May 11, 1997

CIA & Cocaine: Agency Assets Cross the Line | By Jerry Meldon | published in Consortium News 1997

One after another, former CIA allies in Latin America seem headed for the dock on cocaine-trafficking charges. The latest CIA asset in drug trouble is Venezuelan Gen. Ramon Guillen Davillaver who was indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami earlier this year. Guillen, who remains at large presumably in Venezuela, was charged with smuggling 22 tons of cocaine into the United States from 1987 to 1991.

Guillen allegedly ran this massive smuggling operation in coordination with the Cali cocaine cartel while he simultaneously was running the Venezuelan National Guard unit which coordinated with the CIA on drug interdiction. He was the CIA's most trusted narcotics asset in Venezuela.

Even worse, in December 1989, the CIA actually collaborated with Guillen on one dubious plan to ship a ton of cocaine to the United States, purportedly for intelligence purposes. It was part of a supposed plan to catch major drug traffickers. When the Drug Enforcement Administration's country attache for Venezuela objected to the scheme, the CIA went over the attache's head and appealed to Washington. DEA headquarters also just said no, but that was an answer the CIA would not accept.

A federal statue forbids government importation of illicit drugs -- for "controlled" crime-fighting purposes -- without DEA approval. But CIA officers authorized the cocaine shipment to go ahead. The agency's decision apparently fit the spy agency's certainty that in areas of national security, it knows best. In an internal government report on the case, DEA special agent James Kibble wrote that "vital information was not forwarded to the DEA or was held back for unknown reasons."

In the Guillen case, however, the CIA's heavy-handed actions exploded three years later as a public relations embarrassment. CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" broadcast a report on the illegal shipment of the one ton. The story also led the CIA to make a rare admission of error. CIA headquarters admitted to "poor judgment and management on the part of several CIA officers." One agent resigned. The Caracas station chief was recalled and retired soon afterwards. But no CIA officials were charged in the Guillen indictment.

The Miami Herald has reported that internal DEA documents claim that Guillen cracked during interrogation in November 1991 and confessed to the illegal shipments. A year later, however, Guillen denied that he had made any such confession. He insisted that his involvement in drug shipments to the United States was done with proper U.S. government authorization.

But, according to the federal charges, Guillen allegedly shipped as many as 22 tons of cocaine illegally into the United States, while supposedly standing shoulder to shoulder with the CIA in the drug war. Those 22 tons over four years average out to nearly six tons a year, a volume that would put Guillen in the same big leagues with Mexican drug kingpin Juan Garcia Abrego, who was convicted last October for smuggling seven tons of cocaine per year into the United States.

Looking Bad

If the federal indictment is correct, Guillen would have been a major cocaine smuggler at the same time he was palming himself off to the CIA as a leading anti-drug warrior. Whichever way one looks at the case, it does not reflect well on the boys at Langley, Va. Either the CIA was complicit in the illegal drug shipments or its intelligence-gathering capabilities left a lot to be desired.

The Guillen indictment also comes at a time when several federal investigations are under way into the CIA's possible role in cocaine smuggling by the Nicaraguan contra rebels during the 1980s. Extensive documentary evidence, including the findings of a congressional investigation, has existed since the mid-1980s implicating the contras in cocaine shipments to the United States.

But that history -- and the U.S. government's failure to take action -- came under renewed scrutiny last year with a series published in The San Jose Mercury News citing more documents and testimony linking those shipments to the outbreak of the nation's "crack" epidemic. An angry African-American community demanded a full investigation and public release of all relevant documents.

The Mercury News series also prompted angry denials from the CIA which protested its innocence. Major national newspapers -- The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times -- sided with the CIA. In lengthy articles, all three papers attacked the Mercury News series as poor journalism, but acknowledged the longstanding -- and largely overlooked -- evidence of cocaine smuggling by the CIA-backed contras.

The newspapers could have noted, too, a much longer history of CIA assets peddling narcotics. That history goes back to the post-World War II days when the Cold War was just beginning and the newly created CIA enlisted organized crime elements in Italy, France and possibly Japan to combat communist-dominated trade unions.

The CIA used the mob organizations to rout the communists especially from the strategically crucial transportation industry. But organized crime exploited its Cold War protection to rebuild international trade routes for the smuggling of heroin and other illicit goods.

