Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Holland's Black Page in History: Dutch Police Action in Indonesia

"I didn't shoot them, but I tortured them and I beat them up. I put them in the sun till they fell down. I was never told to do it - you just grow into it. Isn't it terrible? They didn't tell me to torture people, that was my own doing. I wanted to do my job well."

RADIO NETHERLANDS, in a program first broadcast in 2005 - 60 years on: the Dutch 'police action' in Indonesia - tells the stories of four former soldiers who tortured and killed Indonesian prisoners in the war of decolonisation, after Indonesia declared its independence in 1947. All the years since, they remember how they had to live in silence and shame with the secrets. They call for the Dutch government to accept some measure of responsibility for what they say they were ordered to do. Click here to read the story - and listen!!. There are two links to listen - one at the top of the page (shorter program on Quicktime) and another mid-way down (longer -Real Audio).

COMMENT: My father traveled frequently by ship to the Dutch East Indies in the 1930s as a youthful merchant marine cadet. I always asked him what it was like living in Indonesia. He didn't talk much about his experiences there, except to say that the colonisation of the Indies was not a proud moment for his country. The 400 years of occupation were full of brutality, cruelty and stupidity, he told me. Although my father didn't return to the Indies after WW II, he told me that most of the vets from the 1947-49 police actions maintained that they were sent there to liberate their land from the Japanese and also from the republican army, and that they won it. To the world, World War II was the yardstick of Dutch bravery (small country fighting Nazism). When one thinks of war crimes, the German atrocities immediately come to mind, but the Dutch have never admitted what they did in the Indies was a war crime.

There had been a silence about the Dutch in Indonesia, until the vets began confessing publicly that the mission was wrong and acknowledging the victims of the police actions. Listening to these men, it is unclear to me that telling these stories heals. Does the truth set you free? American and British soldiers can learn lessons from these stories, howver. They are doing in Iraq exactly what the Dutch forces did in Indonesia. Will it take 60 years of soul searching for Americans to confess about the war crimes they have done in Iraq?

1 comment:

  1. people like you are not only blind but stupid. indonesia was far better off with sukarno or suharto...they killed no one right....give me a break. The vets I talked to by far said they were there for the right reasons. What about the thousands of dutch civilians killed by the so called freedom fighters who were just released from japanese POW camps. The Dutch OVWers went to bring order and freedom and no doubt there was some heavy handed tactics done weather ordered or not..thats war....but don't loosely make such claims about the men that fought there till you hear from all. war is not good but the brutality that the indonesians suffered with after their so called freedom was much worse. Im sure that the Iraq people would much rather have saddam back than the future that have the choice of having now right. He was a loving leader as much as the last two DICTATORes of Indonesia were.


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