have great respect (and a bit of pride) for the genuine affection and
care that the common portuguese people have been showing for the fate of
the timorese. But, as you know, the road to hell is paved with good
intentions. What the portuguese government and all the forces of
portuguese *civil society* have been calling is, in fact, for war.

João Paulo Monteiro

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