Chomsky on East Timor (lobbying addresses too)


Jan Slakov

Date:      Sat, 11 Sep 1999 13:00:26 -0300 (ADT)
From: Daniel Haran <•••@••.•••>
Subject: 8 Sept: Noam Chomsky on East Timor (fwd)


some fascinating (for me, at least) geo-political thinking from Chomsky
that I had not heard before.  Peace-d.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 10:26:45 -0400 (EDT)
From: jan m <•••@••.•••>
Subject: 8 Sept: Noam Chomsky on East Timor

Date: Thu, 09 Sep 1999 23:06:48 -0800
From: "Eric S. Piotrowski" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: 8 Sept: Noam Chomsky on East Timor
To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••

[note: Speakers' initials added by •••@••.••• for increased
legibility. They are approximations; verification is urged when quoting]

East Timor on the Brink
Interviewed by David Barsamian
KGNU, Boulder, September 8, 1999

DB: Noam Chomsky, long-time political activist, writer and professor of
linguistics at MIT, is the author of numerous books and articles on U.S.
foreign policy, international affairs and human rights. Among his many books
are Year 501, Keeping the Rabble in Line, World Orders Old and New, Class
Warfare and The Common Good. His new book is The New Military Humanism.

This special edition of Alternative Radio will focus on East Timor, which is
once again a killing field with mass murders, expulsionsaand ethnic
cleansing. According to a story in this today's New York Times, East
Timorese are being rounded up and forcibly moved across the border to
Indonesian West Timor. Joining us from his home in Massachusetts is MIT
professor Noam  Chomsky, who was, along with his colleague Ed Herman,
probably the first to write about East Timor in their book Washington
Connection and Third World Fascism.

Noam, the situation in East Timor has gone from bad to worse. You have
written an article for the MoJo  Wire on why Americans should care about
East Timor.

NC: The primary reason is that there's a lot that we can do about it. The
reason is it's a huge catastrophe. Actually, it's considerably worse than
when I wrote a couple of weeks ago. And there is a bit of history involved.
The U.S. has been directly and crucially involved in supporting the
Indonesian invasion, arming it, carrying it through the worst atrocities,
which were in the late 1970s under the Carter Administration and pretty much
right up till today. But putting aside history, we can do a lot. This is a
place where the U.S. has plenty of leverage, can act to stop something
which, if the U.S. doesn't act, might turn into a Rwanda, and that's not an

DB: In your essay you say that "President Clinton needs no instructions on how
to proceed." Then you go on to describe some events that happened in late
1997 and in the spring of 1998. What exactly went on?

NC: What went on is that General Suharto, who had been the darling of the U.S.
and the West generally ever since he took power in 1965, carrying out a huge
mass murder, the CIA compared it to the slaughters of Hitler and Stalin and
Mao, described it as one of the great mass murders of the twentieth century,
it was very much applauded here. He wiped out the main, the only
popular-based political movement, a party of the left, killed hundreds of
thousands of peasants, opened the place up to Western investment, virtual
robbery, and that was greeted very warmly. And so it remained, through
atrocity after atrocity, including the invasion of East Timor, which was
supported very decisively by the U.S.  and up until 1997. In 1997 he made
his first mistake. One thing was he was beginning to lose control. If your
friendly dictator loses control, he's not much use. The other was, he
developed an unsuspected soft spot. The International Monetary Fund (IMF),
meaning the U.S., was imposing quite harsh economic programs which were
punishing the general population for the robbery carried out by a tiny
Indonesian elite, and Suharto, for whatever reason, maybe fearing internal
turmoil, was dragging his feet on implementing these. Then came a series of
rather dramatic events. They weren't much reported here, but they were
noticed in Indonesia, widely, in fact. In February 1998, the head of the
IMF, Michel Camdessus, flew into Jakarta and effectively ordered Suharto to
sign onto the IMF rules. There was a picture taken which was widely
circulated in Jakarta and Australia showing a kind of humble Suharto sitting
at a table with a pen and an imperious-looking Camdessus standing over him
with his arms folded and some kind of caption saying, Typical colonial
stance. Shortly after that, in May 1998, Madeleine Albright telephoned
Suharto and told him that Washington had decided that the time had come for
what she called a "democratic transition," meaning, Step down. Four hours
later, he stepped down. This isn't just cause and effect. There are many
other factors. It's not just pushing buttons. But it does symbolize the
nature of the relationship.

