Subject: VOA: Timor Rights Group Wants US Apology for Not Preventing Invasion

Also: U.S. OK'd Indonesian '75 E. Timor invasion -documents (Reuters); 1975 East Timor Invasion Got U.S. Go-Ahead Ford, Kissinger Told Indonesian Leader They Would Not Object, Documents Show (Washington Post)

East Timor Rights Group Wants US Apology for Not Preventing Invasion Patricia Nunan Jakarta 7 Dec 2001

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A human rights group in East Timor wants the United States to apologize for supporting Indonesia's invasion of East Timor 26 years ago today [December 7]. The demand follows the release of secret US government documents that show that US government officials did not stop the plan.

A spokesman for the East Timorese human rights group, Yayasan Hak, says the Indonesian government bears the greatest responsibility for the invasion of East Timor. But Joaquim Fonseca says senior US officials also should be held accountable. "For the complicity that was committed by the US government, the U-S highest officials - in which case was the president of the United States - should be held accountable for that," he said. Mr. Fonseca's comments come after the National Security Archive in Washington released previously classified documents about the 1975 invasion. The documents detail how former President Gerald Ford, along with his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, met with former Indonesian President Suharto before the invasion.

At that time, during the height of the Cold War, the U.S. administration feared a possible spread of communism in Asia, including East Timor. According to the documents, Mr. Ford and Mr. Kissinger gave Mr. Suharto approval for the invasion, which took place the following day, December 7.

However, the United States never officially recognized Indonesia's occupation of East Timor.

On Friday, hundreds of East Timorese commemorated the anniversary of the invasion in the capital, Dili. Human rights groups say an estimated 200,000 people died as a result of the invasion. In 1999, East Timor voted to break free from Indonesia in a United Nations-supervised referendum. East Timor is now under U.N. administration until its full independence in May next year.

Since the referendum, the United States has been one of the biggest aid donors to the territory. But Mr. Fonseca says the United States still should push for justice for past crimes. "It is a great hypocrisy if the United States is doing all the effort to chase all those who killed thousands of people in Washington and New York in September, if it doesn't open its eyes to push for justice for those who were killed in East Timor," he said. An Indonesian government spokesman says the release of the documents is not expected to affect current US-Indonesian relations.

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US OK'd Indonesian '75 E. Timor invasion -documents

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave late Indonesian strongman Suharto the green light for the 1975 invasion of East Timor that left perhaps 200,000 dead, according to previously secret documents made available on Thursday.

Kissinger has maintained that he only learned of the plan at the airport as he and Ford prepared to fly home after meeting Suharto in Jakarta on the eve of the Dec. 7 thrust into East Timor, a former Portuguese colony.

Kissinger also has argued that any U.S. nod for the action should be seen in its Cold War context -- on the heels of the communist victory in Vietnam and amid U.S. fears that other "dominoes" might fall in Southeast Asia.

The incursion led to a bloody occupation that ended only after an international peacekeeping force took charge in 1999 and East Timor achieved independence.

At the time of the 1975 invasion, the United States supplied as much as 90 percent of Indonesia's weapons on condition that they be used only for defense and internal security.

Ford and Kissinger appear to have gone to considerable lengths to assure Suharto, a staunch anti-communist, that they would not oppose the invasion, which was designed to keep East Timor from breaking away from Indonesia.

"We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action," Suharto told them during a stopover on their way home from meetings with Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in Beijing, according to a newly declassified Dec. 6, 1975, document.

"We will understand and will not press you on the issue," Ford replied, according to the State Department record of the conversation declassified by Ford's presidential library.

Kissinger pointed out that "the use of U.S.-made arms could create problems," but added: "It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self-defense or is a foreign operation," according to the same document.

MANIPULATING PUBLIC OPINION

The private National Security Archive, a Washington-based research group that obtained the document under the Freedom of Information Act, said it showed that Kissinger's concern was not that U.S. weapons would be used offensively -- hence illegally -- but about how he might manipulate public opinion.

"It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly," Kissinger told Suharto, according to the document. "We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens, happens after we return."

"We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned" to Washington, Kissinger said, according to the document.

