Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Another murderer dead

Goodbye and good riddance to former Indonesian president Suharto, who seized power from the dictator Sukarno before embarking on his own career of repression.  Another dead dictator for whom one almost wishes the idea of hell had some meaning.  Chris Rossdale for one is enraged at the soft-soaping done by the official obituaries such as this obscene apologia from the BBC of a man in the top twenty of the last century's murderers. Says Chris:

You wouldn’t expect an article on Hitler, or Stalin, or Saddam Hussein, to start off by talking about his good economic record, and then mention ‘human rights abuses’. It would start by rightly condemning them as mass murderers. Suharto is a mass murderer, who killed somewhere between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people. The fact that he did most of this with Western support is to our shame, that it is not regarded as one of the worst atrocities of the post WW2 era is embarrassing.

Australian John Quiggin agrees, and sees signs of hope in post-Suharto Indonesia:

I don’t imagine many readers will be shedding tears at the death of former Indonesian dictator Suharto, and certainly I won’t be. The bloody massacres in which he rode to power amid the collapse of the Sukarno regime, and the brutal invasion and occupation of East Timor, not to mention his spectacular corruption, mark him down among the worst political criminals of a terrible century, and have coloured Australian attitudes to Indonesia in the decade since his fall from power.

Now that he’s gone, I hope Australians will begin to recognise the immense progress Indonesia has made against daunting odds...

Read on to see if you agree.


  1. Having said all that PC, the truth is that without Suharto it may have been worse - the PKI was progressively "communising" Indonesia regionally, he put a stop to this, no differently than the attempts by western allies in Vietnam and Korea, both of which cost the lives of many thousands of innocents. However, he should have given up 35 years ago.

  2. Sounds to me like the 'Pinochet Argument.' (He might have been a murderer, but at least he was **our** murderer.) I don't buy it.

    It was the same argument used by the Nazis in the thirties, by the way. Stick with us, they said, and we'll protect the west from those nasty Bolsheviks.

    Apparently that's a more compelling argument than I ever realised.

  3. I'm hardly giving him a get out of jail card, but I am acknowledging the realpolitik of the time. If I was an Australian PM in the mid 1960s I too might have been glad that Suharto dealt to communism in Indonesia before it became the Australian problem.

    It doesn't justify the means or excuse his record, or excuse the Western support of his rule, but it does explain acquiescence in the face of it all. It enters the esoteric world of "what ifs". A similar attitude could have seen the US turn its back on Syngman Rhee, Park Chung Hee, Chun Doo Hwan because they were all murderous thugs too - and see Kim Il Sung ruin South Korea.

    You can support, acquiesce or oppose the likes of Suharto, acquiescing would have been understandable under the circumstances.


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