How did The Clinton But toward Clinton Since the The recent Ever since The United Waco Whiplash True, Freeh Reno hasn’t Reno should Six years Compassion, Texas-Style
Clinton respond at first? With bombs? With this-cannot-stand rhetoric? No, with
neither. As the militias took over, Clinton said, "I’m very concerned
about the continuing violence, and the people who lost the election should recognize
that they lost it fair and square and should now find a way to go forward peacefully."
No doubt that made the military goons of Indonesia quiver. Instead of sending
a clear signal to the military men behind the terror, Clinton’s gang publicly
maintained that East Timor is not Kosovo. "The question of East Timor and
Kosovo are not the same," State Dept. spokesman James Rubin said last Wednesday.
"It doesn’t mean we care less about East Timor than we care about
Kosovo." But that same day administration officials were telling reporters
that Clinton & Co. had, as The New York Times put it, "made
the calculation that the United States must put its relationship with Indonesia,
a mineral-rich nation of more than 200 million people, ahead of its concern
over the political fate of East Timor, a tiny, impoverished territory."
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, in making the case for doing nothing,
told reporters at a briefing: "You know, my daughter has a very messy apartment
up in college; maybe I shouldn’t intervene to have that cleaned up."
Sounds like he cares a whole lot. Such a crass statement warrants resignation.
administration’s initial plan was to have Pentagon officials persuade Indonesian
military chief Gen. Wiranto to end the military-backed violence in East Timor.
That is, to rely on the good graces of the man in charge of the marauders. This
was a fool’s mission, for Wiranto had already done nothing to rein in the
military commanders mounting the paramilitary violence in East Timor. At one
point last week, Wiranto had even told an adviser to UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan that he could not ensure the safety of the UN personnel in the capital
city of Dili.
the end of the week, the Clinton administration took a half-step: it suspended
relations with the Indonesian military. This meant no more joint military exercises
or exchanges of liaison officers. (Still, according to a Pentagon spokesman,
it wasn’t clear whether the suspension would interrupt U.S. arms sales
to Indonesia.) This was hardly a bold move. Indonesia’s leaders might have
been more concerned had Clinton heartily supported a cutoff of assistance from
the International Monetary Fund. Instead, he noted, "My own willingness
to support future assistance will depend very strongly on the way Indonesia
handles this situation." Not much of a threat, there. And at a press conference
he referred to East Timor as a legitimate part of Indonesia–which it is
not. It took a week for Clinton to state the obvious: " It is now clear
that the Indonesian military is aiding and abetting the militia violence."
Why the delay? Did the CIA, State Dept., and National Security Council not know
what everyone in East Timor knew?
went slow, for the U.S. government, including the Clinton administration, has
long cared little about the East Timorese, and it has long maintained a cozy
relationship with the abusive Indonesian government and military. One historical
fact left out of most reporting on the current East Timor crisis is that Washington
in 1975 condoned Indonesia’s bloody invasion of East Timor, which is one
half of the island of Timor. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger were in Jakarta in December 1975, and were told of Indonesia’s
intention to invade the former Portuguese colony. They didn’t protest.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,
later wrote in his memoirs that Ford and Kissinger’s policy was for the
U.S. to stall UN efforts to reverse the invasion.
U.S.-approved invasion, administrations in Washington have happily shipped tons
of weapons to the Indonesian military, even as its occupation of East Timor
resulted in the deaths of up to 200,000. The militia men who attacked UN personnel
in Dili did so with M-16 assault weapons–firearms that originated in the
United States. Up until a few years ago, the United States was a key supplier
of guns and ammunition to Indonesia. Then Congress imposed a ban. Still, the
Clinton State Dept. licensed the sale to Indonesia of ammunition-manufacturing
technology and the raw materials for ammunition–items not covered by the
ban. Despite Indonesia’s lousy human-rights record, the Clinton administration
has not turned off the tap of weapon sales to the Indonesian military. In 1996,
the U.S peddled $28 million worth of military goods to Jakarta. In 1998, it
licensed the sale of $33 million of equipment, including tear gas and spare
parts for fighter jets, missiles, missile launchers, radar systems and tanks.
ban on gun sales, unfortunately, came too late. (An immediate total cutoff in
military sales to Indonesia would also be too late to help those being massacred
now.) Over the years, the Indonesian military received enough guns from the
United States to go around today. "We’ve been making this point for
a while," says Luke Warren, an analyst at the Council for a Livable World
Educational Fund, a nonprofit watchdog group that monitors U.S. weapons sales
abroad. "The Indonesian military has used American weapons and riot gear
for years in East Timor and other provinces. Some of the most egregious activity
it has engaged in has been done with American weapons. Once you sell them these
things, you can’t get rid of them. The United States should have seen this
coming for a long time."
the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has been the number-one
arms dealer in the world, and the leading supplier of weaponry to developing
nations, many of which cannot truly afford these goods or are not stable, human-rights-respecting
democracies. There are approximately 6000 people employed by the U.S. government
to promote arms sales overseas. The Clinton administration generally has opposed
constraints on arms deals, favoring a laissez-faire policy that boosts sales
for U.S. arms manufacturers. Remember the campaign theme of the first Clinton
presidential campaign? Putting People First. Regarding its arms export policy–the
consequences of which are now being seen on the streets of Dili–the Clinton
White House, like its predecessors, believes in Putting (American) Profits First,
and (Foreign) People Second.
