Thursday, January 8, 2009

Timor campaigners blast Blair's Pacific role

TIMORESE human rights support campaigners are rightly upset at retired admiral Dennis Blair's nomination by the incoming Barak Obama administration as US Director of National Intelligence. They point to his appalling record over Timor-Leste's path to independence and as a Pacific point man in the so-called "war on terror".
A statement by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called on President-elect Obama to reconsider the nomination, and "make a break from past policies that have undermined human rights worldwide". John M. Miller, national coordinator of ETAN and a key monitor of Indonesia and Timorese media, says:

During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair downplayed human rights concerns. He actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties with Indonesia's military despite its ongoing rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity.

The statement quoted Ed McWilliams, a senior US Embassy official in Jakarta at the time, as saying:

Admiral Blair undermined US policy in the months preceding the U.S.-supported and UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor in 1999. While senior State Department officials were pressing the Indonesian military to end the escalating violence and its support for militia intimidation of voters, Blair took a distinctly different line with his military counterparts.
As Pacific Commander, his influence could have caused the military to rein in its militias. Instead, his virtual silence on the issue in meetings with the Indonesian generals led them and their militias to escalate their attacks on the Timorese.
The extraordinarily brutal Indonesian retaliation against the East Timorese and the UN teams in East Timor following the Timorese vote for independence from Indonesia transpired in part because of Blair's failure to press US Government concerns in meetings with the Indonesian general.

Miller says: "Blair's actions in 1999 demonstrated the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior; his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day."
According to the ETAN statement, in April 1999 - just days after Indonesian security forces and their militia proxies carried out a brutal churchyard massacre - Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' to Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit from the territory.

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