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A Dark Past in East Timor for Obama's National Intelligence Nominee

User @DemocracyNow broke the news on Twitter:

New Trouble For An Obama Nominee: Admiral Dennis Blair Aided Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings In East Timor:..

And was followed by @gregtheveg:

Obama CIA Nominee involved in East Timor genocide

So did @giantpandinha on this tweet

How Obama's new intel chief screwed over Timor

And @allisonkilkenny on this this one

Dennis Blair, Nominee for Dir. of National Intel Connected to E. Timor Massacre


These are just a few examples of what citizen journalists have been tweeting regarding the nomination of Admiral Denis C. Blair as Barack Obama's choice to be the US Director of National Intelligence. And this should lead us to embark on our own fact-finding mission to establish the veracity of these serious accusations which the retired United States Navy official faces: during his tenure as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, he would have played a critical role in backing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in the 1990's, an invasion that led to the killing of approximately 1,400 Timorese and the displacement of 300,000 people. Did Intelligence Chief Aid Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings of East Timor Civilians?, asks twitter user @samsimon.

Allan Nairn has a comprehensive and shocking overview of the nomination implications on his blog, bearing in mind that in 1999, “in the midst of massacres of East Timor civilians and churches, Admiral Blair gave support to the perpetrators, the armed forces of Indonesia.”:

Two days after a massacre at Liquica that left flesh hanging from the church walls, Blair contacted the Indonesian commander, offered him US aid, and according to classified US cables, failed to tell him to stop the attacks. Reassured by the evident support from Blair, then the US Pacific Command chief, the Indonesian commander, General Wiranto, escalated the attacks.

The Indonesian forces subsequently struck the Red Cross and the Bishop's residence, killing more than a thousand as they went, burning churches and raping nuns.

They were trying to derail a free election, taking place under UN auspices, that eventually ended Jakarta's illegal occupation of East Timor.

Readers of Timor Loosae Nação published the piece of news and commented on it, concluding that the U.S. foreign policy does not change with the change of the President:

A noticia anterior e um grande tabefe para os timorenses que se jubilaram pela eleicao de Obama.

“The piece of news above is a big slap in the face for Timorese who rejoiced at the election of Obama.”

Another piece of news, published here, raised a controversial discussion. Robert Merkel started by saying:

This attitude – that keeping the Indonesian military happy was more important than saving the East Timorese – was very common amongst western diplomats dealing with Indonesia back in 1999 and earlier. It was a pretty slimy piece of realpolitik, but understandable; relations between Indonesia and western countries (particularly Australia, the closest, who took the major role in the peacekeeping operation that oversaw the transition to independence) did take a beating after East Timor's independence.

To which Erik coldly replied:

yes – we must be careful. The needs of the Indonesian dictatorship had to be carefully weighed against the Timorese people. After all, although we are discussing great numbers of deaths in relative terms – more than 10 per cent of their population, it was a small number in absolute terms – only 1-2 hundred thousand deaths. When you look at this you realize why realpolitik reasons would triumph.

A very different point of view is given by Gary Farber, from Amygdala. He has a very factual post with a lot of references, and is disgusted with other bloggers’ apathy:

More confirmation (unofficially, still) of the Blair nomination. Where are all the big name left blogs on this? Why is almost everyone silent? Are people going to suddenly discover the problems only after the nomination is official? Why can't I get anyone to listen to me about this, he said forlornly?

The demonstration of outrage about the 1999 crimes has just started, and people have been gathering signatures on a Petition for the Prosecution of Crimes Against Humanity in East Timor. You can find bloggers joining this cause everywhere (check the East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin header).

At the same time, another petition is taking place, concerning specifically Blair's involvement in those crimes. According to John:

Dennis Blair's sordid record when it comes to East Timor and Indonesia disqualifies him for intel chief. The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) has more here or sign their petition here.

Despite all the activism and debate arising online, some doubt Timor will be more than a ‘pebble in the shoe’ for him [Admiral Dennis Blair] while others, like Charles Lemos say that he was following orders after all:

… If he disobeyed orders from the Clinton Administration to deliver a message to Indonesia's military authorities then he clearly is not fit to be Director of National Intelligence. Expect to hear more in the coming days from Indonesia experts on Admiral Blair.

6 comments

  • maenuela

    Há que estar sempre vigilante!

  • […] Global Voices  Print This […]

  • Mrs.Stotts

    New Trouble for an Obama Nominee: Admiral Dennis Blair Aided
    Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings in East Timor

    ALLAN NAIRN: Well, Admiral Blair was involved in supporting the Indonesian armed forces as they were massacring churches in East Timor, as they were killing civilians in 1999 in the run-up to a UN-sponsored free election.That election was due to decide whether East Timor would become independent. The Indonesian army was trying to stop the occupied Timorese from voting for independence, so they set up militias, which went on rampages.

    In one incident, they went into a church in Liquica where refugees were hiding. They massacred them with machetes. Their flesh was found plastered to the walls. Two days after that, Admiral Blair went to meet with the Indonesian commander, General Wiranto, and he gave him reassurances that the US was still behind him. He offered him new US military aid. And even though Blair had been told by the State Department and the White House to tell Wiranto to stop the massacres, Blair did not do that. This is according to classified US cables which I obtained in 1999 and reported in The Nation magazine.

    After that, when people at the State Department heard about what Blair had done, he was told to talk to Wiranto again. He again spoke to Wiranto, on the phone, and again reassured him, offered him new US military aid. Blair even offered Wiranto aid for the specific unit, the Brimob, the paramilitary police who had gone into that church as they chopped up the refugees and chopped up the clergy who were hiding there. General Wiranto naturally took this as reassurance. He escalated the attacks. Wiranto was later indicted for crimes against humanity. Blair has not been held to account.

    And now, they say Obama wants to make him Director of National Intelligence.

    Read the story at;
    part 1 http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/6/dennis_blair_obamas_nominee_for_director

    part 2 http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/7/obama_nominee_admiral_dennis_blair_aided

    Watch the broadcast
    part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIMJG–YolQ

    part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqUy1bsz0eQ

  • Mrs.Stotts

    Did Obama Aide Admiral Dennis Blair Lie to Congress?
    Allan Nairn, Award-winning journalist who has reported from Indonesia for years. In 1999, he broke the story on Dennis Blair’s secret meeting with Indonesian generals to affirm US support for their violent crackdown on East Timorese.

    part 3 read or watch
    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/9/did_obama_aide_admiral_dennis_blair

  • Yi

    If Obama falls into the old ways of his predesessors, and there are other inspirational leaders in America capable of taking him on, we could be looking at lots of mass demonstrations. But that’s it. If Obama listens, as he has in the past, he would realise the importance of getting “little” things like these appointments right, because how else can the “old ways” be done away with if Obama doesn’t do it? He can’t be a politician now. It’s not too late.

  • Steve Barg

    Does anyone have a copy of the cables referenced by Allan Nairn?

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