By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Nairn and Goodman were allowed to return to Indonesia in 1994 to cover the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Jakarta, but forbidden from visiting Timor. They were arrested three times on that trip: twice while trying to enter Timor and once, after successfully crossing the border, while attempting to announce a press conference about what they‘d seen while there. Nairn sneaked into Indonesia again in 1998 and was arrested and deported once more, this time after holding a press conference in Jakarta to release ”documents showing that unbeknownst to Congress, the U.S. was training the Indonesian army in advanced sniper techniques, urban warfare and psychological operations.“
This past April, shortly after militia members entered a church in the town of Liquisa and hacked between 50 and 75 men, women and children to death with machetes, Nairn returned once more to Indonesia. While in Jakarta, he uncovered evidence of continuing U.S. military assistance to the Indonesian military despite congressional bans, and found documents revealing that just days after the Liquisa massacre, as the U.S. State Department was condemning the military for its ties to the militias, Admiral Dennis Blair, commander of American forces in the Pacific, met with the commander of the Indonesian military, promised to increase U.S. military aid, ”and then he invited him to his house in Hawaii to be his honored guest.“
In August, Nairn covertly entered East Timor. On September 4, the results of a U.N.-sponsored referendum were announced -- 78 percent of East Timorese voted in favor of independence from Indonesia. To punish the Timorese for their presumption, militias trained, supplied and coordinated by, and often interchangeable with, the Indonesian military, began methodically entering houses, evicting and sometimes killing their inhabitants, and destroying what they didn’t steal. Two days after the results were announced, two armed militiamen arrived at the home in which Nairn and another American were staying. ”One was drunk,“ Nairn recalls. ”He was the one the other called commander.“ They were joined by four young men armed with AK-47s. ”It did seem like a bad situation,“ Nairn says with typical understatement.
Nairn was eventually brought to police headquarters in Dili, held for a night, and driven to the U.N. compound. ”That was the beginning of about nine or 10 days when it was impossible to move normally.“ Nairn nevertheless sneaked out of the U.N. compound in the early mornings, ducking into abandoned homes to avoid the militias, which sped through the city streets on motorcycles: ”They would fire into the air and honk their horns as they were about to sack and burn another house.“ Many of the shell casings left in their wake, Nairn says, were American-made.
The U.N. compound was evacuated on September 14, by which point ”people were assuming that if you stayed behind, you would die.“ Everyone left, except Allan Nairn. ”I just walked out the door as the trucks pulled away, and that was that,“ he recalls. ”That was a pretty frightening moment.“
He was picked up the next day and brought to military headquarters to be interrogated. Because he was an American journalist, and a fairly notorious one locally, Nairn says, ”They handled me with kid gloves.“ Nairn‘s keepers did not even confiscate his cell phone, with which, when his guards fell asleep, he was able to call the United States and report back to American radio and television news programs. After six days in detention, including a three-day spell during which Indonesian authorities maintained he would be imprisoned for 10 years for having entered the country at all, Nairn was put on a plane to Singapore. A week later he was in Washington, D.C., testifying before the House Subcommittee on Human Rights about the United States government’s continuing complicity with Indonesian atrocities in East Timor.
Nairn does not hesitate to lay blame for the recent carnage in East Timor squarely at the feet of the Clinton administration. Despite the president‘s posturing during the Kosovo war as the patron saint of human rights, despite the Indonesian military’s enormous vulnerability to American pressure, and despite the extraordinarily brutal excesses committed in Timor throughout the spring and summer, Clinton was unwilling to cut off U.S. arms sales to Indonesia until September 9. ”The final result,“ Nairn says, ”was the destruction of Dili, the razing of every other significant Timorese town, the abduction of half the population, and the death through execution and massacre and, in some cases, hunger of a still-unknown number of Timorese.“
Shortly after his recent talk at USC, Nairn traveled up the coast to San Francisco and then Seattle, speaking to raise money for the reconstruction of East Timor and to raise support for two bills in Congress that would lock in Clinton‘s temporary freeze on U.S. arms sales until Indonesia reins in the militias, which are still spreading terror along the Timorese border. But at long last, he was also singing a victory song: ”Contrary to the wishes of big corporations, contrary to the wishes of the defense contractors, contrary to the wishes of the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon -- the Bush administration fought this, the Clinton administration fought this . . . but they lost. We won.“