|all the enemies in the world and all the world's
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Diana Johnstone on the consequences of the NATO (that is, U.S government) attack on Yugoslavia, with particular attention to East Timor.
Jared: I just spoke to Ben Works.I wanted to interview you too. On East Timor.
Diana: Oh oh oh!
Jared: That's a great beginning. Your opinion is important on this because you raised the whole question of the new Crusade, the 'Humanitarian Trigger.' (1) . And the question is, liberals are clamoring for some kind of intervention in Timor. And I'm suspicious. How do you feel?
Diana: And I am too. That's why I said 'oh oh oh.' What a mess. I think that one of the problems is precisely the 'humanitarian' intervention in Kosovo that was supposed to be an example to the world to show that we had this New World Order where from now on self-determination was going to be enforced by the righteous missiles of the United States. It's going to have a backlash effect. Countries around the world are going to smash their minorities preemptively, to keep the U.S. from coming in. Indonesia is a very spread out, multi-national society with lots of possibilities of separatist movements.
I want to point out, the case of East Timor is completely different from Kosovo. East Timor was never a part of Indonesia. It was invaded after the Portuguese let it go. It was part of this de-colonization mess, the same way the Southern Sahara is part of it, only then it was Spain; Spain let the colony go in an irresponsible way that allowed Morocco to grab it. That led to this long, still unresolved conflict. In Indonesia, Portugal let East Timor go without a proper transition which allowed Indonesia to grab it but that has never been recognized internationally. Indonesia has no historic or legal right to be there, whereas Kosovo is a part of Serbia, which was recognized; it's always been.
But the problem remains. There are a lot of countries in the world with minorities that are very alarmed by this new American policy. Governments are going to smash their minorities to avoid the sort of situation where everybody will be clamoring for independence and self-determination with the idea that the United States will help them.
That doesn't answer the question what to do now. I don't really know. You've got these bands in there who are doing what we accused the Serbs of doing, only they weren't. The Indonesian Military has a long record of that -
Jared: Starting with murdering the Communists and the ethnic Chinese - vast numbers -
Diana: I think probably the largest slaughter since WWII. An unbelievably huge massacre plus people whom they didn't massacre they put in prison forever. So they totally wiped out the Communists, the left in Indonesia; it's been a dictatorship ever since, 'our ' kind of dictatorship, etc. Now it's falling apart.
And probably the Army, which has been the authority holding it together, is afraid that the United States, having supported them all this time, now that they are in economic difficulty, political difficulty, isn't going to support them anymore and might support a whole lot of separatist movements since that seems to be the trend. All of Asia, you see, except the country we like to quote, which is Singapore, because that's our great ally out there - all of Asia has been quite appalled by the NATO aggression in Kosovo and fears that something like this is in store for all of them. Because everybody has got minorities somewhere that can be supported as a pretext for going in, you see. Now I don't think that's actually the case in Timor. I think it's somewhat different. However, the danger of announcing these great principles that are in fact not great principles at all but simply a pretext to go into one place which is strategically interesting namely the Balkans - that's the only place the United States wanted to go into right now, I mean later they might want to go into the Ukraine, Azerbaijan - they're interested in places that have oil reserves and so on - but this issue has nothing to do with great principles but of course they call on these great principles when they want to occupy a particular territory as they wanted to occupy Kosovo and set up NATO bases there. They dont want to set up NATO bases right now in East Timor, but they might later in someplace else around there, Sumatra or someplace else. I think in fact, with this Kosovo action the United States has initiated a long series of bloody wars. On the one hand encouraging minorities to think they can get some kind of self determination and on the other encouraging the states who dont want that to massacre the people who might ask for self-determination.
Jared: The Portuguese seem very anxious to intervene directly.
Diana: Well of course. East Timor was let go when they had this anti-colonialist revolution in Portugal, that's what brought it about. Because the military was tired of fighting colonial wars and made the revolution in Portugal to get rid of the Salazar dictatorship. It was soldiers who'd been sent to fight in colonies who became sympathetic with the revolutionaries who made that revolution. So they let the colonies go but they were being sabotaged all along the way, of course. In Africa it's notorious because all of the right wing of South Africa, intelligence services of all kinds backed UNITA in order to wreck Angola, they invented UNITA. East Timor was too far away to be terribly interesting to anybody. But now times have changed in Portugal. It probably could use the influence again because we no longer have the left wing regime that freed the colonies. You know I hesitate to speak too much on this because the fact is I'm not an expert on East Timor.
