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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Holds Additional Press Conference in Indonesia

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
January 16, 2005

Jakarta, Indonesia

 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  …because I’m going to repeat some things I said earlier but I have a little bit to add. 

 

            Let me just start with the reason we’re here and of course everyone knows the reason we’re here.  Normally I like to say I’m glad to be back in Indonesia, in fact, normally I’d say I’m delighted to be back in Indonesia, but this time the reason for being back is a tragedy and no one, it’s really an indescribable tragedy.  Nothing quite prepares you even though you read about it, and you read one moving story after another, until you encounter it personally.  I actually encountered it personally first in Washington talking with an Acehnese who works in Washington but lost 200 members of his family, almost his entire family except an aunt and uncle in this disaster.  And, though he was extremely lucid and rational, you could tell he was also in a state of shock, understandably.  And I think it’s a whole community that’s in a state of shock.  And when you fly over that devastation you can just barely conceive of what it was like to be caught in the middle of it and what a terrible, terrible end it must have meant for more than 100,000 people, well over 100,000 people.  And what a terrible situation it is for the survivors now. 

 

            I think it, that whole word “survivor” has got a different meaning when your whole village has been wiped out and your whole life was just destroyed in an instant.  And I think all of us feel an enormous desire and obligation to do everything we can to relieve the suffering of the survivors, to try to make sure that people don’t now die of starvation.  I think we are past that point, well past that point, but they don’t die of sickness or disease that’s caused by this.  And we’re in the middle right now of making a careful medical assessment throughout the province and that’s a complicated, difficult task, which is being led right now by the World Health Organization with participation from our military, from the Indonesian government, and from NGOs going zone by zone through four zones in Aceh to try to assess what the real medical situation is. 

 

            We are working with the Indonesian government to look at how we move from the stage of immediate relief to the longer-term challenge of reconstruction.  And the, it’s important from our point of view since the resources that are committed to this task from the U.S. military are resources that have to go somewhere else.  In some cases it’s sailors who have to go home.  I think it might be worth saying that when this disaster struck the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln was in Hong Kong for shore leave heading home to California and Admiral Fargo realized immediately when he heard of the earthquake and the tsunami that we might be needed down here so the sailors were called back to their ship and told they weren’t heading home, they were heading west instead.  And, I must say, the spirit among those sailors and the Marines and airmen, soldiers who were working with them is, they’re very tired but they’re very happy.  They’re very proud and satisfied that they’re helping to relieve human suffering and it’s a, you wish there weren’t human suffering, but at least, I think, it’s a rewarding thing to be able to feel that you can do something about it and these young men and women are doing it.  We have, at one spot along the way yesterday we happened to pass a truck that, full of rice bags, I believe from the World Food Program, and there was a line of sailors from the Lincoln, communicators, clerks, a whole range of people who had other jobs, who were just carrying rice bags in a big, long line to load up the helicopters to go out on another mission.  They’ve flown more than a thousand missions now, delivering food, delivered, a statistic I heard yesterday was more than 2.3 million tons, and I’m sure that, pounds, excuse me, and I’m sure that number has gone up. 

 

            But the big challenge is going to be long-term reconstruction.  And, when we heard reports before we got here about the number of bridges that were down in the road, we began to think about the number of engineers that might be required to start fixing those bridges.  And then when you see the road you see it’s not just the bridges that are down, the whole road is gone and, in many cases, everything around the road is gone.  So there are some big tasks in front of the government of Indonesia to decide what its reconstruction plan will be and what resources are needed for it.  There’s obviously an enormous outpouring of goodwill from around the world of people who want to help. President Bush has pledged $350 million in U.S. government assistance and he asked his father and President Clinton to get together in helping to raise private assistance and American people are asking how can we help and I think there are now about pledged, or contributed another $350 million in private money and more is being raised. And that’s just from the United States.  Many other countries around the world are contributing. So this is a terrible disaster, but it is, the only good thing in it is the response of the world to want to help is proportional to the magnitude of the challenge.

