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Exception to the Rulers, III
From a Z Media Institute talk, June 1997
Two weeks after the 1991 massacre, the Indonesian military held two news conferences in Jakarta and announced that Allan and I were banned from returning to Indonesia or East Timor. They called us a threat to national security. Probably because we survived the massacre and talked about it. In November 1994, President Clinton was going to Indonesia for APEC, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. And he was going to meet with Suharto and other Asian-Pacific leaders. This was the biggest moment for Indonesia in Suhartos 30-year history. The world spotlight would be on him. They cleaned the streets about a month before APEC. Meaning, Suhartos military went through the streets of Jakarta in a big military hardware show, threatening everyone, saying if you dare to hold a demonstration this is what will happen to you. It was very blatant. They called it Operation Cleanup. We now know that when Clinton went to Indonesia he was meeting with his campaign contributors, James Riatti and others.
Indonesia decided that they would demonstrate openness by saying that Allan and I could come into the country while President Clinton was there. It just so happened that President Clinton was arriving on November 13, 1994, the day after the anniversary of the massacre. The anniversary of the massacre of 1991 is a very big event in East Timor. There are protests every year. So we flew in on November 11 at night, and the headlines in the Jakarta Post were that we were coming in. We didnt realize it was that big a deal. We thought we could just slip in quietly. We went to the Jakarta Convention Center which is like any convention center in a big city. We walked into the American Embassy booth. There were thousands of journalist organizations from around the world there. When we walked into the American Embassy one they said, "Oh, you have arrived." We didnt know anyone knew we were coming until they showed us these headlines.
We decided to quickly, before anyone noticed, get into East Timor the next day, November 12. We had to get our press credentials. Immediately the head of the credentials office came over to us, knowing who we were. And he said to us, "So have you finally calmed down a little?" And Allan said, "Have you finally stopped killing?" The official walked away.
The next morning we took a flight from Jakarta. We had bought our ticket in the U.S. because we knew they would try to prevent us here. You can not buy a ticket to East Timor in the U.S. so we didnt have a ticket for the last leg. We got to the Jakarta airport and said we were going to Bali. They said there was no plane but we saw people lined up. We talked our way onto the plane. We did make it to Bali. In West Timor, they didnt have a plane that was going to East Timor that day.
We started to go into the bus station to try to drive into East Timor. Its about a 10-hour drive. There was a bus to Delhi. It took us to a tiny frontier town between West and East Timor where we had to go inside this little candy shop, a really remote site, and buy tickets just to go over the border into East Timor. We went in and said, hi, wed like to get two tickets. This women took out a little piece of cardboard that had our names written, misspelled, on it and said no. And she said, furthermore... and we turned around and military men took us onto a bus and brought us to the military compound there.
We were able to use the phone there. We made two phone calls. One to the American Embassy in Jakarta and said we want you to know exactly where we are, and we want to get out of here. And a call to the press because we knew that the American Embassy would probably work to keep us there. But at least they would know where we were. We were then put back on the bus to the capital of West Timor. We drove all night and when we got to the city, we drove into this area that I realized was a military compound because it was surrounded by soldiers. They opened the door and said get off. And I said, well, were not getting off. Indonesian civilians were on the bus and they kept their heads down.
Then one of the Indonesian military said, "Youll be safe. Dont worry." And I said "Yeah, the last time we were in your hands we werent exactly safe." But eventually we decided there was no hope so we got off the bus and were immediately put into military detention. They had INTEL all around us, thats military intelligence of Indonesia. At that point, we demanded to use a phone to call our embassy. They forbid us to do that. But late in the night, when INTEL had gone off and only one guy was there and he had dozed off, we tiptoed out to a phone, putting our stuff in front of him so he wouldnt shoot us in the back. We called the embassy and the press to say exactly where we were.
They questioned us all day and said that a top official was coming from Jakarta so we wouldnt be able to leave. This was on the anniversary of the massacre, November 12. Eventually, because they got so many press calls in the military compound once we had gotten the number out, they got scared. President Clinton was coming the next day. This was their biggest moment at APEC and now it didnt look very good that people knew we were there. So, they put us on a plane back to Jakarta. We then learned that 29 Timorese had jumped the wall of the U.S. Embassy demanding to talk to President Clinton.
