Farah asks in a commentary today, "Was Ford ever right about anything?" The commentaries of this blogger are in brackets following the thoughts of Farah.
His repeated insistence to a shocked New York Times reporter that Eastern Europe was not under domination by the Soviet Union. It is hard to recall or imagine a presidential statement more out of touch with reality, one that illustrated a willingness to accommodate and appease evil in the world for the sake of "stability."Most grievous, in my opinion, was Ford's green-lighting of Indonesia's invasion of East Timor and the subsequent killings of Christians by Muslims in 1975. Henry Kissenger, Ford's Secretary of State, for years insisted the subject of East Timor never came up in discussions with Indonesian President Suharto. According to State Dept declassified memos, East Timor and Suharto's intentions to invade did come up.
His pompous attempt to insinuate himself as a vice presidential candidate and, worse, a kind of "co-president," with Ronald Reagan during the 1980 Republican National Convention.
His role on the Warren Commission, which seemed to leave open more questions about President John F. Kennedy's assassination than it answered. [Ford personally changed the autopsy report with his own pen. He moved the location of a bullet wound from Kennedy's back between the shoulder blades to the neck thereby fueling conspiracy theories and reducing the veracity of the Warren Commission Report.]
His decision - probably a quid pro quo for gaining the presidency in the first place - to pardon Richard Nixon for his Watergate crimes. [Only ten days before granting the pardon, Pres. Ford declared that the special prosecutor should proceed against "any and all individuals". A year before, Ford asserted, "I do not think the public would stand for it." By granting the pardon, Ford eliminated the probable prosecution of Nixon and delaying a beneficial check on future Presidential misconduct. I am still puzzled how a pardon can be granted to an individual who has been neither indicted nor convicted of a crime. Since it's apparently possible, can I get a Presidential pardon for a crime to be named, but not committed, later?]
His sloppy exit from Vietnam - a retreat that ultimately resulted in the slaughter of millions in Southeast Asia. [The American phase of the VietNam War officially ended January 27, 1973 with the signing of The Paris Peace Accords. President Ford signed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 on December 30. The Foreign Assistance Act was a compromise bill that provided far too little money to the Republic of South VietNam thereby ensuring the eventual fall of the arguably democratic government there.
Ford, in a television speech April 23, 1975, declared an end to both the Vietnam War and all US aid to the Rep. of S. VietNam. Helicopter evacuations continued without break as North Vietnamese tanks broke through the Saigon outlying city defenses. Very early on the morn of April 30, the remaining US Embassy Marines, diplomats, and VietNamese supporters ignominiously evacuated Saigon aboard an Air America (CIA) helicopter landing repeatedly on an apartment rooftop as civilians poured over the embassy walls, inundating its grounds unsuccessfully attempting to escape the Communist onslaught. Within months, the new Communist regime of a united VietNam began rounding up hundreds of thousands of supporters of the South VietNam government. People suspected of treason and collaboration with America were also arrested and sent to re-education camps where thousands were killed or otherwise perished. The final sell-out of VietNam was complete.]
His signing of the Helsinki Accords, a desperate act of capitulation to Soviet Union aggression.
His appointment of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who has nothing but contempt for the U.S. Constitution.
His presiding over unprecedented inflation and recession at home - an economy so weak, it set the stage for the election of one of the worst presidents in American history, Jimmy Carter.
East Timor had been a colony of Portugal for two centuries and decolonisation in Portuguese Timor began in 1974 following the Carnation Revolution in that Iberian nation. West Timor had been a Dutch colony since 1640. The Dutch eventually lost control of the colony after WWII when they faced guerrilla republican war resulting in the Republic of Indonesia in 1950. With more pressing concerns in Mozambique and Angola, Portugal essentially abandoned East Timor which unilaterally declared independence November 28, 1975. The people of East Timor are predominantly Roman Catholic Christians and Portugese speaking. Indonesia is the fourth largest nation and the largest Muslim nation in the world.
On December 6, 1975, Ford and Kissinger flew to Jakarta to meet with dictator Suharto to discuss the situation in Asia, and US-Indonesia economic relations. They also assured Suharto that invading East Timor was not going to be a problem in America. In one of the State Dept memos, beginning at the bottom of page 8, Suharto tells Ford and Kissinger he wants to speak of the problem of East Timor. Kissinger had already told Suharto arms shipments would continue, that it would be okay to construct an M-16 production plant in Indonesia.
Suharto to Ford and Kissinger: "We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action."President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger flew back to Washington, D.C. Indonesian President Suharto, emboldened by the highest ranking officials in the US, launched his invasion of East Timor some 16 hours later. The invasion and occupation by Indonesian forces or affiliated proxy forces took the lives of 200,000 East Timorese, roughly a third of the local population, . US arms sales to the Suharto government continued until President Clinton stopped them in September 1999.
Ford: "We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have."
Kissinger: "You understand that the use of US made arms could create problems. We could have technical and legal problems, you are familiar, Mr President, with the problems we had on Cyprus although this situation is different.
It depends on how you construe it: whether it is in self defense or is a foreign operation. It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly. We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens happens after we return [to Wash. D.C.]. This way there would be less chance of people talking in an unauthorized way. The President will be back on Monday at 2:00 PM Jakarta time. We understand your problem and the need to move quickly, but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned."
The bloodletting continues today under the watchful eyes of the United Nations.
The UN Security Council created UNMIT in August to help restore order after fighting, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May and led to the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 155,000 people – or 15 percent of the population – to flee their homes.The Secretary General's special representative for East Timor, Atul Khare says the security situation has much improved, particularly since the deadly violence earlier this year, much still remains to be done.
And now, after all these years, one of the events the Indonesian invasion was supposed to prevent according to the State Dept memos may actually happen. Yesterday, January 1, 2007, the government of PM Fraser in Canberra, Australia was been warned that VietNam and China may intervene in East Timor.
Legacies, like coins, have two sides. Such is the reverse side of President Gerald Ford's legacy. But, never mind. We are not supposed to remember such things. We are only to remember that Jerry was such a swell guy.
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.