September 10, 1999


In interpreting the public statements of the Clinton administration, it is usually necessary to employ the reversibility principle: that is, take whatever they say and simply assume that the exact opposite is the case. Therefore, the headline, when I read it, made me immediately nervous: "No U.S. Troops to Timor." Uh oh, I thought: the troops are on the way!


The next day, my suspicions were exacerbated, if not confirmed, by the President's statement that "no decision has been made" as to the role US troops will play in a proposed United Nations "peacekeeping" force. If they cannot control the situation in East Timor, "the Indonesian government must – I repeat, must – invite an international peacekeeping force in," said Clinton, in what was clearly a threatening tone. This is the kind of "invitation" that Slobodan Milosevic was asked to issue to the "Allies" – an invitation to invade Yugoslavia, occupy Kosovo, and accept Serbia's sovereignty on a silver platter.


Milosevic declined and paid the consequences. Will Indonesia pay the same price? "Because we bombed in Kosovo doesn't mean we should bomb Dili," declared Sandy Berger, the President's national security advisor. Well, that's a relief – or would be, if we could believe anything coming out of this White House. Keeping the reversibility principle in mind, however, my advice to the Indonesians is: get thee to a bomb shelter, and fast.


What kind of an "invitation" is it when the "host" has no choice but to extend his hospitality to his unwanted "guests" – in this case, a "multinational" force which, we are told by Berger, will be "mostly Asian" in composition? As dishonest in the details as they are in all things great and small, to the Clintonistas "Asian" means from Australia and New Zealand.


The President and his foreign policy advisors keep referring to "the government of Indonesia," but there is much less to this phrase than meets the eye, for there is no real national government in Indonesia. While in the United States this might not be such a bad idea, in Indonesia it spells big trouble. For the State has not entirely disappeared: the army, in particular, is still operating throughout the country, although not necessarily coordinated by any central authority. What exists is a very loose confederation of military satraps, with the army as the only unifying institution, and even that collapsing under the pressure of the present crisis.


General Wiranta, the commander of the army, and the virtually powerless President B. J. Habibie, can issue all the orders they like, but these are likely to be countermanded by local commanders – and disdained by those troops on the ground who are themselves East Timorese and have the most to lose if independence comes. For twenty-five years they have been fighting the Marxist guerrilla insurgency known as Fretilin (Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente). With US military aid, the Indonesian army conducted counterinsurgency operations similar in scope and brutality to those carried out by the Colombian and Peruvian governments against their own Marxist insurgents. If the Fretilin should finally triumph, these commanders and their troops, some 6,000 East Timorese, would not only lose their economic privileges and social status, but also all their property – and quite possibly their lives – in a replay of what happened (and continues to happen) in Kosovo.


The Fretilin are the Kosovars of South Asia, a pro-imperialist pro-Western "liberation front" hailed as valiant "freedom-fighters" by the Western media and a whole section of the Left. For years, East Timor has been one of the Left's favorite pet causes, in part due to its obscurity, and in part to ideology. The Fretilin was founded by the Social Democratic Party, a New Leftish Marxist grouplet with links to the Portuguese Communist Party and a seventies-style fascination with "the guerrilla road" to power.


With the demise of the Sandinistas, the demise of Communism and the contraction of available overseas "revolutionary" groups, the "solidarity" milieu on American campuses have had to content themselves with smaller and ever more obscure groupings, and it has been pretty lean pickings. The sandals-and-beads crowd was therefore delirious with joy upon discovering the Fretilin, whom they consider models of a Third World "indigenous people" who live in "harmony" with Nature and are therefore morally superior to the rapacious and wicked West. One recent account of an Australian "solidarity conference" gushed over the "rich culture" of these unspoiled children of the forest, and featured a reenactment of their native "water ritual," to be followed by a lecture on the evil environmental "degradation" caused by the "invasion" of roads, cars, hospitals, and schools. Some would call it progress, but to these "green" lefties and greying Sandalistas, this is nothing less than "cultural imperialism," the despoiling of a pristine people.


The paradox of opposition to imperialism of the "cultural" variety it that it allows its adherents to support imperialism of the old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy variety – which is precisely what the various East Timor "solidarity" groups are now actively advocating. As lefties, at least in the formal sense, they never come right out and say what it is they want – an invasion and military occupation of East Timor by the West. What they say is that they want you to call your congressman and urge him to vote for supporting a United Nations contingent of "peacekeepers," paid for by the US and quite possibly involving US service members wearing the UN's blue beret. For example, here is the East Timor Action Network on the subject of what action needs to be taken: "The paramilitaries must be immediately disbanded. The US must offer full support for increased UN personnel and an expanded UN mission mandate. The UN must be granted control of administration and security in East Timor."


For your convenience, they list the telephone number and the fax number of none other than Madeleine Albright's office at the State Department: "Hello, Madeleine? Yes, it's me, Justin. Fine, and how are you? Great! Well, listen, I was just wondering: could you please restore peace, justice, and civil society in East Timor – just like you did in Kosovo?"


