404: Information Missing From Your Daily News
Summaries of under-reported news, short updates on previous Monitor stories
First, some background on the fair-haired boy.
Born with a silver spoon clenched firmly between his thin lips, Quayle was the scion of Indiana's powerful Pulliam family. His uncle, Eugene Pulliam, published the state's most influential newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, and the family controlled several other papers. While still just a pup in his twenties, Dan was named associate publisher of the family concern before winning an election for the House of Representatives. Quayle spent four undistinquished years in the House warming his chair, then decided to challenge Birch Bayh for Senator in 1980.
A digression about Birch Bayh: a liberal in a extremely conservative state, Bayh had never lost an election because voters trusted his integrity. Although he personally opposed abortion, he was a vocal supporter of abortion rights when it was still politically risky. First a gung-ho supporter of the Vietnam War, he started lobbying for withdrawl in 1968. When his wife was found to have cancer in 1972, he dropped out of the race. In '76, he ran for president; about GOP candidate Reagan, he said, "I'm here because I think the only safe place for Ronald Reagan is on the late show."
As the 1980 race began, Bayh was the clear favorite, with a 16-point lead. But Quayle had several advantages:
Bayh faced a coordinated attack. The National Conservative Political Action Committee spent almost $100,000 on its "If Bayh wins, you lose," campaign, which even included ads in TV Guide. According to a New York Times report at the time, it was one of the highest amounts the committee spent that year. Single issue groups like Americans For Life and "S.O.B." (Ship Out Bayh), spent another $25,000 or so attacking Bayh for his support of abortion, gun control, and school busing.
Quayle's campaign winked that there was no connection between their candidate and these attack messages mailed to voters statewide, but Quayle's own literature stunk of fear tactics: "If Sen. Bayh and his liberal friends remain in Washington our whole free society as we know it today is in jeopardy."
As election day approached, most polls showed the candidates running even. Then the Christian Right shock troops turned a trick that has since become infamous: On the Sunday before the election, they descended on churches throughout the state and passed out leaflets charging that Bayh encouraged homosexuality and killing of babies.
Once elected to the Senate in 1980, Quayle toadied to newly-elected President Reagan and VP Bush by being one of the loudest champions on Capitol Hill for the contras. The next year Quayle hired a legislative aide named Robert Owen who was to play a pivotal role in the scandal.
Owen was Quayle's "foreign policy advisor" until November 1983, and during this time most of the deals were set in motion. It was in the Congressman's office on July 21, 1983, when Quayle, Owen, contra leader Adolfo Calero, and two men from Indiana, John Hull and William Crone, sat down to discuss how they could support the contras. According to Roll Call, Quayle asked Owen to introduce the group to "people who might help their cause," and the jolly group then trekked to the White House to meet with Oliver North.
Hull and Crone had "farms" in Costa Rica, it seems, and a couple of months later they brought Owen down for a visit. Before long, the airstrips on these farms were bringing in weapons and flying back to the United States loaded with drugs.
Owen left his job with Quayle to work directly with Ollie North, and between 1984 and 85, Owen was in the thick of it. He was Ollie's courier, shuffling bricks of dollar bills to Nicaragua and returning with "needs lists;" he was North's secret agent, smuggling maps and satellite photos that had illegally been obtained "across the river" -- presumably meaning CIA headquarters -- to contra leaders; and he was Oliver North's negotiator, who met at the home of retired Army Maj. Gen. Singlaub to hash out a $5 million arms transfer in 1985, a gross violation of Congressional orders. And eventually the whole illegal scheme was to unravel because a crashed plane filled with supplies was found to have the business card of one Robert Owen.
Owen insisted that Quayle didn't know about any of this illegal help "because even then we were afraid it might blow up, and I didn't want Quayle tainted," according to an excellent article, "Just Danny," by Gail Sheehy in the November, 1998 Vanity Fair. But that doesn't quite strike true. As reported in an earlier Monitor article, Senator Jesse Helms met regularly with Singlaub and others deeply involved with the deals. Why would they keep Quayle out of the loop, since he one of their loudest cheerleaders?
