East Timor 1975

And 200,000 more

excerpted from the book

Killing Hope

by William Blum


In 1975 Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which lies at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago and which had proclaimed its independence after Portugal relinquished control. It was the beginning of a massacre that continues into the 1990s. By 1989, Amnesty International estimated that Indonesian troops, with the aim of forcibly annexing East Timor, had killed 200,000 people out of a population of between 600,000 and 700,000. The level of atrocity has often been on a par with that carried out against the PKI in Indonesia itself.

The invasion of 7 December 1975-of which, said the New York Times: "By any definition, Indonesia is guilty of naked aggression"-was launched the day after US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger left Indonesia following a meeting with President Suharto.


Columnist Jack Anderson later reported:

'By December 3, 1975, an intelligence dispatch to Washington reported that "Ranking Indonesian civilian government leaders have decided that the only solution in the Portuguese Timor situation is for Indonesia to launch an open offensive against Fretilin, the leading East Timorese resistance movement."

But it was essential to neutralize the United States. For the Indonesian army relied heavily on U.S. arms which, under our laws, could not be used for aggression.

As it happened, President Gerald Ford was on his way to Indonesia for a state visit. An intelligence report forewarned that Suharto would bring up the Timor issue and would "try and elicit a sympathetic attitude."

That Suharto succeeded is confirmed by Ford himself. The United States had suffered a devastating setback in Vietnam, leaving Indonesia as the most important American ally in the area. The U.S. national interest, Ford concluded, "had to be on the side of Indonesia."

Ford gave his tacit approval on December 6,1975... Five days after the invasion, the United Nations voted to condemn the attack as an arrant act of international aggression. The United States abstained. Thereafter, the U.S. delegate maneuvered behind the scenes to resist U.N. moves aimed at forcing Indonesia to give up its conquest.'


Throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s, US State Department officials, in statements to the press and in testimony before Congress, consistently supported Indonesia's claim to East Timor (unlike the United Nations and the European Community), and downplayed the slaughter to a remarkable extent. Meanwhile, the omnipresent American military advisers, the training, the weapons, the helicopter gunships, and all the other instruments indispensable to efficient, modern, counter-insurgency warfare, were kept flowing into the hands of the Indonesian military. This may not be all, for Fretilin reported on a number of occasions that American advisers were directing and even participating in the combat.

Killing Hope