 

            It’s a challenge for a new democratic government in Indonesia and we admire enormously the way in which Indonesia has been developing democratic institutions.  To have two free and fair presidential elections in a row is a real milestone.  But I think also, the mandate that was given to this government by the voters, a mandate to deal with corruption, a mandate to bring effective government, and to focus on the real needs of the people was a very clear mandate and I think it speaks to the maturity of Indonesian voters that you had an election in which real issues were debated and, I think, a real decision came.  This government had enough challenges before the tsunami.  The tsunami is an enormous challenge beyond it and I think we all have an interest in helping this democratic Indonesian government succeed and, one of the first ways to succeed is to make sure that the job of bringing relief and reconstruction to the people of Aceh is done successfully.  And that’s the spirit in which we’re approaching it. 

 

            I’ve had some very good discussions up in Aceh with Indonesian officials, including Minister Alwi Shihab and also with General Sutarto.  And today we met with Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, with Admiral Widodo, the Coordinating Minister for [Political, Legal, and] Security Affairs, and just now we met with Foreign Minister Wirayuda and I think, across the board we found agreement, I believe, that the, we need to focus on the task of helping the people of Aceh and that it’s the Indonesian government that has the main responsibility and the Indonesian government that has to be in the lead.  But that many resources are needed from many different places and we want to work with the Indonesian government to put together a plan so that we know what the American role most usefully can be. 

 

            Be happy to take some questions.

 

            JOURNALIST:  My apology if I ask you in Indonesian. Saya Oki dari Harian Kompas. [I’m Oki, from Kompas daily].

 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  We have a translator for the benefit of our traveling press and for my benefit, because my Indonesian is more than a little rusty. 

 

            JOURNALIST:  (Interpreted from Indonesian.) With regard to the three month time frame, is there any change of perception in the American society in terms of providing aid and assistance for the victims in Aceh? And the second question is, is there also any change of opinion or perception in the Congress and U.S. NGO related to the time frame, as well?  Sorry, related to the military embargo, because we all know that the inability of the Indonesian military to support the victims because of the military embargo.

 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  I think we had useful discussions today about what people mean by time frame, and I think Americans can understand that in terms of targets rather than deadlines, and we have some targets of our own. As I mentioned, the Abraham Lincoln was due home and it needs to get home. On the other hand, we don’t want to walk away from a task that’s not finished.  What we want to try to make sure is, for example, when the Lincoln leaves, that there’s an effective plan in place to continue providing what we’ve been providing now.  I want to say that carefully, because that doesn’t mean providing another thousand helicopter missions.  We’d like to be in a situation where the food and water and other essentials that people need can be delivered by trucks for example. It’s a much more efficient and effective way to do it.  Helicopters were the only way to do it initially, but it’s not a long-term solution. 

 

            So, when we talk about having a plan, it’s a plan so that at each stage along the way, the needs can be met in the most effective way possible, and I believe as much as possible by the Indonesian government, or by Indonesians, and certainly most of the functions that need to be performed here are principally civilian-type functions, but in some cases, and we’ve seen it in the first few weeks, when you need to put a big effort together in a hurry, military organizations are the most effective way to do that.  I must say the scale of this disaster is beyond the capacity of almost any country in the world, and we’re not doing it, I mean the United States is getting help in this effort from a number of countries, we were just up in Utapao in Thailand, and there are nine countries in the planning effort up there, including Indonesia.  So, I don’t think you can—I understand the concerns about the embargo, as you call it, I mean it’s the restrictions on certain kinds of assistance.

 

            What I am glad to say is that I think everybody recognizes that the most important thing right now is to meet the needs of the people of Aceh, and there’s been no controversy whatsoever in my country about the fact that we are now providing spare parts to get Indonesian C-130s flying. I think the number we heard today was, and correct me, it’s only nine out of 24 that were flyable before this, but we already have technicians here in Indonesia working with Indonesian technicians and with new spare parts delivered, to start putting more Indonesian C-130s into operation. And please do report that one of the things I’ve heard is that the Indonesian technicians are very good and that they have a good job in the circumstances of keeping anything flying and they know exactly what’s needed to fix the remaining planes so that’s a good thing. 

