Subject: Exp: East Timor's New Ally: Dr. Death

Expresso (Portugal)

14 JUNE 


graphic from

East Timor has acquired a powerful and unexpected new ally, a man some Americans still refer to as Dr Death: Henry Kissinger. In a meeting in New York last month with Xanana Gusmao, Jose Ramos Horta and Constancio Pinto, the former US Secretary of State promised to organize a conference of top US financiers and media figures this autumn, in an effort to drum up investment money and support for East Timor. He also offered to use his considerable influence with the current Republican administration to gain attention and assistance.

The meeting was requested by Ramos Horta, "I had a feeling this might be the right moment, that he might be sensitive and supportive, and I was right," Ramos Horta told the Expresso. According to US government documents, Kissinger and President Gerald Ford, gave their assent to the Indonesian invasion during a meeting with the Indonesian dictator Suharto in Jakarta in 1975, even though US government lawyers had pointed out that such an invasion would be illegal. 16 hours after their meeting, Indonesian paratroopers landed in Dili and started massacring civilians. In a more recent connection, since 1999 Kissinger has donated his services as an unpaid adviser to Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid.

But in recent months Kissinger has also become the target of renewed accusations that he is a "war criminal" for actions as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in the 60s and 70s that allegedly led to atrocities in Timor, Vietnam, Chile and elsewhere. He has also been asked to testify by courts in both France and Argentina which are investigating Latin American death squad activity and other human rights abuses. Last month, to his great discomfort, a request to appear in court reached him in his room at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. He declined the invitation.

But Timorese leaders are not interested in talking about the past. "We can only gain by putting the past behind us and by benefiting from this man's connections to help us in the future," Ramos Horta says, "Why blame only Kissinger? It was the whole Cold War era."

But Kissinger himself felt the need to explain his actions, as if he felt some guilt for the disaster that befell East Timor. "He repeatedly tried to explain the complex global situation of the period. He kept saying again and again that he didn't know of the Indonesian plans, that he thought it would be peaceful like the Indian occupation of Goa," says Constancio Pinto, the official Timorese representative to the USA. "It seems he wants to compensate for the past, presumably he feels some sense of guilt." Ramos Horta had the same impression, "He was frank and sounded apologetic."

Alan Batkin, Vice Chairman of Kissinger Associates, who also attended the meeting, denies this, "Dr Kissinger feels that there is nothing he needs to justify," Batkin said in a telephone interview. "He simply feels the Timorese have suffered a lot and he is happy to help in any way he can. It was a warm and friendly meeting."

Indeed Kissinger expressed his "extreme admiration" for the Timorese resistance, his "sympathy" for their struggle and for the fact that they never received any assistance from a single US administration. He noted that he has "many old friends" in the Bush team whose help he can request.

"Any help would be for free," Ramos Horta notes. "If he can persuade American investors to visit East Timor it would fit our strategy of creating new jobs and new wealth," in petroleum, tourism, fisheries, banking and electronics.


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