Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Allan Nairn, Indonesia's special forces, and the Obama administration

Third World countries whose militaries brutalize their own people are a sad but familiar feature of the geopolitical scene. American administrations which deem it necessary to be friendly with such regimes are equally sad, equally familiar. From time to time, the exigencies of international diplomacy enable us to take the high road. Case in point is Indonesia:

Indonesia's National Armed Forces (TNI), especially its thuggish Kopassus Special Forces Command, has a long, sordid human rights record, including political killings and massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians in East Timor, Aceh, Papua, and elsewhere in the country.

In response to the November 12, 1991 Santa Cruz cemetery massacre of over 270 demonstrators in Dili, East Timor's capital, Congress restricted Indonesia's TNI from receiving International Military Education and Training (IMET).

These restrictions were eased in the George W. Bush administration, so that blog post says. Now the Obama administration wants to resume stateside training of a notorious Indonesian special forces unit, the Kopassus. Enter investigative reporter Allan Nairn.

Nairn recently detailed how the Indonesian military's special forces, Kopassus, continued to be involved in illegal activities, including murdering civilians. His report comes at a time when the US is considering renewing direct support for Kopassus, after having banned working with it more than 10 years ago.

US President Barak Obama says that the US military should resume full military to military co-operation with the Indonesian armed forces, the TNI, as a result of their reform. Military contact was broken off in 1996, following the 1991 Dili Massacre in which 300 or more people were murdered by the Indonesian military. Nairn was in Dili during the massacre and was himself seriously beaten by TNI members.

And just today, Indonesian time, his scheduled appearance on that country's TV One was canceled, on a flimsy pretext. No mention if he is in any danger of arrest. If the Obama administration does reverse course and cancel the training arrangements, it might be well for him to get out of Dodge. Searching the White House's website, I don't immediately see anything addressing this issue. The President plans to go to Indonesia and Australia in June, so maybe we'll hear something official by then.

Meanwhile, I'm at a loss as to why this isn't stirring up the Birthers. "Sekrit Muzlim Obama Protects Homeland's Thug Army!!!!" Hope I haven't given them any ideas.


  1. Want to oppose U.S. training for Kopassus - sign the petition of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network - Don't Train Indonesia's Deadly Kopassus


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