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From East Timor to the WTO-The Force Behind the Invisible Hand, Part 3

(From East Timor to the WTO . . . p.3)

Today 400,000 people are still unaccounted for (missing, kidnapped, buried in hidden mass graves, dumped into the ocean?) in East Timor. Over 200,000 East Timorese are in West Timor, trapped in refugee camps controlled by the militias, terrorized and daily subjected to kidnappings, rapes and executions.

Globalization for Whom? Meanwhile, in our neck of the woods, the Clinton Administration is eagerly pushing towards rebuilding its cordial relationship with the criminals responsible for the wholesale destruction and slaughter in East Timor. U.S. foreign policy requires getting back to business as usual (of all the US presidential administrations since the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, Clinton’s administration has sold the most weapons to Indonesia).

Clinton was in a hurry throughout the fall of ’99 because, at the end of November, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Third Ministerial meeting was scheduled to be held in Seattle and he didn’t want any of these pesky human rights issues to interfere with fully expanding ‘free’ trade to emerging markets, particularly Indonesia.

Clinton knows that investors prefer order to democracy, as the decades of engagement with Indonesia’s corrupt Suharto regime demonstrate. Ethical questions of human rights, sovereignty, justice and equity seem always to go unaddressed in the WTO and other “globalization” institutions (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, etc.). Why is it that, when it comes to globalization, the questions always come down to who has the cheapest labor force and largest natural resources with the lowest environmental standards? Why does globalization require that these values be enforced by autocratic regimes and cozy alliances between foreign military establishments and our own military-industrial complex?

What Clinton and other “leaders” have to come to grips with is the fact that there is a popular movement emerging worldwide to redefine the global corporate economy to include concerns about human rights, workers’ rights and environmental protections. East Timor is a test of these higher values when it comes to doing business with Indonesia.

Taking It Personally Corruption and violence are terrible wherever they occur. What has happened in East Timor has affected me on many levels, starting with my own family. The neighborhood in the capital, Dili, in which Tomas lived was ransacked and demolished. My family spent long weeks anguishing over the fate of Tomas. Fortunately, we recently found out he is alive in Dili. Though gratified that he escaped with his life, our capacity to help is limited, given the enormity of the devastation wrought by the Indonesian reaction.

But my sense of outrage and commitment extends beyond the concerns of my own family. We, all of us, must make a commitment to our world. It is crucial for our humanity that we stand for a "Community Interest" that extends beyond what we define as our own "Self-Interest." In my case, what started out as a cool student exchange experience in high school has grown into a passion to live in a just world. Becasue I have experience in the country of Indonesia and speak the language, I have chosen to work on the issues arising out of the Indonesian and American relationship. That choice is deeply affecting my life, all to the good.

My question to you is, what choices are you making on behalf of the "Community Interest?"

Agatha Schmaedick was born and raised in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She was the last child of three in a multi-cultural family, her mother a Dutch high school teacher of French, her father American, and her stepfather Swiss-American. Agatha is now a student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, studying International Studies and Environmental Science. She plans to return to East Timor this coming summer, after finishing her BA, to help with reconstruction and crisis relief. Agatha volunteers at the Survival Center & Human Rights Alliance and the University of Oregon.

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