A second part of the series of articles by US investigative journalist, Allan Nairn, about how Indonesia’s presidential hopeful, former lieutenant general Prabowo Subianto, became one of US government’s ‘most endeared agents’ in implanting their influence in Indonesia, while at the same time covering the past human rights abuses he had done before in numerous regions, including Aceh, East Timor, and Papua.
You can view the original article in his personal blog.
Prabowo, Part 2: “I was the Americans’ fair-haired boy.” The Nationalist General and the United States
By Allan Nairn
When we met in Jakarta on June 21 and July 2, 2001 General Prabowo spoke at length about his work with and for the United States.
Prabowo told me “I was the American’s fair-haired boy.”
He said he had been “very good friends” with US intelligence, reporting to them “maybe weekly or more,” had served as a go-between to convey US messages to Suharto, and had even gone so far as to help bring US troops into Indonesia for exercises the Pentagon used to prepare its’ “contingency plan for entry to Indonesia,” i.e. “the invasion contingency.”
But at the time we spoke Prabowo had recently been denied a US visa.
His sense of grievance about this was palpable.
It was easy to understand why.
Prabowo had served Washington through years of torture and massacre. The US had backed him warmly, with sponsorship, weapons, and public praise.
Prabowo was not just Indonesia’s single most intensively US-trained officer, but, so far as I can tell, he was Washington’s closest Indonesian armed forces protege ever. Much of Prabowo’s power came from the fact that he was Washington’s man as well as Suharto’s.
But the instant he lost an inter-army power struggle in 1998, the US had jilted Prabowo in favor of his most hated rival (Wiranto), and now they were piously criticizing him for crimes he had committed with US support, and, to top it off, had added the indignity of the visa denial.
When Prabowo — by way of complaint — went on to me about his years of loyal service to Washington, it was clear to me he was not boasting. He was simply stating the facts.
Prabowo told me he had “always identified with the US. It was something I got from my family.”
Though he had previously been a minister in the government of Sukarno, Indonesia’s founding president, Prabowo’s father had been involved in the CIA-backed operation to oust Sukarno.
Prabowo told me he grew up imbued with US Anti-Communism, and had supported the US when it went into countries like Cambodia and Afghanistan.
In a July 17, 2013 Washington DC speech to US government and corporate leaders, Prabowo’s brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, the billionaire investor, said:
“Prabowo is very pro-American. He went to American high school, American grade school. I mean, you know, he’s been going to American school all his life. He went to Special Forces, he was in Fort Benning, Fort Bragg. You know, I’m pro-American. Until recently I was an investor in California, in a big way, in the oil business.”
Hashim promised that if Prabowo becomes president of Indonesia: “Yes, the US will be a privileged partner with a GERINDRA administration.”
( GERINDRA is Prabowo’s political party, which Hashim helps to finance. [See video link, starting at around the 56:32 time stamp]).
Two months before our first meeting I saw Prabowo speak and work the crowd at a gathering in Jakarta of the US-Indonesia investor/ military elites (the Van Zorge conference, 2001).
Prabowo professed his devotion to the doctrines of two US Civil War generals, William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant (later US president), both of whom had embraced the tactic of occasionally killing many civilians.
Prabowo remarked “I know more US history than Indonesian history.”
When we spoke, I was struck by Prabowo’s emotion when he talked about America.
Prabowo said to me with rising anger that his fellow Indonesian officers used to mock him, calling him “The American officer” because he was so close to the United States.
He said that they made fun of him — and implied he was unmanly — because his English was so good and he spent so much time with the foreigners.
Prabowo told me he was “Very good friends with DIA (the US Defense Intelligence Agency) back to George Benson.”
Benson spent decades going in and out of Indonesia for US intelligence.
Benson worked with elements of ABRI in the CIA-backed covert operation to oust Sukarno, providing US intelligence for the 1958 attack on Padang, West Sumatra (See “In memoriam: George Benson: a true friend of Indonesia” ).
Benson later effectively ran US-ABRI covert operations against Sukarno leading up to Sukarno’s toppling amid the mid-1960s US-backed massacres that killed hundreds of thousands of Indonesian civilians (See “Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto’s Coup d’Etat in Indonesia,” the landmark historical study that discusses Benson and the US role.)
For his work in Indonesia Colonel Benson was inducted into the Defense Intelligence Agency “Hall of Fame.”
