President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia

President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia:

“… May our two nations work together, with faith and determination …”

Jakarta, November 10, 2010

 

 

Thank you for this wonderful welcome. Thank you to the people of Jakarta. And thank you to the people of Indonesia.I am so glad that I made it to Indonesia, and that Michelle was able to join me. We had a couple of false starts this year, but I was determined to visit a country that has meant so much to me. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly quick visit, but I look forward to coming back a year from now, when Indonesia hosts the East Asia Summit.

 

Before I go any further, I want to say that our thoughts and prayers are with all of those Indonesians affected by the recent tsunami and volcanic eruptions – particularly those who have lost loved ones, and those who have been displaced. As always, the United States stands with Indonesia in responding to this natural disaster, and we are pleased to be able to help as needed. As neighbors help neighbors and families take in the displaced, I know that the strength and resilience of the Indonesian people will pull you through once more.

 

Let me begin with a simple statement: Indonesia is a part of me. I first came to this country when my mother married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro. As a young boy, I was coming to a different world. But the people of Indonesia quickly made me feel at home.

 

Jakarta looked very different in those days. The city was filled with buildings that were no more than a few stories tall. The Hotel Indonesia was one of the few high rises, and there was just one brand new shopping center called Sarinah. Betchaks outnumbered automobiles in those days, and the highway quickly gave way to unpaved roads and kampongs.

 

We moved to Menteng Dalam, where we lived in a small house with a mango tree out front. I learned to love Indonesia while flying kites, running along paddy fields, catching dragonflies, and buying satay and baso from the street vendors. Most of all, I remember the people – the old men and women who welcomed us with smiles; the children who made a foreigner feel like a neighbor; and the teachers who helped me learn about the wider world.

 

Because Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, hundreds of languages, and people from scores of regions and ethnic groups, my times here helped me appreciate the common humanity of all people. And while my stepfather, like most Indonesians, was raised a Muslim, he firmly believed that all religions were worthy of respect. In this way, he reflected the spirit of religious tolerance that is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution, and that remains one of this country’s defining and inspiring characteristics.

 

I stayed here for four years – a time that helped shape my childhood; a time that saw the birth of my wonderful sister, Maya; and a time that made such an impression on my mother that she kept returning to Indonesia over the next twenty years to live, work and travel – pursuing her passion of promoting opportunity in Indonesia’s villages, particularly for women and girls. For her entire life, my mother held this place and its people close to her heart.

 

So much has changed in the four decades since I boarded a plane to move back to Hawaii. If you asked me – or any of my schoolmates who knew me back then – I don’t think any of us could have anticipated that I would one day come back to Jakarta as President of the United States. And few could have anticipated the remarkable story of Indonesia over these last four decades.

 

The Jakarta that I once knew has grown to a teeming city of nearly ten million, with skyscrapers that dwarf the Hotel Indonesia, and thriving centers of culture and commerce. While my Indonesian friends and I used to run in fields with water buffalo and goats, a new generation of Indonesians is among the most wired in the world – connected through cell phones and social networks. And while Indonesia as a young nation focused inward, a growing Indonesia now plays a key role in the Asia Pacific and the global economy.

 

This change extends to politics. When my step-father was a boy, he watched his own father and older brother leave home to fight and die in the struggle for Indonesian independence. I’m happy to be here on Heroes Day to honor the memory of so many Indonesians who have sacrificed on behalf of this great country.

 

When I moved to Jakarta, it was 1967, a time that followed great suffering and conflict in parts of this country. Even though my step-father had served in the Army, the violence and killing during that time of political upheaval was largely unknown to me because it was unspoken by my Indonesian family and friends. In my household, like so many others across Indonesia, it was an invisible presence. Indonesians had their independence, but fear was not far away.

 

In the years since then, Indonesia has charted its own course through an extraordinary democratic transformation – from the rule of an iron fist to the rule of the people. In recent years, the world has watched with hope and admiration, as Indonesians embraced the peaceful transfer of power and the direct election of leaders. And just as your democracy is symbolized by your elected President and legislature, your democracy is sustained and fortified by its checks and balances: a dynamic civil society; political parties and unions; a vibrant media and engaged citizens who have ensured that – in Indonesia – there will be no turning back.

 

But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia – that spirit of tolerance that is written into your Constitution; symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples; and embodied in your people – still lives on. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. This is the foundation of Indonesia’s example to the world, and this is why Indonesia will play such an important role in the 21st century.

 

So today, I return to Indonesia as a friend, but also as a President who seeks a deep and enduring partnership between our two countries. Because as vast and diverse countries; as neighbors on either side of the Pacific; and above all as democracies – the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values.

 

Yesterday, President Yudhoyono and I announced a new, Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and Indonesia. We are increasing ties between our governments in many different areas, and – just as importantly – we are increasing ties among our people. This is a partnership of equals, grounded in mutual interests and mutual respect.

 

With the rest of my time today, I’d like to talk about why the story I just told – the story of Indonesia since the days when I lived here – is so important to the United States, and to the world. I will focus on three areas that are closely related, and fundamental to human progress – development, democracy, and religion.

 

First, the friendship between the United States and Indonesia can advance our mutual interest in development.

When I moved to Indonesia, it would have been hard to imagine a future in which the prosperity of families in Chicago and Jakarta would be connected. But our economies are now global, and Indonesians have experienced both the promise and perils of globalization: from the shock of the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s to the millions lifted out of poverty. What that means – and what we learned in the recent economic crisis – is that we have a stake in each other’s success.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that is growing, with prosperity that is broadly shared among the Indonesian people – because a rising middle class here means new markets for our goods, just as America is a market for yours. And so we are investing more in Indonesia, our exports have grown by nearly 50 percent, and we are opening doors for Americans and Indonesians to do business with one another.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that plays its rightful role in shaping the global economy. Gone are the days when seven or eight countries could come together to determine the direction of global markets. That is why the G-20 is now the center of international economic cooperation, so that emerging economies like Indonesia have a greater voice and bear greater responsibility. And through its leadership of the G-20’s anti-corruption group, Indonesia should lead on the world stage and by example in embracing transparency and accountability.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that pursues sustainable development, because the way we grow will determine the quality of our lives and the health of our planet. That is why we are developing clean energy technologies that can power industry and preserve Indonesia’s precious natural resources – and America welcomes your country’s strong leadership in the global effort to combat climate change.

