Indonesia: Obama Under A Tyrant

We know President Barack Obama lived in Jakarta for four years, between the ages of 6 and 10, from 1967 through 1971, but not much has been written about what Indonesia was like at that time.

After Obama’s mother divorced his Kenyan father (1964), she married an Indonesian student, studying at the University of Hawaii, named Lolo Soetoro (1965). Lolo was called back to Indonesia in 1966, and Obama and his mother followed, in 1967.

Indonesia is in an archipelago, as wide as the U.S., with 3,000 islands. Most, however, live on the island of Java, in the capital City of Jakarta. This is where Obama spent his four years.

When Barack Obama arrived in Indonesia, the country was going through a period of tremendous unrest. There were fears of a communist coup in Indonesia, as the American War was escalating in nearby Vietnam (1965-73).

Gen. Suharto, a tyrant, seized control from President Sukarno, and confined him to his residence (1966). During the following years, 300,000 suspected communists were rounded up and summarily executed by firing squads. By the end of the decade, Gen. Suharto still held 150,000 political prisoners (1969).

It would be interesting to find out from President Obama what lessons, if any, he learned during his years in Indonesia? What did he see as a young man? Did he meet any children whose family members had been rounded up? What did his mother or stepfather say to warn him about the tyranny in the streets? Instead talking about the non-issue of his birth certificate, it would be much more illuminating to find out what Obama’s life was like under a tyrant.


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