Albion Monitor /News

U.S. Training Indonesian Death Squads

Monitor Wire Services

In defiance of Congress
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has skirted the law and provided direct military training of Indonesian troops linked to genocide and other human rights abuses, although Congress explicitly ordered the end to all such assistance to Indonesia in 1995, according to a report issued this week.

On Tuesday, U.S. journalist Allan Nairn, the East Timor Action Network and members of the U.S. Congress released Pentagon documents revealing ongoing U.S. training of the feared KOPASSUS special forces and other Indonesian military groups.

Shortly after the announcement, Nairn was detained in Jakarta by Indonesian security forces. He is being questioned and expected to be deported.

Close link with U.S. Defense Secretary
The documents reveal that although Congress curtailed military aid to the Suharto regime, the Pentagon found a way to fund the Indonesians through a program that was technically different than the program specifically outlawed.

Banned in 1992 was the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which taught combat skills. Parts of the program were restored in the next two years, before Congress declared in 1995 that Indonesia would only receive classroom instruction, including human rights training.

But The New York Times quoted a Pentagon official as saying that direct military funding continued using "a different pot of money." The new program, called Joint Combined and Training (J-CET), continued where IMET had ended.

Since 1992, at least 28 military exercises are known to have taken place with the Army or Air Force. KOPASSUS took part in twenty of those exercises, according to Pentagon documents obtained by Nairn.

The Pentagon could not tell reporters what J-CET training cost, how many troops were involved, or what officers ran the program, according to The Times.

Rep. Lane Evans ( D -Illinois ), who participated in the announcement by the East Timor Action Network, conceded the training was legal, though it was a "Pentagon loophole to the ban."

This announcement comes just days after an Australian diplomat publicly warned his government to dissociate itself from Indonesia's armed forces because of the possibility that the military might use force in suppressing rioting and political dissent sparked by the country's deepening economic crisis.

Asking diplomat Brigadier Jim Molan for comment on KOPASSUS training, reporter Nairn was told that he should "call the U.S. embassy," according to an editorial by Nairn in the March 30 edition of The Nation.

His cryptic remark is better understood after reading Nairn's editorial, which explains that high-level U.S. officials, including Defense Sec'y William Cohen and Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth visited KOPASSUS officials frequently.

Writes Nairn, Cohen "raised eyebrows in Jakarta by going to KOPASSUS headquarters. Spending three hours by [Suharto son- in- law, General, and KOPASSUS Commander] Prabowo's side, he watched as the U.S.- trained killers executed maneuvers for their sponsors in Washington."

Witness to 1991 E Timor massacre
The U.S. military is now training forces that have been deployed against demonstrators this year, said the East Timor Action Network, a group backed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta.

General Wiranto, chief of Indonesia's military forces, has threatened to crack down hard on student demonstrators and other opponents of the regime, which is facing its greatest social and economic crisis since President Suharto seized power in 1965.

Besides KOPASSUS -- which has already been deployed against demonstrators -- the United States trained a strategic unit called Kostrad that controls much of Java, the most important section of Indonesia. Also trained was Suharto's Presidential Guard. Wiranto did not indicate which units would be used during a crackdown.

Nairn and WBAI/Pacifica reporter Amy Goodman survived the November 12, 1991 massacre in Dili, East Timor, where they witnessed the killing of about 270 civilians by Indonesian troops.

Nairn, an award-winning journalist, was severely beaten and banned from Indonesia as a "threat to national security" after he was injured while attempting to stop the the massacre. In 1994, he was granted a temporary visa to cover the APEC summit. Recently, after being turned away at a border crossing in rural Sumatra, he succeeded in re-entering Indonesia without the Army's knowledge.

When detained on Wednesday his questioners cited "national security violations," according to Nairn in a phone call to Washington. His questioners also asked about his contacts with Indonesians and whether he was in Indonesia to cover the IMF bailout, the group reported.

In related news, students fought this week with police as rallies begin to move to the streets.

While President Suharto swore in his cabinet on Monday, March 16, about 500 students clashed with police officers in the streets of Jakarta. The off-campus rally only lasted seconds; police rushed in after students attempted to leave campus and take their protest to the street but were clubbed back by police.

Analysts think it is only a matter of time before more severe action may be necessary to maintain order.

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Albion Monitor March 19, 1998 (

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