US, Church Documents Show Adm. Dennis
Blair Knew of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting by
Adm. Blair Poor Choice as Director of
National Intelligence, Says Rights Group
Blair’s History with Indonesia and East
Timor Raises Questions about Likely Nominee
Contact: John M. Miller, +1-718-596-7668,
Ed McWilliams, +1-703-899-5285
January 7 - The East Timor and Indonesia
Action Network (ETAN) called Adm. Dennis Blair “a poor
choice for intelligence director." The group urged
President-elect Obama to reconsider the nomination, and make
a break from past policies that have undermined human rights
"During his years as Pacific Commander,
Blair downplayed human rights concerns. He actively worked
to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties with
Indonesia's military despite its ongoing rights violations
in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John
M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.
"Admiral Blair undermined U.S. policy in the
months preceding the U.S.-supported and UN-sponsored
referendum in East Timor in 1999," said Ed McWilliams, a
senior U.S. embassy official in Jakarta at the time. "While
senior State Department officials were pressing the
Indonesian military to end the escalating violence and its
support for militia intimidation of voters, Blair took a
distinctly different line with his military counterparts. As
Pacific Commander, his influence could have caused the
military to rein in its militias. Instead, his virtual
silence on the issue in meetings with the Indonesian
generals led them and their militias to escalate their
attacks on the Timorese."
extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation
against the East Timorese and the UN teams in
East Timor following the Timorese vote for
independence from Indonesia transpired in part
because of Blair's failure to press U.S.
Government concerns in meetings with the
Indonesian general," said McWilliams.
"Blair's actions in 1999 demonstrated the
failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's
behavior; his actions helped to reinforce impunity for
senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day,”
"The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian
retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in
East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from
Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to
press U.S. Government concerns in meetings with the
Indonesian general," said McWilliams.
In April 1999, just days after Indonesian
security forces and their militia proxies carried out a
brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message
of 'business-as-usual' to Indonesian General Wiranto, then
Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East
Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest
possible restoration of military assistance, despite
Indonesia's highly destructive exit from the territory.
As Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific
Command from February 1999 to May 2002, Blair was the
highest ranking U.S. military official in the region during
the final period of Indonesia’s violent occupation of East
Timor. During that time he undermined the Clinton
administration's belated efforts to support human rights and
self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and
opposed congressional efforts to limit military assistance.
In April 1999, Blair met in Jakarta with
General Wiranto, then the Defense Minister and the commander
of Indonesian forces, just two day after dozens of refugees
in a Catholic church in the town of Liquica, East Timor were
hacked to death with machetes by militia members backed by
the military (including Kopassus) and Brimob troops.
Instead of pressuring Wiranto to shut down
the militias, Blair promised new military assistance, which
the Indonesian military "took as a green light to proceed
with the militia operation," according to
Nairn, writing in the Nation magazine. In fact just
weeks later, refugees from the attack in Liquicia were again
attacked and killed in the capital in Dili.
Nairn reported that a classified cable
summarizing the meeting said that Admiral Blair "told the
armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when
[the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the
region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his
guest... [Blair] expects that approval will be granted to
send a small team to provide technical assistance to...
selected TNI [Indonesian military] personnel on crowd
control measures." Nairn writes that the last offer was
"quite significant, because it would be the first new U.S.
training program for the Indonesian military since 1992."
Simpson writes "According to top secret CIA intelligence
summary issued after the [Liquica] massacre, however (and
recently declassified by the author through a Freedom of
Information Act request), 'Indonesian military had colluded
with pro-Jakarta militia forces in events preceding the
attack and were present in some numbers at the time of the
In the bloody aftermath of East Timor's
independence vote, "Blair and other U.S. military officials
took a forgiving view of the violence surrounding the
referendum in East Timor. Given the country's history, they
argued, it could have been worse," reported the
Washington Post's Dana
U.S.-trained Indonesian military officers
were among those allegedly involved in crimes against
humanity in East Timor. "But at no point, Blair
acknowledges, did he or his subordinates reach out to the
Indonesian contacts trained through IMET or JCET
[U.S.-funded programs] to try to stop the brewing crisis,"
wrote Priest. "It is fairly rare that the personal relations
made through an IMET course can come into play in resolving
a future crisis," he told her.
Despite Blair's repeated overtures and
forgiving attitude to Indonesia's military elite, they were
of no help in his post-military role as chair of the
Indonesia Commission at the influential Council on Foreign
Relations. In 2002, Blair headed a delegation of observers
who intended to visit West Papua. The government refused to
let them in, with the Foreign Minister declaring that "there
is no need for them to come to Papua."
The reason was clear: West Papua has become
the new focus of Indonesian military and militia brutality
and outside observers are not welcome. Though Blair's dream
of renewed military engagement with Indonesia has been
realized under the Bush administration, the Indonesian
military's human rights violations continue, as does
impunity for its senior officers.
General Wiranto was indicted in February 2003 by a
UN-backed court in East Timor for his command role in the
1999 violence. The attack on the Liquica church is among
the crimes against humanity cited in the indictment. He is
currently a leading candidate for President of Indonesia in
elections to take place next year.
ETAN was formed in 1991.
The U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice
and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. ETAN was a
major participant in the International Federation for East
Timor's (IFET) observer mission for the 1999 referendum. For
more information see ETAN's web site:
Join ETAN on Facebook
Church Documents Show Adm. Dennis Blair Knew
of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting.
By Allan Nairn
On the eve of his Senate confirmation hearing (due for 10am,
Thurs. Jan. 22), new information has emerged showing that Adm.
