The administration of President Barack Obama hopes to resume U.S. training of an elite Indonesian military unit whose members have been convicted of gross human rights abuses in East Timor and elsewhere in the sprawling archipelago.March 10, 2010, Reuters
The leadership of Indonesia’s controversial special forces division — the Komando Pasukan Khusus, or Kopassus — has been in Washington to discuss the proposal this week.
Its meetings here come ahead of President Barack Obama’s state visit to Indonesia later this month. The trip will launch "The U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership" — a bilateral strategy to enhance security and economic cooperation between the two countries. [...]
"Today I can announce to you that after a successful police raid against the [three] terrorists hiding out in Jakarta yesterday, we can confirm that one of those that was killed was Dulmatin, one of the top Southeast Asian terrorists," [Indonesia's president] Yudhoyono said in a speech in Australia's parliament house in Canberra.Isn't this great news? Dulmatin was a very bad man and unfortunately a bright one; he was nicknamed "The Genius" for his skill at bomb making. He also had more lives than a cat; at one point in 2008 he was believed to be dead and buried in the Philippines.
The series of police raids that led to Dulmatin's death will be seen as a coup in Indonesia's fight against Islamist radicals ahead of President Barack Obama's visit March 20-22. [...]
I've heard a plausible explanation as to why Dulmatin might risk returning to Indonesia, even though he was on the country's Most Wanted list and knew that Yudhoyono was turning over every rock in Indonesia in the hunt for terrorists. A spectacular suicide bombing during President Obama's visit would be a great blow to Yudhoyono's government. And -- so the explanation goes -- Indonesia's government had taken out so many terrorists in recent years that there might not have been anyone left in the whole wide world of al Qaeda franchises who could have done the same bang-up job in Indonesia as Dulmatin.
As to how he was tracked down in Indonesia, there is a plausible explanation for that too; you can read about it in the Reuters report I linked to above.
For the types who get nervous when they see happy coincidences and plausible explanations pile up -- now, now! One must always make room for the alignment of the planets. When you combine a fortuitous arrangement of the stars with a little elbow grease and a military's crying need for aid money, training, and spare parts for military equipment, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.
Look at Pakistan. In the space of a few weeks the military there has found, captured or killed so many terrorists, and helped the U.S. military locate so many of the varmints in Afghanistan and Pakistan's badlands, that Foreign Policy had to put together a Cheat Sheet; this in the attempt to keep track of just the major kills. And there have been so many kills by recent "covert" UAV operations that Long War Journal has put up a handy graph and pie chart in the attempt to keep track of them. Yes indeed, terrorist corpses are now piling up faster than anyone can keep count.
Instead of thumbing their noses at all these happy coincidences, American cynics in particular should think about their responsibilities. If you don't know what your responsibilities are -- Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University and the executive director of the Center for Democracy, Integrated Peace, and Security Studies, explained it all quite wonderfully last week for readers of the Jakarta Post:
While the US had lifted its arms embargo on Indonesia, Indonesia still faces difficulties in procuring more arms from the US due to cost, bureaucratic hassle and [American] congressional hostility. Of course, it can be argued the Indonesian military needs to undergo structural reform first.To which General Kayani, the Pakistan military's chief of staff, would add, 'Those are my lines!'
Still, the fact remains the Indonesian military is vastly under-equipped and needs more equipment and spare parts to defend the huge expanses of Indonesian territory.
As US forces are stretched thin due to commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world, the US needs a friendly Indonesia to maintain the stability of the region in the face of threats from a rising China and radical religious terrorists, not to mention criminal elements such as human traffickers or drug smugglers. It is only fair the US help Indonesia modernize and equip its military forces.
As to what Yohanes Sulaiman means, exactly, when he observes that "Of course, it can be argued the Indonesian military needs to undergo structural reform" -- ahhhh, it's complex. If you're game for plowing through a little complexity we'll return to Charles Fromm's March 5 report for Inter Press Service, which was snapped up by that curmudgeonly anti-war website, Anti-War. Ready?
[...] The Kopassus [Indonesia's special forces] have been notorious for employing brutal tactics since the 1970s, particularly in East Timor, Aceh, Papua and Java. Various human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the East Timor Action Network, have accused the unit of murder, torture and kidnapping among other egregious rights abuses.Clear now on the meaning of "structural reform" for Indonesia's military?
The plan to resume U.S. training, however, proposes to limit participation to younger members of Kopassus, as their age would make it more likely that they had not participated in the group’s most notorious abuses.
The new efforts to engage the Indonesian military follow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments last week at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting that the administration hoped to expand its military partnership with Indonesia and enhance counterterrorism cooperation.
However, this policy is not without opposition. Critics argue that Kopassus continues to commit serious abuses with impunity and that restoring a cooperative relationship could actually prove counter-productive.
"U.S. military assistance harms reform and sets back human rights accountability in Indonesia," said John M. Miller, national coordinator of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).
"The best way to prevent future violations is to hold accountable those responsible for the multitude of human rights crimes committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor, West Papua, and elsewhere. Many of these crimes occurred while the U.S. was most deeply engaged with the Indonesian military providing the bulk of its weapons and training," he added.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, sent an open letter to the White House late last month in which he called for Obama to "seize this opportunity to reaffirm that human rights and the rule of law are essential pillars of U.S. engagement in Indonesia."
Roth also asked him to "condition even limited re-engagement with Kopassus" on the firing "of any personnel previously convicted for human rights abuses," and the establishment of a tribunal to thoroughly investigate the disappearance of some two dozen student activists in 1997 and 1998. Rights groups have charged that Kopassus units were responsible.
He also called for wide-ranging structural reforms to enhance civilian control of the military in all realms, from the jurisdiction of military tribunals to the vast military-run businesses that exercise a major influence in the Indonesian economy, particularly in resource-rich regions, such as Papua.
Just remember it's all about choices and attitude. You can choose to go through your life bitter and morose at the thought you're being extorted by lying, corrupt, scoundrels who will eschew radical Islam only so long as their palms are greased. Or you can choose to look on the sunny side: think that your tax dollars are helping thousands of young men in less-privileged countries receive the very best training and weapons the U.S. military and American defense contractors can provide.
If you decide to go through life with a smile on your face, then join me in wishing on a star, dancing through clover, and celebrating happy coincidences.