The Nov. 3 news story about Washington's suspension of military aid to Indonesia implies that the notorious brutality of the Indonesian military is almost a thing of the past following the "democratic transition." In fact, though elections have taken place, the military is still the real power behind the scenes and is still happy to crack down by killing civilians, as it has shown most recently in Aceh, a region in which Indonesian troops have conducted a scorched-earth war for more than a decade.

It is not true that former armed forces commander Gen. Wiranto has been "effectively sidelined" in his new post as minister of political affairs and security: The post oversees the ministries of foreign affairs, defense, home affairs and law.

Further, the cabinet of new president Abdurrahman Wahid includes six military officers. Two head the ministry of mines and energy and the ministry of transportation and communications, the biggest fiefdoms of army profiteering under the notoriously corrupt Suharto regime.

The Post's coverage of this crucial question would have been more balanced if instead of relying on Western diplomats, academics and businesspeople, reporters had spoken to families of those killed, tortured or raped this year by Indonesian troops in the provinces of Aceh, East Timor, West Timor and Irian Jaya or in Jakarta.

BEN TERRALL

San Francisco

The writer is coordinator of the San Francisco chapter of the East Timor Action Network.