On December 7, 1975 Indonesia secretly - but with the complicity of the Western powers including the US, the UK, and Australia - invaded the small nation of East Timor. Two Australian television crews attempting to document the invasion were murdered.
In 1993, with the Indonesian army still occupying the country, John Pilger and his crew including director David Munro, slipped into East Timor and made this film. In the intervening 18 years, an estimated 200,000 East Timorese - 1/3 of the population - had been slaughtered by the Indonesian military. The C.I.A. has described it as one of the worst mass-murders of the 20th century.
Pilger tells the story using clandestine footage of the countryside, internment camps and even Fretlin guerillas, as well as interviews with Timorese exiles, including Jose Ramos Horta and Jose Gusmao, and Australian, British, and Indonesian diplomats.
Nixon had called Indonesia the "greatest prize in southeast Asia" because of its oil reserves and other natural resources. Even though Indonesia had no historic or legal claim to East Timor, it was convenient for diplomats to declare that East Timor, just gaining its independence from Portugal, would not be a viable state.
However the lie was given to this argument when Australia and Indonesia signed the Timor Gap Oil Treaty and carved up the huge oil and gas reserves in the seabed off East Timor.
None of the politicians from that period - President Ford, Henry Kissinger, Daniel Moynihan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Gough Whitlam - has clean hands. The Indonesian military used US and British planes to bombard the island, while the defense ministers proclaimed ignorance.
As Pilger gets an Austrlian diplomat to admit, East Timor was considered "expendable."
But no one watching the massacre in the Dili cemetery can excuse the geopolitical machinations that led to this genocide.
Other titles in the series are:
Do You Remember Vietnam? - Three years after the fall of Saigon, Pilger returns to Vietnam to examine the state of the country.
The Quiet Mutiny - John Pilger reveals the shifting morale and open rebellion of Western troops serving in Vietnam.
Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia - John Pilger alerts the world to the bloody reign of Pol Pot in Cambodia.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2006
Copyright Date: 1994
"When Death of a Nation went out on TV, we registered 5,000 phone calls a minute from the public, and they went on, and on, well past midnight."
British Telecom Spokesperson