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Sunday, January 27, 2008


Another death, another whitewash

First posted 1/27, 10:20 a.m. Updated; see below

In addition to George Habash, today saw the death of former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The press notes his brutality:

Former Indonesian President Suharto, the U.S. Cold War ally who led one of the 20th century's most brutal dictatorships over 32 years that saw up to a million political opponents killed, died Sunday.
Suharto was vilified by historians, rights groups and his critics as one of the world's most brutal rulers and was accused of overseeing a graft-ridden reign.
Aside from that brief reference to "U.S. Cold War ally," though, you'd never get the idea that the U.S. had any involvement, either in the coup which brought him to power and killed nearly a million people, nor in the invasion and slaughter in East Timor, and other atrocities, not to mention helping keeping him in power with economic and military aid. In fact, the U.S. and Australia as well were up to their eyeballs not only in the coup which brought Suharto to power, even giving Suharto lists of Communists and the weapons to finish them off, not to mention giving approval for the invasion of East Timor and much, much more. Not that this is the first time this kind of whitewashing of the U.S. role in backing Suharto has occured; FAIR noted similar efforts ten years ago.

As bad as the media's behavior is in this regard, of course it can't match the reaction to Suharto's death from the U.S. and Australian governments:

Cameron Hume, the U.S. ambassador in Jakarta, said Suharto was a close ally who led his country through a period of "remarkable" development.

"Though there may be some controversy [Ed. note: !!!] over his legacy, President Suharto was a historic figure who left a lasting imprint on Indonesia and the region," Hume said.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called Suharto an "influential leader" who presided over the world's fourth most populous country, and its largest Islamic nation, during critical times.

"The former president was also a controversial figure in respect of human rights and East Timor and many have disagreed [Ed. note: Ya' think?] with his approach," he added.
The New York Times did actually run a major article on Suharto today, written shortly before he died. Was it about his brutal history, and the U.S. involvement in it? Of course not, it was about how "some people here say it is not doctors and machines that have kept him alive, but an unseen cosmos of mystical forces," and about how Suharto stood out "for his devotion."

Update: National broadcast news update: ABC News refers to Suharto's record of a million "opponents" killed, but neither mentions any U.S. involvement/support, nor the fact that most of those opponents were Communists. CBS News uses the words "dictator" and "U.S. ally," but doesn't even mention "brutality" or a million dead, much less describe the nature of those killings.

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