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Diplomacy! What diplomacy?

By Dr George Venturini

Heinz Alfred ‘Henry’ Kissinger obtained a Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1954. His interest was on Castelreagh and Metternich – two empire builders. He devoted his life to sublimate them.

In an incendiary, studiedly defamatory book the late Christopher Hitchens described him as “a mediocre and opportunist academic [intent on] becoming an international potentate. The signature qualities were there from the inaugural moment: the sycophancy and the duplicity; the power worship and the absence of scruple; the empty trading of old non-friends for new non-friends. And the distinctive effects were also present: the uncounted and expendable corpses; the official and unofficial lying about the cost; the heavy and pompous pseudo-indignation when unwelcome questions were asked. Kissinger’s global career started as it meant to go on. It debauched the American republic and American democracy, and it levied a hideous toll of casualties on weaker and more vulnerable societies.”

The story is all here: from the martyrdom of Indochina to becoming the real backchannel to Moscow on behalf of his new client: Donald Trump.

Editor’s note: This outstanding series by Dr Venturini is published bi-weekly (Wednesdays and Saturdays). Today we publish Part Twelve. Here is the link to Part Eleven; Kissinger gave ‘green light’ for the invasion of East Timor.

Six months later, and exactly one month before the formal annexation of East Timor by Indonesia, the subject of East Timor again came up during a staff meeting between Secretary Kissinger and his State Department bureau chiefs. The question was raised as to whether or not the United States should send a representative to accompany an Indonesian parliamentary delegation to East Timor – an invitation declined by most other countries. Robert H. Miller, an adviser from the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, recommended against accepting the invitation, suggesting that “broader objectives with respect to Indonesia – including overall support to Timor,” would be better served “if we don’t have high-profile participation.” Miller hoped to prevent “Congressional [sic] sentiment with regard to Indonesia from being rekindled.” Philip Habib, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, agreed: “There’s no need to take this action … Let them go ahead and do what they’ve been doing. We have no objection … They’re quite happy with the position we’ve taken. We’ve resumed, as you know, all of our normal relations with them; and there isn’t any problem involved.” In apparent reference to the continuing arms sales, his deception of Congress, or possibly to Indonesia’s bloody invasion and occupation, Kissinger responded: “Not very willingly. Illegally and beautifully.” [Emphasis added] (Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Transcripts of Staff Meetings of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 1973-77, box 9).

Henry Kissinger has a personal, financial involvement with Freeport-McMoRan, still the largest investor in Indonesia and well known for a long time for its very close connection with the Indonesian government. He is a consultant of the corporation. Between 1988 and 1995 Kissinger was on the board of directors, at different times with such well known corporation men as John Hay Whitney, Kidder, Peabody & Co., Chauncey Stillman, Augustus Long, Robert A. Lovett, Jean Mauzé, and Godfrey Stillman Rockefeller of the Rockefeller clan – the grandson of William Rockefeller, brother of John D. Rockefeller, the co-founders of Standard Oil.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc., often called just Freeport, is a multinational mining corporation headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. It has operations in North and South America, as well as in Europe, Indonesia and other locations. Freeport employs 34,500 workers for the production of copper, gold and molybdenum and the extraction of petroleum. In Indonesia it employs 19,500 workers at the Grasberg mine which is the largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine in the world. It is located at about 4,200 metres above sea level in the province of Papua in Indonesia near Puncak Jaya, the highest mountain in Papua. Shares in PT Freeport Indonesia, the principal operating subsidiary in Indonesia, are mostly owned by Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (90.64 per cent) the remainder (9.36 per cent) being owned by the Indonesian Government through PT Indocopper Investama.

The Grasberg mine has been a frequent source of friction in Papua.

The concentrator’s tailings, generated at a rate of 230,000 tonnes per day, are the subject of considerable environmental concern, as they wash into the Aikwa River system and Arafura Sea.

