Thursday, December 28, 2006
Allen Nairn, a journalist with extensive experience with Indonesia and East Timor, elaborates further:
AMY GOODMAN?: Brad, you recently got documents declassified about President Ford and his role in 1975, in meeting with the long reigning dictator of Indonesia, Suharto. Can you explain what you learned?
BRAD SIMPSON: Yes. Gerald Ford actually met twice with Suharto, first in July of 1975 when Suharto came to the United States. And later in December of 1975, of course, on the eve of his invasion of East Timor. And we now know that for more than a year Indonesia had been planning its armed takeover of East Timor, and the United States had of course been aware of Indonesian military plans. In July of 1975, the National Security Council first informed Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford of Indonesia’s plans to take over East Timor by force. And Suharto of course raised this with Gerald Ford in July when he met with Gerald Ford at Camp David on a trip to the United States. And then in December of 1975 on a trip through Southeast Asia, Gerald Ford met again with Suharto on the eve of the invasion, more than two weeks after the National Security Council, CIA, other intelligence agencies had concluded that an Indonesian invasion was eminent. And that the only thing delaying the invasion was the fear that US disapproval might lead to a cut-off of weapons and military supplies to the regime.
AMY GOODMAN: How knowledgeable was President Ford at the time of the situation?
BRAD SIMPSON: Well, Ford was very much aware. He was receiving hourly briefings, as was Henry Kissinger, as his plane lifted off from Indonesia, as the invasion indeed commenced. And immediately afterwards Gerald Ford flew to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or to Guam—excuse me, where he gave a speech saying that never again should the United States allow another nation to strike in the middle of the night, to attack another defenseless nation. This was on Pearl Harbor Day, of course. Realizing full well that another day of infamy was unfolding in Dili, East Timor. As thousands of Indonesian paratroopers, trained by the United States, using US supplied weapons, indeed jumping from United States supplied airplanes, were descending upon the capital city of Dili and massacring literally thousands of people in the hours and days after December 7, 1975.
AMY GOODMAN: Now documents, Allan Nairn that you did get declassified were a memo that involved Henry Kissinger, again, it was Kissinger and Ford that gave the go ahead for the invasion when they visited Suharto, the long-reigning dictator. And that was information they were getting as they flew out of Indonesia through to Guam and Pearl Harbor, as Brad Simpson described. But what about those documents and Kissinger's reaction?The Ford family didn't release a cause of death. One suspects that he died quietly in his sleep, after a long, relaxed retirement replete with many rounds of golf. It seems that people like him always do, undisturbed by the consequences of their actions.
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, Kissinger, and Ford, they, one of the points they made to Suharto, was that you have to try to get this invasion over with quickly. And Kissinger when he-- they wanted them to go in intensively, presumably kill as many Timorese as they could quickly. So that it wouldn't get international attention, and also, apparently they were worried that it could get attention in Congress. Because Ford and Kissinger knew that by authorizing this invasion, they were technically violating US law. Because the US weapons laws at the time stated US weapons given to foreign clients could not be used for purposes of aggression. And this was in the judgment of the State Department's own legal analysts, this looked like it would be an act of aggression if Indonesia were to invade East Timor, and that could, technically, if Congress got wind of it and started to pay attention to it, be grounds for stopping, cutting off US weapons supply to Indonesia.
That would have been devastating for the invasion of Timor because about 90% of the Indonesian weapons were coming from the US and they needed spare parts, they needed ammunition, they needed a re-supply. And it also would have been dangerous for the regime of Suharto which was based on repression within Indonesia and needed those weapons to keep their own population down. So Kissinger, in his internal discussions within the state department, was pressing his people to make sure that all information about Timor be kept under wraps. They didn’t want the US Congress paying too much attention to it. As it turned out, I think Kissinger was giving Congress a little too much credit because there was not much evidence at the time that apart from a few members like then-Congressman Tom Harkin, that there was much interest in probing what the US was doing. But Kissinger knew this was an illegal operation so he was trying to keep it quiet.