indonesia's long-time dictator suharto died last sunday. for some he was "the butcher of jakarta," for others "the father of development," or, in between these two poles of opinion, "the smiling general."
he was feted and armed by the west and "diverted" somewhere between 15-35 billion us dollars into his own and his family's pockets (i admit that that used to sound like a whole lot more before this week's banking scandals).
thanks to his openness to foreign business interests and his proven anti-communist credentials (at least half a million dead suspected leftists) he was bestest buddies with the leaders of the free world. as late as 1995 bill clinton's administration called him "our kind of guy." more honestly, henry kissinger allegedly described suharto and the likes of him such as marcos, pinochet, duvalier and mobutu sese seko as "bastards, but at least they're our bastards." and like so many of "our kind of guys," suharto did not have to face justice for the estimated up to 1,5 million people killed during his reign or the billions he and his family are thought to have embezzled.
this morning i was asked to write an obituary of suharto, which i agreed to. coincidentally the amount of money i will get for the obituary is exactly how much my health insurance will cost me next month. i pondered the irony of paying for my own health insurance with the money that i will indirectly get thanks to the death of a man who had been responsible for having several of my friends and acquaintances jailed and decided to put that money into a fund that helps his surviving victims instead.