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Howard Zinn

Howard ZinnDecember 2002

Dear Good Friends of East Timor,

On May 20 of this year, after decades of struggle, East Timor became independent. With invaluable solidarity from people like you, the East Timorese resistance prevailed in a victory of David and Goliath proportions.

For years, Washington insiders said it could never happen, as administration after administration actively assisted the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. I think you'll agree with me that the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) not only proved that independence for East Timor was possible but helped make it happen. ETAN harnessed the power of ordinary people in the United States -- people like you and me -- to redirect the policy of the most powerful government in the world. I can't think of a better recent example of grassroots action changing U.S. foreign policy.

But independence does not guarantee freedom, and ETAN's work has not ended. Justice for East Timor has been denied, and global powers threaten East Timor's sovereignty. Human rights conditions have worsened in Indonesia, where military tactics honed in East Timor are now being used in the provinces of Aceh and Papua. Yet the Bush administration continues to mount an aggressive campaign to make sure that Congress continues to expand its "re-engagement" with the Indonesian military.

ETAN needs your support to tackle these challenges. That is why I am writing to you in this season of giving to ask for your generous contribution to the East Timor Action Network.

East Timor's horizons, though free of military occupation, are dimmed by widespread poverty resulting from a quarter-century of occupation and centuries of colonial exploitation and neglect. It is the poorest country in Asia. International financial institutions intimately involved in virtually every facet of life in East Timor - the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund - cast long shadows on the new democracy and its aspirations for self-reliance.

But East Timor is coming of age in an era of globalized movements for social justice. The painful experiences of poor nations subject to IMF/World Bank-imposed restrictions on social spending have shown that such policies only deepen inequities. Grassroots activists now have an opportunity to work with the people of East Timor before "structural adjustment" and a vicious debt trap ravage the nation.

With partners in East Timor, ETAN has already taken preemptive action. Last spring, ETAN launched an international grassroots campaign for a debt-free and structural-adjustment-free East Timor. East Timor has won for now, the new government's "no-loans" policy survived. But this is only the beginning of a formidable fight.

For decades, the U.S. government stood in the way of self-determination for the East Timorese people. Bypassing democracy and ignoring human suffering, successive U.S. administrations supplied the Indonesian dictatorship with lethal military training and millions upon millions of dollars worth of weaponry.

With your help, ETAN has worked tirelessly for more than a decade first to win and then to maintain restrictions on U.S. assistance for Indonesia's military. In today's political climate of "war on terror," these restrictions are under serious threat. We now face our toughest challenge in years. Some military training may be restored in 2003. With all the resources the Pentagon has at its disposal, this fight will not be won easily. But it can be won. Thanks to ETAN's hard work, the U.S. government won't be arming the Indonesian military next year.

In August, Indonesia's ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor acquitted six Indonesian military and police officers of crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999. The court's failure to bring those officers to justice reinforced ETAN's long-standing call for an international tribunal on East Timor. But what was the State Department's response to this grave injustice? That the trials will serve as a "warning [to] those who might consider new violations of human rights in Aceh and elsewhere."

It is because of Bush administration stances like this that ETAN needs your support.

Since 1991, ETAN has made sure that the human rights of the East Timorese and Indonesian people are not ignored by U.S. policymakers.

Throughout this past year, ETAN's pressure for an international tribunal, a ban on military assistance for Indonesia and East Timor's right to economic self-determination has generated countless phone calls and letters to elected representatives and corresponding congressional action. ETAN's extensive spring speaking tour with an East Timorese women's and human rights activist built awareness, developed new grassroots contacts and increased support for congressional resolutions calling for a tribunal.

More pressure is needed in 2003.

I encourage you to take a look at the enclosed Annual Report. The accomplishments of the East Timor Action Network speak for themselves, as does the organization's modest budget. ETAN has truly done so much with so little.

In the current atmosphere of "us against them" warmongering, ETAN is an important example of what a dedicated group of activists can do to move our country in a more sane direction. Your financial support is needed to continue their work. Please think about ETAN and make as generous a donation as possible.

Thank you for you generous support. And best wishes of peace and health this holiday season.


Howard Zinn
Author, A People's History of the United States

How to Donate to ETAN 

To support ETAN’s advocacy work, please make your check out to “East Timor Action Network” and send it to ETAN, PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873

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Donations of any size for ETAN's political and advocacy work should be made out to ETAN and are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible checks for more than $50 can also be made out to "AJ Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN" and  will only be used to support our educational work.

Please mail your donation to:

PO Box 21873
Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA

Thank you for your support.