 

Above all, America has a stake in the success of the Indonesian people. Underneath the headlines of the day, we must build bridges between our peoples, because our future security and prosperity is shared. That is exactly what we are doing – by increased collaboration among our scientists and researchers, and by working together to foster entrepreneurship. And I am especially pleased that we have committed to double the number of American and Indonesian students studying in our respective countries – we want more Indonesian students in our schools, and more American students to come study in this country, so that we can forge new ties that last well into this young century.

 

These are the issues that really matter in our daily lives. Development, after all, is not simply about growth rates and numbers on a balance sheet. It’s about whether a child can learn the skills they need to make it in a changing world. It’s about whether a good idea is allowed to grow into a business, and not be suffocated by corruption. It’s about whether those forces that have transformed the Jakarta that I once knew -technology and trade and the flow of people and goods – translate into a better life for human beings, a life marked by dignity and opportunity.

 

This kind of development is inseparable from the role of democracy.

 

Today, we sometimes hear that democracy stands in the way of economic progress. This is not a new argument. Particularly in times of change and economic uncertainty, some will say that it is easier to take a shortcut to development by trading away the rights of human beings for the power of the state. But that is not what I saw on my trip to India, and that is not what I see in Indonesia. Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another.

 

Like any democracy, you have known setbacks along the way. America is no different. Our own Constitution spoke of the effort to forge a “more perfect union,” and that is a journey we have travelled ever since, enduring Civil War and struggles to extend rights to all of our citizens. But it is precisely this effort that has allowed us to become stronger and more prosperous, while also becoming a more just and free society.

 

Like other countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last century, Indonesia struggled and sacrificed for the right to determine your destiny. That is what Heroes Day is all about – an Indonesia that belongs to Indonesians. But you also ultimately decided that freedom cannot mean replacing the strong hand of a colonizer with a strongman of your own.

 

Of course, democracy is messy. Not everyone likes the results of every election. You go through ups and downs. But the journey is worthwhile, and it goes beyond casting a ballot. It takes strong institutions to check the concentration of power. It takes open markets that allow individuals to thrive. It takes a free press and an independent justice system to root out abuse and excess, and to insist upon accountability. It takes open society and active citizens to reject inequality and injustice.

 

These are the forces that will propel Indonesia forward. And it will require a refusal to tolerate the corruption that stands in the way of opportunity; a commitment to transparency that gives every Indonesian a stake in their government; and a belief that the freedom that Indonesians have fought for is what holds this great nation together.

 

That is the message of the Indonesians who have advanced this democratic story – from those who fought in the Battle of Surabaya 55 years ago today; to the students who marched peacefully for democracy in the 1990s, to leaders who have embraced the peaceful transition of power in this young century. Because ultimately, it will be the rights of citizens that will stitch together this remarkable Nusantara that stretches from Sabang to Merauke – an insistence that every child born in this country should be treated equally, whether they come from Java or Aceh; Bali or Papua.

 

That effort extends to the example that Indonesia sets abroad. Indonesia took the initiative to establish the Bali Democracy Forum, an open forum for countries to share their experiences and best practices in fostering democracy. Indonesia has also been at the forefront of pushing for more attention to human rights within ASEAN. The nations of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny, and the United States will strongly support that right. But the people of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny as well. That is why we condemned elections in Burma that were neither free nor fair. That is why we are supporting your vibrant civil society in working with counterparts across this region. Because there is no reason why respect for human rights should stop at the border of any country.

 

Hand in hand, that is what development and democracy are about – the notion that certain values are universal. Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty. Because there are aspirations that human beings share – the liberty of knowing that your leader is accountable to you, and that you won’t be locked up for disagreeing with them; the opportunity to get an education and to work with dignity; the freedom to practice your faith without fear or restriction.

 

Religion is the final topic that I want to address today, and – like democracy and development – it is fundamental to the Indonesian story.

 

Like the other Asian nations that I am visiting on this trip, Indonesia is steeped in spirituality – a place where people worship God in many different ways. Along with this rich diversity, it is also home to the world’s largest Muslim population – a truth that I came to know as a boy when I heard the call to prayer across Jakarta.

 

Just as individuals are not defined solely by their faith, Indonesia is defined by more than its Muslim population. But we also know that relations between the United States and Muslim communities have frayed over many years. As President, I have made it a priority to begin to repair these relations. As a part of that effort, I went to Cairo last June, and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world – one that creates a path for us to move beyond our differences.

 

I said then, and I will repeat now, that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust. But I believed then, and I believe today, that we have a choice. We can choose to be defined by our differences, and give in to a future of suspicion and mistrust. Or we can choose to do the hard work of forging common ground, and commit ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress. And I can promise you – no matter what setbacks may come, the United States is committed to human progress. That is who we are. That is what we have done. That is what we will do.

 

We know well the issues that have caused tensions for many years – issues that I addressed in Cairo. In the 17 months that have passed we have made some progress, but much more work remains to be done.

 

Innocent civilians in America, Indonesia, and across the world are still targeted by violent extremists. I have made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion – certainly not a great, world religion like Islam. But those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy. This is not a task for America alone. Indeed, here in Indonesia, you have made progress in rooting out terrorists and combating violent extremism.

 

In Afghanistan, we continue to work with a coalition of nations to build the capacity of the Afghan government to secure its future. Our shared interest is in building peace in a war-torn land – a peace that provides no safe-haven for violent extremists, and that provides hope for the Afghan people.

