Bloody Hands Full of Gold: Henry Kissinger and the Freeport-McMoRan Mine
Part I: The Corporate Assault on Indonesia- A Crime against Humanity
By Cheryl Seal
It has become the joke of the day that the Bush Administration is stuffed full of "political dinosaurs" from the Cold War era who want to rattle their sabers and make one last stand like geriatric John Wayne's. They are everywhere, both in front of the curtain - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, et al. - and behind it - Bush, Sr., James Baker, Henry Kissinger, and God only knows who else. However, what these men truly represent is no joke at all. Behind the smokescreen of patriotism, national security and ideology they are driven by just one motive: greed. Every single one of these players is a politician simply as an expediency (power can buy more power). First and foremost, they are corporate tycoons whose primary goal is to advance the cause of corporations. Each one is worth millions and each one is now in a position to engineer policies that will insure they will ultimately be worth millions more.
These policies are now in the process of being pushed forward, and have so far being met with an astonishing lack of resistance. This may be because many Americans, including some Congresspeople, are too young to recall the true nature of the Cold War era. It may also be that some have simply failed to make themselves sufficiently informed on the nation's political history. It is impossible to believe that anyone armed with the facts would fail to see the ugly template that is now being forced down over the face of the nation.
The following two-part series presents a chunk of political history that we hope will serve as a cautionary tale. It clearly exemplifies what the "political dinosaurs" now in charge of our nation are all about, how they operated in the past, and how they still hope to operate. The main figure, Henry Kissinger, personifies to a T the snake-like combination of unscrupulousness and superficial charm that characterizes all of these players, from Bush, Sr. to G.W. The setting, Indonesia, personifies all areas of Earth where any natural resources may be left for a greedy few to exploit in the name of "patriotism" and "national security," be it Africa, the Amazon, Ukraine, or northern Alaska
An Opportunist's Dream Come True
Indonesia has long been a dream come true for opportunists (until this century they were called "explorers"). With its 17,000 islands sprinkled across the equator in the South Pacific atop a zone of tectonic upheaval, it is a land of incredible biodiversity and dramatic landscapes. Among its main islands are Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Timor (East and West), and Bali (of "South Pacific" fame). Its forests and mountains are treasure chests of exotic plants and animals, while its human population is just as diverse - as recently as the 1980s, an estimated 250 different languages were spoken here.
The first westerners to exploit the region were the Portuguese (although the Dutch had a smaller settlement earlier). In the 17th century, the Portuguese began to "mine" the forests for spices while dominating the natives with a heavy hand. These fragrant exports earned the region the name of "the Spice Islands." Since then, this land, whose native inhabitants in some regions have lineages extending back as much as one million years, has been the focus of a greedy tug-of-war between different foreign powers and between these powers and the Indonesian native peoples. No Indonesian resources have been at the center of more collective strife, bloodshed, and environmental damage than oil and natural gas - unless it is gold.
After World War II, Indonesia made a determined stand for its autonomy. By 1950, they had thrown off domination by the Japanese (who had commandeered the oil and liquid natural gas supplies during the war), then pushed away the control of the British and Indian armies, and, finally, the Dutch. The new Indonesian leader Sukarno (not to be confused with the later brutal dictator Suharto) eventually became the country's first president. Sukarno was a visionary who pursued an ideal he called "Pancasilo," a state of Indonesian unity in which ethnic and religious tolerance would prevail. It was a dream that was doomed to failure; halfway round the globe, forces were massing that would ultimately topple Sukarno and his government.
In the United States, after World War II, the age of the automobile had dawned. Americans in geometrically growing numbers were heading off to "See the U.S.A in their Chevrolets" - great big gas-guzzling Chevrolets. They came home from their cruises to modern oil-heated homes in proliferating suburbs. 'Existing U.S. sources, already heavily exploited, soon couldn't match the demand for abundant, cheap fuel and so the oil companies looked elsewhere -- to places such as Indonesia. At the same time, oil-rich Southeast Asia was struggling for autonomy, urged on by the growing Asian communist party, which wanted to distribute Asian wealth more evenly and shake off western control. For western oil and mineral companies, an independent Asia was a major impediment to the exploitation of Indonesia's resources. To address this "impediment," as early as 1953, the U.S. National Security Council had adopted a policy of "appropriate action in collaboration with friendly countries to prevent permanent communist control of Indonesia." However, the only real threat to the U.S. that communism in Southeast Asia posed then was as a hindrance to corporations hoping to tap into cheap labor, land, and natural resources.