There's very good reason to believe that if the Clinton Administration took
a strong stand, made it very clear to the Indonesian generals that this
particular game is over, it would be over. I doubt very much, though there
is talk about an intervention force, which the U.S. is refusing to make any
commitment to, and about sanctions, which the U.S. is also dragging its feet
on, and there are other, even weaker measures that could be considered that
could be very effective, such as, for example, threatening the Indonesian
generals with war crimes trials, which is a serious threat for them. It
means they're locked up in their own countries for a long time. One of the
Indonesian generals, the architect of the massacre in Dili, it's already
happened to him. He was driven out of the U.S. by a court case which he lost
and had to flee. But those are things that the generals care about. They're
easy. But I frankly don't think that any of these things are necessary. We
don't know that they're necessary, and we won't know until the Clinton
Administration does something simpler, namely, take a strong stand, saying
approximately what they said to Suharto in May 1998. I rather suspect that
that would work. Although by now it may be too late. The time to do this was
February or March, certainly not later than April, when the killings were
already picking up substantially, serious massacres, like killing sixty
people hiding in a church in Liquica, for example.

DB: That happened in April.

NC: There were a lot more. This is one particularly awful one. The Clinton
Administration again dragged its feet on even allowing unarmed U.N.
observers. They finally let in a couple of hundred observers, the UNAMET
observer team that was there. I should say that the remnants of that team is
now, as of a couple hours ago, locked up in a compound being attacked by
Indonesian troops and Indonesian militia and running out of food and water.
One of the people holed up in there apparently is Allan Nairn, a friend of
ours, who escaped. Dili, the capital city, is apparently wiped out,
according to the few people who are left. A lot of it is burned down. The
population is driven out. Allan was trying to keep looking in to see what
was going on in the city and was finally trapped by Indonesian soldiers. He
somehow made it to the U.N. compound and is at least alive. That's what's
happening right now.

After the referendum, which of course was an overwhelming victory for
independence and a remarkably courageous act on the part of the Timorese, to
vote for independence in the midst of terrible terror with an occupying army
organizing it, that takes a lot of guts.

DB: Almost 99% of eligible voters turned out, and close to 80% voted for

NC: There were tens of thousands of people who came out of hiding to vote and
fled back into hiding. Right after that started, the rampage which is
devastating the country. This morning the U.N. reported 200,000 refugees.
Church courses in Dili, very reliable ones, I presume this goes back to the
Bishop, who's now in exile, driven out of the country, have reported about
3,000-5,000 people killed in the last few months, mostly in the last couple
of days. Those numbers are going up. Those numbers alone are approximately
twice as bad as Kosovo in the entire year before the bombing. That was at a
time when there was a big guerilla movement going on which had occupied
forty percent of the country. Here it's just plain massacre in a country of
less than half the size of Kosovo. So the scale is huge, and it's going up.
We don't know how bad it is because the first thing that the Indonesians did
was to drive all observers out of the country. So virtually all the
journalists were forced to flee. Some, like Allan and a couple of
Australians, stayed. The U.N. has been compelled to withdraw virtually
everyone. If they can get those people out of the compound in Dili, I
presume they'll get them out, too. That means that terror can go on
unobserved. In the countryside nobody has any idea what's going on.
Telephone service has been cut off. The university has been burned down. The
Bishop's residence has been burned down. He had to flee. He was taken out by
the Australian military. What's going on there nobody knows. The
descriptions that are coming through, mainly from Australia by Australian
reporters and diplomats, are pretty horrendous. Dili, the one place anybody
knows anything about, has been virtually cleansed, apparently. That's the
term used by a few U.N. officials. Also tremendous looting, robbery,
apparently they're trying to destroy the place.