 

Meanwhile, we have made progress on one of our core commitments – our effort to end the war in Iraq. 100,000 American troops have left Iraq. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their security. And we will continue to support Iraq as it forms an inclusive government and we bring all of our troops home.

 

In the Middle East, we have faced false starts and setbacks, but we have been persistent in our pursuit of peace. Israelis and Palestinians restarted direct talks, but enormous obstacles remain. There should be no illusions that peace and security will come easy. But let there be no doubt: we will spare no effort in working for the outcome that is just, and that is in the interest of all the parties involved: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

 

The stakes are high in resolving these issues, and the others I have spoken about today. For our world has grown smaller and while those forces that connect us have unleashed opportunity, they also empower those who seek to derail progress. One bomb in a marketplace can obliterate the bustle of daily commerce. One whispered rumor can obscure the truth, and set off violence between communities that once lived in peace. In an age of rapid change and colliding cultures, what we share as human beings can be lost.

 

But I believe that the history of both America and Indonesia gives us hope. It’s a story written into our national mottos. E pluribus unum – out of many, one. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. We are two nations, which have travelled different paths. Yet our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag. And we are now building on that shared humanity – through the young people who will study in each other’s schools; through the entrepreneurs forging ties that can lead to prosperity; and through our embrace of fundamental democratic values and human aspirations..

 

Earlier today, I visited the Istiqlal mosque – a place of worship that was still under construction when I lived in Jakarta. I admired its soaring minaret, imposing dome, and welcoming space. But its name and history also speak to what makes Indonesia great. Istiqlal means independence, and its construction was in part a testament to the nation’s struggle for freedom. Moreover, this house of worship for many thousands of Muslims was designed by a Christian architect.

 

Such is Indonesia’s spirit. Such is the message of Indonesia’s inclusive philosophy, Pancasila. Across an archipelago that contains some of God’s most beautiful creations, islands rising above an ocean named for peace, people choose to worship God as they please. Islam flourishes, but so do other faiths. Development is strengthened by an emerging democracy. Ancient traditions endure, even as a rising power is on the move.

 

That is not to say that Indonesia is without imperfections. No country is. But here can be found the ability to bridge divides of race and region and religion – that ability to see yourself in all individuals. As a child of a different race coming from a distant country, I found this spirit in the greeting that I received upon moving here: Selamat Datang. As a Christian visiting a mosque on this visit, I found it in the words of a leader who was asked about my visit and said, “Muslims are also allowed in churches. We are all God’s followers.”

 

That spark of the divine lies within each of us. We cannot give in to doubt or cynicism or despair. The stories of Indonesia and America tell us that history is on the side of human progress; that unity is more powerful than division; and that the people of this world can live together in peace. May our two nations work together, with faith and determination, to share these truths with all mankind.

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From Communism to Confucianism

 NEW PERSPECTIVES QUARTERLY, WINTER 2010, Vol 27-2

From Communism to Confucianism: 

China’s Alternative to Liberal Democracy

 

Daniel A. Bell is professor of political philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the author of China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society.

Beijing—Four decades ago, it would have been suicidal to say a good word about Confucius in Beijing. Confucius was the reactionary enemy, and all Chinese were encouraged to struggle against him. Chairman Mao himself was photographed on the cover of a revolutionary newspaper that announced the desecration of Confucius’s grave in Qufu. My own university was a hotbed of extreme leftism.

How times have changed. Today, the Chinese Communist Party approves a film about Confucius starring the handsome leading man Chow Yun-Fat. The master is depicted as an astute military commander and teacher of humane and progressive values, with a soft spot for female beauty. What does this say about China’s political future? Confucius bombed at the box office, leading many to think that the revival of Confucianism will go the same way as the anti-Confucius campaigns in the Cultural Revolution.

But perhaps it’s just a bad movie. Confucius received the kiss of death when it went head-to-head against the blockbuster Avatar. A vote for Confucius was seen as a vote against the heroic blue creatures from outer space. In the long term, however, Confucian revivalists may be on the right side of history.

In the Cultural Revolution, Confucius was often just a label used to attack political enemies. Today, Confucianism serves a more legitimate political function; it can help to provide a new moral foundation for political rule in China. Communism has lost the capacity to inspire the Chinese, and there is growing recognition that its replacement needs to be grounded at least partly in China’s own traditions. As the dominant political tradition in China, Confucianism is the obvious alternative.

The party has yet to re-label itself the Chinese Confucian Party, but it has moved closer to an official embrace of Confucianism. The 2008 Olympics highlighted Confucian themes, quoting The Analects of Confucius at the opening ceremonies and playing down any references to China’s experiment with communism. Cadres at the newly built Communist Party school in Shanghai proudly tell visitors that the main building is modeled on a Confucian scholar’s desk. Abroad, the government has been symbolically promoting Confucianism via branches of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese-language and cultural center similar to the Alliance Française.

Of course, there is resistance as well. Elderly cadres, still influenced by Maoist antipathy to tradition, condemn efforts to promote ideologies outside a rigid Marxist framework. But the younger cadres in their 40s and 50s tend to support such efforts, and time is on their side. It’s easy to forget that the 76-million-strong Chinese Communist Party is a large and diverse organization. The party itself is becoming more meritocratic—it now encourages high-performing students to join—and the increased emphasis on educated cadres is likely to generate more sympathy for Confucian values.

But the revival of Confucianism is not just government-sponsore d. On the contrary, the government is also reacting to developments outside its control. There has been a resurgence of interest in Confucianism among academics and in the Chinese equivalent of civil society. The renewed interest is driven partly by normative concerns. Thousands of educational experiments around the country promote the teaching of Confucian classics to young children; the assumption is that better training in the humanities improves the virtue of the learner. More controversially—because it’s still too sensitive to publicly discuss such questions in mainland China—Confucian thinkers put forward proposals for constitutional reform aiming to humanize China’s political system.

