The CIA, Suharto And Terrorist Culture


- Dennis Small



"Exposing Western hypocrisy - how much more exposed can they be? Which decent human being on Earth harbours any illusions about it? These are people whose histories are spongy with the blood of others.  Colonialism, apartheid, slavery, ethnic cleansing, germ warfare, chemical weapons - they virtually invented it all. They have plundered nations, snuffed out civilisations, exterminated entire populations. They stand on the world's stage stark naked but entirely unembarrassed, because they know that they have more money, more food and bigger bombs than anybody else" ("The Cost of Living" by Arundhati Roy, Flamingo, 1999, p144; Roy is also the author of the acclaimed novel "The God of Small Things").


During the period 1965-69, and especially during 1965-66, a series of mass murders took place in Indonesia which led to the institution in power of President Suharto and the opening up of the country to Western capitalism. Possibly more than a million people were slaughtered. In the documentary film on globalisation by John Pilger, "The New Rulers of the World" (2001 - screened on TV1, 10/10/01), there are scenes of some of the relatives of the victims of the massacres secretly exhuming the bones of their loved ones. As Pilger notes, evidence has increasingly come to light of the murderous role that the US and British governments performed both in initiating and in helping perpetrate the killings, and in the creation of the long reign of terror that ensued. The full story amounts to a remarkable and chilling record of capitalist genocide, cover-up, and subsequent foundation of a model which was then widely applied elsewhere in the Third World to eliminate the enemies of the West and ensure future profits. To a quite considerable extent, the new rulers of the world built capitalist success on the Indonesian genocide, and the platform it served for globalising Indonesia and the rest of the planet.


To date, the true story of what really happened is only partially told, only partly visible through a fog of propaganda and deception, and a dearth of information.  However, trying to help unravel it, and to disclose it to a wider audience, is to embark on a greatly enlightening journey into the human psyche, into the political economy of capitalism, and into the meaning of the Western tradition of the Enlightenment today - the values of freedom, democracy, justice, truth, and respect for human rights.  One comes face to face with the reality and psychology of political ideology, violence and civilised values, and what these mean in relation to the philosophical concept of truth. In such matters, if any conception of "truth" has an inevitable, insoluble element of subjectivism, there is always the question of the actual facts in the most fundamental and reportorial sense: who was killed by whom, where, how and why?  


This article certainly does not purport to be a systematic review of present knowledge about the Indonesian killings of 1965-69. It is prompted in part by the writer's own personal experience of a continuing cover-up about the massacres. In part, too, as intimated, it stems from a wish to help draw greater attention to what really happened; and what it has meant in terms of later events in parts of the Third World; and, importantly for the future, what it is likely to mean following President Bush's proclamation of the "war on terrorism" and the current reality of the US war on Afghanistan. It is basically an overview addressing a subject that has got far too little investigation over the years - a subject with implications now more urgent than ever in the era we entered on September 11, 2001. If the destiny of Indonesia for more than 30 years was decided in late 1965, its New Order was a harbinger of the New World Order announced by the first President Bush during the 1991 Gulf War. Symbolically, as well, its plunge into disorder is now representative of the New World Disorder in the time of Bush junior. 


A Western Conspiracy Of Silence


The lack of investigation of the Indonesian genocide has been due to a range of reasons but the central reason has undoubtedly been the huge vested interest of both the Suharto regime and ruling Western forces in leaving the past undisturbed. "Western governments and much of the Western media preferred Suharto and the New Order to the PKI [Indonesian Communist Party] and the Old, and have been in many cases comfortable with the simple statement that some hundreds of thousands of 'Communists' were killed. A close investigation of who was being killed - and why - ran the risk not just of complicating a simple story but of uncovering skeletons in the New Order closet" ("The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966: Studies from Bali and Java", edited by Robert Cribb, Monash Papers on Southeast Asia, no.21, 1990, pp. 5, 6). Instead: "If anything, the Indonesian killings have been treated as if they fall into an anomalous category of 'accidental' mass death" (ibid, p16).


More specifically, a number of Western organisations - most eminently, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - ran from the start a carefully calculated disinformation campaign to mislead, and confuse any close scrutiny of the massacres. Pretext for the genocide was given by a failed coup on September 30, 1965.    The coup affair was apparently a venture by some young, middle-ranking officers to overthrow the existing Army high command. They might have feared the Army's generals were about to stage their own coup to topple President Sukarno, and therefore decided to strike first. Allegations of Communist involvement were quickly made when in actuality the PKI was innocent of this. Media fabrications whipped up fear and hatred towards the Communists and other alleged subversives. Former CIA agent, Ralph McGehee, who visited Aotearoa/NZ in 1986, has revealed how: "To conceal its role in the massacre of those innocent people the CIA, in 1968, concocted a false account of what happened (later published by the Agency as a book, "Indonesia-1965: The Coup that Backfired") . . .  At the same time that the Agency wrote the book, it also composed a secret study of what really happened. [One sentence deleted] The Agency was extremely proud of its successful [one word deleted] and recommended it as a model for future operations [one-half sentence deleted]" ("Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA", Sheridan Square, 1983, p58). Deletions identified in the text just quoted were enforced by the CIA under McGehee's legal obligations as an ex-agent. McGehee had once had access to the CIA's secret account of the coup and its aftermath and based his report of events on this.


