Sunday, January 27, 2008

Suharto, Mass Murderer and Tyrant, is Dead and the New York Times Does by its Standards a Reasonable Obit

Having written an angry blog piece about General Suharto when he was dying and the U.S. press was reporting the incident and omitting his leadership in the mass murder carried out in 1965 against Indonesian Communists, workers, peasants, and ethnic Chinese people, I thought that I would mention that Suharto is now dead and Marilyn Berger in the New York Times has written a lengthy obituary which dealt significantly with the mass murder of 1965.

Berger presented fair figures of the mass murder, 500,000 to 1,000,000 which are the serious estimates. She wrote about the alleged coup by elements of the military (she didn't mention that this was largely in response to a planned coup a few days later by the anti-Communist high command). She also mentioned very rightly that forces under Suharto's command then unleashed a mass killing directed against Communists, mobilizing what were in effect lynch mobs to murder and mutilate hundreds of thousands, and that the mass killing also was directed against the ethnic Chinese minority. Chinese Indonesians were both connected to Communism by the reactionary power structure, long discriminated against because they mostly non Muslims and regarded as a wealthy elite (it was noted by serious scholars that anti-Chinese prejudice in Indonesia was similar to anti-Semitic prejudice in Eastern Europe, where Jews were condemned as supporters of socialist revolution, non Christians, and a wealthy elite, regardless of reality). The mass murder of 1965, as it applied to ethnic Chinese, I would contend, can be seen as something of a national pogrom.

Berger in the rest of the obit, paying less respects than most U.S. media to the "economic achievements" of Suharto's regime, went on to chronicle Suharto's history of tyranny and corruption.

While Berger deserves praise for this article on the whole, one should note that she didn't really deal with the role of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon, and the U.S. State Department in aiding and abetting the mass killing of 1965, although she did deal with the billions of dollars of aid that Suharto's regime received subsequently from the U.S. and other capitalist countries. Nor did she deal with the fact that the Communist Party of Indonesia was a mass party with an estimated three million members at the time of Suharto's real coup and establishment of what many analysts outside of U.S. media circles regarded as a fascist regime.

Suharto's place in history is with Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, the Tojo regime, and those whom the publisher of the Nation, Freda Kirchwey called "midget Hitler's" (The Trujillo's, Somozas, and Batista's of Latin America) in response to Franklin Roosevelt's reference to one of them as "a son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch." Suharto's crimes place him above the Latin American SO B's of the right and far closer to Hitler and Franco. His death should encourage Americans to understand that substantive change in U.S. foreign policy is much more than ending the Iraq occupation and restoring decent relations with the international community. It is about ending the military and political and economic support for regimes like Suharto's, which have inspired justified anger and resentment among the masses of people throughout the world.

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