journalist and activist who has covered Indonesia for decades.
On Thursday, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump held a press conference in Trump Tower in New York. While much was made of his announcement to refrain from considering a third-party run, little attention was given to Trump’s star guests at the event: members of Indonesia’s top political brass. Among the Indonesians who met with Donald Trump was Deputy Speaker of the House Fadli Zon. He is the right-hand man of the U.S.-trained Prabowo Subianto. Gen. Prabowo has been accused of extensive human rights abuses that took place in the 1990s when he was head of the country’s special forces. He was dismissed from the army in 1998 following accusations he was complicit in the abduction and torture of activists during political unrest in Jakarta that led to the ouster of longtime dictator Suharto, who killed as many as a million civilians. Prabowo was the son-in-law of Suharto. We speak to Allan Nairn about Trump’s meeting.
AMY GOODMAN: We move now to the U.S. presidential elections. Well, on Thursday, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump held a news conference at Trump Tower here in New York. While much was made of his announcement to refrain from considering a third-party run, little attention was given to Trump’s star guests at the event: Indonesia’s top political brass.
DONALD TRUMP: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very—an amazing man. He is, as you know—right?
SETYA NOVANTO: Thank you.
DONALD TRUMP: Right? Speaker of the House of Indonesia. He’s here to see me. Setya Novanto, one of the most powerful men and a great man, and his whole group is here to see me today. And we will do great things for the United States, is that correct?
SETYA NOVANTO: Yes.
DONALD TRUMP: Do they like me in Indonesia?
SETYA NOVANTO: Yes. Thank you very much.
DONALD TRUMP: Speaker of the House in Indonesia. Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Among the Indonesians who met with Donald Trump was Deputy Speaker of the House Fadli Zon. He is the right-hand man of the U.S.-trained General Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo has been accused of extensive human rights abuses that took place in the '90s when he was head of Indonesia's special forces. He was dismissed from the army in 1998 following accusations he was complicit in the abduction and torture of activists during political unrest in Jakarta that led to the ouster of the longtime dictator, Suharto, who killed as many as a million civilians. Prabowo was the son-in-law of Suharto.
We turn now to journalist Allan Nairn on the significance of Trump’s meeting. In 2000, Prabowo openly mused to Nairn about becoming, quote, "a fascist dictator." Well, last year, Allan Nairn confronted Prabowo when the general ran for president in Indonesia. In response, Fadli Zon filed criminal charges against Nairn for making the allegations. For more, we go back to Allan Nairn, who has reported on and from Indonesia for years, exposing government killings of civilians.
ALLAN NAIRN: Fadli Zon is the right-hand man of General Prabowo. In addition to being a general who has been implicated in numerous massacres and has mused about being a fascist dictator, General Prabowo also likes to pose as being anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal, anti-American. This is very interesting, because Prabowo is in fact the general who has been closest to the U.S. throughout his career. He worked for U.S. intelligence, specifically for the DIA. He brought U.S. special forces into Indonesia on repeated missions, which, Prabowo told me, those U.S. special forces used to do contingency planning for a possible future invasion of Indonesia, should the U.S. find this necessary. As a nationalist, he’s completely phony, but he uses this to attack opponents within Indonesia if they bring up the fact that he is also a mass murderer of civilians. But now, with his man, Fadli Zon, appearing alongside Donald Trump, cheering him on, this tends to expose the farce of his posturing as being anti-American, when in fact he has been Washington’s man in Indonesia throughout his career.
From the other side, I guess it says something about Donald Trump. He is apparently trying to show that he isn’t completely against foreigners, so he found some foreigners to pose with. But those he chose, from Indonesia, were Setya Novanto, who is notorious for his corruption—that’s really the thing he’s best known for in the country—and Fadli Zon, who is the representative of a mass-killing general who muses about fascism.
It actually ties in, in an interesting way, with Trump’s ideology, which is similar to that of some far-right parties in Europe, for example, in Hungary and Sweden. Trump, unlike most of the rest of the GOP field and most of the Democrats also, Trump is against the international free trade agreements, like the TPP. He is against cuts in Social Security and Medicare. But the way Trump deals with these issues is essentially to say, "Yes, we should protect workers, we should have social welfare programs, but we should have these for white people, we should have these for the dominant majority group in the United States. And if these programs are being cut, if jobs are being taken away, you blame that on the foreigners, you blame that on the oppressed minorities." That’s basically the Donald Trump approach, and it’s gotten him a lot of popularity among some people, especially white people in the U.S. And that’s also essentially the approach of the European—some of the European far-right parties, which are fascist in their origins. Part of the reason that someone like Trump has been able to rise is because many in politics in the U.S., especially among the corporate Democrats, have been unwilling to stand up for jobs, for workers in the United States, for social welfare to enable people in the U.S. to live on a decent level. And so someone like Trump is able to come along, take those positions, but twist them and use them as racist tools.
After the appearance of Fadli Zon alongside Donald Trump, the grand imam of the Indonesian mosque in New York City, Imam Shamsi, issued a very strong statement in which he pointed out that Trump was basically famous for one thing in the United States, in a substantive political sense, and that is, he is famous as racist, as anti-immigrant, and even as anti-Muslim. And here was the representative of Prabowo, who posed as being a representative of the proud nationalist Muslim community in Indonesia, and here was Trump’s man posing alongside the racist, anti-Muslim Donald Trump.
AMY GOODMAN: Award-winning journalist Allan Nairn has reported on Indonesia for decades, also on Guatemala, as well, where he is speaking from today. He’s covered Guatemala since the ’80s. You can follow him on Twitter at @allannairn14 for the latest news on the resignation of the president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, and all developments since.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Mexico City. Stay with us.