Subject: NYT: Jakarta bombing & military reform

Also in Thursday, August 7, 2003 The International Herald Tribune

The Jakarta bombing New York Times August 6, 2003

The Jakarta Bombing Indonesia, hit yesterday by its second high- profile terrorist bombing in less than a year, is acquiring a reputation as a soft target for international terrorism. The country's oil, large Muslim population and strategic location are all contributing factors. But as important as anything are the cumulative effects of chronic misgovernment.

It isn't yet clear who is responsible for yesterday's car bombing of the Jakarta Marriott Hotel, which killed 10 to 15 people and injured about 150. Early indications, including the choice of an American-owned target, suggest that Al Qaeda or one of its local affiliates may be involved. Perhaps not coincidentally, two men from one of those affiliates, Jemaah Islamiyah, are now being tried for last year's bombings in Bali, which left more than 200 people dead, many of them Western tourists.

There is nothing inevitable about Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, becoming a haven for terrorists. The characteristic forms of Islam in Indonesia are moderate and tolerant. The main motor of instability there is not religion but repression.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri enjoys far more democratic legitimacy than her predecessors. Sadly, she has not so far used her authority to press for needed reforms. She is not doing nearly enough to subordinate the country's harsh and corrupt military to civilian control and promote the rule of law. Without this, victory over terrorism will be hard to achieve. The Bush administration is right to offer Jakarta help in the common struggle against terrorism. It must also insist, however, that civil liberties and democratic accountability not become the first victims of the Megawati government's enhanced antiterror campaign.

Helping fight terror in Indonesia should not mean handing unchecked power to its already unaccountable army, which remains repressive more than five years after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship. Mrs. Megawati has wrongly indulged the military. She has allowed it to retain excessive influence over economic and political life, let high-ranking officers escape accountability for massacres in East Timor and unleashed a ruthless new campaign against separatists in the province of Aceh. Fighting terror effectively requires winning the cooperation of ordinary Indonesians, not further alienating them through military highhandedness.

Mrs. Megawati's failures do not excuse these or any acts of terrorism. Al Qaeda fanatics are fighting their own international jihad, which has little to do with democracy or Indonesian politics. But misgovernment has helped make Indonesia a soft target. Jakarta can best fight back by speeding its transformation into a more democratic society.


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