my film, Death Of A Nation, there is a sequence filmed on board
an Australian aircraft flying over the island of Timor. A party
is in progress, and two men in suits are toasting each other in
champagne. "This is an historically unique moment," says one of
them, "that is truly uniquely historical." This is Gareth Evans,
Australia's foreign minister. The other man is Ali Alatas, principal
mouthpiece of the Indonesian dictator, Gen. Suharto. It is 1989,
and the two are making a grotesquely symbolic flight to celebrate
the signing of a treaty that allowed Australia and the international
oil and gas companies to exploit the seabed off East Timor, then
illegally and viciously occupied by Suharto. The prize, according
to Evans, was "zillions of dollars."
them lay a land of crosses: great black crosses etched against
the sky, crosses on peaks, crosses in tiers on the hillsides.
Filming clandestinely in East Timor, I would walk into the scrub
and there were the crosses. They littered the earth and crowded
the eye. In 1993, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian
Parliament reported that "at least 200,000" had died under Indonesia's
occupation: almost a third of the population.
And yet East Timor's horror, which was foretold and nurtured by
the U.S., Britain, and Australia, was actually a sequel. "No single
American action in the period after 1945," wrote the historian
Gabriel Kolko, "was as bloodthirsty as its role in Indonesia,
for it tried to initiate the massacre." He was referring to Suharto's
seizure of power in 1965-1966, which caused the violent deaths
of up to a million people.
clandestinely in East Timor, I would walk into the scrub
and there were the crosses. They littered the earth and
crowded the eye.
understand the significance of Suharto, who died on Sunday, is
to look beneath the surface of the current world order: the so-called
global economy and the ruthless cynicism of those who run it.
Suharto was our model mass murderer - "our" is used here advisedly.
"One of our very best and most valuable friends," Thatcher called
him, speaking for the West.
For three decades, the Australian, U.S., and British governments
worked tirelessly to minimize the crimes of Suharto's Gestapo,
known as Kopassus, who were trained by the Australian SAS and
the British army and who gunned down people with British-supplied
Heckler and Koch machine guns from British-supplied Tactica "riot
Prevented by Congress from supplying arms directly, U.S. administrations
from Gerald Ford to Bill Clinton provided logistic support through
the back door and commercial preferences. In one year, the British
Department of Trade provided almost a billion pounds' worth of
so-called soft loans, which allowed Suharto to buy Hawk fighter-bombers.
The British taxpayer paid the bill for aircraft that dive-bombed
East Timorese villages, and the arms industry reaped the profits.
single American action in the period after 1945," wrote
the historian Gabriel Kolko, "was as bloodthirsty as its
role in Indonesia, for it tried to initiate the massacre."
He was referring to Suharto's seizure of power in 1965-1966,
which caused the violent deaths of up to a million people.
the Australians distinguished themselves as the most obsequious.
In an infamous cable to Canberra, Richard Woolcott, Australia's
ambassador to Jakarta, who had been forewarned about Suharto's
invasion of East Timor, wrote: "What Indonesia now looks to from
Australia... is some understanding of their attitude and possible
action to assist public understanding in Australia..."
Covering up Suharto's crimes became a career for those like Woolcott,
while "understanding" the mass murderer came in buckets. This
left an indelible stain on the reformist government of Gough Whitlam
following the cold-blooded killing of two Australian TV crews
by Suharto's troops during the invasion of East Timor.
"We know your people love you," Bob Hawke told the dictator. His
successor, Paul Keating, famously regarded the tyrant as a father
figure. When Indonesian troops slaughtered at least 200 people
in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, and Australian
mourners planted crosses outside the Indonesian embassy in Canberra,
foreign minister Gareth Evans ordered them destroyed.
was our model mass murderer - "our" is used here advisedly.
"One of our very best and most valuable friends," Thatcher
called him, speaking for the West.
Evans, ever-effusive in his support for the regime, the massacre
was merely an "aberration." This was the view of much of the Australian
press, especially that controlled by Rupert Murdoch, whose local
retainer, Paul Kelly, led a group of leading newspaper editors
to Jakarta, to fawn before the dictator.
lies a clue as to why Suharto, unlike Saddam Hussein, died not
on the gallows but surrounded by the finest medical team his secret
billions could buy. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer
in the 1960s, describes the terror of Suharto's takeover of Indonesia
as "the model operation" for the American-backed coup that got
rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later.
"The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot
to murder Chilean military leaders," he wrote, "[just like] what
happened in Indonesia in 1965." The US embassy in Jakarta supplied
Suharto with a "zap list" of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI)
members and crossed off the names when they were killed or captured.
Roland Challis, the BBC's South-east Asia correspondent at the
time, told me how the British government was secretly involved
in this slaughter. "British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian
troops down the Malacca Straits so they could take part in the
terrible holocaust," he said. "I and other correspondents were
unaware of this at the time... There was a deal, you see."
US embassy in Jakarta supplied Suharto with a "zap list"
of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members and crossed
off the names when they were killed or captured.
deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard
Nixon had called "the richest hoard of natural resources, the
greatest prize in south-east Asia." In November 1967, the greatest
prize was handed out at a remarkable three-day conference sponsored
by the Time-Life Corporation in Geneva. Led by David Rockefeller,
all the corporate giants were represented: the major oil companies
and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British
American Tobacco, Siemens, U.S. Steel, and many others.
Across the table sat Suharto's US-trained economists who agreed
to the corporate takeover of their country, sector by sector.
The Freeport company got a mountain of copper in West Papua. A
US/European consortium got the nickel. The giant Alcoa company
got the biggest slice of Indonesia's bauxite. America, Japanese,
and French companies got the tropical forests of Sumatra. When
the plunder was complete, President Lyndon Johnson sent his congratulations
on "a magnificent story of opportunity seen and promise awakened."
Thirty years later, with the genocide in East Timor also complete,
the World Bank described the Suharto dictatorship as a "model
he died, I interviewed Alan Clark, who under Thatcher was Britain's
minister responsible for supplying Suharto with most of his weapons.
I asked him, "Did it bother you personally that you were causing
such mayhem and human suffering?"
in the slightest," he replied. "It never entered my head."
"I ask the
question because I read you are a vegetarian and are seriously
concerned with the way animals are killed."
that concern extend to humans?"
John Pilger is a world-renowned journalist, author and documentary
filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia,
before moving to London in the 1960s. He regards eye-witness as
the essence of good journalism. Visit www.johnpilger.com
for his articles and to order his DVDs.
The Cyber Guardians Of Honest Journalism,
by John Pilger
Australia Builds Its Empire, by John
Legacy Of General Suharto, by
One Small Man Leaves A Million Corpses,
by Allan Nairn