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US backed Timor invasion
THE US knew well in advance of and explicitly approved Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975, newly declassified documents say.
Released this week by the independent Washington-based National Security Archive (NSA), the documents showed US officials were aware of the invasion plans nearly a year in advance.
They adopted a "policy of silence" and even sought to suppress news and discussions on East Timor, including credible reports of Indonesia's massacres of Timorese civilians, according to the documents.
East Timor is today an independent nation.
The people of East Timor voted in favour of breaking away from Indonesia in a UN-sponsored ballot in August 1999 before gaining full independence in May 2002 after more than two years of UN stewardship.
But the path to independence was bloody. Militia gangs reportedly directed by Indonesia's military went on a killing spree before and after the East Timorese referendum, killing about 1400 independence supporters.
Thirty years after the Indonesian invasion, the formerly secret US documents showed how multiple US administrations tried to conceal information on East Timor to avoid a controversy that would prompt a Congressional ban on weapons sales to Indonesia.
"I'm assuming you're really going to keep your mouth shut on the subject," then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger told his staff in October 1975 in response to reports that Indonesia had begun its attack on East Timor.
The administration of President Gerald Ford knew that Indonesia had invaded East Timor using almost entirely US equipment, and that the use of that equipment for that purpose was illegal, the documents showed.
In 1977, officials of the administration of Ford's successor, Jimmy Carter, blocked declassification of an explosive cable transcribing President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger's meeting with Indonesian President Suharto.
At the meeting in December 1975, they explicitly approved of the East Timor invasion, according to the documents.
Through the 1980s, US officials continued to receive -- and deny or dismiss -- credible reports of Indonesia's massacres of Timorese civilians.
"The United States had suffered a devastating setback in Vietnam, leaving Indonesia as the most important American ally in the area. The U.S. national interest had to be on the side of Indonesia." -President Gerald Ford