An Uphill Struggle | Yet, the problem is not just the Chinese government. It can be an uphill struggle to convince people in Western countries that Confucianism can offer a progressive and humane path to political reform in China. Why does the revival of Confucianism so often worry Westerners? One reason may be a form of self-love. For most of the 20th century, Chinese liberals and Marxists engaged in a totalizing critique of their own heritage and looked to the West for inspiration. It may have been flattering for Westerners—look, they want to be just like us! —but there is less sympathy now that Chinese are taking pride in their own traditions for thinking about social and political reform. But more understanding and a bit of open-mindedness can take care of that problem.

Another reason may be that the revival of Confucianism is thought to be associated with the revival of Islamic “fundamentalism” and its anti-Western tendencies. Perhaps the revival of closed-minded and intolerant Christian “fundamentalism” also comes to mind. But the revival of Confucianism in China is not so opposed to liberal social ways (other than extreme individualistic lifestyles, in which the good life is sought mainly outside social relationships) . What it does propose is an alternative to Western political ways, and that may be the main worry. But this worry stems from an honest mistake: the assumption that less support for Western-style democracy means increased support for authoritarianism. In China, packaging the debate in terms of “democracy” versus “authoritarianism” crowds out possibilities that appeal to Confucian political reformers.

Confucian reformers generally favor more freedom of speech in China. What they question is democracy in the sense of Western-style competitive elections as the mechanism for choosing the country’s most powerful rulers. One clear problem with “one person, one vote” is that equality ends at the boundaries of the political community; those outside are neglected. The national focus of the democratically elected political leaders is assumed; they are meant to serve only the community of voters. Even democracies that work well tend to focus on the interests of citizens and neglect the interests of foreigners. But political leaders, especially leaders of big countries such as China, make decisions that affect the rest of the world (consider global warming), and so they need to consider the interests of the rest of the world.

Hence, reformist Confucians put forward political ideals that are meant to work better than Western-style democracy in terms of securing the interests of all those affected by the policies of the government, including future generations and foreigners. Their ideal is not a world where everybody is treated as an equal but one where the interests of non-voters would be taken more seriously than in most nation-centered democracies. And the key value for realizing global political ideals is meritocracy, meaning equality of opportunity in education and government, with positions of leadership being distributed to the most virtuous and qualified members of the community. The idea is that everyone has the potential to become morally exemplary, but, in real life, the capacity to make competent and morally justifiable political judgments varies among people, and an important task of the political system is to identify those with above-average ability.

CONFUCIAN VALUES IN PRACTICE | What might such values mean in practice? In the past decade, Confucian intellectuals have put forward political proposals that aim to combine “Western” ideas of democracy with “Confucian” ideas of meritocracy. Rather than subordinating Confucian values and institutions to democracy as an a priori dictum, they contain a division of labor, with democracy having priority in some areas and meritocracy in others. If it’s about land disputes in rural China, farmers should have a greater say. If it’s about pay and safety disputes, workers should have a greater say. In practice, it means more freedom of speech and association and more representation for workers and farmers in some sort of democratic house.

But what about matters such as foreign policy and environmental protection? What the government does in such areas affects the interests of non-voters, and they need some form of representation as well. Hence, Confucian thinkers put forward proposals for a meritocratic house of government, with deputies selected by such mechanisms as free and fair competitive examinations, that would have the task of representing the interests of non-voters typically neglected by democratically selected decision-makers.

One obvious objection to examinations is that they cannot test for the kinds of virtues that concerned Confucius—flexibility, humility, compassion and public-spiritedness—and that, ideally, would also characterize political decision-makers in the modern world. It’s true that examinations won’t test perfectly for those virtues, but the question is whether deputies chosen by such examinations are more likely to be farsighted than those chosen by elections.

There are reasons to believe so. Drawing on extensive empirical research, Bryan Caplan’s book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies shows that voters are often irrational, and he suggests tests of voter competence as a remedy. So examinations would test for basic economic policy (and knowledge of international relations), but they would also cover knowledge of the Confucian classics, testing for memorization as well as interpretation. The leading Confucian political thinker, Jiang Qing, argues that examinations could set a framework and moral vocabulary for subsequent political actions, and successful candidates would also need to be evaluated in terms of how they perform in practice.

Farfetched?  It’s no less so than scenarios that envision a transition to Western-style liberal democracy (because both scenarios assume a more open society). And it answers the key worry about the transition to democracy: that it translates into short-term, unduly nationalistic policymaking. It’s also a matter of what standards we should use to evaluate China’s political progress. Politically speaking, most people think China should look more like the West. But one day, perhaps, we will hope that the West looks more like China.

Islamic Theology in Indonesia, was infected by USA?

This article from Washington Post. About Islamic Theology that is infected by American?

By Andrew Higgins

In the early 1980s, Nasir Tamara, a young Indonesian scholar, needed
money to fund a study of Islam and politics. He went to the Jakarta
office of the U.S.-based Ford Foundation to ask for help. He left
empty-handed. The United States, he was told, was “not interested in
getting into Islam.”

The rebuff came from President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, a U.S.
anthropologist who lived in Indonesia for more than a decade. Dunham,
who died in 1995, focused on issues of economic development, not matters
of faith and politics, sensitive subjects in a country then ruled by a
secular-minded autocrat.

“It was not fashionable to ‘do Islam’ back then,” Tamara recalled.

Today, Indonesia is a democracy and the role of Islam is one of the most
important issues facing U.S. policy in a country with many more Muslims
than Egypt, Syria, Jordan and all the Arab countries of the Persian
Gulf combined. What kind of Islam prevails here is critical to U.S.
interests across the wider Muslim world.

“This is a fight for ideas, a fight for what kind of future Indonesia
wants,” said Walter North, Jakarta mission chief for the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), who knew Dunham while she was here
in the 1980s.

