C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Fact and Fiction in Indonesia

Shameless revisionism and dead, politically rightist, economically neo-liberal dictators seem to go hand in hand.

When Pinochet met his maker a year ago, the likes of Andrew Bolt (in Australia) or the Wall Street Journal (in the US) were falling over themselves to assure readers of Chile's economic prosperity, attributed to Pincohet's bloody rule. The deaths, torture, exile and disappearances of thousands were ignored as the apologists clamoured to give us a 'balanced' account of the tyrant's legacy.

It is difficult to imagine any mainstream media outlet eulogising a Castro or Khomeini in similar terms, despite comparable 'achievements', acquired with considerably less slaughter.

The MSM are not the only culprits when it comes to craven deference to elite opinion. Since at least Whitlam, it is arguably on foreign policy that the ALP is at its most repugnant, and this is particularly true in relation to Indonesia.

In light of the silence across one half of the political blogosphere, let us peruse a few examples:

Australia's Attorney-General Robert McClelland and former prime minister Paul Keating have made a flying visit to Indonesia to pay their respects at the funeral of former Indonesian dictator Suharto...The pair attended the funeral with Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia Bill Farmer.
"It respects the office that he held and effectively confirms the Rudd government commitment to an ongoing, strong and supportive relationship with Indonesia."
"We recognise also his achievements ... he brought Indonesia from a country that was subsistence to one with a developing economy...and a nation of significance in the world."
He said the government also recognised the "issues of controversy" with Suharto's rule.

'Issues of controversy'? So delicately put!

Similar delicacy could be found in Wolfowitz, former US ambassador to Suharto:

"This ambassador didn't speak out about human rights here. He was perceived by the public as being close to the Suharto government," said Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, who headed Indonesia's legal aid foundation and now chairs the National Human Rights Commission.
Nusantara said Wolfowitz appeared to ignore abuses committed by Indonesian security forces, which were fighting separatist insurgencies in the provinces of Aceh and Papua. Nor did he raise public concerns about East Timor, which had been invaded by the Indonesian military a decade earlier. Wolfowitz also remained silent about the mounting corruption within Suharto's family and inner circle, Nusantara asserted. (source)

Downer, Australia's former foreign affairs minister, viewed Suharto in similar terms to Keating and Rudd:
"He certainly took a rather regal and, if you like, patronising view of Australia but on the other hand he did understand it was important to have a constructive relationship with Australia," Mr Downer told ABC Radio.
"He wasn't a bad thing for Australia in a lot of ways."

The WSJ, as might be expected, did not hold back in its praise for the newly departed:
Suharto was guilty of hubris when he styled himself Bapak Pembangunan Indonesia, or father of Indonesia's development, and even had this title printed along with his portrait on the 50,000 rupiah note. But that is a pretty accurate summary of his legacy. Like Deng Xiaoping, he rescued his country from totalitarianism and poverty, and put it on the path to prosperity and a large measure of personal freedoms. For all his flaws, Suharto deserves to be remembered as one of Asia's greatest leaders. (source)

One of Asia's greatest leaders?

Hiding out in the dense, humid jungle, Markus Talam watched Indonesian soldiers herd manacled prisoners from trucks, line them up and mow them down with round after round of automatic weapons fire.
"They gunned them down and dumped their bodies in a mass grave dug by other prisoners. I remember the sound of the guns clearly: tat-tat, tat-tat, tat-tat ... over and over again," said Talam, 68, who was later jailed for 10 years after being named a leftist sympathizer.
Estimates for the number killed during his bloody rise to power — from 1965 to 1968 — range from a government figure of 78,000 to 1 million cited by U.S. historians Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, who have published books on Indonesia's history. It was the worst mass slaughter in Southeast Asia's modern history after the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia.
The CIA provided lists of thousands of leftists, including trade union members, intellectuals and schoolteachers, many of whom were executed or sent to remote prisons. (source)

Score one for the CIA in another Cold War triumph.

Australia's ALP also had no problems in turning a blind eye to the regime's 'issues of controversy':

A political tempest...erupted in Australia over leaked official documents showing that the leaders of the former Labor government covered up casualty figures from the 1991 massacre carried out by Indonesian troops in the East Timorese capital of Dili.
The facts are that more than 200 people, mostly pro-independence demonstrators, were slaughtered in Dili in November 1991. The then Labor government supported claims by an inquiry set up by the Suharto regime that only about 50 were killed and that the deaths were the responsibility of a few individual officers and soldiers.
The truth is that the Labor leaders had compelling reasons of both "national interest" and "party political interest" for whitewashing the Dili massacre, and every other bloody crime carried out by the Suharto regime. For "national interest" read the profit interests of Australian big business.
In the case of East Timor, the Labor leaders backed the regime's repressive grip over the former Portuguese colony in order to provide BHP and other oil companies with guaranteed access to the immense resources of the Timor Gap--estimated to hold up to 1 billion barrels of crude oil. Just two years before the Dili massacre, Evans and his Indonesian counterpart, Ali Alatas, signed the Timor Gap Treaty in a champagne drinking ceremony as they flew over the Timor Sea, making Australia the only country in the world to legally recognise the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

Naomi Klein, in her latest outing, also spent some time discussing Suharto's Indonesia, and its wonderful economic prosperity:

Since the Second World War, the country [Indonesia] had been led by President Sukarno, the Hugo Chavez of his day (though minus Chavez's appetite for elections). Sukarno enraged the rich countries by protecting Indonesia's economy, redistributing wealth, and throwing out the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank, which he accused of being facades for the interests of Western multinationals. While Sukarno was a nationalist, not a Communist, he worked closely with the Communist Party, which had 3 million active members. The U.S. and British governments were determined to end Sukarno's rule, and declassified documents show that the CIA had received high-level directions to "liquidate President Sukarno, depending upon the situation and available opportunities."
After several false starts, the opportunity came in October 1965, when General Suharto, backed by the CIA, began the process of seizing power and eradicating the left. The CIA had been quietly compiling a list of the country's leading leftists, a document that fell into Suharto's hands, while the Pentagon helped out by supplying extra weapons and field radios so Indonesian forces could communicate in the remotest parts of the archipelago. Suharto then sent out his soldiers to hunt down the four to five thousand leftists on his "shooting lists," as the CIA referred to them; the U.S. embassy received regular reports on t heir progress. As the information came in, the CIA crossed names off their lists until they were satisfied that the Indonesia left had been annihilated. One of the people involved in the operation was Robert J. Martens, who worked for the U.S. embassy in Jakarta. "It really was a big help to the army," he told the journalist Kathy Kadane twenty-five years later. "They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad [my emphasis]. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment."

Indeed, Indonesia's leftists, secular democrats and trade unionists were all 'struck hard', leaving the Islamists, organising through one of the few non-banned institutions (the mosque), to resist. It is an inconvenient truth for the ruling elites that Islamic extremism emerges from the same globalised milieu as 'free trade' corporate rule.

So vale, Suharto. Te futueo et caballum tuum.