Subject: Scripps: Bush Favors Aid for Indonesia, Critics Balk

Scripps Howard News Service
October 12, 2004

Bush Favors Aid for Indonesia, Critics Balk
By LANCE GAY Scripps Howard News Service

WASHINGTON - Two years after a terrorist explosion killed 202 people at a resort in Bali, the Bush administration is weighing increased support for Indonesia in the war against terrorism.

The moves have brought objections from both liberal and conservative groups concerned that the archipelago's corrupt military has not been reformed and is guilty of notorious human rights abuses including murders and rapes on some of the 13,000 islands that make up the nation.

On Tuesday, 45 members of Congress - including Reps. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., and Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I. - said that although Indonesia has made significant progress in adopting political reforms that resulted in the election this month of a new president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the human rights record of Indonesia's military is so bad they cannot support any new military assistance to the country.

"We have grave concerns over the prospects for real military reforms," the lawmakers said in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, urging the administration to hold back plans to ask Congress for an expansion of military assistance to Indonesia.

The Bush administration has not yet officially unveiled its proposal for Indonesia, to be included in the 2006 budget that will be sent to Capitol Hill next February. But Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the U.S. Air Force in the Pacific, said he favors restoring American military relations with Indonesia.

Myers argues that rebuilding a relationship with Indonesia's military would help build stability in the region and assist the United States in the fight against terrorism.

Initially, Indonesia denied that it was being used as a base by Jemmah Islamiya terrorists with connections to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But that all changed Oct. 12, 2002, when an explosion at a Bali nightclub killed 202 people, followed by terrorist attacks on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and attacks on Western businesses on other islands.

With the help of American, Australian and international police organizations, the Indonesian government increased the powers of its civilian police to crack down on terrorists and last year adopted emergency decrees. The United States funneled $17 million into programs to train police and establish an Indonesian counter-terrorism unit responsible for rounding up 109 terrorists blamed for the violence.

Congress has blocked Bush administration proposals to expand that funding to include Indonesia's military forces. The Clinton administration stopped all direct U.S. military assistance, including spare parts for Indonesia's F-16 jets, after the military led a crackdown against the independence movement in East Timor in 1999.

Terrorist analysts with the Center for Defense Information in Washington estimate there are more than 10,000 members of the militant Muslim group Laskar Jihad operating in Indonesia.

Karen Orenstein, Washington coordinator for the East Timor Action Network, a group composed of human rights groups lobbying against any new military aid, said reforms of the Indonesian military needs to be in place before America commits to giving the country any new weaponry.

She said people responsible for violations of human rights in East Timor and other human rights violations remain in control of the country's military. Despite political reforms in Indonesia, the military raises much of its income from a range of illegal and semi-legal means, including prostitution, drug dealing, logging and trafficking in people, she said.

"All military assistance should be withheld until there is justice for human rights," she said.

Dana Dillon, an analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said there has been "an extraordinary transition" in Indonesia's politics in the last six years. Since Indonesia deposed the dictator Suharto in 1997, it has adopted dramatic political reforms that produced the third free election held since Indonesia declared independence from the Netherlands in 1945. The new government takes office Oct. 20.

Dillon said the United States should link any resumption of direct military aid to continued success with the reform program, and ensure that any assistance is withheld if there is backsliding.

 


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