|Paul Wolfowitz's Indonesia
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - Reports that the administration of
US president George W Bush has decided to release funds
that will permit it to train Indonesian military
officers, despite a recent vote by a key Senate
committee that calls for training to be suspended until
the army's role in the killing of two US teachers in
West Papua is clarified, has drawn strong expressions of
concern on the part of human rights groups here.
Neither the Pentagon nor the State Department
would confirm that a final decision has been made.
However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who
monitor Indonesia closely said they understand that
senior defense officials, including, notably, Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a former US ambassador
to Indonesia, have decided to go ahead.
Wolfowitz has long argued that US military
re-engagement with the Indonesian military (TNI) should
be an urgent priority in the US-led "war on terrorism"
and that it can help improve the armed forces'
human-rights performance, a contention with which rights
organizations and many Indonesia analysts strongly
"For over three decades, the US and
Indonesian militaries were extremely close and we saw no
move to reform," said Ed McWilliams, a former State
Department officer who served as political counselor in
the US Embassy in Jakarta from 1996-99 when military
relations were suspended after TNI-organized militias
went on a rampage in East Timor.
in which more than 1,000 Timorese were killed and tens
of thousands more displaced, prompted the intervention
of an Australian-led multinational force and eventually
East Timor's independence from Indonesia.
TNI's worst abuses took place when we were most
engaged," McWilliams said.
While the amount of
funds for Indonesia's participation in the International
Military Education and Training (IMET) program comes to
a mere US$400,000, activists argue that resuming
training now would be seen in Indonesia as a strong
endorsement of TNI at a critical moment.
Department spokesman told Inter Press Service that it
"has not yet completed consultations" with US lawmakers
as required under the 2003 IMET appropriation. He denied
that any final decision has been made.
Congressional sources confirmed they understand
that the administration wants to provide the training
but that it has not yet sat down with key lawmakers to
"They know it will be an unpleasant
experience when they come up here," said one aide who
acknowledged that the administration could go ahead
despite congressional opposition if it wished.
The TNI is currently engaged in its largest
counter-insurgency operation against secessionist rebels
in Aceh since its invasion of East Timor in 1975, and
reports out of the gas-rich province in northern Sumatra
since its launch in mid-May have spurred growing
concerns about the level of serious abuses against the
civilian population there.
On Monday, the World
Organization Against Torture (OMCT) in Geneva became the
latest international human-rights group to voice its
"deep concern" about the situation there, particularly
in light of the failure of the global media to follow
developments in Aceh. It said as many as 1,000 civilians
have been killed and 40,000 more have been forced to
flee their homes.
"The latest reports indicate
that human rights defenders are being subjected to
harassment, arrest [and] torture and face execution for
pursuing their activities," it said, while foreign
journalists and humanitarian organizations have been
prevented from entering the province.
International and Human Rights Watch have also voiced
strong concerns about the counter-insurgency campaign
and its impact on civilians in recent weeks. Even
Wolfowitz himself complained on a recent trip to Jakarta
that no military solution in Aceh was possible and that
the government should return to the negotiating table in
search of a political settlement.
The TNI has
been criticized for similar abuses in West Papua. Last
August 31, two US teachers and one Indonesian were
killed and another eight US and three Indonesian
citizens wounded in an ambush in the mining operations
of the Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan Cooper and Gold
Inc - under circumstances that, according to both
Indonesian police and the US Federal Bureau of
Investigation, implicated the TNI. After two previous
FBI trips were hindered by TNI obstruction, Jakarta
recently allowed the US agency to return to continue its
After a major Pentagon
lobbying effort to persuade Congress to renew IMET
training for Indonesia after the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon to resume
military ties with Indonesia, Congress finally
authorized $400,000 for IMET training for Indonesia for
fiscal year 2003, and it is that money that is now at
In light of the McMoRan ambush, however,
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in May to
condition all IMET aid for Indonesia in fiscal year
2004, which begins October 1, on Jakarta's "taking
effective measures" to investigate fully and criminally
prosecute those responsible for the killings.
"The release of the IMET funds now would only
cause people to question America's commitment to its own
citizens' safety," Patricia Lynn Spier, who was
seriously wounded and her husband killed in the ambush,
said on Monday. "The FBI must be allowed to complete its
investigation of the attack on me and others at the
Freeport mine. No military assistance should be provided
unless the Indonesian military is deemed innocent."
The Pentagon, however, is particularly eager to
renew ties with Indonesian military officers as part of
the "war on terrorism", in which Washington hopes the
TNI will play a key role. Indonesia has the world's
largest Muslim population, and last year's bombing of a
nightclub in Bali apparently persuaded both President
Megawati Sukarnoputri and other senior government
officials that radical Islamists represented a serious
threat to the country.
On Monday, a bomb
exploded at Indonesia's parliament in what the police
called a "terror" attack in which the explosives used
were similar to those found in the possession of alleged
Islamist militants arrested in Jakarta last week.
The Pentagon persuaded Congress to permit it to
provide the TNI with some $4 million in
counter-terrorism training and non-lethal equipment last
year but has made little secret of its desire to provide
more assistance to the Indonesian military, particularly
its officer corps.
"I believe exposure of
Indonesia officers to US [military personnel] has been a
way to promote reform efforts in the military, not to
set them back," Wolfowitz said this year.
other analysts strongly disagree, noting not only the
brutal record of the TNI when it was most closely
engaged with the United States during the 30-some years
of the former dictator Suharto's rule, but also the
concern that the military will use its return to the
IMET program to trumpet its return to international
respectability when, in fact, it has done nothing to
"Rather than teach democratic
values, the Indonesian military will see IMET as a US
endorsement of business as usual," said Kurt Biddle,
coordinator of the Indonesia Human Rights Network
(IHRN). "Since the administration has actively sought to
restore military assistance, the Indonesian military has
sabotaged international efforts to attain justice for
crimes against humanity committed in East Timor,
exonerated itself of last year's murder of two US
teachers, and undermined a US-backed ceasefire in Aceh."
Rights groups have been particularly outraged at
the treatment accorded Major-General Adam Damiri, who is
leading the counter-insurgency campaign in Aceh. Damiri
has been charged with crimes against humanity in
connection with the havoc in East Timor in 1999 but
missed several days of his trial in May in order to help
prepare the TNI for its assault on Aceh.
has been no meaningful progress towards reform of the
military or the ending of impunity" since the East Timor
violence, according to a statement signed last month by
some 90 human-rights, peace, and church groups around
the world who called for an international military
embargo against Jakarta.
After the mayhem in
East Timor, the US Congress conditioned the resumption
of military-to-military relations with the TNI on
Indonesia punishing those military officers who were
responsible and taking other steps to secure civilian
control over the military and end its impunity. But
Congress relaxed those conditions as a result of
Pentagon pressure after the September 11 attacks.
(Inter Press Service)