Seven days from now, on May 20, 2002, the tiny half-island of East Timor will achieve its independence and become a new nation. It’s a rare moment in history made all the more extraordinary by the incredible suffering of the East Timorese over the last 27 years. When I first traveled to East Timor 12 years ago in 1990, East Timor was one of the most repressive places on earth, occupied at that time for fifteen years by the brutal Indonesian military and supported by the silence of the media, and US guns, money and political clout. When I returned in 1991, journalist Allan Nairn and I witnessed Indonesian troops using their US M16s to slaughter hundreds of Timorese in a commemoration procession to the Santa Cruz cemetery. The Santa Cruz massacre galvanized an international movement to support independence for East Timor and hardened the determination of a new generation of Timorese activists to challenge the Indonesian occupation.moreless
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