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New Trouble for an Obama Nominee: Admiral Dennis Blair Aided Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings in East Timor

StoryJanuary 06, 2009
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Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reveals Admiral Dennis Blair played a critical role in backing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor during the 1990s. At the height of a wave of ruthless attacks on Timorese that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands, Blair personally informed top Indonesian general, Wiranto, of unwavering US support. He continued to support the Indonesian military until international outcry forced the Clinton administration to withdraw its military and diplomatic backing. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to do this next segment in two parts, today and tomorrow. President-elect Barack Obama has made his final cabinet selections, filling both top intelligence posts. He hasn’t made the announcement yet, but Democratic officials have confirmed Obama has chosen Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency. A former Congress member, he’s also served as White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton. Many observers call him a surprise pick because of limited intelligence experience and his public opposition to the Bush administration’s policy on torture. Some top Democrats suggest they might oppose Panetta.

We also have learned, along with everyone else in the country, that the top intelligence chief will be Dennis Blair. Dennis Blair is the former head of Pacific Command, the former commander of the US military forces in the Pacific. He’s tapped to become the Director of National Intelligence, the nation’s top intelligence job, overseeing sixteen agencies. Blair played a critical role in backing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor during the ’90s.

We’re joined right now by Allan Nairn, award-winning investigative journalist who has reported on Indonesia for many years, and particularly during this critical time in the 1990s.

Allan, we’re going to divide this into two parts, since we have very little time. But can you give your thoughts on the possible appointment of Dennis Blair, nomination of Dennis Blair to be head of the nation’s intelligence, DNI, Director of National Intelligence?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, Admiral Blair was involved in supporting the Indonesian armed forces as they were massacring churches in East Timor, as they were killing civilians in 1999 in the run-up to a UN-sponsored free election. That election was due to decide whether East Timor would become independent. The Indonesian army was trying to stop the occupied Timorese from voting for independence, so they set up militias, which went on rampages.

In one incident, they went into a church in Liquica where refugees were hiding. They massacred them with machetes. Their flesh was found plastered to the walls. Two days after that, Admiral Blair went to meet with the Indonesian commander, General Wiranto, and he gave him reassurances that the US was still behind him. He offered him new US military aid. And even though Blair had been told by the State Department and the White House to tell Wiranto to stop the massacres, Blair did not do that. This is according to classified US cables which I obtained in 1999 and reported in The Nation magazine.

After that, when people at the State Department heard about what Blair had done, he was told to talk to Wiranto again. He again spoke to Wiranto, on the phone, and again reassured him, offered him new US military aid. Blair even offered Wiranto aid for the specific unit, the Brimob, the paramilitary police who had gone into that church as they chopped up the refugees and chopped up the clergy who were hiding there. General Wiranto naturally took this as reassurance. He escalated the attacks. Wiranto was later indicted for crimes against humanity. Blair has not been held to account.

And now, they say Obama wants to make him Director of National Intelligence. You know, Richardson is in trouble.

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

ALLAN NAIRN: Blagojevich is in trouble. That’s small potatoes compared to what Admiral Blair did. ETAN, East Timor Action Network, is running a campaign to stop this nomination.

AMY GOODMAN: We will come back to this discussion tomorrow and broaden it out. Allan Nairn, award-winning journalist, has reported from and on Indonesia for many years. His website “News and Comment” at [].

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