Exception to the Rulers, III
Two weeks after the 1991 massacre, the Indonesian military held two
news conferences in Jakarta and announced that Allan and I were banned from returning to
Indonesia or East Timor. They called us a threat to national security. Probably because we
survived the massacre and talked about it. In November 1994, President Clinton was going
to Indonesia for APEC, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. And he was going to
meet with Suharto and other Asian-Pacific leaders. This was the biggest moment for
Indonesia in Suharto’s 30-year history. The world spotlight would be on him. They
cleaned the streets about a month before APEC. Meaning, Suharto’s military went
through the streets of Jakarta in a big military hardware show, threatening everyone,
saying if you dare to hold a demonstration this is what will happen to you. It was very
blatant. They called it Operation Cleanup. We now know that when Clinton went to Indonesia
he was meeting with his campaign contributors, James Riatti and others.
Indonesia decided that they would demonstrate openness by saying
that Allan and I could come into the country while President Clinton was there. It just so
happened that President Clinton was arriving on November 13, 1994, the day after the
anniversary of the massacre. The anniversary of the massacre of 1991 is a very big event
in East Timor. There are protests every year. So we flew in on November 11 at night, and
the headlines in the Jakarta Post were that we were coming in. We didn’t
realize it was that big a deal. We thought we could just slip in quietly. We went to the
Jakarta Convention Center which is like any convention center in a big city. We walked
into the American Embassy booth. There were thousands of journalist organizations from
around the world there. When we walked into the American Embassy one they said, "Oh,
you have arrived." We didn’t know anyone knew we were coming until they showed
us these headlines.
We decided to quickly, before anyone noticed, get into East Timor
the next day, November 12. We had to get our press credentials. Immediately the head of
the credentials office came over to us, knowing who we were. And he said to us, "So
have you finally calmed down a little?" And Allan said, "Have you finally
stopped killing?" The official walked away.
The next morning we took a flight from Jakarta. We had bought our
ticket in the U.S. because we knew they would try to prevent us here. You can not buy a
ticket to East Timor in the U.S. so we didn’t have a ticket for the last leg. We got
to the Jakarta airport and said we were going to Bali. They said there was no plane but we
saw people lined up. We talked our way onto the plane. We did make it to Bali. In West
Timor, they didn’t have a plane that was going to East Timor that day.
We started to go into the bus station to try to drive into
East Timor. It’s about a 10-hour drive. There was a bus to Delhi. It took us to a
tiny frontier town between West and East Timor where we had to go inside this little candy
shop, a really remote site, and buy tickets just to go over the border into East Timor. We
went in and said, hi, we’d like to get two tickets. This women took out a little
piece of cardboard that had our names written, misspelled, on it and said no. And she
said, furthermore… and we turned around and military men took us onto a bus and brought
us to the military compound there.
We were able to use the phone there. We made two phone calls. One to
the American Embassy in Jakarta and said we want you to know exactly where we are, and we
want to get out of here. And a call to the press because we knew that the American Embassy
would probably work to keep us there. But at least they would know where we were. We were
then put back on the bus to the capital of West Timor. We drove all night and when we got
to the city, we drove into this area that I realized was a military compound because it
was surrounded by soldiers. They opened the door and said get off. And I said, well,
we’re not getting off. Indonesian civilians were on the bus and they kept their heads
Then one of the Indonesian military said, "You’ll be safe.
Don’t worry." And I said "Yeah, the last time we were in your hands we
weren’t exactly safe." But eventually we decided there was no hope so we got off
the bus and were immediately put into military detention. They had INTEL all around us,
that’s military intelligence of Indonesia. At that point, we demanded to use a phone
to call our embassy. They forbid us to do that. But late in the night, when INTEL had gone
off and only one guy was there and he had dozed off, we tiptoed out to a phone, putting
our stuff in front of him so he wouldn’t shoot us in the back. We called the embassy
and the press to say exactly where we were.