It is also a fight that raises a tricky question: Should Americans stand
apart from Islam’s internal struggles around the world or jump in and
try to bolster Muslims who are in sync with American views?

A close look at U.S. interactions with Muslim groups in Indonesia —
Obama’s boyhood home for four years — shows how, since the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks, rival strategies have played out, often with consequences
very different from what Washington intended.

In the debate over how best to influence the country’s religious
direction, some champion intervention, most notably a private
organization from North Carolina that has waded deep into Indonesia’s
theological struggles. But, in the main, U.S. thinking has moved back
toward what it was in Dunham’s day: stay out of Islam.

A change in public mood

In many ways, Indonesia — a nation of 240 million people scattered
across 17,000 islands — is moving in America’s direction. It has
flirted with Saudi-style dogmatism on its fringes. But while
increasingly pious, it shows few signs of dumping what, since Islam
arrived here in the 14th century, has generally been an eclectic and
flexible brand of the faith.

Terrorism, which many Indonesians previously considered an American-made
myth, now stirs general revulsion. When a key suspect in July suicide
bombings in Jakarta was killed recently in a shootout with a
U.S.-trained police unit, his native village, appalled by his violent
activities, refused to take the body for burial.

A band of Islamic moral vigilantes this month forced a Japanese porn
star to call off a trip to Jakarta. But the group no longer storms bars,
nightclubs and hotels as it did regularly a few years ago, at the
height of a U.S. drive to promote “moderate” Islam. Aceh, a particularly
devout Indonesian region and a big recipient of U.S. aid after a 2004
tsunami, recently introduced a bylaw that mandates the stoning to death
of adulterers, but few expect the penalty to be carried out. Aceh’s
governor, who has an American adviser paid for by USAID, opposes
stoning.

Public fury at the United States over the Iraq war has faded, a trend
accelerated by the departure of President George W. Bush and the
election of Obama. In 2003, the first year of the war, 15 percent of
Indonesians surveyed by the Pew Research Center had a favorable view of
the United States — compared with 75 percent before Bush took office.
America’s favorability rating is now 63 percent.

There are many reasons for the change of mood: an economy that is
growing fast despite the global slump; increasing political stability
rooted in elections that are generally free and fair; moves by President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a U.S.-trained former general who won
reelection by a landslide in July, to co-opt Islamic political parties.

Another reason, said Masdar Mas’udi, a senior cleric at Nahdlatul Ulama,
Indonesia’s — and the world’s — largest Islamic organization, is that
the United States has backed away from overt intrusions into religious
matters. A foe of hard-line Muslims who has worked closely with
Americans, Mas’udi said he now believes that U.S. intervention in
theological quarrels often provides radicals with “a sparring partner”
that strengthens them. These days, instead of tinkering with religious
doctrine, a pet project focuses on providing organic rice seeds to poor
Muslim farmers.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington deployed
money and rhetoric in a big push to bolster “moderate” Muslims against
what Bush called the “real and profound ideology” of “Islamo-fascism. ”
Obama, promising a “new beginning between America and Muslims around the
world,” has avoided dividing Muslims into competing theological camps.
He has denounced “violent extremists” but, in a June speech in Cairo,
stated that “Islam is not part of the problem.”

North, the USAID mission chief, said the best way to help “champions of
an enlightened perspective win the day” is to avoid theology and help
Indonesia “address some of the problems here, such as poverty and
corruption.” Trying to groom Muslim leaders America likes, he said,
won’t help.

Rethinking post-9/11 tack

This is a sharp retreat from the approach taken right after the Sept. 11
attacks, when a raft of U.S.-funded programs sought to amplify the
voice of “moderates.” Hundreds of Indonesian clerics went through
U.S.-sponsored courses that taught a reform-minded reading of the Koran.
A handbook for preachers, published with U.S. money, offered tips on
what to preach. One American-funded Muslim group even tried to script
Friday prayer sermons.

Such initiatives mimicked a strategy adopted during the Cold War, when,
to counter communist ideology, the United States funded a host of
cultural, educational and other groups in tune with America’s goals.
Even some of the key actors were the same. The Asia Foundation, founded
with covert U.S. funding in the 1950s to combat communism, took the lead
in battling noxious strands of Islam in Indonesia as part of a
USAID-financed program called Islam and Civil Society. The program began
before the Sept. 11 attacks but ramped up its activities after.

“We wanted to challenge hard-line ideas head-on,” recalled Ulil Abshar
Abdalla, an Indonesian expert in Islamic theology who, with Asia
Foundation funding, set up the Liberal Islam Network in 2001. The
network launched a weekly radio program that questioned literal
interpretations of sacred texts with respect to women, homosexuals and
basic doctrine. It bought airtime on national television for a video
that presented Islam as a faith of “many colors” and distributed
leaflets promoting liberal theology in mosques.

Feted by Americans as a model moderate, Abdalla was flown to Washington
in 2002 to meet officials at the State Department and the Pentagon,
including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the then-deputy secretary of defense and a
former U.S. ambassador to Jakarta. But efforts to transplant Cold War
tactics into the Islamic world started to go very wrong.
More-conservative Muslims never liked what they viewed as American
meddling in theology. Their unease over U.S. motives escalated sharply
with the start of the Iraq war and spread to a wider constituency. Iraq
“destroyed everything,” said Abdalla, who started getting death threats.

Indonesia’s council of clerics, enraged by what it saw as a U.S.
campaign to reshape Islam, issued a fatwa denouncing “secularism,
pluralism and liberalism.”

The Asia Foundation pulled its funding for Abdalla’s network and began
to rethink its strategy. It still works with Muslim groups but avoids
sensitive theological issues, focusing instead on training to monitor
budgets, battle corruption and lobby on behalf of the poor. “The
foundation came to believe that it was more effective for intra-Islamic
debates to take place without the involvement of international
organizations, ” said Robin Bush, head of the foundation’s Jakarta
office.

