Real Richard Holbrooke Please Stand Up?
Self-contradiction is of course not a capital offense but it does make one think. So, with Richard Holbrooke.
We are informed that US ambassador to the UN Holbrooke has been (privately) the key force behind the push for UN intervention in East Timor ever since the outbreak of post-referendum violence. Doesn't such a fast response suggest discussion of forethought? Doesn't it suggest planning? Doesn't it indeed raise the question - how do you discuss and plan for an outbreak of violence you didn't know would happen?
This push for intervention would be a bit odd, given the intimacy of US government ties with the Indonesian military, but odder still: at the same time that Holbrook was organizing for intervention, the State Department was publicly opposing intervention. President Clinton said "no US troops" would be used in East Timor. Even as he spoke a marine amphibious battalion was docked in nearby Darwin, Australia. Curious. Governments have been known to play games from time to time. Could this be one of those times?
warns the Indonesian military that "if the crisis
[in Timor] is not speedily and peacefull resolved, the
problem will not be contained in East Timor" - no
small threat from the man who helped orchestrate the
truncation of Yugoslavia. But curiouser still, it turns
out Holbrooke is himself no stranger to said problem. One
could even say, Richard Holbrooke and East Timor share a
history. They've been an item for a long time. It has not
been a good relationship. Please read the following.
Skeletons in Richard Holbrookes Closet
Much ado has been made in the press and academic discussions about how Richard Holbrooke has been a force for peace in the Yugoslavia imbroglio. The reality behind Holbrookes activities in the former Yugoslavia has been excellently exposed in recent issues of Covert Action Quarterly and elsewhere by journalist and Yugoslavia expert Diana Johnstone.
A little known chapter in Holbrookes career in the US government is his complicity in Indonesias campaign of genocide against East Timor. Holbrooke was head of the State Departments Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the Carter Administration. On December7, 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, which it continues to occupy today, killing over 200,000 Timorese in the process, approximately 1/3 of pre-invasion population. The US supported Indonesia in ways which are already well known; there is no doubt that the invasion, ongoing occupation, and genocide could not have been possible without US support.
Following Indonesias invasion of East Timor, the US imposed an arms ban on Indonesia from December 1975 to June 1976. The ban was a secret. In fact the ban was so secret that the Indonesians were unaware of it. The fraud was later exposed by Cornell University professor Benedict Anderson in his testimony before Congress in February 1978. Anderson cited a report, "confirmed from the Department of Defense printout", showing that there never was an arms ban, and that during the period of the alleged ban the US initiated new offers of military weaponry to the Indonesians:
Indeed by late 1977 the Indonesians literally began to run out of weapons in its campaign to destroy the Timorese. The Carter Administration stepped in and increased military aid and weapons sales to the Indonesians, which resulted in Indonesias stepped up campaigns of 1978 to 1980 when the level of killing reached genocidal levels.
When asked by Australian reporters at a press conference about atrocities in East Timor, Holbrooke responded:
The date of this press conference was April 6, 1977. Holbrooke would most certainly have been aware that a few days earlier (April 1) the Melbourne Age quoted Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik as saying that "50,000 people or perhaps 80,000 might have been killed during the war in Timor, but we saved 600,000 of them." Also on April 1, the Canberra Times quoted Malik as saying :
Maliks claim that perhaps 10% of the Timorese population may have been killed in less than two years was a bit much for the US: Australian state radio reported "The State Department is clearly embarrassed by Adam Maliks statement that the number killed in East Timor might have been as high as 80,000."(3) Fortunately the State Department could rely on the US medias silence to spare them from any embarrassment here at home.