The history of Indonesia from 1957 on is the history of the struggle of corporations, aided and abetted by the CIA and the corrupt puppet governments they helped to set up, to maintain control over Indonesia's resources. In 1957, the Indonesian state company Pertamina was created under Sukarno for the purpose of developing and controlling oil and natural gas for the advancement of Indonesia. This development was viewed with alarm by U.S. petroleum companies, who themselves wanted control over the country's oil and gas resources. Until the mid-1960s, most of Pertamina's business partners were Chinese, not American.
In 1958, the CIA began to secretly finance, as well as create, political factions aligned against Sukarno. The agency also funneled money to a handful of corrupt, ambitious generals. Thus "fed," these generals quickly began to grow in power and influence, both in the government and in business wheelings and dealings. Meanwhile, Sukarno was in the midst of his "Guided Democracy Movement." Although he himself identified most closely with the communist group called the PKI, there were at that time three important political parties in Indonesia - the PKI, the nationalistic PNI and the conservative Muslims. This represented a greater diversity of democracy than could be found in America at that time.
By 1964, Sukarno had grown completely disgusted by American efforts to buy influence in Indonesia and announced that he would no longer accept any aid from the U.S. That was when the CIA, now operating chiefly through the ambitious, greedy general Suharto began to push forward with a relentless, carefully orchestrated plan to topple Sukarno.
The Corporate Takeover of Indonesia
In the U.S. a Harvard professor named Henry Kissinger was steadily scooping up experience in international affairs and high-level corporate wheeling and dealing - a combination that was to later prove deadly for the people of Indonesia. From 1954 to 1969, Kissinger had his fingers in a number of juicy pies. From 1954 until 1971 he was a professor at Harvard University - though it is hard to see how he found time to teach - and was in the college's Department of Government and its Center for International Affairs From 1955-56, he served as Study Director of Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, for the Council of Foreign Relations. From 1956-58 he was Director of the Special Studies Project for the Rockefeller Brothers and was also Director of the Harvard Defense Studies Program from 1958 to 1971.
By the time Kissinger embarked on his career as a master "diplomat" (i.e. corporate intriguer), Kissinger was extremely well versed in espionage tactics. From 1943 (the year he came to the U.S. from Nazi Germany) to 1946, he served in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps and from 1946 to 1949 was a Captain in the Military Intelligence Reserve. After the war, he was Director of the Psychological Strategy Board and of the Operations Research Office. In the late 1950s, his influence in Washington really began to send out tentacles. Between 1959-68, Kissinger was, at different or overlapping times, a consultant to: the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Department of State, the Rand Corporation, the National Security Council, and the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Through this spider's web of connections, Kissinger was privy to a bonanza of inside international information, both political and corporate and was fast becoming especially well groomed in those pertaining to Southeast Asia. By 1965, it is obvious Kissinger was using this information to speculate for personal gain in Indonesia. It is also obvious that by 1965 many top corporate execs in the U.S. mining, logging, oil, and gas industries who had staked out potential claims in Indonesia, somehow knew that Sukarno was going to be muscled out and were circling like sharks.
In 1965, Freeport Sulfur, a company based in New Orleans, cut a private deal with the Indonesian government, through Suharto (who by now had immense power in the government) to create a copper-gold mine in West Papua. Who was the deal broker, making sure Freeport got in on the "ground floor?" There is little doubt this middle man was Henry Kissinger. At the same time, Mobile Oil Indonesia was also entering into contracts with Pertamina. It has been alleged that Kissinger also served as a deal broker in this alliance. Over a dozen other oil companies were waiting for their chance to pounce. All that was needed to complete the scheme was to get rid of Sukarno.
