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Even less clear is why they were brought there in a manner--aided by military boats and planes--that nearly all observers have described as planned in advance. Those evicted from the western region of East Timor--now firmly under the control of the militias--may have been ousted to clear the area to accede to West

Island of Death
Thugs supported by the Indonesian military lay waste to East Timor--killing hundreds, rocking the government in Jakarta and ruining the country's reputation in the eyes of the world

A view from inside the U.N. compound

Meet the world's next basket case

No Refuge
There's no escape from fear in West Timor

Plan for East Timor Peacekeeping Mission Hits Snag
Indonesian military objects to Australian participation

East Timor's Agony
The former Portuguese colony descends into anarchy as pro-Indonesia militias go on a campaign of violence to thwart independence

One Reporter's Notebook
How journalists came under the gun too

Indonesia and East Timor

Should Indonesian President B.J. Habibie resign?

No, he needs to stay in place and do more to resolve the East Timor crisis
Yes, he should quit before he is deposed
No, if he resigns, the Indonesian military could seize control
View Results
Timor, as some pro-integration leaders have suggested. But those banished from Dili and other towns further from the border seem only pawns--meant in their forced exile to leave an independent East Timor with a bruised and denuded citizenry.

A similar ruthlessness seems to direct the damage done to the territory's urban areas. Dili has become a ghost town, with the streets emptied of all but soldiers, militia members and the crates of loot they have been hauling away. Observers say the destruction is not random: major infrastructure like the railway station and market have been razed; power and telephone lines have been cut. "The downtown core has been burnt, looted, pillaged," says UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst. "One of the largest banks has been burnt down. The radio station has been burnt. The university has been burnt. It's just an area of total devastation." An already impoverished East Timor will be hard-pressed to build a self-sustaining nation from that rubble.

To many, the violence reads as the climax of a 24-year military occupation--a last, bitter slap in the face. "It's a psychological kind of attack," says an evacuee from the Australian embassy, now safely in Darwin. Such "psy ops" are the province of Indonesia's feared Kopassus special forces--long the most powerful presence in East Timor--and several observers have reported suspected intelligence operatives among the militias. (One election monitor who speaks fluent Bahasa claims he could pick out agents because of their distinctly Javanese accents.) Neither of those factions would be expected to accept defeat well. "They have lived all their life under the shadow of revenge," one high-ranking general says of the militias. "They are afraid this is the end."

The casual brutality with which they have chosen to meet that end has lit a fire under the international community. Australia has taken the lead both in arguing and preparing for a U.N.-sponsored intervention force, placing troops in and around Darwin on full alert and readying transport ships with equipment and fast armored vehicles. Britain, France and New Zealand have all dispatched ships to the area; they have also expressed willingness to contribute to a proposed 6,000-member force, with support from Asian countries like Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia. After the raid on the UNAMET compound Friday night, a furious U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that if Indonesian leaders did not end the violence, they could be held responsible for crimes against humanity. Even Washington, which had earlier backed away from direct intervention, turned up the rhetoric. "The Indonesian government and military must reverse this course, do everything possible to stop the violence and allow an international force to make possible the restoration of security," U.S. President Bill Clinton declared. Yet all sides understand that any military intervention that lacks Jakarta's approval would amount to an invasion of the world's fourth-most populous country.

International leaders were thus reduced to suspending arms sales to Indonesia and threatening economic repercussions if Jakarta did not bring the militias to heel. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have both warned that billions in loans and aid money would be jeopardized by continued unrest. "There is no way we will go ahead with any of this under the present circumstances," says a senior IMF official. Yet such sanctions are an impossibly blunt instrument--one that could derail the fragile Indonesian recovery and punish the country's poor far more than the generals in Jakarta. Habibie was quick to seize on that fear, warning that such action could also destabilize Indonesia's equally delicate transition to democracy.

With the international community thus boxed in, Jakarta has cleared itself room for defiance. On Saturday, General Wiranto, leader of Indonesia's armed forces, told a high-level U.N. Security Council delegation that the accelerated deployment of peacekeeping troops was now an option. But he still claimed that reinforcements sent to the region--a new commander plus an additional 6,000 troops to join the 15,000 already in East Timor--only need time in order to reassert central authority. Civilian leaders warn that disrupting that process would dangerously upset an already angry and humiliated military. "Indonesia will never accept any unilateral action from Australia," says Habibie foreign policy adviser Dewi Fortuna Anwar. "Get real. That would really wake up the dragon." Most Indonesians may have paid scant attention to East Timor in the run-up to the referendum. But the issue has since become critical to their self-image. Junus Effendi Habibie, brother of the President and a former Indonesian ambassador to Britain, voices the challenge many now feel: "The honor of the Indonesian people is at stake. If we cannot keep the peace in our own house, who are we?"

Ironically, those who unleashed the bloodbath in East Timor no doubt meant to defend that honor. Indonesian national identity is a precarious thing, forged across lines of ethnicity, language and religion. The battering of East Timor could be seen as punishment for challenging that fraught construct. Yet precisely because of that unchecked violence, the country could well lose both the territory and its good name.

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COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

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COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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