In response to my Taki’s Magazine article on President Obama’s curious Indonesian connections, John Seiler points out California Governor Jerry Brown, who is running next week for his fourth term since the mid-1970s, inherited most of his money from his father Governor Pat Brown’s dubious oil deal with General Suharto’s Indonesian dictatorship.
After he was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1966, Pat didn’t have much money in the bank, so he signed a deal to represent the interests of a huge Indonesian oil firm controlled by the military dictatorship that took over in the mass slaughter of 1965-66. There were some very delicate issues of California’s smog control rules that could freeze Indonesian oil out of the California market or let Indonesian oil in while freezing the new Alaskan oil out. So, Pat Brown got a cut of every barrel imported into the state from Indonesia while his son was governor for eight years.
The generals who ruled Indonesia from 1975-1998 were pretty nasty fellows, but they weren’t much criticized in the U.S. until the dictator Suharto got old and lost some hop off his fastball in the 1990s. In comparison to Ferdinand Marcos, who was widely criticized in the U.S. press even long before a political rival was shot in 1983, the Indonesian government suffered little media acrimony. They were seen as very Third World, anti-colonial. And they were in OPEC, so don’t mess with them.
I can recall Noam Chomsky writing a couple of pieces in the Los Angeles Times around 1975 denouncing Indonesia’s takeover of the collapsing Portuguese empire’s East Timor colony, but Chomsky was pretty alone on this, since it just seemed like anti-colonialism in action. Few in the U.S. cared much about East Timor until much later.