The same pattern held true when the CIA needed indigenous forces for proxy wars from Indochina in the 1950s and 1960s to Afghanistan in the 1980s. Many of those local troops supported themselves with opium production. To gain the allegiances of these forces and to help finance the conflicts off budget, the CIA either tolerated the drug smuggling as a price for doing business or directly assisted in the transportation of the illicit cargoes. Concerns about the suppression of the drug trade took second place to the Cold War. [See Alfred W. McCoy's Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade for more details]

The American Mob

The rules of this intelligence game were the same in America's back yard, but only more so. One of the CIA's worst setbacks occurred in Cuba in the late 1950s when Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces ousted a U.S.-supported dictator and closed the Mafia-owned casinos in Havana. Then, Castro declared his commitment to communism, putting a Soviet ally only 90 miles from American territory.

The CIA's Western Hemisphere division got the job of ridding Cuba of Castro and the assignment soon put the spy agency into collaboration with Mafia dons. One of the crime kingpins recruited in the anti-Castro cause, which included assassination plots, was Santo Trafficante Jr. who had used his Havana operations as a base for narcotics trafficking. The CIA also trained an army of Cubans which failed to defeat Castro in battle but remained in South Florida as a potent political force.

While maintaining ties to the CIA and other U.S. agencies, some of the Cuban warriors adapted their clandestine skills to the cocaine importation business. They became foot soldiers in Trafficante's drug armies. One of the most notorious of these Cubans was Ricardo "Monkey" Morales Navararette, who had been trained by the CIA as a paratrooper and demolitions expert and fought in a U.S. government covert operation in the Congo, as well as in Cuba. In the late 1970s, he also took his skills to Venezuela where he served as a high-ranking officer in Venezuela's corrupt intelligence agency, known by the acronym DISIP.

But Morales became a legend in Miami as the prototype for the CIA-connected operative who worked part-time for the U.S. government as an informant, part-time for the Mafia as a drug trafficker and part-time as an anti-Castro terrorist engaged in violent attacks against civilian and diplomatic Cuban targets. Morales parlayed his CIA connections and his on-again-off-again services as a U.S. government informant to buy himself a measure of protection for his criminal undertakings.

In the 1970s, some of the CIA handlers for the Miami Cubans developed a flexible attitude toward what could be tolerated in exchange for the help of these "informants." But for Morales, his dangerous game finally caught up with him when he was murdered in Little Havana in 1982. [For more details, see Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies and the CIA in Central America by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall]

The Contra War

The 1980s brought a resurgence of interest in the CIA's Latin America division. With the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua against longtime U.S.-supported dictator Anastasio Somoza, Castro had his first allied government in power on the mainland of North America. A new and staunchly anti-communist president, Ronald Reagan, wanted the Sandinistas crushed at almost any cost.

The blunt instrument which the CIA chose was a ragtag army of former Somoza soldiers who were holed up in Honduras. Already, they were receiving training from Argentine intelligence, which had been running a brutal "dirty war" in Argentina. the Argentine military also had helped organize the so-called "cocaine coup" in Bolivia which had installed drug traffickers to power in that South American nation.

The contra war proved a magnet, too, for the anti-Castro Cubans. They flew into Central America on a mission that combined business and passion: one part anti-communism, one part lucrative cocaine trafficking. The Colombian drug cartels were also quick to pick up on the value of using the contra "freedom fighters" as a cover for transiting cocaine to the United States. After all, President Reagan had hailed the contras as "the moral equal of our Founding Fathers." The U.S. government would be hard-pressed to expose the contras as drug traffickers.

In Panama, CIA Director William J. Casey recruited Gen. Manuel Noriega to the contra banner. He may have been the best known drug-tainted leader who cooperated with the CIA's operations in Nicaragua. [He is now in federal prison serving a lengthy sentence for cocaine trafficking.] But the little general was not alone. Under the protection of the CIA, local commanders assisted contra units in drug shipments in Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Yet possibly, the most important Central American drug way station was Honduras. In impoverished Honduras, members of the high command and its intelligence arm already saw cocaine trafficking as a very tempting route to riches. The powerful Honduran-based trafficker, Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, had financed a military coup in 1978. Then, through most of the 1980s, Matta lived in open luxury at a ranch outside Tegucigalpa.

In the mid-1980s, the U.S. government hired SETCO, a Matta-connected airline, to fly supplies to the contras. The hiring occurred despite a DEA report that SETCO was formed by "American businessmen dealing with Matta [and] smuggling narcotics into the United States." But the DEA was hampered in its investigation of Matta's operations because the Reagan administration had closed the DEA's office in Honduras in 1983.

