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The NeoCon Agenda and Tsunami Relief

NeoCon designs for the militarization of Indonesia will be greatly facilitated by the U.S. military, tsunami relief now being sent to there.
Although the U.S. relief aid to tsunami-stricken Indonesia is undoubtedly saving untold lives, there is a dark side to it that will have much longer-lasting effects on that nation than the devastation wrought by the killer waves. After a slow, seemingly reluctant start, with a paltry pledge of $15 million, George W. Bush did a complete turnaround and upped that number to $350 million. He also sent the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and a growing flotilla of other naval vessels to support the relief work in Aceh Province, one of the hardest hit regions in Southeast Asia.

Commenting on the sheer magnitude of the effort that lies ahead for the U.S. sailors and Marines engaged in the relief work, Rear Admiral Douglas Crowder, the commander of the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, stated, "There's nothing that focuses co-operation like a huge task. This would be one of those tasks." But, there is growing skepticism amongst Indonesians that there is more to U.S. intentions than humanitarianism, and that its efforts are but the opening gambit to what will become a permanent military presence in the country. Captain B. Junair, an Indonesian helicopter pilot, summed up this feeling by citing an old Javanese saying. "There is a crab behind the stone. Reacting to this general wariness, Crowder replied, "People will think what they want."

While Rear Admiral Crowder may have nothing but good intentions on his mind, there is no question that the NeoCon shadow government in Washington D.C. has other thoughts about relief aid to Indonesia. For them, the tsunami was just the kind of "Pearl Harbor-like" event that would give the U.S. a pretext to remilitarize Southeast Asia, starting with the occupation of Indonesia. The NeoCons' Project for the New American Century made the remilitarization of Southeast Asia very clear, citing it as one of the key findings in "Rebuilding America's Defenses, A Report of Project for the New American Century," released in September 2000.

"Reposition U.S. Forces to respond to 21st century strategic realities by shifting permanently-based forces in...Southeast Asia, and by changing naval deployment patterns to reflect growing U.S. strategic concerns in East Asia."

The 1991 loss of Clark Air Force Base and the 1992 abandonment of the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines had left a huge gap in U.S. military strategic plans for the region that can now be addressed with the "opportunity" that the tsunami disaster has provided. As Derek Mitchell from the Center for Strategic and International Studies has recently pointed out to AFP, the French news agency, "The United States has this unique capability to move rapidly with its military to take care of humanitarian and other security challenges in Asia." And, you can be certain that the Pentagon planners have been burning the midnight oil to make the occupation of Indonesia a reality.

Moreover, the military build-up in Indonesia fits right into the NeoCons' plans for its "War on Terror." In November 2001, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated in the Far Eastern Economic Review that, "Going after al-Qaeda in Indonesia is not something that should wait until after al-Qaeda has been uprooted from Afghanistan." Now the Bush regime can assist in the rebuilding of Indonesia and fight terrorism at the same time. What a "lucky" break for the NeoCons!

Regarding the length of time the commitment will last, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "...there should be no illusion as to how long it's going to take to rebuild these communities." On ABC's This Week, he emphasized the depth of the engagement. "This is a long-term prospect [in which] we use our money not just for immediate humanitarian relief, but for economic assistance, for infrastructure development." (Read military installations.) Exactly what "long-term" means is anyone's guess.

But, the first obstacle the Bush administration has to overcome to realize the NeoCon goal for the U.S. militarization of Indonesia is for the U.S. Congress to lift the ban on military ties that currently exists between the two countries. With Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, this should not pose too much of a problem. Indeed, the new pro-U.S. government in Jakarta would welcome the thaw with open arms. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, an ex-general who was trained in the States, has said that, "I consider it [the U.S.] my second country." With "friends" like this, the U.S. military will probably be greeted with marching bands when it moves in for good.

Finally, underpinning the plan to establish a U.S. military presence in Indonesia are U.S. economic interests. For example, since 1968, Exxon Mobil has invested about $16 billion in Aceh Province and has considerable natural gas production facilities located there. Those facilities must be protected. As Exxon Mobil CEO, Rex Tillerson recently stated in a company press release, "Exxon Mobil continues to view Indonesia as a country with substantial future growth opportunities...and will maintain its significant long-term presence in the country." With reports of Acehnese separatist rebels already starting to "attack" relief workers, it sounds like the time is ripe to send in the U.S. Marines to protect them (and Exxon Mobil's investment.)

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