They questioned us all day and said that a top official was coming
from Jakarta so we wouldn’t be able to leave. This was on the anniversary of the
massacre, November 12. Eventually, because they got so many press calls in the military
compound once we had gotten the number out, they got scared. President Clinton was coming
the next day. This was their biggest moment at APEC and now it didn’t look very good
that people knew we were there. So, they put us on a plane back to Jakarta. We then
learned that 29 Timorese had jumped the wall of the U.S. Embassy demanding to talk to
Here you have the world cameras on these brave 29 Timorese young men
instead of President Clinton flying in. I talked to someone inside the embassy and they
said they wanted to kick them out immediately, although you’re not supposed to do
that because embassies are traditionally places of refuge. They couldn’t quite do it
because there were about 24 cameras lined up through the bars. You could see the Timorese
on the inside. And, of course, the INTEL cameras were going as well, and they were
harassing these young students. But they were protected by the wall. They demanded the
release of Xanana Gusmau who had been captured in 1992, and that there be a referendum in
East Timor—a UN-sponsored referendum so they could decide whether they wanted to be
"integrated" with Indonesia, as Indonesia calls it, or whether they would be
free. They knew that they had to go to the site that controls Indonesia the best, and that
was the U.S.
This got a lot of attention. It was on the front page of the New
York Times. I think CBS did a report on the evening news. The only problem is they
didn’t make it clear why they jumped the wall of the U.S. Embassy. It was just the
nearest embassy to them. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was the U.S.
government. So you see, if they’re going to cover a story and they are going to talk
about atrocities, they are not going to link it to the U.S.
Thirty-four other young people had tried to jump the wall with these
twenty-nine but they got dragged back by military intelligence. Another 30 saw them being
dragged off and ran away. But these 29 young people certainly captured the attention of
the news media. As they were doing this, in East Timor, people were arrested all over the
country. The Indonesians had killed another Timorese and they were protesting. About 250
of these Timorese were put in jail.
We went back to the Jakarta Convention Center where many of the
press were asking to interview us, to talk about the massacre three years before. We said,
we’ll do this all at once. We’ll do it it in the lobby of the convention center.
On my computer we typed out, "Amy and Allan will speak at 6:00 down the hall."
And we started to hand it out to people, thinking nothing of it. As we started to give it
out, Indonesian security came over. They surrounded and started to drag us off. This was
in the middle of the Jakarta Convention Center. While we normally would have attracted
about 20 people, instead we had 200 journalists running with a bank of cameras to
photograph and video tape this and to scream at the Indonesians, what are you doing, these
are journalists. One journalist remarked, "They are so clumsy, these Indonesians.
They don’t know how to do it." I said, "No, no, no. They know how to do it.
They don’t know how to do it when they’ve got 20 cameras on them and Westerners
screaming at them to let other Westerners go. But they certainly know how to do it in the
streets of Jakarta and in the streets of East Timor."
As the cameras rolled, the journalists said, okay, have the press
conference here, and as the Indonesian security was grabbing my neck, we told the story of
what happened over the last 24 hours. Then we told the story of the massacre as they tried
to drag us away. Finally, the head of security came with 30 other security and in front of
our cameras, he said "you cannot hold a press conference at…" I said, "In
the press center?" He said, "That’s right, unless you have my
permission." I said, "Well, sir, can I have your permission. He shouted,
"No. Absolutely not." This was all broadcast. For the first time, the world
press, particularly the U.S. press, said, there is a problem in Indonesia.
The next day we wanted to do what the other journalists were doing,
which is cover the APEC Summit. In particular, we wanted to get a chance to question
Suharto and President Clinton. We went over to sign up for the news conference and the
White House Press liaison said, "You know, you won’t be allowed in." I
said, "I don’t understand, I’m a journalist." She said, "You
weren’t on the White House press plane. Only the journalists on the White House press
plane can go to the news conference." So I said, "How much would it cost to go,
$5,000? $10,000? Had to be more than that." And she said, "What do you mean by
that." I said, "I just want to know how much it costs to ask President Clinton a
question." She said, "I really resent that." I said, "I do, too."
