San Francisco demonstrators
What can I do?
Whenever we are confronted with massive institutions like governments
and armies committing crimes against humanity in our name, we might be
tempted to keep silent, convinced that we can do nothing. The case of East
Timor is proof positive that we can make a difference. For 25 years,
Indonesia ruled the illegally occupied East Timor with an iron-fist,
largely supported by the U.S., among others. But, during the 1990's, as
awareness of the East Timor struggle grew, things began to change.
American policy toward Indonesia drastically shifted, with much military
support grinding to a halt. The 24-year military dictator Suharto fell
from power. In the final year of the decade, Indonesian President B.J.
Habibie, responding to growing international pressure, put the choice of
East Timor's independence up to a vote. Despite threats and violence, the
people chose independence. This final victory would have been impossible
without international support for the self-determination movement within
East Timor. But our work isn't over yet. More than 100,000 East Timorese
remain virtual hostages in refugee camps; military-backed militia threaten
East Timor. The U.S. severed all military ties with Indonesia as the
post-ballot violence was happening. But, the U.S. is taking steps to renew
military cooperation with the very same Indonesian military that wrought
havoc on East Timor only a short time ago. And while Indonesia is planning
to try some of those responsible for the mass crimes of 1999 in East
Timor, achieving justice for East Timor requires careful attention.
Experience with East Timor has taught us that our work makes a
difference. We will continue to work to for a secure and prosperous East
Timor, you can too..
Here is how you can help.
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