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13. Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford Lied to the American Public about East Timor

Source:

Asheville Global Report
12/13/2001
Title: Documents Show US Sanctioned Invasion of East Timor
Author: Jim Lobe, (IPS)

Faculty evaluator:
Student researcher: Connie Lytle,

Corporate media coverage:
San Diego Union, A-29, 12/12/01

The release of previously classified documents makes it clear that former President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, in a face-to-face meeting in Jakarta, gave then President Suharto a green light for the 1975 invasion of East Timor.

According to documents released by the National Security Archive (NSA), in December of 2001(the 26th anniversary of Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor) Suharto told Ford during their talks on December 6, 1975 that, “We want your understanding if it was deemed necessary to take rapid or drastic action [in East Timor].” In a previously secret memorandum, Ford replied, “We will understand and not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have.” Kissinger similarly agreed, with reservations about the use of U.S. made arms in the invasion. Kissinger went on to say regarding the use of U.S. arms, “ It depends on how we construe it, whether it is self-defense or is a foreign operation,” suggesting the invasion might be framed in a way acceptable to U.S. law. Kissinger added, “It is important that whatever you do succeed quickly…the U.S. administration would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens after we return [to the U.S.]. If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home.”

For years Henry Kissinger has denied that any discussion of East Timor took place in Jakarta. The newly released dialogue between the three adds significantly to what is known about the role the US played in condoning the Indonesian invasion. The dialogue was part of a batch of documents on U.S. policy effecting East Timor obtained through the National Security Archive. Indonesia invaded East Timor the day after Ford and Kissinger left. As many as 230,000 East Timorese died as a result of Indonesia’s invasion and the 23-year occupation of the country. As much as one third of the population died as a result of starvation, disease, caused by counter-insurgency operations carried out by the Indonesian army from 1976 to 1999. According to Amnesty International, East Timor represents one of the worst cases of genocides in the 20th century.

Under international pressure Indonesia allowed a plebiscite in 1999, in which East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence. After the vote Jakarta-backed militias rampaged the territory, burning and looting the country. The UN Security Council authorized an Australian-led international force to restore order. East Timor is now an independent country.

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