Here you have the world cameras on these brave 29 Timorese young men instead of President Clinton flying in. I talked to someone inside the embassy and they said they wanted to kick them out immediately, although youre not supposed to do that because embassies are traditionally places of refuge. They couldnt quite do it because there were about 24 cameras lined up through the bars. You could see the Timorese on the inside. And, of course, the INTEL cameras were going as well, and they were harassing these young students. But they were protected by the wall. They demanded the release of Xanana Gusmau who had been captured in 1992, and that there be a referendum in East Timora UN-sponsored referendum so they could decide whether they wanted to be "integrated" with Indonesia, as Indonesia calls it, or whether they would be free. They knew that they had to go to the site that controls Indonesia the best, and that was the U.S.
This got a lot of attention. It was on the front page of the New York Times. I think CBS did a report on the evening news. The only problem is they didnt make it clear why they jumped the wall of the U.S. Embassy. It was just the nearest embassy to them. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was the U.S. government. So you see, if theyre going to cover a story and they are going to talk about atrocities, they are not going to link it to the U.S.
Thirty-four other young people had tried to jump the wall with these twenty-nine but they got dragged back by military intelligence. Another 30 saw them being dragged off and ran away. But these 29 young people certainly captured the attention of the news media. As they were doing this, in East Timor, people were arrested all over the country. The Indonesians had killed another Timorese and they were protesting. About 250 of these Timorese were put in jail.
We went back to the Jakarta Convention Center where many of the press were asking to interview us, to talk about the massacre three years before. We said, well do this all at once. Well do it it in the lobby of the convention center. On my computer we typed out, "Amy and Allan will speak at 6:00 down the hall." And we started to hand it out to people, thinking nothing of it. As we started to give it out, Indonesian security came over. They surrounded and started to drag us off. This was in the middle of the Jakarta Convention Center. While we normally would have attracted about 20 people, instead we had 200 journalists running with a bank of cameras to photograph and video tape this and to scream at the Indonesians, what are you doing, these are journalists. One journalist remarked, "They are so clumsy, these Indonesians. They dont know how to do it." I said, "No, no, no. They know how to do it. They dont know how to do it when theyve got 20 cameras on them and Westerners screaming at them to let other Westerners go. But they certainly know how to do it in the streets of Jakarta and in the streets of East Timor."
As the cameras rolled, the journalists said, okay, have the press conference here, and as the Indonesian security was grabbing my neck, we told the story of what happened over the last 24 hours. Then we told the story of the massacre as they tried to drag us away. Finally, the head of security came with 30 other security and in front of our cameras, he said "you cannot hold a press conference at..." I said, "In the press center?" He said, "Thats right, unless you have my permission." I said, "Well, sir, can I have your permission. He shouted, "No. Absolutely not." This was all broadcast. For the first time, the world press, particularly the U.S. press, said, there is a problem in Indonesia.
The next day we wanted to do what the other journalists were doing, which is cover the APEC Summit. In particular, we wanted to get a chance to question Suharto and President Clinton. We went over to sign up for the news conference and the White House Press liaison said, "You know, you wont be allowed in." I said, "I dont understand, Im a journalist." She said, "You werent on the White House press plane. Only the journalists on the White House press plane can go to the news conference." So I said, "How much would it cost to go, $5,000? $10,000? Had to be more than that." And she said, "What do you mean by that." I said, "I just want to know how much it costs to ask President Clinton a question." She said, "I really resent that." I said, "I do, too." She said, "I worked for NPR." I said, "It doesnt surprise me."
Suharto was holding a news conference so we went to ask, how do we go to this? We had to go to the White House embassy liaison who would decide what American journalists could go to Suhartos news conference. So we understood why, whether President Clinton is standing in the rose garden in Washington or in Jakarta next to Suharto, he is always asked the same questions. Even independent journalists who might be located in Jakarta, who would know a lot more about whats going on in Indonesia, couldnt go because they werent flying on a White House press airplane.
As a result we could not cover any of these activities, so we decided to try to get back into East Timor. The next day we took a 5:00 AM flight from Jakarta to Bali. In Bali for the first time, they pulled everyone off the plane. We knew they were going to check everyones passports. And we realized then we were going to be taken off, so we decided not to get off the plane. They came in and said, "You must get off the plane."
We said, "No, were just heading to East Timor."
They took us off the plane.
In Bali we decided to change our identity to get into East Timor. We went into the capital followed by military on motorcycles. We got into a cab and told the driver "Take us to the Monkey Jungle." As we were driving we urged the driver "Go faster, go faster." We could see that we were still being followed. Failing to shake them we got out of the cab and started running up a one-way street.
