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Frida Berrigan 212-229-5808 ext. 112


A World Policy Institute Issue Brief, October 2001 
By Frida Berrigan

Indonesia's new president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, finds herself in at a difficult crossroads in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

President Megawati was the first Muslim leader to travel to the White House and pledge her support to President George W. Bush's war against terrorism. As the leader of the world's largest Muslim nation, her visit allowed Bush to deftly counter criticism that the new war on terrorism was a thinly veiled war on Islam. President Megawati condemned the attacks as "barbaric and indiscriminate" and "pledged to cooperate with the international community in combating terrorism."

President Bush promised Megawati more than $700 million in economic aid, including money for police training and civilian courses in defense. He also expressed his desire to resume regular military contact, and lift the embargo on the sale of "non-lethal" weapons to Indonesia. This was viewed as the beginning of a valuable new partnership between the two nations.

Megawati's support for the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan has led to violent protests in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and elsewhere in the nation. She now finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Will she have to choose between friendship with the United States and stability in her country?

Her alliance with the United States has already borne fruit in the form of new economic and military aid. But, in a speech on Monday October 15th, Megawati condemned the military strikes against Afghanistan with strong words, speaking to the anti-American protestors in the streets of Jakarta, engaged in the familiar dance of violence, tear gas and beatings with the police.

A new report from the World Policy Institute, Indonesia at the Crossroads: U.S. Weapons and Military Training, criticizes Washington's use of military and economic aid as an inducement to support the war against terrorism. Report author Frida Berrigan, a Research Associate with the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center says, "As President George W. Bush builds an international coalition to fight terrorism, he is in danger of arming and training some of the Pacific region's worst tools of terror- namely the Indonesian military."

This new alliance, already so destabilizing for Indonesia's new president, also threatens to reverse years of work to curb human rights abuses by the Indonesian military. In the past few years, Congress and the American public, repeatedly horrified at how U.S. weapons and military training have been wielded against the Indonesian people, moved to impose a series of controls that have amounted to an almost complete embargo in the last few years. Restoration of aid is conditioned on the Indonesian military's progress in purging human rights abusers from its ranks, ending impunity and respecting civilian authority. President Bush's offer of police training and "non-lethal" weapons are the first steps towards reversing years of important work.

The Bush administration views the Indonesian military as central to regional economic and political stability and an essential ally in the fight against terrorism. But, as the 17,000-island archipelago bends to the point of breaking beneath the weight of numerous conflicts, severe financial crisis, political volatility and violence in the streets, stability is hard to find and terror is rampant.

Indonesia at the Crossroads: U.S. Weapons and Military Training effectively argues that the Indonesian military is a destabilizing force and an instrument of terror, and asserts that restoration of military aid is dangerously premature.

Major Findings:

  • The legacy of U.S. support for the 32-year dictatorship of General Suharto, which included over a billion dollars worth of U.S. weaponry, cannot be ignored. F-16 fighter planes, attack helicopters, M-16 combat rifles and other U.S. origin weapons were used in the suppression of dissent in East Timor and throughout Indonesia.
  • The Indonesian military still bristles with U.S. origin weapons and benefits from U.S. military training. In the last ten years, the Pentagon exported $328 million in weapons and spare parts to Jakarta.
  • During the same ten-year period, military training has also been significant -- the Pentagon has spent more than $7.5 million on military training for Indonesian soldiers through the International Military Education and Training program (IMET). The Bush administration's budget request for FY2002 includes $400,000 for IMET training; twice the level that was set aside for FY2001.
  • While the newly independent nation of East Timor is on the road to recovery, human rights abuses are still rampant in the provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya and are supported by U.S. weapons and military training. These mineral-rich provinces have legitimate grievances against the central government and share a history marked by colonization and exploitation. Jakarta has responded to calls for autonomy with brutal repression.
  • U.S. corporations-particularly Exxon Mobil in Aceh and Freeport McMoRan in Irian Jaya-have developed synergistic relations with the Indonesian military. Monies paid to the military to protect the corporation's investments in the war torn provinces are funneled into military operations. Thus the military has strong incentives for prolonging and exacerbating conflict in Aceh and Irian Jaya.

It is imperative that the Indonesian military be held accountable for its grisly history of human rights abuses. President Megawati must be encouraged to address the root causes of conflicts in Aceh, Irian Jaya and elsewhere and begin the process of uncovering and reconciling Indonesia's legacy of human rights abuses and massacres. This is the work of countering state-sponsored terrorism and until it is done, the Bush administration cannot be allowed to restore military aid and training under the rubric of fighting terrorism.



Frida Berrigan 
Research Associate, World Policy Institute 
66 Fifth Ave., 9th Floor 
New York, NY 10011 
ph 212.229.5808 x112 
fax 212.229.5579

see also: U.S.-Indonesia Military Ties Page

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