To engineer a coup, the CIA took a page from Hitler and the 1950s GOP and turned the PKI into the "monster under the bed." The agency composed and printed lurid, and largely false propaganda about the communist "menace" and disseminated it throughout Indonesia. Some of the literature called for all Muslims to declare a religious Jihad against the PKI - even asserting that it was "God's will" that all communists be killed. The coup engineers targeted young Muslim men 19-20 years of age, whom they whipped into a fear-filled, religious frenzy, then armed with weapons supplied by the U.S.
What was most despicable about this plot was that until the party began to be persecuted in 1965, the PKI had maintained a strict policy of remaining within the law, conducting only legal protests and remaining unarmed, so as not to provoke the Indonesian military. The "crime" the PKI had committed in the eyes of corrupt generals and their western landowning allies was to urge poor peasants to demand more rights and more just compensation from wealthy landowners. The PKI also demanded that the big landowners cease violating the ancient Indonesian rules of crop sharing. The peasants' land was being used to grow sugar and rubber - not the rice that was vital to the survival of the poor. In some areas, the PKI created "armies" of farmers, who took over tracts of land and planted rice. Many of these farmers had been left without any access to land at all due to the eruption of the Ganungagung volcano.
In 1966, having set the stage by spreading suspicion, anger and fear against the communists, the CIA and Suharto went into the next act of what was to become known as the Untung Coup. Six generals still considered loyal to Sukarno were brutally murdered by Suharto and his cohorts. The communists were then framed for the crime, thereby providing Suharto with the excuse he needed to unleash a wholesale "purge" of the PKI. Hitler did much the same thing in Germany in the 1930s - he framed a young Dutch man who belonged to the communist party for blowing up the Reichstag, and thus was able to declare outright war on all communists - the only faction in Germany that had posed a serious roadblock to his complete domination.
The largely unarmed PKI members were hunted down and slaughtered in one of the most appalling bloodbaths of the 20th century. The poor farmers who had taken a few acres of land were shot down by landowners like turkeys in a shoot. Entire families in which a single member was suspected of being a communist were murdered, including children, some while they slept. Between 1965-1966 an estimated 500,000 to one million men, women, and children were massacred - most with weapons supplied by the U.S. "Time" magazine reported during this period that "travelers from [some] areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies." However, "Time," like all media in the U.S. in that pre-Vietnam War era (the U.S. presence in Vietnam was still a "police action" then) was still well-indoctrinated by the anti-communist, pro-corporate dogma created by the GOP in the 1950s and sustained by the CIA and a cluster of powerful insiders through the decades ever since. In the July 15, 1966 issue of "Time," the bloody Untung Coup was hailed as "the West's best news in years."
In the final step of the coup, Suharto deposed Sukarno. What followed was a feeding frenzy by Suharto, his henchmen and U.S. corporations. Like a warlord, Suharto appropriated the best of everything he could for himself and his family - oil wells, timberlands, and sugar plantations. Thousands of acres of land were seized by companies with the blessings of Suharto. Tens of thousands of native people were killed, displaced, or "disappeared" to make way for mining, logging, and drilling operations. Suharto and the other corrupt officers of the Indonesian military were involved in every imaginable money-generating scheme, including smuggling - "a range of activities limited only by the imaginations of the military commanders." In 1966, Suharto declared himself committed to aiding the West in its exploitation of Indonesia. In 1967, the "Foreign Investment Law" was passed, which officially threw Indonesia's doors wide open to foreign exploitation. In 1967, guess what western company was the first to be licensed under this new, corrupt and bloodstained regime: The Freeport gold operation.
A Feudal Regime Where Enough is Never Enough
While the U.S. companies ripped billions of dollars out of the Indonesian landscape, over 60% of the nation lived below the poverty line, many at the point of starvation. Yet, the Suharto government would always point to a handful of new schools as proof of his compassion for his country. Even today, in 2001, Freeport-McMoRan offers a slick propaganda brochure that shows scrubbed natives in front of a single school, and describes a smorgasbord of corporate largesse, which doesn't really exist. The few crusts thrown to the Indonesian natives by Freeport have been in spite of the company; most real advances in the treatment of natives has occurred between 1999-2001 and then only because of the growing public outcry.
