Inhumanitarian Non-Intervention in East Timor

Krishna Lalbiharie umlalbi0 at SPAMcc.UManitoba.CA
Wed Sep 8 17:52:59 MDT 1999

Inhumanitarian Nonintervention in East Timor
>Edward S. Herman
>Coming so soon after the NATO devastation of Yugoslavia in the alleged
>interest of humanitarianism and protection of human rights, the
>of the NATO powers in the East Timor crisis strikingly confirms the
>views of
>those who questioned the moral basis of NATO's intervention in Kosovo.
>the Kosovo case, NATO insisted on bombing although Yugoslavia had
>agreed to a sizable international presence in Kosovo--but not a NATO
>occupation of all of Yugoslavia as was demanded in the Rambouillet
>ultimatum-- and a "wide-ranging autonomy" for Kosovo. There was good
>to believe that the already strong international pressures on Yugoslavia
>might have resulted in a non-military resolution of the crisis.
>In the case of the current renewed Indonesian violence against the East
>Timorese, by contrast, although Indonesia has been occupying East Timor
>violation of standing UN rulings for 24 years and had already killed a
>larger fraction of the East Timorese population than Pol Pot had done in
>Cambodia, the NATO powers that had so eagerly bombed Yugoslavia have
>not called upon the IMF to suspend its line of credit to Indonesia, and
>Blair government announced on September 7 that economic sanctions were
>even on the agenda. They are allegedly "ineffective." The Blair moral
>indignation at human rights violations, so furious as regards
>Yugoslavia, is
>entirely absent in this case, and the question of using force doesn't
>arise for Blair and Clinton. The Blair government (and Clinton's as
>well) is
>relying on our old friend "quiet diplomacy," which has always been a
>for inaction in dealing with the murderous behavior of allied and client
>In the wake of the fall of Suharto in May 1988, the East Timorese and
>supporters had gotten a weakened Indonesian leadership to agree to a
>UN-sponsored referendum for independence. The Indonesian regime quickly
>changed course, however, and organized, armed, and protected militia
>that carried out a reign of terror in East Timor which forced a
>of the referendum till August 30. The original UN agreement with
>on the preparation for the voting gave Indonesia full rights to police
>referendum. There was of course no more basis in a historical record of
>responsible behavior by Indonesia justifying this assignment than there
>would be for giving Milosevic charge of preparations for an independence
>vote in Kosovo.
>But even as Indonesia's violations of its responsibilities became
>evident with escalating militia violence over the course of ten months
>to the vote, the great powers made no moves to change the rules or to
>penalize or threaten Indonesia. Now, in the aftermath of the referendum,
>it has become obvious that the Indonesian army and police are directly
>participating in the killing, the Western powers are still unwilling to
>any strong action. UN head Kofi Annan continues to urge Indonesia to do
>duty, which it had failed to do previously and is now OPENLY failing to
>His feebleness reflects the fact that the great powers continue to drag
>their feet. By striking contrast, how aggressive they were in Kosovo,
>readily they found (illegal) avenues and rationales to act, and how
>they were to use violence!
>Western non-intervention in East Timor is obviously rooted in the same
>factors that caused the U.S. and Britain (etc.) to support the Suharto
>dictatorship for three decades, to give it aid and sell it arms, to
>its military and police, and to accept and even aid its invasion and
>occupation of East Timor in the first place. A strongly anticommunist
>political ally, Indonesia under Suharto also became an "investors
>loved by the oil, mining, and timber companies and other transnationals.
>This regime has made East Timorese offshore oil readily available to the
>companies. These benefits help explain the Western willingness to
>the undemocratic rule, the mass exterminations during the military
>of 1965-1966, along with the genocidal invasion-occupation of East Timor
>from 1975 onward. And these benefits help us to understand why, although
>West has the power to pressure Indonesia to comply with humanitarian
>principles even short of using force, it fails to use that power.
>The media have avoided discussing these earlier genocides while
>reporting on
>the ongoing East Timorese crisis. And while they are now a bit aroused
>the onset of what might be another Rwanda type slaughter--a second
>Indonesian genocide in East Timor--they continue to fail to trace it to
>root causes of support of "our kind of guy" (as a senior Clinton
>described Suharto in 1995), or to wax indignant over the failure of the
>to react to monstrous behavior, or to feature the comparison with Kosovo
>the mindboggling hypocrisy in the claim of a new era of western
>"humanitarian intervention."

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