The sale of sophisticated weaponry by the West has been central to this tragedy. In 1977-78, US-supplied aircraft (OV-10 Broncos), ideally suited for counter-insurgency operations in East Timor's mountainous interior, enabled Indonesian pilots to drop napalm and fuel-air bombs on civilian areas. East Timorese survivors of those terrible onslaughts speak of scenes reminiscent of Dante's Inferno, with whole communities incinerated alive.
Given this history, reported Indonesian government assurances regarding the use of Hawk fighter/
trainers are less than convincing. What Jakarta is purchasing from BAe is a new generation of counter-insurgency aircraft ideally suited to its domestic security requirements. When those requirements include the retention of territory held in defiance of international law, the appropriateness of such deals demands the most stringent public scrutiny.