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SLUG: 1-01380 OTL Indonesia Fights Terrorism 08-23-03.rtf







CONTENT=This is the transcript for OTL released Saturday UTC time.


Host: Indonesia fights terrorism. Next, On the Line.


Host: Indonesia continues to suffer terrorist attacks mounted by Jemaah Islamiah, the southeast Asian affiliate of the Al-Qaida terrorist network. A suicide bomber set off a powerful explosion outside Jakarta's J-W Marriott Hotel August fifth, killing a dozen people. Last October, two-hundred-two people were killed when a pair of truck bombs exploded in a night club district on the island of Bali. But Indonesia is tackling the terrorist threat. The first of the conspirators in the Bali bombing to stand trial, Amrozi, was convicted of murder August seventh. The Indonesian court sentenced him to death. The spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Bakar Bashir, is on trial for treason and for his role in a string of bombings against Christian churches. Now, the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiah, known as Hambali, has been captured in Thailand and turned over to the U.S. How well is Indonesia confronting the terrorist threat in Southeast Asia? I'll ask my guests: Paul Cleveland, president of the United States-Indonesia society, and a former U-S Ambassador to Malaysia and New Zealand; and Dana Dillon, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank. Welcome and thanks for joining us today. Paul Cleveland, you were in Jakarta the day of the most recent terrorist attack and indeed had been staying at the hotel that was attacked. Tell us a little bit about your experience that day of the bombing.

Cleveland: Well, fortunately [we] had gone to the Grand Milieu for lunch. We had originally planned to be at the Marriott, and that would not have been a good place to have been. In any event, it was a horrendous act. We were happy not to have been there.

Host: How was the response of Indonesian officials? Have they learned from the Bali blast how to respond to these kinds of things?

Cleveland: I think it was very good, and I think that they have indeed learned a great deal from the Bali bombing. They cordoned off the area very quickly. They kept it free of tourists and people that trampled around, which was not the case in Bali. They went about their work in a highly professional way. The Australians, who had helped in Bali, I think were still in the neighborhood, and were quickly rounded up and began to help the investigation that went on very quickly and which is already, it seems, producing some results.

Host: Dana Dillon, the investigation into the Bali bombing sort of got off on a slow foot, and this seems to have gotten going much more quickly. What do you think of how the Indonesian officials have learned to deal with this kind of attack?

Dillon: I think the Indonesian police have been doing a really outstanding job. One, they've arrested a bunch of the Bali bombers. They're busy prosecuting the Bali bombers, including Amrozi, who's one of the main instigators and sentenced him to death. They're still prosecuting, or trying, Abu Bakar Bashir, the leader of Jemaah Islamiah. They've rounded up, I believe, some eighty of the members of Jemaah Islamiah, and I think they've been doing a good job in the post-Jakarta bombing at the Marriott hotel. So I would say the police, especially considering the police have only been independent for about five years, have been doing a really good job. I think they deserve U-S and international support.

Host: Paul Cleveland, in the Bali bombing, there were many Indonesians killed, but predominantly, it was foreigners. In this Jakarta bombing, what was the number of people killed who were Indonesians as opposed to foreigners?

Cleveland: Virtually all were Indonesian. Of the twelve killed, I only recall one distinctly. He was a Dutchman who was head of a bank and was having a farewell party in the restaurant. Otherwise, they not only were Indonesian, but they were relatively poor. That is to say, they had a modest income. They were security guards and taxicab drivers who were around the front of the hotel.

Host: Has that affected how these kinds of things are perceived in Indonesia? What's the mood in Indonesia about these kinds of terrorist acts?

Cleveland: Well, I think the police work that Dana referred to in the case of the Bali bombing had really instigated, started a major turn around in Indonesian thinking. Right after the Bali bombing on the Internet, polls were taken. Keep in mind that the Internet really reaches out to the elite in Indonesia because others don't really have access to it. Some eighty-two percent -- it's a nutty number -- eighty-two percent thought that the C-I-A [Central Intelligence Agency] had done this. After General Pastika and the other police forces had gotten after the bombers and these arrests were made and so on, the majority of Indonesians now clearly believe that terrorism is alive and well and is being fostered and grown right here in Indonesia. I think that the Marriott hotel bombing has undoubtedly re-enforced that and probably increased the belief and understanding that terrorism is a great threat and its coming directly from where ever -- from the villages and so on, from Jemaah Islamiah.