 

            I do think that there are some issues that need to be considered in the light of this catastrophe and in the light of what we’re learning not just here, but in contrast for example in Thailand, where we’ve had very good relationships over a very long period of time with the Thai military, and that’s actually made it possible to respond much more quickly in the whole region, and Thailand has suffered badly but not nearly as badly as Indonesia, and they’re in the position to actually to be helping other countries, and giving all of us the use of their facilities in Utapao to support this operation.  I think it’s a great example of why we believe that the more we can cooperate on a peaceful basis with militaries in this region in normal times, increases our capacity to respond to disasters, and I think that’s one of the things that needs to be factored into how we assess the relationship—people use this phrase “military-to-military”, but I was struck meeting today with Minister Juwono Sudarsono who I’ve known for a long time whose come back for a second time as the, I guess so far, only civilian Defense Minister in this country’s history, that we really mean “Defense Department-to-Defense Department” and one of the things I think we’d like to help with is to strengthen the civilian capacity to manage defense and security matters.  It’s not an easy thing, we’ve spent a lot of time in our country over a long period of time, working out those relationships, and I think we can be helpful in developing that important piece of democratic institutions here in Indonesia.

 

            JOURNALIST:  Josh White, with the Washington Post.  Having seen the devastation yourself, what do you feel is the way ahead, especially as far as U.S. involvement, and do you feel like the administration needs to commit more funds to the effort in order to make it possible to recover?

 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  We’re still stuck on whether we need to commit more funds, I’m sorry, but it’s the spirit of the thing is what moves me, and the sense of commitment that you feel sort of if you want to call it right on the front lines with the sailors carrying rice bags, but all the way back home with people asking “How can we help?” and pouring in donations.  At the moment, it’s a little bit like a great big funnel with a little, narrow neck, and the narrow neck is finding the people who need the help in remote areas that you can only at the moment get to by helicopter, find out what they need, because it may not be what people think they need, there are a lot of supplies that have filled up some airplanes that turned out to be absolutely the wrong thing, and then get it to them, and at some point we may find that we’re running out of money.  I think the President’s made it clear that the $350 million that he’s committed as a U.S. government contribution isn’t the limit of what we’re prepared to do if it’s necessary.  I must say there are some other countries in the world that haven’t stepped up to the challenge yet, and I would hope they would as a matter of principle, but if I can use a metaphor, the problem right now is a retail problem, not a wholesale problem. We’ll be doing very well when we get to the point that it’s a shortage of resources.  Right now it’s getting the resources that are in abundance to the people who need them. 

 

            I think another thing that I found powerful and moving was the observation that there’s a lot of hand-labor, I mean this business of unloading rice from trucks, American sailors and Marines are actually quite happy to do it, but you don’t need a highly trained sailor or Marine to unload rice, and the question comes up, well, where are the Acehnese?  And in part, they’re in a state of shock. That’s what General Sutarto told us.  I’ve heard elsewhere that, from someone who visited a refugee camp, and unfortunately, we didn’t get that in our schedule, I would have liked to, that what many of the women were asking for was cooking utensils, something that was sort of essential to their sense of taking care of themselves, and I can only imagine what it’s like to have lost what these people have lost, but it’s important that they not lose their dignity, that they not lose their sense of self-sufficiency and the psychological things are very complex, but I think they need to be attended to going forward.  And that’s a reason why it’s so important to have a plan that looks at the details, instead of just—forgive me for..I don’t mean to be at all dismissive of the big resources, the big resources are needed, but if there’s not attention to how they get delivered at the retail end, there can be a lot of misery that’s unnecessary. 

 

            JOURNALIST:  (Interpreted from Indonesian.) Fifi from SCTV.  This is related to the story about the 300 Aceh children being taken away by a U.S. NGO.  However, it has been cancelled.  The question is, does children protection in Aceh become the U.S. major concern?

 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  Actually, not cancelled, denied, I think, correctly, the Washington Post initially published a story I believe off of a website of this NGO that I believe was ill-informed and sounds like ill-advised kind of fundraising pitch, and I’m glad nothing of that kind has happened and that’s been made clear.  But what’s most important is, with respect to that kind of story, that Indonesia has very clear laws that apply in this kind of case, and obviously anyone who operates here will operate under those laws.  But I think your question is to the really most important thing, which is who is going to take care of children?  Not these children, because it turns out these children, this particular group didn’t exist, but obviously there are a lot of children who’ve lost a parent, many have lost both parents, go back to my friend who lost 200 members of his family.  Imagine if you’re not just an orphan, but suddenly all your uncles and aunts are gone, and your brothers and sisters are gone.  The only thing I know that seems comparable and stories of orphans who survived the genocide in Cambodia who have similarly lost their entire family.  And that’s what these kids are facing.   I don’t know the answer, I think the point is that kind of answer has got to come from people who know the local culture, who know the local options. It’s this little strange story in the Washington Post actually brings home how inappropriate it is for foreigners to rush in thinking that they know how to deal with a complex, psychological and cultural aspects of an issue like that.  But I can’t imagine anything that deserves a higher priority than making sure that kids who have lost their parents are taken care of as well as we possibly can.

