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A Not-So-Distant Horror


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About the Author

Joseph Nevins teaches in the Department of Geology and Geography, Vassar College. He is the author of Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the "Illegal Alien" and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary. Under the pen name Matthew Jardine, he is the author of East Timor: Genocide in Paradise and the coauthor of East Timor's Unfinished Struggle: Inside the Timorese Resistance.


"A Not-So-Distant Horror is essential for understanding the broader context of Washington's latest support for Jakarta's military. The book provides a thorough overview of 'international community' backing for the twenty-four-year Indonesian military occupation of East Timor, and shows the blatant power calculations that went into the sell-out of the East Timorese. As Nevins quotes then-U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Stapleton Roy saying in 1999, 'Indonesia matters and East Timor doesn't.'"-Ben Terrall, Counterpunch.org "In an account described by Noam Chomsky as 'searingly honest,' Joe Nevins analyzes how Western nations conspired to back Indonesia and keep the East Timor issue out of the spotlight. The price paid by the East Timorese was a loss of life estimated at close to two hundred thousand, or a third of its population, proportionally one of the worst cases of genocide since World War II."-Maire Leadbeater, The New Zealand Herald, 13 January 2006 "Rarely do contemporary histories address foreign policy making from the perspective of human rights and justice. Even rarer is a book like Joseph Nevins's A Not-So-Distant Horror, which compellingly makes the case that failure to give such concerns adequate weight in policy formulation has produced ruinous results... This book should be read by all those concerned that Washington's eager embrace and empowerment of rogue militaries in the so-called 'war on terror'-as we did during the Cold War-will again strengthen regimes characterized by their corruption and hostility to democracy and human rights."-Edmund McWilliams, Foreign Service Journal, January 2006 "Nevins's account of the period from Indonesia's unlawful invasion of East Timor on 7 December 1975 to the withdrawal of its forces in September 2001 is factual, accurate, and spare... There is much to reflect on in Nevins's book, not least the mute acceptance in Australia of many U.S. policies as our own."-Richard Broinowski, Australian Book Review, December 2005 "This is a gripping and powerful saga rooted in the horrible atrocities and deprivation endured by the East Timorese following Indonesia's invasion in 1975. Indonesian security forces ruled ruthlessly until 1999, causing nearly 200,000 conflict-related deaths, imprisoning and torturing thousands more, while raping and plundering with abandon. A generation of East Timorese grew up where the rule of law was a distant rumor and human rights were routinely violated. Joseph Nevins briefly recapitulates this history, focusing on international complicity in these crimes against humanity, but mostly dwells on the troubling failure to secure justice."-Jeff Kingston, The Japan Times, April 9, 2006 "This book identifies many villains and even more numerous accomplices, not only in East Timor but in 'painful events' around the world. It will raise the reader's righteous indignation as well as awareness. Implicit is the hope that awareness and indignation will stimulate deeper, more truthful accounts of 'painful events', leading to justice, restitution and moral closure."-Stephen Hoadley, New Zealand International Review, January 1, 2006 "Joseph Nevins's book is a magnificent memorial to the people of East Timor and a damning indictment of international powers, like the United States, that armed, trained, and financed the Indonesian army's quarter-century reign of terror. Nevins eloquently moves from the horrifying reality of the slaughter on the ground to the international political elite who allowed it to happen, and go unpunished. A Not-So-Distant Horror goes beyond Timor because the bravery and endurance of the people of East Timor are a lesson to us all."-Amy Goodman, Host and Executive Producer, Democracy Now! "Joseph Nevins has performed a great service with this book. Among all the massacres that lead politicians to solemnly promise 'never again'-the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Rwanda-the ruthless Indonesian rule and mass murder that took place in East Timor is almost always ignored. Nevins carefully and vividly places this tragic chain of events on the record, and shows how much of the responsibility for these deaths rests squarely on the United States and its allies."-Adam Hochschild "The Indonesian invasion of East Timor and the quarter-century of shocking crimes that followed are among the darkest eras of post-World War II history. The struggle of the people of East Timor for survival, against incredible odds, is a truly inspiring achievement, one of the most astonishing of recent history. This remarkable book combines depth of knowledge and compassionate understanding, with intimate familiarity from the ground to the historical-documentary record, and the broader geopolitical and cultural-moral context. Joseph Nevins accurately describes the horrors as 'not-so-distant.' That is a painfully accurate assessment. The United States, Britain, France, and others did not 'look away' or 'fail to act' as deniers often say. They looked right there and acted decisively to expedite terrible crimes, and continued to do so through the final paroxysm of atrocities, until finally, in the last days, public pressure became too great to ignore and Washington terminated the crimes with barely more than a word. There are very important lessons here, which no reader of this searingly honest and penetrating study can fail to draw."-Noam Chomsky "In a book that is both sophisticated and widely accessible, Joseph Nevins documents the suffering endured by the people of East Timor from the invasion of 1975 through the failed process of accountability following the 1999 referendum and independence. Along the way, Nevins wrestles with why some lives seem to matter a lot and others almost not at all. A Not-So-Distant Horror is one of the best books about East Timor's long and painful path to freedom."-Jeffrey Winters, Northwestern University

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