Australia's Vietnam (to George)

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Thu Sep 30 22:59:04 MDT 1999

George Pennefather writes:

>In relation to Gary's letter I just see that Indonesia has pulled out =
>its forces from East Timor. Clearly then this leaves a power vacuum that =
>can be filled with the pro-Indonesian militia since the Australia led UN =
>force has only recently deployed and needs time to pan out. It is =
>questionable whether the forces currently on hand will prove sufficient =
>to establish control over East Timor. The upshot may be a rather messy =
>and ongoing affair --perhaps even Canberra's Vietnam.

I think this is a very unlikely scenario, George.

Jakarta has realised its subordinate place in the new world order - and,
despite Jose's claims, this means Indonesia is subordinate even to the
'minor' imperialist powers of Australia and New Zealand.

The 'militias' may be good at killing unarmed East Timorese, but they are
no army and no match for imperialist troops like the Brave Anzacs.  After a
load of bravado posturing that they would 'eat the hearts of the
Australians', they have actually melted away since the imperialist troops
have arrived.

Yesterday, Falintil (the armed wing of the CNRT) handed over to the Aussies
a lorry-load of weapons, including stuff they'd captured off the militias.
Which tends to suggest that the militias were not much of a match for the
armed wing of the independence movement either.

This suggests both that the militias were entirely dependent on the
Indonesian Army and that they were never really much of a force to be
reckoned with.

It will be interesting to see what comnes out in the wash in the next few
years, and whether the significance of the militias has been played up by a
Western media of 'laptop bombardiers' which was chomping at the bit for a
'moral/humanitarian' military intervention.

After the Kuwaiti babies story, and the 'ethnic cleansing' and 'mass
graves' propaganda from ex-Yugoslavia, I am highly critical/suspicious of
Western media horror stories about the indiscriminate savagery of whatever
people or regime they happen to be demonising at any time.

Indeed one of the interesting aspects of this story is the way it reveals
that much of the media is little more than a conduit for imperialist policy
and the propaganda departments of Western armies.  In Vietnam, the media
were increasingly critical of the US Army.  By the time we get to Desert
Strom in 1990, the media are like a wing of the US-led forces.  Much of the
media simply pumped out military press releases.

This is even more pronounced with the intervention in East Timor.  I was
watching the main TV News programme last night and the senior NZ reporter
on the spot kept on talking about 'we' and 'us' referring to the NZ troops.
For a few seconds I thought he was the NZ commander - the laptop
bombardiers like dressing in fatigues these days, so that also makes it
harder to tell - but then I recognised his face and his name came on the

So one of the other things this little imperialist gambit has done is
assist the ongoing process by which the media loses even the pretence of
independence and instead relays the Army line as 'news' and 'truth'.

Philip Ferguson

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