Abdalla, meanwhile, left Indonesia and moved to Boston to study.

One U.S. group jumps in

While the Asia Foundation and others dived for cover, one American
outfit jumped into the theological fray with gusto. In December 2003, C.
Holland Taylor, a former telecommunications executive from
Winston-Salem, N.C., set up a combative outfit called LibForAll
Foundation to “promote the culture of liberty and tolerance.”

Taylor, who speaks Indonesian, won some big-name supporters, including
Indonesia’s former president, Abdurrahman Wahid, a prominent but ailing
cleric, and a popular Indonesian pop star, who released a hit song that
vowed, “No to the warriors of jihad! Yes to the warriors of love.”
Taylor took Wahid to Washington, where they met Wolfowitz, Vice
President Richard B. Cheney and others. He recruited a reform-minded
Koran scholar from Egypt to help promote a “renaissance of Islamic
pluralism, tolerance and critical thinking.”

Funding came from wealthy Americans, including heirs of the Hanes
underwear fortune, and several European organizations. Taylor, in a
recent interview in Jakarta, declined to identify his biggest American
donor. He said he has repeatedly asked the U.S. government for money but
has received only $50,000, a grant from a State Department
counterterrorism unit.

“You can’t win a war with that,” said Taylor, who is working on a
26-part TV documentary that aims to debunk hard-line Islamic doctrine.
“People in Washington would prefer to think that if we do nothing we
will be okay: just cut off the heads of terrorists and everything will
be fine.”

As the atmosphere has grown less hostile, Abdalla, the much-reviled
American favorite, returned this year to Jakarta. He hasn’t changed his
liberal take on Islam but now avoids topics that fire up his foes. “I’ve
changed. The environment has changed,” he said. “We now realize the
radical groups are not as dominant as we thought in the beginning.”

Tired of being branded a fringe American stooge, he plans to run in an
election next year for leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama, a pillar of
Indonesia’s traditional religious establishment. He doesn’t stand much
of a chance but wants to “engage with the mainstream instead of the
periphery.” His Liberal Islam Network doesn’t get U.S. money anymore,
skirts touchy topics on its radio show and no longer hands out leaflets
in mosques.

“Religion is too sensitive. We shouldn’t get involved,” said Kay
Ikranagara, a close American friend of Obama’s late mother who works in
Jakarta for a small USAID-funded scholarship program. Ikranagara worries
about Islam’s growing influence on daily life in the country, but she’s
wary of outsiders who want to press Indonesians on matters of faith.

“We just get in a lot of trouble trying to do that,” she said.

http://www.washingt onpost.com/ wp-dyn/content/ article/2009/ 10/24/AR20091024 02279.html

Bibles with ‘Allah’ are Confiscated

 http://www.latimes. com/news/ nationworld/ world/la- fg-briefs30- 2009oct30, 0,7232083. story

 
October 30, 2009
 
MALAYSIA

Bibles with ‘Allah’ are confiscated

Malaysian authorities have confiscated more than 15,000 Bibles because they referred to “God” as “Allah,” a translation that has been banned in this Muslim-majority country, Christian church officials said.

The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said authorities seized a consignment of 10,000 copies sent from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Kuching, in Sarawak state, on Sept. 11 because the Indonesian-language Bibles contained the word “Allah.”

An additional 5,100 Bibles, also imported from Indonesia, were seized in March, said an official from the Bible Society of Malaysia.

A Home Ministry official said he was not aware of the seizures.

Church officials say “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam but is an Arabic word that predates Islam.

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

August 20, 2009

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

Source: http://www.ny times.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print

SBY Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens

From: John M Miller <fbp@igc.org>
Subject: SBY Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens
To: etan@etan.org
Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 9:45 AM
SBY Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens
 
Eben Kirksey, Ph.D., University of California (Santa Cruz)
+1.831.429.8276 or +1.831.600.5937  (English or Bahasa Indonesia)
Paula Makabory, Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (Melbourne)
+61.402.547. 517 (English or Bahasa Indoneisa)

John M. Miller, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (New York)
+1.718.596.7668 (English)
 
1 July, 2009 – Previously secret U.S. State Department documents implicate the President of Indonesia in a probable
cover-up of an ambush in West Papua. The documents show Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is running for reelection on  July 8, maneuvering behind the scenes to manage the  investigation into the August 2002 murder of three teachers—one Indonesian and two U.S. citizens.

“Yudhoyono brought politics into a case that should have  just been about forensic facts,” said Dr. Eben Kirksey, an anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz  and a regional specialist. “The documents reveal that Yudhoyono initially stalled attempts by the FBI to launch an independent investigation,” he continued. The U.S. Congress, outraged at these stalling tactics, blocked funds for Indonesian military training until there was cooperation with the FBI.

The documents released today add a new twist to a hotly contested Presidential race.

“Yudhoyono is not the only controversial former soldier running in the presidential election,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia  Action Network. “Vice presidential candidates and former generals Wiranto and Prabowo Subianto were involved in well-documented human rights crimes in East Timor and
throughout Indonesia.”
 
When a police investigation implicated Indonesian military shooters as the likely murderers of the schoolteachers,
Yudhoyono became involved. Yudhoyono, a retired General and then the Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs, wrote to the Charge D’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta that “I have dispatched a fact finding team led by one of my deputies to Timika and its surrounding (sic), to find additional information and other related facts  especially on a broader political and security aspects of the incident.” Timika, the site of the attack, is in the remote province of Papua, where U.S. mining giant Freeport  McMoRan (FCX) operates a concession.

Yudhoyono’s stalling tactics let the Indonesian military cover their tracks,” said Paula Makabory, a Papuan human rights activist who founded the Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights in Australia.  “The ‘fact finders’ under his command systematically intimidated witnesses and tampered with material evidence,” Makabory continued.