As always, when it comes to corporate greed, enough is never enough. By
1974, the U.S. had lost Vietnam and, under Suharto's rule, there were constant outbreaks of rebellion in Indonesia. Nowhere was the push for independence more well-organized and persistent than in East Timor. The progressive governor there decided to allow the formation of multiple political parties, which in turn lead to an intensified push for independence from the oppression of Suharto and from foreign interests. The prospect of East Timorese autonomy dismayed Suharto because he and his friends had very valuable holdings in the region, including three oil wells. If the push for independence succeeded, he might lose his "investments" (or should we say seizures). Worse yet, the push for independence could easily spread into nearby West Papua, threatening Suharto's other interests and Kissinger's gold mine (in which Suharto had a hefty share)!
Evidence examined recently by researchers, including investigative reporter Christopher Hitchens strongly indicates that in 1975, Kissinger helped to orchestrate a surprise invasion of East Timor by the Indonesian military. Beyond any likely coincidence, Kissinger and Gerald Ford were visiting Suharto on December 6, 1975, the night before the invasion (although Ford may have been Kissinger's dupe, used as a legitimizing "front" - or even fall guy). The next day, just an hour or so after Air Force One had cleared Indonesian air space, carrying Kissinger and Ford back to the U.S., the attack on East Timor was launched and the region was soon declared Indonesia's 27th province. In the process, over 200,000 East Timorese people were slaughtered outright; tens of thousands more died of starvation and disease later.
For the next two decades, for the oil and mining industries in Indonesia, and for Henry Kissinger, it was to be business as usual.
PART TWO: The Rape and Murder of Irian Jaya
Henry Kissinger has one sweet deal in the Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold Co (FCX on the NYSE). Not only does he make well over $500,000 a year just for sitting on the board of directors, his "consulting" firm, Kissinger & Associates (Now McLarty & Kissinger - McLarty was President Clinton's chief of staff) rakes in $300,000 - 500,000 per year as the company advisors, making sure no pesky environmental regulations can ever be enforced and no poor native group can ever win a settlement for having their land poisoned. But best of all for him, he is also the majority stockholder in a company with reserves estimated at $60 billion, making it the single largest gold deposit in the world and third largest open-pit copper mine. That is, he was the majority stockholder as of a few months ago - he may now be unloading certain damning assets as fast as he can dump them in the face of the growing international scrutiny by a list of countries he has harmed in the past 40 years. To also throw the public off the scent, in January 2001, he named Roy J. Stapleton, a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore as "managing director" (i.e. head lobbyist) of Kissinger & Associates. This accomplished two strategic things for Kissinger - it got his name off the "masthead" as legal rep. For FCX, and it will help carry on his own tradition of using inside government information to insure he gains an unfair advantage as a lobbyist
Yep, Kissinger's got a pretty good deal all right. Especially when you consider that FCX has never had to pay much of anything to anybody but a handful of stakeholders, which includes Kissinger, good ole boy Jim-Bob Moffett (who came on board as CEO in 1981) and their golf-playing pal Suharto (although I imagine his grip on the club might be a bit slippery, what with all that blood on them from the over one million men, women and children he has been responsible for slaughtering. If you want to get a feeling for just what sort of person "Jim-Bob" is, check out http://www.igc.apc.org/trac/feature/freeport/freeport.html - but take your air sickness bag along. Under Suharto's odious Contract of Work, slapped together in 1967, Suharto handed 100,000 hectares of land in the southern area of West Papua, also called Irian Jaya, to FCX for its gold mine. Neither FCX nor Suharto cared that this was not their land to carve up, but belonged to the Amaungme and Komoro people, whose lineages go back as much as one million years, according to some anthropologists. The corporation simply seized the land and booted off the natives. An estimated 2,000 people were shoved into concentration camp-like "settlements" over the next few years so their land could be turned into a giant gold mine, waste pits, processing buildings, airfields, roads, etc. (In FCX's website, they claim no more than 1,000 people lived in the mine region at the start, but the statistics indicate this is a minimizing lie).