Jared: But your perspective is quite interesting.
Diana: This is a particularly delicate one because everyone has been asking for this election. Of course one thing this should point out is that elections are being regarded as some sort of magical ritual that are going to solve problems stemming from the relationship of forces in various countries, and they don't. I'm sorry to point that out. They sent in observers but the observers afterwards are being driven out and killed. There is an awful lot of - I don't want to insult anybody, but -
Jared:. Insult them. Please.
Diana: - naivete. What did Ben Works have to say?
Jared: He said the United States had mishandled the situation. He said people who should have had not talked to the military about controlling the situation if there was an election. He said President Habibe was very much weakened. He said the military is afraid that the U.S. or the West has designs on the area, wants to break it up into little bite-sized pieces -
Diana: I do want to repeat that the case of East TImor is different from others because of the fact that this was not a part of Indonesia. But one thing that is perfectly clear is that the style of our State Department with Mrs. Albright there is anything but diplomatic. This style of the United States going around lecturing people, telling them what to do, threatening them, is absolutely the opposite of the kind of diplomacy that is needed in almost any difficult situation.
Jared: Yeah. About a year ago, Gore wrecked the Asian economic conference. He disrupted dinner and walked out after calling for street demonstrations in Malaysia to overthrow the Prime Minister because he didn't like the fact that they had locked out Western financial -
Diana: That's become their whole style. This may have something to do with the media. This 'we've gotta be tough' style of the United States throwing its weight around in a very moralistic way. I mean this is going to make us all the enemies in the world and all the world's enemy; and rightly so, because anywhere, and particularly in Asia, if you are going to be helpful to any kind of conflict you have to understand the points of view of the different parties and not simply view them as people who can be bribed by a carrot or beaten with a stick -
Jared: You're right. People have national sensibilities.
Diana: A complete absence of diplomacy. And you've got this chorus of moralistic columnists, always egging them on: the US has got to act tough, it's got to act moral. And if anybody attempts subtlety they'll be lynched in the media. They would feel that would be Munich or something. You have all of these little slogans you know.
You know, there's a timing in all this. Indonesia is suffering from a terrible economic meltdown. One of the NY Times columnists said happily: "Well that's good for them. They didn't have the right kind of capitalism so this will show them." So you've got millions of Indonesians with no jobs, no money, nothing. Actually a lot of Indonesia is split over this. There's been an inconclusive election. The country is in a traumatic situation. The prosperity has collapsed. The timing is terrible. The timing for East Timor comes right after the economic collapse in Indonesia and then the Kosovo thing. And all of that is designed to cause very bad psychological reactions. I am a bit uncomfortable talking about this, because I am not an expert on East Timor and Indonesia. When I talk about Yugoslavia I know a lot, and I may be missing some important points in this case, but one thing does seem to me clear: this is exactly a case where you really needed diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy. Tact. But it does appear the US government is incapable of that. And then on top of that you have the IMF which always seems to make matters worse.
Jared: The IMF makes impoverishing the population the condition for lending money.
Diana: As the Bulgarian lady's letter (2) said, they take away the little things that people have, the right to ride the trains at reduced fare and so on. I think with this sort of policy you're going to get lots of insanity. And I'm sure you have massacres going on and you have terrible things going on but you see the problem with this Humanitarian Left is that they've forgotten all these things that what used to be the left knew - that you have to have a structure of society which will create conditions more or less amenable to civilization. We are breaking all that down so that you are going to have everybody massacring everybody. Because of the fact that they're starving or they're confused or they're going crazy. We are really setting up that kind of a situation in many places. We are destroying people's economies, we're destroying their culture, we're destroying everything And then afterwards they go berserk and kill each other. And then we say, "Oh my goodness, how terrible. Should we perhaps send in our armed forces and kill some more of them?"
1. See NATO's Humanitarian Trigger
2. See With Her Eyes Opened