Host: Dana Dillon, what do you think? Have these bombings changed Indonesian attitudes, both at a grassroots level and among the government about terrorism?

Dillon: Yes, absolutely and I think the government level is the most important change. It was a little over a year ago that the vice president of Indonesia, Hamzah Haz, had dinner, actually, with Abu Bakar Bashir, and said he wasn't a terrorist, and now they're convicting and prosecuting these guys all over the place. So, the government has, not only of Indonesia, but many of the governments of Southeast Asia, like Thailand, [have] all recognized the fact that they can't ignore the terrorist problem or that Jemaah Islamiah is a transnational problem across [southeastern] Asia and they all need to come around. I believe all of the governments are coming around and they are fighting the war on terrorism.

Host: Paul Cleveland, to what extent had Indonesia been a weak link in that transnational enforcement against terrorists in [southeastern] Asia?

Cleveland: I think originally, very much so. Both Malaysia and Singapore have I-S-As, internal security acts, [and] were able to move in a pre-emptive fashion against suspected terrorists last year. Indonesia, as I indicated hadn't really come around to that point of view, there were a lot of terrorists there in Indonesia. Since then, they've strengthened their effort very considerably. Now indeed, there's a strong press in some quarters, not in all quarters, but in some quarters, for Indonesia to adopt an internal security act of its own to give it more strength and more ability to go after these terrorists.

Dillon: The internal security act -- that was the tool that Malaysia and Singapore used, but I don't think that's very necessary in Indonesia's case. They have laws against murder and they have laws against terrorism. They can prosecute. I think it's a matter of political will, in that the Indonesian government before was not behind it, and now the Indonesian government is. I think they will prosecute it. An internal security act may be a tool they think they need. I don't know. I'm not in the position to make that evaluation. But they certainly have the legal means. What they lacked before the Bali bombing was a political will to prosecute these guys.

Host: Wasn't there some sort of new law that was passed after the Bali bombing, though, that strengthened their anti-terror effort?

Dillon: There [were] several things they had been doing. There was a -- I can't recall the name of the law -- but it strengthened the role of the police vis--vis terrorists. Then there has been some work on money laundering and along those lines, ways to strengthen the police [and] reduce the ability for the terrorists to operate. But again, a lot of the legal framework is already in place. In Indonesia, a lot of things that terrorists do are already illegal in Indonesia. The real question is, "What is the government going to do?" Now the government is going to do something about the terrorists.

Host: Paul Cleveland, on this question of sort of the political will in Indonesia, [there is a] very large Islamic population in Indonesia, and it seemed that first as though cracking down on terrorism would alienate the Islamic population. Has that borne out?

Cleveland: First of all, I agree with Dana. I don't think they need an I-S-A. I was just simply saying that Malaysia and Singapore had used their I-S-A to that effect. I think that the Indonesian government's will is pretty strong at this point in time, as we've indicated. There are, however, reservations on the political side. If they believe, I think a lot of the leadership believes that if it goes after Jemaah Islamiah and these terrorist extremists too hard, they can suffer a backlash. The terrorist extremists will use any attack on them to raise the specter of a nationalistic, anti-American feeling. So there are a lot of political crosscurrents, and I think the government has to be cautious as it goes ahead, with let's say, all deliberate speed.

Dillon: I'd like to comment further on that. I think that what's really interesting is that Jemaah Islamiah and Al-Qaida are now making attacks on countries that are primarily Islamic countries. You know, you blow up something in the United States, and all the poor countries in the world will automatically applaud. But, you start blowing up Islamic waiters and taxi drivers in Indonesia, and in essence, the terrorists are soiling their own nest. They're violating and making angry the very people they expect support from. I think this will work very much against them, and Jemaah Islamiah will become hated in Indonesia just as much as it is in the United States.

