East Timor and home-coming chickens

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Feb 27 15:55:40 MST 2003

Mike K wrote in response to Tom:

> It seems to me that it took Howard rather longer to crow about his "success"
> than you have portrayed here so far. And for good reason -- his policy of
> preserving at all costs the status quo lay in tatters, and he ended up with
> the worst of both worlds, as I tried to explain in connection with another
> point:

I think Tom has already made the point that the Australian ruling class
had little alternative but to change tack, due to changes in Indonesia.

But the point is that the imperialists were able to change tack, without
paying any political price for their long support for Indonesian
repression and occupation of ET.  In fact, they actually recouped all
they had lost in terms of the moral high ground, because they were able
to present themselves as the 'saviours' of the East Timorese, when in
fact they were the frontline of the new imperial overlordship.

ET is no longer an annexed part of Indonesia, it is now a direct
neo-colony of imperialism.  And if they rebel against that they will get
a similar repression as was dealt out to them under Indonesian rule.

Meanwhile, ET represented the biggest overseas intervention by Australia
and NZ since Vietnam.  In fact, the NZ intervention in ET was much
bigger than in Vietnam.

In both countries, the ET 'peace-keeping' has allowed the governments of
both parties to escape their records on ET and come up smelling roses.
In Australia, the intervention was also used to justify an expansion of
the military budget.

I find the idea that the Aussie (and NZ) governments were forced into ET
against their will totally unconvincing for a number of reasons.  Here's
just one:

On Feb 15, about a million Aussies protested in the streets and yet
Howard is still hooked up with the Bush gang and their proposed invasion
of Iraq.  So it's rather unlikely that demos a 50th - or less - of that
size forced Howard to do a total reversal and commit troops to ET
against his will.  It is more likely that the liberal left and those on
the far left who called for Aussie imperialist intervention were pushing
on an already open, or near-open, door.

Anti-imperialism is quite hard to promote in Australia and NZ, because
the myths about our countries being 'different' from the old imperialist
powers are so widespread and deep-rooted in the population in general.
There are massive illusions both sides of the Tasman about imperialist
peace-keeping by the armies of the NZ and Australian states.  Our ruling
classes have specialised in such 'peace-keeping' in the past two decades
and especially since the end of the Cold War.  The Aussie and NZ ruling
classes are the most damn 'peace-keeping' imperialists in the world.

This makes it especially important for Marxists in both countries to rip
away this ideological veil and expose and oppose this 'peace-keeping'
for what it really is: a new, kind of politically-correct version of the
old 'white man's burden', the purpose of which is to re-jig imperialist
domination in a way more suited to the post-Cold War world and post-Cold
War needs/interests of imperialist powers.

Philip Ferguson

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