Subject: An appeal for support from ETAN

Dear ETAN Friends,

We sent out the fund appeal below earlier this summer. We are sending it again, as some of you may have missed it. If you have already given, we thank you. If you haven't, please consider a donation. The need remains large and the work continues. Please pass this on to others who may be interested. Thank you.

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September 2003

Dear Friends of East Timor,

I am writing today to request your generous donation to support the crucial work of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).

My partner, Pamela Sexton, and I recently returned from nearly three years in East Timor. We witnessed the moving independence ceremony on May 20 last year, and felt the joy of a people freed from 24 years of violent oppression under Indonesia. On numerous occasions, people thanked us, as members of ETAN, for the vital work that the solidarity group had done to help make that day possible.

Despite independence, however, the painful past of the brutal Indonesian occupation is very much alive for the East Timorese. Elders would tell us stories of terror from the initial 1975 invasion as if it had happened yesterday. My students at the National University would casually discuss loved ones who died in various massacres or compare how many days they had lived in the mountains without food or shelter as the Indonesian military (TNI) and its militias carried out their scorched-earth campaign after the 1999 vote for independence. But the past does not live on only in memories. We saw on a daily basis how people continue to suffer enormously from the destruction of schools, houses, hospitals and other infrastructure and the profound poverty brought about by the war.

As the East Timorese struggle to mourn their losses and rise to the challenge of building a functioning country, it is important for us to make sure that those responsible for their sorrow are held accountable, that justice is done.

For decades, the U.S. government supported the TNI as it committed massive human rights abuses in East Timor. U.S. officials played key roles in facilitating these atrocities. Yet our government's efforts to seek justice or even an accounting for past crimes in East Timor have been dismal. Nevertheless, accountability for both U.S. and Indonesian actions in East Timor's past is critical for a just East Timor, a democratic Indonesia, and a United States that is more respectful of international law and human rights abroad.

Today, ETAN is leading the fight to secure such justice and accountability. ETAN continues to campaign in Congress for an international tribunal on East Timor. ETAN has also rallied Congressional offices to push the Bush administration to release government documents needed to account for the U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic role in the invasion and occupation of East Timor. However, ETAN needs your support to continue this important work.

Indonesia's farcical human rights court for East Timor came to a close in early August, clearly demonstrating that ETAN's justice work is needed more than ever. The court acquitted 12 of 18 defendants, handing down a final sentence of a mere three years for the senior-ranking defendant, General Adam Damiri; he is unlikely to see a day in jail. In a move characteristic of the court's dismal performance, the prosecution has actually appealed the decision, asking instead that Damiri be acquitted. Damiri is heavily involved in the current military assault on Aceh, Indonesia's largest since the invasion of East Timor in 1975.

The Jakarta court has legitimized the Indonesian military's revisionist history that portrays the country's military and police as valiantly trying, but ultimately failing, to prevent the East Timorese from attacking each other in 1999. In spite of this and other flaws, the Bush administration continues to refuse to work for an international tribunal.

Before returning to the United States, Pam and I traveled to the Indonesian regions of West Papua and Aceh, where we interviewed dozens of people suffering from the terror of the TNI. Many military and political leaders responsible for crimes in East Timor are in command of these and other military operations throughout Indonesia today.

As I write, Jakarta's military is conducting a massive attack on Aceh, where the Indonesian government declared martial law on May 19. As in East Timor, the TNI is using U.S. military equipment - including F-16 fighter planes, C-130 transport planes, and OV-10 Broncos - to maim and kill civilians. Unlike several European governments, the Bush administration has not protested the use of U.S.-supplied weapons.

Although the United States withdrew support for the Indonesian military in 1999 (due in large part to the actions of ETAN), today the Bush administration is pushing hard to reverse this positive step and increase "aid" to the TNI. U.S. military support now sends a clear message: The TNI is free to violate human rights with impunity, and can expect continued good relations with Washington.

It is significant and ironic that the Bush administration wants to assist the TNI under the auspices of fighting terrorism. The ample and irrefutable evidence is that this military has carried out terror from one end of the archipelago to the other, and continues to do so.

It is for such reasons that ETAN needs your support more than ever, especially as East Timor fades away from front-page news and TNI-perpetrated atrocities get little notice from the U.S. government. ETAN's solidarity, public education and grassroots political action are vital for the future of East Timor as well as Indonesia. Your generous contribution will give ETAN the resources it needs to continue to fight against assistance to the TNI, and to ensure justice and accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against East Timor from 1975 to 1999.

Please make a contribution to ETAN today. It takes just a minute to make a secure tax-deductible contribution on our website, at http://etan.org/etan/donate.htm.

You can also write a check to "ETAN/U.S." in support of our political advocacy work, or make a tax-deductible donation of over $50 to "A.J. Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN," which supports our educational efforts.

Please mail donations to: ETAN/U.S., PO Box 15774, Washington, DC 20003.

Thank you for your support in this vital effort.

Sincerely, 
Curt Gabrielson 
Watsonville, California


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