The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018

40 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL eral such as SBY could have convinced the Indonesian military to stop that long inter- nal war. Moreover the Indonesian military deeply resented the United States because of our embargo on bilateral cooperation and weapon sales in response to its atrocities in Timor-Leste. The Indonesian civilian popula- tion had also expressed a low opinion of the United States through massive demonstra- tions against our invasion of Iraq, and terror- ists had added to the tensions by bombing the JWMarriott Hotel Jakarta a year earlier. The embassy notified Washington that we planned to use $65 million in unobligated Indonesian aid funds (as well as a $100,000 contingency fund) for disaster relief. Wash- ington quickly agreed. Our USAID staff began organizing relief convoys from our consul- ate in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province. The first convoy was turned back by rebel fire, but it got through a day later. Our attaché office flew Indonesian military personnel on reconnaissance missions, and doctors from the embassy’s Naval Medical Research Unit were soon on the ground in Aceh saving lives. As the Lincoln neared Indonesia, its commander, Admiral Doug Crowder, and I agreed over the phone on the modalities of the assistance effort. At noon on New Year’s Day 2005, the carrier began its helicopter rescue missions. Several U.S. C-130s had arrived in Jakarta to haul supplies to Aceh; the American Chamber of Commerce in Jakarta and USAID staff had lined up trucks of critical items; and members of the embassy joined in to help load the planes. I held a press conference to reassure the Indonesian public that we were there only to support their government and to help the people of Aceh. The comments were widely reported, along with a picture of USAID Director Bill Frej and me hefting a bag of rice onto an American C-130. One of Crowder’s pilots took the advice of an embassy liaison staffer and put a U.S. journalist, CNN’s Mike Chinoy, and his cameraman on a relief heli- copter. Chinoy’s reporting was among the first to bring the enormity of Aceh’s disaster to the world’s attention and included the iconic pic- ture of locals running to greet the American helicopter as they sought desperately needed water and medical assistance. This kind of quick thinking was shown repeatedly by the American team. One example was water for the survivors: During our initial meeting with the Marine general leading the overall U.S. effort, Frej noted that the need for water was crowding out other critical relief supplies being sent to Aceh on our planes. When he replied that the car- rier could produce vast amounts of potable water, Frej promised to have every new plastic container they could buy in Jakarta on that afternoon’s plane. The ship’s engineers cre- ated an ingenious jerry-rigged system to fill the containers overnight, and the water was on the helicopters the next morning. Every- one pitched in. The assistance to Aceh was a massive international effort: with our support, the Indonesian government put a new (non- corrupt) agency in charge of relief and reconstruction. Gov- ernments and private citizens donated money—more than $1 billion in private U.S. contributions encouraged by the efforts of former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe, at left, and USAID Director William M. Frej load supplies for Aceh. An Acehnese woman showing appreciation for the U.S. military (primarily Navy and Marine) effort to aid the tsunami’s victims. COURTESYOFB.LYNNPASCOE COURTESYOFB.LYNNPASCOE