DB: The Indonesian apologetic for what they're doing in East Timor is that if
East Timor becomes independent it will set a precedent for Ambon, Irian Jaya
and Aceh.

NC: Let's remember that East Timor is not part of Indonesia. East Timor was
invaded and conquered by Indonesia. That has never been recognized by the
U.N., never even been recognized by the U.S. It's been recognized by the
U.S. press for a long time. Up until very recently, the reports used to be
"Dili, Indonesia." But it's no more a part of Indonesia than occupied France
was part of Germany during the Second World War.

DB: So when Seth Mydans, who writes for the New York Times, describes
pro-independence advocates as "separatists," is he off the mark?

NC: That's like saying the French resistance were separatists under the Nazis.
Indonesia has been ordered to withdraw instantly, back in 1975, by the
Security Council. The U.S. didn't even veto it, though it undermined it. The
World Court has declared that the population retains the right of
self-determination. Australia did grant de jure recognition, but they've
essentially withdrawn it. That's it. The Indonesians have no right
whatsoever to be there except for the right of force and the fact that the
U.S. has supported their presence. Otherwise they'd be out.

What happened has been very graphically and lucidly described by the U.S.
U.N. Ambassador, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He was the U.N. Ambassador at the
time of the Indonesian invasion. He wrote his memoirs a couple of years
later and was very frank about it. He said, The State Department wanted
things to turn out as they did. It was my responsibility to render the U.N.
"utterly ineffective" in anything it might do, "and I carried it forward
with no inconsiderable success." Then he goes on to say what happened
afterwards. The next couple of weeks about 60,000 people were killed,
roughly the proportion of the population of Russia killed by the Germans.
That's him, not me. Then he turned to some other subject. That's pretty
accurate, and it continued. It got worse under the Carter Administration.

Richard Holbrooke, who just presented his credentials to the U.N. as
Ambassador yesterday. The press, in reporting this, did talk about his
diplomatic successes at Dayton. They didn't look at his diplomatic career in
connection with another item that's on the front pages, namely East Timor.
He was Undersecretary of State for Asian Affairs for the Carter
Administration, and he was the leading apologist for the Indonesian

DB: Will Seaman (International Federation for East Timor Observer Project), who
has just returned from six weeks in East Timor, wants me to ask you about
the U.S. military ties with Wironto and the Indonesian military. There is
not an overt green light, but there is a yellow light for the Indonesian
military to carry out operations in coordination with the militias in East
Timor. Do you have any information on that?

NC: The Indonesian military was for a long period essentially a U.S.-run
military force. The officers were trained here. They had joint exercises.
They had mostly U.S. arms. That's changed. By now I think Australia is
probably much more involved in training and joint exercises. In fact, they
had joint exercises very recently, including with Kopassus, the commando
forces that have a horrible record and are modeled on the Green Berets. They
have been implicated in most of the current massacres. Britain has been a
major arms supplier. The U.S. government, the White House, has been blocked
by Congress from sending most arms and carrying out direct training. The
Clinton Administration has evaded those restrictions in the past, found ways
around them and continued under another hat. Whether that's still continuing
is very hard to say, because nobody is looking at it, as far as I know.
These things usually come out a couple of years later. But whatever the
arrangements may be, there is no doubt that the U.S. military has plenty of
leverage, and the White House, too, if they want to use it. The Indonesians
care quite a lot about what stand the U.S. takes with regard to what they

I should say that they are not powerless, however. One of the reasons why
the U.S. is maybe hanging back, apart from the fact that Indonesia is a
loyal, rich client and there are plenty of U.S. corporations operating there
and they don't care one way or another about the Timorese, quite apart from
all of those things, which have been operative for quite a long time,
there's another problem looming right now. It doesn't get reported much. A
couple of days ago the Chinese President Ziang Zemin was in Thailand. He
made a very strong speech which got a lot of attention in Southeast Asia in
which he condemned U.S. "gunboat diplomacy" and economic neocolonialism.  He
talked, not in detail, but he discussed security arrangements between China
and ASEAN, the Southeast Asian countries. According to the limited press
coverage from Southeast Asia, the Thai elites welcomed this because they are
glad to see a counterforce to the U.S., which much of the world is very much
afraid of now. China is clearly offering some kind of security arrangement
in which it will be the center. That means also an economic bloc with the
Southeast Asian countries or part of them, maybe Japan ultimately brought
in, and North Asia, that would exclude or at least marginalize the U.S.

