Historically, the Timor affair is of a piece with the presence for years of Antonio Salazar's Portuguese dictatorship among the ranks of the Nato nations who were supposed to be committed to freedom and democracy, with the West's collaboration with General Franco and with its support for the tragi-comic colonels of the Greek junta.
The trouble is that, while Salazar and Franco are dead, the Greek colonels departed, their countries freed and the Cold War over, the Indonesians are still occupying East Timor. And they are doing so in defiance of unequivocal resolutions of the UN Security Council. The Permanent Members of that august body who moved so swiftly and decisively to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and reinstate its feudal rulers in 1991 are to this day, 20 years after the Indonesian invasion, sitting on their hands doing nothing to eject the invaders of East Timor. Western foreign ministers, from Shultz and Owen to Carrington and Juppe - not to mention their Russian and Chinese counterparts - have over the years shown themselves to be struck by that selective blindness which has allowed General Suharto's troops to kill, rape and pillage to their heart's content. In exchange for oil, the Australian government has gone as far as recognising the seizure of Timor, despite the fact that thousands of Timorese laid down their lives helping Australian troops against the Japanese in the Second World War.
Washington has seen Suharto as an ally against the left; Bonn has seen him as a useful purchaser of a redundant East German navy; Whitehall has seen him as an important customer for British Aerospace Hawk warplanes. Consequently, Lynda Chalker's Overseas Development Administration has been instructed to spend British aid money on further subsidising the business ventures of the Suharto family, who are already billionaires. BAe's arms business must never be in danger.
Having been one of the first foreign journalists to penetrate occupied East Timor early in 1991, I was amazed at the general reaction that an account of the place provoked. Later that year, as they courageously filmed the Indonesians' massacre of 271 unarmed demonstrators at the Santa Cruz cemetery in the East Timorese capital, Steve Cox with his camera and Max Stael with his television equipment justifiably caused much more stir. They changed the course of that territory's history as they showed to the world the brutality of the occupying forces, and thereby put East Timor on the world's political agenda for good.
Now Peter Carey of Trinity College, Oxford, and Cox have brought out a fine book of text and pictures of East Timor. Dr Carey provides a narrative which presents unimpeachable academic analysis in a gripping style of writing which would be a credit to any best-selling novelist. Cox's pictures put on record the horror of the Santa Cruz massacre as it happened and add scenes of everyday life which bring the territory and its people alive. Those new to the East Timor tragedy could do no better than to start here.
Carey is particularly good on the principal threat to East Timorese life, the dumping of a mass of Indonesian settlers, estimated in Dili at more than 150,000, on Timorese land. In their haste to combine the relief of Java's problems of overpopulation with the extension of Javanese hegemony over Indonesia's 13,000 islands, the Indonesians have dreamed up the strategy of "transmigration". In November, as my bus rattled its way across the frontier between Indonesia and East Timor, and we made our way along the north coast towards Dili, I saw the sites where the settlers were being provided with new homes on Timorese land, much in the same way as successive Israeli governments have put their people into Palestine. The omens for that sort of operation cannot be hopeful.
Generations of Resistance is one of that growing list of books which are underpinning the reports from journalists on the spot and keeping the crimes committed against the East Timorese in the world spotlight. The message to General Suharto must be unmistakable: as long as your troops are illegally stationed in East Timor you will get no respite in any international forum from those who oppose their presence there.
Similar messages go out to Malcolm Rifkind and Lady Chalker and other Western politicians as they scurry round in support of the Indonesian dictator. World public opinion will not permit the Indonesians to get away with their misdeeds. The most helpful thing Suharto's friends can do - and there are reports that, in its shame, the Australian government is trying to do it - is to think up for him as dignified as possible an exit from occupied East Timor, and then persuade him to take it.Reuse content