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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..

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