You have to remember that the major concern of the U.S. in that region of
the world since the Second World War has been to prevent that from
happening. That has been the driving concern behind the remilitarization of
U.S. allies, including Japan, the Indochina war, the U.S. clandestine
operations in 1958 which tried to break up Indonesia, which at that time was
neutralist and right on to the present. They didn't care much about Russia.
They didn't have a Cold War connection. But it was a concern that the
countries of the region might accommodate to China, as it was put in
internal documents, and create a kind of an Asian bloc in which the U.S.
would not have privileged access and control. I can't imagine that
Washington policymakers aren't aware of this. Indonesian generals may be
thinking of it, too, thinking that it offers them a certain degree of
leverage against even mild U.S. pressures.

DB: What suggestions would you make to ordinary Americans, listeners to this
broadcast or readers of this interview, what can they do?

NC: There is one last chance to save the Timorese from utter disaster. I stress
"utter." They've already suffered enormous disaster. In a very short time
span, in the next couple of days, probably, unless the U.S. government takes
a decisive, open stand, this thing may be past rescue. It's only going to
happen in one way, if there's a lot of public pressure on the White House.
Otherwise it won't happen. This has been a horror story for twenty-five
years. It's now very likely culminating, and there isn't much time to do
anything about it.

DB: Thanks very much.

The number for the White House comment line is (202) 456-1414.

Note from Jan: More lobbying info below. If anyone can send me contact info
for the US mission to the UN and the Indonesian ambassador to the US, I will
do my best to pass it along.

Britain: Prime Minister Tony Blair, 10 Downing St, London SWl A 2AA.
(Canada: see below)
France: President Jacques Chirac, Palais de I'Elysee, 55 rue de Faubourg St
Honore, 75008 Paris.

India: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vaipayee, South Block, New Delhi 110011.

Israel: Prime Minister Ehud Barak, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem

Pakistan: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister's Secretariat, Islamabad.

Russia: President Boris Yeltsin, Krasnopresenskaya-2, Moscow.

United States. President Bill Clinton, White House, Washington DC.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien: 
Phone: (613) 992-4211; Fax: (613) 941-6900
Fax by e-mail: remote-printer.Jean_Chré•••@••.••• 
Email: •••@••.•••
Mailing address: House of Commons, Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Phone: (613) 995-0153, Fax: (613) 996-3443
Fax by e-mail: •••@••.••• 
E-mail: •••@••.•••
Mailing address: House of Commons, Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Ken Sunquist, Canada's Ambassador to Indonesia
Embassy of Canada, Jakarta, Indonesia
P.O. Box 8324/JKS.MP Jakarta 12084 Indonesia
Phone: 011-62-21-525-0709, Fax: 001-62-21-571-2251

Robert Fowler, Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations
Phone: (212) 848-1100, Fax: (212) 848-1195, 848-1192
E-mail: •••@••.•••
Additional/alternative email: •••@••.•••
Mailing address: Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations
One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, 885 Second Avenue, 14th Floor
New York 10017, N.Y., U.S.

Please also send us a copy of your letter to us, and contact us if you
need any more information:
ETAN National Office
Post Box 4115, Station E
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B1
Fax: (613) 230-8854, Email: •••@••.•••


For information about obtaining cassette copies or transcripts of this or
other programs, please contact:

David Barsamian
Alternative Radio
P.O. Box 551
Boulder, CO 80306
(800) 444-1977
E-mail: •••@••.•••



| Eric S. Piotrowski ____________________| "The  oppressed  cannot  remain |
| IFET-OP U.S. Interim Coordinator ______| oppressed forever. The urge for |
| •••@••.••• ____________________| freedom  will eventually come." |
| ________| - Dr. Martin  Luther  King, Jr. |
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