Following high-level negotiations with Bush administration officials, who promised Indonesia millions in military aid, Yudhoyono allowed the FBI into his country. “By the time the FBI were granted access the trail was cold,” said Makabory.  “The FBI investigation proceeded within a narrow framework that fit the Bush administration agenda,” said Dr. Kirksey.

The Special Agents found a fall man, while tiptoeing around evidence connecting their man to the Indonesian military,” Kirksey added. Antonius Wamang, an ethnic Papuan, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury for his role in the attack. He was apprehended in 2006 by the FBI and sentenced to life in Indonesian prison. Wamang had extensive ties to the Indonesian military, according to a peer-reviewed article, Criminal Collaborations,” co-authored by Dr. Kirksey and Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian investigative reporter (link below).

The declassified documents disclosed today were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by Dr. Bradley Simpson of the National Security Archive. The State Department found 62 documents relevant to the Timika murders. They released only two of these documents in full and 20 others “with excisions.” The rest were withheld. The FBI did not release any documents, writing: “No records responsive to your FOIA request were located by a search of the automated indices.” The FBI is notorious for not complying with Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents reveal evidence of a cover-up,” said Dr. Kirksey. “The fact that many relevant documents were not released is more evidence of the same” 

Selections from these documents are published here in seven distinct sections [links to the PDFs of the documents can be  found here: http://etan. org/news/ 2009/06Timika. htm

 
1) Response by the State Department and the FBI to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request

2) Initial Reports About Attackers; Yudhoyono Orders a Quick Response The first State Department reports about the
2002 attack seriously entertained two theories: that the perpetrators were Papuan independence fighters (OPM guerillas) or rogue elements of the Indonesian military. The  documents note that the assault took place on a foggy mountain road near a military checkpoint and an Army Strategic Reserve Forces post. Upon learning of the attack, Yudhoyono ordered a quick response to restore security and to investigate the attack. 

The U.S. Embassy noted in a cable to Washington: ”Many Papuan groups are calling for an independent investigation led by the U.S. Calls for an independent probe are unrealistic, but we believe that Papua’s Police Chief, who enjoys a good reputation with Papuan activists (and U.S.), can conduct a fair investigation.” The Police Chief’s investigation later indicated that the Indonesian military was involved. The FBI subsequently launched a separate probe.

3) Attack Victims Treated in Secrecy at Australian Hospital

The survivors of the assault were airlifted out of Indonesia to a hospital in Townsend, Australia. Here U.S.
diplomats, the FBI, Queensland Police, and the Australian Defense Force kept a tight lid on the situation—preventing the victims from speaking with the press and even from contacting family members for the first two days. See: Tom Hyland, “Lost in the Fog,” The Age, September 28, 2008. http://www.theage. com.au/world/ lost-in-the- fog-20080927- 4pb8.html? page=-1

4) Yudhoyono Assumes Coordinating Role in Investigation

Following police reports of Indonesian military involvement, these documents reveal that Yudhoyono began to play a more active role in managing and influencing the direction of the investigation. Yudhoyono met repeatedly with the FBI field investigators, as well as high-level U.S. diplomats, blocking their initial attempts to gain unmediated access to witnesses and material evidence. This  file includes a letter from Yudhoyono to the Charge D’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy where he outlines a strategy  for managing the broader political and security aspects of the incident.

5) Commander-In- Chief Concerned About Washington Post
Interview  The Washington Post reported in 2002 that senior Indonesian military officers, including armed forces commander General Endriartono Sutarto, had discussed an unspecified operation against Freeport McMoRan before the ambush in Timika.  General Sutarto vehemently denied that he or any other top military officers had discussed any operation targeting  Freeport. He sued The Washington Post for US$1 billion and demanded an apology from the paper. Several months after this lawsuit was settled out of court, The Washington Post asked to interview Sutarto. This document contains notes  from a meeting between the U.S. Ambassador and Commander-in- Chief Sutarto where this interview request was discussed: “Clearly concerned, General Sutarto asked why  the Washington Post wanted to interview him, as well as  TNI’s Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) Chiefs regarding the Timika  case.”  See: Ellen Nakashima and Alan Sipress “Indonesia Military Allegedly Talked of Targeting Mine,” The Washington Post, November 3, 2002. http://etan. org/et2002c/ november/ 01-09/03mine. htm
6) Most Important Issue in U.S.-Indonesia Bilateral Relationship

The U.S. Ambassador stressed in a June 2003 meeting with Yudhoyono that justice in the Timika killings was “the most important issue in the bilateral relationship.” During this period, FBI agents were given intermittent access to evidence. Yudhoyono continued to play an active role in coordinating the political aspects of the investigation. Taking an unusual personal interest for  someone with a Ministerial level position, Yudhoyono repeatedly met with the FBI case agents the low-ranking U.S. investigators who were deployed to Timika for field investigations.

7) Attorney General Ashcroft Suppressed Evidence

On June 24, 2005, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that Antonius Wamang, an ethnic Papuan, was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for the Timika murders. The indictment alleged that Wamang was a  “terrorist” who sought independence from Indonesia. Following this announcement, three respected human rights groups and indigenous organizations charged that the U.S. Government suppressed evidence linking Wamang to the Indonesian military. A peer-reviewed article, titled “Criminal Collaborations: Antonius Wamang and the  Indonesian Military in Timika,” details the nature of these links. The group called for Wamang to be given a fair trial in the U.S., rather than in notoriously corrupt Indonesian courts. See: Eben Kirksey and Andreas Harsono, “Criminal Collaborations,” South East Asia Research, vol 16, no 2.  http://skyhighway. com/~ebenkirksey /writing/ Kirksey-Harsono_ Timika.pdf

John M. Miller     
Internet: etan@igc.org
National Coordinator East Timor & Indonesia Action Network
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668      Mobile: (917)690-4391
Skype: john.m.miller  Web: http://www.etan. org
Twitter: http://twitter. com/etan009
Facebook: http://apps. facebook. com/causes/ 134122?recruiter _id=10193810

Obama: From Anti-war Law Professor to Warmonger in 100 Days

Obama: From Anti-war Law Professor to Warmonger in 100 Days

It didn’t take long for President Barack Obama to swing behind targeted assassinations and bombing raids, says Alexander Cockburn

By Alexander Cockburn

May 21, 2009 “First Post” — How long does it take a mild-mannered, anti-war, black professor of constitutional law, trained as a community organiser on the South Side of Chicago, to become an enthusiastic sponsor of targeted assassinations, ‘decapitation’ strategies and remote-control bombing of mud houses at the far end of the globe?

