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As Obama Arrives in Jakarta, Secret Docs Show U.S.-Backed Indonesian Special Forces Unit Targets Papuan Churches, Civilians

Democracy Now!

Democracy Now!, November 9, 2010

President Obama arrived in Indonesia today on the second stop of a 10-day trip to Asia. It’s Obama’s first state visit to Indonesia after having lived there for four years as a child. We go to Jakarta to speak with investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn, who has just released secret documents from Kopassus—the feared Indonesian special forces—which has been responsible for human rights abuses since the 1950s. Earlier this year, the Obama administration lifted a 12-year funding ban for the training of Kopassus. While Obama talks about human rights, the documents indicate that Kopassus targets churches and civilians and includes a Kopassus enemies list topped by a local Baptist minister in West Papua. [includes rush transcript–partial]


Allan Nairn, award-winning investigative journalist and activist. His articles are online at AllanNairn.com
John Miller, National Coordinator of East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama is in Indonesia today on the second stop of a ten-day trip to Asia. It’s Obama’s first state visit to Indonesia after having lived there four years as a child. Obama and the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are expected to discuss the year-old U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, which covers trade, investment, military cooperation and other bilateral issues.

At a joint news conference with Yudhoyono today, Obama talked about growing U.S.-Indonesia ties and his return to the country for the first time since his childhood.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Obviously, much has been made of the fact that this marks my return to where I lived as a young boy. I will tell you, though, that I barely recognized it as I was driving down the streets. The only building that was there when I first moved to Jakarta was Sarinah. Now it’s one of the shorter buildings on the road.

But today, as president, I’m here to focus not on the past, but on the future: the Comprehensive Partnership that we’re building between the United States and Indonesia. As one of the world’s largest democracies, as the largest economy in Southeast Asia, and as a member of the G20, as a regional leader, as a vast archipelago on the front lines of climate change, and as a society of extraordinary diversity, Indonesia is where many of the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century come together. So, promoting prosperity, expanding partnerships between our people, and deepening political and security cooperations, these are the pillars of our new partnership, which owes so much to the leadership of my good friend President Yudhoyono. I believe that our two nations have only begun to forge the cooperation that’s possible. And I say that not simply as someone who knows firsthand what Indonesia can offer the world, I say it as president, a president who knows what Indonesia and the United States can offer the world together, if we work together in a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. So, terima kasih and as-salaam alaikum.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama, speaking alongside Indonesian president Yudhoyono today.

While Obama touts the so-called U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, human rights activists are calling on Obama to tackle U.S. support for atrocity-linked Indonesian military forces. Earlier this year, the Obama administration lifted a 12-year-old ban on the training of the notorious Indonesian military unit known as Kopassus. The special forces unit has been involved in scores of human rights abuses in East Timor, in Aceh, in Papua and Java since its formation in the 1950s. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 11 of 18 Kopassus soldiers convicted for human rights abuses since 1998 are still serving in the Indonesian military.

Today we’ll spend the hour looking at the human rights situation in Indonesia and the U.S. role in abuses continuing to the current day.

Joining us from Indonesia from the capital Jakarta, where President Obama is, is veteran journalist and activist Allan Nairn. In 1991, we were both in East Timor and witnessed and survived the Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian forces killed more than 270 Timorese. The soldiers fractured Allan’s skull. Allan has now uncovered U.S. support for Indonesian military assassinations and torture of civilians. Earlier this year, he was threatened with arrest after revealing the Indonesian military’s involvement in the assassination of political activists in Aceh. And just today he has published on his website, allannairn.com, details of leaked Indonesian documents he says reveal Kopassus’s engagement in, quote, "murder [and] abduction" and the targeting of "churches in West Papua and [defining] civilian dissidents as the 'enemy.'" We are joined by Allan Nairn in Jakarta right now. The documents are posted on his website at allannairn.com.

Allan, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you start off by responding to President Obama’s visit to Indonesia, the first visit since his childhood?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, it’s nice to be able to go back to where you grew up, but you shouldn’t bring weapons as a gift. You shouldn’t bring training for the people who are torturing your old neighbors. Obama said in his press conference that he wants to reach out to the Muslim world. He said there’s been misunderstanding and mistrust. Well, one way to start reaching out would be to the Muslims, and also the Christians and the Hindus, Buddhists in Indonesia, cut out all U.S. support for the Indonesian army that has killed hundreds of thousands of Indonesian civilians, as well as civilians in formerly occupied East Timor, and for the rest of the Muslim world, stop attacking Afghanistan, Iraq, stop the drone raids on Pakistan, Yemen, Kenya, elsewhere. That would be the beginning of a meaningful outreach: stopping your criminal acts.

But Obama is not willing to do that, because he inherited a U.S. apparatus that worldwide, in dozens of countries, backs forces that kill civilians, and he elected to let it keep on running as it was, to keep it set on "kill." The people who advised Bush or backed Bush now praise Obama. They say that he has continued the Bush approach. And he has. In fact, he has made it even worse by intensifying the attacks on Afghanistan and opening up a new front of open war in Pakistan. So, the sentiment about Obama’s return home would be more meaningful if he didn’t bring violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Allan, we’re going to break. We’re going to come back to you, and we’re going to try to call you back to get a better line. Allan Nairn is an award-winning investigative journalist and activist. He’s speaking to us from Jakarta, where President Obama has just arrived. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

:: Article nr. 71665 sent on 09-nov-2010 17:48 ECT


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