US-Funded Paramilitaries in Indonesia Kill with Impunity

John Glaser, January 07, 2013

The bulk of the US’s “counter-terrorism” activity is obviously in Afghanistan-Pakistan and Yemen, what with the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the secret drone war in Pakistan and Yemen. But outside these centers of US aggression, it becomes clear how the ‘war on terror’ has merely replaced previous justifications for what has been a long and consistent policy of supporting state terror.

The Associated Press:

Indonesia’s U.S.-funded police anti-terror squad has killed seven suspected militants recently, reviving allegations that the force is not trying to take suspects alive – a trend that appears to be fueling the very extremism the predominantly Muslim country is trying to counter.

…Haris Azhar, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, an independent human rights group, said it appeared that the suspected militants were victims of “extrajudicial killings” and called for an independent investigation. He said Densus 88’s [the name for the police squad] tactics were driving militancy because they added to feelings among some Muslims that they were under siege.

Indonesia's US-funded paramilitary squads

Indonesia’s US-funded paramilitary squads

The Densus 88 is described as an “anti-terror” squad in order to make it seem like US support has some connection to countering terrorist attacks against the United States. The reality is that Indonesia is using US support to crack down on its own domestic enemies and dissidents.

Since Obama came into office, Indonesia has received more than $1 billion in US aid, plus hundreds of millions in military assistance. In September, Obama proposed another $1.4 billion arms package for Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch has harshly criticized Indonesia for “religious discrimination, impunity, and the deterioration in rule of law,” insisting it “is a recipe for violence, abuses, and lawlessness.”

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country, and it apparently does include some who want the state to be based on sharia law. But there is no direct terrorist threat coming from Indonesia. US support for a strong, militaristic state in Indonesia is based on the same needs its always been based on: geo-politics, for the sake of Washington.

The US has given support to Indonesian crimes and abuse for decades. Indonesia had been committing crimes against the people of East Timor from 1975-1999. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave the terrible President Suharto the green light to invade East Timor, an event which led to tens of thousands of deaths and major army atrocities right off the bat. The US-backed state terror – “the United States was then supplying Indonesia’s military with 90 percent of its arms,” writes Reed Brody of the Nation – lasted through to the Clinton administration and by 1999 the dead totaled somewhere around 200,000-250,000 people.

It had its own specific justifications in the context of the Cold War. And now they aren’t much different in kind, as Obama has insisted on a “strategic pivot to Asia-Pacific” that includes beefing up military support and security guarantees to all our allies in a scheme aimed at containing China’s rising regional influence. Geo-politics is a zero-sum game for the US; if China gains influence, Washington loses some. Therefore, American taxpayers must add one more repressive state to their charitable donations list.




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