After leaving the DIA, Benson represented Suharto’s Pertamina oil company in Washington, and became a leading promoter of US corporate entry into Indonesia.
In 1994 Benson , the Prabowo circle, and US business, diplomatic, and intelligence figures helped launch the United States – Indonesia Society (USINDO). USINDO worked to fight the rising grassroots movement to cut off US aid to Suharto’s ABRI (a movement I was deeply involved with
), and to defend US corporate interests in Indonesia like the huge miner Freeport McMoRan.
Prabowo’s father, Sumitro, and brother Hashim sat on USINDO boards. USINDO has established a fellowship to honor Sumitro. Corporate sponsors of USINDO have included the Lippo Group, Freeport McMoRan, Texaco, Mobil, Raytheon, GE, Hughes Aircraft and Merril Lynch. Prabowo was reportedly, through his wife, Suharto’s daughter Titiek, involved in business with Merril Lynch.
USINDO was the group to which Hashim gave his 2013 Washington speech that promised that a Prabowo presidency would treat the United States as “a privileged partner” (see above).
Prabowo told me he was “on the phone frequently with US intel, McFetridge and the others, maybe weekly or more.”
He was referring to Colonel Charles D. (Don) McFetridge of the DIA. McFetridge was one of Col. George Benson’s successors in Indonesia, and the 1994-’98 US Defense Attache in Jakarta.
McFetridge also dealt directly with Prabowo’s Kopassus Group 4 commander, Colonel Chairawan, according to interviews I had with Chairawan and US officials. (See my piece in The Nation [US], issue dated June 15, 1998, “Our Men in Jakarta“).
The DIA was working with Prabowo and Chairawan throughout the time they were implicated in the abuction, torture, and murder of the Jakarta activists (1997-’98).
Thirteen of those abductees are still missing, presumed dead.
One of Prabowo’s campaign leaders — General Kivlan Zein — says he knows where the bodies are buried.
Col. McFetridge, who had attended SESKOAD, the Indonesian army staff and command school, went on to help run security for the multinational oil and gas giant BP, particularly on their BP-Tangguh gas extraction project in West Papua.
Prabowo told me he didn’t deal with the CIA but rather the DIA.
He said the CIA liaison was with BAKIN, which reported directly to the armed forces commander.
Prabowo asserted that within the Indonesian armed forces, deference to DIA people was normal. “If the US Attache calls the ABRI military chief of staff and wants a meeting he gets a meeting.”
Prabowo said that such was the US confidence in him that they used him to convey messages to his father-in-law, Suharto.
He said that at one point late in the 1998 uprising that brought down Suharto, his US handlers confided to him that the US government had concluded that Suharto had suddenly lost his usefulness.
Prabowo told me he went to Suharto and conveyed the message: the US is “no longer with you.”
But Prabowo told me that Suharto replied: “‘No, the US is still with me, someone just came from DC and told me.'”
Prabowo said Suharto “got angry and threw me out.”
It is possible that Prabowo and Suharto were, in a sense, both correct.
As Suharto lost his ability to repress effectively, the US moved to dump him, as they have done with many others.
But they did so only grudgingly, and with division in the US ranks.
It is plausible that Prabowo and Suharto could have gotten different messages from different Americans.
Prabowo’s account to me of his US intelligence dealings is consistent with what others told me.
I reported during the 1998 crisis: “As one [US] embassy official described if for me at the height of the disappearances: ‘Prabowo is our fair-haired boy; he’s the one who can do no wrong'” (The Nation [US], issue dated June 15, 1998; the article was released to the press in May).
On May 26, 1999 in an interview at his Jakarta home, one of the architects of the Indonesian intelligence system, the US-trained Admiral Sudomo, Suharto’s old security chief, remarked to me that “Prabowo also has close intelligence ties with the US.” (For background on this interview see posting of Dec. 7, 2007, “Imposed Hunger in Gaza, The Army in Indonesia. Questions of Logic and Activism.”).
But Prabowo’s US work extended far beyond intelligence. As he described it to me he collaborated closely in US military actions, including bringing US troops onto Indonesian soil.
Prabowo’s statements to me are fully consistent with internal Pentagon and State Department documents, which, among other things, back up his claim to have facilitated US invasion planning.
These documents also indicate something Prabowo did not mention to me: that the US Special Forces Prabowo brought in conducted at least two covert operations in Indonesia that the Pentagon described to the US Congress as “Classified … compartmented activit[ies].”
