HETEROGENEITY OF LOYALIST PARAMILITARIES
I attended a Genocide Studies conference today. Multidisciplinary in nature, in some instances crit theory was raising its ugly ( and counterproductive) head. While not a specialist in the Holocaust per se, I do have enough expertise in the subject to have once been a finalist for a fellowship at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
. For the life of me though, I could not have explained what an English prof was going on about in terms of " turning earlier literary models against themselves...overturning the reigning conceptions of man ". Say, what ?
More interesting to me than the droning cant was the experience of one speaker, an anthropologist who specializes in the eastern islands of the Indonesian archipelago, who served as an election monitor for the East Timor independence vote
for the Carter Center. She had at that time numerous, harrowing, personal encounters with the wild, anti-independence, militias
sponsored by the brutal Indonesian Army and had only narrowly managed to get safely out of East Timor.
I asked her to speak to the demographics of the loyalist paramilitaries that destroyed 70 % of East Timor and raped and murdered thousands of East Timorese. The militias - notably Mahadi, Jati Merah Putih
(Real Red and White), Aitarak
( Thorn), Mahadomi, Sakunar
(Dead or Alive), Halilintar
( Struggle For integration), Darah Merah
( Red Blood), Besi Merah Putih
( Red and White Iron) and the Keaman Rakyat
- had little in common with one another aside from violent tactics and Indonesian Army sponsorship.
- The militia members ran the ideological gamut from nationalist, to Islamist to ethnic network and criminal syndicate thugs to Timorese shanghaied into participating to Indonesian and foreign mercenaries. Some militia members were bought for as little as a sack of rice, some drugs and the freedom to rape and pillage.
- Most militia members were drunk and/or high on narcotics while committing atrocities.
- Indonesian troops and police casually supervised militia mayhem - much like German police during Kristallnacht - and shed their uniforms at times to join in.
- The dangerous factionalization of the Indonesian Army plus rivalries between the Army and Navy and Army and police meant that having secured relative safety from the depradations of one militia due to good connections might do little to help you with a militia aligned with another group. Or one exceeding their instructions
It would be interesting to look at the composition of Serb paramilitaries to see if Milosevic's regime drew upon a similar though Balkan " scum of the Earth" diversity in carrying out ethnic cleansing campaigns against Bosnian and Kosovar Albanian Muslims, Croats and Slovenes. The Nazis cast a wide pan-European net to fill the ranks of their Waffen- SS and foreign auxillary formations like the Arajs Kommando. Stalin too went through " ethnic" phases where his secret police apparatus had disproportionate numbers of Jews, Letts, Georgians and other minorities.
Until his paranoia returned of course. Then they were purged and liquidated and replaced by ethnic Great Russians until the next major terror wave. The life of a loyalist paramilitary is a precarious one.