 

            JOURNALIST:  Eric Schmitt with the New York Times.  Mr. Secretary, can you expand a little bit more on your response earlier, about how the cooperation between the two countries, and their militaries in particular, could be an opportunity to improve or restore fuller military-to-military relations?

 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  Well, I think partly we’re seeing as the question implied, with the question about the C-130s, that it seems to me that, we all recognize the reason why Congress has put these restrictions, there are some real issues about military reform in Indonesia that I think even the Indonesian military to some extent will acknowledge and certainly Indonesian people understand.  And I think I’m impressed particularly talking to the Defense Minister here, on the importance that this new Indonesian government attaches to military reform.  At the same time, I think you can’t take a single-issue approach to this, or to one issue view, one-dimensional view of the issue. 

 

            Another dimension which has brought home to us, is that having capacity to respond to natural disasters is something that, at least in the early stages, sometimes calls for the kind of organization that military organizations are good at, and there’s, I don’t think anything lost and a great deal to be gained from enabling Indonesia to use its C-130s to deliver relief supplies.  In fact I think encouraging that kind of development can be reinforcement to efforts to deal with reform on the more fundamental issues, if you like.  But the other thing I think, as I pointed out in the Thailand example, everybody loses a great deal when a long period of time goes by with severe limitations on the ability of our military with deeply imbued democratic values with a very strong sense of what it means to be a military and a democracy, very strong sense of what it means to take orders from civilians, when you cut off their contact with a military, whether it be in Pakistan as we did for much too long a time, or here, as we’ve done to a lesser extent but continue, I think it is not supportive of the very goals that these restrictions are meant to achieve.  So I think if we’re interested in military reform here, and, certainly this Indonesian government is, and our government is, I think we need to reconsider a bit where we are at this point in history going forward.

 

            JOURNALIST:  My name is Anjaya, I am from the Jakarta Post.  Mostly the Acehnese people are very thankful to the U.S. military, as well as the Indonesians also, but the, do you think this is a good moment for, I mean a new beginning in the U.S. as well as Indonesia relations, because it’s a good opportunity because they have already been cooperating despite some differences, that is one question.  And then the second one is, right now, the European Union is considering to lowering the tariffs from goods, exports from Indonesia and other countries, because U.S. is also a major destination for goods from these countries, but is any plan from the U.S. administration to lower the tariffs for a certain period of time?  Thank you.

 

            DEPUTY SECRETARY WOLFOWITZ:  Well, on the last question, I’ll get in trouble because its not my business, and our Special Trade Representative will accuse me of conducting trade negotiation I’m not authorized to conduct.  Let me just say I think the spirit of what the Europeans are talking about is a good thing, and that doing things that enable Indonesia’s economy to get going, to enable Indonesia to reduce unemployment here makes a lot of sense and I think it can make us all better off and I can’t comment on the specifics, but I’m pleased if you’re reporting accurately that the Europeans are thinking about that.  On the first part, I think, it’s completely understandable I think, for people to want to leap ahead and say, well, what other things might come from this?  But I think it’s a mistake, I think we need to focus on how we get the job done and how we take care of the people in their immediate needs and how we get a reconstruction plan going forward that everybody can point to with pride.  Because I think if you have that kind of accomplishment and you can say proudly, “We did it”, and “we” as the whole international community but with Indonesia in the lead, then a lot of good things can happen.  But if you fail, it can have the opposite effect.  So I’m encouraging everybody on our team to keep their eye on the ball, and if we’re successful in fulfilling our humanitarian obligations, then we can think beyond it, but let’s not mess things up because we’re worrying about other problems prematurely. 

 

            Thank you very much.

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