In 1995 the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) revoked Freeport’s insurance policy for environmental violations of a sort that would not be allowed in the United States.

While landscape reclamation projects have begun at the mine, environmental groups and local citizens are concerned with the potential for copper contamination and acid mine drainage from the mine tailings into surrounding river systems, land surfaces, and groundwater. Freeport argues that its actions meet industry standards, and have been approved by the requisite authorities.

In 2005 The New York Times reported that Freeport paid local military and police generals, colonels, majors and captains, and military units, a total of nearly US$20 million between 1998 and 2004. The payments were meant to secure the reserve. Freeport responded that the payments were not for individuals, but rather for infrastructure, food, housing, fuel, travel, vehicle repairs and allowances to cover incidental and administrative costs. An employee is said to have worked on a programme to monitor environmentalists’ e-mails and telephone conversations, in cooperation with Indonesian military intelligence officers.

During the past fifteen years there have been disturbances of all kind in an around the mine. Workers and assailing policemen lost their lives in armed confrontations.

In May 2013 a training facility tunnel collapsed trapping at least 33 workers underground. A mine official at the mine said three workers were killed, but the main office in Arizona said there were no fatalities.

Understandable causes of friction are the mine’s environmental impact on Papua, the perceived low share of profits going to local Papuans (Freeport’s annual report shows it made $4.1 billion in operating profit on revenue of $6.4 billion in 2010) and the questionable legality of the payments made to Indonesian security forces for their services to guard the site and the frequent accidents and incidents. There have been strikes and a blockade.

A one week strike in July 2011 was for the increase of wages up from the hourly rate of US $1.50 an hour.

In September 2014 four workers died in an accident; on 1 October miners blocked the entrance to the mine demanding more safety.

In 2015 a five-day strike halted production at the mine as around 100 employees demanded bonuses as an incentive for not participating in a work stoppage during 2014.

Papua is also the home of Free Papua Movement, a revolutionary organisation the purpose of which is to overthrow the current government of Papua and West Papua. The organisation has been blamed for some of the attacks which occurred near the mine.

Christopher Hitchens, who devoted chapter 8 of his book to East Timor, had quite a lot to say on the subject – something even about Freeport-McMoRan.

On 11 August 1995 Henry Kissinger was on a lecture tour, sponsored by the Learning Exchange at the Park Central Hotel in New York. Kissinger was publicising and promoting his then-latest book Diplomacy, in which – interestingly – he made no mention whatsoever of East Timor.

He was questioned by investigative reporters Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman:

“Allan Nairn: Mr Kissinger, my name is Allan Nairn. I’m a journalist in the United States. I’m one of the Americans who survived the massacre in East Timor on November 12, 1991, a massacre during which Indonesian troops armed with American M-16s gunned down at least 271 Timorese civilians in front of the Santa Cruz Catholic cemetery as they were gathered in the act of peaceful mourning and protest. Now you just said that in your meeting with Suharto on the afternoon of December 6, 1975, you did not discuss Timor, you did not discuss it until you came to the airport. Well, I have here the official State Department transcript of your and President Ford’s conversation with General Suharto, the dictator of Indonesia. [See: Gerald R. Ford Library, Kissinger-Scowcroft Temporary Parallel File, Box A3, Country File, Far East-Indonesia, State Department Telegrams 4/1/75-9/22/76.

It was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. It has been edited under the Freedom of Information Act so the whole text isn’t there. It’s clear from the portion of the text that is here, that in fact you did discuss the impending invasion of Timor with Suharto, a fact which was confirmed to me by President Ford himself in an interview I had with him. President Ford told me that in fact you discussed the impending invasion of Timor with Suharto and that you gave the US …

Kissinger: Who? I or he?

