Subject: AT: TNI Wins With Bush's Re-Election [+Hassan Wants Military Ties]

also: Indonesian minister hopes post-poll US will restore military cooperation

Asia Times November 5, 2004

A Win for Indonesia's Military

By Gary LaMoshi

DENPASAR, Bali - Indonesia's military scored a major victory this week without firing a shot. The re-election of US President George W Bush ensures restoration of full military ties between the US and Indonesia, including millions of dollars in aid, and also ensures that US demands for military reform will remain muted. That's bad news for democracy in Indonesia and the United States' standing in Indonesia in the long run.

In addition to its symbolic value as the world's largest predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia also lies along the strategically vital Strait of Malacca shipping lanes. But the Bush administration has seen Indonesia largely through the prism of its "war on terror", and despite a brief presidential fly-in last year, the administration's policy has mainly been one of neglect (see Bush in Bali: Hello, you must be going, October 29, 2003).

The administration of president Bill Clinton cut off aid to the Indonesian military, known by its Indonesian abbreviation TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia), in 1999 after TNI-backed militias, if not army units, killed hundreds in East Timor. However, as part of its declared "war on terrorism", the Bush administration wants to get back into bed with TNI.

Indonesia's then-president Megawati Sukarnoputri's lucky star made her the first foreign leader to visit the White House after September 11, 2001. She secured a promise of increased aid, including funding for the police force that, until 1999, was part of the military. After the Bali bombings of October 2002, the US, its ally Australia, and other countries have stepped up cooperation with the police.

Help, police

While the police gained stature for cracking the Bali case (see Police earn 'A', Megawati gets 'F', November 29, 2002), the increased engagement with the West hasn't encouraged deep reform. Endemic corruption has not eased; a police job in Bali requires a gratuity of Rp20 million (US$2,200) despite a salary of Rp500,000 per month. Last month, police stood by as Muslim vigilantes sacked a bar in Jakarta for serving alcohol during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. While the attackers wore the robes of Islam, these attacks are often associated with payoffs or failure to make them.

In his valedictory address at the end of his tenure in Jakarta, US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce called the failure to reinstitute full military ties as his biggest disappointment. Boyce laid the blame on TNI for failing to reform. The carrot of restored US aid hasn't encouraged TNI to change meaningfully.

It's been a very good four years for the Indonesian military during Bush's watch. TNI remains dominated by henchmen of deposed president Suharto and his autocratic regime. No military officers have been convicted for the atrocities in East Timor, or the murder of Theys Eluay, leader of a peaceful separatist movement in Papua. The war against separatists in resource-rich Aceh in the far western corner of the archipelago grinds on with widespread reports of abuses against civilians, lucrative shakedown opportunities, and no prospect of a political settlement.

Despite giving up its appointed seats in parliament, TNI remains deeply enmeshed in politics. TNI has not scrapped its regional command system of troops posed in the provinces, a remnant of its "dwi fungsi " (dual function) doctrine that put it in charge of internal security. Suharto's last chief of staff, Wiranto, under United Nations indictment for his role in the East Timor killings, won the former ruling party's nomination for the presidency and nearly made it to a runoff against another former general, newly elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who appointed Wiranto's successor, retired admiral Widodo A S, as his top minister for political, security and legal affairs.

Play ball

Rather than push for reform, the Bush administration has shown it's willing to play ball with the brass in the name of fighting terrorism. Ironically, TNI bears a great deal of the responsibility for unleashing the forces of radical Islam behind Indonesia's most recent terror attacks. The military's support of jihad against Christians in Ambon and central Sulawesi gave Muslim militants legitimacy and a fertile breeding ground. That was part of generals' campaign to destabilize the regime of then-president Abdurrahman Wahid, who threatened real military reform, a campaign that included the 1999 bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange Building (see Terrorism links in Indonesia point to military, October 8).

None of that seems to matter to the Bush administration. The US Justice Department has endorsed the indictment of a petty crook for the attack on a convoy of Americans and Indonesians working at the Freeport MacMoRan mine in Papua in 2001, when all signs point to military involvement. (see Terrorism key in US support for Indonesian army, September 23). That incident has been the latest roadblock to resumed military aid. Expect the second Bush administration to fight to sweep this attack under the rug and sweep aside congressional opposition.

Embracing TNI distances the US from the forces of reform and democracy in Indonesia, and carries a double or triple whammy for long-term US interests. The most successful reform party in Indonesia's new parliament is the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and former president Wahid, a Muslim cleric, remains the leading figure of reform and moderate Islam. Despite its use of Muslim militants to do its dirty work as far back as the mass killing after the 1965 coup that deposed founding president Sukarno in favor of Suharto, TNI is seen as an enemy of Islam in Indonesia.

Low ratings

Under Bush, specifically since the invasion of Iraq, favorable impressions of the United States plummeted from 61% to 15%. Even though it has been a victim of Muslim terrorists, Indonesians largely see the "war on terror" as a war on Islam, and the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East, featuring unwavering support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and opposition to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, as well as the occupation of Iraq, are red meat for radical Islam and push Muslim reformers toward anti-Americanism.

Despite Indonesia's strategic and symbolic importance, the Bush administration hasn't made Indonesia a priority. The country's 220 million people in need of economic and political help are likely to continue to take a back seat to Thailand and its Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, with his free-market rhetoric and authoritarian streak, as well as Singapore and even Malaysia, among US favorites in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations group.

The second Bush term may feature a larger role for Paul Wolfowitz, the current deputy secretary of defense. Wolfowitz was a respected ambassador to Indonesia in the 1980s, though that may have had to do with his then-wife, a student of Javanese culture. Despite its lip service to building bridges to the Islamic world and the vital plank Indonesia could play in it, Wolfowitz has never traveled to Indonesia as an emissary of goodwill. In fact, he's one of the architects of the Iraq invasion that has destroyed US standing in Indonesia. The Bush administration's neglect of the past four years could wind up looking good compared with the four years ahead.

Gary LaMoshi, a longtime editor of investor rights advocate eRaider.com, has also contributed to Slate and Salon.com. He has worked as a broadcast producer and as a print writer and editor in the United States and Asia. He moved to Hong Kong in 1995 and now splits his time between there and Indonesia.

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BBC Monitoring November 4, 2004, Wednesday Source: Radio Elshinta, Jakarta, in Indonesian 0534 gmt 4 Nov 04

Indonesian minister hopes post-poll US will restore military cooperation

Foreign minister says Indonesia hopes for boosted military ties with US

The Indonesian government hopes that George W. Bush who has been re-elected as US president, will strengthen bilateral relations, particularly in military cooperation.

This statement was made by Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayudha after he met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the State Palace today. Hasan told reporters that Indonesia also hopes that the US government will increase cooperation in the war on terrorism.

[Hasan Wirayudha] Actually, at the government level, we have known for the past several years that the US administration wanted to better military relations with Indonesia. In other words, normalization of military cooperation between the two countries.

The obstacle was not in government but in Congress. Some US Congressmen saw that Indonesia had particular problems such as human rights, which had become a factor in the normalization of military cooperation.

[Unidentified Elshinta correspondent] Minister Hasan Wirayudha added that Indonesia also hoped for better cooperation with the US government in education.


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