Sunday, February 03, 2008

The military and intelligence attachés in the US and British embassies were sending helpful death lists to the Indonesian high command when Suharto struck. In the midst of the mass executions, the British ambassador, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, sent a chilling telegram to London, saying: “I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change.”

Time magazine described the horrors Gilchrist so calmly endorsed: “The killings have been on such a scale the disposal of corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in east Java and northern Sumatra, where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from those areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies.” At least 500,000 Indonesians died violently in the months following the takeover, but studies suggest the figure might have been between a million and two million.

A decade later, again with a green light from Washington, London and Canberra, as many as 230,000 more people, or a third of the civilian population of East Timor, died when Suharto invaded the former Portuguese colony. Australia monitored busy Indonesian military radio traffic in the build-up, but said nothing. As Suharto’s marines and paratroopers conquered the territory, a satisfied CIA internal communiqué stated: “Without continued heavy US logistical, military support the Indonesians might not have been able to pull it off.”

The man who has just died in Jakarta is one of the greatest mass murderers of the 20th century, but he was never indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. Throughout, Suharto received all the weaponry his brutal military wanted. Britain sold him Scorpion armoured vehicles and Spartan troop carriers after a “thorough assessment” that they would not be used for “internal repression”, according to the then Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine. Curious, then, how they turned up on the streets to hold back angry crowds demanding change.
Link from Angry Arab/As'ad AbuKhalil

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