Nairn: That you and President Ford together gave US approval for the invasion of East Timor. There is another internal State Department memo which is printed in an extensive excerpt here which I’ll give to anyone in your audience that’s interested. This is a memo of a December 18, 1975, meeting held at the State Department. This was held right after your return from that trip and you were berating your staff for having put on paper a finding by the State Department legal advisor Mr Leigh that the Indonesian invasion was illegal, that it not only violated international law, it violated a treaty with the US because US weapons were used and it’s clear from this transcript which I invite anyone in the audience to peruse that you were angry at them first because you feared this memo would leak, and second because you were supporting the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and you did not want it known that you were doing this contrary to the advice of your own people in the State Department. [See: Mark Hertsgaard, “The Secret Life of Henry Kissinger; minutes of a 1975 meeting with Lawrence Eagleburger,” The Nation, October 29, 1990]. If one looks at the public actions, sixteen hours after you left that meeting with Suharto the Indonesian troops began parachuting over Dili, the capital of East Timor. They came ashore and began the massacres that culminated in a third of the Timorese population. You announced an immediate doubling of US military aid to Indonesia at the time, and in the meantime at the United Nations, the instruction given to Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as he wrote in his memoirs, was to, as he put it, see to it that the UN be highly ineffective in any actions it might undertake on East Timor …

[shouts from the audience] Kissinger: Look, I think we all got the point now …

Nairn: My question, Mr Kissinger, my question, Dr Kissinger, is twofold. First will you give a waiver under the Privacy Act to support full declassification of this memo so we can see exactly what you and President Ford said to Suharto? Secondly, would you support the convening of an international war crimes tribunal under UN supervision on the subject of East Timor and would you agree to abide by its verdict in regard to your own conduct?

Kissinger: I mean, uh, really, this sort of comment is one of the reasons why the conduct of foreign policy is becoming nearly impossible under these conditions. Here is a fellow who’s got one obsession, he’s got one problem, he collects a bunch of documents, you don’t know what is in these documents …

Nairn: I invite your audience to read them.

Kissinger: Well, read them. Uh, the fact is essentially as I described them [thumps podium]. Timor was not a significant American policy problem. If Suharto raised it, if Ford said something that sounded encouraging, it was not a significant American foreign policy problem. It seemed to us to be an anti-colonial problem in which the Indonesians were taking over Timor and we had absolutely no reason at that time to pay any huge attention to it.

Secondly you have to understand these things in the context of the period. Vietnam had just collapsed. Nobody yet knew what effect the domino theory would have. Indonesia was … is a country of a population of 160 million and the key, a key country in Southeast Asia. We were not looking for trouble with Indonesia and the reason I objected in the State Department to putting this thing on paper; it wasn’t that it was put on paper. It was that it was circulated to embassies because it was guaranteed to leak out. It was guaranteed then to lead to some public confrontation and for better or worse our fundamental position on these human rights issues was always to try to see if we could discuss them first, quietly, before they turned into a public confrontation. This was our policy with respect to emigration from Russia, in which we turned out to be right, and this was the policy which we tried to pursue in respect to Indonesia and anybody can go and find some document and take out one sentence and try to prove something fundamental and now I think we’ve heard enough about Timor. Let’s have some questions on some other subject. [applause from audience].

Amy Goodman: Dr Kissinger, you said that the United States has won everything it wanted in the Cold War up to this point. I wanted to go back to the issue of Indonesia and before there’s a booing in the audience, just to say as you talk about China and India, Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world. And so I wanted to ask the question in a current way about East Timor. And that is, given what has happened in the twenty years, the 200,000 people who have been killed, according to Amnesty, according to Asia Watch, even according to the Indonesian military. … Do you see that as a success of the United States?

Kissinger: No, but I don’t think it’s an American policy. We cannot be, we’re not responsible for everything that happens in every place in the world.” [applause from audience].