She said, "I worked for NPR." I said, "It doesn’t surprise me."
Suharto was holding a news conference so we went to ask, how do we
go to this? We had to go to the White House embassy liaison who would decide what American
journalists could go to Suharto’s news conference. So we understood why, whether
President Clinton is standing in the rose garden in Washington or in Jakarta next to
Suharto, he is always asked the same questions. Even independent journalists who might be
located in Jakarta, who would know a lot more about what’s going on in Indonesia,
couldn’t go because they weren’t flying on a White House press airplane.
As a result we could not cover any of these activities, so we
decided to try to get back into East Timor. The next day we took a 5:00 AM flight from
Jakarta to Bali. In Bali for the first time, they pulled everyone off the plane. We knew
they were going to check everyone’s passports. And we realized then we were going to
be taken off, so we decided not to get off the plane. They came in and said, "You
must get off the plane."
We said, "No, we’re just heading to East Timor."
They took us off the plane.
In Bali we decided to change our identity to get into East Timor. We
went into the capital followed by military on motorcycles. We got into a cab and told the
driver "Take us to the Monkey Jungle." As we were driving we urged the driver
"Go faster, go faster." We could see that we were still being followed. Failing
to shake them we got out of the cab and started running up a one-way street.
The Indonesian military followed. I turned around with my camera and
started taking pictures and they went away. We went to a hotel and we gave ourselves
different names and went to another hotel and used different names to cover our tracks.
After we knew they weren’t following us anymore we would go back to Jakarta and try
again to get into East Timor using different names.
We went back to Jakarta and this time we bought tickets all the way
through. In Bali we had gone on a little shopping spree and Allan bought a big Balinese
hat, I bought a Balinese dress, wrapped up my hair in all sorts of Balinese ribbons, on
top of that I put a hat that said Bali, and looked as much as we could like tourists.
We got on the plane and flew back to Balil. When you’re going
to East Timor you go into a special place. It’s basically all military because who
else goes to East Timor? We sat down in our hats and sunglasses.
We first came up with the names Bennet Johnston and Diane Feinstein
because they were the two leading proponents of Indonesia in the Senate and would be
received more favorably. But then we thought it was possible they might arrest us for
impersonating senators. We wanted names that were significant if we were caught but we
didn’t quite want to be put in jail just for impersonation, so we decided to be
Bennett and Betty Feinstein. Bennett for Bennet Johnston, Feinstein for Dianne Feinstein
and Betty for Betty Ford, the wife of Gerald Ford, who OK’d the invasion. Not that
she should bear responsibility, but that’s how we decided to do it.
So, here we were in Bali sitting among all the military intelligence
waiting to go into East Timor. Just as they were about to announce the flight over the
loud speaker came, "Bennett Feinstein, Bennet Feinstein come to security." We
got up and I walked dutifully behind him.
We went up to the counter and Indonesian security agents said,
"You forgot your ticket. Here it is." We got on the plane and flew to East
Timor. We re-walked the route of the procession of the massacre. We talked to people along
the way. At the massacre site there were people sitting and talking about how bad the
situation was. We visited some of the gravestones. We met with Bishop Bello at his house.
He was quite surprised to see us because he is under total surveillance. The Indonesian
military was everywhere. Bishop Bello told us the situation was worse than it had been
since 1983. We then met with the resistance leader. The day before the Timorese had risen
up all over East Timor and more than 200 of them had been arrested. The Indonesian
military now have an office set up at the university. The resistance leader said the
torture most commonly used was electric shock to the genitals and forcing the Timorese to
swallow their crucifixes. That’s what was happening in 1994.
What is most difficult about being in East Timor is that you
endanger everyone you speak to. So you have to be very careful and we knew that if we
stayed long it would put people in jeopardy.
