Mr. Kissinger Goes to Jakarta
The Nobel Peace Prize winner bolted rather than face a few rowdies at UT. But Henry Kissinger can't turn down a trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, particularly when he's running errands for Jim Bob Moffett. On Monday, Kissinger met with new Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, on behalf of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, the New Orleans-based mining giant. Kissinger is paid $250,000 per year to sit on Freeport's board.
Freeport, which had deep business and personal ties to Suharto, the murderous former dictator in Indonesia, continues to defend itself against allegations that it may have paid bribes to Suharto and his cronies. The company is also being scrutinized for human rights and environmental problems at its Grasberg mine in Irian Jaya, which contains the world's richest gold deposit. Members of the Indonesian House of Representatives have been questioning Freeport's mining contract, and are asking that the country renegotiate its terms.
Kissinger, who was complicit in the Suharto regime's bloody 1975 invasion of East Timor, asked the Indonesian president to honor Freeport's contract, warning that if the country didn't honor the contract, other companies would be loathe to invest in Indonesia. According to stories in the Jakarta Post and the South China Morning Post, Wahid agreed, but asked that Freeport give "a special concession" to the tribal people living near the mine.
Then, Wahid cemented the Freeport bond even further when he asked Kissinger to become his special adviser on political and social matters. Kissinger agreed, saying he did so "out of friendship for the Indonesian people." Then, without any apparent trace of irony, he added that he wanted Indonesia to be "strong, unified, and democratic."
Kissinger's entreaties to the president were quickly criticized by the Indonesian Environmental Forum, known as WALHI. Emmy Hafild, the leader of WALHI, told the Indonesian Observer that Freeport's contract is "not legitimate in the eyes of the Indonesian people because it was made by Suharto during a transitional period from the Old Order to the New Order and under a wrong system and mechanism." She also criticized Kissinger, calling his threats about foreign investment "intimidation," and saying it was improper for Kissinger to use his influence as a former U.S. secretary of state to pressure the Indonesian president.
But then again, that's why Moffett has been paying Kissinger big money since 1988: he needs Kissinger's power. According to Walter Isaacson's hefty 1992 biography of Kissinger, Moffett was very clear about the reason he gave Kissinger such a lucrative position on Freeport's board. "Henry can definitely cut the red tape for you," said Moffett. "He always has somebody he can call." For more info, go to http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/boyer/fp