The Indonesian military followed. I turned around with my camera and started taking pictures and they went away. We went to a hotel and we gave ourselves different names and went to another hotel and used different names to cover our tracks. After we knew they werent following us anymore we would go back to Jakarta and try again to get into East Timor using different names.
We went back to Jakarta and this time we bought tickets all the way through. In Bali we had gone on a little shopping spree and Allan bought a big Balinese hat, I bought a Balinese dress, wrapped up my hair in all sorts of Balinese ribbons, on top of that I put a hat that said Bali, and looked as much as we could like tourists.
We got on the plane and flew back to Balil. When youre going to East Timor you go into a special place. Its basically all military because who else goes to East Timor? We sat down in our hats and sunglasses.
We first came up with the names Bennet Johnston and Diane Feinstein because they were the two leading proponents of Indonesia in the Senate and would be received more favorably. But then we thought it was possible they might arrest us for impersonating senators. We wanted names that were significant if we were caught but we didnt quite want to be put in jail just for impersonation, so we decided to be Bennett and Betty Feinstein. Bennett for Bennet Johnston, Feinstein for Dianne Feinstein and Betty for Betty Ford, the wife of Gerald Ford, who OKd the invasion. Not that she should bear responsibility, but thats how we decided to do it.
So, here we were in Bali sitting among all the military intelligence waiting to go into East Timor. Just as they were about to announce the flight over the loud speaker came, "Bennett Feinstein, Bennet Feinstein come to security." We got up and I walked dutifully behind him.
We went up to the counter and Indonesian security agents said, "You forgot your ticket. Here it is." We got on the plane and flew to East Timor. We re-walked the route of the procession of the massacre. We talked to people along the way. At the massacre site there were people sitting and talking about how bad the situation was. We visited some of the gravestones. We met with Bishop Bello at his house. He was quite surprised to see us because he is under total surveillance. The Indonesian military was everywhere. Bishop Bello told us the situation was worse than it had been since 1983. We then met with the resistance leader. The day before the Timorese had risen up all over East Timor and more than 200 of them had been arrested. The Indonesian military now have an office set up at the university. The resistance leader said the torture most commonly used was electric shock to the genitals and forcing the Timorese to swallow their crucifixes. Thats what was happening in 1994.
What is most difficult about being in East Timor is that you endanger everyone you speak to. So you have to be very careful and we knew that if we stayed long it would put people in jeopardy.
At the airport in Jakarta they were quite angry. They saw on the computer that we were on the black list. We were allowed in for the few days for President Clinton and they pointed out we were not with Clinton. They said, "Youre on the black list. You cant go out."
I said, "No, the black list means that you cant come into your country. We can get out of your country." We eventually came back to the U.S.
@PAR SUB = For the first time reporters were coming up to me saying, "Why dont you explain this?" I went on one of these national NPR shows on the media with reporters from Newsweek and LA Times. I told them, "You know, its good youre starting to cover this. But youve got to start covering the brutality and the human rights abuse and the genocide for this to capture peoples imaginations and get people in America to care." A campaign contribution scandal does not interest people. It just sounds like a lot of corrupt money politics that is out of control. But, when you say that U.S. weapons are being used to kill catholic parishioners, to kill catholic school girls, people care about that.
I went back to the White House after President Clinton was re-elected. The Nobel Peace Prize winners had been announced, and I went to the White House press briefing that day. The journalists were asking Mike McCurry about some golf clubs that President Clinton had. Each journalist got to ask a few questions about these golf clubs.
I said, "I hate to interrupt whats important but I just wanted to ask if you have anything to say about the announcement today of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize."
He said, "Oh yes, it was awarded to Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Belo and we applaud them."
I said, "You know, I have spoken to Bishop Belo. He said that the situation is worse than its been since 1983. Jose Ramos-Horta says selling F-16s to Suharto is like selling F-16s to Saddam Hussein. Why are you doing it?"
He said, "We have various foreign policy concerns."
The day they received the Nobel Peace Prize, I said to Mike McCurry, "You know, it has now been admitted that James Riatti came to the White House more than a dozen times to discuss policy matters. Yet President Clinton has still not extended an invitation to the Nobel Peace Prize winners. Is it because they havent made a campaign contribution?" He got very angry. "Or," I said, "is it because those that have contributed dont want them there?" He went on to another question.
He finally said, as I pushed him on this, "Well, they disagree with things Jose Romos-Horta had said." Something along those lines, he was very vague.
I said, "What do you disagree with? Do you have to agree with every person? Do you agree with the Chinese arms merchants and the Russians nuclear guy who was in jail? Do you agree with all these people that you invite to the White House?"