Blind Eye

So, with no regular in-country DEA agents, only the FBI's capture of 763 pounds of cocaine at a remote airstrip in Florida tipped off law-enforcement authorities to a planned military assassination of the Honduran civilian president. Gen. Jose Bueso-Rosa, a senior officer who had worked with the CIA's contra operation, was arrested and charged with masterminding the coup which was to be financed with cocaine profits. After the arrest, White House aide Oliver North urgently interceded with the Justice Department to gain leniency for Bueso-Rosa because of the general's assistance in the contra cause.

To the north in Mexico, meanwhile, the DEA was fighting an ever more violent war with the cocaine cartels. In Mexico, in February 1985, star DEA agent Enrique Camarena Salazar was tortured and then murdered by the application of a Phillips-head screwdriver to his skull. Matta and several of his Mexican associates were implicated in the murder.

The Camarena murder finally stirred senior DEA officials to action. In the late 1980s, with the contra war winding down, the DEA reportedly compiled a list of Honduran officials implicated in the drug trade. The list had the names of officers who had held jobs as defense minister, director of military intelligence, armed forces chief of staff, director of the military school and the Navy chief-of-staff.

Faced with this new pressure, Honduran authorities surrendered Matta. In a raid on Matta's ranch in April 1988, U.S. and Honduran law-enforcement agents seized the drug kingpin and spirited him off to the United States. He was convicted in Los Angeles on both murder and drug-trafficking charges.

So, the Guillen case in Venezuela does not stand alone. Indeed, it might be called part of a pattern, a pattern of the CIA's shady alliances with Latin and other international drug lords. The spy agency clearly put the war against leftists and communists ahead of the war against cocaine and organized crime. It's been doing so for half a century.

Long U.S. Dance with Mobutu Ends | By Jerry Meldon | published in Consortium News 1997

The toughest challenge in defending the CIA and its half-century-long record can be the fact that while the spy agency's failures have been bad, its "successes" often have been worse. One such "success," nearly forgotten amid the rush of current headlines, was the CIA operation in the Congo (now Zaire) in the early 1960s. That Cold War covert action contributed to Mobutu Sese Seko's emergence as a political power and put him in position to loot his country's riches as one of history's most corrupt dictators.

Amid Mobutu's flight into exile and the rebel takeover of the capital of Kinshasa, there has been little discussion in the U.S. media about the underlying historical causes of the Zairian tragedy. There has been a discreet aversion of the eyes away from Washington's long-term affair with the cancer-stricken despot. There is little said about the troubling U.S. role in selling out Congolese democracy at its birth.

Back in 1960, when Belgium relinquished formal control over its resource-rich African colony, Zaire's history could have been quite different. The new country had the promise of great resources, but almost no infrastructure for nation-building. There wasn't a single trained native doctor, lawyer, architect or military officer, and only about a dozen university graduates. This lack of a native elite fit the narrow financial interests of Belgium, which planned to maintain its economic grip on the Congo's bounty of copper, cobalt and diamonds.

But the Congo's first free elections brought left-leaning Patrice Lumumba to power as prime minister, a development that alarmed the Belgian mining giant, Union Miniere, and its investment partner, Societe Generale. The Belgian interests soon instigated a secessionist movement in mineral-rich Katanga (now Shaba) province. The Belgians bankrolled an unsavory mercenary army staffed by white Rhodesians and South Africans, and Nazi veterans of World War II.

The ensuing violence and instability drove Lumumba across the Atlantic, to Washington, in search of help in summer 1960. The United States, however, was in the last year of the Eisenhower era, with scant sympathy for an African social reformer like Lumumba. Foreign affairs were still colored by McCarthy era cries of "loss of China" to communism. And Eisenhower was the first president to try out the newly formed CIA as a covert instrument of U.S. foreign policy. He already had notched a couple of "successes" onto his belt.

During Eisenhower's first term, Iran's prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh had threatened U.S. and British oil interests, while Guatemala's elected leader Jacobo Arbenz had done the same to the agricultural properties of the Boston-based United Fruit Company. The two leaders were promptly deemed communists, and the White House unleashed the CIA to overthrow their freely elected governments. Both covert actions achieved the goals, but set the stage for decades of brutal and corrupt dictatorships.

