Pacifists Demand Action to Stop Terrorists

"Stop Military Aid to Indonesia Before More Lives Are Lost," Says War Resisters League

Publisher's note -- In our opinion, the War Resisters League is being too polite when it uses the term "militias" instead of "terrorists" to describe armed murderers who rape, torture and kill innocent civilians. But the WRL message is right on target.
"Once again a U.S.-supported military is committing major human rights abuses," says Ruth Benn, National Office Director of the War Resisters League, the nation's oldest secular pacifist organization. "The Indonesian military created the militias that are rampaging through East Timor and leaving death and destruction in their wake, and the Indonesian military could call them off—if it had the will to. It's up to the international community to pressure Indonesia to stop the slaughter and to support the efforts of the United Nations and the Pacific Rim countries to bring an immediate end to the violence."

The League joins the East Timor Action Network and other groups to demand in the first place that the Indonesian government act now to stop the militias, and that, pending such action, the U.S. government exert maximum economic pressure on Indonesia to do so.

"This country has blockaded Cuba for nearly 40 years and embargoed Iraq since 1991. Now we—along with other people of conscience across the country and across the globe—urge that it use that power immediately to stop the violence in East Timor," says the League's Disarmament Coordinator, Chris Ney.

East Timor, half of a small island just north of Australia, has been swept by escalating violence for the last week, ever since the United Nations announced the pro-independence result (78 percent in favor of independence, and a 99% voter turnout) of a vote by the East Timorese people on the question of independence from Indonesia. (Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, claimed it as the 27th Indonesian province and brutally repressed all opposing voices at the cost of as many as 200,000 East Timorese lives. The United Nations never recognized the annexation and after years of negotiations Indonesia acceded to a U.N.-sponsored vote, which was held last week.)

Before and after the vote, but increasingly since, marauding bands of militias known to be under the aegis of the Indonesian military have attacked East Timorese civilians as well as U.N. and Red Cross personnel and the headquarters of Nobel Laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo. It is estimated that hundreds have been killed and as many as 150,000—including Bishop Belo—forced to flee. The violence has been met by proposals from a number of nations for armed U.N. or international peacekeeping forces in East Timor.

The War Resisters League proposes a different solution. "In our 75-year history," notes Benn, "the League has never supported armed intervention, nor do we see a need for such intervention now. We believe the Indonesian government could stop the violence immediately, if it chose to. And we believe the Clinton administration and its allies, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, could persuade Indonesia to do so, merely by ending all military sales and withholding non-humanitarian aid and loans until human rights—and human lives—have been secured in East Timor."


The War Resisters League, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012.
Phone 212-228-0450, fax 212-228-6193. web address:

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