Obama’s choice for DNI ignored Timor massacres

It has emerged that US President Elect Barack Obama intends to nominate retired US Navy Admiral Dennis Cutler Blair to succeed Mike McConnel as Director of National Intelligence (DNI). What most news outlets are not reporting is that in 2000 Blair led a group of Pentagon officials who were determined to maintain close relations with Indonesia’s military establishment, despite its documented involvement in horrendous massacres in East Timor.

Back in 1999, the Clinton Administration finally decided to terminate US military ties to Indonesia “in outrage over its army’s involvement in a brutal militia rampage in East Timor”, as The Washington Post reported at the time. However, many in the US Pentagon objected to severing ties with Indonesia’s military, among them Admiral Blair, who at the time headed the US Pacific Command. In 2000, he managed to circumvent the objections of the US Department of State, as well as repeated protests by US Ambassador to Indonesia, Robert Gelbard, and became “the first high-ranking US officer to visit Indonesia since the sanctions were imposed”. His reasoning for visiting Indonesia was that he “opposed abandoning a long relationship with Indonesia’s armed forces” and “worried that the Indonesian armed forces could become so alienated [by the termination of US support] that they would sever relations”. In 2002, former US President Bill Clinton was questioned while in a visit to Dili, East Timor, by journalist Allan Nairn, about Blair’s conduct and US military support to the Indonesian generals:

President Clinton, you sold weapons to the Indonesian military. You brought General Suharto, the Indonesian dictator, to the Oval Office and offered him F16s. The next day, a White House official told The New York Times Suharto was “our kind of guy”. Your administration under the JCET program sent Green Berets into Indonesia. They trained the Indonesian Kopassus Special Forces in advanced sniper technique, urban warfare and similar tactics. In 1999, in April, when the Indonesian military and their militias massacred […] fifty people in the rectory in Liquica. They hacked them with machetes. Two days later, Admiral Blair, the Commander for the Pacific, your commander, met with General Wiranto, the Indonesian commander. He offered to help him in lobbying the US Congress to get full US military training restored. He made no mention of the Liquica massacre. During that same period, the Indonesian militias rampaged here in downtown Dili. They attacked the house of Manuel Carrascalao. They massacred the refugees there. Yet you continued for months with aid to the Indonesian military. Why?

To this question, Clinton responded by saying that he didn’t “believe America or any of the other countries were sufficiently sensitive in the beginning and for a long time, a long time before 1999, going all the way back to the [19]70s, to the suffering of the people of East Timor. I don’t think we can defend everything we did”. He also said that broader US geopolitical interests “led us to do some things, which, in my judgment, made us not as sensitive as we should have been to the suffering of the people here”. He refused, however, to comment on Admiral Blair’s position on Indonesia, saying “I can’t answer the question you asked about Admiral Blair. You’ll have to ask him that because I’m not aware of that”.

In a letter issued on December 5, 2008, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) urged Barack Obama not to appoint Admiral Blair to the position of DNI. The latter said that “Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia’s highly destructive exit and the failure, which continues to this day, to prosecute the senior officials who oversaw the violence. This lack of concern for human rights shows that he is unlikely to be a champion of reform”. [JF]

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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