Mass murderer Suharto was considered a model by the West

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This is part 1 of an excellent and rare TV documentary about West Papua. A year on from its original UK screening it still has not been broadcast in any other country.

In 2006 reporter Evan Williams gained access, on a tourist visa, to West Papua - a country to which journalists and foreign observers are flatly refused entry by the Indonesian government. After three weeks dodging Indonesian officials and police to gather interviews and information, he filed this report for Channel 4's "Unreported World" series.,,2248009,00.html

Our model dictator

The death of Suharto is a reminder of the west's ignoble role in propping up a murderous regime

John Pilger
Monday January 28, 2008
The Guardian

In my film Death of a Nation, there is a sequence  filmed on board an Australian aircraft flying over the island of Timor. A party is in progress, and two men in suits are toasting each other in champagne. "This is an historically unique moment," says one of them, "that is truly uniquely historical." This was Gareth Evans, Australia's then foreign minister. The other man was Ali Alatas, the principal mouthpiece of the Indonesian dictator General Suharto, who died yesterday. The year was 1989, and the two were making a grotesquely symbolic flight to celebrate the signing of a treaty that would allow Australia and the international oil and gas companies to exploit the seabed off East Timor, then illegally and viciously occupied by Suharto. The prize, according to Evans, was "zillions of dollars".

Beneath them lay a land of crosses: great black crosses etched against the sky, crosses on peaks, crosses in tiers on the hillsides. Filming clandestinely in East Timor, I would walk into the scrub, and there were the crosses. They littered the earth and crowded the eye. In 1993, the foreign affairs committee of Australia's parliament reported that "at least 200,000" had died under Indonesia's occupation: almost a third of the population. Yet East Timor's horror, foretold and nurtured by the US, Britain and Australia, was a sequel. "No single American action in the period after 1945," wrote the historian Gabriel Kolko, "was as bloodthirsty as its role in Indonesia, for it tried to initiate the massacre." He was referring to Suharto's seizure of power in 1965-6, which caused the violent deaths of up to a million people.

To understand the significance of Suharto is to look beneath the surface of the current world order: the so-called global economy and the ruthless cynicism of those who run it. Suharto was our model mass murderer - "our" is used here advisedly. "One of our very best and most valuable friends," Thatcher called him. For three decades the south-east Asian department of the Foreign Office worked tirelessly to minimise the crimes of Suharto's gestapo, known as Kopassus, who gunned down people with British-supplied Heckler & Koch machine guns from British-supplied Tactica "riot control" vehicles.

A Foreign Office speciality was smearing witnesses to the bombing of East Timorese villages by British-supplied Hawk aircraft - until Robin Cook was forced to admit it was true. Almost a billion pounds in export credit guarantees financed the sale of the Hawks, paid for by the British taxpayer while the arms industry reaped the profit.

Only the Australians were more obsequious. "We know your people love you," the prime minister Bob Hawke told the dictator to his face. His successor, Paul Keating, regarded the tyrant as a father figure. Paul Kelly, a prominent Murdoch retainer, led a group of major newspaper editors to Jakarta, to fawn before the mass murderer even though they all knew his grisly record.

Here lies a clue as to why Suharto, unlike Saddam Hussein, died not on the gallows but surrounded by the finest medical team his secret billions could buy. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, describes the terror of Suharto's takeover in 1965-6 as "the model operation" for the US-backed coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. "The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders," he wrote, "[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965." The US embassy in Jakarta supplied Suharto with a "zap list" of Indonesian Communist party members and crossed off the names when they were killed or captured. Roland Challis, BBC south-east Asia correspondent at the time, told me how the British government was secretly involved in this slaughter. "British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so they could take part in the terrible holocaust," he said. "I and other correspondents were unaware of this at the time ... There was a deal, you see."

The deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon had called "the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in south-east Asia". In November 1967 the greatest prize was handed out at a remarkable three-day conference sponsored by the Time-Life Corporation in Geneva. Led by David Rockefeller, all the corporate giants were represented: the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens

By John Passant
Tuesday, 29 January 2008

War criminal Suharto is dead. Look for the tears from his Western supporters. In their hypocrisy they may recognise he was a dictator, but, they will rationalise, he was "our" dictator.The man was a mass murderer. In the years 1965 and 1966 he and his army supporters seized power and killed up to one million Indonesians. In the name of anti-communism they killed Chinese people because they were Chinese. This is genocide.

The West was up to its armpits in the blood. The US supplied the names of Communist Party members to Suharto and his cronies. They knew these people would be murdered. American Embassy officials ticked off their names as the army killed them. What did it matter if a few commies were assassinated?

Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt said that “with 500,000 to a million communist sympathisers knocked off, I think it's safe to assume a reorientation has taken place”.And how did we describe this genocide? A “cleansing process” said our Embassy in Jakarta.Ethnic cleansing is a better description. But the West wanted Suharto in power for its own interests so the mere mass murder of one million people was of no importance to the US or Australia.

And then there is East Timor. During the 23 years of brutal occupation, East Timor’s population fell by a third - about 200,000 dead.Australia (in particular Gough Whitlam) supported this takeover. It was Malcolm Fraser's Government that gave de jure recognition to the Indonesian regime in East Timor. We even trained Indonesian Army troops, troops which were used in East Timor (and West Papua) to suppress the Indigenous population.

