Obama: Stand Up to the Indonesian Military
John M. Miller | December 4, 2008
Editor: John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus
According to some pundits,
The Obama administration and incoming 111th Congress should indeed change course on
In 1965, when U.S.-Indonesia ties were the closest, General Suharto seized power and, according to scholars, the Indonesian government killed up to one million people in the coup's aftermath. Earlier,
The only period of significant reform came when the
By 2005, the Bush administration reinstated nearly all military assistance and has since sought further expanded ties through training of the Kopassus, the notorious special forces unit responsible for some of the worst human rights violations in East Timor, West Papua, Aceh, and elsewhere. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) have opposed lifting this final hurdle to unrestricted military engagement. They have called for following existing law barring training of military units with histories of human rights crimes where those responsible have not been brought to justice. If that provision has any meaning, it must apply to the Kopassus.
Reengagement has failed to end the widespread impunity enjoyed by
Several retired generals responsible for some of the worst atrocities in
Human rights violations are not just a matter of history. In
In May 2007, Indonesian marines killed four civilians and wounded eight in a land dispute between villagers and the Indonesian navy in Pasuruan,
As in the past, the current
Meanwhile, the number of Indonesian students in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program is increasing. IMET was the first military assistance program that Congress restricted in the early 1990s. Indonesia was a major beneficiary of the Regional Defense Counterterrorism Fellowship Program, created soon after the September 11 attacks to circumvent the IMET ban on
Ultimately, the size of the military assistance package may not matter. The
A New Era with Obama?
President-elect Obama has described
Based on these early positions, Obama is quite conscious of the problems with the Indonesian military. While in the Senate, he rarely spoke about these issues.
Indonesian advocates have called on Obama and Congress to pressure
Djamin said in the Jakarta Post, "We are now expecting Obama to put more pressure on
East Timor's official Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, after examining in detail the impact of Indonesian occupation and destructive withdrawal on the East Timorese, called on countries to make military assistance to Indonesia "totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights."President Obama and the next Congress should follow that recommendation.
John M. Miller is the national coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.
Published by Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), a project of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS, online at www.ips-dc.org). Copyright © 2008, Institute for Policy Studies.
John M. Miller, "Obama: Stand Up to the Indonesian Military" (
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