As the years went by, FCX gobbled up more and more forestland. Today, the operation consumes a monstrous 5.75 million acres. Instead of a few thousand natives scattered throughout the forest, able to sustain themselves off their land, FCX actually boasts in its website that Irian Jaya is now "home" to 100,000 people from all over the Indonesian region. It doesn't add that most of them were displaced by other corporate or military operations or that they now live in congested, filthy shantytowns on the edge of the mining operation. The website says these people were drawn by the economic opportunity offered by the mine. What economic opportunity? There are only 7,000 or so jobs associated with the mining operation; most of which are filled by imported workers. The few jobs held by natives are unskilled.
But any protests by native peoples against the FCX "improvements" to Irian Jaya have been handled brutally. Thanks to Suharto and the steady supply of US weapons, FCX has been well-protected from uprisings. In fact, Irian Jaya is the most militarized zone in all of Indonesia - with a greater, more heavily armed military presence than even East Timor. There have been numerous human rights reports of atrocities by FCX's "security forces." Natives have been shot along the road as if they were objects for target practice, pulled off buses and murdered, others have been tortured, some have had their villages torched, yet others report being held kidnapped and held prisoner in FCX packing crates. In one particularly horrendous instance, when natives blew up a slurry pipe carrying contaminated mine wastes, the military retaliated and slaughtered an estimated 900 people.
There is no doubt at all that Kissinger is completely aware of these atrocities. But then, according to a growing body of evidence, he was also aware of the atrocities in Chile, Cambodia, Argentina, and elsewhere - not only aware but, in some cases, was actively involved in helping to orchestrate them. In any case, there is no doubt he has been fully aware of the routine, environmentally devastating practices going on at the mine.
Freeport-McMoran, which derives its name from its relationship with Rio Tinto, a British/Australian mining conglomerate that owns a 12% share in the operation, is outrageously wasteful by American standards (which themselves leave something to be desired). For every 300,000 tons of ore, only 0.42 parts per million in gold is extracted. This means that to get at the tiny fraction of gold, the mountain must, literally, be chewed to pieces. By 1996, nearly 400 feet had been ripped off the top of Puncuk Jaya Mountain - a mountain that was not only sacred to local natives, but also the highest peak between the Andes and the Himalayas.
Today, the rubble from FCX's vast giant Grasberg Mine is dumped into two neighboring valleys. In the next few decades, the company expects to blast and bulldoze THREE BILLION TONS of rock, which will form vast mounds of dangerous, slide-prone rubble. Although it is illegal to dump tailings- slurry of crushed ore, water, cyanide, arsenic, and other toxic chemicals used in ore processing - into American rivers, in Indonesia it is a routine practice. That's because Kissinger and Jim-Bob are calling all the shots - they share equal billing at the FCX website, each being both CEO and chairman of the board of directors. Every week, millions of tons of tailings are dumped into the Ajkwa River.
The accumulated waste has blocked and flooded the river several times, contaminating (cumulatively) over 100 square kilometers of once productive land. The contamination is, for all intents and purposes (as it may take hundreds of years to abate naturally) permanent. A recent study of abandoned gold and copper mines in the American west shows that land flooded by water laced by tailings is still contaminated decades after the end of mining operations. Some patches have become wastelands, while waters in some areas downstream of the origin of contamination are still barren. The toxics accumulate in tissues of animals, so the contamination level of fish and birds can gradually climb instead of abate.
The Freeport-McMoran operation has now thoroughly contaminated the region's watershed, an area that is home to the Lorentz Reserve, a region rich in wetlands that contains one of just three equatorial glacier zones left on Earth. As far as 80 miles downstream from the mine, villagers have had to be relocated because of the danger that the dam holding back the huge, noxious lake of tailings might break. Some people have refused to leave. Said one elderly native: "God gave this land. I will not be moved from it. If I go, what is there for my children?"