Ms. Goodman persisted:

“Goodman: Except that 90 per cent of the weapons used during the invasion were from the US and it continues to this day. So in that way we are intimately connected to Indonesia, unfortunately. Given that, I was wondering if you think it’s a success and whether too, with you on the board of Freeport McMoRan, which has the largest gold-mining operation in the world in Indonesia, in Irian Jaya, are you putting pressure, since Freeport is such a major lobbyist in Congress on behalf of Indonesia, to change that policy and to support self-determination for the people of East Timor? [Emphasis added].

Kissinger: The, uh, the United States as a general proposition cannot fix every problem on the use of American weapons in purely civil conflicts. We should do our best to prevent this. As a private American corporation engaged in private business in an area far removed from Timor but in Indonesia, I do not believe it is their job to get itself involved in that issue because if they do, then no American private enterprise will be welcome there anymore.

Goodman: But they do every day, and lobby Congress.” (C. Hitchens, The trial of Henry Kissinger (Text, Melbourne 2001 at 95-98).

Hitchens commented: “It is interesting to notice, in that final answer, the final decomposition of Kissinger’s normally efficient if robotic syntax.” and sent the reader to chapter 10 of his work, dealing in more detail with Kissinger’s “involvement with Freeport McMoRan, and his other holdings in a privatised military-political-commercial complex.”, money received by him and by Kissinger Associates as retainer, commission on future earnings and down-right payola for lobbying Congress and influencing federal agencies. (Id. 120-126, especially 124-125).

In February 2000, as Hitchens was writing, Kissinger accepted Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid’s invitation to become an unpaid adviser to the Indonesian government. Kissinger accepted “out of friendship for the Indonesian people and the importance I attach to the Indonesian nation.” Clearly, Tom Lehrer may have underestimated Dr. Kissinger’s spirited sense of irony. (Terry J. Allen, ‘With friends like these; Kissinger does Indonesia’, In these times, 17 April 2000).

No sooner the appointment had come than Kissinger took advantage of the new position to call on the Indonesian government to honour its contract with PT Freeport Indonesia, of the parent of which – Freeport McMoRan – he was then a director. The newly appointed advisor warned that any violation of the contract would have an impact on the flow of foreign investment into the country.

“The contract should be respected because it is in the interests of Indonesia since you want investment from all over the world.” Kissinger told reporters at the State Palace after a meeting with President Abdurrahman Wahid.

“The existing contract will be honored. But Abdurrahman asked Freeport to have a sort of understanding of the people’s aspirations. There won’t be any change made to the contract, but (Freeport) needs to give a special concession.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab said without elaborating.

Kissinger agreed that Freeport should pay attention to ‘some special concerns’ in its operation.

And what were those concerns? Example, the destruction by the company around the Grasberg area of some 13,300 hectares. (Kissinger calls on RI to honor Freeport deal, The Jakarta Post, 29 February 2000).

Next installment Wednesday: Another ‘dirty war’

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at




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    Interesting and good reminder of past events, behaviour and tactics that have been used, are still being used, but must be understood.

    Wasn’t that Kissinger running in and out of Trump tower after the election win to consult with Trump?

  2. Keith

    Surprising matters are still happening; Chomsky suggests that Obama took the same approach to negotiating with North Korea as Trump has:

  3. strobedriver

    This is a great article in my humble opinion, it doesn’t go far enough in stating that Kissinger should be labelled a war criminal but it is very succinct in its study of Kissinger. Worse for Australia and its history with regard to the Indonesians’ invasion is that Gough Whitlam did noting to help prevent it. Also the issue with Pres Ford having a part in selective political-memory that America has is that he played a part in allowing Indonesia to invade, knowing it was going to happen and doing nothing about it–and now the latest US aircraft carrier is named after this type of person. It’s hard to believe that such a visible monument of US power could be named after someone so politically- and diplomatically-inept. It’s kinda like naming an air-traffic control tower after Ronald Reagan.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Plenty to go in the series yet, Strobe. You just might get your wish. ?

    By the way, I’m very pleased that you’re enjoying it.

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