I believe that the picture below tells us all we need to know about the lasting impact the presidency of Gerald R. Ford has had on the United States of America, the nation he so proudly led for a couple of years after pardoning the man who was at that time the biggest criminal ever to occupy the Oval Office.
Yes, it was Gerald R. Ford who took those famously amoral and criminally incompetent backroom operators, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, out of the lower quadrants of the twisted bowels of the Nixon White House and raised them to the highest levels of American government, where, in one form or another, overtly and covertly, they have inflicted their primitive ideology and violent psychodramas on the nation, and the world, for more than three decades.
But Ford’s enduring legacy is in no way exhausted by the glories of his bloodthirsty political progeny. For the sad occasion of the statesman’s death is certainly a most appropriate time to recall what is probably his greatest geopolitical masterstroke: the green-lighting of Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor — an act of state-sponsored terrorism that killed more than 200,000 people. True, George W. Bush has now far surpassed that genocidal benchmark, setting new standards of pointless and barbaric mass murder in Iraq — but only with the help of Fordians Cheney and Rumsfeld!
I first wrote about the pivotal role that Ford, along with Henry Kissinger (currently the chief outside adviser to the White House, according to Cheney — hey, it’s like the Nixon-Ford era never ended!), back in 2001, just after the release of declassified documents which had been gathered and published by the invaluable National Security Archive (see their report East Timor Revisited for more). As I noted in a follow-up report in May 2006:
…The documents were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act — in June 2001, before George W. Bush gutted the law — but only reported in December of that year by the Washington Post. Kissinger and Ford had long denied any prior knowledge of the murderous assault, even though they’d been feasting with the genocidal Indonesian tyrant Suharto the day before the troops went in. However, in a secret State Department cable, Ford and Kissinger actually told Suharto before the attack that "we understand the problem you have and the intentions you have" and "we will not press you on the issue."
Kissinger, ever mindful of the media angle, added in another love note: "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."
The murders were carried out with U.S. weaponry. Congress had restricted their use to defensive purposes only, but Kissinger blithely brushed this aside, assuring Suharto that America would "construe" the invasion as "self-defense rather than a foreign operation." Kinda like Hitler did with Poland.
Naturally, the December 2001 story was buried by the usual bull-roaring of Bush praise in the media. In fact, in the same issue of the Post in which news of the declassification first appeared, you might have been diverted from its revelations by a fascinating piece on the editorial page, a long disquisition on the new ordering of the world, penned by one of our most revered elder statesmen:
I also noted in the May post that on September 21, 1999, Sander Thoenes, a former colleague of mine at The Moscow Times, was murdered in East Timor, almost certainly by Indonesian military forces, while covering the last throes of Jakarta’s fury before East Timor won its independence — another fact to be recorded with the high and mighty deeds of Gerald R. Ford.
[For more on how the enduring legacy of Gerald R. Ford in Indonesia has been erased from history, see this post from Dennis Perrin: Airbrushing the Dead.]
It’s unlikely that we will hear very much about these aspects of Gerald R. Ford’s enduring legacy in the innumerable encomiums that will fill the corporate media in the coming days. There the focus will undoubtedly be on the way Ford "healed the nation" by thwarting the course of justice and keeping the most depraved operators of the Nixon gang in power. But as a public service, we thought it only fitting to recall these triumphs of the 38th President of the United States.
Chris Floyd [send him mail] is the author of Empire Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime.