of Indonesia is fading fast, the news bulletins say. So
when I came into the country, I started asking how people felt
about their dying killer. (Body count, circa one million plus,
man I ran into - near a coffee/rice stall - though the radio blared
the death watch, said nothing about it, until I raised it. "So
much the better," he smiled.
I know well did not bother to mention it, though they know I follow
lady had just described her own recent ailments - decades of squatting
and pounding grain take a toll - when I asked about Suharto. "Suharto?"
She said. "He ate too much money. He's full. He ate so much that
others can't eat."
at her own joke. Everybody laughed. The mourning period should
be over by lunchtime.
The New York
Times, in 1993, after the East Timor massacres, said Suharto "r[a]n
the country with a grandfatherly smile and an iron fist" and lamented
that his "accomplishments are not widely known abroad." (Philip
Shenon, "Hidden Giant - A special report; Indonesia Improves Life
For Many But The Political Shadows Remain," The New York Times,
August 27, 1993.)
in Indonesia - below the towers of life-giving-or-taking wealth
and distant killing decision - Suharto seemed to have been seen,
on the one hand, as a small man, but on the other, as a menace.
talk corruption, but you could not mention the murders. You had
to work hard to forget them. The government helped with "Clean
Environment" laws that banned the surviving relatives from social
contacts, on the theory that if they got around, their memories
might pollute society.
when pressed, once told me about bodies bobbing in Sumatra rivers.
a rule, people don't like to talk about Suharto's founding
massacre, the one that was, in the words of James Reston
of The Times, the 'gleam of light in Asia', and in the words
of the CIA, which assisted, 'one of the worst mass murders
of the 20th century.'
as a rule, people don't like to talk about Suharto's founding
massacre, the one that was, in the words of James Reston of The
Times, the "gleam of light in Asia" (June 19, 1966), and in the
words of the CIA, which assisted, "one of the worst mass murders
of the 20th century" (for background see posting of November 8,
Ngobrol - Ngobrol. Sitting Around Talking, in Indonesia.").
enough, on the official, bureaucratic level, though, it is corruption
talk that is taboo.
I was being interrogated after giving a press conference on Suharto's
secret aid from Clinton (including snipers and "PSYOP"(s); see
of December 12, 2007), and Suharto's man began to read aloud from
my file - parts disturbingly accurate, parts ridiculous.
about my political views. I went into a speech about the massacres
and how Suharto and Clinton should share a jail cell. The man
was thoroughly bored. But, then, somehow, I mentioned corruption.
He was offended,
angry. He sat upright: "What do you mean, corruption?!"
It made sense,
on the popular level that was Topic A. So, therefore, it was a
dangerous topic. Bureaucrats are not encouraged to speak the word.
Cash envelopes enter pockets quietly.
But the massacres?
They were unlikely to spark a flame, the Suhartoites had calculated.
really can be selfish sometimes - forget the dead and kiss the
killers - especially if clever ongoing terror is applied. Forced
thought control is sometimes possible.
interesting question is not why are foreign sponsors so
suave about explaining murder (key answer: because they
can get away with it), but rather why do local people, in
so many places, let one small man rise above them?
Suharto goes, there won't be weeping in the kampungs I know, but
there may be on some US campuses, which
developed a school of thought (and of subsidy) that held that
Suharto was OK since, though he had "human rights" problems, the
official statistics showed rapid GDP growth. The
proponents were strict anti-communists, but had absorbed some
Pravda thinking, since that argument was - as it happened - the
same one once used to justify Stalin.
But as short,
thin people gathered this morning at, say, the Belawan ferry to
Malaysia could tell you, Pak Harto's massacre development, unlike
Uncle Joe's, did not vault Indonesia onto a new plane.
countries, starting tied with Indonesia in real-eating development,
have post-rise-of-Suharto-and-his-army far surpassed it, so Indonesians
leave home, seeking work, often trading dignity for their babies'
brain growth. (See "Duduk-Duduk" on the choices sending poor Indonesians
overseas, and the posting of November 24, 2007, "Rising
in Malaysia. The Dangers of Feeding Poor People," on Malaysia's
different, far-faster development).
question is not why are foreign sponsors so suave about explaining
murder (key answer: because they can get away with it), but rather
why do local people, in so many places, let one small man rise
complex question, for another day. But right now, some people
here are busy with the death anniversary of another, far bigger,
person, a lady buried in a goat field, who was - by consensus
of several kampungs - a shining, good person, a great one.
If they had
met, Suharto would have told her to wash his floor (I can assure
that you she wouldn't have).
she, with her strong shoulders, could not possibly have washed
all that blood.
task for a whole society, after Suharto is condemned and gone.
have to get together and resolve to henceforth keep the floor
The above is posted on News And Comments (www.newsc.blogspot.com),
a blog by Allan Nairn. Allan says: "News and Comment is looking
for assistance with translating blog postings into other languages,
and also with fund raising and distributing the blog content more
widely." Those interested can email Allan at firstname.lastname@example.org.