The Millennials Conscience: East Timor – A Reflection
By Bryer C. Sousa
Following Hillary Clinton’s recent invocation of the former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, under President Nixon and President Ford, during the most recent Democratic debate, it felt morally obligatory to reflect upon the genocide that began in East Timor, while the Machiavellian Kissinger served as Secretary of State.
If one were to walk around Portland, or any other metropolitan hub for that matter, and ask a resident if they knew of a tiny country called East Timor, it is reasonable to presume that few would know of the territory, let alone our governments role in the tragedies that took place there following Indonesia’s invasion during the month of December, 1975. The brutal occupation lasted until October of 1999 and resulted in the mass slaughter of an estimated 200,000 East Timorese, one-third of the total population of East Timor, through the use of army massacre and enforced starvation. Not only were ninety percent of the weapons used by the Indonesian military provided by the United States, but Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford also provided the Indonesian ruler, General Suharto, their blessing as Suharto informed them of his intentions with East Timor on December 6, 1975 (the day before Indonesia launched its assault on the sovereign nation of East Timor).
Even though we are unable to undo the past actions, it is of vital importance that we acknowledge our own role and complicity in the mutilation of the East Timorese during the annexation and forced “integration” of East Timor, by owning up to our moral responsibilities and therefore providing the nation with sufficient reparations. What is even more inconceivable is the fact that those people were made to endure one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century because they were attempting to pursue their right of self-determination, after they declared their independence from Portugal, that had been granted to East Timor by the United Nations as well as the International Court of Justice.
Indeed, one can quickly begin to bare witness to how ironic, as well as sickening it is that during the conflict that resulted in indiscriminate death and despair of the people of East Timor, President George Bush would proclaim “we pride ourselves, and I think properly so, in standing up for human rights” while President Bill Clinton later explained “I’m very concerned about what’s happened in East Timor. We have ignored it so far in ways that I think are unconscionable,” though he must have been aware that we did not just simply ignore “what’s happened.”
Bernie Sanders was correct in asserting “I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country,” after Clinton illustrated her fondness for him. Senator Sanders is not only correct because Kissinger continually provided diplomatic and military support to Indonesia as they carried out extermination, but also because Kissinger backed the covert bombing crusade against Cambodia and Laos, known as “Operation Menu,” between 1969 and 1970, among many additional war crimes and crimes against humanity.