Subject: IHT Letters - Oppose military aid to Indonesia


Military aid to Indonesia

International Herald Tribune


Michael Vatikiotis's paean to the Bush administration for lifting the ban on U.S. military sales to Indonesia ("Washington's turnaround on Indonesia," Views, Jan. 6) completely misses the mark. His repeated claims that the Indonesian military is fighting terrorism doesn't make it so: The Indonesian police, no longer part of the military, is the body fighting terrorism in Indonesia.

The military engages in and fosters terrorism and the violation of human rights. Witness, among other atrocities, the killing of two Americans in Papua to try to increase the army's bribes from the mining company Freeport-McMoRan, the army-supported militia reign of terror in East Timor, the terrorist bombings and beheadings in Central Sulawesi and the Malukus, and the bloody persecution of Papuans for exercising free speech.

Congress imposed the ban on military sales to pressure the Indonesian Army to stop its blatant and continued violation of the human rights of innocent Indonesians (and Americans). There was no reason to lift the ban, for the military has not reformed.

Will Jourdin Penestanan Kelod, Indonesia

It is difficult to see how U.S. aid to the Indonesian military supports democracy or opposes terrorism in the region, as Michael Vatikiotis says. By waiving restrictions on such assistance last November, the State Department abandoned its best leverage to press for reform.

The recalcitrance and corruption of the military remains a major roadblock to democratic advances in Indonesia. A number of initiatives to bring the military under civilian control remain stalled, including bringing its expenditures fully under the official budget.

The proposal to introduce thousands of troops into Aceh in the guise of helping with tsunami reconstruction risks undermining the success of the peace accord there. Additional troops, far in excess of any threat, real or imagined, are to be sent to West Papua, already rife with repression and largely closed to outsiders.

The military plans to reinsert itself into communities throughout Indonesia under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Its links to radical Muslim groups are well documented. Generals and other senior officials responsible for terror campaigns in East Timor and elsewhere have largely escaped prosecution and entirely escaped punishment.

American weapons and training will only embolden the Indonesian military, not encourage reform. An end to military impunity would be an important step to ending terror.

John M. Miller, New York

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