If Quayle now retires from public office, it may never be revealed how much he really knew about the contra scandal, and how deeply he was personally involved in those crucial early years. It would have been a good question to ask at a press conference. (October 14, 1999)
But by any measure, the genocide of East Timor was a far more important event. Where 60,000 civilians became refugees in Kosovo, there are (as of this writing) 500,000 refugees in East Timor -- most of the nation. Kosovo was a textbook example of a 20th century civil war over a breakaway province; in East Timor, the fourth largest nation in the world (Indonesia) swooped down on a defenseless people and directed a scorched-earth attack. And another important reason why the U.S. press should have paid more attention: The U.S. was complicit in this holacaust.
The State Department could have stopped Indonesia in that first bloody week of September -- the United States has long maintained a cozy relationship with the Indonesian military. In fact, an April promise of more U.S. training for "riot control police" and military forces by Admiral Dennis Blair, the U.S. Commander in Chief of the Pacific, was interpreted as U.S. endorsement to proceed with their militia operation. And Clinton seemed to forget his noble promise of a "Clinton Doctrine" at the end of the Kosovo war -- that the U.S. would not stand by while innocent civilians were massacred. But less than six months later, he stood by as a population was hacked to death with machetes. Maybe it was because the Indonesian banking conglomerate, "The Lippo Group," has contributed generously since his days as Arkansas Governor (see 1996 report.)
It's shameful, but really no surprise that the U.S. media turned its back on this important story. Coverage of last year's revolution in Indonesia was similarly ignored -- although it was one of the most dramatic events of our decade, as a million citizens stormed the capital to demand the removal of a great tyrant. (See our special 404 report on that media coverage.) Maybe (probably) institutionalized racism is one of the reasons these events are ignored; certainly wars with people of European descent get more coverage than wars with dark-skinned people. But another reason is that American media likes its wars sanitized -- readers scanning the paper over morning coffee like pathos and heroism, not off-putting stories about dismemberment. The Kosovo story was illustrated (particularly in The New York Times) with a steady supply of weeping babushka-wearing grandmothers. The Timor story was best illustrated by a photo not seen anywhere in the U.S. media. It showed two men casually talking and smoking; one holds a pike with a newly-severed man's head. If a picture like that had appeared in The Washington Post, perhaps there would have been a great popular outcry (as well as a rush of subscription cancellations).
Far short of horrific images like that, newspaper readers in Asia and Europe had the opportunity to see remarkable journalism that was denied to Americans. Monitor provided two articles drawn from eyewitness reports that appeared in Brit, Australian, and Asian papers. These and other stories from September can be found in our INDEX of East Timor news, which (we think) offers a fine example of our motto: "The News You're Missing" -- at least, if you only read the American press.
Below are three short items on other neglected Indonesia and East Timor stories:
According to the Observer, the Indonesian military began shoring up its forces in East Timor just weeks after the overthrow of dictator Suharto, apparently fearing that his presidential successor, B.J. Habibie, might offer its long-sought East Timor independence. By the time that Habibie announced in January that there would be an August 31 vote, the Indonesian army already had recruited about 5,000 West Timorese into the militias and covertly moved into East Timor 400 soldiers of the feared KOPASSUS Group 4 unit, infamous for murdering political dissidents. "Some of them were immediately stripped of their uniforms and went into East Timor in disguise and plain clothes. Others started transporting arms to the border," according to the Observer article. A month later, the Monitor offered a story documenting that Indonesia was arming the militias, but the Indonesian army also supported the militias with helicopters, communications equipment, cars and computers, according to the Observer.
U.S. satellites reportedly observed an Indonesian troop buildup near the East Timor border, and Australia's equivalent of the CIA found in early March that the Indonesia-controlled militias were plotting a "scorched earth policy" if the vote went against them. The Observer says that the UN received this report and others, including copies of an Indonesian military document showing that the province had been split into four "killing zones."