The documents also make clear that from the US government point of view, the Pentagon was using Prabowo to undermine Indonesia’s nationalists.
Throughout his US collaboration, which spanned Prabowo’s army career, Prabowo was often handled directly by Pentagon officials from the highest levels of US power.
They included Secretaries of Defense, Pacific Commanders in Chief and US Special Operations Commanders.
I reported in 1998: “Although Prabowo’s personal relish for atrocity is legendary (a Timorese man told me of having his leg and teeth broken by Prabowo), high-level U.S. officials paraded him this year as the political crisis gathered steam. In January, Defense Secretary William Cohen praised the “very impressive … discipline” of KOPASSUS.” (The Nation [US], issue dated June 15, 1998; the article was released to the press in May).
I reported then: “[Cohen] pointedly refused to call for ABRI restraint in dealing with street demonstrations. Asked about the overall message conveyed by the visits, one official said, ‘It’s simple. The U.S. is close to and loves the army.’ … Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth has dined frequently with [Prabowo] recently. When Secretary Cohen visited, he raised eyebrows in Jakarta by going to KOPASSUS headquarters [and] [s]pending three hours by Prabowo’s side…” (The Nation [US], issue dated March 30, 1998).
A book by Dana Priest of the Washington Post — who interviewed US officers who worked with Prabowo — said that Prabowo “became known among the diplomatic corps in Jakarta as ‘Washington’s man in Indonesia.””
Priest reported that while still young Prabowo “quickly became the darling of the American military, from which he collected both experience and honors.”
Priest recounts an anecdote about how Prabowo feted a visiting US commander ( Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Command [CINCPAC], Admiral Joseph Prueher) by putting on a special Kopassus demonstration to honor him:
“Prabowo ended another show for … Prueher with his [Prabowo’s] troops standing shoulder to shoulder singing the Indonesian version of the [US] 82d Airborne Division’s song. The adrenaline on the reviewing stand was palpable, said one observer. Prueher was pleased and excited.” (Dana Priest, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military,” Norton, 2004.)
The story is an interesting example, since Prabowo said to me that there were other Pentagon leaders with whom he was closer than he was with Prueher.
One he cited was the CINCPAC from March, 1991 to July ’94, Admiral Charles R. Larson, who later became a director of the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Prabowo even recounted some internal White House – Pentagon gossip about Admiral Larson, saying that he had been “in line to be CNO [US Chief of Naval Operations, the highest US Navy position], but instead became the Annapolis commandant [at the US Navy cadet academy].”
When the US-Prabowo relationship was still in flower, Prabowo was, as a former US Ambassador to Indonesia — Robert Gelbard — would later put it, conducting himself as :”perhaps the greatest violator of human rights in contemporary times among the Indonesian military. His deeds in the late 1990s before democracy took hold were shocking, even by TNI standards,” (Radio Australia interview, July 16, 2008).
But while Prabowo was actually doing those deeds, his conduct was just fine with Washington.
According to what US officials were saying to Prabowo and the US Congress at the time, General Prabowo was doing precisely what Washington wanted him to do.
The US Ambassador to Indonesia before Gelbard — ie., the one who was there as Prabowo was still in power and still Washington’s man, Stapleton Roy — wrote a December 1996 cable (Jakarta 08651 , R 061039Z Dec96) citing Prabowo as a model trainee.
(Another trainee singled out for praise was General Hendropriono, who had been implicated in the 1989 Lampung massacre of Muslim activists and whose intelligence unit later assassinated the human rights hero Munir. Hendropriono is now campaigning for Prabowo’s presidential opponent, Jokowi.).
Incredibly enough, the US cable even inverted the facts to praise Prabowo for the West Papua operation in which Prabowo’s men posed as the Red Cross and went on to commit a massacre (See the detailed account of what actually happened from Edmund McWilliams, who investigated the killings as the US Embassy’s chief political officer).
Roy’s cable praised Prabowo for “maintaining discipline and restraint,” “earning … commendation” for the Red Cross episode and “initiat[ing] additional human rights training for his command.”
It argued that by training Prabowo and Indonesian officers like him, the US reaped major dividends in — among other things — containing army nationalism.
The cable said: “Indonesian IMET graduates return home with an understanding of what we Americans stand for and what we stand against.”
IMET is one of the Pentagon programs under which Prabowo was trained. It was the first one the US grassroots movement succeeded, through Congress, in cutting off after the 1991 Dili massacre in occupied East Timor (See the first installment of this Prabowo series).
The US cable continued:
“Home grown and locally educated ARBI officers are less receptive to our values, less convinced of our arguments, and less responsive to our policies… IMET graduates serve in key positions in ABRI. During times when our relationship has been under stress, it was the core of U.S. – trained IMET alumni who refused to heed the calls to ‘shut out the Americans.’ We have been able to retain some access and influence through IMET alumni… Over the next several years a major transition of power will occur in Indonesia. The military will be an important factor in how that transition occurs, whether through a background role as the ensurer of stability, or as a more active player. Within Indonesia, especially in the armed forces, an internal debate pits two factions against each other. One faction is progressive, educated, and enlightened… The other is introverted, ethnocentric, anti-Western. It believes that foreign education and training is a polluting influence. We have an opportunity to influence that debate and the future in support of our long term interests,” — i.e. by backing Generals like Prabowo, and facilitating his “shocking” deeds.
Prabowo’s remarks to me — and his record — become especially interesting in light of the claims that are being made in his current campaign for president.
This time, Prabowo is running as, in effect, the new Sukarno, the nationalist who loudly insists that he will not bow to America.
Prabowo is “the only one brave enough to oppose America,” according to Amien Rais, one of Prabowo’s top campaigners.
(In March, 1998, Amien Rais and I both testified as witnesses before the US Congress, in a hearing of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. At that time Rais was blaming Prabowo for the still-ongoing disappearance of the Jakarta activists. In 2009 the Australian press quoted Rais as describing Prabowo as a “criminal.” [The Australian Financial Review; Wednesday, February 25, 2009; Outsider Prompts ‘General’ Unease; by Angus Grigg]).
Prabowo told me he was especially close to the US Special Forces, the commando teams that do invasions and insertions around the world.
His assertion is backed up by voluminous public information. The Dana Priest book notes, for example, that “The brass from the US Special Operations Command was especially enamored of Prabowo’s troops. General Wayne Downing, its commander from 1993- 96, parachuted with Kopassus.” In 1996, she writes, Prabowo was “the star of the [US] Pacific Command’s Special Operations Conference in Hawaii.”
Prabowo told me he was instrumental in bringing US Special Forces into Indonesia, in large part through JCET, the Pentagon’s Joint Combined Exchange Training program.
After the US Congress cut off the IMET training for ABRI in 1992, the Pentagon went behind Congress’s back and used a JCET funding scheme to do military drills in Indonesia that Congress didn’t approve or know about.
The Indonesia JCET was abruptly cancelled on May 8, 1998 after Congress reacted with outrage when I and the East Timor Action Network (ETAN, a grassroots group I helped to found) disclosed what was going on by releasing Pentagon JCET documents obtained with the help of the late US Representative Lane Evans. (See NY Times, “US Training of Indonesia Troops Goes On Despite Ban ,””Pentagon Documents Show Indonesian Military Training Continues Despite Congressional Ban,” “Indonesia’s Killers,” (The Nation [US], issue dated March 30, 1998), “Statement by Allan Nairn on the suspension of US military training aid to Indonesia.”
After my Jakarta press conference releasing the documents — and focusing on JCET drills with Prabowo’s Kopassus, I was arrested and interrogated by the Suharto security forces.
I remember that after the interrogator slapped my intel file on the table, he reacted with great equanimity as I denounced the Suharto-ABRI-Prabowo-US mass killings but suddenly became annoyed when I offhandedly mentioned Suharto corruption.
The JCET had gone far beyond IMET, which had brought officers like Prabowo into the US for training like that which Prabowo received at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (US Army Special Forces Training Course, 1980; Fort Bragg is home to the 82d Airborne, the US unit Prabowo celebrated by having Kopassus perform the 82d’s fight song in Indonesian [see above] ) and Fort Benning, Georgia (US Advanced Infantry Officers Course , 1985).
For JCET, large numbers of fully armed US troops actually went into Indonesia and, among other things, drilled with ABRI on a range of skills including Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), Advanced Sniper Technique, air assault, ground assault, sea assault, surveillance, Nuclear Chemical Biological (NBC), Combat Sapper, “ambush skills,” Explosives and Demolition, and Psychological Operations (PSYOPS).
There were at least 41 such exercises. The documents specify activities with Kopassus Groups 1 through 5. The principal unit conducting them was the US 1st Special Forces Group but there were also others, including the US Marines.
This obviously constituted crucial US support for Suharto, Prabowo and ABRI.
This was pointedly so since the US troops were on the ground in Indonesia during many ABRI atrocities, including the activist disappearances and the shootings of civilians in the uprising against Suharto. The armed Americans were drilling with and helping precisely the ABRI units that were implicated in these crimes, including Kopassus, KOSTRAD, Kodam Jaya and others.
But Prabowo made a telling point to me: these maneuvers he had set up with the Americans had another side.
In addition to helping the US shore up its favored dictators and generals of the moment, they also helped the US get what it wants in Indonesia.
Prabowo told me that JCET in large part existed for the US — and in particular its Special Forces — “to do recon, practice for the invasion contingency.”
Prabowo said: “They do recon, they see the [Indonesian] terrain.”
He referred to the US “special forces contingency plan for entry to Indonesia, Jakarta, Bandung etc.”
Prabowo told me he had “briefly discussed it [the invasion planning] with them.”
Prabowo said: “US invasion plans for Indonesia are not unusual. They’re a super-power with intelligence everywhere.”
He described the US as “a higher power.”
Prabowo was correct in noting that the Pentagon prepares to invade most everywhere.
Prabowo informed me of a then-new book, “Special Forces: A Guided Tour of U.S. Army Special Forces, by the White House/Pentagon confidant Tom Clancy that included as Prabowo put it “an Indonesian [invasion] scenario with atomic bombs.”
I did not bother to look it up at the time, but when I did so recently, I saw that Prabowo was referring to a dramatized scenario (Clancy was a novelist but this book was mostly nonfiction; US military officers loved to talk to, and read, Tom Clancy) in which US Special Forces invade Indonesia after a terrorist atomic blast in the Malukus .
At the time Prabowo and I spoke, mid 2001, the prospect of an actual invasion seemed quite remote.
The last known time the US had directly invaded Indonesia, in 1958 (an operation that included bombing of Indonesia by CIA pilots; as a child in US grade school I happened to have slightly known the son of one of them), the country was run by Sukarno who was something of an adversary of Washington.
Sukarno had confronted foreign corporations and embraced rebellious ideas: workers’ rights, social welfare, Indonesian and Third World nationalism and Non-Alignment. These were ways of thinking that Washington regarded as unacceptable, “Communist.” And in addition Sukarno had allowed the Communist party and peasant leagues to organize.
In 1993, Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Bobby Kennedy, described to me how “Bobby hated that man, Sukarno.”
Bobby Kennedy was the right-hand-man of his brother, President John F. Kennedy (1961-’63), and had gone to the trouble of flying to Jakarta to confront Sukarno personally.
But after Sukarno it was a different story.
Prabowo’s mentor and father-in-law, General Suharto, was, from the start, Washington’s man.
The US backed and cheered Suharto and ABRI when, after more than a decade of US prodding, they finally overthrew Sukarno and consolidated absolute power with one of the largest massacres of the 20th Century.
More than 400,000, perhaps a million, Indonesian civilians were slaughtered. The big US press saluted the operation. They called it “a gleam of light in Asia” (The New York Times). The CIA chipped in with a list of five thousand “Communists” to be executed.
Suharto did as Washington wanted and brought in the US corporations — in part under the guidance of one of his leading economics ministers, Prabowo’s father. These were the same corporations that, with the Prabowo clan and the US intel veterans, went on to form the USINDO lobby to safeguard their Indonesia interests and the Pentagon’s sponsorship of TNI/ABRI.-
Suharto is “our kind of guy,” the Clinton White House told the New York Times.
So Washington wasn’t invading their own guy, and even after Suharto fell, ABRI/TNI and corporate influence had been such that Jakarta had stayed in Washington’s corner.
The state of US invasion contingency thinking in the moment when Prabowo and I were speaking was typified by a discussion I had with a US Defense Department planner on January 14, 1999. Following a Marine Corps military-civilian seminar on Indonesia, this official remarked that US planning focused on a speculative down-the-road “Law of the Sea” scenario, in which the US might decide to take some action if Indonesia changed course politically and decided to resist Washington’s practices regarding freely sailing its ships through archipelagos.
During our discussion neither Prabowo nor I talked of invasion as a real possibility.
But two months after our second meeting the September 11 attacks on the US happened.
And in the wake of that there were actually presented, at the White House and at Camp David, proposals for a US Special Forces attack on Indonesia.
The idea was for a dramatic strike to send a message to the Muslim world. It would involve simultaneous moves against Indonesia and other countries.
This was advocated at the highest level. President George W. Bush was at the table. Pushing the plan were White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and , apparently, Dick Cheney, the US Vice President, and Donald Rumsfeld the Secretary of Defense.
The matter is documented by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, who interviewed meeting participants and evidently had access to secret White House records.
Woodward writes: “White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said consideration should be given to simultaneous actions in other parts of the world such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Yemen or Somalia. ‘If you had 15 SEAL teams hitting 10 different targets on the same day, all at once, around the world that would send a message that we’re reaching out globally.”
Later, on October 9, 2001 at a 1 am meeting of the National Security Council, Vice President Cheney “returned to the hard questions they were skirting … At the top of the list for expanding anti-terror attacks were the Philippines, Yemen and Indonesia.” In the Philippines, Woodward reports, there were looking at Abu Sayyaf in the Muslim south as a possible target, and “In Indonesia, Muslim extremists were everywhere.” (Bob Woodward, “Bush at War,” 2002, Simon & Schuster).
This — in my view — criminal, lunatic plan was, in the end, abandoned. But had it not been, the Indonesia invasion planning that Prabowo had helped facilitate through JCET would have come in handy to his sponsors in Washington.
The JCET documents we initially released in March, 1998, were later supplemented by others, some in internal working-paper form.
They back up Prabowo’s claims to me that first, he was the key man in bringing the US forces into Indonesia, and second, that in doing so he was doing the Pentagon a major service. And interestingly, though these documents were initially of a low or zero level of classification, they still make a fairly specific allusion to this laying the groundwork for a possible future brief invasion.
The documents also shed revealing sidelights on how the Pentagon thinks about Indonesians, and on the US’s extremely agile definition of “human rights violations.”
Finally they allude to two US covert operations in Indonesia that grew out of the Pentagon-Prabowo JCET collaboration.
The documents say that Prabowo, who is referred to as the Kopassus commander , “open[ed] the door” to get the US forces into Indonesia:
The Pentagon writes that they had been “discussing JCET activities [with] Indonesian planners at the highest level, including the KOPASSUS Commander,” i.e.. General Prabowo.
Another Pentagon document states: “At the outset of the JCET program most activities were conducted with KOPASSUS for a number of reasons. Most importantly KOPASSUS [ie. Prabowo] was anxious to train with U.S. SOF [Special Operations Forces] and their standing as a prestigious unit allowed them to open the door for U.S. Forces to train in Indonesia. They were also well resourced, had access to training areas, had specialized skill of training interest to U.S. SOF and through their willingness made in country training with U.S. Fores acceptable to other ABRI units.”
Elsewhere, the Pentagon states regarding Kopassus/ Prabowo: “Our strategy was to integrate other training partners [other ABRI units beyond Kopassus] in our training events whenever possible, prudently leveraging the access provided by Kopassus,” i.e.. Prabowo.
Also, “After the ‘ice was broken with KOPASSUS’ a concerted effort was made to expand the number of Indonesia units participating in JCET activities such as KOSTRAD, PUSDIKZI, KODIKLAT, SESKOAD, PUSSENIF, Naval and Air SOF units…”
At one point the office of the CINCPAC, the top US Pacific commander Prabowo routinely dealt with, writes: “Within Abri, Kopassus had the influence required to begin training with the US (when other units either could or would not) and the resources to contribute to this training. Kopassus opened the door…”
The Pentagon went on to write about then putting a foot in that door:
“The JCET program in Indonesia had the primary objective of providing training opportunities for U.S. SOF [Special Operations Forces]…It assisted us in gaining access to Indonesian Armed Forces units and leaders. It was oriented in a progressive manner with increasing options for U.S. SOF to train in METL tasks …[and do ] training in areas that are new or not available at home station. It held the promise of increasing interoperability and use of excellent training facilities for conventional as well as SOF by ‘getting a foot in the door’ at BATU RAJA and SIABU RANGE [ABRI facilities].”
