Foreign Policy

Suharto, 1921-2008

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One of the more brutal U.S. clients of the Cold War era has just died. Suharto—it's a one-word name, like "Prince" or "Taco"—was Indonesia's butcher-in-chief and thief-in-chief from 1965 to 1998. The L.A. Times recounts his greatest crimes:

Suharto expanded Indonesia's territory by force and guile, annexing the territories of Papua and East Timor and brutally suppressing the independence movement in the province of Aceh in a conflict that lasted for 27 years.

Estimates of the number of people killed by Suharto's regime "vary from 300,000 to 2 million, but the exact number nobody knows," said Asmara Nababan, former secretary-general of Indonesia's Human Rights Commission.

His military regime incarcerated hundreds of thousands of political prisoners for years without trial. Many critics simply vanished.

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  1. Jesse – awesome TACO reference!!

    Puttin on the Ritz!!!!

  2. Taco – LOL!

  3. Fun fact — Suharto was good friends with John McCain’s dad.

  4. Dammit, I wasn’t going to drink tonight, but now that a brutal dictator has died,

    CHEERS!

  5. Cher
    Bono
    Sanjaya
    Martika
    Eminem
    The Edge (does that count?)
    Sting
    Beck
    Madonna
    Beyonc?
    Tiffany

  6. was he truly worse than sukarno?

    i’m sympathetic to the whole one-name thing. that’s what i did.

  7. Funny, but you free-market anti-communists were his biggest cheerleaders as he committed butchery across the archipelago. Do you lack the courage of your convictions? Or are you afraid of getting convicted?

  8. Funny, but you free-market anti-communists were his biggest cheerleaders as he committed butchery across the archipelago.

    I was? News to me. Indeed, I’m pretty sure I was denouncing him on the radio while he was still in office.

    Maybe you have me confused with my evil twin, Henry Kissinger.

  9. Hey Shrilly,

    Carter was as much of a supporter and enabler of Suharto as any Republican administration. Go read a book.

  10. Suharto along with Pinochet belongs to the second rung of hellish dictators. Suharto was much worse thant Pinochet. But unlike Mao or Castro, managed to turn his country into something other than a communist hellhole. As bad as Suharto was and he was very bad, Indonesia would be a lot worse off had the Communists taken over. The question of course is could Suharto stopped the communists from taking power without whacking a bunch of people. I would like to think he could have.

  11. LOL @ Limahl

  12. Drink! The good stuff!

  13. de stijl | January 28, 2008, 3:41pm | #

    Hillary
    Oprah

  14. “His military regime incarcerated hundreds of thousands of political prisoners for years without trial. Many critics simply vanished.”

    Screw that, how was he on markets? Certainly Chavez is far worse than this guy, I mean that guy nationalized some stuff!

  15. Because he was anti-communist, conservatives gave him a free pass. Libertarians didn’t.
    So much a free pass that Young Americans for Freedom once gave his U.S. Ambassador a model of the freaking Liberty Bell!

  16. You have to distinguish people with really only one name like Suharto from poseurs like, well, everyone on that list.

  17. J sub D,

    I call foul. 75% of Americans can identify Hillary’s and Oprah’s last name. 90%+ could pick their last names out of a list. Can one American get Martika’s last name right? I didn’t until I googled her. Also, Eminem sampled Martika’s Toy Soldiers keeping it real for the single-named celebrity club!

  18. What was the FreedomHouse ranking for Indonesia under Suharto? They have been doing rankings since 1978 so I’d like to see it…Wonder what Reason had to say about him to…

  19. Partly Free until 1992, then Not Free until 1998.

  20. I wonder if the body count should include those that died early because of the shitty economics of his authoritarianism. Like John points out, he coulda done much much worse, but he coulda done so much better and still kept Comintern out of power.

  21. Wonder what Reason had to say about him to…

    Dude!

    That’s still cheap trolling. Do some legwork, find some articles penned by libertarians that expressed admiration for Suharto, then fling accusations. That’s still trolling, but at least it would be quality trolling.

  22. YAY! Another American supported third-world democrat…woo hoo!

  23. “Screw that, how was he on markets? Certainly Chavez is far worse than this guy, I mean that guy nationalized some stuff!”

    Your tongue-in-cheek analysis nicely summed up U.S. foriegn policy.

  24. Also, Eminem sampled Martika’s Toy Soldiers keeping it real for the single-named celebrity club!

    Uh, Eminem is the Slim Shady. The REAL Slim Shady. And that’s two words.

  25. Suharto expanded Indonesia’s territory by force and guile, annexing the territories of Papua and East Timor and brutally suppressing the independence movement in the province of Aceh in a conflict that lasted for 27 years.

    As far as Papua goes, he was just following Sukarno’s lead.

    was he truly worse than sukarno?

    Yes, he murdered a lot more people than Sukarno ever thought of doing. (On the other hand,whether Sukarno was in cahoots with the PKI in their 9/30/65 attempted coup is an interesting question, as is how many people the PKI would have murdered if they’d gotten the chance to do so.)

  26. J sub D,

    I call foul.

    Accepted. Take two free throws.

  27. highnumber
    My point was that I can’t seem to find Reason archives or Freedom House numbers from the period concerning Indonesia. And there were some allegations about Pinochet support recently that Reason felt the need to address. And Suharto was one of these “fight the commies” dictators too. So yes, I have not gone to the local state university to look at microfilm, but since the assumption in most people’s minds is that free-marketers made asses of themselves supporting anti-commie dictators, then perhaps the burden is not on me to prove the innocence of others here…

    But if you like snark check out my “but what did he do with about markets” comment meant to represent the hard on many H&Rer’s (who don’t own the site, or libertarianism I should think, so piss on your trolling charge for honking them off) have for markets over all other freedoms.

  28. MNG,

    You were “Hard Core”?
    That was all right. Snark is not the same as troll. Sometime soon at Urkobold we can have an in depth look at the differences between the two. In short, snark is a quick jab that points out a foible. Troll is like running at your sparring partner while windmilling your arms.

  29. There’s a spreadsheet on the Freedom House site (I don’t see it now but I have a copy) with all the rankings going back to 1972. Results for Indonesia as I noted above (“Partly Free until 1992, then Not Free until 1998.”).

  30. Partly free? WTF? Sure, he was imprisoning folks left and right, killing them without due process, grafting money like crazy and stomping any electoral opposition, but look at what he did with those marginal rates!

    Highnumber-the “guy” was supposed to give it away 😉

  31. He governed the world’s fourth-most-populous nation with a combination of paternalism and ruthlessness from 1965 until he was ousted in spring 1998.

    National Greatness?

  32. “One of the more brutal U.S. clients of the Cold War era has just died.”

    I guess it would have been better if the Soviet’s triumphed, because as we know they were much kinder and gentler.

  33. Partly free? WTF?

    The scores were never better than “5 – 5” which is one step above “Not Free”. Compared with cellar dwellers like Saudi Arabia and China which have always been “Not Free”, I suppose Indonesia was “a little bit better”.

  34. Guess where Taco was born: Jakarta, Indonesia. Six degrees of separation, huh?

    Or did Jesse Walker mention Taco to leave an Easter egg for us trivia geeks?

    If Kevin Bacon could somehow be implicated in all this, it would be the perfect storm of trivia geekery.

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