We were all tickled in 2002 when we found out that Bill Clinton would be landing in Baucau for the independence celebrations (the airstrip in Dili was too small for his plane).
But some of us remembered how Mr Clinton did little from 1992-1998 to promote Timorese self-determination – in fact, he literally fled from the question, as Amy Goodman recounts. (Please listen to this fierce question by Allan Nairn to Bill Clinton from May 2002. Clinton: ‘I can’t say that everything we did before 1999 was right.’)
Interesting, now, that in a big December interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, that Clinton cited East Timorese President José Ramos-Horta as “a top three leader” to watch in the world.
I would look at another guy, José Ramos-Horta, the president of the first country in the 21st century, East Timor. Is it too small to be a nation? Can you get too small? Can your courageous fight for independence and freedom lead you to an economic unit that is not going to have a population or a geographic base big enough to take care of your folks?
Bill Clinton can relate to José Ramos-Horta, they are both idealist-realists who see no contradiction in this, and are not ashamed – far from it – to be center stage. They have no problem being Commander in Chief during abuses/excesses and then appearing in public to be above them.
(C. f. Ramos-Horta on the Timor police’s alleged shooting of innocent musician in late December. Compare with Mr Clinton’s answer to Nairn above.)
They both practice(d) an “exceptionalism” and “blank slatism”. In Clinton’s case a “liberal” version of the idea that American democracy is the best political system the world has ever seen and let’s just gloss over the (residual) sins of the Cold War. In Ramos-Horta’s case the notion that the Timorese will be the most magnanimous and forgiving people the world has ever known, with no need for justice for Indonesia’s past crimes. (Nevermind that the same, unrepentant Indonesian police and military continue to terrorize the people of West Papua, who also seek self-determination.)
Bubba + Joey 4eva!