Just as in Kosovo, albeit on an even smaller scale, the US and its allies are being pressured from the left to intervene militarily on behalf of guerrilla insurgency that has cachet and connections. And the ominous parallels with Kosovo don't end there . . .

For the Fretilin is the South Asian equivalent of the Kosovo Liberation Front, with some minor variations, a leftist secessionist movement that traces its organizational and ideological ancestry back to its origin as a revolutionary Marxist grouplet, yet it is also the product of a religious identity. East Timor, one of the last outposts of Portugal's imperial glory up until 1975, is overwhelmingly Catholic, and this gives the region a distinct character not shared by the rest of Indonesia, which is primarily Muslim and animist. The result is a blend of Marxism and "liberation theology" of the sort that energizes the Colombian ELN and guerrilla insurgencies throughout South and Central America, and that secular American leftists can identify with.


While the independence movement is a broad front, at its core are the armed forces of the rebels, commanded and controlled by hardcore Marxist-Leninists. In 1975, in the wake of Portugal's "Carnation Revolution," the Communist Party of Portugal was riding high, and the mother country gave up the last of its colonies. East Timor was set "free" – and the Commies moved quickly to stage a coup. In a pitched battle with the moderate conservative UDT (Democratic Union of Timor), the heavily-armed Fretilin fighters drove their enemies over the border and set up a Marxist statelet that lasted a few months, a kind of East Timorese Paris Commune, headquartered in the capital "city" of Dili, that was crushed by the Indonesian invasion. As to what it was like, living under these models of Third World revolutionary virtue, the UDT gives an indication in their letter of congratulations to the Freitilin political figure Jose Ramos-Horta, upon his receiving the Nobel Prize:


"There is not one single East Timorese who can claim that Mr. Ramos-Horta was engaged in violence, directly or indirectly. Quite the contrary, he was among the very vocal few who tried to control the excesses and always displayed enormous tolerance and humanity. He visited the prisoners and had tears in his eyes when he heard of their mistreatment, and did not hesitate to express his revulsion at meetings of the Fretilin Central Committee. This caused him numerous serious problems with the extremists, and more than once he was threatened with arrest and expulsion from Fretilin."


Ramos-Horta had the misfortune of being a social democrat among Leninists, and was always viewed with suspicion. Even interceding on the part of political prisoners from within Fretilin, and advocating cooperation between the two pro-independence factions, brought him the prospect of expulsion from "the Party" or even death: "In 1978," writes the UDT, "he argued for reconciliation between UDT and Fretilin. He was attacked by the then Fretilin leader abroad, Mr. Abilio Araujo, a Marxist-Leninist ideologue, and was labeled a 'traitor'. Mr. Abilio Araujo is now a wealthy businessman in Lisbon, but only a few years ago he was a dogmatic communist who branded any one like Ramos-Horta a 'traitor' and a 'capitalist roader'. Mr. Ramos-Horta was even physically threatened with death by the extremists."


Chances are that East Timor will turn out like Kosovo – or like East Timor in August of 1975, when the Dili Commune was at its height – if and when the UN "peacekeepers" arrive. As the smoke clears, and the facts become more widely disseminated, suddenly it seems that there are no "good" guys, and that whatever gang is installed in the "capital city" of East Timor makes little or no difference either morally or practically. Such are the meager rewards of New Left globalism.


There are substantial oil reserves in the Timor Gap, and the island is rich in mineral resources, but East Timor itself is not really the prize to be won in this battle. What is at stake is the cohesion of the Indonesian nation-state, which appears to be breaking up under the impact of a severe economic crisis. With various "liberation" movements infesting the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, the secession of East Timor under the auspices of the United Nations will signal the beginning of a modern-day Gold Rush in the South Asia archipelago.


A strategically important choke-point that, in hostile hands, could block Mideast oil shipments to Japan and Australia, Indonesia has been a client state of the US and the Western powers since the beginning of the Cold War. From Sukarno to Suharto and right up to the present day, the Indonesian generals who are wreaking havoc on their own citizens were trained, funded, and feted by our own government – which is now posing as the great champion of "human rights." It is enough to make anyone retch, and so I hope you'll pardon me while I run into the bathroom...


Whew! Sorry about that, but I feel much much better! Now, where was I? Oh yes, the sickening hypocrisy of the US government – well, you get the idea. All that really remains to be said is that this is everyday life in the New World Order: a sudden stream of refugees, harrowing reports of alleged massacres, an "international army" assembled to fight the "ethnic cleansers," rampant "militias," and evil "nationalists" – cheered on by the Western media and their trendy leftie camp followers. A more depressing and oppressive future is hard to imagine. The only hope of the world appeared on the front page of yesterday, the photo of those Indonesian nationalist students who were burning the United Nations flag: that, regardless of who and what it actually represented, is a precious and even heroic symbol of resistance – and hope.

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, “China and the New Cold War”

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).


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