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April 04, 2007



Shouldn't commentators writing about a place have a basic grasp of its background. East Timor did not become independent "after a long civil war." It was brutally and illegally occupied by Indonesia, which was backed by powerful countries like the U.S. and Australia. This makes its independence all the more remarkable an achievement. The Indonesian occupation, like East Timor's recent internal conflict, had nothing to do with being at some Muslim-Christian crossroads. Indonesia's occupation most likely grew out of its expansionism and an ideology that saw communists in any democratic expression. East Timor's current troubles are more complex, but as 90% plus of the population are christian, religious differences have nothing to do with it.


While the lede "the world's newest country" is still popular with those writing about Timor-Leste, it is not accurate: Montenegro became independent in June 2006.

Timor-Leste achieved independence on 20 May 2002.

David Axe


Fighting in East Timor often involved pro-Indonesian Timorese militias combatting pro-independence forces. If that's not civil war, I don't know what is.

As for Timor NOT being the youngest country anymore ... that's true. I stand corrected.


David, i dont know where you get your information from, however John is correct.

it wasnt a civil war (war enatails 2 sides fighting each other) what happened in Timor was a massacre, indonesian militias killing unarmed non combatant civilians.

also religeous ideologies play little to no part in timors politics, neither now or then.

David Axe


You folks can call it whatever you want: my understanding is that the pro-Indonesian militias in Timor from the late 1990s included mostly Timorese armed by Indonesia. Timorese fighting Timorese is civil war to me. By the same token, the American revolution was a civil war, too, of course, since many Americans fought FOR the British. Sometimes history settles on one term or another to describe a conflict. I'm not always content with the term.

And, yes, I realize that 90 percent of Timorese are Catholic. Indonesia, however, it a Muslim nation -- the largest, in fact. That makes Timor a contact zone between the Muslim and Christian worlds. That's a very delicate position to be in.

David Axe


According to CNN, the 1999 riots were in part instigated by pro-independence groups that attacked the Indonesian militias. So it wasn't entirely one-sided. See http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/asiapcf/9904/18/indonesia.violence.02/

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