/** reg.easttimor: 3244.0 **/

** Topic: IHT: The U.S. Must Clean Up a Mess It Helped to Create **
** Written 6:25 PM Sep 10, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: IHT: The U.S. Must Clean Up a Mess It Helped to Create

International Herald Tribune Saturday, September 11, 1999


The U.S. Must Clean Up a Mess It Helped to Create

By Matthew Jardine International Herald Tribune

DILI, East Timor - The machete-wielding paramilitaries attacked Verissimo Quintas's house three days before the vote organized by the United Nations to decide the status of East Timor on Aug. 30. The assault was part of a rampage against independence supporters in the town of Lospalos, on the eastern end of the island of Timor.

I had stayed in Mr. Quintas's house in 1992, during my first visit to the former Portuguese colony that Indonesia annexed in 1975-76. He had survived Japan's brutal occupation during World War II. He would not, however, survive the dying days of Indonesia's rule. His assailants hacked him to death.

His murder was just one of many foreboding signs in East Timor. The leading powers in the United Nations chose to ignore these signs by agreeing to Indonesia's demand that it be responsible for security in the disputed territory before and after the self-determination vote. They did so even though it was clear that hard-line anti-independence elements in the Indonesian Army and police were training, arming and directing the militia groups in East Timor that were responsible for a campaign of murder and intimidation against supporters of independence.

Since last Sunday, Indonesian soldiers and the militias have invaded and burned the compounds of Bishop Carlos Belo, a Nobel laureate, and of the International Committee of the Red Cross. They have fired at the car of the Australian ambassador to Indonesia, attacked the United Nations' office in Baucau, the territory's second-largest town, and besieged the UN compound in Dili. They have killed Catholic priests and nuns. Now that the soldiers and paramilitaries have burned and looted almost all of Dili and forced foreign observers to leave, they are focusing on secondary towns out of the glare of international publicity.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of East Timorese have died and more than 150,000 people have fled their homes. Many were forcibly evacuated to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. A huge humanitarian crisis looms.

Despite repeated denials by the government of President B.J. Habibie and his senior military commanders, there is little doubt that this is a systematic campaign of terror orchestrated by the Indonesian armed forces in conjunction with the local militias they direct.

Western governments, including that of the United States, express shock at this barbarity. But while the conduct of the Indonesian military may be shocking, it is not surprising.

After all, this is the same military responsible for the deaths of well over 200,000 East Timorese since its illegal occupation of the territory in 1975. Furthermore, Washington and its allies have long been on intimate terms with the Indonesian armed forces. They have justified the engagement in terms of their national security interests, because of Indonesia's size and its strategic location at the cross-roads of the Pacific and Indian oceans. But Washington has also claimed that these contacts help moderate the conduct of the Indonesian military. The United States has trained many senior Indonesian officers and soldiers, and sold the armed forces billions of dollars in weaponry and equipment.

It is for these reasons that the United States has an obligation to respond immediately to the current slaughter in East Timor. While the Pentagon severed all military ties to Jakarta on Thursday, much more is needed to compel Indonesia to end its reign of terror. But there is no evidence that the White House has the will to take the necessary steps for fear of threatening its political and economic relationship with resource-rich Indonesia.

The Clinton administration, for example, still has not cut its financial assistance to Jakarta. In addition, it has announced that it will not back the introduction of foreign troops in East Timor without Jakarta's permission. And Washington has stated that it will not contribute troops to an international force. ''The United States cannot be, and should not be, viewed as the policeman of the world,'' Defense Secretary William Cohen explained.

But his attempt at a justification misses the point: This is about the United States accepting responsibility for a mass killing for which it bears a significant degree of responsibility. Until Washington acknowledges this, as well as its ability to bring Jakarta's military to heel, the slaughter in East Timor will continue.

A little more than a week after Mr. Quintas's murder, I fled East Timor in a convoy of hundreds of cars and trucks heading to Indonesian West Timor. The convoy was made up mostly of Indonesian civil servants and their families. They were leaving in anticipation of the impending terror, only hours after Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, had announced that the East Timorese had voted overwhelmingly for independence.

By offering the promise of self-determination, but not providing adequate security measures, the international community has effectively thrown the East Timorese to the wolves. It is time for the United States and its allies to clean up a mess they helped to create.


Mr. Jardine, author of ''East Timor: Genocide in Paradise'' and co- author of ''East Timor's Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance,'' spent the past two months in East Timor. He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **