“Not really slaves – but gofers…”

A child holds a poster of Indonesia's presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and vice presidential candidate Hatta Rajasa in Bandung


The final part of the series of articles written by American investigative journalist, Allan Nairn, about the connection between Indonesia’s current presidential candidate, NSA (National Security Agency), underground militia in secessionist areas, and other wrongdoings in the past.

You can read the original article at his personal blog.




Prabowo, Part 3: The NSA, Militia Terror, Aceh, Servants, and “Slaves”

By Allan Nairn

At one point during our meetings in Jakarta in 2001, General Prabowo started talking about the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Prabowo had already described how he reported to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at least weekly and had mentioned his extensive work with other parts of the Pentagon.

When I asked about crimes by the TNI/ ABRI (the armed forces of Indonesia) Prabowo said that evidence of them could be found in the archives of the NSA.

He said his US handlers had talked to him about the extensive electronic surveillance that NSA, with help from Australia, was carrying out against Indonesia.

Some of this was already public record, but Prabowo said he knew more.

I asked if he had passed this information to his superiors and subordinates in the TNI/ABRI.

Prabowo replied “I don’t remember if I sent a memo warning about it [the intercepts] but everyone should assume that” — ie. assume that they were taking place.

The context for this was interesting.

Prabowo was not referring to his own crimes, but to those of his rival, General Wiranto.

He said that Wiranto was responsible for the 1999 East Timor TNI militia arson and massacre, and that Wiranto’s main man on the ground was General Zacky Anwar Makarim.

Prabowo noted with apparent bitterness “I was the Americans’ fair-haired boy,” but now that the US had ditched him “Wiranto is their fair-haired boy.”

Prabowo said that during the terror Wiranto was “close to” the US CINCPAC (Commander in Chief, Pacific) Admiral Dennis Blair.

Prabowo added that from its intercepts and from its direct involvement, the US knew exactly what Wiranto had been up to.

As far as I can tell, all of this was accurate.

I had reported in 1999, as TNI and the militias were burning Dili, internal US documents showed that Wiranto had a green light from Blair.   (“US Complicity in Timor,” The Nation [US], September 27, 1999; see also “Breaking News: US Intel Nominee Lied About ’99 Massacre.  US, Church Documents Show Adm. Dennis Blair Knew of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting.”)

It was also the case, as I reported then, that many TNI atrocities were ordered through communications equipment that was interceptable.

Prabowo said “Only they [the NSA] would have the evidence of Wiranto’s militia operations.”

He said he had “heard that now DC is saying prosecution of Wiranto is no longer necessary.”

This latter statement was misleading, since the US had never backed prosecution (The UN, though, did indict Wiranto for crimes against humanity).

But Prabowo’s point that the US was shielding Wiranto was indeed correct.

Prabowo knew the US procedures well.  The US had backed and shielded his crimes for decades.


NSA surveillance has recently become an international issue.

The US should be pushed to divulge what it has on crimes by itself and those it sponsors.


When Prabowo implicated General Zacky to me it wasn’t entirely self-serving, since Prabowo acknowledged that he himself had often set up such militias.

He said correctly that such forces were part of US counterinsurgency doctrine, and that he, Prabowo, had set militias up during his years in Timor.

He said “All counterinsurgency operations need militias, paramilitaries.  The US uses them.”

“They speak the local dialect, know the area.  They use tactics of claiming to be the other side.”

He said that he presumed that as we spoke, in 2001, Kopassus was running such militias in Aceh, and was hiding its men in plainclothes and in BRIMOB uniform.

Prabowo knew in detail about Zacky’s Timor operation because Zacky had been his — Prabowo’s — man until he “abandoned” Prabowo for Wiranto.

The TNI-run militiamen committed rape, mass murder, torture and arson.

But Prabowo’s objection to them was not their crimes but their uncouth personalities.

He said Eurico Guterres, of Timor’s Aitarak, was “a street punk, a gambler, barely literate.” Though Eurico worked for Kopassus,  Prabowo said he found him “disgusting.”

Today, the press says Eurico is “ready to become a minister in a Prabowo cabinet.” (“Eurico Guterres siap jadi menteri  kabinet Prabowo“).


At the time we spoke, there had been a bombing at the Jakarta stock exchange (JSX) nine months earlier.

Prabowo said one of those involved was an ethnic Acehnese ex-Kopassus (Group 5).

