Friday, April 2, 2010

Ed McWilliams comment on The Kopassus Kerfuffle

Ed McWilliams posted a comment on The Asia Security Initiative's March 29 post, "The Kopassus Kerfuffle" by Catharine Dalpino, who mostly agrees with his points which she says  "primarily expand on brief mentions I had made of other points (e.g., Indonesian human rights NGO concerns over Kopassus). "

Here is McWilliams comment in full:

The Asia Security Initiative’s March 29 post, “The Kopassus Kerfuffle” by Catharine Dalpino, is a timely and thoughtful analysis regarding the U.S. decision whether to provide training or other assistance to Indonesia’s Special Forces Kopassus.
This issue is important, as indicated by Ms. Dalpino, not only for the future of U.S.-Indonesia military relations, but also for the future of U.S. observance of the 1997 Leahy law which prohibits foreign military units from participating in military training or receiving assistance for weapons purchases if unit members have committed human rights violations for which they have not been brought to account. The decision whether or not to skirt provisions of the Leahy law is a litmus test of whether the Administration respects U.S. Congressional mandates not to provide assistance to corrupt, human rights abusing forces that remain unaccountable for their crimes.
Ms. Dalpino’s piece fails to place the U.S. debate over assistance to Kopassus in the broader context of U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI). For many years, a bipartisan, bi-cameral majority in the U.S. Congress insisted that the prospect of U.S. assistance to the TNI be used as leverage to exact real reform. This consensus was based on the recognition that this key institution had not been a part of the transformative reform movement that followed the 1998 overthrow of the military dictator Suharto. Instead, the TNI has remained the single greatest threat to democratization in Indonesia, eluding civilian control and insisting on impunity before the courts for its personnel who violate human rights or engage in illegal activities, including people trafficking.
U.S. observance of the Leahy law suffered serious erosion during the Bush Administration. In 2005 the administration used a “national security waiver” to remove remaining restrictions and U.S. assistance ceased to serve as a key incentive for reform. Unsurprisingly, faltering TNI reform stopped. Since then, the TNI failed to meet legislative requirements that it disburse its business empire which includes both legal and illegal businesses. That action, mandated by the Indonesian Parliament in 2004 was to have been completed by 2009. Failure of that key reform has enabled the TNI to maintain access to non-Indonesian government budget resources and to evade civilian control. The TNI also remains unaccountable for human rights violations and other crimes, enjoying impunity before an Indonesian justice system that is deeply corrupt and easily intimidated. Despite this the Obama administration has continued to pursue a broad military-to-military relationship with the TNI (but not its special forces).
Ms. Dalpino’s article also fails to emphasize that the debate over U.S. assistance to Kopassus is not simply a U.S. debate. Many Indonesian NGO’s and individual Indonesians are opposing U.S. assistance to Kopassus, and have urged U.S. and international NGOs and observers to join them. These Indonesian voices have been especially important and noteworthy given the risk they face for their criticism of the Indonesian military which has regularly targeted its Indonesian critics.
Finally, Ms. Dalpino raises the “osmosis” theory which conjectures that Kopassus could become a human-rights respecting organization through collaborative contact with U.S. forces. Yet, the Kopassus awful record was indelibly established during decades of close association with U.S. forces during the Suharto era. The reality is that Kopassus contact with rights-respecting Australian and other foreign forces has had no impact on the essential criminality of the Kopassus. The “osmosis” argument does not wash.
President Obama ultimately faces a choice on principle. Inevitably, that choice will reveal the level of importance he attaches to respect for human rights, accountability and civilian control of the military.

No comments:

Post a Comment