Amid the media hoopla over the Millennium Summit, and the corresponding protests and traffic snarls that tangled New York City last week, another less glamorous story was unfolding halfway across the globe -- the murder of three United Nations workers by West Timorese militias who do not favor East Timor's independence from Indonesia.
The subsequent murders of possibly hundreds of East Timorese refugees, ostensibly under the protection of the U.N. forces, drew considerably less attention than the big party in the Big Apple.
And while the bloody hacking deaths -- committed as U.S.-backed Indonesian troops allegedly stood by -- drew enough media attention to embarrass Indonesian leaders at the Summit, the near routine and grizzly murders of local human rights and democracy advocates in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago continued.
Last week, local authorities in the oil-rich Sumatran province of Aceh identified several bodies of people brutally tortured and killed (most likely by Indonesian troops or West Timorese militias who were, by the way, trained by Indonesian forces) in a separate murder spree.
Among the dead was Jaffar Siddiq Hamzah, a lawyer and human rights worker who also held permanent resident status in the United States. Pursuing a graduate degree in New York, Hamzah lived in Woodside, Queens, where he founded the International Forum for Aceh, which brought attention to the atrocities committed by Indonesian government forces against Acehnese independence activists.
Human rights groups such as the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) are calling on the United States to drop all military assistance to Indonesia until the government brings those responsible for Jaffar's murder to justice, and the military begins reigning in the militias in Timor and elsewhere.
The groups are asking people to contact State Department officials and local representatives concerning U.S. policy. Because you won't hear or see much about this in the local or national media, we recommend you check out ETAN's Web site (www.etan.org), or any of the following web sources for more information on human rights in Indonesia: http://acehnet.tripod.com/hamzah.htm http://www.hrw.org/press/2000/09/jafar0906.htm http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa49594.000/hfa49594_0.HTM http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa49594.000/hfa49594_0.HTM#23 http://www.mtncoop.com/mtn/releases/mtn21/CTP_J.htm http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/faculty/hodgson/Courses/so191/PacificRimReadings/IndonesiaDiscontent.htm http://www.refugees.org/news/crisis/indonesia/aceh.htm http://www.indonesia-ottawa.org/DFA_RI_NEWS/Januari2000/pc-011-c.htm http://www.worldwatch.org/mag/1998/98-3e.html http://www.etan.org/news/2000b/Jafarmrn.htm http://www.etan.org/news/2000b/jafar2.htm#queens1 http://www.newsandletters.org/3.2000_aceh.htm http://www.indonesia-ottawa.org/DFA_RI_NEWS/September99/pc-173-c.htm http://acehnet.tripod.com/letter2.htm http://meltingpot.fortunecity.com/albania/726/details.htm
On the home front, a group of Roman Catholic activists took action against what they see as the United States' militant posture -- toward outer space and against Iraq.
As thousands of people swarmed to Peterson Air Force base to check out the aerial maneuvers of the Thunderbird pilots last weekend, the activists walked onto the base and began hammering on an F-18A Hornet fighter plane and pouring human blood on a ground communications station used with the Air Force's Milstar satellite.
Carol Gilbert, Jackie Hudson, Anne Montgomery, Ardeth Platte and Liz Walters have been charged with felony criminal mischief and obstructing government operations. Representing three orders within the Catholic Church, the women face possible prison sentences from two to eight years for the more serious felony counts.
The action was part of a campaign of civil disobedience called Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares, inspired by the Biblical passage (Micah 4:3) that extols the hammering of "swords into plowshares." One of the women arrested last week, 73-year-old Anne Montgomery, was part of the original Plowshares action at a General Electric plant in 1980.
This time, Montgomery and the other activists are protesting the continued bombing of Iraq by U.S. jets and the American military's plan to "dominate and control space" for the purpose of fighting wars.
But Colonel Robin Chandler, a spokesperson for the 21st Space Wing, claimed the activists were detained before making contact with the Milstar/Ground 3 apparatus (though local space-peace activist Bill Sulzman claims the women were able to pour blood on the unit).
As for the protesters' charge of celestial imperialism, Chandler said it didn't ruin the base's otherwise successful air show. "It was a shame they chose that opportunity to stage those protests, but those things happen," she said.
The road to the White House may be paved with only slightly less bellicose intentions than controlling and dominating space, but we'll leave you with this: First, a benefit concert for Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader in Denver: Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt in Denver's Fillmore Theatre 8.p.m., doors open at 6 p.m. 1510 Clarkson St. at Colfax Avenue.
If you go, you'll probably hear plenty of anti-corporate rhetoric, but you won't hear quotes like these, reflecting Republican candidate G.W. Bush's deep understanding of foreign policy and human rights.
"The only thing I know about Slovakia is what I learned firsthand from your foreign minister, who came to Texas." -- To a Slovak journalist as quoted by Knight Ridder News Service, June 22, 1999. Bush's meeting was with Janez Drnovsek, the prime minister of Slovenia.
"If the East Timorians decide to revolt, I'm sure I'll have a statement." -- Quoted by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, June 16, 1999