Host: Along those lines, the man who put together the bombs for the Bali Bombing, throughout his trial, he was laughing and joking throughout his trial.

[simultaneous talking]

Dillon: "The smiling bomber."

Host: The smiling bomber. How has that been received in Indonesia?

Dillon: I don't know. Maybe the ambassador can answer that question. To us, certainly as Americans, and I know the Australians, who suffered more than we did on this, that it was painful to watch this guy smile and laugh while he was being prosecuted, and even the thumbs-up when he got the death penalty. "I get to die for my cause." It's extremely troubling. It's hard to tell with Indonesians how they perceive that. There's a cultural difference there that's hard for us to understand. So I'm not sure, and I'd be interested in what the ambassador has to say.

Cleveland: Well, I'm not a great interpreter of Indonesian culture and so on. I understand that laughter sometimes is a cover for a real nervousness, and so on, perhaps not in this case. In any event, the Indonesians that I talked to while I was there at the time I think generally disparaged Amrozi's behavior. I think that the overall trend as we've been indicating in Indonesian thinking is that these are really bad guys. Perhaps there's some cultural nuanced difference towards these folks and ours, but not a great deal. Substantially, we're all on the same side, and we're working together effectively, and I think that's really very important.

Host: Let's talk a little bit about the capture in Thailand of Hambali, Ridwan Isamuddin, his full name. Dana Dillon, who is he?

Dillon: He's a complicated figure, actually, but, as I understand, he is the link between Al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiah. He is the guy that has brought the two organizations together. He is the one who planning and operating most of the attacks that happen in southeastern Asia. He may have been involved in nine-eleven. I understand there was film of him, video of him meeting with two of the nine-eleven bombers. He was suspected of being involved in a string of bombings across Indonesia, so he is easily the operations officer for Jemaah Islamiah and Al-Qaida [southeastern] Asia.

Host: Paul Cleveland, how big a blow to Jemaah Islamiah is the capture of Hambali?

Cleveland: Well, I think it's important to say two things about that. I think it's a big blow. I think this man was, as Dana indicates, a key figure. He was not only the leader in [southeastern] Asia, but he was the link with Al-Qaeda. He was the funnel for money fairly clearly. It seems possible that he was planning a further attack perhaps on the APEC meeting in October, which President Bush was to attend. The other thing to say about this is that there's still a lot of people out there in the weeds. At least, we have to assume the worst case. That is, there are a lot of people that can jump in behind these people that have been eliminated. That's been the history so far. There's always somebody there to stand up and take the place of the fellow before. My sense is Hambali was special. That is, he had some special capabilities, and he did have these links. And it may not be easy for Jemaah Islamiah or Al-Qaida to replace him. So, I think it's a big blow, but there's still a long way to go.

Host: Dana Dillon?

Dillon: On that, most likely, Hambali already has a lot of cells in place, a lot of operations in place, that we may not be able to uncover before they happen. But maybe we will be able to get information from him. I'm sure that's why many of the police in the region want to talk to him. They want to try to uncover the cells operating in their [areas] as well. So, just because Hambali's gone doesn't mean that there's going to be an immediate lessening of attacks in Southeast Asia, but eventually his destruction, or his capture is going to mean the end of Jemaah Islamiah, I believe.

Host: Do you think that there are not the people to step up and take his place?

Dana: There are not -- as the ambassador was saying, Hambali was special. And I think there are people who may want to or may aspire to, but do they have the connections with Al-Qaida? Do they have the money connections? Because it all takes money. Do they all have those kind of connections that will bring these kind of operations together? And I just don't know that there is anybody that I have read about that has that kind of influence.

Host: Paul Cleveland, these attacks that Hambali was behind by Jemaah Islamiah, in the nightclub district in Bali and believed to be behind the Jakarta bombings. If this is turned around attitudes in the government and Indonesia, how ill-advised does it seem for a terrorist group to go after the one place where it seemed they might have been able to find some kind of haven?

