NORTHFIELD, Vt. - Quietly tucked away in the hills of Vermont, Norwich University, the only private military college in the country, has continued to educate and train future members of the Indonesian army, even as President Clinton has effectively frozen all relations with that country's military in the wake of the violence in East Timor.
According to Norwich records, 11 of the school's current crop of 13 Indonesian undergraduates list their billing address as the Jakarta headquarters of Kopassus, the Army's elite special forces.
||The Indonesian students were chosen and paid for by the Indonesian Embassy in Washington with funds wired "by order of the military attache."
"Kopassus played an especially brutal role in East Timor," Sidney Jones of Human Rights Watch said. "They were unquestionably the most feared, most hated, and most abusive of all Indonesian units in East Timor."
The US government blocked Indonesians from programs at federally funded military institutions such as West Point, citing human rights concerns. But Norwich, a private institution, has continued with its cooperative program, which brings in about $20,000 annually in tuition and fees for each student.
According to Norwich spokesman Thomas Greene, the Indonesian students in the two-year-old cooperative program were chosen and paid for by the Indonesian Embassy in Washington with funds wired "by order of the military attache."
The undergrads, ostensibly civilians, are obligated to serve 10 years in the Indonesian army after graduation. Thirteen of them are enrolled in Norwich's Army ROTC program, where they take the standard course that includes weapons training, intelligence gathering, field training, and tactics, as well as military ethics.
"The curriculum is dictated from US Army Cadet Command," said Captain Mike Lefebvre, who teaches ROTC at Norwich.
ROTC instructors are active duty Army officers chosen by the Pentagon. "The training of these foreign students [at Norwich] came about from an agreement made between university and the US Army," Lefebvre said.
||The Norwich-Indonesia program was set up with generals, who have been implicated in serious human rights abuses by Human Rights Watch and have been members of Kopassus.
Ten graduate students, who returned to service in Indonesia in 1999 after completing master's degrees in military science and diplomacy, have served as active duty officers.
The worst violence in East Timor erupted after the island voted for independence from Indonesia on Aug. 30. Pro-Jakarta militia backed by, and often part of, the Indonesian army killed hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. Another 300,000 either fled the violence or were forcibly repopulated to various islands in the Indonesian archipelago.
At least four of the Norwich graduate students served in East Timor around the time of the referendum.
According to an August report from Norwich Provost Hubert Maultry, the four were "in East Timor serving under the United Nations flag." The Indonesians, however, could not have been a part of a UN mission, according to the United Nations. "There is no room for confusion," said Manuel de Almeida e Silva, deputy spokesman for UN secretary-general.
Some Norwich faculty oppose the university program, including one member who quit in protest in late 1997.
"When I resigned my teaching position at Norwich, I believed they were profoundly misguided. I am very sorry my predictions were true," said James Chapados, referring to the service of the four Norwich graduates in East Timor.
||Schneider said he did not know the generals' backgrounds or that the students' billing address was Kopassus. But, he said, that information would not have deterred him from accepting the young men.
President Richard W. Schneider said he has no plans to end the program and thinks that it performs a valuable service. The curriculum, he said, includes a heavy dose of military ethics.
"We are not claiming that [Norwich graduates] will behave humanely when they go back, but what we do is talk about human rights, civil rights, and give them a new way of thinking," he said. "We would take Communist students from Red China. What better way to teach them that their system is screwed up?"
The Indonesian students now at Norwich did not want to speak with the media, according to Greene.
The Norwich-Indonesia program was set up after a visit to Jakarta by Norwich officials who met with Major General Zacky Anwar Makarim and General A.M. Hendropriyono. The generals, who have been implicated in serious human rights abuses by Human Rights Watch and have been members of Kopassus, visited the Norwich campus in fall and winter 1997.
Zacky, as the general is more commonly known, had been head of BIA Indonesia's national intelligence body until January and spent a large part of his career in Kopassus, according to Jane's Intelligence Review, a British military journal. One of the country's most experienced covert operatives, he is generally believed to have helped set up and organize the militias in each of East Timor's 13 districts.
Zacky was in charge of Indonesian army operations in East Timor. After meeting with him in Dili in September, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, called for the general's resignation. "He was very hostile toward the referendum," said an aide to Harkin. "His troops intimidated people and tried to stop them from going to vote; he was working with the militias."