He said  “Its a problem letting Acehnese in there,” (the military) because the Acehnese were not trustworthy.

Prabowo said”Its like Black Panthers in the US.  Do you keep blacks out of the military?”

Today, the Aceh ex-GAM leadership has endorsed Prabowo for president.

I discussed this twice with Muzakir Manaf, the former GAM guerrilla commander.

The first time was on April 10, 2012  right after ex-GAM won local Aceh elections.  The second was last February 9 when Muzakir was serving as the Aceh vice governor.

On both occasions I asked Muzakir if it was true that, as I had reported in 2010, the former Kopassus commander,  General Sunarko, had helped assassinate pro-GAM activists during 2009.

Muzakir’s response on this was significant since, by 2012, Sunarko had become a Muzakir ally.  They were waging an election campaign together.

On both occasions Muzakir said yes, it was true, Sunarko helped command the murders.

So why was GAM now supporting Sunarko, this man who had killed their comrades?

Two reasons, Muzakir said, first, Sunarko could help with the Central Aceh Gayo vote, and second, Sunarko was in Prabowo’s party and Prabowo was giving GAM lots of money.

Last February Muzakir acknowledged to me that Prabowo’s Kopassus had murdered Aceh civilians.

But Muzakir said “He [Prabowo] had his orders, that was his national necessity.  That is all in the past now.”

When I asked Muzakir if his new friend Prabowo should be tried for crimes against humanity, he replied “That is not up to me.  That is up to others, maybe internationally.”


Prabowo was careful when he spoke to me to avoid implicating himself criminally.

It was not that he was denying things, he was just refusing to talk about them.

But there was one interesting case, when he appeared to come to the verge of discussing his role in the 1998 Jakarta riots that featured murder, rape and anti-Chinese violence.

Prabowo had just finished blaming Wiranto for a long list of what he saw as political embarrassments, including the highly-publicized ABRI murders of civilian demonstrators at Trisakti and at Semanggi 1 and 2.

But when it came to the riots, Prabowo did not attempt to blame Wiranto.

Instead, he said, with what could have been pride: “There were 128 fires at one time.  This was an operation: planned, instigated, controlled.”

The only thing he would not say was who had done the controlling.

Prabowo reminisced that during his time in occupied Timor, in the Kopassus camps, he had the use of “slaves.”

But then Prabowo caught himself.

Boasting about “slaves” was not advisable.

He corrected, in good American idiom: “Well, not really slaves — gofers.”

He complained that as we spoke, in 2001, he was short of money: “I am not rich.”

Prabowo said “I have 15 servants.  Maybe you really only need 3.”



“Am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

A child holds a poster of Indonesia's presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and vice presidential candidate Hatta Rajasa in Bandung



Allan Nairn, an American investigative journalist having covered atrocities made by US-supported regimes in East Timor, Guatemala, Haiti, and Indonesia, released his 2001 interview with Prabowo Subianto, former chief of Indonesia’s special forces (Kopassus) implicated in numerous human rights abuses, and also currently a presidential candidate, as the world’s third largest democracy is coming increasingly near to the election scheduled on July.

You can read his article in his personal blog, but I’ve personally copied the entire article below.





News: “Do I have the guts,” Prabowo asked, “am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”


By Allan Nairn

On July 9 the world’s fourth most populous country, Indonesia, will hold an election that could result in General Prabowo Subianto becoming president.

General Prabowo, the brother of a billionaire, was the son-in-law of the dictator Suharto, and as a US trainee and protege was implicated in torture, kidnap and mass murder.

In June and July, 2001 I had two long meetings with Prabowo.

We met at his corporate office in Mega Kuningan, Jakarta.

I offered Prabowo anonymity. 

I was looking into recent murders apparently involving the Indonesian army, and was hoping that if he could speak off-the-record General Prabowo might divulge details.

I came away disappointed.  Prabowo shed little light those killings.

But we ended up speaking for nearly four hours.   

My impression then was that his comments were extraneous.

Prabowo talked about fascism, democracy, army massacre policy, and his long, close relationship with the Pentagon and US intelligence.  

But at that time he was out of power and in political isolation. Other generals were the threat. 

But now Prabowo is on the verge of assuming state power.  And looking back at my notes I realize that some of what he said has now become relevant.

