Statement of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) On Reports of U.S. Training of the Indonesian Military
March 17, 1998
I commend Congressman Lane Evans for his leadership in investigating the Department of Defense's training of Indonesian military personnel.
I am troubled by these reports of U.S. training of the Indonesian military, including training of members of KOPASSUS, a force associated with human rights abuses and "disappearances" which have been documented by respected human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch/Asia.
As the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked to stop U.S. military assistance to Indonesia. As some in Congress support such assistance, we have developed over the past several years a compromise limiting International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance to expanded-IMET, which is a human rights curriculum. The Department of Defense's use of Joint Combined Exchange and Training to train Indonesian military personnel in activities which would have been prohibited under the IMET ban raises serious questions about a violation of Congressional intent. Such training violates in principle the compromise worked out with Members on both sides of this debate to limit military assistance to Indonesia to human rights training.
I look forward to reviewing the documents released today and expect more information from the Department of Defense. Should the Defense Department continue to question Congressional intent about limits on military training for Indonesia, we will take this debate to the floor of the House once again.
Statement of Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) on Indonesian Special Forces and JCET
March 17, 1998
I appreciate Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre's response to the inquiry I made last year, requesting a detailed account of the Indonesian Special Forces or Kopassus' training by the U.S. military.
However, I am gravely concerned with the information that was provided to me.
In 1992, Congress banned all International Military and Education Training (IMET) for Indonesia under the FY 1993 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. This action came as a result of what has come to be known as the Dili Massacre, the Indonesian military's brutal response to a student demonstration in 1991, in which over 270 East Timorese were killed.
I am satisfied with the information provided to me regarding details of the discontinued IMET training. But I am deeply troubled by the Indonesian military's participation in another program - Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET). While I recognize that Indonesia's participation in the JCET program is in compliance with U.S. law, I do not support any training of the Indonesian military by U.S. armed services. It is clear to me that Indonesia's participation in JCET is the Pentagon's loophole to the ban on IMET. JCET is another way the Pentagon can assist Suharto and his soldiers in suppressing their opposition.
As we speak, the United States is supporting a military infamous for its brutal human rights abuses and subjugation of the East Timorese people. I am curious to know why U.S. taxpayer dollars are being wasted on aiding and abetting a ruthless military organization in committing gross atrocities. In response to Deputy Secretary Hamre's letter, I will issue an additional request to provide more specific information on Indonesian forces' training under JCET, including the names, ranks and service records of the participating soldiers. I am particularly interested in those who are in the Indonesian Special Forces units - who are most notorious for their harshness and repression. Most important, I would like to know the source of funding for the JCET program. This information will greatly assist Congress in putting an end to all U.S. government assistance to the Indonesian military both donated and sold.
POLITICS-US: Lawmakers Protest Indonesian Army Training
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Mar 18 1998 (IPS) - A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is opposing Pentagon support for the Indonesian military which it says violates the spirit of a 1992 ban enacted by Congress on Jakarta’s participation in Washington’s major military training programme.
The politicians say the US Army and Air Force, using a different and much less well-known programme, have been training key Indonesian military units – including some with notorious human rights records – since the ban took effect.
The administration, however, is defending its actions, insisting that the training was legal and that increasing US military engagement with Indonesia serves Washington’s national interests. “These joint exercises enhance American military readiness and increase US engagement with an important country,” says State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin.
The controversy has surfaced at a critical moment in Indonesia where President Suharto, re-elected by his hand-picked parliament to a seventh five-year term, faces an unprecedented economic crisis touched off by last year’s collapse of the country’s currency, the rupiah.
The Indonesian leader is now engaged in a tense standoff with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is offering billions of dollars in bailout money, over whether he will follow through on a major economic reform programme which could threaten the fortunes of his family and close business associates.
Indonesia’s economy, meanwhile, has ground to a virtual halt and millions of workers have lost their jobs since the rupiah began its plunge six months ago. Sharp increases in food prices, exacerbated by an El Nino-caused drought that has set back rice production, have spurred rioting in some parts of what is the world’s fourth most populous country.
Students, traditionally in the vanguard of change in Indonesia, also have become increasingly active in opposing the regime. Protests in recent weeks have moved from the campus into the streets where they have gained the support of leaders of non- governmental organisations and even some retired military officers.
In this context, Asian analysts here are paying close attention to the powerful Indonesian military, called ABRI, which has dominated the political life of the country for more than a generation and has been called upon to enforce security during the crisis. US Secretary of Defence William Cohen visited Indonesia in January to assess the situation himself.
“The army is the only institution which operates with at least minimum consistency,” notes Prof. Dan Lev, an Indonesia expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. While the army is deeply split, according to Lev, “Suharto has been very astute in balancing out different factions.”
The United States has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Indonesia’s military since the mid-1960s. During the Cold War, it was seen as a bulwark against Communist expansion in Southeast Asia as well as a guarantor of access through the world’s most strategic sea lanes. In addition to providing Indonesia with most of its military equipment, Washington provided millions of dollars in training over the years through its International Military and Education Training programme (IMET).
But after a Nov. 1991 army massacre of more than 200 unarmed civilians in East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975 and later annexed, Congress moved to distance Washington from the Indonesian military.Over strong objections by the administration of president George Bush, it enacted a ban on Indonesia’s participation in IMET programmes.
Under pressure from the Clinton administration, Congress agreed in 1995 to permit Indonesia military officers to participate in an “expanded IMET programme” in which training was to be limited to human rights and civilian control.
According to documents obtained by some lawmakers, and published in The Nation magazine this week, the Pentagon used another little-known programme – known as Joint Combined Exchange and Training (J-Cet) – to continue training Indonesian soldiers.
Training has been quite extensive and included lethal tactics, such as “close quarters combat, sniper techniques, demolitions, mortar training, psychological operations and “military operations in urban terrain,” according to the Pentagon documents which detail 36 exercises involving fully armed US combat troops flying or sailing into Indonesia in the five years between Aug. 1992 and Sep. 1997.
“It is clear to me that Indonesia’ participation in JCET is the Pentagon’s loophole to the ban on IMET. JCET is another way the Pentagon can assist Suharto and his soldiers in suppressing their opposition,” said Republican Rep. Lane Evans, who added at a news conference Tuesday that he will press the Pentagon for an accounting of how the programme is funded.
Especially troublesome to critics is the disproportionate participation of Indonesia’s Special Forces Command (KOPASSUS) in the JCET programmes. KOPASSUS units, which have been accused by international human rights groups of torture and murder, took part in 20 of the 36 training exercises.
“It is widely recognised that the Indonesian Red Berets (KOPASSUS) are one of the most violent and ferocious military units in Indonesia,” said Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, one of the few U.S. officials who have visited East Timor. “The fact that the US military may be assisting these violators of human rights is a sign that the United States must re-evaluate its policies towards Indonesia.”
Allan Nairn, the Nation reporter who exposed the Pentagon documents, suggests that Washington’s focus on KOPASSUS may have political implications because its most recent commander, Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, is Suharto’s son-in-law.
Prabowo recently took command of the strategic reserve forces in Jakarta, and with KOPASSUS forces already deployed to the capital, will be most directly responsible for keeping order there during the ongoing crisis, according to Lev.
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