Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Suharto's Death Gives Wall Street Journal Chance To Sing Hosannas for Genocidal Dictator

Next Up For Hugo Restall: Stalin Wasn't Such A Bad Guy, After All

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page often gives me a good case of the chuckles. Its pundits will do something, anything, to affirm their ultra-conservative cred, no matter how indefensible the position.
Sometimes that means having to ignore the truth in order to make a point.
Exhibit A crawled out from yesterday's page, in a column by Hugo Restall on the legacy of Suharto, the former Indonesian dictator who finally died over the weekend after being hospitalized earlier this month.
Restall, who is editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and a member of the Journal editorial board, lauds Suharto for rescuing the country from the pro-Communist grip of his predecessor Sukarno that made him a close U.S. ally; revived a moribund economy, and improved health and education.
Sure, there was the rampant corruption, cronyism and profiteering that may have made Suharto a billionaire that brought Indonesia's economy to its knees and forced him from office. But:

Like Deng Xiaoping, he rescued his country from totalitarianism and poverty, and put it on the path to prosperity and a large measure of personal freedoms. For all his flaws, Suharto deserves to be remembered as one of Asia's greatest leaders.

As proof that Cold Warriors never have to say their sorry, Restall conveniently leaves out any mention of the reign of terror that gripped Indonesia, when the Suharto-led Army was encouraged to whip up a country-wide anti-Communist witch hunt that may have left up to a million people dead.
Restall apparently views whole families being wiped out as collateral damage to justify Suharto's goal to avoid another Vietnam or Cambodia.
Thankfully, a separate Journal editorial, which appears only online, provides some context, never a given at the Journal.

Suharto oversaw the massacre of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen in the anti-Communist purge of the 1965-66 Years of Living Dangerously. Ethnic Chinese were also targeted, and those who survived were forced to renounce their heritage and take Indonesian-sounding names. The East Timorese suffered brutal repression in the 1970s at the hands of Suharto's military.

But even this editorial praises Suharto for steadying Indonesia and instituting the wrenching reforms needed to make it an Asian economic power, as if to equate genocide with tough love.
The true measure of Suharto's legacy will be the blood he spilled that flowed a lot thicker than the oil he exported that left him a rich, greedy and ultimately disgraced autocrat.

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