Getting through the center of aceh is a ...

Trip Start Sep 11, 2002
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Thursday, October 24, 2002

Getting through the center of Aceh is a mission, what could have been done in a day has taken me three partly because I got the buss times all screwed up and because the roads get washed away.
Sitting on the top of the mini bus through the highlands of Aceh is the only worthwhile part of this trip. This is only possible from about half way because the police are to afraid to enter the area. The reason they are afraid is not because this is a lawless crime riddled area it's because the locals don't recognize the predominately Javanese government as their government. Retaliation from the locals to what law is enforced by the police has driven them out of certain areas. As in Africa The locals have magic men, chiefs and live under a combination of tribal law and a more modern but more corrupt legal system.

The acehneese attitude is not what you would expect from what is touted as a fundamentalist militant Muslim one. Once you are used to the long pants (trousers), penguin uniforms and blaring Mosques the fashions, flirtation and mischief come shining through. In fact this whole place is a bit of a paradox. Osams picture proudly displayed in hotel lobby, bumper stickers that read "gehad for a better life". But besides the "full" hotels in Banda Aceh they seem to fail to make the possible connection between the infadels and this white African. I even managed to get a guilty smile out of a chap wearing a Osama T-Shirt. Most surprising of all is how the young ladies behave. I expected the quiet reserved subservient types to be the norm. But they can be quite bold especially if they take a liking to you. First they try win your attention with girly glances, if that doesn't work its on to a direct stare, if you catch on to the game early enough and avoid eye contact you will soon have a penguin sitting next to you starting up a conversation. With the four or five words of English she knows she'll get your address, picture (if you have one) and make you promise to write . One gal gave me a present of a bunch of plastic grapes on a key ring in exchange for a promise to write. After England this is all refreshingly innocent. As flattering as this is the reason for the overfriendliness seems to be two part. Firstly everyone is trying to practice their English and since there are very few books available they use the tourists as practice. Second it seems to be part of there culture to befriend as many potentially important persons as possible. As with women all over the world the Acehneese girls have learned to use what they have got to their advantage. Of course unlike our women who just have to put on something skimpy they've learned to use the mystery. Judging by the porno cartoons scribbled on hotel walls the young Muslim lads don't have a clue what is going on underneath the penguin outfits.

The local attitude certainly lacks the irrational hatred necessary for a nation at war...
Having said that, if the bombings in Bali where carried out by AQ. It seems unlikely that they would have been possible without local militant support. Divide and conquer is a pretty well proven strategy. I find it difficult to understand the USs strategy of labeling all militant groups as terrorists and encouraging assisting or even pressuring governments into taking firmer action against them. For a country that has declared itself at war with terror it is doing a pretty good job of uniting the local freedom fighters with the more venomous international terrorist organizations. It is pretty ironic that a nation who funded any and all militant groups to oppose the spread of communism during the cold war, crippling many nations economies and in the more extreme cases indirectly killing of half countries populations, has now turned about face and declared war on all of them.
This blanketing of all militant groups as terrorists may be a sure way for America to gather support from the governments who couldn't give a shit if America is attacked or those that stand to benefit from it, but this heavy handed approach is definitely not helping the international situation. How much of the collaboration between the freedom fighters and the international terrorists is due to Bushes heavy handed approach is unclear but using statements like "Crusade", "Good over evil" and "Your either with us or against us" hasn't helped the situation much either.
For a nation that seems to be permanently at war to protect it's way of life, the "freedom" it fought for and is so vocal about it has been quick to deny others of the same right.

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