Prabowo’s JCET foot in the door allowed the US Special Forces and other US units to, as Prabowo put it to me, “do recon, see the terrain,” “practice for the invasion contingency,” in exercises held in — according to the documents — at least the following locations, beyond Batu Raja and Siabu Range: Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Surakarta, Serang, Ciampea and Camara.
In one memo to the deceived Congress, the Pentagon wrote: “Please recall that the primary purpose of training under Section 2011 [which was used for this JCET gambit] is to improve US SOF readiness. Any benefits to the host nation [Indonesia] are incidental to those we gain.”
The documents refer to the JCETs allowing the Special Forces to get ready for action in Indonesia and environments like it due to the training they received from ABRI during the JCET RECONDO action in things like “jungle survival, tracking and counter tracking techniques.”
As to what might prompt the US to use the Prabowo foot in the door to actually strike in Indonesia, one Pentagon document for Congress says , several years before the 2001 White House invasion hysteria: “JCET inspires a high degree of confidence in the ability of our SOF. This confidence and admiration would likely lead to inclusion of our SOF in an active role in any operation to protect US lives or property should they be threatened by terrorist or separatist movements in Indonesia.”
It still seems highly unlikely that the US would invade its defacto ally, Indonesia, but if they did they would be building on the work done for them by Prabowo.
At one point, writing to Congress, the Pentagon says of its Indonesia JCET that it would “not conduct training with individuals involved in human rights violations.” The Pentagon, of course, set up its JCET with, and trained with, Prabowo, which means that by the US definition the “shocking” deeds that Prabowo did (Gelbard) were not quite bad enough to constitute “human rights violations.”
This definition of “human rights violations” is especially impressive in light of another passage in the documents. Prabowo’s former handler, the CINCPAC, writes regarding “the abductions of the political activists … We are certain of the involvement of LTG Prabowo, MG Muchdi and COL Chairawan [This was written after Prabowo fell from power]. LTG Prabowo has retired and MG Muchdi and COL Chairawan have been relieved of all their duties and responsibilities. They were all in command of units that participated in JCET activities.”
Muchdi later went on, under Hendropriono, to be implicated in the assassination of Munir.
The Pentagon does not state what a US protege would have to do to be seen by the US as committing a “human rights violation,” but it does seem to suggest that whatever a US client like Prabowo might do, evidence against him will never be seen as quite sufficient:
“Credible evidence of gross violations of human rights was only disclosed following the May 1998 events in Indonesia. In this area the DATT [the DIA, that was handling Prabowo and Chairawan] notes that, without exception, prior to the events, every accusation regarding possible human rights violations made to the DAO [again, the DIA] were [sic] followed up. In every case information was incomplete. Prior to May 1998, name, unit designations, timing and/or location of alleged violations were not available from source(s) making verification impossible. At no time during the course of JCET activities were we aware of training any unit or personnel who had committed violations of human rights. We did in fact, through the excellent performance of our SOF [Special Operations Forces] provide examples of how a professional Armed Force conducts military operations in a lawful manner.”
By this, the Pentagon would seem to mean it is excellent and lawful to arm, train and do intelligence work with the killers so long as the US personnel do not pull the triggers on the victims themselves.
At one point the Pentagon writes: “JCET provides an excellent example of how professional soldiers conduct themselves. Indonesians have attempted to emulate this …” Elsewhere: “U.S. JCET participants provide an example of a highly trained professional force that has a high regard for the rule of law; this encourages our hosts to emulate their performance.”
This implication of US moral superiority pops up again and again. It is perhaps one reason why the visa-denied Prabowo seemed so hurt.
Finally, the documents note that the US ran, under cover of JCET, two covert activities inside Indonesia, one in US Fiscal Year 1995, the other in US Fiscal Year 1996.
In FY ’95 “there was one classified deployment by US SOF to Indonesia. In this activity, the three US SOF personnel did not train, or train with, the Indonesian military. This deployment was not completed under the authority of Title 10, Section 2011. Classified details of this compartmented activity will be provided, upon request, through the appropriate channels.”
In FY ’96: “there was one classified deployment by US SOF to Indonesia. In this activity, eight US personnel did train, and train with, Indonesian military forces. This deployment was not conducted under the authority of Title 10, Section 2011. Classified details of this compartmented activity will be provided upon request, through the appropriate channels.”
Though they won’t get an answer, the Indonesian public might want to make such a request.
Both ops were made possible by the work of the nationalist general, Prabowo.