I think it is important to go to the White House and raise these issues, but much more important than that is grassroots activists around the country informing people about what is happening and applying pressure to Congress because that is a little closer to the people. President Clinton has backed down on the sale of F-16s because of grassroots activity adding to the embarrassment of the Nobel Peace award and the campaign contribution scandal. It is incumbent on all of us to call Congress members, to meet with them and say, "We demand that you not provide weapons and support to the Indonesian dictatorship."
@PAR SUB = Ill give you one story that deals with corporate power and why we remain as close as we are with Indonesia. This will help to explain why Clinton doesnt need the James Riattis to continue the relationship. He doesnt need Indonesian PR people lobbying on behalf of Indonesia. He has U.S. corporations that do the lobbying and they are the ones who have the stranglehold on politics in this country. He has the Nikes, the Reeboks, the ATTs, that do their business in Indonesia. They are the ones who fight every time a bill is introduced to cut weapons sales to Indonesia. They are the ones who are able to throw their weight around by donating to the campaigns of various legislators.
Reebok gives out four human rights awards every year to young activists who are usually good, important grassroots activists. They have panels around the world recommending people. The year after the massacre, they decided to honor Fernando de Araujo who is in jail now in Indonesia for ten years because he protested the massacre. So here was Reebok, who makes a killing in Indonesia, honoring Fernando de Araujo.
I had met the head of the Reebok Human Rights Foundation at a dinner where I was seated next to him. Suharto had just been in town and I heard that the CEO of Reebok, Paul Fireman, had met with him. So I asked, "Do you know if they discussed the issue of East Timor? Did Fireman say he would press the U.S. to stop selling weapons to Indonesia unless they withdraw from East Timor?" He said, "Uh, I dont know what the CEO said."
Surprisingly enough a few months later he called saying would you like to receive the award with Allan on behalf of Fernando de Araujo and speak about the massacre at the awards ceremony? We went back and forth on this. Journalists certainly lend credibility to this event. We were concerned when they called and asked for my measurements so they could give me Reebok clothes from head to toe.
We understood exactly what it was about, but we decided we would do it. It was a chance to explain what was happening in East Timor and to explain the corporate connection.
So we phoned and said, "Yeah, well be there." They called back saying they were getting rooms for us at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. We said, "No, we dont want any of that." This started to make them nervous.
The event began with a luncheon at the Four Seasons. This event was unbelievable. I was sitting next to Richie Havens and I didnt know the person on my other side so I said, "Hello."
He said, "Hi, what is your name?"
I told him and asked, "What is your name?"
He replied, "Michael Stipe."
I said, "Oh, are you an assistant to Richie Haven?"
He said, "No, I have my own little band [REM]."
I didnt realize who he was until I called my brother to say I wasnt coming to see him right now. My brother responded, "Thats okay, whos there?"
I told him "All kinds of people. Richie Havens, and this guy, he says he has his own band, Mike Stipe."
He said, "Ill be there in ten minutes."
That is the level of people that are lending their good name to this. That is why Reebok spends millions of dollars to hold this kind of event to launder its image. Even if it costs them $100,000 to give to the human rights activists and $1,000,000 to sponsor this event it is worth it. They underwrote the Amnesty Tour to the tune of $20,000,000. Why not just pay the workers in Indonesia 5 cents more? No, that they cant do. They fight that every step of the way, but they can spend millions of dollars to launder their image as great human rights protectors in the world today.
That evening there was a dinner. Baba Alahtunji was playing the drums with Mickey Hart. We met Tabatha Soren from MTV who would be presenting Fernandos award. We told her not to hand us the award because that would go back to Indonesia as Reebok handing us an award and we didnt want that symbolism. Then we explained to her what was happening in East Timor, told her how to pronounce it correctly, and explained how bad the situation was.
The event was the next morning at the Hynes Auditorium. Thousands of people were there. We were led to the elevators in groups. They said, "Okay, Amy Goodman, Allan Nairn, Terry Anderson, Yo-Yo Ma, Cybil Shepard, Joan Baez you come this way. Michael Stipe, and others, come this way." We walked out onto the stage. It was very dark except for blue neon lights everywhere and the Reebok video logo, which is a robot breaking through barbed wire, on 20 large screens throughout the hall. We sat on the stage; Paul Fireman, Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Gabriel, Tabatha Soren, Cybil Shepard, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, along with Allan and me. The lights came on, the video robot smashed through the barbed wire, and Richie Havens sang "freedom, freedom, freedom." Then Terry Anderson, who had just been released, came out on stage and shouted "freedom, freedom." At this point Paul Fireman got up and said, "This, is about freedom." The people were cheering. There were a lot of grassroots activists there and a lot of corporate executives. My brother was in the front row surrounded by about 20 Reebok executives.
