The Year Of Living Dangerously

The news inspired a good deal of cynical chuckling during the recent election season: Supposedly penniless monks had made large cash donations to President Clinton’s reelection campaign. We also read that agents of Indonesian billionaire James Riady visited the Oval Office with the regularity of the cleaning staff. But in reality these news items are anything but humorous. They raise the suspicion that Indonesian campaign dollars may have contributed to troubling changes in U.S. foreign policy—changes that allow Indonesia to carry on brutal persecution of the Christians of East Timor. The extent of these brutalities is well known—so much so that in 1992, then-candidate Bill Clinton denounced as “unconscionable” the Bush administration’s indifference to the bloody policies of Indonesian President Mohammed Suharto. Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1974. Since then, according to Rep. Tony Hall of Ohio, as many as 200,000 East Timorians have perished. Many of them died in a catastrophic, war-related famine. Following his first election, President Clinton took a hard line toward President Suharto. He supported a United Nations resolution criticizing the abuses in East Timor. But all that changed in May, 1993. Then, the president announced that “we have enormous opportunities” in Indonesia. He backed up that statement by meeting with Suharto. The dictator was later welcomed to the White House, where he met with an upper-level delegation headed by Vice President Al Gore. And just recently, Arifin Siregard, Indonesia’s ambassador to the U.S., acknowledged the obvious: He told the National Press Club that U.S. policy toward Indonesia has improved in the past year. Indeed. The question the incoming Congress has to ask is: What’s behind the Clinton administration’s extraordinary metamorphosis? Well, Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, believes he has the answer. Horowitz is a Jew who, ironically, has been perhaps the most tireless advocate for persecuted Christians. Horowitz has reached a disturbing conclusion: We now know, Horowitz says, “that Mr. Riady and his retainers asked the president to ignore human rights abuses committed by the [government] of... Indonesia.” Does our warming relationship with Indonesia reflect the tolerance that often goes along with large cash contributions? Horowitz is adamant. “These facts place what has been benignly called a campaign contributions scandal in its proper light: insider use of purchased access to the highest levels of the American government.” Access, Horowitz contends, that has been used “in the service of protecting murderers of vulnerable Christians.” I hope and pray this is not so. But the administration has left itself open to these charges. After activists—including Horowitz and me—made persecution of Christians an issue, the Clinton administration promised to appoint a special advisor to look into the charges. This turned out to be an empty promise, as did another promise to condemn Christian persecution made at last year’s convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. These large Indonesian cash donations have come along at the same time there’s been a significant softening of President Clinton’s human rights policy. A coincidence, maybe, but Congress had better find the answer. Meanwhile, you and I must pray for the suffering church in Indonesia. The spirit of Herod is alive and well there—and it appears that too many U.S. policy makers have decided that Herod can do no wrong.


Chuck Colson


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