City of Brass

City of Brass

Obama’s Intelligence Director Dennis Blair and East Timor genocide

Gary Farber sounded the alarm last month about President Obama’s nominee for National Intelligence Director, Denis Blair, who was complicit in genocide in East Timor during the Clinton Administration.

Unfortunately, no questions were asked about East Timor during Blair’s confirmation hearing. Blair also refused to categorically state what the attorney general already said explicitly, that waterboarding constituted torture.


This is not good. Blair’s nomination needs to be opposed on basic moral principle. Recall President Obama’s own words during the Inauguration speech:

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today,
from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was
born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman
and child who seeks a future of peace
and dignity, and we are ready to
lead once more

Just words?

If Obama, who has lived in Indonesia (a fact he trumpets), is unaware of the history of the genocide in East Timor, then that’s quite an embarrassment, but it can be fixed, starting with replacing Blair as nominee for top spy. If he knows and nominated Blair anyway, then there’s a deeper problem that isn’t so easily fixed. But either way, the nomination of Blair must not be allowed to pass unchallenged.

UPDATE: Good, it seems that he was asked about it, only to deny it outright. I don’t know if it was followed up or not in further questioning. We will have to wait for the transcript of the confirmation hearing to see for sure.

Comments read comments(13)
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James Gatz

posted January 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

Your use of the term “genocide” is over the top if not outright offensive. While horrors were committed in East Timor it in no way compares to the Holocost and by using the same term to describe both you are in essence downgrading the evil of the Nazis.

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posted January 29, 2009 at 10:56 am

Your use of the term “genocide” is over the top if not outright offensive. While horrors were committed in East Timor it in no way compares to the Holocost and by using the same term to describe both you are in essence downgrading the evil of the Nazis.
Of course it’s possible to exaggerate one horror in terms of another, truly greater horror, but sometimes comparisons are merited. Not to start an argument, but consider this op-ed:
The key sentence: “To insist on the incomparability of the Holocaust is, in the end, to insist on its irrelevance.”

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posted January 29, 2009 at 11:08 am

The literal definition of “genocide” is “an organized effort to displace or destroy an ethnic group.” The Holocaust was a uniquely terrible genocide, but using the term “genocide” to describe other acts of intentional destruction of ethnic groups is not only proper, but necessary to prevent the use of the word “holocaust” to mean the same thing, a practice that does, in fact, act to minimize The Holocaust.

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michael schrage

posted January 29, 2009 at 11:09 am

To insist on the incomparability of the Holocaust is, in the end, to insist on its irrelevance.”
with respect, that sort of ‘analysis’ is sophistry of the lowest order…
if i were to assert, ‘to insist on the incomparability of einstein’s genius is, in the end, to insist on its irrelelevance’…you would (rightly) think me an idiot…
incomparability doesn’t confer irrelevance any more than commonality defines great significance… what i object to is the easy, sleazy and lazy grasp at inappropriate analogies…the iranians, israelis and bush supporters are not ‘nazis’ and the shameful behaviors by indonesians are not ‘genocides’ or ‘holocausts’…
what i loathe is the arrogant defensiveness of people who get called on their use of inappropriate language by upping the stakes and asserting that if they can’t say ‘holocaust’ the word loses its relevance…
…this rhetorical tactic may work at harvard’s freshman comp classes, it shouldn’t work anywhere else

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posted January 29, 2009 at 12:05 pm

“Holocaust” entered English in the record of the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. You could look it up: it used to be Greek. There were not six million killed, but it was a holocaust. The argument is over the word “genocide.”
No matter how despicable it may have become, Harvard still has its capital “H.” The “shift” key is just to the left of “Z.”

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posted January 29, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Assuming what Mr. Farber said is true in the linked article, why are you primarily blaming Blair for this communication to Indonesia from the US government instead of his boss at the time, President Clinton?
Do you think that Blair drafted this message on his own? Or perhaps the message came from Clinton and his secretary of state Albright?

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posted January 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm

The Jews don’t own the word genocide, it belongs to the world . The first genocide of the 20th Century wasn’t the Jews, it was the Armenians in Turkey. It is the definition of a particular type of murder, the Turks have done it to the Armenians, the Germans have done it to the Jews and gypsies, the Russians did it to everyone they could shoot in the back of the head, the Chinese did it to the Tibetans; remember Pol Pot? The Jews were murdered in the number of 6 million but the Nazi were nothing compared to the communists. The great Mao with his Red Guard killed by starvation in just the years 1961 to 64 over 20 million and who knows how many Stalin and his cohorts murdered for the state, some estimates go from 40 million to 85 million. The work Genocide doesn’t belong to one race, religion or people, it belongs to every one who has tried to wipe people out completely.

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Dody Gunawinata

posted January 29, 2009 at 12:39 pm

East Timor was never a genocide. East Timor = Tibet. It was an old fashion annexation of a territory.

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Dody Gunawinata

posted January 29, 2009 at 12:50 pm

What is missing from the context of 1999 is that it was about 1 year after the strong man Suharto was forced down amidst massive demonstration in the capital after 32 years in power.
The archipelago was about to disintegrate. Violence were not limited to East Timor alone – it flares up pretty much in every single major capitals and region in the country. Google up on the assault of Chinese ethnics in 1999-2000 or the church bombings etc.
Indonesia was close to become another Balkan. It was a year of living dangerously.

