While the Indonesian military’s thugs continue their rampage in East Timor, most foreign reporters have fled the country. As of September 7, frequent Nation contributor and award-winning journalist Allan Nairn was believed to be the only US reporter still there. Nairn left the besieged UN compound and walked the streets of Dili, where he hid in abandoned houses as he observed troops and militia burning and looting. Nairn has been writing about the troubles there for years. In 1991, after being badly beaten by Indonesian troops while witnessing the massacre of several hundred East Timorese, he was declared a “threat to national security” and banned from the country. He has entered several times illegally since then. In his Nation dispatch from East Timor on March 30, 1998, Nairn disclosed the continuing US military training of Indonesian troops implicated in the torture and killing of civilians. He filed this report by satellite telephone to The Nation through Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!
Dili, East Timor
It is by now clear to most East Timorese and a few Westerners still left here that the militias are a wing of the TNI/ABRI, the Indonesian armed forces. Recently, for example, I was picked up by militiamen who turned out to be working for a uniformed colonel of the National Police. [Editors’ note: The Indonesian government has denied any connection between the militias and either the police or the military.] But there is another important political fact that is not known here or in the international community. Although the US government has publicly reprimanded the Indonesian Army for the militias, the US military has, behind the scenes and contrary to Congressional intent, been backing the TNI.
US officials say that this past April, as militia terror escalated, a top US officer was dispatched to give a message to Jakarta. Adm. Dennis Blair, the US Commander in Chief of the Pacific, leader of all US military forces in the Pacific region, was sent to meet with General Wiranto, the Indonesian armed forces commander, on April 8. Blair’s mission, as one senior US official told me, was to tell Wiranto that the time had come to shut the militia operation down. The gravity of the meeting was heightened by the fact that two days before, the militias had committed a horrific machete massacre at the Catholic church in Liquiça, Timor. YAYASAN HAK, a Timorese human rights group, estimated that many dozens of civilians were murdered. Some of the victims’ flesh was reportedly stuck to the walls of the church and a pastor’s house. But Admiral Blair, fully briefed on Liquiça, quickly made clear at the meeting with Wiranto that he was there to reassure the TNI chief. According to a classified cable on the meeting, circulating at Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, Blair, rather than telling Wiranto to shut the militias down, instead offered him a series of promises of new US assistance.
According to the cable, which was drafted by Col. Joseph Daves, US military attaché in Jakarta, Admiral Blair “told the armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his guest in conjunction with the next round of bilateral defense discussions in the July-August ’99 time frame. He said Pacific command is prepared to support a subject matter expert exchange for doctrinal development. He expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide technical assistance to police and…selected TNI personnel on crowd control measures.”