Suharto - corrupt, murdering ex-Indonesian dictator dies

Former Indonesian president Suharto has popped his clogs, ceased to be and gone to join that merry band of expired dictators in perdition.

Whilst socialist, lefties and liberals with knowledge of his time in power will be thinking “good friggin’ riddance, your murdering bastard”, the US, via their Indonesian ambassador Cameron Hume declared him a “historic figure” who “led Indonesia for over 30 years, a period during which Indonesia achieved remarkable economic and social development.”

Suffering from advanced stages of historical amnesia, Hume eulogised Suharto for his close relationship with the United States and for his part in the in the establishment of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), totally forgetting Suharto’s 32 year stint as the country’s foremost human rights abuser. The best he could muster was to mention in passing that there had been “some controversy over his legacy” – which could be translated as “well, he might have been a bastard, but he was our bastard!”

For many years Washington saw Suharto as a man who could be trusted to support US imperial ambitions in the region, not least because of his “anti-communist” stance. And what a stance! In the mid sixties Suharto’s forces killed an estimated 500,000 communists and sympathisers. For their part the CIA provided Suharto with lists of thousands of liberals, including trade union members, intellectuals and schoolteachers, many of whom were executed or imprisoned. Suharto further exploited tensions between Muslims and atheist communists, inciting powerful Islamic groups to join the bloodbath.

During his meeting with President Nixon in May 1970, Suharto candidly admitted to having “nullified the strength” of the Indonesian Communist Party, a reference to the mass killings of alleged PKI members, adding that “tens of thousands” of its members “have been interrogated and placed in detention.” Nixon largely confined himself to questions and supportive statements concerning U.S. support for the Suharto regime. Over the course of Suharto’s two-day visit, the White House reassured Indonesian officials of their continued commitment to Southeast Asia and pledged to increase military aid to $18 million to enable Indonesia to purchase 15,000 M-16 rifles

Another 183,000 died due to killings, disappearances, hunger and illness during Indonesia's 1975-1999 bloody occupation of East Timor, according to an East Timorese commission sanctioned by the U.N. Elsewhere Suharto’s forces killed 100,000 in West Papua, according a local human rights group, and another 15,000 during a 29-year separatist rebellion in Aceh province.

Just before Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, President Ford and Secretary Henry Kissinger stopped over Jakarta on the way back home from China, having met with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. For more than a year the U.S. had known that Indonesia was planning to forcibly annex East Timor, having followed intelligence reports of armed attacks by Indonesian forces.

Discussing guerrilla movements in Thailand and Malaysia, Suharto suddenly turned to East Timor and said: “We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.”

Ford and Kissinger assured Suharto that they would not oppose the invasion. Ford was in fact explicit: “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have.” Whilst Kissinger expressed concern that the use of US made weaponry may cause embarrassment, added: “It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self defence or is a foreign operation. It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.”

Carter, Reagan, George Bush senior – they all backed the butcher of Indonesia, all turning a blind eye, all arming his war machine In his meeting with Suharto, Bush (then vice president), offered nothing but praise for the despot, assuring him that “our relations with Indonesia are most significant and that we derived great satisfaction from our relations with Jakarta.”

Though dethroned back in a1998 pro-democracy uprising, neither Suharto or anyone connected with him was tried for human rights abuses, not least because some of his then trusted generals occupy powerful posts today

Commented Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch Asia: "One of the enduring legacies of Suharto's regime has been the culture of impunity,"

A newly posted Declassified Documentary Obituary of Suharto can be found on the US National Security Archive. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB242/index.htm

a selection of declassified U.S. documents detailing his record of repression and corruption, and the long-standing U.S. support for his regime.

Said Brad Simpson Brad Simpson, who directs the Archive's Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project. These declassified documents, detailing the long record of U.S. support for one of the twentieth century’s most brutal and corrupt men, will contribute to our understanding both of Suharto’s rule and of the U.S. support which helped make it possible."

The following clip – focusing on Indonesia under Suharto – comes from John Pilger’s The New Rulers of the Wold. The full documentary can be watched by clicking here or here

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