'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Sidney Jones 

One of the great ironies of the Bush administration's characterization of its imperial adventures as a global war on terror is the license and rhetorical cover that this characterization has given to repressive regimes throughout the world to pursue their own terroristic policies. From Russia and Chechnya to Turkey and the Kurds to Israel and Palestine, the familiar dynamic in which a powerful state is in conflict with a weaker opponent over issues of regional autonomy or control of natural resources, in the post-911 world, consistently gets re-cast such that the state is nobly fighting a war against terrorists.

A case in point is Indonesia, in places like Aceh, Papua, the Moluccas, and East Timor, under Suharto, Indonesia was one of the most appallingly terroristic regimes of the twentieth century. Suharto is gone but old habits die hard; as recently as 2001, two thousand people were killed in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where the Acehnese desire for independence is in conflict with Indonesia's efforts to control the region's huge reserves of natural gas.

But this fact did not stop the Bush administration from admitting Indonesia into its "coalition of the willing", a club that seems to have a single condition of membership, subservience to US interests. Indonesia was an important addition to the coalition despite its history of state-sponsored terrorism, because it, like Pakistan, is a predominantly Muslim nation.

Given its history and its recent change of fortune regarding the warmness of its relationship to the United States, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the Indonesian government has just expelled the most respected expert on terrorism in South East Asia: (from "JI expert ordered to leave Indonesia", The Age, 6/2/04)

Indonesian authorities have moved to immediately expel one of the foremost experts on terror group Jemaah Islamiah.

Officials hand-delivered a letter to Sidney Jones yesterday, from the Immigration Department of the Justice Ministry of the provincial Jakarta Office, telling her to leave the country by midnight tonight.

The move marks a significant worsening of the dispute between the Indonesian office of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, which Ms Jones heads, and the Indonesian Government.

"We have just got a letter saying 'You are ordered to leave immediately'," Ms Jones said. "Don't let anybody tell you this is not deportation."

Ms Jones failed to get an extension of her work permit several months ago but had expected to stay in Indonesia at least until next week, when her visa expires.

The decision has been criticised by academics and was raised by journalists with President Megawati at a press conference on Monday.

Mrs Megawati denied the decision was related to terrorism.

The most informative commentary I have read on the Sidney Jones story is "The Expulsion of Sidney Jones from Indonesia: Another Cover-Up in the 'War on Terror'?" by Farish A. Noor, in which Noor speculates that Jones is being deported because she uncovered and documented links between the government of Indonesia and Islamist terrorist organizations. Noor implies Indonesia is using these organizations to create chaos and strife in its disputed territories that it can then use as a pretext for further military intervention.

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