Thirty years ago today, Indonesian troops armed with US-supplied M16s, fired upon a peaceful memorial procession into the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the capital of East Timor. More than 270 unarmed East Timorese were killed. The marchers supported East Timor’s independence and were protesting the execution two weeks earlier of Sebastião Gomes, a student and independence activist.
Although the US instituted arms restrictions after the November 11, 1991 massacre, its support of Indonesia’s brutal military dictatorship was long and bloody.
In 1965, Indonesian General Suharto seized power in a coup. The US embassy in Indonesia provided the Indonesian army with a list compiled by the CIA consisting of the names of thousands of Communist Party leaders who the Indonesian military hunted down and executed. For the next five months, Suharto oversaw the slaughter of between 500,000 and 1 million people, mostly landless peasants. During this period, Suharto was backed by the US, Britain, and Australia.
After East Timor became independent from Portugal in 1975, Indonesian dictator Suharto planned to forcibly annex the new country. In December 1975, Suharto discussed the invasion plans during a meeting with Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford, both of whom encouraged the takeover. More than 200,000 were killed in the invasion. The occupation lasted 25 years.
We need to know our own history.