In wake of tsunami, Aceh's people need better government

It would be a shame if US efforts to relieve tsunami-created suffering in Aceh lead to further suffering for its beleaguered people. This is the likely result of any reengagement with the Indonesian military ("US, Indonesia mull closer ties," Feb. 9).

Prior to the tsunami, Aceh was under martial law and human rights violations were legion. Since the natural disaster struck, the military (TNI) has continued its attacks, despite a declared cease-fire. Manipulation of aid by the TNI has been reported.

The TNI has repeatedly failed to meet conditions placed on cooperation by Congress, among them justice and accountability for human rights violations in East Timor, Aceh, and elsewhere, and an end to military backing of fundamentalist and other militias. Several of these groups are now active in disaster-stricken Aceh and boast of their ties to the TNI.

By reengaging, the US will be saying, "Never mind, we really didn't mean it." Reform efforts will certainly be set back and the TNI's corrupt, abusive ways will continue.
John M. Miller
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network

When former US military attaché in Jakarta John Haseman argues against senior Indonesian officers being denied exposure to US military practices, I can't help thinking of the past year's revelations about Abu Ghraib and the "outsourcing" of torture that has permanently marred the standing of the US in the world.

And where is the evidence that any of the years of training Indonesian officers have received in the US have had any positive impact in their homeland? For decades, Indonesian troops have been trained by the US, but reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other reputable organizations show no decline in atrocities carried out against civilians.
Yannis Cosmadopoulos
San Francisco

A collective step of progress for Iraqis

The informative Jan. 28 article, "How Iraq's election will work," highlighted some of the philosophical and theological differences between American-style democracy and methods of government in Middle Eastern countries.

In the US, the individual is the primary unit of society, and the individual's rights and freedoms are highly valued. Citizens vote as individuals for individuals. Family members often vote for different candidates.

In Middle Eastern countries the family, the extended family, or the kinship group is the primary unit in society. The individual is subservient to the family and, in some societies, an individual is even expendable for family honor. In the recent Iraq election, Iraqis voted for groups or lists, not for individuals. Still, for Iraqi individuals to vote for leaders is a major step ahead of being forced to accept a dictator.
James M. Murphy
New York

Whistle-blowers - disloyal or heroic?

Regarding the Feb. 11 article "Unveiling 'Deep Throat': Is he better left unknown?": The term "whistle-blower" will remain a pejorative label until people like Deep Throat are willing to publicly identify themselves. Men and women of conscience like Jeffrey Wigand (Brown & Williamson) or Sharon Watkins (Enron) stood the glaring light of publicity to expose the misdeeds of their employers at great personal and professional cost. Unfortunately, society continues to view whistle-blowers as disloyal, rather than heroic defenders of the truth.

Until the treatment of whistle-blowers improves dramatically, Deep Throat's identity will, perhaps wisely, remain a mystery.
Mich Lyon
Scottsdale, Ariz.

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