They began to give the awards which were preceded by a two-minute video of what the recipients had done. Michael Stipe gave the award to the activist from Northern Ireland. Mickey Hart gave the award to the activist from Zaire. It was a very moving, powerful event, and you can be sure that Reebok was sending video of this all over the world, and everywhere you turn a Reebok logo is there.
Tabatha Soren got up and said "This is for Fernando de Araujo," and they showed his picture all over the auditorium. "Amy and Allan are here to explain what happened that day because they survived the massacre."
We had two minutes each. I got up and within the time constraint described the massacre. I ended with the words of Fernando de Araujo proclaiming why he had protested this.
Allan got up and said, "You may wonder how this kind of genocide could take place in the late 20th century? How this kind of killing continues today? Well, it is in part because of corporations like Reebok, and Nike, and Adidas. It is they who pull girls and women from the countryside, bring them into the city to work in their plants for about $2 a day." Allan continued, "Right now someone is in terrible pain in East Timor. It is about midnight there and someone has been dragged out of their house, their fingernails torn out, they are being tortured. We have to think carefully about what we can do. In this room there is a lot that can be done because the blood is on the hands of Reebok."
It was totally silent. Then some people started to clap. And then, as practiced, we had to step back and shake Paul Firemans hand. We werent going to shake his hand, but we didnt worry about it because he certainly wasnt going to shake ours. He was so shaken. He got up and, reading from his cue card, stated, "Thank you, Allan and Amy. We now turn to the great Yo Yo Ma, who will play for us.
The event ended with Joan Baez singing "Amazing Grace" and we were all supposed to put our arms around each other and walk through the auditorium to the room were we would have our picture taken. The problem was we were now positioned so that I would have my arm around Paul Fireman. Allan and I stood back and let them stand in front of us as they all sang and marched through the audience. We started to go to the room where pictures would be taken. This is really why we were there, so Paul Fireman could be shown surrounded by these celebrities. Every inch of the room says Reebok on it, so no matter where Cybil Shepard, Joan Baez, or Michael Stipe are they have a logo behind them when they are photographed. As we where heading into the room they said, "Not so fast."
We said, "No, they told us we had to come into this room. We dont want to disobey orders," and went into the room.
As Paul Fireman was trying to get his hands around Joan and Cybil, the journalists were asking questions like, "Why do you do this? Why do you not pay the workers more? What is going on in East Timor? Have you raised this issue?" And that was all very good. Then they would come back to us and ask, "What do you think about his answer?"
The guy from Rolling Stone said, "I really congratulate you on your courage." Joan Baez came over and said, "I had butterflies in my stomach." I told her, "You should think about how you use your name, because I am sure you did not know about this, but this is why Reebok does this."
Cybil came up and asked "Can I tell Bill and Hillary about this?"
It seemed like there was going to be some momentum from this event. Upstairs you had the lawyers committee, NGOs, and everyone else furious that we had done this.
This is a very serious issue, the relationship between NGOs and non-profits in this country and the corporate backers that they have. Some were absolutely furious, charging we were now going to cut off the hand that feeds them. We replied that this had to be said.
A lot of people approached us, but there was not a word in any of the press following the event, except on AP, but, of course, that only goes to journalists and then they dont print it. The AP account was very good but no one saw it.
I went to Rolling Stone right away. Will it talk about Fernando de Araujo? Will there at least be a picture of him? Will they talk about the situation or the Reebok plants? There was a picture of Cybil Shepard, Paul Fireman, Joan Baez and a statement on what a fantastic event it was. It was a two-page spread. This is how the media works.
As a grassroots journalist I try to raise questions that the mainstream media hopefully will pick up. If only they would steal our stories, that would be great. We have to keep at it. Keep asking them over and over, maybe for a year asking the same questions at White House briefings, that will have the effect of just one question whispered from the front row.
Most important are the grassroots activists working around the country educating others and putting pressure on congress to expose the relationship between Indonesia and the U.S. administration, whether Republican or Democrat.
The Timorese know they are doing this. They cant march in the streets of the U.S., they certainly cant march in the streets of their own country, although when they do they get gunned down with U.S. weapons. It is really up to us.
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now," Pacifica Radios daily grassroots political talk show.