But these events are also the product of the collapse of the eastern bloc ten years ago, which ended the period of the two imperialist blocs around the USA and the USSR. They are a new manifestation of the tendency towards chaos and 'every man for himself' which has grown more and more marked since then, and has given rise to an explosion of nationalism across the globe.
Indonesia's place in the period of the blocs and after
Up until the last decade, Indonesia was a strategic bastion of the western bloc in this region, against the USSR but also against China. Despite the ferocious repression against the pro-Chinese Indonesian Communist Party in 1965 (which left 500,000 dead), the west's fear that general Sukharno (who had proclaimed himself "president for life" in 1963) would succumb to Chinese pressure led to him being replaced by another bloody dictator, Suharto, in 1966, through a coup d'Etat engineered by the USA. This was also the reason why, in 1975, at the time of Indonesia's brutal invasion of East Timor in 1975 - a real bloodbath which claimed 200,000 victims, and which had the aim of preventing the accession to power of the Moscow-backed movement for the independence of Timor (Freitilin) - not one state in the western camp objected, even if the UN refused to formally recognise the annexation.
Since the disappearance of the Russian threat, Indonesia can no longer play the same role of gendarme for the western bloc in the region. But it is a huge archipelago which remains at the heart of a highly important strategic zone, linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This is why the USA still aims to maintain its control over this country. To do tcontrol over this country. To do this it was necessary for the US to allow the departure of Suharto following the riots of 1998. These were the consequence of the financial crash which shook the so-called 'emerging economies' of east Asia in the autumn of 1997; more particularly they were the product of the drastic austerity plan imposed by the IMF in exchange for emergency aid to save Indonesia from bankruptcy. It soon became clear that the democratic halo around Suharto's successor Habibie is just a bluff.
In Indonesia, the same old mafia-type clique, still dominated by Suharto's cronies, continues to hold power via the army. When you consider for example that over 40% of the land in East Timor is the property of Indonesian generals, and that they have held onto this land through a real reign of terror, you can appreciate the level of corruption that is the norm in this and similar countries.
Imperialist gangsters large and small
But it's not simply because Indonesia is run by a bunch of gangsters that its government has unleashed such a level of violence in East Timor. This behaviour is dictated by the simple need to defend national imperialist interests, because if the Indonesian state lets part of Timor go, the whole of Int of Timor go, the whole of Indonesia would face the threat of implosion. Its fragile unity is based on a patchwork quilt of islands that host different ethnic groups, different religions and different cultures, with different colonial histories. The secession of East Timor would be a big encouragement for other islands or provinces where pro-independence 'troubles' have already broken out, notably Aceh, Riau and Irian-Jaya. This is why Indonesian imperialism has carried out this ruthless massacre: to discourage the others.
But neighbouring Australia, which is heading the anti-Indonesian crusade and which makes up the bulk of the UN intervention force in East Timor, is not animated by any nobler intentions. When we recall that Australia is the only state to have recognised the annexation of East Timor in 1975, we can see the real meaning of this sudden change of tune. It's simply that Australia is taking advantage of the situation and the difficulties of its imperialist rival Indonesia to try and take its place as the new regional overlord. By playing on the fact that it has up till now been a faithful ally of the US, the Australian state is making sure that its own national interests are being advanced, even if its intervention through the UN has been blessed by the White House.
But these mafia methods don't end there. All the great powers who are presenting themselves as the champions of democracy and human rights have once again revealed their duplicity. After a period of almost total silence by the main protagonists of the murderous intervention in Yugoslavia, the first statements of position were in favour of non-intervention. The US defence secretary, William Cohen, declared on 8 September:
"We must be selective about the places where we commit our forces and in the current circumstances this is not a place where we are prepared to commit our troops". As for the British foreign secretary Robin Cook, one of the most ardent war-mongers over Kosovo, he was saying on 5 September that "no one in the world is ready to land in force in East Timor".
All the great powers were unanimous: military intervention was "too dangerous". What hypocrisy! We only have to think back to the rapid dispatch of US marines to Somalia in 1992, a country completely riven by civil war between rival gangs, to see that this argument is just an alibi.
The real reason for their equivocation is that most of them have no interest in the break-up of Ino interest in the break-up of Indonesia, especially the US. On the contrary, their deliberate policy faced with the well-planned and predictable massacres was to let the Indonesian government do the dirty work of crushing the Timorese in order to issue a warning to other islands in the archipelago and dissuade other independence movements. The long-delayed intervention by the UN, two weeks after the battle, aimed at bolstering the great powers' image as defenders of democracy and peace, was a real illustration of their cynicism. What's more, while much of East Timor is in ruins and deserted by its inhabitants, the UN has left intact the armed bases of the militias in West Timor, a legal Indonesian territory, where these armed gangs continue to terrorise the population, above all because so many people were pushed into the trap of fleeing to the western part of the island.
The USA was not able to prevent the UN - and behind it, the USA's European rivals - from taking the initiative for the 'peacekeeping' force in Kosovo. It was the UN which took the initiative last May in organising the referendum on the independence of East Timor, which was a real provocation for Indonesia. It is again the UN which has taken responsibility for the intervention in East Timor. And if we have seen European states like France using ropean states like France using UN flags to proclaim "the inalienable right of the Timorese people to self-determination and independence", it is because, behind this humanitarian blather, they are out to challenge and destabilise American domination in a region which was for many years in the colonial orbit of the European states.
All the speeches and promises made ten years ago about the opening of a new era of peace have been proven to be nothing but lies. We saw this with the Gulf war, then with the successive conflicts which tore Yugoslavia to shreds, or with the genocides on the African continent. In all the strategic areas of the planet - and now this is also the case around the Asian continent, as the intervention in East Timor shows - the great powers are compelled to step in, each one to ensure the defence of their own imperialist interests. All their humanitarian language is just a pretext for this, and it is an increasing number of local populations who are paying the bloody price.