Posted by: soupysays | March 27, 2006

a post that does not allude to current events

quoted from East Timor Revisited: FORD, KISSINGER AND THE INDONESIAN INVASION, 1975-76. (emphasis added by me)


The Indonesian invasion of East Timor in December 1975 set the stage for the long, bloody, and disastrous occupation of the territory that ended only after an international peacekeeping force was introduced in 1999. President Bill Clinton cut off military aid to Indonesia in September 1999—reversing a longstanding policy of military cooperation—but questions persist about U.S. responsibility for the 1975 invasion; in particular, the degree to which Washington actually condoned or supported the bloody military offensive.

The goods:

Ford and Kissinger took great pains to assure Suharto that they would not oppose the invasion. Ford was unambiguous: “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have.” Kissinger did indeed stress that “the use of US-made arms could create problems,” but then added that, “It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self defense or is a foreign operation.” Thus, Kissinger’s concern was not about whether U.S. arms would be used offensively—and hence illegally—but whether the act would actually be interpreted as such—a process he clearly intended to manipulate.(26) In any case, Kissinger added: “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.”

Indeed, timing and damage control were very important to the Americans, as Kissinger told Suharto: “We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens happens after we return. . . If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home.” Kissinger also asked Suharto if he anticipated a “long guerilla war,” apparently aware that a quick military success would be easier to spin than a long campaign. Suharto acknowledged that there “will probably be a small guerilla war” but he was cagey enough not to predict its duration. Nevertheless, his military colleagues were optimistic; as one of the architects of Indonesian policy, General Ali Murtopo explained to a U.S. scholar some months before the invasion, “the whole business will be settled in three weeks.”(27)


  1. It’s amazing that any country willingly lets the United States into their country, even with well-intentioned programs like the Peace Corps, especailly when this seems to be America’s reputation worldwide.

  2. Yeah, but the US also has


  3. I think to myself the whole addage about learning from past mistakes. How naive is that? How silly, considering what I consider a mistake, a person involved at the highest levels of government might consider a willingly taken risk. Not even a risk, per se.

    It’s very easy for me to sit and be annoyed an appalled and naively wonder why the same “mistakes” happen over and over.


    Thanks for continuing such great content, soupers.

  4. Nothing to do with this post, but I know you’ll get a kick out of this:

  5. For no good reason, I get the feeling that we are going to be invited soon.

    I emailed Patrick on Thursday; his auto reply message said that (besides being out of the office), invitations went out last week for Africa and Eastern Europe. Our program has to be coming up.

    Perhaps they’re waiting for things to calm down after the recent soldier walk outs?

    From most sources, I don’t get the impression that it’s violent. Everyone is just frustrated.

    I assume you’ve already seen it, but here’s the link anyway.

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