There’s nothing surprising here. As far back as President Woodrow Wilson, in the early 20th century, American liberalism has been swift to flex its imperial muscle and whistle up the Marines. High-explosive has always been in the hormone shot.

The nearest parallel to Obama in eager deference to the bloodthirsty counsels of his counter-insurgency advisors is John F. Kennedy. It is not surprising that bright young presidents relish quick-fix, ‘outside the box’ scenarios for victory.

Obama’s course is set and his presidency is already stained the familiar blood-red

Whether in Vietnam or Afghanistan the counsel of regular Army generals tends to be drear and unappetising: vast, costly deployments of troops by the hundreds of thousands, mounting casualties, uncertain prospects for any long-term success ­ all adding up to dismaying political costs on the home front.

Amid Camelot’s dawn in 1961, Kennedy swiftly bent an ear to the advice of men like Ed Lansdale, a special ops man who wore rakishly the halo of victory over the Communist guerillas in the Philippines and who promised results in Vietnam.

By the time he himself had become the victim of Lee Harvey Oswald’s ‘decapitation’ strategy, brought to successful conclusion in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy had set in motion the secret counter-insurgency operations, complete with programs of assassination and torture, that turned South-East Asia and Latin America into charnel houses for the next 20 years.

Another Democrat who strode into the White House with the word ‘peace’ springing from his lips was Jimmy Carter. It was he who first decreed that ‘freedom’ and the war on terror required a $3.5bn investment in a secret CIA-led war in Afghanistan, plus the deployment of Argentinian torturers to advise US military teams in counter-insurgency ops in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Obama campaigned on a pledge to ‘decapitate’ al-Qaeda, meaning the assassination of its leaders. It was his short-hand way of advertising that he had the right stuff. Now, like Kennedy, he’s summoned the exponents of unconventional, short-cut paths to success in that mission.

Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal now replaces General David McKiernan as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s expertise is precisely in assassination and ‘decapitation’ . As commander of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for nearly five years starting in 2003, McChrystal was in charge of death squad ops, his best advertised success being the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The phrase ‘sophisticated networks’ tends to crop up in assessments of McChrystal’s Iraq years. Actually there’s nothing fresh or sophisticated in what he did. Programmes of targeted assassination aren’t new in counter-insurgency. The most infamous and best known was the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, designed to identify and eliminate cadres of Vietnam’s National Liberation Front, informally known as the Viet Cong, of whom, on some estimates, at least 40,000 were duly assassinated.

In such enterprises two outcomes are inevitable. Identification of the human targets requires either voluntary informants or captives. In the latter instance torture is certain, whatever rhetorical pledges are proclaimed back home. There may be intelligence officers who rely on patient, non-violent interrogation, as the US officer who elicited the whereabouts of al-Zarqawi claims he did.

But there will be others who will reach for the garden hose and the face towel. (McChrystal, not uncoincidentally, was involved in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad’s Camp Nama. He also played a sordid role in the cover-up of the friendly-fire death of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman.)

Whatever the technique, a second certainty is the killing of large numbers of civilians in the final ‘targeted assassination’ . At one point in the first war on Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s, a huge component of US air sorties was devoted each day to bombing places where US intelligence had concluded Saddam might be hiding. Time after time, after the mangled bodies of men, women and children had been scrutinised, came the crestfallen tidings that Saddam was not among them.

Already in Afghanistan public opinion has been inflamed by the weekly bulletins of deadly bombardments either by drones or manned bombers. Still in the headlines is the US bombardment of Bala Boluk in Farah province, which yielded 140 dead villagers torn apart by high explosives, including 93 children. Only 22 were male and over 18.

Perhaps ‘sophisticated intelligence’ had identified one of these as an al-Qaeda man, or a Taliban captain, or maybe someone an Afghan informant to the US military just didn’t care for. Maybe electronic eavesdropping simply screwed up the coordinates. If we ever know, it won’t be for a very long time. Obama has managed a terse apology, even as he installs McChrystal, thus ensuring more of the same.

Obama is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush in trampling on constitutional rights

The logic of targeted assassinations was on display in Gaza even as Obama worked on the uplifting phrases of his inaugural address in January. The Israelis claimed they were targeting only Hamas even as the body counts of women and children methodically refuted these claims and finally extorted from Obama a terse phrase of regret.

He may soon weary of uttering them. His course is set and his presidency already permanently stained the ever-familiar blood-red tint. There’s no short-cut in counter-insurgency. A targeted bombing yields up Bala Boluk, and the incandescent enmity of most Afghans. The war on al-Qaeda mutates into the war on the Taliban, and 850,000 refugees in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

The mild-mannered professor is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush and Cheney in trampling on constitutional rights. He’s planning to restore Bush’s kangaroo courts for prisoners at Guantanamo who’ve never even been formally charged with a crime! He’s threatening to hold some prisoners indefinitely in the US without trial.

He’s even been awarded a hearty editorial clap on the back from the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Obama deserves credit for accepting that civilians courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has now decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favoured by Dick Cheney.”

It didn’t take long. But it’s what we’ve got ­ for the rest of Obama-time.

source: thefirstpost.co.uk