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James Just

posted January 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm

True there were more than six million Jews murdered by the Nazis but six million is the approximate number that historians use to describe that genocidal event. The old Greek language was used to transcribe early Hebrew texts (the Bible for instance) for Medieval European readers. Holocaust was first invented to describe Jewish suffering therefore Holocaust is a Jewish word, at the time when it was first used it would have been described as a neologism. This is a good post glad I found it.

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posted January 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Ronnor, East Timor was a cultural genocide attempt that failed after almost 30 years.
The Moslem Indonesians who posed as anti-imperialists in the ‘non-aligned movement’ wanted to impose themselves on the Catholic East Timorese, and did it with both violence and neglect.
They are right now still doing the same in West Irian which they acquired by force from the Dutch and incorporated into their state as a useful immigration area and resource mine for the corrupt military. They suppress the quite different native cultures. They get away with it, like the Chinese in Tibet, because they are NOT WESTERNERS.

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posted September 18, 2009 at 9:54 pm

First off. The United States taught Nazi torture techniques to the Shahanshah’s SAVAK who according to The Federation of American Scientists poured boiling water and and inserted glass into people’s rectums, tied weights to men’s testicles, and extracted teeth and nails, and who whipped, beat, and electrocuted people. Psychological torture, such as caging the head, bonding the body, and beating the bottoms of the feet so the victims screams echo in their ears were also used.
And Second, Suharto’s Kopassus were worse than the Taliban, over one million people perished under his regime. Not that it matters anyway, since the United State are the ones who initially funded the Mujahideen who “became” the Taliban who were nice to Al-Quaida when they were still in Afghanistan. We were helping them fight their war on drugs until 2001. Maybe we should know who we’re giving guns to so we make sure we’re not giving it to people who have a horrible record with human rights? Our intelligence didn’t realize this, couldn’t check up on the people we give billions of dollars worth of weapons to, so as to make sure they’re not using them on innocent people?
Democracy Now videos:
Bill Clinton in East Timor:
Obama applauds Dennis Blair:
Excerpts: (do Cntrl+F search to verify I have not changed one iota)
Religions of East Timor: Roman Catholic 98%, Muslim 1%, Protestant 1% (2005)
In 1979 the U.S. Agency for International Development estimated that 300,000 East Timorese—nearly half the population—had been uprooted and moved into camps controlled by Indonesian armed forces. By 1980 the occupation had left more than 100,000 dead from military action, starvation or disease, with some estimates running as high as 230,000.(18)
Religions of Indonesia: Muslim 86.1%, Protestant 5.7%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 1.8%, other or unspecified 3.4% (2000 census)
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, second is Pakistan, third is India.
Indonesia launched its 1975 invasion of East Timor hours after Indonesian dictator Suharto and US president Ford and US secretary of state Henry Kissinger met. The US doubled Indonesian’s military aid following the meeting. . The US also blocked the United Nations from taking any action in support of East Timorese independence. During the peak of genocide in the late 1970’s the US provided Indonesia with equipment.
Mr. Suharto — who like many Indonesians used only one name — stepped down on May 21, 1998, just two months after arranging to have himself elected to a seventh five-year term. He departed with an apology to the nation. “I am sorry for my mistakes,” he said. But his quiet statement came only after the deaths of 500 student protesters, an event that shocked the people into a consensus that the president must go.
His precise role in the violence is not clear; he managed to keep his name from being directly attached to it. What is clear is that in many areas the army, which he controlled, supplied weapons to and whipped up a tense population to mutilate and murder people suspected of being Communists, many of them of Chinese ancestry. Estimates of the number of dead have ranged from 500,000 to as many as one million.
Whether it was those forces or his timing, good fortune came to him. Just as the United States was becoming embroiled in Vietnam, he stood as a bulwark against Communism in Asia. The United States rewarded him with a foreign aid program that eventually amounted to more than $4 billion a year. In addition, a consortium of Western countries and Japan established an aid program that in 1994 alone totaled almost $5 billion.
THE Indonesian military used starvation as a weapon to exterminate the East Timorese, according to a UN report documenting the deaths of as many as 180,000 civilians at the hands of the occupying forces.
Napalm and chemical weapons, which poisoned the food and water supply, were used by Indonesian soldiers against the East Timorese in the brutal invasion and annexation of the half-island to Australia’s north, according to the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation report.
It documents a litany of massacres, thousands of summary executions of civilians and the torture of 8500 East Timorese – with horrific details of public beheadings, the mutilation of genitalia, the burying and burning alive of victims, use of cigarettes to burn victims, and ears and genitals being lopped off to display to families.
Thousands of East Timorese women were raped and sexually assaulted during the occupation and the report concludes that rape was also used by the Indonesian military as a weapon of war.
It recommends reparations from Indonesia and the members of the UN Security Council, including Britain and the US, who gave military backing to Indonesia between 1974 and 1999, as well as those nations that provided military assistance to Jakarta during the
occupation, including Australia.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

And the lies continue. Our president complemented the Indonesian government as a shining example of religious tolerance. No wonder anybody with any knowledge of history is afraid of him as President.

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