We should have a moment of silence so that we can give thanks that we don’t live in East Timor. During the period of Indonesian rule from the mid-70’s until after independence in 1999, the citizens of East Timor were brutally murdered by troops and starved, resulting in 100,000 to 200,000 deaths depending on who you talk to. During the 1970’s, and later, the United States did nothing to intervene but supplied Indonesia with weapons. The continuous climate of violence left the East Timor government and society in fragile condition when independence was finally obtained nine years ago. Today there was an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the president, Nobel Peace Prize winning Ramos Horta, which threaten to return the country to a violent Hobsian jungle. Australia was quick to send in troops (which never seem to be in short supply there) to restore order.
Is it my imagination or does it seem like the longer troops occupy a country the more its social fabric is rent and the less likely it is that it will be able to sustain itself. East Timor of course had no history of such violence until the Indonesian occupation.