Dennis Blair -- President Obama's nominee for US Director of
National Intelligence -- lied about his knowledge of a terrorist
massacre that occurred before a pivotal meeting in which Blair
offered support and US aid to the commander of the massacre
The massacre took place on at the Liquica Catholic church in
Indonesian-occupied East Timor two days before Blair met
face-to-face with the Indonesian armed forces commander, Gen.
Wiranto (the massacre occurred on April 6, 1999; Blair and
Wiranto met April 8).
A classified US cable shows that rather than telling Wiranto to
stop the killing, Blair invited Wiranto to be his guest in
Hawaii, offered him new US military aid, and told the Indonesian
general that he was "working hard" on his behalf, lobbying the
US government to restore US military training aid for Indonesia.
(That training had been cut off by Congress after the 1991 Dili,
Timor massacre; for an account of the US cable and the April 8,
'99 Blair-Wiranto meeting see News and Comment posting of Jan.
6, 2009 at
Blair's support at that crucial April 8 meeting buoyed Wiranto,
and his forces increased the Timor killings, which came to
include new attacks on churches and clergy, mass arsons, and
political rapes. (For a detailed chronology based on a UN
report, see News and Comment posting of Jan. 9, 2009 at
Since I disclosed the contents of that Blair-Wiranto meeting in
a report filed in 1999 (see Allan Nairn, "US Complicity in
Timor," The Nation [US], Sept. 27, 1999, reprinted in the Jan. 6
'09 News and Comment posting referenced above), Blair has
defended himself by claiming that he went into the meeting with
Wiranto not yet knowing of the Liquica massacre.
The Associated Press reported this month, in a
January 9 dispatch: "Blair has said he only learned of the
massacre a few days after the meeting." (Pamela Hess, "Obama to
finalize national security team Friday," Associated Press,
Friday Jan. 9, 2009, 4:22 am ET; Blair made the same claim to
the Washington Post: Dana Priest, "Standing
Up to State and Congress," September 30, 2000).
But now, contemporaneous records have emerged -- from the US
Embassy in Jakarta, and from the Catholic Church -- showing that
the massacre was publicly described by Timor's Bishop one day
before the Blair-Wiranto meeting, and that while Blair was in
Jakarta preparing for the meeting, US officials who were there
with him were discussing the massacre in graphic detail.
One written message from a US official even noted: "In the face
of the scores of horrible slash wounds at Liquica, there are no
surgeons to treat them."
The US official was referring to the fact that, as had been
disclosed at the Timor Bishop's April 7 press conference, dozens
of refugees sheltering in the church had been hacked to death
with machetes, but as Blair and Wiranto prepared to meet, some
those slashed were still living.
Another Jakarta dispatch by senior US personnel written prior to
the Blair-Wiranto sitdown refers explicitly to Blair's presence,
to his impending meeting with Wiranto, and, crucially, to the
detail and rough death toll of the already-known Liquica
"[W]e have the CINCPAC here today (Command[e]r in Chief of the
Pacific]," the message said, referring to Blair by title; and it
stated, in regard to what Wiranto's men had done: "Now we may
have 40 people -- who were cowering in a church -- dead."
Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, had
made the key facts of the massacre clear in his
1999 press conference, which took place the day before the
Belo was accompanied by Father Rafael Dos Santos, the Liquica
pastor who survived the massacre. Their authoritative accounts
received same-day coverage in the Western and local press and
were also recounted in church bulletins and in US intelligence
and diplomatic traffic.
For Blair to claim that he did not know of these materials or
his US colleagues' discussions taking place all around him is to
strain credulity to the breaking point, especially since he's
being nominated as intelligence chief, and since his meeting
with Wiranto was cleared by Washington precisely to address the
Bishop Belo and Father Dos Santos said the following in their
publicly broadcast remarks. This account is excerpted from "Timorese
Bishop says more than 25 killed in church massacre," DILI,
East Timor, April 7 , (AFP):
"Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo accused
Indonesian-backed militia on Wednesday [April 7] of massacring
more than 25 people in East Timor outside a church. Belo was
speaking at a press conference with Father Rafael Dos Santos who
described how refugees sheltering in his church and home at
Liquisa [an alternate spelling of Liquica], 30 kilometers (20
miles) west of the Timorese capital Dili, were hacked down with
machetes. Dos Santos said Indonesian mobile brigade police stood
behind the militia during the attack, and fired into the air.
When the attack began 'people ran for cover wherever they
could,' he said. Some ran into his house and some into the
church before being forced out when troops fired teargas into
the buildings. 'When they came out of the church, their eyes
streaming, they were mown down, hacked to death with machetes,
by the Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron militia),' he said
... Belo travelled to Liquisa earlier Wednesday to visit the
site of the attack with Indonesia's East Timor military
commander Colonel Tono Suratman. 'I have a paper from the
military commander that there were 25 bodies inside the priest's
house,' he said, 'but according to other witnesses outside
around the church there were other bodies. I don't know exactly
how many.' Belo had been quoted by the Portugese news agency
Lusa on Tuesday [April 6] as saying he had first been informed
by the Indonesian military of the deaths of 40 people in the
church and five in the priest's house... 'Firstly I am sad, for
what happened in Liquisa ... secondly I am ashamed to be a
citizen of the (Indonesian) republic. It has taken us back to
the middle ages,' Belo said."
We shall now see where the Senate takes us.
(For another contemporaneous -- April 7, pre - Blair/Wiranto
meeting -- public report of the massacre see the report of
Yayasan HAK, the leading independent East Timorese human rights
group, summarized at