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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: George Bush conspué en Indonésie

by Paul Falzon

Angry Demonstrators jeer at George W. Bush as he Visits Indonesia

Translated Tuesday 5 December 2006, by Patrick Bolland

Diplomacy. The US president’s visit to Indonesia was marked by the mobilization of left-wing parties and by violent Islamic demonstrations.

An entire city turned into an armed camp and thousands of demonstrators shouting slogans expressing their hatred of the United States and their opposition to George Bush.

This was the sight on 19 November in Bogor, near Jakarta, Indonesia. The visit of the American president to the largest Moslem country in the world, with its 220 million inhabitants, was marked by a strong mobilization of left-wing parties, but especially Islamic organizations. The government response was to deploy soldiers and police on a massive scale.

From Sunday on, thousands of demonstrators came together in Bogor, most of them in buses and cars chartered by left-wing parties and Islamic associations. The procession roared slogans, often violent, against the American president and US policy in Iraq and the Middle East. A large banner at the head of the demonstrators declared, as in the Westerns, “WANTED, DEAD OR ALIVE, WAR CRIMINAL, GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY”.

Some of the most radical Islamic organizations had even called on their members to kill the American president. So on 19 November, the security forces occupied Bogor to prevent any serious incidents, especially suicide attacks. Commercial activities and public transport were closed down for the whole day and it was impossible to drive in the city center, cordoned off by the army. To make things even “safer”, the president’s program was reduced to six hours and all traveling around was done by helicopter.

The less explicit agenda George W. Bush’s visit was indeed to improve his image and the image of the USA in countries where Moslems form the majority. Indonesia’s population is 88% Moslem, the great majority of whom are moderates. Moreover, Indonesia is a democracy and a country with economic potential still largely unexploited, as they are quick to point out in US diplomatic circles.

George W. Bush yesterday tried to highlight these elements – democracy and economic potential – and link them, at least indirectly, to his so-called “struggle for democracy” in the Moslem nations of the Middle East. “I admire diversity and pluralism”, calling Indonesia “an example of how democracy and modernization can present an alternative to extremism… I admire your president and his commitment to reform and the strengthening of democracy”, Bush said. He also met carefully-selected leaders of civil society and of religious groups.

Bush was also expected to raise two other bilateral issues with the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: the fight against terrorism, in which Jakarta is proclaiming itself to be a faithful ally of Washington, and the development of commercial relations between the USA and Indonesia. Indonesia is hoping to attract US investors, until now oriented particularly toward China.

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