“This is a blessing of September 11!” exclaimed the president’s top adviser, as tanks rolled across the border and paratroopers blackened the sky above the enemy’s land–an outlaw state seething with “terrorists” and run by “international criminals.” With embedded media breathlessly narrating the action, the president launched the greatest display of military might the nation had seen in more than a generation, an earth-shaking blitzkrieg that the generals like to call “Shock and Awe.”
That was the scene in Indonesia last week, as the military force responsible for two of the most horrendous campaigns of genocide in the last 50 years stormed into the rebel province of Aceh, vowing to crush a 27-year-old independence movement in just six months. The Indonesian militarists–who killed more than 500,000 people (a conservative estimate) in a CIA-assisted coup in 1965, then slaughtered more than 250,000 East Timorese in an American-backed invasion in 1975 (not to mention the mere thousands they and their paramilitary fronts killed in East Timor in the 1990s)–were back in the saddle and loaded for bear.
They were ordered in by President Megawati Sukarnoputri, a rather feckless leader who was elevated to power on the strength of her famous father’s name but struggled in office–until she failed to prevent a bloody attack by al Qaeda on her homeland and was paradoxically rewarded with new powers and popularity. But as her close ally George W. Bush could tell her, a terrorist hit–like any illicit high–doesn’t last long. You always need another fix. Especially when your economy is sinking beneath the weight of rampant cronyism, corruption, poverty and inequality.
So with the boost from last year’s Bali attack failing, Megawati–or rather, the clique of aggressive hardliners who have come to dominate her inner circle–opted for the patented Bush method of conflict resolution: bomb the bloody bejesus out of ’em! In conscious emulation of the Anglo-American aggression in Iraq–indeed, citing that shining example at every turn–the old Jakarta genocidists unleashed disproportionate firepower (50,000 troops, heavy armor, heavy guns, undisputed air cover) against an economically ravaged civilian population and a lightly-armed force of some 5,000 rebels. In keeping with the Iraqi motif, they also gussied up their campaign with glitzy visuals, “on-message” media massaging–and constant praise of Bush’s “global war on terrorism.”
It was the latter theme that led senior Megawati advisor Rizal Mallarangeng to echo Bush’s American sycophants in declaring the mass murder of September 11 “a blessing,” the New York Times reports. We’re blessed, it seems, because the honorable Mr. Bush has now shown us how to deal with anyone we care to label a “terrorist”–with blood and thunder, collateral damage be damned.
So Megawati broke a tenuous ceasefire by heaping purposely unacceptable demands on the rebels, by demanding, as a precondition for further negotiations, that the rebels renounce any hope of eventual independence, even through peaceful means–a sure-fire guarantee of failure when dealing with an, er, independence movement. When the rebels balked, Jakarta–now swollen with self-righteous indignation at the recalcitrant “evil ones”–brought down the Bush-style iron fist.
For despite the Karl Rovian media makeover, the assault on Aceh is very much in keeping with Indonesia’s proud military traditions. The army has already begun summary executions, including boys as young as 12, The Independent reports. Dozens of civilians–including students and Red Cross personnel–have been massacred in indiscriminate “sweeps” for rebels and “rebel sympathizers,” The Guardian reports. Most ominously, Jakarta announced last week that it will herd up to 200,000 Acehnese civilians into concentration camps, The Times reports. Presumably this is “merely” to deny local support for the rebels, and hold their families hostage–although given the Indonesian military’s recent history, the sky’s the limit. Or perhaps we should say, the grave?
The blitzkrieg is being carried out with hardware and expertise supplied by the Christian Coalition of Bush and Blair. Bush renewed military ties with the genocidist army last year, as a reward for help in, yes, the “war on terrorism.” It was the sainted Colin Powell himself who flew to Jakarta to do the honors. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s British-made warplanes–supplied under Tony Blair’s self-declared “ethical foreign policy”–keep minatory watch in God’s blue heaven.
It’s not all bad news, of course. You’ll be very happy to know that the biggest corporation operating in Aceh is still doing boffo box office despite the carnage, Reuters reports. That would be the Bush Regime’s favorite sucker-outer of unrenewable resources, ExxonMobil. For like Iraq, Aceh possesses an abundance of energy resources; yet also like Iraq–and most other similarly blessed lands as well–Aceh’s energy-exploiters are rich but the people themselves are unaccountably poor.
It’s not all bad news, of course. You’ll be happy to know that Aceh’s biggest corporation is still raking in big bucks despite the carnage, Reuters reports. That would be the Bush Regime’s favorite oil and gas giant, ExxonMobil. For like Iraq, Aceh possesses an abundance of energy resources; yet also like Iraq–and most other similarly blessed lands as well–Aceh’s energy-exploiters are rich but the people themselves are unaccountably poor.
In fact, there has been an interesting confluence between the Bushists, ExxonMobil and war-ravaged Aceh. Last year, Bush intervened in the U.S. courts to quash a lawsuit filed by Aceh natives against the American oil company, which uses Indonesian troops as hired muscle to protect its operations against the local riff-raff. In this, of course, they are not so unique: the Indonesian army rents itself out to all sorts of big corporate cats prowling in the Indonesian jungles, including well-connected Bushist enterprises such as Bechtel, Halliburton, and Freeport Mining.
The Acehnese accused ExxonMobil of colluding with their hired military hands in the murder, rape and torture of civilians. But Bush stepped in, declaring that their lawsuit would “harm American foreign policy interests.” This certainly seems a bit of a stretch–unless, of course, “American foreign policy interests” involves murder, rape and torture by corporate mercenaries. Surely Mr. Bush is not saying that–is he?
By mid-week, the rape of Aceh–massacres, executions, concentration camps and all–had virtually disappeared from the media screen, much like that other recipient of the “blessing of September 11,” the ruined and abandoned land of Afghanistan. The restless addict Bush, craving a fresh hit, patently ignored his Indonesian imitators and instead turned his fevered eyes to Iran, where he hopes to bestow a fresh “blessing” soon. Aceh is irrelevant. The dogs bark, the caravan moves on.
Only the corpses remain behind.
CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org