The water in the Ajkwa river, which is the lifeblood of Irian Jaya, is now unfit to drink along much of its length. Native people, especially the elderly, who do not understand why they can no longer drink the water or eat the fish from their father's and father's father's river, stubbornly persist. As a result, many have been poisoned and many have died from what the Indonesian medical personnel now call "mystery diseases." Much like Gulf War Syndrome (which is believe to be caused by a mix of toxic chemicals), natives with "mystery diseases" develop strange skin lesions and rashes, chronic nausea, and may cough up blood. The natives have said that the sweet potatoes and taro they traditionally eat now have ominous discolorations, while the skin of the wild pigs that serve as meat appears diseased. To avoid being poisoned, natives must travel sometimes many miles to commercial markets and purchase food they once hunted and gathered for free, thus fueling their poverty even more.
Perhaps the harshest plight of all is that of the "relocated." These once free, proud people of the forest are forced to live in squalid, crowded shantytown settlements - little better than concentration camps. There, they are plagued by high rates of malaria, cholera, tetanus, sexually-transmitted diseases, and malnutrition. Infant mortality is high - one in five infants do not survive - while the average life expectancy of adults is about 50 years (FCX's "brochure" touts an increase in life expectancy in recent years, but, tellingly, fails to mention just what it is). Yet, West Papua's central highlands have just ONE 70-bed hospital to serve 400,000 people. Despite the health risks posed by poverty coupled with a toxic environment, the Amaungme and Komaro people who chose to remain in their forest land near the mine have no access to any government medical care.
At the FCX website, there is a very long (too long - methinks they doth protest too much) section on how great things are going for the natives, how wonderful the environmental standards of the company are, how much the company has done for the natives. However, you will also notice that the "good example" being held up is not Freeport-McMoRan, but the Indonesian government's smaller operation called Freeport-PI. But even the Freeport-PI accomplishments are somewhat pitiful. For example, we are supposed to be impressed that a whole $166 million was spent over an 11-year period on at least 100,000 people? That's less than $200 per year per person. Meanwhile, Jim-Bob and HK probably hauled home at least $166 million between them from FCX during the same time!
The standard of life for the natives has little hope of improving. Freeport-McMoran's labor practices systematically exclude natives, despite what their rosy little brochure would have you believe. Of over 17,000 workers (in 2000), just 100 or so were local natives, who were paid 70 cents per hour. FCX claims that as of 2001, just over 1,500 jobs are now held by natives - however, it doesn't specify if those are local natives or just natives of Indonesia (i.e., workers imported from urban centers like Jakarta). The 1% fund the company set up for local natives has caused more problems and conflicts than it has helped - intentionally, say some human rights observers. Those overseeing the distribution of the funds are often corrupt; little of the money actually ever reaches those it was intended to help, and payments from FCX have been called arbitrary at best.
FCX's approach to environmental outrages has consisted of liberal coats of whitewash. For example, FCX tried to make a $248,000 grant to HAMAK (Foundation for Human Rights Anti-Violence), an organization directed by Ms. Josepha Alomung, an activist who won the Goldman environmental prize in 2001. But Alomung was angered by the grant and refused to accept it. First of all, she had never applied for the grant, so it was obvious that FCX was trying to grab some "gain by association" it did not deserve through deceitful means. But even more glaringly, Alomung said she would never accept cash from an outfit whose activities ran so completely counter to her principles. Yet, in their website, FCX boasts that Ms. Alomung has been written them a letter of appreciation!
To date, FCX has never spent a dime on cleaning up the past devastation wrought by the mine - which is the equivalent in its extent of several of the largest "superfund sites" in the U.S. The local people receive what amounts to $300 a piece per year compensation from profits - a gesture even more pitiful than Bush's $300 per head tax rebate. Meanwhile good ole boy turned gold baron Jim Bob Moffett once scoffed at the idea that the monster mine was poisoning the river - dumping tailings into the Ajkwa's waters was no big deal said Jim-Bob: "It's the equivalent of me pissing in the Arafua Sea." But Jim Bob's pampered, self-aggrandizing view of reality, spouted from the comfort of his stateside mansion, isn't worth the breath to say it.
