A Dark Past in East Timor for Obama's National Intelligence Nominee

User @DemocracyNow broke the news on Twitter:

New Trouble For An Obama Nominee: Admiral Dennis Blair Aided Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings In East Timor:..

And was followed by @gregtheveg:

Obama CIA Nominee involved in East Timor genocide

So did @giantpandinha on this tweet

How Obama's new intel chief screwed over Timor

And @allisonkilkenny on this this one

Dennis Blair, Nominee for Dir. of National Intel Connected to E. Timor Massacre

These are just a few examples of what citizen journalists have been tweeting regarding the nomination of Admiral Denis C. Blair as Barack Obama's choice to be the US Director of National Intelligence. And this should lead us to embark on our own fact-finding mission to establish the veracity of these serious accusations which the retired United States Navy official faces: during his tenure as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, he would have played a critical role in backing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in the 1990's, an invasion that led to the killing of approximately 1,400 Timorese and the displacement of 300,000 people. Did Intelligence Chief Aid Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings of East Timor Civilians?, asks twitter user @samsimon.

Allan Nairn has a comprehensive and shocking overview of the nomination implications on his blog, bearing in mind that in 1999, “in the midst of massacres of East Timor civilians and churches, Admiral Blair gave support to the perpetrators, the armed forces of Indonesia.”:

Two days after a massacre at Liquica that left flesh hanging from the church walls, Blair contacted the Indonesian commander, offered him US aid, and according to classified US cables, failed to tell him to stop the attacks. Reassured by the evident support from Blair, then the US Pacific Command chief, the Indonesian commander, General Wiranto, escalated the attacks.

The Indonesian forces subsequently struck the Red Cross and the Bishop's residence, killing more than a thousand as they went, burning churches and raping nuns.

They were trying to derail a free election, taking place under UN auspices, that eventually ended Jakarta's illegal occupation of East Timor.

Readers of Timor Loosae Nação published the piece of news and commented on it, concluding that the U.S. foreign policy does not change with the change of the President:

A noticia anterior e um grande tabefe para os timorenses que se jubilaram pela eleicao de Obama.

“The piece of news above is a big slap in the face for Timorese who rejoiced at the election of Obama.”

Another piece of news, published here, raised a controversial discussion. Robert Merkel started by saying:

This attitude – that keeping the Indonesian military happy was more important than saving the East Timorese – was very common amongst western diplomats dealing with Indonesia back in 1999 and earlier. It was a pretty slimy piece of realpolitik, but understandable; relations between Indonesia and western countries (particularly Australia, the closest, who took the major role in the peacekeeping operation that oversaw the transition to independence) did take a beating after East Timor's independence.

To which Erik coldly replied:

yes – we must be careful. The needs of the Indonesian dictatorship had to be carefully weighed against the Timorese people. After all, although we are discussing great numbers of deaths in relative terms – more than 10 per cent of their population, it was a small number in absolute terms – only 1-2 hundred thousand deaths. When you look at this you realize why realpolitik reasons would triumph.

A very different point of view is given by Gary Farber, from Amygdala. He has a very factual post with a lot of references, and is disgusted with other bloggers’ apathy:

More confirmation (unofficially, still) of the Blair nomination. Where are all the big name left blogs on this? Why is almost everyone silent? Are people going to suddenly discover the problems only after the nomination is official? Why can't I get anyone to listen to me about this, he said forlornly?

The demonstration of outrage about the 1999 crimes has just started, and people have been gathering signatures on a Petition for the Prosecution of Crimes Against Humanity in East Timor. You can find bloggers joining this cause everywhere (check the East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin header).

At the same time, another petition is taking place, concerning specifically Blair's involvement in those crimes. According to John:

Dennis Blair's sordid record when it comes to East Timor and Indonesia disqualifies him for intel chief. The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) has more here or sign their petition here.

Despite all the activism and debate arising online, some doubt Timor will be more than a ‘pebble in the shoe’ for him [Admiral Dennis Blair] while others, like Charles Lemos say that he was following orders after all:

… If he disobeyed orders from the Clinton Administration to deliver a message to Indonesia's military authorities then he clearly is not fit to be Director of National Intelligence. Expect to hear more in the coming days from Indonesia experts on Admiral Blair.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.