Ford's current chief of staff, Penny Circle, said the former president had no comment. Kissinger did not respond to requests for comment.

The National Security Archive released a package of East Timor-related documents, some of which had been made public before but had been heavily censored. They can be accessed at the the National Security Archive's Web site (www.nsarchive.org).

In a March 19, 1999, interview with WNYC Radio in New York, Kissinger denied having held substantive talks with Suharto on the invasion plan, saying: "We were told at the airport as we left Jakarta that either that day or the next day they intended to take East Timor."

He added, "And it happened in a year when southeast Asia, Indochina had collapsed. So it wasn't a question of approval but of not being able to do anything about it."

The newly disclosed material could raise new questions about President George W. Bush's drive to resume sales of non-lethal weapons to Indonesia. Former President Bill Clinton cut off most military cooperation after Indonesia's armed forces and paramilitary units attacked East Timor in response to an Aug. 30, 1999, U.N.-sponsored referendum in favor of independence.

"This is a critical time in relations between the West and the Muslim world, and Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country," said Frida Berrigan of the New York-based World Policy Institute, author of an October report on U.S. weapons sales to Indonesia.

"This new information should force the Bush administration to move cautiously in its dealings with an Indonesian government still largely dependent on the military to retain power," she said.

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1975 East Timor Invasion Got U.S. Go-Ahead Ford, Kissinger Told Indonesian Leader They Would Not Object, Documents Show
By Dana Milbank Washington Post Staff Writer 

Friday, December 7, 2001; Page A38

President Gerald R. Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger gave Indonesian President Suharto the go-ahead for Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor that left at least 200,000 dead, newly declassified documents show.

It has long been suspected that Ford and Kissinger approved the invasion of the former Portuguese colony. They met with Suharto in Jakarta on Dec. 6, 1975, the day before he sent Indonesian forces into East Timor.

This has been denied by Kissinger, who has maintained that he learned of the plan at the airport only as he was preparing to leave the country.

Nearly three years after the bloody clashes that accompanied a United Nations-sponsored referendum on independence, East Timor is scheduled to become independent next May.

In a secret State Department telegram, Ford and Kissinger assured Suharto that they would not object to what the Indonesian leader termed "rapid or drastic action" in East Timor.

"We will understand and will not press you on the issue," Ford said, according to the telegram, which was declassified in June and posted on the Web site of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. "We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have."

The private research group said it obtained the documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

Kissinger told Suharto: "It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly." He also urged Suharto to wait until he and Ford returned to the United States. "The president will be back on Monday at 2:00 PM Jakarta time," he said. "We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned."

Kissinger also suggested that the United States could construe Indonesia's operation as "self defense" rather than a "foreign operation." At the time of the invasion, the United States supplied the bulk of Indonesia's weapons on the condition that they be used only for defense or internal security.

Asked in 1995 about the U.S. role before the invasion, Kissinger replied: "Timor was never discussed with us when we were in Indonesia. At the airport as we were leaving, the Indonesians told us that they were going to occupy the Portuguese colony of Timor. To us that did not seem like a very significant event, because the Indians had occupied the Portuguese colony of Goa 10 years earlier, and to us it looked like another process of decolonization."

The Kissinger remarks were recounted in a book, "The Trial of Henry Kissinger," by journalist Christopher Hitchens, published earlier this year.

Another conversation between Ford and Suharto, declassified in July, indicates that the Indonesians made their ambition to take over Timor clear to the Americans at least as early as July 5, 1975.

On the topic of Timor, Suharto told Ford by telephone on that day that "an independent country would hardly be viable. . . . So the only way is to integrate into Indonesia."

Kissinger did not return a phone call yesterday.

David D. Newsom, ambassador to Indonesia at the time, said that while not objecting to the invasion, Kissinger did not encourage it. "Kissinger's response has to be put in the context of the situation of the time," Newsom said. "He had just come from China, Vietnam was collapsing, if it hadn't collapsed. . . . Kissinger, who saw things in a geopolitical, strategic light, was very much concerned that this vast stretch of territory representing Indonesia not fall into anti-American hands."

see also ETAN Kissinger Page


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