The evidence of Freeport-McMoran's gross environmental negligence and human rights abuses had grown so overwhelming by the mid-1990s, that the Overseas Private Investment Corps. (OPIC) canceled the company's $100 million insurance policy in 1995, citing severe environmental problems. According to the OPIC report, FCX had "created and continues to pose unreasonable or major environmental, health, or safety hazards to the rivers that are being impacted by the tailings, the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem, and the local inhabitants." But like all classic robber barons, Kissinger and Jim-Bob went on a vicious offensive to protect their ill-gotten gains. Immediately following the cancellation announcement, FCX brought out its big guns: money. Millions and millions of dollars were spent buying up magazine ads, TV time, and on strategic charitable donations. In short, they poured money into everything EXCEPT righting their wrongs. The company bought an entire half hour infomercial, which aired in Austin and New Orleans. In an incredible slap in the public's face, the Public Broadcasting System station WLAE-TV in Texas aired the slot as an "educational special" at NO CHARGE! Warm-fuzzy full-page ads ran in "Newsweek" and "U.S. News & World Report."
When journalists started writing articles or airing stories critical of Freeport-McMoran, it simply bought most of them off (a black eye to the field of honest environmental journalism). Among the sellouts: Bill Collier, formerly of the "Austin American-Statesman," who became FCX's Austin spokesman, and WWL's Garland Robinette, who took a cushy job in FCX's PR department. It must be noted that one journalist who wrote for the "Austin Chronicle," Robert Bryce, not only turned down a lucrative bribe job from FCX, he went onto to write more hard-hitting FCX exposes, including an extremely thorough investigative report in "Mother Jones" magazine.
Kissinger & Co. also scrambled to call in every favor and twist every arm they had access to. When Suharto tried to pressure Bill Clinton into intervening on FCX's behalf against OPIC, Clinton, to his great credit, refused. A former CIA chief, with access to all sorts of ammunition it should have been unthinkable to use, was called into help fight OPIC. Swiss bankers, international insurers, and environmental regulators were flown into Irian Jaya all-expenses paid and given free luxury vacation-like visits and carefully choreographed tours of selected areas of the mine complex. In the end, it is not too surprising (though incredibly disappointing to those who believe in justice) that Kissinger's clout once more prevailed and the mine's insurance reinstated.
So, in the wake of such a close call and a growing public spotlight on FCX, did the company make sweeping remedial changes in the way it handled environmental and human rights issues? Hardly. Instead, in 1997, the company asked permission to expand the operation to TWICE the size it was at the time. One of the last things done by Suharto (who owned a substantial share in the mine) before he was forced to resign by a nation burned out by his corruption, was to approve the expansion. This approval was granted following a cozy little private conference between him and Jim-Bob Moffett. Once Suharto was gone, the company had a harder time completing their outrageous request due to the resistance of the minister in charge of mining, Kuntoro, and the Indonesian intelligentsia, who were outraged by the flagrant concessions and benefits already showered on FCX by Suharto.
However, good ole Jim-Bob just waited until the hopelessly weak new leader Habibie was installed in office, then started wheeling and dealing full force. Habibie, a pushover from day one, caved in readily. By now, Kuntoro was being pressured relentlessly by western corporations used to being given special above-the-law treatment by their "buddy" Suharto. Kuntoro was finally forced to agree to the expansion, but demanded that the mine clean up its environmental act and pay a higher royalty rate to the government. Unfortunately, most environmentalists say any environmental standards imposed on FCX remained on paper only.
The next "crisis" for FCX came when Habibie was ousted and replaced by Wahid, whom many Indonesians hoped would nationalize operations such as FCX, demoting such western gold and oil barons to the "paying guest" status which should have been theirs from the start. But Wahid, just like Habibie, proved to have feet of clay when pressured by Jim-Bob and Kissinger. In early 2000, shortly after Wahid took over, Kissinger went to Indonesia and began a process of combined intimidation and corporate bribery aimed at extracting a promise from Wahid that he would not nationalize FCX.
