Subject: NYTimes: End to Jakarta Military Aid Urged
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 08:57:21 -0400

also: Joyo note

The New York Times September 20, 1999

End to Jakarta Military Aid Urged


WASHINGTON -- As international peacekeepers arrive in East Timor, members of Congress are questioning the value of years of United States military training for an army whose officers supported the destruction there, and demanding tighter restrictions on relations with the Indonesian military.

Congressional leaders suggest that East Timor shows the futility of any more American training for the Indonesian forces, some of whose officers armed and backed the anti-independence militia in the territory.

The Pentagon counters that on the contrary this is the moment to educate Indonesian officers and their units in the principles of democracy and respect for human rights, and to nurture crucial personal relations with them.

Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a long-time critic of extensive international obligations, is joining with Democrats in the Senate to recommend cutting off relations with questionable foreign militaries.

On Wednesday, Senator Helms became a sponsor with Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Democrat of Wisconsin, of legislation that would freeze President Clinton's suspension of all military relations with Indonesia. Only when East Timor is safe, the refugees have returned to their homes, and the Indonesian Army has ended its support for the militias and begun to withdraw would the ban on military relations be lifted.

At the same time, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, will ask this week that the Clinton Administration investigate which Indonesian military officers and units were responsible for supporting the militias in East Timor.

"It is clear that the Indonesian Army was deeply involved in the atrocities in East Timor," Senator Leahy said in an interview. "A lot is going to have to change before United States military aid or training resumes there."

This is an old debate with new urgency. For more than 40 years, the Indonesian military has received American training. Some of the officers involved in the bloody 1965 uprising that led to President Suharto's repressive 32-year rule had been trained in the United States. But in those days defeating Chinese and Soviet Communist influence in Southeast Asia was seen as more important than teaching democracy and human rights to foreign armies.

Since the end of the cold war, however, the Pentagon has promoted military assistance in dozens of former Communist or authoritarian nations as education in democracy, human rights and civilian control of the military.

If those foreign armies get embroiled in nasty civil wars, the Pentagon says, the contacts it made with foreign officers will benefit the United States Government.

During the East Timor crisis, General Henry H. Shelton, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, spoke regularly with General Wiranto, his Indonesian counterpart, to try to stem the violence. In testimony before Congress at the start of the conflict, General Shelton argued that contacts between the officers of the two militaries were beneficial.

But there are skeptics who question whether any message about respecting human rights can get across to the armed forces of countries that are stumbling toward ethnic or civil warfare.

"I have seen no evidence in my 24 years in Congress of one instance where because of American military involvement with another military that the Americans have stopped that foreign army from carrying out atrocities against their own people," said Senator Harkin.

"No evidence, none."

Since the Berlin wall fell almost 10 years ago, the Pentagon has adopted a policy toward training foreign militaries that goes by the guideline of "shape, respond, prepare." "For example, the Army is in about 70 different countries today -- on exercises, on mobile training teams, and doing things that could potentially preclude us from having to be involved with that country in a crisis, " said General Shelton.

Last year, Congress enacted the Leahy law, which bars military assistance to units with an unreformed record of human rights abuses, like some of units of the Indonesian Army. But since the leaders of the Indonesian armed forces respected the Constitution in 1998 during the transformation to democracy following the ouster of President Suharto, the Pentagon was able to keep a limited education program with that army.

The Pentagon points to Lieut. Gen. Muhammad Yunus Yosfiah, who as an up-and-coming young officer went through training at Fort Leavenworth where he wrote his thesis on freedom of the press in an emerging democracy. Now retired, he was chosen by Indonesia's new civilian President to become the Minister of Information and has overseen the new policy of full freedom of the press.

Sydney Jones, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, acknowledges that there is a role for the Pentagon in educating foreign military officers but says that the rewards may be more modest than the Pentagon advertises, especially in the case of Indonesia. There, the army under President Suharto was a political power in its own right, and retains influence beyond the military sphere under President B. J. Habibie.

"There is no way that the American military can argue today that going through military exchanges turned these Indonesian officers into human rights paradigms," Ms. Jones said. "It was a mistake on the part of both the State Department and the Pentagon to argue that exposure to the West, especially the United States, would have a significant impact on how these people would behave, completely ignoring the particular role of the army in Indonesian society."

[Note: It is mindboggling that faced with war crimes tribunal against its own proteges, that the Pentagon is saying that this is the perfect moment to continue training! PR geniuses they ain't. It's exactly as if the Pentagon trained, equipped, and supported the Nazi SS and made a case to continue the training in the face of concentration camp revelations. If the Pentagon brass had any integrity and guts (wishful thinking) it would stop barefaced deceptions, cut the crap, come out of the closet, have the courage of its convictions -- and simply admit the truth to the American people (who foot its bills and are thus indirectly implicated in crimes against humanity committed by its client), and it would tell it like it is: "Kopassus and its death squad militias are bloodthirsty baby-killing monsters we played a key role in creating, arming and training -- they may be murderous thugs -- but they're our murderous thugs." No guts, no glory! Let the chips fall where they may. Those in US government who approved these programs should be held criminally liable for this officially-sanctioned, tax-payer financed collusion with barbaric crimes against humanity. The Pentagon spends millions each year on something called 'war lessons learned.' Before it goes out to train killers abroad, maybe it should learn some of those lessons. The founding fathers are rolling over in their graves.]

"The Pentagon counters that on the contrary this is the moment to educate Indonesian officers and their units in the principles of democracy and respect for human rights, and to nurture crucial personal relations with them"

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