In the article below, the Honolulu Advertiser reports that Hawai’i-based troops will conduct joint exercises with the Indonesian military. The U.S. cut off military ties and military aid to Indonesia because of the horrible human rights abuses by the Indonesian military in East Timor. When Indonesian military forces, special forces and militias conducted a scorched earth campaign in East Timor following the vote for independence in 1999, Commander In Chief of the Pacific Command Admiral Dennis Blair turned a blind eye to Indonesia’s atrocities. (He was appointed to be the Director of National Intelligence by Obama, but was recently forced to resign.) In the aftermath of 9/11/01, Senator Inouye restored funding for training Indonesian military officers if the training took place at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. Today, the Hawai’i National Guard has a special partnership with the Indonesian military, and Indonesian troops regularly conduct joint training exercises with U.S. troops. But as Kristin Sundell writes in the East Timor Action Network blog, the U.S. has yet to restore funding for Indonesia’s deadly Kopassus special forces. However, the Obama administration is seeking to resume military training for Kopassus.
Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2010
Some Hawaii troops will join exercises in Indonesia
More than 100 soldiers and airmen from Hawai’i will participate in the exercise Garuda Shield 10 in Indonesia, officials said. American and Indonesian forces will train together June 10-25 in Bandung.
“Indonesia is a critical player in the security and peacekeeping operations in the Asia-Pacific Theater,” said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, which has its headquarters at Fort Shafter.
Mixon said the upcoming exercise “underscores the importance of Indonesia in our fight against international aggression and conflict. The strong military and cultural ties between our two counties dramatically improve whenever we participate in Garuda Shield.”
Staff officers from U.S. Pacific Command, based at Camp Smith; the Hawai’i National Guard; Pacific Air Forces; and U.S. Army Pacific will partner with Indonesian forces “to test peace support and stability operations capabilities,” the Army said.
Army officials said other troops will conduct a field training exercise on United Nations standardized techniques, and engineers will provide humanitarian and civic assistance in Indonesia’s rural communities.
Personnel from 24 other countries, including Japan, Russia and China, have been invited to participate in and to observe the exercise.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
U.S. Must Not Resume Training Indonesia’s Killers
May 5, 2010
There is something unnerving about hearing orders for your execution. Even more unnerving is the news that amid reports of continuing killings and abuses, President Barack Obama wants to resume US training for the Indonesian military unit that threatened my life and enjoys impunity in the killings of countless Indonesians and East Timorese.
On Aug. 31, 1999, I was serving as a UN-accredited election monitor in East Timor, which had just voted to end decades of Indonesian military occupation. Referendum day had gone relatively smoothly, in spite of the Indonesian military’s efforts to derail the ballot through terror and intimidation. In the wake of the vote, the armed forces and their Timorese militia proxies moved to implement their fallback plan — drive out international observers and raze East Timor to the ground.
That morning, a Timorese friend rushed to our house and played an intercepted radio conversation among Kopassus, the Special Forces unit of the Indonesian Army, and local militias:
Kopassus: “It is better we wait for the result of the announcement [of the ballot] … Whether we win or lose, that’s when we’ll react.”
Also Kopassus: “Those white people [referendum observers] … should be put in the river.”
Militia commander (passing the order): “If they want to leave, pull them out [of their car], kill them and put them in the river.”
Kopassus: “They need to be stopped.”
Militiamen: “It will be done.” “I’ll wipe them out, all of them.” “I’ll eat them up.”
We escaped, hitching a ride with United Nations staff as they evacuated. In the following days, East Timor was nearly destroyed, with 75 percent of its infrastructure demolished and more than a thousand civilians killed.
The Kopassus forces were long recipients of extensive US assistance, as were the rest of the armed forces during the reign of President Suharto.
The US Congress finally acted to curb training for the Indonesian Army in 1992, after it was filmed massacring more than 400 East Timorese as they peacefully demonstrated against the occupation. But training for Kopassus quietly continued at US taxpayer expense and without congressional notification.
Eight years later, Kopassus forces directed the Indonesian military’s campaign to subvert East Timor’s independence vote and to destroy the territory. In response, US president Bill Clinton severed military ties with Indonesia in September 1999.
The administration of former President George W Bush resumed many forms of military assistance in the name of counterterrorism, restoring full military ties in 2005. But training for Kopassus remained off limits because of a 1997 law that barred US training for foreign military units with a history of human-rights violations unless the government in question is taking effective measures to bring those responsible to justice.
Now Obama wants to resume training for Kopassus, despite the presence of many soldiers within its ranks who are guilty of severe human-rights violations. After orchestrating the violence in East Timor, the killing of West Papuan traditional leader Theys Eluay and the kidnapping and disappearances of student democracy activists in 1997 and 1998 without adequately holding those responsible to account, Kopassus should clearly be ineligible for US training. When the Bush administration proposed restarting training of Kopassus in 2008, the State Department’s legal counsel ruled that the 1997 law prohibited re-engagement.
And the crimes of Kopassus continue. A recent report by journalist Allan Nairn alleges that Kopassus members helped coordinate an assassination program, authorized by “higher-ups in Jakarta,” targeting members of a political party in Aceh Province. At least eight activists were killed in an attempt to pressure the party not to discuss independence for the province.
The Obama administration says it only wants to train soldiers who were not members of Kopassus at the time of earlier abuses, but this makes no sense in light of the recent killings in Aceh. Restrictions on military assistance provide important leverage for accountability and reform. That’s why Indonesian rights groups support the ban on assistance alongside international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Obama’s family ties and experience living in Indonesia as a boy give him a special connection to Indonesia and its people. Rather than push US training for the military unit that threatened my life, he should support human rights and justice in the nation.
Kristin Sundell served as a UN-accredited observer of East Timor’s vote for independence as part of the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project. She currently lives in Bandung.