Subject: WVG - Donít aid ruthless regime

March 03, 2005 Indonesia

Don't aid ruthless regime

ONE unfortunate event in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami is the Bush administration's decision to resume military aid to Indonesia. It is particularly troubling in the light of President Bush's expressed policy of supporting democracy and human rights around the globe.

Indonesia's military is notorious. There is little sign that it has mended its ways since it waged an anti-independence rampage in East Timor when that province was struggling toward self-rule. Recent actions in the troubled province of Aceh have been similar.

Congress restricted military cooperation with Indonesia in 1991 after a massacre in East Timor in which more than 270 civilians were killed by Indonesian troops wielding American-supplied M-16 rifles. In 1999, Congress cut off all military cooperation after the Indonesian army and paramilitary groups associated with it all but destroyed East Timor. Then, in 2002, two American women were killed in what was named the Timika Massacre, and the Bush administration began to focus almost exclusively on getting the Indonesian government to investigate the killing and prosecute those responsible.

Now one person has been indicted for the killings but still remains at large. Human rights groups, journalists and even the Indonesian police have concluded that the military had a direct hand in the attack. Nevertheless, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has determined that the Indonesian military is cooperating sufficiently with the FBI's investigation of the killings and has called for a resumption of military ties with Indonesia.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont has called her determination "premature and unfortunate." He's right. But Paul Wolfowitz, a former ambassador to Indonesia and longtime apologist for the bloody Suharto regime, seems determined to renew Washington's ties with Jakarta.

The danger is that, with Americans' attention focused mainly on the Middle East and swayed by sympathy for Indonesian tsunami victims, the Bush administration will renew its ties with a military establishment in Indonesia that has done nothing to earn the trust of the world.

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