When Patrice Lumumba came to visit in July 1960, the White House was still intoxicated with its new covert capability and confident those strategies were repeatable elsewhere. After all, Lumumba's visit pre-dated the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba by nearly a year and the Vietnam escalation was still on the drawing board.

Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Leopoldville had reported that "Lumumba is an opportunist and not a communist." But according to then Under Secretary of State Douglas Dillon, the Eisenhower administration concluded following his visit that Lumumba was a "very difficult if not impossible person to deal with, and was dangerous to the peace and safety of the world."

Former CIA Angola task force chief John Stockwell, who was raised in the Congo, has suggested that Lumumba offended his hosts when he reacted adversely to the experience of segregated washrooms in the nation's capital. 

Washington's Cold Shoulder

After getting Eisenhower's cold shoulder, Lumumba turned to Moscow for help. Interested in a low-cost initiative to expand its influence in the developing world, the Soviet Union provided some modest assistance. But the Soviet help was enough to make Washington see red. Having recently witnessed Fidel Castro's victorious revolution in Cuba (and Castro's embrace of Moscow following a rebuff from Washington), the White House turned to the men in dark glasses.

With his weak government structure already under strain from the Katanga rebellion, Lumumba soon fell victim to a CIA-engineered coup which brought to the forefront, Mobutu, then a young army chief of staff. With CIA complicity, Lumumba was arrested and then assassinated. Later, John Stockwell heard from a CIA colleague about his "adventure in Lumumbashi driving about town after curfew with Patrice Lumumba's body in the trunk of his car, trying to decide what to do with it."

Lumumba had cherished a reformist vision of using the Congo's underground riches to raise his countrymen from abject poverty. In contrast, Mobutu, who firmly seized the reins of power after another coup in 1965, chose as his role model Belgium's late King Leopold II. For two decades at the turn of the century, Leopold ran the Congo as his private rubber plantation. Mobutu would outdo even Leopold, selling off the Congo's resources and stashing billions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts, while his constituents continued to starve.

But Mobutu managed to survive in power by making himself useful to Washington, especially when U.S. officials needed help in influencing events in African nations undergoing difficult transitions from colony to statehood. Zaire's central location in the southern part of Africa -- bordering Angola to the southwest and the Sudan to the northeast -- made it ideal for such interference.

In 1974, the Portuguese armed forces, fed up after years of fighting against African wars of liberation, overthrew the Lisbon dictatorship of Marcel Caetano. The new military government announced its intention of awarding independence to Portugal's colonies, including Zaire's neighbor, Angola.

In Washington, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was still smarting from the U.S. defeat in Indochina. But Kissinger had been a key player in another of those CIA "successes" in ousting Chilean president Salvador Allende. A democratic Marxist, Allende had won election in Chile but soon faced a CIA destabilization campaign that ended in a brutal military coup and Allende's death. 

A Cold War Ally

Kissinger saw another opportunity to hit back against another Moscow ally in Angola. He persuaded President Ford to oppose the Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which was the odds-on favorite in a three-way struggle for post-colonial power.

Mobutu was eager to help. He had his eyes set on control of Angola's Cabinda oil fields already.

With a few million in U.S. cash, Mobutu rallied to the side of the Angolan factions opposing the MPLA. Still, despite massive CIA and South Africa assistance, those forces, led by Mobutu's brother-in-law Jonas Savimbi, lost to the MPLA. In one of the bizarre twists of Cold War politics, Cuban troops helping the MPLA ended up defending Gulf and Chevron oil facilities in Cabinda, against Savimbi's U.S.-backed army.

Over the next two decades with Mobutu's support, Savimbi challenged a variety of United Nations-brokered peace accords. Savimbi also enjoyed a comeback in the 1980s when the Reagan administration included him, along with the Nicaraguan contras and Afghan mujahedeen, in its list of "freedom fighters" worthy of CIA support. Thankful for use of Zaire as a supply route to ship war materiel to Savimbi's forces, Reagan praised Mobutu as "a voice of good sense and good will."

But three years ago, Mobutu made a fatal political mistake. He offered support to hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus following their 1994 genocidal campaign against Rwandan Tutsis. When the fortunes of war turned, the Hutus fled into eastern Zaire. There, Zaire's Tutsi population reacted angrily. The anger fed a long-simmering discontent with to Mobutu and his corruption.

