The Left (not to mention the Islamists) never tires of depicting the War on Terror as a case of America vs. Islam. But as readers of this magazine will already know, Moslem fundamentalists have been brutalizing people all over the world for years, and 9/11 was just our belated introduction to the problem. Take, for example, the murderous terror of Indonesian Muslims against Christians in East Timor, mostly unknown in America although Washington aided and abetted it.
East Timor is the eastern end of Timor Island, part of the vast archipelago that today makes up the island state of Indonesia. Originally a Portuguese colony, -- it was one of the famous “spice islands” -- it became a tempting morsel for the military government of neighboring Indonesia when the Portuguese empire collapsed in a bloodless military coup in 1975. Indonesia did not have any valid claim to it, but President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who were visiting Jakarta, nevertheless approved the Indonesian invasion of the former Portuguese on December 7, 1975. They only asked that the attack be delayed until after their departure.
Kissinger told reporters that “the United States understands Indonesia’s position on the question of East Timor” and the U.S. abstained in the subsequent U.N. vote condemning the invasion. As then-US Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.” Suharto was delighted to have received U.S. support for the invasion because of the Indonesian army’s reliance on American weaponry that, by U.S. law, could only be used for defensive purposes.
The East Timorese did not want to be forcibly incorporated into Indonesia, and an insurgency ensued. Washington continued to supply arms to Indonesia that were obviously not meant for general defense purposes, but specifically chosen to meet the needs of a counterinsurgency campaign. Through two and a half subsequent years of that campaign - leading to the death of about a third of the population - The New York Times ran only two brief stories about “the problem of East Timorese refugees.”
President Suharto’s carnage was on a scale worthy of Pol Pot. By 1989, Amnesty International estimated that Indonesia had murdered 200,000 East Timorese out of a population of 600,000-700,000.
Indonesia’s treatment of religious minorities had already been tested in West Papua. Suharto’s anticommunist credentials enabled him to preserve the support of the U.S. government while he terrorized the inhabitants of Dutch New Guinea, which was handed over to Indonesia in 1962 and its name changed to Irian Jaya, Victorious Irian. The tribal people of West Papua had nothing in common with Indonesia, except that both had previously been ruled by Holland. They are Melanesians and not Indo-Malays, and Christians or animists. Indonesia is an ethnically-diverse nation – frankly, an object lesson in the follies of multiculturalism -- consisting of a dominant and expansionist over-populated Javanese core that holds onto its other territories by force.
Under Suharto the army rounded up all the children from the Christian missions and forced them to attend state schools. Passive resistance to Indonesian control was widespread and zealous Muslim officers responded by ordering soldiers to kill the villagers’ pigs, an important element in their basic economy. They soon proceeded to killing people: by September 1973, over 30,000 civilians had been killed by Indonesian troops, the number rising to an estimated 100,000 by 1990.
In the motivation patterns and perceptions of the actors on the ground, killers and victims alike, East Timor was an Islamic jihad against Christian infidels, identical in form and purpose to other tragedies caused by Islam’s insatiable appetite for other people’s lands, property, bodies, and souls. Dili’s bishop, Mgr. Coste Lopez, later stated: “The soldiers who landed started killing everyone they could find. There were many dead bodies in the streets.” They had been told that they were fighting a jihad and whole villages, for example Remexio and Aileu, were slaughtered.
In Dili hundreds of the ethnic Chinese minority were shot and thrown off the wharf into the sea. In Maubara and Luiquica, the entire Chinese populations were wiped out. Nineteen ships were moored in Dili harbor to remove looted cars, radios, furniture, tractors and whatever else could be ransacked. Churches and the seminary were looted and their books burnt. Many priests had moved to the hills with their flocks and were able to report on the massacres of children in Lospalos, Viqueque, Amoro and Sumalai. Priests were beaten, churches invaded and their congregations arrested. By November 1976, the death toll had reached 100,000. The military focused on the more educated strata of Timorese seminarians, teachers, nurses and public officials.
Australian Consul to East Timor, James Dunn, reported that East Timorese refugees were not even safe in West Timor: two thousand men, women and children had been burnt or shot to death at Lamaknan. At the concentration camp on Atauro island, the prisoners were given one small can of corn per person per week. They had to supplement this with leaves, roots or whatever else they could find. Punishment for listening to foreign broadcasts or speaking in Portuguese included beatings, burning with cigarettes on face and genitals, electric shock, water immersion and the removal of toe nails.
Once East Timor was out of the way the next target was the Christian minority in Indonesia itself. In 1999-2000 the persecution, destruction of property, and killing of Indonesia’s Christians amounted a deliberate campaign of religious cleansing, actively abetted by the Indonesian military, which is overwhelmingly Muslim. Independent television footage has proved that there have been numerous instances of soldiers, marines and police taking sides.
The worst atrocities were committed on the island of Ambon, where an upsurge in violence followed the arrival of 2,000 Laskar Jihad members—a militant Moslem force determined to join the ‘holy war’ against the Christians on the island—from Java and South Sulawesi. Indonesian soldiers sent to the Molucca Islands were fighting alongside militant Muslims, leading to calls by the Christians for a neutral UN peacekeeping force. Most of the fighting took place around the city of Ambon. Violence in North Halmahera has resulted in up to 100,000 people fleeing their homes for the jungles and mountains.
In the face of the Muslims’ better co-ordination, and signs that the Indonesian armed forces aided (or at least not prevented) Muslim attacks, the Christians were in disarray. The campaign of anti-Christian violence finally abated in 2001, after Muslim migrants from the overpopulated islands of Java and Sulawesi had been well established in the homes and on the lands of expelled Christians.
Incidents like those that took place in East Timor seem trivial to most Americans when they read their morning newspapers. But hopefully, people are gradually learning that these incidents, which have been happening – and continue to happen – all over the world, are all pieces of the larger problem of Islam’s inability to establish benign political relations with the rest of the world. A world which includes us. And they reinforce the crucial lesson that this whole situation is not something America created or is America’s fault. Islam is unique among the civilizations of the world today in terms of its inability to get along with others.