In September 1978, US Ambassador to Indonesia Edward Masters went to East Timor accompanied by an entourage of Indonesian diplomats. While there, Masters visited refugee camps -- really concentration camps -- that the Timorese had been herded into by the Indonesians and then subjected to a forced starvation policy. According to one US reporter who was there, Masters "came away so shocked by the conditions of the refugees that they immediately contacted the governor of East Timor . . . to explore the possibilities for providing foreign humanitarian assistance." However, it would not be until a full nine months had passed that Masters (in June 1979) would urge the US to provide humanitarian assistance. The timing of Masters silence coincided with Indonesia being bolstered by a huge shipment of US military aid and weapons described above. As Benedict Anderson told Congress in 1980:
Despite the fact that the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor was and is an egregious violation of international law and an act of genocide, the Carter administration and Holbrooke in particular, while acknowledging that the East Timorese had not been allowed to carry out an act of self-determination, regarded the situation as a fait accompli.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who at the time was the US ambassador to the UN, boasted in his memoirs that he effectively prevented the UN from implementing resolutions calling on Indonesia to withdraw immediately from Timor and which affirmed the Timorese peoples right to self-determination:
The State Departments Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs was Holbrookes fiefdom. While the State Department made great efforts to interview Cambodian refugees in order to assess the level of human rights violations by the Khmer Rouge, the opposite was true of Timorese refugees who were easily accesible in Australia and Portugal. A Christian Science Monitor article from 1980 on East Timor and the State Departments indifference to the plight of the Timorese is worth quoting at length:
Even today, with the magnitude of the East Timor problem better known, refugees going directly to the State Department in Washington with their stories find that most officials here give the benefit of the doubt to the Indonesians.
"He acted like a lawyer for the Indonesians," said one refugee after talking with a State Department official recently. . . .
What many Timorese would like . . . is the departure of the Indonesians and control over their own affairs. The Timorese identity and languages are distinct from those of the Indonesians.
But in deferring to Indonesia on this issue, the Carter administration,like the Ford administration before it, appears to have placed big-power concerns ahead of human rights: Indonesia is an anticommunist, largely Muslim, oil-producing nation with the fifth-largest population in the world. It commands sea lanes between the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke recently declared it is potentially one of the great nations of the world.
US policy toward East Timor has been made for the most part by the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, headed by Mr. Holbrooke. The bureau most concerned with human rights, which is headed by Assistant Secretary Patricia Derian, was barely getting organized in 1977 when East Timor policy was first set by the Carter administration.
However, it was Ms. Derian, not Mr. Holbrooke, who was in the position of having to answer questions about East Timor, among other subjects, at a recent congressional hearing. Mr. Holbrooke let it be known he was too busy preparing for a trip to appear at the Feb. 6 hearing. He did have the time, however, to play host at a black-tie dinner later the same day.(8)
All of this stands in stark contrast to Holbrookes impassioned defense of the right of the Kosovo Albanians to "autonomy". Perhaps he has had some kind of religious conversion in recent years.
The Carter Administration position on Indonesia and East Timor was best summed up by Assistant Secretary Holbrooke:
If there was a world in which an International Court of Justice had any meaning, Richard Holbrookes shameful service to State power would surely be characterized as a series of Crimes Against Humanity. For now, such a thought is merely a fantasy for those of us who seek peace and justice.
(1) Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations. US Policy on Human Rights and Military Assistance: Overview and Indonesia, February 15, 1978.
(2) John Hamilton, "Timor death toll not the issue: US," Melbourne Herald, April 7, 1977.
(3) Australian sources cited in Chomsky, Noam and Edward S. Herman. The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume I (South End Press, 1979), pp. 174-175.
(4) Anderson is quoting from an article by Henry Kamm in the New York Times, January 28, 1980.
(5) Holbrooke, written statement to the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, Committee on Foreign Affairs, December 4, 1979. The topic of the hearing was East Timor, which Holbrooke did not bother to attend. Andersons statement: Benedict R. OG. Anderson, testimony at the Hearings before the Subcommittees on Asian and Pacific Affairs and on International Organizations of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 96th Congress, 2nd Session, February 1980 (US Government Printing Office, 1980).
(6) Holbrooke said as much to author James Dunn. Timor: A People Betrayed (The Jacaranda Press, 1983), p.351.
(7) Moynihan, Daniel P with Suzanne Weaver. A Dangerous Place (Little Brown, 1980), p.247.
(8) Daniel Southerland, "US Role in Plight of Timor: An Issue That Wont Go Away", Christian Science Monitor, March 6, 1980, p.7.
(9) Foreign Assistance and Related Programs:
Appropriations for 1981. Hearings Before a Subcommittee
of the Committee on Appropriations, House of
Representatives, 96th Congress, June 1980. Cited in ibid.
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