Rather than act in Indonesia's best interests and demand that Kissinger completely overhaul FCX's environmental and labor practices, in February, 2000, the corrupt Wahid made Kissinger an advisor on foreign affairs! Not only that, but he apparently gave FCX more concessions than ever. In its blurb on the NY Stock Exchange site, FCX boasts that the cost of producing gold and copper at FCX is just about the cheapest in the world (of course it is! They have no overhead, no fines, minimal taxes, pay less than $1.00 per hour for laboring jobs and never really paid for their land). It also boasts that production is at an all time high (we can just picture the devastation this is translating into!), while the costs of production and delivery are "lower than ever" (this hardly sounds promising for the local economy and workers!). It is also noted in the blurb that the company was "relieved of" its $6 million per year commitment to West Papua. This sounds suspiciously as if Wahid absolved the corporation of fulfilling their obligation to return some of its profits to the people of West Papua. In any case, the company's revenues between January and July of this year were an astounding $985 million - almost one billion dollars.
The graph for FCX stock closely mirrors the course of U.S. and Indonesian political events - proving that the company's wealth is based heavily on political favor. Last summer, with the unsympathetic Clinton still in office and Wahid's reign weakening, the stock was hovering at a lowish point. Then, toward December 1, when it became apparent Bush would succeed in stealing the White House, the stock steadily climbs again, only to fall again in late May and June when Wahid toppled from power. By the way, in 1999-2000, FCX made election donations in the U.S. amounting to over $262,000, an estimated 2/3 of which went to the GOP. (Much of the money spent on the Democratic Party over the years has been done with an eye to insuring that FCX's close ally (and bad apple Democrat) John Breaux of Louisiana would keep winning his senate seat, which, of course, he has.) It should also be pointed out that within days of Bush's inauguration, Kissinger was dining with the new White House resident and Cheney at the home of former CIA "mockingbird" Katharine Graham. It should also be noted that well-grounded rumors allege that one of the names topping Cheney's secret energy task force list is Henry Kissinger. No wonder the White House wants to keep it secret!
Now that Wahid is gone and Sukarno's daughter, Megawati, has been made president of Indonesia, it will be very interesting to see what sort of intimidation, calling in of favors, bribes and pressures Kissinger and good ole Jim-Bob try to unleash and how dedicated to the welfare of her people and her father's memory Megawatti will prove to be.
"The Mining Menace of Freeport-McMoRan" by Pratap Chatterje, "The Multinational Monitor," April 1996.
"Freeport Obtains Indonesian Approval to Expand World's Largest Gold Mine," Mike Head, World Socialist Website, February 20, 1999
"Former Secretary of State Kissinger Remembers," East Timor Action Network (Etan); Site provides large excerpt from "The Case Against Henry Kissinger" by investigative reporter Christopher Hitchens
"Realpolitik, " Robert Bryce, "Austin Chronicle," May 19, 2000
Statement by John Rumbiak, the West Papua Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (submitted at the annual general meeting of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Cold, Inc.) May 3, 2001
Drillbits and Tailings, March 17, 2000 News update
"Spinning Gold," by Robert Bryce, "Mother Jones Magazine", Sept/Oct 1996
"Gus Dur: Don't Sell Papua's Future to Henry Kissinger," Statement by Emmy Hafild, Exec. Director of WALHI-Indonesia Forum for Environment, Friends of the Earth Indonesia
"Old State, New Society: Indonesia's New Order in Comparative Historical Perspective," Benedict R. O'G. Anderson, "Journal of Asian Studies," May, 1983
"Generals and Business in Indonesia," Harold Crouch, "Pacific Affairs", Winter 1975/76
"People Were Shot, Bleeding, and Lying on the Ground," Mike Head, World Socialist Web Site," Nov. 28, 1998
"We Saw Terrible Slum-Like Conditions and a Very Strong Army Presence," Mike Head, World Socialist Website, Dec. 1 1998.
"U.S. Mine Gouges For Gold," Danny Kennedy, "Earth Island Institute Journal," Spring 1997
"Lawsuit in New Orleans," Statement of Lawsuit of Irian Jaya natives versus FCX
"Election Donations of Freeport, 1999-2000"
CorporateWatch: Statements by Jim-Bob Moffett
Photo of Gouged Out Mountain at FCX Mine in Irian Jaya