Cleveland: Well, yes. That's good Western logic, but these folks aren't necessarily driven by that. They're driven by a very, very strong belief that they have to destroy the infidel, that being you and me and institutions in Indonesia and wherever else they may find them. So I'm not sure they'll be deterred, as you suggest. My guess is they'll be deterred only and when, as and if, we can really round up enough of them and decimate their ranks. And I think that means a continuing effort.

Host: I guess the question is, is there a specific goal other than the killing of particular people in a particular place, but some goal of trying to destabilize the society?

Cleveland: Oh I think that's correct. There is a larger goal, which is to form a pan-Islamic kind of regional set of nations or nation, commonwealth, whatever. And I suppose they expect to do this by creating chaos and reading their views and their beliefs in the midst of that chaos. Frankly, it seems rather far-fetched to me, but all of their ideological beliefs seem rather far-fetched to me and, I think, to most of us. But that doesn't seem to deter them and they keep at it.

Host: Dana Dillon, what do you think about this? Is there an effort to try to create chaos?

Dillon: Absolutely. They want to create this pan-Islamic state. That is -- I think one of the things that has brought Indonesia around is that, the only way to create a pan-Islamic state is by destroying the government of Indonesia. And I think they have finally woken up to that very danger, that Jemaah Islamiah is not after Westerners, Jemaah Islamiah is after them as well. They're after everybody. Everybody that doesn't believe what they believe is a gonner [going to be killed] as far as they're concerned. And they are going to destroy not only the government of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines in order to create this pan-Islamic, but then they're going to destroy all Western interests as well. So, they are sacrificing everything that we and the Indonesians feel is good in the world system in order to create a system of beliefs that just aren't supported in Indonesia.

Host: Paul Cleveland, have they succeeded in discouraging Westerners from coming and doing business in Indonesia?

Cleveland: I think they discourage Westerners from coming and touring in Bali. Tourism is a relatively soft target, as Minister Dorodjatun [Kuntjoro-Jakti coordinating minister in charge of economy] told us when we were there, if anybody wants to come to Indonesia to do business, they have to come to Jakarta. So, the guess was, at the time I left -- and I haven't really double-checked this since -- that there might be some dip in travel to Jakarta and the rest of Indonesia as a result of the Marriott bombing, but probably not a very large dip nor one that would last very long, because people have to come to Jakarta to do business. It's as simple as that.

Host: Well Dana Dillon, if not a big impact on the economic life of Indonesia, how has it affected the political life in broad terms of this democracy?

Dillon: Well, in a strange way, it's probably going to strengthen it, because that's going to force the government to take substantive action. I mean, the Indonesian government is almost marked by, I don't want to say lethargy, but an unwillingness to act. And this is forcing the government to act, especially president Megawati [Sukarnoputri]. She's always been reluctant to make bold statements and this is going to force her, the war against terrorism is going to force her to take action. So, as tragic as it is, I guess the silver lining in this black cloud is that the Indonesian government may start taking responsibility for its actions and start moving Indonesia toward a better democracy.

Cleveland: Let me just suggest the black lining in Dana's silver cloud. I don't disagree with what he's saying. I do think however that there is a penchant on the part of the P-N-I, the army, the military, to want to re-expand their power and their authority within Indonesia, very possibly at the expense of the police, who've been given this responsibility for internal security. If the military were to reassert itself and reaffirm its control over internal security, I think some people would be concerned about that. It would be, in essence a step back.

Dillon: A giant step back.

Cleveland: If not two or three steps back. A giant step, I wouldn't disagree, but a giant step away from democracy and back toward the Suharto period.

Dillon: Yes. I support that statement one-hundred percent.

Host: I'm afraid that's going to have to be the last word because we're out of time for today. I'd like to thank my guests: Ambassador Paul Cleveland of the U-S Indonesia Society and Dana Dillon of the Heritage Foundation. We welcome your questions or comments. You can e-mail them to For On the Line, I'm Eric Felten.

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