Whopper of the Week: Henry Kissinger
New evidence demolishes a longstanding claim that the U.S. never green-lighted Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor.
"Q: I am Timorese. My name is Constancio Pinto. And I followed your speech today and it's really interesting. One thing that I know you didn't mention is this place invaded by Indonesia in 1975. It is in Southeast Asia. As a result of the invasion 200,000 people of the Timorese were killed. As far as I know Dr. Kissinger was in Indonesia the day before the invasion of East Timor. The United States actually supported Indonesia in East Timor. So I would like to know what you were doing at that time?
"Henry Kissinger: ... Timor was never discussed with us when we were in Indonesia. At the airport as we were leaving, the Indonesians told us that they were going to occupy the Portuguese colony of Timor. To us that did not seem like a very significant event because the Indians had occupied the Portuguese colony of Goa ten years earlier and to us it looked like another process of decolonization. Nobody had the foggiest idea of what would happen afterwards, and nobody asked our opinion, and I don't know what we could have said if someone had asked our opinion [italics Chatterbox's]. It was literally told to us as we were leaving."
—Q. and A. after a Kissinger speech promoting his book Diplomacy at the Park Central Hotel in New York City, August 11, 1995, as quoted on a Web page for the East Timor Action Network. The exchange can also be found in Christopher Hitchens' book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
"[Indonesian President] Suharto: I would like to speak to you, Mr. President, about another problem, Timor. ... It is now important to determine what we can do to establish peace and order for the present and the future in the interest of the security of the area and Indonesia. ... We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.
"[President Gerald] Ford: We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.
"[Henry] Kissinger: You appreciate that the use of U.S.-made arms could create problems. ... It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly. We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens happens after we return. ... The president will be back on Monday at 2:00 p.m.Jakarta time. We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned."
—Newly declassified State Department transcript of a meeting among President Ford, Henry Kissinger, and President Suharto in Jakarta on Dec. 6, 1975, the day before Indonesia invaded East Timor. Suharto was deposed in 1998. A year later, East Timor passed a referendum declaring independence. The United Nations is currently overseeing East Timor's transition to independence. Posted on the National Security Archive’s Web site.
(Thanks to Dana Milbank, who wrote it up in the Dec. 7 Washington Post.)
Got a whopper? Send it to email@example.com. To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.
Nov. 30, 2001: Council on American-Islamic Relations
Nov. 23, 2001: Bud Selig
Nov. 16, 2001: Sara Jane Olson
Nov. 9, 2001: Donald Rumsfeld (item includes retraction)
Nov. 2, 2001: Dick Armey
Oct. 26, 2001: Gale Norton
Oct. 19, 2001: State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker
Oct. 12, 2001: Clarence Thomas
Oct. 5, 2001: Abdul Salam Zaeef
Sept. 27, 2001: Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and Dick Cheney
Sept. 20, 2001: Larry C. Johnson
Sept. 13, 2001: Yasser Arafat
Sept. 7, 2001: Tommy Thompson
Aug. 30, 2001: HHS spokesman Bill Pierce
Aug. 23, 2001: Variety Editor Peter Bart
Aug. 17, 2001: Tom Daschle
Aug 10, 2001: Robert Mueller
Aug. 3, 2001: Barbara Olson
July 27, 2001: Jeffrey Archer
July 20, 2001: George W. Bush
July 13, 2001: George W. Bush
July 6, 2001: Sumner Redstone
June 29, 2001: David Brock
June 22, 2001: Edmund Morris
June 15, 2001: George W. Bush
June 8, 2001: Nepali Prince Regent (subsequently, King) Gyanendra
June 1, 2001: Mary McGrory
May 25, 2001: Ari Fleischer
May 18, 2001: York, Pa., Mayor Charles Robertson
May 11, 2001: Ted Olson
May 4, 2001: Rear Adm. Craig Quigley
April 27, 2001: Ben Affleck
April 20, 2001: South Carolina state legislator Chip Limehouse
April 13, 2001: Gray Davis
April 6, 2001: Sumner Redstone
March 30, 2001: Spencer Abraham
March 23, 2001: George W. Bush, Rep. Jennifer Dunn, and/or the Treasury Department
March 16, 2001: George W. Bush
March 9, 2001: Russ Freyman, spokesman, National Association of Manufacturers
March 2, 2001: Paul O'Neill
Feb. 23, 2001: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Feb. 16, 2001: Oscar spokesman John Pavlik
Feb. 9, 2001: Lynne Cheney
Feb. 2, 2001: Bobby Thomson
Jan. 26, 2001: Denise Rich
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.