Mobutu's neighbors -- Rwanda, Angola, Burundi and Uganda -- were also happy to settle old scores. That animosity helped fuel the Zairian liberation movement led by long-time Mobutu opponent and gold smuggler, Laurent Kabila.

Washington, whose $1 billion aid pipeline to Mobutu dried up in 1990, denied him a visa in 1993. There would be no U.S. rescue this time. When the Cold War ended in 1989, the White House finally noticed that the excessively rich emperor, despite all his finery, had been wearing no political clothes. 

Indonesia: Five More Years of Living Dangerously | By Jerry Meldon | published in Consortium News on June 30, 1997

As May drew to a close, leading U.S. dailies gave front-page coverage to France's national election. But readers had to scour the international briefs for election news about much larger Indonesia -- a country of striking importance to U.S. corporations interested in cheap labor, minerals and oil.

Then again, perhaps the dearth of news reflected the foreordained result of Indonesia's mock exercise in democracy. Millions of anti-government protesters -- including the 133 who died when arson gutted a Borneo mall on May 23 -- also must have known that there was no hope for change following the vote on May 29.

Indeed, whether or not anyone voted for President Suharto's party, "Golkar" -- and three-quarters of the voters reportedly did -- the parliament is certain to name the 75-year-old Suharto or his hand-picked successor as president for the next five years. The deck was stacked. Under Indonesia's complex election laws written by Suharto's allies, the pro-Suharto military (read Golkar) will pick 7.5 percent of the parliament and the ruling party from the previous parliament (Golkar) will select 50 percent.

The election charade guaranteed that Suharto will continue to rule the world's fourth most populous nation -- of 200 million -- with an iron hand, as he has for three decades, since a 1965 coup that led to one of history's worst bloodbaths. Since then, Suharto's armed forces also have crushed independence movements on three of Indonesia's larger islands, as the Mobutu-esque Suharto and his family have amassed a fortune estimated at $40 billion.

Through those three decades of Indonesians living dangerously, Uncle Sam has remained Suharto's steadfast friend, viewing him as a Cold War bulwark against Asian communism. And now with American oil companies exploring for oil off the coast of East Timor and Indonesia's booming economy providing cheap labor for U.S. manufacturers, the White House sees the vast archipelago as it does China: an emerging market first, a police state second.

The official relations between Washington and Jakarta were not always so warm. Suharto's predecessor, Sukarno, was considered unacceptably neutral in the Cold War, refusing to take the U.S. side as it confronted the spread of communism in China, Korea and Indochina. Sukarno saw little gain for Indonesia and other Asian countries which had lived under European colonialism and then Japanese occupation.

After the Japanese collapse in 1945, Sukarno, a staunch nationalist, stepped forward as the first president of the Republic of Indonesia and resisted efforts by the Dutch to reestablish control over their old colony.

In 1949, after a series of violent clashes with independence forces, the Dutch relinquished their colonial claim. The world recognized Indonesia as an independent nation and Sukarno as its leader. Suharto, meanwhile, had collaborated with the Dutch as he had with the Japanese occupiers.

Over the next decade, Sukarno struggled to achieve effective political control over the archipelago which consists of 13,000 islands and a diverse population, including the world's largest Moslem community. But Sukarno frequently annoyed Washington because he adopted a neutral stance in the Cold War and promoted anti-colonialism throughout the Third World. In 1957, his government also began to seize foreign-owned plantations and industries, while promoting ambitious development projects.

Concerned about Sukarno's political direction and the powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), President Eisenhower ordered the CIA to foment a coup in 1958. The coup failed, but its planning linked the CIA and Pentagon with Suharto and other Indonesian military officers who saw an opening to power.

In the early 1960s, as the CIA took the point leading the United States into the Indochina wars, politicians back in Washington pointed to Indonesia as a key "domino" that would fall to communism if Vietnam toppled. In Indonesia, the CIA also was hard at work, cementing ties with anti-communist military officers.

On Oct. 1, 1965 a series of dramatic events began that would permanently alter Washington-Jakarta relations -- and the lives of millions of Indonesians. That morning, under circumstances still shrouded in mystery, junior Indonesian military officers kidnapped and murdered six generals they believed were preparing a CIA-sponsored coup. The rebel officers then occupied parts of Jakarta.

General Suharto claimed the rebels were in league with the PKI, and he counter-attacked with troops loyal to the senior officers. By nightfall, Suharto's troops had managed to subdue the junior officers and were effectively in control of the capital.