I have contacted General Prabowo asking permission to discuss his comments publicly, but not having heard back from him have decided to go ahead anyway.

I think the harm of breaking my anonymity promise to the General is outweighed by what would be the greater harm of Indonesians going to the polls having been denied access to facts they might find pertinent.


Prabowo and I had a revealing discussion about the Santa Cruz Massacre.  

This was an Indonesian armed forces slaughter of at least 271 civilians.

It was done on November 12, 1991 in Dili, occupied East Timor, outside a cemetery where a crowd of men, women and children had gathered.

I happened to have been present at that massacre and managed to survive it.

Prabowo told me that the army order to do those killings had been “imbecilic.”  (He said he thought the order came from Gen. Benny Murdani, but said he wasn’t certain).

Prabowo’s complaint was not with the fact that the army had murdered civilians, but rather that they had done so in front of me and other witnesses who were then able to report the massacre and mobilize the outside world.

“Santa Cruz killed us politically!,” Prabowo exclaimed.  “It was the defeat!” 

“You don’t massacre civilians in front of the world press,” General Prabowo said. “Maybe commanders do it in villages where no one will ever know, but not in the provincial capital!”

The remark was telling as an acknowledgement that the army routinely massacres, and in establishing that Prabowo finds this acceptable if the killings are done in places where “no one will ever know.” 

In September, 1983, there was just such a series of massacres around the little-seen village of Kraras on the mountain of Bibileo, East Timor. 

The official UN-chartered Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, the CAVR, later reported regarding the Kraras slaughter: 

“421.  The Commission received evidence that Prabowo was stationed in the eastern sector of Timor-Leste at this time. Several sources have told the Commission that he was involved in the operation to bring the civilian population down from Mount Bibileo, shortly after which several hundred were killed by ABRI [the Indonesian Armed Forces]. The Commission also received evidence of Kopassus being involved in these killings. (See Chapter 7.2: Unlawful Killings and Enforced Disappearances).”

As Suharto pulled Prabowo up through the ranks, his commands were implicated in other mass murders, including one in West Papua where Prabowo’s men masqueraded as the International Red Cross (ICRC), and the now well-known covert operation in Jakarta where they disappeared pro-democracy activists.


The fact that Prabowo and I had agreed to sit down was in itself a bit unusual. 

I had called for Prabowo to be tried and jailed along with his US sponsors, and had helped lead a successful grassroots campaign to sever US aid to the Indonesian armed forces.  I had been banned from Indonesia as “a threat to national security,” and General Prabowo’s men had tortured friends of mine.

But, for my part, I had made the cold calculation that if it helped solve the recent murders sitting down with Prabowo would be worth it.   

For Prabowo’s part, I do not know, but I did get the impression that he enjoyed the chance to talk shop and compare notes with an adversary.


At that time, two years after Suharto’s fall,  Indonesia had a civilian president.

He was the blind cleric, Abdurrachman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur.  

The Indonesian armed forces had undermined Gus Dur’s presidential authority.  They had done so in part by facilitating ethnic/ religious terror attacks in the Malukus.  Three weeks after my second meeting with Prabowo, Gus Dur was impeached and ousted.

Today, Gus Dur is often remembered fondly.  The current Prabowo campaign uses footage of him.

But that day, to me, Prabowo ranted about Gus Dur and democracy.

“Indonesia is not ready for democracy,” Prabowo said.  “We still have cannibals, there are violent mobs.”   

Indonesia needs, Prabowo said, “a benign authoritarian regime.”  He said the many ethnicities and religions precluded democracy.

Prabowo said, regarding Gus Dur:

“The military even obeys a blind president!  Imagine!  Look at him, he’s embarrassing!”

“Look at Tony Blair, Bush, Putin.  Young, ganteng [handsome] — and we have a blind man!”

Prabowo called for a different model.

He mentioned Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf.   

Musharraf had arrested his country’s civilian prime minister and imposed dictatorship.  Prabowo said he admired him greatly.

Prabowo ruminated on whether he could measure up, whether he could be an Indonesian Musharraf.

“Do I have the guts,” Prabowo asked, “am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

“Musharraf had the guts, ” Prabowo said.  

As to himself, he left that question unanswered.

End of Part 1.  

Coming Up,  Part 2:  Prabowo: “I was the Americans’ fair-haired boy.”  The Nationalist General and US Intelligence.