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May 2006

Dear ETAN activists,

When the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) was founded fifteen years ago, they took on a quixotic task: not only would they help a small and overlooked nation gain self-determination, but they would end U.S. assistance to one of the world's most brutal military dictatorships. At the time, it seemed most unlikely that a small band of human rights activists could successfully challenge a bipartisan belief in Washington that maintaining a strong military relationship with Indonesia was worth overlooking severe human rights violations in Indonesia and East Timor.

I can attest to ETAN's effectiveness. I watched its impact from inside the U.S. government when I headed the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta from 1996 to 1999. I recall receiving phone calls from ETAN at the Embassy during 1999 when military-back militia were targeting human rights advocates and others in East Timor. ETAN's pressure on the Embassy to urgently contact the Indonesian government to rein in the militias probably saved lives.

Ed McWilliams protests Australia Prime Minister John Howard’s DC visit.  

I retired after almost 27 years in the State Department in 2001. Since then, I have roamed the halls of Congress and protested on the streets with ETAN in support of justice, human rights and democracy in Indonesia and -- now independent -- East Timor.

ETAN depends on the financial support of people like you to get the job done. Your generous contribution is needed to continue this important work, now made all the more difficult by an Administration in Washington which thinks it can support justice and build democracy in Indonesia by arming its military.

For more than a decade, ETAN won one victory after another against the U.S. military establishment and Administrations insensitive to issues of justice and human rights. This increased constriction of U.S. military assistance helped constrain the feared Indonesian military, or TNI, to the point that democratic elections were finally held across the archipelago and the independence of East Timor became a reality.

These days, it can be hard to imagine victories. The Pentagon is more powerful than ever, and Congressional oversight of military aid is unconscionably lax. In the midst of this, some of the ugliest parts of the TNI -- having evaded accountability for past human rights crimes -- are regrouping and regaining their power. This trend constitutes a growing threat to democracy in Indonesia and renewed dangers for East Timor. Impunity for crimes against humanity in East Timor rules supreme.

Many of you have probably heard how Secretary of State Rice last November unilaterally lifted restrictions on weapons exports and foreign military financing (FMF) just two days after Congress renewed a ban for another year. As in many other highly suspect cases, the Bush Administration continues to justify this very unwise move in the name of democracy and the so-called "war on terror."

As the most oppressive force in the country with the world's largest Muslim population, the TNI remains determined to regain full access to U.S. military technology. And the Bush Administration is all too happy to oblige. The State Department's pledge to "carefully calibrate" assistance for the TNI as a way to promote reform was not worth the paper it was printed on. They have proposed a nearly seven-fold increase in FMF for Indonesia for next year and will give the TNI up to $19 million under a brand new Pentagon program, the largest pot of funds the TNI has seen from the U.S. in over a decade.

Last month, the commander of the Kopassus Special Forces attended a Pentagon conference in Hawaii. Kopassus has a reputation as one of the most feared and ruthless military units in Asia. Responsible for some of the most heinous acts throughout the occupation of East Timor, Kopasssus has never been held responsible for the many crimes against humanity its troops committed. Kopassus's tactic of creating militias, honed in East Timor during 1999, did not end with independence. It has continued to create other paramilitary forces in Aceh, West Papua and other regions under Indonesian control. In West Papua, it was behind the assassination of independence leader Theys Eluay, and it supported the fundamentalist militia Laskar Jihad to ferment unrest in Ambon and elsewhere.

In such an atmosphere, the challenges we face are immense. But that won't stop the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. I know ETAN is up to the task. I've seen their work from inside and out. ETAN has learned well from the East Timorese that "to resist is to win", and the only way to make the impossible come true is to try. Unfortunately, at the same time that the challenges before ETAN seem the greatest, available resources are becoming increasingly scarce.

Your financial support provides a lifeline for the organization's survival. ETAN relies on individual donations from people like you; only with your help can ETAN continue its critical work for another year. I hope you will join me in giving what you can today.



Ed McWilliams
(Retired) Senior Foreign Service Officer


How to Donate to ETAN 

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

Click here for a form you can print out and mail.

To donate by credit card (not tax-deductible) - click here:

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 over $50 can also be made out to "AJ Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN" and will be used to support our educational work. Please mail donations to: ETAN/U.S., PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873.

Thank you for your support.