In events later fictionalized in the movie, The Year of Living Dangerously, Suharto followed up his military success by overthrowing Sukarno and launching a nationwide purge of suspected communists. Soldiers, police and pro-Suharto vigilantes slaughtered an estimated half a million Indonesians in what an official CIA report called "one of the worst mass murders of the twentieth century." Many of the victims were peasants and workers who supported the PKI, plus their families. Others were ethnic Chinese who were targeted primarily for economic and racial reasons.

Pleased that the troublesome Sukarno was out of the way, the U.S. government hailed the transfer of power and muted any criticism of the massacres which left the rivers of Indonesia running red with blood. Initially, Washington denied playing any role in the coup. But in 1990, U.S. diplomats admitted to a reporter that they had handed lists of suspected communists to the rampaging Indonesian army.

Robert Martens, who headed the Jakarta embassy team that compiled the lists, told Kathy Kadane of States News Service: "It really was a big help to the army. ... I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment."

When the States News story appeared in 1990, the reaction of the Washington press corps was telling. In a Washington Post column, senior editorial writer Stephen S. Rosenfeld accepted that American officials had lent a hand to "this fearsome slaughter" and then proceeded to justify the Indonesian massacre. Rosenfeld argued that the slaughter "was and still is widely regarded as the grim but earned fate of a conspiratorial revolutionary party that represented the same communist juggernaut that was on the march in Vietnam."

In a column fittingly entitled "Indonesia 1965: The Year of Living Cynically?" Rosenfeld reasoned that "either the army would get the communists or the communists would get the army, it was thought; Indonesia was a domino, and the PKI's demise kept it standing in the free world. ... Though the means were grievously tainted, we -- the fastidious among us as well as the hard-headed and cynical -- can be said to have enjoyed the fruits in the geopolitical stability of that important part of Asia, in the revolution that never happened."

With "a little shaking of the head, a little wondering about the bloody ways of history," Rosenfeld judged that Indonesia's massacre "is a good one to turn over to the historians." To Rosenfeld, it also was a positive sign of American maturity that the States News story caused little public stir when it appeared in 1990. "Not too many people these days can summon up the outrage that was the common coin of protests in the Vietnam War period," Rosenfeld wrote. [WP, July 13, 1990]

More Death

For the Indonesians and their neighbors, the three decades of Suharto rule are not so easily forgotten. In December 1975, Suharto's forces invaded the recently liberated Portuguese colony of East Timor. On a visit to Jakarta the day before, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave the invasion a wink and a nod, according to an article by John Pilger in the British journal, The New Statesman[Sept. 22, 1995].

The clearance was just one more favor to a strategic ally. But the hapless East Timorese resisted the invasion, at a cost of 200,000 lives, one-third of their population.

Suharto's repression of the East Timorese continues to this day, although receiving little attention from the U.S. media. One exception came in November 1991 when Indonesian forces made the mistake of including Americans among their victims. Soldiers used M-16 rifles to bash the heads of on-the-scene reporters, including Amy Goodman of Pacifica radio and Allan Nairn of the New Yorker magazine who suffered a broken skull. The troops then opened fire, killing 271 peaceful demonstrators in the East Timorese capital of Dili. Goodman and Nairn survived to tell their story to the international press.

Those reports helped persuade Congress to cut off International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds and the sale of small arms and armored vehicles to Indonesia. This, in turn, sparked a counter-offensive by well-heeled pro-Indonesian interests, including lobbyists for the Clinton-friendly Lippo Group and Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La., whose state is home to the Freeport-McMoran mining company that owns rights to Indonesian gold, silver and copper deposits valued at $50 billion.

Congress responded by restoring IMET funding, while Clinton approved the sale of F-16 fighters to Indonesia. (Incidentally, the Lippo Group's Borneo branch bank was set ablaze by election protesters on May 23.) On June 2, Indonesia rescinded its F-16 order, citing anticipated opposition to the sale in Congress based on Jakarta's human rights record.

To many Indonesians and East Timorese, Suharto and his military-dominated government remain the biggest barrier to democracy and freedom. But in Washington, the endless "year of living cynically" continues despite the end of the Cold War. Only now, the bipartisan political consensus is economic.

With few voices of dissent, Republicans and Democrats alike favor continued U.S. support for Suharto, who can justify his government's repression not in the language of anti-communism, but in the rhetoric of free trade and stability. ~

May 4, 1997