Subject: IHT: A Back Door to New Military Aid for Jakarta

see also: Congress Bolsters Ban on Training for Indonesia With One Bill, While Opening a Loophole with

International Herald Tribune December 27, 2001

A Back Door to New Aid for Jakarta

by Michael Richardson International Herald Tribune

U.S. Congress Creates Loophole to Resume Military Assistance SINGAPORE The United States has quietly opened the way to resume military training with Indonesia despite a congressional ban.

Even though the U.S. Congress recently strengthened the human rights conditions that must be observed by Indonesia before U.S. military cooperation can be resumed, lawmakers opened a loophole in a separate bill to allow anti-terrorist training in the world's most populous Muslim country.

Human rights groups have denounced these developments, saying they will strengthen the military and other anti-reform elements in Indonesia at the expense of democracy and civil liberties.

They say the anti-terror bill is intended to circumvent existing restrictions on U.S. military cooperation with Indonesia in the interests of promoting a wider anti-terrorist effort in Southeast Asia. Some U.S. officials fear that the region may become a haven for Osama bin Laden's Qaida terrorists now that they have been denied an operating base in Afghanistan and are being hounded in many other parts of the world.

"This is dangerous," said Munir, the founder of Kontras, a leading Indonesian human rights organization, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. "The Indonesian military will become stronger and return to the political scene if this materializes."

Congress passed a Foreign Operations Appropriations Act last Thursday for fiscal year 2002. It maintained the ban on military education and training for Indonesia that was first imposed in 1991 because of alleged excesses by the Indonesian military in East Timor.

The act strengthened conditions for lifting the ban, including Indonesian accountability for human rights abuses, allowing East Timorese refugees to return home, auditing the performance and financing of the Indonesian armed forces, releasing political detainees in Indonesia and allowing the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations access to conflict areas in Indonesia.

But at the same time, Congress also passed a $318 billion Defense Department Appropriations Act that includes a provision setting aside $21 million for establishing regional counterterrorism training programs.

The provision was inserted at the last minute by Senator Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, who has close ties to the U.S. military command in the Pacific, which is based in Hawaii, human rights campaigners in Washington said.

The Indonesian armed forces have lost much of their authority since the fall of former President Suharto in 1998. But they have regained some influence by supporting the rise to power of the current president, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

She has given the military new latitude to suppress armed separatist movements in resource-rich provinces like Aceh and Irian Jaya. Mrs. Megawati wants to prevent any further fragmentation of the country following the loss of East Timor in 1999.

"Counterterrorism must not be used as an excuse to resume training for a military which terrorizes its own people and continues to enjoy impunity for its scorched-earth campaign in East Timor," said Kurt Biddle, the Washington coordinator of the Indonesia Human Rights Network.

The Indonesian military has made it clear to the United States that in return for closer cooperation in combating terrorism, restrictions on military sales, aid and training should be lifted. Some Indonesian officers have contended that the embargo is undermining the government's ability to maintain the stability and unity of Indonesia.

The chief of the Indonesian Air Force, Marshal Hanafie Asnan, said recently that as little as 40 percent of the country's 233 U.S.-made military aircraft could be flown; the rest were grounded because of a shortage of spare parts and maintenance problems arising from the embargo.

Human rights campaigners in Washington said that Mr. Inouye inserted the provision to establish a Regional Defense Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program at the behest of Admiral Dennis Blair, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and other Pentagon officials who want the United States to be able to work more closely with the Indonesian military.

But other analysts said that the move to resume cooperation with the Indonesian armed forces has backing from the highest echelons of the U.S. Defense Department, where officials are said to argue that only by engaging and assisting the Indonesian military can its professional performance be improved.

In an Indonesian television interview last month, Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy defense secretary and a former ambassador to Indonesia, called for better intelligence-sharing and checks on terrorist financing between the United States and Indonesia.

"We estimate that there are Qaida cells in some 60 countries, including definitely the United States and pretty definitely Indonesia," he said. "So when we eliminate Qaida in Afghanistan, we still have a lot of work to do."

The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, also strongly supports closer links with the Indonesian military, analysts said.

On a visit to Australia earlier this year, Mr. Rumsfeld recalled attending the funeral of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in 1970 as a member of the official U.S. delegation and meeting Mr. Nasser's vice president and successor, Anwar Sadat.

Mr. Rumsfeld mentioned the meeting as evidence of the importance of the U.S. military maintaining links with the armed forces of Indonesia and other foreign countries that do not always act in ways America approves.

Mr. Sadat, who was to become a key U.S. ally in a tumultuous and strategically important part of the world, "told us that he had been trained in the U.S. Army school in the United States, and had a wonderful feeling for the United States," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "He had no issue with us at all, except Israel. Yet he had Soviets all over his country at the time."

Mr. Rumsfeld was speaking to a group of journalists in Canberra in July. One had asked whether the United States would be seeking to reestablish

military-to-military ties with Indonesia anytime soon. Mr. Rumsfeld replied that he was "anxious" to rebuild such ties, although he noted the bans imposed by the U.S. Congress.

"I think we ought to be slower to nip those things, because in some countries that are evolving and changing, the military can be a stabilizing influence," Mr. Rumsfeld said. He added that although the behavior of some foreign militaries was not admirable and might not be consonant with the way the United States treated people, "it doesn't mean we should shoot ourselves in the foot."


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