The other officer, Hendropriyono, is nicknamed "The Butcher of Lampung," according to Human Rights Watch. In 1989, he commanded troops that opened fire on a Muslim school in Lampung province and massacred an estimated 100 people.
Formerly an officer in Kopassus and chief of the Jakarta Military Command, Hendropriyono was minister for transmigration and resettlement until Sept. 27.
In that capacity, he oversaw the establishment of camps and proposed resettlement of some 200,000 East Timorese refugees to various Indonesian islands.
The Norwich program, "if not strictly illegal," he said, "may be inconsistent with President Clinton's order ending cooperation with the Indonesian military."
—aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy
Schneider said he did not know the generals' backgrounds or that the students' billing address was Kopassus. But, he said, that information would not have deterred him from accepting the young men.
Others might find the links more troubling.
Vermont's Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who has been particularly vociferous in condemning Indonesian repression, sponsored legislation passed in 1998 that prohibits assistance or military training to units implicated in human rights abuses. The ban includes some Kopassus units, Leahy aide Tim Rieser said.
After the postreferendum violence, the United States also stopped all military cooperation, training, assistance, and commercial arms sales and pushed the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to suspend loans to Indonesia.
With Norwich receiving federal funds in the form of financial aid and the Indonesian students receiving military training from US Army officers through ROTC, the program could be in conflict with US government policy.
"One could argue," Rieser said, "that the US government is subsidizing the training of future Indonesian soldiers." The Norwich program, "if not strictly illegal," he said, "may be inconsistent with President Clinton's order ending cooperation with the Indonesian military."
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
Norwich program draws fire;
Two lawmakers criticize training of Indonesian recruits
by Terry J. Allen, Boston Globe October 7, 1999,
NORTHFIELD, Vt. - The Department of Defense should investigate a Norwich University program that trains future members of the Indonesian military, two members of Congress said this week.
In a letter sent Tuesday, Democratic Representative James P. McGovern of Massachu-setts and Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, called on Defense Secretary William S. Cohen to identify "all members of the Indonesian military, including recruits," currently studying in America. "We strongly recommend their immediate return to Indonesia."
McGovern said that he was meeting today with National Security Adviser SandyBerger on another matter and would take the opportunity to discuss the training at Norwich.
"We strongly recommend their immediate return to Indonesia."
—Senators Harkin & McGovern
The Globe reported Monday that 13 Indonesian undergraduates now atNorwich, a military college in Vermont, are funded by the Indonesian government and that 11 of the students are linked to that country's elite special forces, Kopassus. Kopassus has been implicated in human rights abuses, and in the violence that followed East Timor's vote for independence.
The US government, citing human rights concerns, has told federally fundedmilitary institutions such as West Point to not invite Indonesian students to enter the classes of 2003 and 2004. Norwich, a private institution, has continued its program.
The Indonesian students at Norwich are enrolled in ROTC classes, where theircurriculum is dictated by the US Army and their instructors are active duty officers.
Norwich president Richard W. Schneider defended the program. "I still don'thave evidence that [ the students] will be working with Kopassus" after they return, he said. The mailing address for 11 of the undergraduates is the Jakarta headquarters of Kopassus. Graduating students are obligated to serve 10 years in the Indonesian military.
Schneider said he has not asked the Indonesian embassy or military about thestudents' relationship to Kopassus, but he said he did verify with the ROTC that "we are in compliance with the law, which does not allow college presidents to discriminate on who takes ROTC courses. They are basically benign courses," he said.
McGovern, who was part of a State Department-sponsored congressional missionto Indonesia and East Timor in mid-September, said the Norwich program should be eliminated. "These are foreign nationals bankrolled by an organization engaged in human rights violations. The school has to have the shades pulled down not to figure out what is going on here. They aren't there because Vermont is pretty in the fall; they are there to get training and expertise Norwich provides."
Schneider said he has not asked the Indonesian embassy or military about thestudents' relationship to Kopassus.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, has also contacted the WhiteHouse. "They are looking at whether Norwich's training of Indonesian cadets is consistent with the president's decision to end military cooperation with Indonesia," Leahy said. "They have told me they will have an answer soon."
Schneider condemned the Indonesian army's record of repression and its rolein East Timor. But he said he believes that the Norwich students will exert a positive influence when they return there because "they are well trained in how to work in a democracy, get ethical and moral training and learn how to relate to civil society."