Subject: CONG: Republican Rep. Challenges Antiterrorism as Rationale for Aiding TNI

October 29, 2003

The President

The White House

Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to you today out of concern over your recent remarks in favor of restoring military-to-military relations with Indonesia. Your continued dialogue with Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri about the potential for normalizing our military relationship with Indonesia was troubling, to say the least.

As you are aware, on August 31, 2002, Rick Spier, a resident of Colorado's Sixth Congressional District, and the entire staff of the International School of Tembagapura in West Papua, Indonesia, were attacked on their way home from a picnic outing. The attack occurred in the middle of the day, less than a half mile from an Indonesian military position, and lasted for approximately 45 minutes. In addition to Mr. Spier, another American teacher, Ted Burgon, was also killed. Other victims, including Mr. Spier's wife, Patricia, were shot, severely wounded and left to fend for themselves.

The Indonesian police began an investigation of the attack and issued a report concluding that there was a strong possibility that it had been carried out by members of the Indonesian National Army Force. Subsequently, the case was turned over to the Indonesian military police, which exonerated the military of any involvement.

We appreciate the efforts put forth by the FBI, the State Department and the Administration regarding this case, and we are aware that FBI agents have been to Indonesia to investigate this crime. However, we are concerned about the signal that will be sent to the Indonesian government if the United States continues to fund the Indonesian military. This is the time to add pressure to the Indonesian government to cooperate in the investigation, not to continue to educate and train its forces.

Furthermore, assistance to the Indonesian military in the name of fighting the war on terror is a misnomer. Hardliners within the TNI are suspected to have ties to extremist Islamic groups in Southeast Asia, including the Laskar Jihad and the Jemaah Islamiah, the group that has been implicated in the Bali and Marriott hotel bombings. Supplying the TNI with funds, even for training in "civilian relations," sends the wrong message at a time when Indonesia has yet to confront terrorism within its own ranks.

A 2002 study for the US Naval Postgraduate School noted that the Indonesian army had become "a major facilitator of terrorism" due to "the radical Muslim militias they had organized, trained, and financed" (Dr. Gaye Christoffersen, "Strategic Insight: The War on Terrorism in Southeast Asia," Center for Contemporary Conflict, National Security Affairs Department, Naval Postgraduate School, March, 2002).

Even our own Congressional Research Service, in a December 2002 report, stated that "[r]adical groups such as Laskar Jihad and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) also reportedly have received assistance from elements within the Indonesian military in organizing, securing arms, and transport to locales throughout the Indonesian archipelago" (Congressional Research Service, "Terrorism in Southeast Asia," December 13, 2002).

I hope that you will take this perspective into consideration as you weigh decisions about the future of our relationship with Indonesia. I believe that Congress has communicated clearly, through Representative Joel Hefley's amendment to the House Foreign Operations bill, and Senators Allard and Feingold's amendments to the Senate Foreign Operations bill, restricting IMET funding to Indonesia, that Congress is not prepared to restore military relations with Indonesia until Indonesia complies with the ongoing FBI investigation into the murder of two Americans in West Papua and cuts ties with extremist Islamic groups.

Sincerely,

Tom Tancredo

Member of Congress

 


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