At the airport in Jakarta they were quite angry. They saw on the
computer that we were on the black list. We were allowed in for the few days for President
Clinton and they pointed out we were not with Clinton. They said, "You’re on the
black list. You can’t go out."
I said, "No, the black list means that you can’t come into
your country. We can get out of your country." We eventually came back to the U.S.
@PAR SUB = For the first time reporters were coming up to me saying,
"Why don’t you explain this?" I went on one of these national NPR shows on
the media with reporters from Newsweek and LA Times. I told them, "You
know, it’s good you’re starting to cover this. But you’ve got to start
covering the brutality and the human rights abuse and the genocide for this to capture
people’s imaginations and get people in America to care." A campaign
contribution scandal does not interest people. It just sounds like a lot of corrupt money
politics that is out of control. But, when you say that U.S. weapons are being used to
kill catholic parishioners, to kill catholic school girls, people care about that.
I went back to the White House after President Clinton was
re-elected. The Nobel Peace Prize winners had been announced, and I went to the White
House press briefing that day. The journalists were asking Mike McCurry about some golf
clubs that President Clinton had. Each journalist got to ask a few questions about these
I said, "I hate to interrupt what’s important but I just
wanted to ask if you have anything to say about the announcement today of the awarding of
the Nobel Peace Prize."
He said, "Oh yes, it was awarded to Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop
Belo and we applaud them."
I said, "You know, I have spoken to Bishop Belo. He said that
the situation is worse than it’s been since 1983. Jose Ramos-Horta says selling F-16s
to Suharto is like selling F-16s to Saddam Hussein. Why are you doing it?"
He said, "We have various foreign policy concerns."
The day they received the Nobel Peace Prize, I said to Mike McCurry,
"You know, it has now been admitted that James Riatti came to the White House more
than a dozen times to discuss policy matters. Yet President Clinton has still not extended
an invitation to the Nobel Peace Prize winners. Is it because they haven’t made a
campaign contribution?" He got very angry. "Or," I said, "is it
because those that have contributed don’t want them there?" He went on to
He finally said, as I pushed him on this, "Well, they disagree
with things Jose Romos-Horta had said." Something along those lines, he was very
I said, "What do you disagree with? Do you have to agree with
every person? Do you agree with the Chinese arms merchants and the Russians nuclear guy
who was in jail? Do you agree with all these people that you invite to the White
I think it is important to go to the White House and raise these
issues, but much more important than that is grassroots activists around the country
informing people about what is happening and applying pressure to Congress because that is
a little closer to the people. President Clinton has backed down on the sale of F-16s
because of grassroots activity adding to the embarrassment of the Nobel Peace award and
the campaign contribution scandal. It is incumbent on all of us to call Congress members,
to meet with them and say, "We demand that you not provide weapons and support to the
@PAR SUB = I’ll give you one story that deals with corporate
power and why we remain as close as we are with Indonesia. This will help to explain why
Clinton doesn’t need the James Riattis to continue the relationship. He doesn’t
need Indonesian PR people lobbying on behalf of Indonesia. He has U.S. corporations
that do the lobbying and they are the ones who have the stranglehold on politics in this
country. He has the Nikes, the Reeboks, the ATTs, that do their business in Indonesia.
They are the ones who fight every time a bill is introduced to cut weapons sales to
Indonesia. They are the ones who are able to throw their weight around by donating to the
campaigns of various legislators.
Reebok gives out four human rights awards every year to young
activists who are usually good, important grassroots activists. They have panels around
the world recommending people. The year after the massacre, they decided to honor Fernando
de Araujo who is in jail now in Indonesia for ten years because he protested the massacre.
So here was Reebok, who makes a killing in Indonesia, honoring Fernando de Araujo.
