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On March 7, the US Indonesia Society held a panel discussion featuring five former U.S. ambassadors to Indonesia: "Informal Reflections on Suharto from Five Sages."  We are proud to note that former ambassador Edward Masters called the leaflet "scurrilous." ETAN members handed out a leaflet with the following text and asked some pointed questions.

An Indonesian activist commented on her personal knowledge of people abducted and killed. She said that while the panel had talked about Suharto's "politeness" (Masters), it was important to remember his crimes as well. None of them dared disagree with her.

Another question noted that although for the past 20 years policy discussion concerning Indonesia in Washington had focused on human rights, not one of the panel had mentioned human rights in their presentations notwithstanding the fact that Suharto and his military murdered scores of thousands in East Timor, Aceh, Papua and elsewhere. Asked to comment on the extent to which the U.S. thought its aid to Suharto enabled and empowered Suharto and his brutal military. Masters answered that a lot had been done on human rights but that the US sought to work quietly behind the scenes. He noted that he had been involved in getting the release of prisoners held since the 1965-67 era.  He used the old argument that you had to work quietly on these things - behind the scenes, but never addressed U.S. aid to the military - notably in the 1975-78 period which made the invasion/occupation of East Timor possible.
Several ambassadors mentioned that in hindsight U.S. support for the invasion might have been wrong, but Amb. Barry said that given the turmoil in East Timor in recent months - an Aceh-like solution might have been better for East Timor.

Remembering A Shared History

Suharto and the United States

Edward Masters: U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, 1977-81  

Ambassador Masters’ tenure in Indonesia coincided with some of the worst atrocities in Indonesian-occupied East Timor and the territory of West Papua, during which time tens of thousands died in massacres led by Indonesia’s military, or of starvation and disease attributable to Indonesian military operations. Masters supported the expansion of U.S. military assistance to Indonesia, including the dispatch of A-4 and F-5 ground attack fighters later used in East Timor. 

From September 6 to September 8, 1978, Masters traveled to East Timor with nine other foreign ambassadors to view the "basic GOI [Government of Indonesia] approach to the East Timor problem." Masters offered extensive praise of Indonesian efforts in Timor, claiming -- the Indonesian military presence had been much reduced; movement was free; refugees were being cared for; and that Indonesia was devoted to the economic development of the “province.” Masters' visit came at the tail end of Operation Seroja, a territory-wide Indonesian campaign of aerial bombardment, encirclement and forced relocation of tens of thousands of Timorese, in which thousands are reported to have died.  [see Telegram 12521 from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "Ambassador's visit to East Timor: Indonesian Policy and Possible U.S. Response," September 14, 1978 - Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive]

In December 1979, Masters testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific Affairs that Indonesia enjoyed widespread support in East Timor, and that starvation there resulted from policies of neglect attributable to the Portuguese. 

Paul Wolfowitz: U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, 1986-1989

Ambassador Wolfowitz makes much of his alleged record of opposing corruption while ambassador to Indonesia.  During his tenure, Indonesia approved PAKTO 1988 (Policy Package of October 1988), a U.S.-backed radical liberalization of the financial sector, which exponentially widened the scope of corruption and set the stage for the collapse of the banking sector in 1997-1998.  The question remains of why Wolfowitz and the U.S. government backed such deregulation knowing that Indonesia had zero capacity for oversight-supervision? [more about Wolfowitz's role in Indonesia can be found here.]

John C. Monjo: Chargé d’Affaires 1982-83, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, 1989-92

John C. Monjo was Charge’ d’Affaires to Indonesia during the period of “mysterious killings,” a government sponsored program of extra-judicial killings of alleged street criminals, in which approximately five-thousand people were killed in Jakarta and other large cities across the archipelago. Lt. Gen. Ali Murtopo admitted in July 1983 that “mysterious killings” were being conducted, “in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Defense and Security.” President Suharto later took personal credit for the campaign of killing. 

Mr. Monjo was ambassador during the November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian troops opened fire on civilians attending a funeral in the Santa Cruz cemetery of Dili, East Timor. The Indonesian military killed 271 people in this single incident. Following this massacre, the U.S. nearly doubled its military aid to Indonesia. Monjo opposed any effort to restrict or ban military training and assistance to Indonesian armed forces, despite the fact that several U.S.-trained generals were conducting the violence in East Timor.  

Robert L. Barry: U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, 1992-95

In February, 1993, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Barry traveled to East Timor and came back apparently convinced of the need for a change in both Indonesian and U.S. policy toward East Timor, noting, "The repressive and pervasive Indonesian military presence is the main obstacle to the government's goal of integration." Barry described the mood in East Timor as "grim and repressive," and noted that "given the cruelty of Indonesian Army pacification tactics over the years, it is little wonder that their omnipresence is a source of smoldering resentment.” Barry ruled out self-determination for East Timor but concluded that "integration will never be palatable as long as it is demanded at gunpoint."  

J. Stapleton Roy: U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, 1996-99

J. Stapleton Roy served as U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia during the period leading up to and following Suharto’s ouster, as well as Indonesia’s destruction of East Timor following its August 30, 1999 vote for independence.

On September 22, 1999, Ambassador Roy met with an Indonesian general to discuss the deployment of international forces to East Timor and the larger question of U.S.-Indonesian relations. The general expressed strong opposition to then-Indonesian President B.J. Habibie's East Timor policy, which he suggested was never supported by the Indonesian Armed Forces. Remarkably, just days after the U.S. cut military ties with Indonesia over the destruction of East Timor, Ambassador Roy told his Indonesian colleague that the U.S. "does not want East Timor to further damage ties between the two nations," emphasizing the need to "pay attention to Indonesian sensitivities" regarding the deaths of Indonesians in East Timor during the 24-year Indonesian occupation.

The United States-Indonesia Society, 1994 - Present

Since its founding in 1994, USINDO has played a central role in influencing U.S. policy regarding Indonesia. USINDO was organized and funded by major U.S. corporations with significant investments in Indonesia, including Freeport-McMoRan, Texaco, Mobil, Raytheon, Hughes Aircraft and Merrill Lynch. USINDO has relied on the support of retired senior U.S. diplomats and other U.S. government officials, many of whom have held senior positions in the organization, including as trustees. USINDO also included Suharto-regime heavyweights as trustees, such as the father, brother and sister of the notoriously brutal General Prabowo, a Suharto son-in-law, and the famously corrupt James Riady. Until the 1998 overthrow of the Suharto regime, USINDO consistently advocated on behalf of the dictatorship and its military, seeking to blunt or refute Congressional, NGO and media critics of rampant corruption and human rights abuses in East Timor, West Papua, Aceh and elsewhere within Indonesia. USINDO worked closely with the U.S. administration, especially the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, acting as its agent in the effort to counter Congressional, NGO and media criticism of the Suharto dictatorship, including massive human rights violations. Since the fall of Suharto, USINDO has persistently lobbied the US Congress for expanded U.S. military support for the still unreformed and unaccountable Indonesian military.  While USINDO has consistently denied its role as an Indonesian lobby, it has in reality been Indonesia's most outspoken apologist in Washington.

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

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Read USINDO's report of their forum

A Quarter Century of U.S. Support for Occupation: National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 174





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