Dictator Of the Month – Suharto

January 27, 2008

Suharto is dead. Just in time to make January’s bumper issue of (what we hope will be an ongoing series of special articles, here on Idea Fix) Dictator of the Month.

Yes, former Indonesian strong man Suharto has passed onto that great big Presidential Palace in the sky. Here’s a little profile helped along by The Associated Press with our own wee jokey shenanigans (in brackets and elsewhere):

Suharto was born in 1921 in obscure circumstances (possibly a little bastard). He rose up the ranks of the Indonesian military and survived accusations of corruption that put him in the dog house for a while in the 50’s. Those magic words “Absolute Power” came to him in September 1965 when the army’s six top generals were murdered under mysterious circumstances, and their bodies dumped in an abandoned well in an apparent coup attempt (Wasn’t me!). Our main man in da hood Suharto, next in line for command, quickly asserted authority over the armed forces and promoted himself to four-star general (naturally, as you do).

Suharto then oversaw a nationwide purge of suspected communists (good on him!) and trade unionists, a campaign that stood as the region’s bloodiest event (he went a little too far perhaps?) since World War II until the Khmer Rouge and that naughty Pol Pot established its gruesome regime in Cambodia a decade later (Damn, pipped at the finish). Experts put the number of deaths during the purge in Indonesia at between 500,000 and 1 million (chickenfeed, really… by mad 20th century dictator standards).

During the Cold War, Suharto was considered a reliable friend of Washington (‘Our Man’ in Jakarta), which didn’t oppose his violent occupation of Papua in 1969 and the bloody 1974 invasion of East Timor. The latter, a former Portuguese colony, became Asia’s youngest country with a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite in 1999 (lucky Timor hey, kids?)

Even Suharto’s critics agree his hard-line policies kept a lid on Indonesia’s extremists (double good on him!). He locked up hundreds of suspected Islamic militants without trial (boo hoo), some of whom later carried out deadly suicide bombings (yikes!) with the al-Qaida-linked terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (I ate that Saturday night and it made me feel ill) after the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. (spooky)

Meanwhile, the ruling clique that formed around Suharto — nicknamed the “Berkeley mafia” after their American university, the University of California, Berkeley — transformed Indonesia’s economy and attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment (Greed is good)

By the late 1980s, Suharto was describing himself as Indonesia’s “father of development,” taking credit for slowly reducing the number of abjectly poor and modernizing parts of the nation (see, not all bad…)

Finally toppled by mass street protests in 1998 (boo) , Suharto’s departure opened the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people (Double boo, surely, nothing but a boon for world peace there!)

So that brings us up to date with today, the Bali bombings and other mischief. Suharto…we hardly knew ya. Idea Fix salutes you…have a nice time in Hell.

Link to wiki Profile of Suharto:



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