I had met the head of the Reebok Human Rights Foundation at a dinner
where I was seated next to him. Suharto had just been in town and I heard that the CEO of
Reebok, Paul Fireman, had met with him. So I asked, "Do you know if they discussed
the issue of East Timor? Did Fireman say he would press the U.S. to stop selling weapons
to Indonesia unless they withdraw from East Timor?" He said, "Uh, I don’t
know what the CEO said."
Surprisingly enough a few months later he called saying would you
like to receive the award with Allan on behalf of Fernando de Araujo and speak about the
massacre at the awards ceremony? We went back and forth on this. Journalists certainly
lend credibility to this event. We were concerned when they called and asked for my
measurements so they could give me Reebok clothes from head to toe.
We understood exactly what it was about, but we decided we would do
it. It was a chance to explain what was happening in East Timor and to explain the
So we phoned and said, "Yeah, we’ll be there." They
called back saying they were getting rooms for us at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. We
said, "No, we don’t want any of that." This started to make them nervous.
The event began with a luncheon at the Four Seasons. This event was
unbelievable. I was sitting next to Richie Havens and I didn’t know the person on my
other side so I said, "Hello."
He said, "Hi, what is your name?"
I told him and asked, "What is your name?"
He replied, "Michael Stipe."
I said, "Oh, are you an assistant to Richie Haven?"
He said, "No, I have my own little band [REM]."
I didn’t realize who he was until I called my brother to say I
wasn’t coming to see him right now. My brother responded, "That’s okay,
I told him "All kinds of people. Richie Havens, and this guy,
he says he has his own band, Mike Stipe."
He said, "I’ll be there in ten minutes."
That is the level of people that are lending their good name to
this. That is why Reebok spends millions of dollars to hold this kind of event to launder
its image. Even if it costs them $100,000 to give to the human rights activists and
$1,000,000 to sponsor this event it is worth it. They underwrote the Amnesty Tour to the
tune of $20,000,000. Why not just pay the workers in Indonesia 5 cents more? No, that they
can’t do. They fight that every step of the way, but they can spend millions of
dollars to launder their image as great human rights protectors in the world today.
That evening there was a dinner. Baba Alahtunji was playing the
drums with Mickey Hart. We met Tabatha Soren from MTV who would be presenting
Fernando’s award. We told her not to hand us the award because that would go back to
Indonesia as Reebok handing us an award and we didn’t want that symbolism. Then we
explained to her what was happening in East Timor, told her how to pronounce it correctly,
and explained how bad the situation was.
The event was the next morning at the Hynes Auditorium. Thousands of
people were there. We were led to the elevators in groups. They said, "Okay, Amy
Goodman, Allan Nairn, Terry Anderson, Yo-Yo Ma, Cybil Shepard, Joan Baez you come this
way. Michael Stipe, and others, come this way." We walked out onto the stage. It was
very dark except for blue neon lights everywhere and the Reebok video logo, which is a
robot breaking through barbed wire, on 20 large screens throughout the hall. We sat on the
stage; Paul Fireman, Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Gabriel, Tabatha Soren, Cybil Shepard, Mickey Hart of
the Grateful Dead, along with Allan and me. The lights came on, the video robot smashed
through the barbed wire, and Richie Havens sang "freedom, freedom, freedom."
Then Terry Anderson, who had just been released, came out on stage and shouted
"freedom, freedom." At this point Paul Fireman got up and said, "This, is
about freedom." The people were cheering. There were a lot of grassroots activists
there and a lot of corporate executives. My brother was in the front row surrounded by
about 20 Reebok executives.
They began to give the awards which were preceded by a two-minute
video of what the recipients had done. Michael Stipe gave the award to the activist from
Northern Ireland. Mickey Hart gave the award to the activist from Zaire. It was a very
moving, powerful event, and you can be sure that Reebok was sending video of this all over
the world, and everywhere you turn a Reebok logo is there.
Tabatha Soren got up and said "This is for Fernando de
Araujo," and they showed his picture all over the auditorium. "Amy and Allan are
here to explain what happened that day because they survived the massacre."