The Observer also reported that they found documents showing that Indonesia was channelling tens of thousands of dollars to East Timor military operations via "development grants." According to the newspaper, "Further orders were given in early May in an army document obtained by pro-independence leaders. 'Massacres should be carried out from village to village after the announcement of the ballot if the pro-independence supporters win,' it said, adding that the East Timorese independence movement, 'should be eliminated from its leadership down to its roots.'"
After Indonesia brutally invaded in 1975, Suharto and his cronies wasted no time setting up the same sort of profiteering empire as found on other Indonesia islands. Thousands of coffee, palm oil, and other agricultural plantations were established, all owned by army brass or members of Suharto's extended family. A democratic East Timor might be very expensive to some very powerful Indonesians.
Losing control of East Timor could easily inspire other independence movements in the archipelago nation of 13,600 islands and 204 million people. Should East Timor win a well-publicized freedom, what's to stop 13,599 other islands from also demanding freedom? With plantations and factories on almost every outcropping, you can bet that the rulers of Indonesia were determined not to let East Timor win.
And then there's the issue of oil. The Suharto family owns the only three oil wells in East Timor, pumping out about 33,000 barrels per day. More important is the petroleum and natural gas offshore under the Timor Sea. These deposits are claimed by both Australia and Indonesia (on behalf of its Timor province), and is worth billions annually. Little has been pumped to date, but the territory is clearly rich in black goo; the average luck for finding oil where you expect it is 1-in 10, but oil is struck here 1 in every three attempts. So valuable is the oil that Austalia and Indonesia split the territory in the Timor Gap Treaty of 1989, making Oz the first nation in the world to recognize Indonesia's brutal annexation of East Timor.
Some analyists have suggested that Indonesia intended to intimidate the East Timorese to vote against freedom via building a campaign of terror, but revisit the item above and note that the army had its death squads in place even before the referendum was announced; it was last November when KOPASSUS Group 4 began its covert operation. Perhaps significantly, this was just two weeks after the arrest in London of former Chilean dictator Pinochet.
The parallels between Pinochet and Suharto are striking. Both military men, Pinochet supposedly modeled his coup after Suharto's 1965 takeover and quick supression of protest, where any Indonesians labeled "communists" were hunted and butchered. Both dictators stepped down after long reigns of terror, both with amnesty that they wouldn't be prosecuted for human rights crimes committed during their dictatorship. Where Pinochet may be extradited to Spain for war crimes, it is even more likely that Portugal would want to place Suharto on trial because East Timor was a Portugese colony when Indonesia invaded.
Only one newspaper (The London Daily Telegraph, August 17) has noted that Suharto stopped seeking medicial treatment abroad after Pinochet's arrest. Previously, he routinely flew to Germany in one of his private jets, according to the paper. But the Telegraph quotes a Western diplomat in Jakarta that Suharto asked for, but failed to receive, assurances from Germany earlier this year that he would not be arrested. The 78 year-old Suharto has instead recently been treated in Jakarta for stomach bleeding and mild strokes. it is not hard to imagine that he would have in place some sort of "insurance" to protect his neck, should surgery abroad become necessary. That insurance could be the perception that only he can stop the military from murdering every last person in East Timor.
Murdering a few thousand from a nation of hostages isn't such a mad idea for someone like Suharto, who is certainly the most Machiavellian despot of our times. It demonstrated unquestionably that Suharto remains the true leader of both Indonesia and the army. In the early days of the East Timor genocide, General Wiranto -- head of the Indonesian Armed Forces -- ordered restraint, but these orders were ignored as soldiers joined the militias in their slaughter. As noted in a Monitor analysis last month, this demonstrated that the army was still loyal to former-General Prabowo, who was forced to resign after revelations of earlier atrocities by his KOPASSUS special forces. Prabowo is also Suharto's son-in-law.
Besides showing the international community that Indonesia is still capable of great savagery, it's certain that the East Timor horrors were also meant to scare Indonesians, who are about to have their own first national elections. Machiavelli would be proud. It looks like Suharto has intimidated both Indonesia and the world beyond, all without direct involvement himself. Far more powerful than just owning a vicious pit bull is showing you have control of its leash. (October 11, 1999)
Albion Monitor Issue 67 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)
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