States armed and supported the Indonesian military for years and helped create
the current mess. Unlike his daughter’s room, East Timor is a place that
Sandy Berger, as a representative of past and present U.S. foreign policy, must
help clean up.
do Republicans hate Attorney General Janet Reno so much? The recent revelations
about the Waco debacle–exploding tear gas canisters, it turns out, were
used by the FBI during the siege’s violent finale, although the FBI and
Justice Dept. had said they were not–have led to a frenzied attack on Reno.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott called on Reno to resign, blasting her for
being incompetent. Sen. Orrin Hatch declared that "the Justice Dept. is
in shambles." Rep. Dan Burton, the ethics-challenged Republican who screwed
up the House hearings on campaign finance abuses and who has pursued Vince Foster
conspiracy theories, rushed forward to announce he would hold hearings on Waco.
None of these gentlemen criticized FBI chief Louis Freeh and his Bureau.
wasn’t on the job when the Waco incident occurred and some 80 people were
killed, including about two dozen children. But it was FBI agents–not Reno
advisers–who fired the pyrotechnic canisters, and it was the FBI–under
Freeh–that had failed to reveal that they had been deployed. (All the chest-pounding
aside, it appears unlikely that these canisters, launched by the FBI away from
the compound and hours before the final fire began, sparked the flames that
destroyed the Branch Davidian compound.) Has Freeh disciplined anyone in the
Bureau for not coming clean? Not so far. Yet Republicans and conservatives on
the Hill and on the tube aimed their hostile fire at Reno. National Review’s
Kate O’Beirne took a typical line: "Ultimately, Janet Reno bears more
responsibility for learning this so late… Ultimately, it underscores her stonewalling."
If the FBI stonewalled the information, why is Reno "ultimately" the
been such a bad attorney general for the Republicans. She’s requested independent
counsels to investigate several of her fellow Cabinet members, including Bruce
Babbitt, Henry Cisneros, Ronald Brown, Mike Espy and Alexis Herman. She authorized
Kenneth Starr’s expansion of his Whitewater inquiry to include the Monica
matter. Republicans remain pissed that she said no to an independent counsel
investigation of Clinton’s fundraising practices. But had she taken the
advice of Common Cause and asked for an independent counsel to probe the shady
finances of both parties in the 1996 campaign, the GOP would have been
quite inconvenienced. The Bob Dole campaign engaged in many of the same (arguably
illegal) soft-money abuses as did the Clinton campaign, and the Republican National
Committee, under the auspices of chairman Haley Barbour, brought in Asian money
in a scheme that was legally suspect. By letting Clinton off, she handed a pass
to Republicans as well. Last week, she chose Sen. John Danforth, a well-regarded
Republican perhaps best known publicly for his defense of Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas during Thomas’ contentious Senate hearings in 1991, to
helm the Waco probe.
have resigned over Waco long ago, yet there may have been no easy way out for
her. David Koresh may have been set on torching himself and his followers, but
as someone who visited the site of the Branch Davidian compound after the standoff,
I find it hard to believe that there was no way to deal with Koresh other than
with tanks. Following the disaster, Reno said she was taking full responsibility,
but what did that mean? She got to keep her job. In many European nations, if
a minister made a decision that ended up with such tragic consequences, he or
she would resign. Reno paid no price for being responsible.
later, though, it’s amusing to see Republicans and conservatives blowing
on the embers of two or three canisters, pathetically attempting to spark a
conflagration that’ll burn Reno at the stake. Maybe it’s progress
that Republicans are spouting rhetoric about law enforcement abuses–even
if they ignore the FBI (which conducted the raid and sat on the tear gas information).
By making Reno their sole target, they show their concerns to be mostly political.
After all, how many of these Republicans now in an uproar over Waco have worried
aloud about law enforcement violence–such as the police killings in New
York–that is not linked to a Democratic political appointee?
Gov. George W. Bush packages his presidential campaign message into two words:
"compassionate conservatism." When this caring soul was in South Carolina
last week, he was asked about the efforts of the NAACP to remove the Confederate
flag from the top of the statehouse. Did Bush empathize with his fellow citizens
offended by South Carolina’s embrace of a symbol of slavery? No: "My
advice is for people who don’t live in South Carolina to butt out of the
issue, said Bush. "The people of South Carolina can make that decision."
Sure is a funny way of showing compassion.