We had two minutes each. I got up and within the time constraint
described the massacre. I ended with the words of Fernando de Araujo proclaiming why he
had protested this.
Allan got up and said, "You may wonder how this kind of
genocide could take place in the late 20th century? How this kind of killing continues
today? Well, it is in part because of corporations like Reebok, and Nike, and Adidas. It
is they who pull girls and women from the countryside, bring them into the city to work in
their plants for about $2 a day." Allan continued, "Right now someone is in
terrible pain in East Timor. It is about midnight there and someone has been dragged out
of their house, their fingernails torn out, they are being tortured. We have to think
carefully about what we can do. In this room there is a lot that can be done because the
blood is on the hands of Reebok."
It was totally silent. Then some people started to clap. And then,
as practiced, we had to step back and shake Paul Fireman’s hand. We weren’t
going to shake his hand, but we didn’t worry about it because he certainly
wasn’t going to shake ours. He was so shaken. He got up and, reading from his cue
card, stated, "Thank you, Allan and Amy. We now turn to the great Yo Yo Ma, who will
play for us.
The event ended with Joan Baez singing "Amazing Grace" and
we were all supposed to put our arms around each other and walk through the auditorium to
the room were we would have our picture taken. The problem was we were now positioned so
that I would have my arm around Paul Fireman. Allan and I stood back and let them stand in
front of us as they all sang and marched through the audience. We started to go to the
room where pictures would be taken. This is really why we were there, so Paul Fireman
could be shown surrounded by these celebrities. Every inch of the room says Reebok on it,
so no matter where Cybil Shepard, Joan Baez, or Michael Stipe are they have a logo behind
them when they are photographed. As we where heading into the room they said, "Not so
We said, "No, they told us we had to come into this room. We
don’t want to disobey orders," and went into the room.
As Paul Fireman was trying to get his hands around Joan and Cybil,
the journalists were asking questions like, "Why do you do this? Why do you not pay
the workers more? What is going on in East Timor? Have you raised this issue?" And
that was all very good. Then they would come back to us and ask, "What do you think
about his answer?"
The guy from Rolling Stone said, "I really congratulate
you on your courage." Joan Baez came over and said, "I had butterflies in my
stomach." I told her, "You should think about how you use your name, because I
am sure you did not know about this, but this is why Reebok does this."
Cybil came up and asked "Can I tell Bill and Hillary about
It seemed like there was going to be some momentum from this event.
Upstairs you had the lawyers committee, NGOs, and everyone else furious that we had done
This is a very serious issue, the relationship between NGOs and
non-profits in this country and the corporate backers that they have. Some were absolutely
furious, charging we were now going to cut off the hand that feeds them. We replied that
this had to be said.
A lot of people approached us, but there was not a word in any of
the press following the event, except on AP, but, of course, that only goes to journalists
and then they don’t print it. The AP account was very good but no one saw it.
I went to Rolling Stone right away. Will it talk about
Fernando de Araujo? Will there at least be a picture of him? Will they talk about the
situation or the Reebok plants? There was a picture of Cybil Shepard, Paul Fireman, Joan
Baez and a statement on what a fantastic event it was. It was a two-page spread. This is
how the media works.
As a grassroots journalist I try to raise questions that the
mainstream media hopefully will pick up. If only they would steal our stories, that would
be great. We have to keep at it. Keep asking them over and over, maybe for a year asking
the same questions at White House briefings, that will have the effect of just one
question whispered from the front row.
Most important are the grassroots activists working around the
country educating others and putting pressure on congress to expose the relationship
between Indonesia and the U.S. administration, whether Republican or Democrat.
The Timorese know they are doing this. They can’t march in the
streets of the U.S., they certainly can’t march in the streets of their own country,
although when they do they get gunned down with U.S. weapons. It is really up to us.
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now," Pacifica
Radios daily grassroots political talk show.