Thursday, February 14, 2008

When friends fall out

I wanted to post at length about the near-assassination of Jose-Ramos Horta but, since I haven't got time, I've reproduced this photograph, which shows Horta with the man who died trying to kill him this week. It was not taken last year, when Horta met Alfredo Reinado to try to negotiate his surrender, but in 2006, when Horta, Xanana Gusmao and the Australian government were close allies of Reinado.

Along with a few others, including a bloke named John Pilger, I've argued (see here, here, and here, for starters) Horta and his mates in the Howard government used Reinado to co-opt a mutiny by Timorese troops from the west of the country, and turn it into a campaign against Mari Alkatiri's Fretilin government. The mutiny, which had begun because of legitimate complaints about discrimination against Timorese from the west, turned into a fatricidal conflict that set Dili ablaze and divided the police as well as the army along regional lines. After Horta had used the chaos and the resultant Anzac intervention to take power, he had little use for Reinado, and the two soon fell out.

There's a certain bleak irony, then, in this week's assassination attempt. Reinado and his ragtag band of rebels remind me a little of a miniature version of the Filipino group Abu Sayyaf, or even of Osama bin Laden's boys. All three outfits were cultivated by foreign powers because they promised to advance the aims of Western foreign policy, and all three eventually 'went rogue' and bit the hand that fed them.


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