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   Vol. 68/No. 36           October 5, 2004  
Indonesia gov’t mobilizes public opinion
behind crackdown on ‘terrorist’ group
(front page)
Taking advantage of violent attacks on civilian targets by armed groups, the ruling class in Indonesia and its allies in the United States, Australia, and other imperialist powers have scored new successes in their “war on terrorism” in that Southeast Asian country—the fourth most populous in the world.

The September 9 suicide bombing outside the Australian embassy in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, attributed to Jemaah Islamiah (JI), is the latest attack the country’s rulers have used to win broader acceptance in public opinion for a crackdown against the group, which calls for the formation of “Islamic governments” across the region. Nine people were killed and more than 180 others were injured in that bombing.

Jakarta has won support for more repressive measures against Jemaah Islamiah from major Muslim organizations and political figures in Indonesia who had been reluctant to do so in the past. Syafii Maarif, the central leader of Muhammadiyah, one of Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations, joined the government chorus against JI. “If Muslims conduct this kind of uncivilized action, they should question whether they are Muslims or not,” Maarif said. “They misuse the religion.”

On September 20, former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a landslide victory in the presidential election, winning 60 percent of the vote.

An article in the September 21 New York Times described the White House attitude toward the Indonesian elections: “The Bush administration—particularly Paul D. Wolfowitz, who was ambassador to Indonesia in the late 1980s—has said the success of the elections here in the world’s most populous Muslim country shows that Islam and democracy are compatible.”

A former security minister in Sukarnoputri’s administration, Yudhoyono campaigned on a platform of fighting harder against “terrorism” and turning around the country’s steep economic decline that has accelerated since the 1997 “Asian crisis.” An estimated 40 percent of the population of 220 million are either jobless or underemployed.

Prior to the election, several Muslim organizations called for the government to take repressive action against those accused of “terrorism.” Amien Rais, one of the leaders of the protests that brought down the Suharto dictatorship in 1998, said there should be speedy executions of those convicted of the bombings. “I find it revolting that when they are proven guilty they are still given the chance to appeal,” he said. Other Muslim organizations have also condemned the bombing of the Australian embassy and have called for “strong punishment” of the perpetrators.

The stance taken by these organizations is in contrast to past protests against government crackdowns on those accused of such attacks.

There was widespread outrage in Indonesia and hundreds rallied in Jakarta in November 2002, for example, after the Australian government carried out a series of raids on the homes of Indonesians in Australia. The cops claimed they were looking for individuals linked to JI, which it charged with the bombing of a night club on the Indonesian island of Bali a month earlier. The bombing killed more than 200 people, many of them tourists. The Indonesian government protested statements by Australian officials that Australian troops might be sent to Indonesia to join local forces in fighting “terrorism.”

But Jakarta responded meekly to announcements by Australian officials on September 20 about plans to create “counter-terrorism flying squads” that would be part of Prime Minister John Howard’s “Southeast Asian terror offensive.” While the Australian, a daily paper published in Australia, pointed to the Philippines and Thailand as likely destinations for such hit-squads, it said Howard “insisted that Indonesia would be the main focus of the new counter-terrorism offensive.” An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesperson replied that while Jakarta “respected the right of countries to determine their own defense policies, Indonesia preferred to stress diplomacy.”  
Jemaah Islamiah
The program of Jemaah Islamiah calls for the creation of “Islamic governments” across the region, followed by the formation of a South East Asian Islamic state. This would include Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, and the south of Thailand and the Philippines. Like those of other bourgeois nationalist formations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, and the Salvation Front in Algeria, JI’s program and activity, which includes bombings that often target civilians, have nothing to do with defending the interests of the toilers of the region.

These groups have been able to step into the political vacuum left as a result of Stalinist betrayals of the struggles of workers and farmers. In Indonesia, the strategy of the pro-Beijing Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) of supporting the bourgeois nationalist Sukarno regime led to a devastating defeat for working people without a battle. Despite having millions of members and supporters, the PKI relied on the government to organize resistance to Suharto’s 1965 military coup—a resistance that never materialized. The PKI strategy blocked workers and peasants from fighting Suharto’s bloody takeover. The dictatorial regime slaughtered hundreds of thousands of workers, destroying the PKI itself in the process.

As in the Middle East, the U.S. government has made gains posturing as a defender of “democracy” in battle against repressive regimes such as that of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and “terrorist” groups like JI.

Washington maintained an official policy of neutrality in the Indonesian elections. U.S. officials used the occasion to push their worldwide campaign that bourgeois democracy is possible and desirable in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

U.S. deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz played a prominent role in the days leading up to the election. In an op-ed column in the September 16 New York Times, Wolfowitz presented a government attack on the rights of a journalist as “a threat to the freedom and democracy that Indonesia has enjoyed since the collapse of the Suharto government six years ago.” He also noted that Yudhoyono, who subsequently won the election, was more likely than the sitting president to push for dismissing the charges of “criminal libel” against the editor of Tempo, one of the most popular news magazines in Indonesia.

The Defense Department official knows what he’s talking about in regard to the Suharto government: he was the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia for three years under the Reagan administration when Washington was supporting the dictator there and served for three-and-a-half years before that as secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
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