7 January 2009 Excerpt from Obama Nominee Admiral Dennis Blair Aided Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings in East Timor (Part II) published at Democracy Now!
ALLAN NAIRN: The Indonesian military had invaded East Timor after a go-ahead from President Ford and Henry Kissinger. They killed a third of the population, the greatest proportional genocide since the Nazis. They established an occupation in which no one could speak, people could be dragged from their homes, tortured, executed at any moment.
But the Timorese resisted. In ’91, there was a massacre outside the cemetery in Dili, the massacre which we survived. They killed hundreds of people. That got a bit of international attention. The political tide started to turn when Suharto, the US-backed dictator of Indonesia, fell in ’98. After that, the Timorese were granted the right to have a vote, a free election, a UN-supervised referendum, on whether they wanted to be independent.
The Indonesian army decided that they would try to derail this free election. They set up militias to terrorize the population. Throughout 1999, they would attack civilians, raid churches. In several incidents, they raped nuns and burned the bodies. In the midst of this, after the massacre at the church in Liquica in which about fifty were killed, hacked to death with machetes—
AMY GOODMAN: Liquica in East Timor.
ALLAN NAIRN: In East Timor—their entrails hanging from the walls, Admiral Blair, at that time the commander of US forces in the Pacific, personally went and met with the Indonesian military commander, General Wiranto.
Blair had a mission, which had been given to him by the US State Department and White House, to tell Wiranto, “Stop the massacres.” Blair did not do that. He apparently defied what he had been sent to do, and he instead reassured Wiranto. This is according to the confidential cables which reported on the meeting, the US cables. He offered new US military aid to Wiranto. He invited him to come to Hawaii as his guest. He offered assistance for the Brimob, the paramilitary police that had directly participated in the Liquica massacre. When word got back to Washington, the State Department said, “You can’t do this. You have to talk to Wiranto again.” He called Wiranto on the phone and again did not tell him to shut the militias down. Wiranto was delighted. He escalated the militia terror. The killing of Timorese civilians increased.
At one point, in July of ’99, Blair sent in his subordinate, Admiral Clemens, who was running the US Navy in the Pacific, for meetings with the Indonesian military about setting up a US base, training facility in Surabaya. The message from Admiral Blair was that the US military was backing Indonesia’s army as they were massacring churches and killing civilians in East Timor.
Now, we just heard the clip where President-elect Obama said—he was talking about a departure from past practice. Yesterday, the think tank of Podesta, the transition chief for Obama, put out an item in which they said that the nomination of Blair and other officials is “indicative of Obama’s intent to work within rule of law.” Supporting those who were massacring churches is working within the rule of law. If that is the Obama administration’s definition of the rule of law, that means it is no departure from past US practice, because in dozens of countries over the years, the US has supported forces which kill civilians, and this suggests that Obama plans to continue that and simply say he’s complying with the law.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how you know what Dennis Blair, the admiral in charge of the Pacific Command at the time, said to General Wiranto in a private meeting.
ALLAN NAIRN: I got the cables, which were the transcripts of the meetings prepared by Blair’s people. After they—when they have meetings, they have their aides sitting there. They prepare an official report. It’s classified. It’s sent back to Washington. And I obtained those cables.
AMY GOODMAN: You had a chance to question President Clinton about this. We went to East Timor, May 20th, 2002, at the time that the people of East Timor celebrated their independence, when East Timor became an independent nation. The next day, President Clinton, who was there representing, interestingly, President Bush at the time, President Clinton went to the building that was being dedicated as the US embassy in East Timor. And after he spoke, you questioned him about this whole situation and about Admiral Blair. This is an excerpt of your interaction.
ALLAN NAIRN: President Clinton, you sold weapons to the Indonesian military. You brought General Suharto, the Indonesian dictator, to the Oval Office and offered him F-16s. The next day, a White House official told the New York Times Suharto was “our kind of guy.” Your administration under the JCET program sent Green Berets into Indonesia. They trained the Indonesian Kopassus Special Forces in advanced sniper technique, urban warfare and similar tactics. In 1999, in April, when the Indonesian military and their militias massacred—
BILL CLINTON: Get to the point.
ALLAN NAIRN: I’m getting to the point. I’m getting to the point.
BILL CLINTON: Get to the point.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yes, I’m getting exactly to the point. You were just talking about freedom in Timor—
BILL CLINTON: You want to make a speech? Listen to him. Give him a hand. He’s giving a good speech.
ALLAN NAIRN: I wanted to ask you about the facts, President. In 1999, in April, the Indonesian military and their militias massacred fifty people in the rectory in Liquica. They hacked them with machetes. Two days later, Admiral Blair, the commander for the Pacific, your commander, met with General Wiranto, the Indonesian commander. He offered to help him in lobbying the US Congress to get full US military training restored. He made no mention of the Liquica massacre. During that same period, the Indonesian militias rampaged here in downtown Dili. They attacked the house of Manuel Carrascalao. They massacred the refugees there. Yet you continued for months with aid to the Indonesian military. Why?
BILL CLINTON: What’s your question, sir?
ALLAN NAIRN: Why did you continue with aid to the Indonesian military if they were killing civilians?
BILL CLINTON: First of all, I can’t answer the question you asked about Admiral Blair. You’ll have to ask him that, because I’m not aware of that.
ALLAN NAIRN: He was working for you. Why did you continue military aid to Indonesia?
BILL CLINTON: I understand that. I think, first of all, I don’t believe America or any of the other countries were sufficiently sensitive in the beginning and for a long time, a long time before 1999, going all the way back to the ’70s, to the suffering of the people of East Timor. I don’t think we can defend everything we did.
I think that—I think that our objective, which was to try to keep Indonesia from coming apart and from having some of the influences that I think we still worry about in Indonesia dominate, led us to do some things, which, in my judgment, made us not as sensitive as we should have been to the suffering of the people here. And all I can tell you is that when it became obvious to me what was really going on and that we couldn’t justify not standing up for what the East Timorese wanted and for the decent treatment for them. Read the full transcript...