Our Governments have not yet acted on a New South Wales coroner implicating those in high positions in Indonesia in the murder of the Balibo 5. I doubt we will because that would upset the precious relationship with Indonesia’s ruling and corrupt elite, an elite whose present position owes much to Suharto’s dictatorship and mass murder.

In West Papua from 1969 when the UN supported Act of Free Choice (what Orwellian words!) saw Indonesia installed as the new colonial ruler, the Indonesian Army has killed over 100,000 people.Yet despite all these murders, murders well known to the West, Suharto has received massive support from the US, Britain and Australia in particular.

The ruling elite in these countries not only wants its companies to make quick bucks off the back of the dead. They have also determined that it is in their strategic, economic and political interests to support mass murderers like Suharto.Indeed, as Iraq and Afghanistan show (once again), when the West thinks it is in their interests to do so they will don the gloves of blood themselves, rather than rely on proxies like Suharto.

Then there is the looting of the Indonesian coffers. Suharto, his family and cronies were corrupt. Transparency International claims that Suharto and his family filched as much as A$40 billion from the country’s coffers.The criminal case against him for this corruption ended because of his ill health. The civil case will be settled out of court. I wonder who presently in power in Indonesia benefits from these decisions.

International courts have been useless in the fight against this mass murderer, a man clearly guilty of war crimes and genocide.That’s because the West didn’t want him tried. He was their ally. And further, any action could implicate those who aided and abetted Suharto, like the Australian leaders Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard.

Apparently only those criminals who lose the West’s support (like Saddam Hussein) suffer some sort of retribution. Certainly those from the West who support dictators are never charged. And those Western leaders (like Bush, Blair and Howard) who invade other countries and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians are never brought to justice.

Individual terrorism is abhorrent. State terrorism, whether by Suharto or his Western backers, is just as abhorrent.Near the site of the Bali bombing, a bombing in which 88 Australians were murdered, there are mass graves from 1965 and 1966. There are about 88,000 dead there. Our outrage over Bali should extend to those Suharto murdered. It doesn't.  An uprising in 1998 forced Suharto from power. That revolution was incomplete because it is Suharto’s acolytes who now run the country. Indeed, Golkar, Suharto's party, is the biggest in Indonesia. Only when the working people of Indonesia are in power, instead of Suharto’s cronies, will Indonesia be free of its murderous past.

Now the dictator is dead. May he rot in hell. If there is one.

Accountability for Suharto’s Crimes Must Not Die Wth Him

Indonesia's former dictator General Suharto has died in bed and not in jail, escaping justice for his numerous crimes in East Timor and throughout the Indonesian archipelago. One of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century, his death tolls still shock:

500,000 to one million Indonesians in the aftermath of his 1965 seizure of power;  100,000 in West Papua;   100,000 to 200,000 in East Timor, which his troops illegally invaded in 1975;   tens of thousands more in Aceh and elsewhere.  Suharto also accumulated an appalling legacy of corruption - 15 to 35 billion dollars stolen by him and his family.
Suharto has avoided personal accountability for the genocide, destruction and corruption he inflicted upon those he presumed to rule. However, the generals, cronies and family members who carried out his orders via massacre, torture and theft must not get off so easily. Those  who murdered and pillaged on behalf of Suharto and his "New Order" regime must be  brought to  justice.

We cannot forget that the United States government consistently supported Suharto and his regime. As the corpses piled up after his coup and darkness descended on Indonesia, his cheerleaders in the U.S. welcomed the "gleam of light in Asia." In the pursuit of realpolitik, U.S. administration after administration, fully aware of his many crimes, provided military assistance and hardware, training and equipping Suharto's killers. The Indonesian dictator sought and received U.S. approval before he launched his invasion of East Timor; ninety percent of the weapons used in this illegal attack came from the U.S.

In the face of broad domestic opposition as his “economic miracle” had collapsed in 1998, he finally stepped down. But only after U.S. Secretary of State Albright hinted he should do so, even as the White House insisted she was not calling on the U.S.-backed dictator to “step down now.”

Persistent advocacy by concerned activists from East Timor, Indonesia, the U.S. and within Congress finally succeeded in curtailing U.S. military assistance to the Suharto regime in the 1990s. After Suharto was ousted, East Timor broke free and the Indonesian military lost some perks. Since then, military reform efforts have stalled or been reversed. Suharto's favored military still maintains substantial power. Its higher-ranking officers, and powerful retired military, like President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, built their careers during his reign. The military continues to violate human rights with impunity and in West Papua and some areas operates by Suharto-era rules, restricting outside access and employing terror in service of its commercial interests.

Limited investigations dealing with Suharto-era crimes have added some information to the public record, but the few trials that have occurred have largely failed, as defendants have lied, intimidated or bribed their way to acquittals, crushing the hopes of the victims and their families for justice or even an apology.

To overcome Suharto's legacy and to uphold basic international human rights and legal principles, those who executed, aided and abetted, and benefited from his criminal orders must be held accountable. The U.S. must undergo a complete accounting for its role in backing the dictator. As a start, the U.S. government must support for an international tribunal to prosecute human rights and war crimes committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999, and Washington should condition military assistance to Indonesia "on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights" as recommended by East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation.

A brief ETAN backgrounder on Suharto’s life is at 

Publié dans world

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