Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Indonesia and Foreign Policy Update

A May 27th New York Times article describes a recently published study by the New School University based World Policy Institute. The research found that American weapons sales to foreign countries has increased dramatically since September 11th, 2001. This seems to explode the administration smoke-screen that a world armed to the teeth is a threat to America and its people, and that we need to keep powerful weapons out of the hands of dangerous states. "Well," one ignorant American may say, "as long as we are only arming friendly, democratic countries, it is ok". Fair enough, uniformed citizen. But who are we really selling weapons to?
The report reveals that some 2-dozen nations have become first-time recipients, or have been allowed back into such programs after long abscences. The largest of these aid programs, Foreign Military Financing, increased 68 percent from 2001 to 2003 to a $6 billion peak before dropping back to $4.5 billion currently. "More than half of the top 25 recipients in 2003...were countries that the State Department has defined as undemocratic" (NYT). Such nations include Saudi Arabia ($1.1 bill in sales), Egypt ($1 billion), Kuwait ($153 million), and the United Arab Emirates ($110 million).
Some of the countries on the list have serious internal conflicts or poor human rights records, such as Nigeria, Tunisia, and Nepal for example. I hope they have a damn good reason for arming all these people. "Policy makers in Washington have said that the aid is necessary to secure overseas bases or reward allies" (NYT). How about this for conspiracy theory? Maybe we arm all these little countries so they can continue waging war on each other and their own citizenry. Why would the American establishment (the government and it's associated military corporations) do such a thing? Maybe because some of the same politicians that allow this to happen sit on the Board of Directors' of said military contractors. Just a thought. Who stands to gain here? This incessant arming and re-arming of small, warring nations also puts America in a position of greater power over the developing world.
William Hartung, the author of the study, notes that these weapons could actually end up "fueling conflict, arming human rights abusers or falling into the hands of U.S. adversaries". That this even has to be stated reveals the sad state of public awareness of these issues. You do not have to be Noam Chomsky to realize that the sale of weapons will lead to their use. Is this the most responsible approach to our foreign policy interests? you decide. "arming human rights abusers"...this is exactly what we are doing in Indonesia. How? The Times article makes no mention of the Indonesian case, so I located the World Policy Intstitute report myself, and this is only some of what I found :

(Read on, but I suggest you read my February 8th post if you have not already before going any further.)

"one of Condoleezza Rice's first acts as Secretary of State in the Second Bush administration was to certify Indonesia for IMET military training programs over the objections of members of Congress and non-governmental organizations" (mentioned on Feb 8th)
"President Susilo Bambang Tudhoyono recently told reporters 'if we had a stronger military, we could have done a lot more', to bring aid to tsunami victims, and called for fivefold increase in defense spending to build a 'strong and modern military' ". How nice, he is playing the benevolent humanitarian card to call for more American made weapons to support the brutalization of his citizens by an out-of-control military branch.
The report also cites Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on his January, 2005 visit to Jakarta, when he said that military relations are a "resource we need to rebuild". Resource for what? How are our renewed military relations with Indonesia a resource to us? Yes, they are cited as a major player in the War on Terror, but I don't see massive contingents of Indonesian soldiers dying in the streets of Baghdad.
Since the announcment earlier this year of renewed military relations, contact between the 2 militaries has been on the increase. "Indonesian military participated as an obserer in military excercises in October and November 2004, which brought them into contact with the U.S. Navy". Apparently this process began long before the formal announcement was made.
So, considerable tax-payer funds are being invested in this project to arm violent governments around the world. Indonesia is just one interesting example. "For fiscal year 2006, President Bush has requested $800,000 in IMET, up from the $459,000 that Congress froze in 2004. Jakarta also expects to receive $70 million in Economic Support Funds and the $6 million in Anti-Terrorism Activities Funds to train and equip the police SWAT-like counter-terrorism force".
Do you, as a taxpayer, feel comfortable with your money being spent to train a military that consistently attacks its citizens, and represses anyone who dares to speak out? America, is the supposed beacon of "freedom" and "democracy" for the world to follow, and does the citizenry even know what is going on? Of course not. How does our government justify the use of our money in this way? Here's how : "The Congressional Budget justification for 2006 notes that 'Indonesia's contribution to the Global War on terrorism is also a vital U.S. interest". Fine, prove it to me.
In closing, let me re-visit Indonesia's war on it's citizens. In recent months, the situation in West Papua district has remained the same. Indonesian troops continue to jail and kill separatists, destroy villages, and brutalize protesters. I risk repeating myself, but will reiterate. How does this war against the Papuan separatist movement benefit the US? Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc. continues to operate in the contested region. Papuan independence could mean the end of massive profits for the New Orleans based corporation running the worlds largest copper mine. The company earned a net income of $130 million in the first quarter of this year. Revenues were $803 million, more than double the $360 million in the same quarter a year ago (Times Picayune, April 20th). Certain American shareholders would be quite upset if Papua gained independence, and nationalised its mines. If I had the time, I would research its board members, and see what kind of connections they have to the current administration.
Pay attention...


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