Allan Nairn: "a green light to proceed with the militia operation"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Sep 13 11:21:19 MDT 1999

The Nation Magazine (

September 27, 1999

US Complicity in Timor

While the Indonesian military's thugs continue their rampage in East Timor,
most foreign reporters have fled the country. As of September 7, frequent
Nation contributor and award-winning journalist Allan Nairn was believed to
be the only US reporter still there. Nairn left the besieged UN compound
and walked the streets of Dili, where he hid in abandoned houses as he
observed troops and militia burning and looting. Nairn has been writing
about the troubles there for years. In 1991, after being badly beaten by
Indonesian troops while witnessing the massacre of several hundred East
Timorese, he was declared a "threat to national security" and banned from
the country. He has entered several times illegally since then. In his most
recent Nation dispatch from East Timor, on March 30, 1998, Nairn disclosed
the continuing US military training of Indonesian troops implicated in the
torture and killing of civilians. He filed this report by satellite
telephone to The Nation through Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio's
Democracy Now!

--The Editors

Dili, East Timor

It is by now clear to most East Timorese and a few Westerners still left
here that the militias are a wing of the TNI/ABRI, the Indonesian armed
forces. Recently, for example, I was picked up by militiamen who turned out
to be working for a uniformed colonel of the National Police. [Editors'
note: The Indonesian government has denied any connection between the
militias and either the police or the military.] But there is another
important political fact that is not known here or in the international
community. Although the US government has publicly reprimanded the
Indonesian Army for the militias, the US military has, behind the scenes
and contrary to Congressional intent, been backing the TNI.

US officials say that this past April, as militia terror escalated, a top
US officer was dispatched to give a message to Jakarta. Adm. Dennis Blair,
the US Commander in Chief of the Pacific, leader of all US military forces
in the Pacific region, was sent to meet with General Wiranto, the
Indonesian armed forces commander, on April 8. Blair's mission, as one
senior US official told me, was to tell Wiranto that the time had come to
shut the militia operation down. The gravity of the meeting was heightened
by the fact that two days before, the militias had committed a horrific
machete massacre at the Catholic church in Liquiça, Timor. YAYASAN HAK, a
Timorese human rights group, estimated that many dozens of civilians were
murdered. Some of the victims' flesh was reportedly stuck to the walls of
the church and a pastor's house. But Admiral Blair, fully briefed on
Liquiça, quickly made clear at the meeting with Wiranto that he was there
to reassure the TNI chief. According to a classified cable on the meeting,
circulating at Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, Blair, rather than
telling Wiranto to shut the militias down, instead offered him a series of
promises of new US assistance.

According to the cable, which was drafted by Col. Joseph Daves, US military
attaché in Jakarta, Admiral Blair "told the armed forces chief that he
looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a
leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his
guest in conjunction with the next round of bilateral defense discussions
in the July-August '99 time frame. He said Pacific command is prepared to
support a subject matter expert exchange for doctrinal development. He
expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide
technical assistance to police and...selected TNI personnel on crowd
control measures."

Admiral Blair at no point told Wiranto to stop the militia operation, going
the other way by inviting him to be his personal guest in Hawaii. Blair
told Wiranto that the United States would initiate this new riot-control
training for the Indonesian armed forces. This was quite significant,
because it would be the first new US training program for the Indonesian
military since 1992. Although State Department officials had been assured
in writing that only police and no soldiers would be part of this training,
Blair told Wiranto that, yes, soldiers could be included. So although Blair
was sent in with the mission of telling Wiranto to shut the militias down,
he did the opposite.

Indonesian officers I spoke to said Wiranto was delighted by the meeting.
They took this as a green light to proceed with the militia operation. The
only reference in the classified cable to the militias was the following:
"Wiranto was emphatic: as long as East Timor is an integral part of the
territory of Indonesia, Armed Forces have responsibility to maintain peace
and stability in the region. Wiranto said the military will take steps to
disarm FALINTIL pro-independence group concurrently with the WANRA militia
force. Admiral Blair reminded Wiranto that fairly or unfairly the
international community looks at East Timor as a barometer of progress for
Indonesian reform. Most importantly, the process of change in East Timor
could proceed peacefully, he said."

So that was it. No admonition. When Wiranto referred to disarming the WANRA
force, he was talking about another militia force, different from the one
that was staging attacks on Timorese civilians. When word got back to the
State Department that Blair had said these things in a meeting, an "eyes
only" cable was dispatched from the State Department to Ambassador
Stapleton Roy at the embassy in Jakarta. The thrust of this cable was that
what Blair had done was unacceptable and that it must be reversed. As a
result of that cable from Washington to Roy, a corrective phone call was
arranged between General Wiranto and Admiral Blair. That call took place on
April 18.

I have the official report on that phone call, which was written by Blair's
aide, Lieut. Col. Tom Sidwell. According to the account of the call and
according to US military officials I spoke to, once again Blair failed to
tell Wiranto to shut the militias down. In fact, Blair instead permitted
Wiranto to make, in essence, a political speech saying the same thing he
had said before. Here is one passage from the account: "General Wiranto
denies that TNI and the police supported any one group during the
incidents"--meaning during the military attacks. "General Wiranto will go
to East Timor tomorrow to emphasize three things:...Timorese, especially
the two disputing groups, to solve the problem peacefully with dialogue; 2)
encourage the militia to disarm; 3) make the situation peaceful and solve
the problem." At no point did Blair demand that the militias be shut down,
and in fact this call was followed by escalating militia violence and
increases in concrete, new US military assistance to Indonesia, including
the sending in of a US Air Force trainer just weeks ago to train the
Indonesian Air Force.

Allan Nairn


Background and Related Information:

East Timor Action Network:  The East Timor Action Network/United States
supports self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor.
Its primary focus is to change US foreign policy and raise public awareness
to support self-determination for East Timor. ETAN's site provides
information about East Timor and about how to join the struggle to help the
East Timorese people.

Slate Magazine:  Slate's "International Papers," which offers brief
descriptions of what newspapers around the world are writing about the main
stories being covered internationally, is following the crisis in its daily

Radio Australia:  Radio Australia World News offers coverage of East Timor
through ABC News online.

ZNet:  Z magazine's coverage of East Timor includes a piece by Ed Herman on
"inhumanitarian nonintervention," a history of the conflict in East Timor
from Noam Chomsky, and assistance for activists in finding ways to respond
to the unfolding crisis.

The Jakarta Post:  The Jakarta Post, the "journal of Indonesia today," a
daily paper in Indonesia, joined papers around the world in assigning most
of the blame for the crisis to the Indonesian government. In an editorial,
the paper accused President Habibie of perpetuating the errors of his
predecessor, Suharto.

Democracy Now:  Democracy Now, a daily Pacifica Radio program hosted by Amy
Goodman, is in contact with Allan Nairn in East Timor and will be reporting
on the unfolding crisis.

Continuing coverage of events unfolding in East Timor:
Common Dreams
The Associated Press CNN

Louis Proyect

More information about the Marxism mailing list