Each day America engages in picking up the pieces of war torn civilizations. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, North Korea, China; all some of the places that are experiencing conflict, either from the inside or from their neighbors.
Generous governments have opened their doors and welcomed in refugees from these places, putting their own countries at risk. In some cases, such as the Middle East, we have sent troops to help fight with the side we deemed correct. There are those who feel it is not America’s place to get involved inthat occur outside of our borders. For instance, Vietnam; opponents thought that America had no business being there at all.
Whether we should get entangled or not, we often do. Ourmakes the decisions and citizens are forced to endure the consequences, good and bad. But have you ever wondered about the driving force behind deciding to engage in a dispute?
As we learn about a small island called West Papua, we can begin to comprehend that it isn’t always humanitarian issues that make decisions. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea. It lies approximately 124 miles north of Australia.
The island is still largely covered in virgin rain forest, second only in size to the Amazon. Plant and animal species unknown to the non-native population are still regularly ‘discovered’ there. It is home to many unique species. West Papua is also home to over 250 diverse tribes, all speaking their own languages with unique cultures. The majority of the population still lives traditional lifestyles.
You won’t hear the name of this small island on CNN, MSNBC, or any other major news outlet. They should be talking about it. A recent fact-finding mission conducted by the Brisbane Archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission reported that West Papua is experiencing a “slow motion genocide.” The report warned West Papua’s indigenous population is at risk of becoming “an anthropological museum exhibit of a bygone culture.”
So why, if these people are being slaughtered, are we not hearing it everywhere or talking about getting involved? The answer is simple; greed.
West Papua is home to one of the world’s largest gold mines known as the Grasberg Mine. Grasberg is majority-owned by the American mining firm . It has reserves worth an estimated $100 billion, and the company is Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer. The island also contains the third largest copper mine in the world.
Indonesia took control of West Papua in a 1969 U.N. referendum. Since then, the money has piled up for the controlling country and the miners of the diamonds and copper. In return, 550,000 West Papuans have been killed fighting to achieve independence.
was given rights to the mine when the Indonesian government signed the right to extract mineral wealth from the site in 1967. In order to preserve this source of wealth, the Indonesian military uses brute force against the local indigenous population.
Benny Wenda, a native Papuan who has worked his whole life for independence, details the experiences the local population has endured by the Indonesian military:
“Now, every morning on the way to their gardens, Benny and his mother and aunties would be stopped and checked by Indonesian soldiers. Often the soldiers would force the women to wash themselves in the river before brutally raping them in front of their children. Many young women, including three of Benny’s aunties, died in the jungle from the trauma and injuries inflicted during these attacks, which often involved genital mutilation.”
In 2005, The New York Times reported that Freeport paid local military and police generals, colonels, majors and captains, and military units, a total of nearly $20 million between 1998 and 2004. One individual received up to $150,000. The payments were meant to secure the reserve.
Freeport argued that the payments were not for individuals, but rather for infrastructure, food, housing, fuel, travel, vehicle repairs and allowances to cover incidental and administrative costs. According to the report, anonymous sources within the company also claimed that company chairman James R. Moffet courted Indonesia’s dictator and “his cronies”, cutting them in on deals. Another employee is said to have worked on a program to monitor environmentalists’ e-mails and telephone conversations, in cooperation with Indonesian military intelligence officers.
While Australia is closest and should be the most involved in the suffering of these people, they have often helped Indonesia keep control of West Papua. The United States has been completely silent on the issue. Since Obama claimed to be such an activist, this might seem odd.
A little digging reveals that Obama has a close relationship with the country and its management. When the Obama Administration announced its total ban on drilling a few months ago, it created a wonderful buying opportunity for investors in the mining companies to add to their positions.
In 2011, Freeport-McMoRan became a partner in themovement, one of Obama’s pet projects and pledged $1.5 million over three years to support STEM teacher development programs in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
President Barack Obama applauded 100Kin10, its partner organizations, and their collective success. The President thanked the partners for their continued efforts and encouraged them to keep up the great work.
Freeport-McMoRan’s continued success is in the best interest of people like Obama and the government of Australia and Indonesia; which is why the genocide is continuing unimpeded.
There is an ongoingfor West Papua to gain its independence and activists around the world are trying to help. It will be in this small island’s best interest for Obama to be gone.
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