At this point, a brief comment is appropriate on Indonesia's situation in the early 1960s. In the atmosphere of the Cold War and Communist advances in Asia, there was a peculiar set of factors in an Indonesia fraught with seething tensions. Political conflict in its widest sense, and the promise or threat of change, permeated the country. The hugely popular Sukarno was charting a nationalist path independent of Western capital and institutions, rejecting overtures and pressures from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), foreign "aid", and corporate investment. He was trying to balance the competing forces of the army, PKI and Muslim parties in what he called the "guided democracy" approach. However, conservative groupings and their external backers feared that the PKI, the only national, mass-based popular movement, might come to control the government, even through the ballot box. The PKI had some three million members and 12 million "front" group members. Land reform was a hot issue in a number of areas and the PKI was often pressing hard for change to the status quo. 


"The background to the massacres was largely a struggle for power between the Communist Party and the Army. There was also conflict between the Communists and a powerful religious group, religious and ideological opposition being interwoven with class conflict" ("International Action Against Genocide" by Leo Kuper, Minority Rights Group, Report no.53, revised 1984, p8). Yet the PKI "had long ceased to be revolutionary" and had neither the arms nor, as it strangely proved in reality, the will to even fight back properly ("Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy 1945-1980" by Gabriel Kolko, Pantheon Books, 1988, p180). Indeed, the passivity of the PKI in the face of all-out assault has been something of a puzzle (see e.g. "The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1969", pp34/5). It could well be argued that this passivity reflected the PKI's general commitment to predominantly non-violent change, as in fact the US Embassy's experts had concluded in developing their strategy of totalitarian slaughter ("Confronting the Third World", p180).   


Sociologist and genocide study specialist Leo Kuper observes that the attempted coup on September 30, 1965, had all the appearance "of internal Army conflict". However, the Army's response was to target the Communists. "The Army engaged actively in the massacres of Communists, participating directly in them, or indirectly by organising and arming civilian killers" ("International Action Against Genocide", p8). In the broad perspective, anyone seen as an opponent of the Army was at risk. Certain Muslim organisations, in particular, were to the fore in carrying out many of the killings. There was significant variation across the regions of the country in both the extent and timing of the slaughter. Local and regional circumstances were significant in influence, and in interaction with the Army centre of power radiating from Jakarta. The rampages of militias backed by the Indonesian military after the East Timorese voted for independence in 1999 afford us an insight into what the Army's 1965-66 murder campaign would have been like, only multiplied on a far, far greater scale.  Some gesture at human rights trials is currently under way in Indonesia for the 1999 East Timor crimes. But criminal culpability goes much deeper and wider, for the Suharto regime and its supporters. The NATO-orchestrated Milosevic* trial serves as a revealing contrast with the West’s record in Indonesia and treatment of collaborators in genocide. Ironically again there is now Western concern about Muslim terrorists from Indonesia to the Balkans. *Slobodan Milosevic, former leader of what’s left of Yugoslavia; currently on trial, in The Hague, for genocide and massive human rights abuses. Ed.


In 1965-66 Central and East Java were the main killing fields for the US’ Indonesian enemies. In these areas a major factor at work was the ancient hostility between two different Muslim groups, one more orthodox than the other. This latter group, the santri, was evidently by comparison a land-owning, commercial class, and it supplied a lot of the leaders and activists for the Army's civilian-based death squads. The extent of the slaughter throughout Indonesia led to lurid reports about rivers red with blood. In December 1965, Time reported that Communists and their "entire families" were being killed in such numbers that small rivers and streams "have been literally clogged with bodies"; and that the disposal of the corpses had "created a serious santitation problem" in parts of the country (17/12/65). Similarly, there were horror stories of bodies floating all over the Malacca Strait, and washing up in various places like the canals of Surabaya. As a bloodbath, the Indonesian massacre was certainly one of the worst of the 20th Century, a fact freely admitted by the CIA itself. Most of the killings took place in a matter of a few months, a massively swift, systematic and savage phenomenon.


As well as the Communists and their affiliates, along with other Leftist activists/suspects, and landless peasants, various other categories of people suffered a similar fate. The opportunity, of course, was taken by some individuals and groups to settle private scores of one kind or another, or exploit communal/social resentments. For instance: "More killing took place in West Kalimantan, although there the worst massacres were in October and November 1967, well after the massacres had peaked in other regions. The victims were almost exclusively Chinese, the killers predominantly indigenous Dayaks" ("The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966, p.25). Likewise, Chinese merchants and their families in North Sumatra were among the victims of the genocide. In Southern Sumatra, local Muslims murdered Javanese transmigrant settlers. In Timor, both Protestant Christians and cargo cult followers were killed, while on Bali the defence of Hinduism and communal feuds were significant in determining those who were murdered.


Cutting Up The Cake


General Suharto headed the Army's extermination programme. He gave the formal "clean out" order (Directive No.22/KOTI/1965) and sent special Army contingents to Java to organise the slaughter there. In stark contrast to Pol Pot*, his deeds were openly celebrated in the "free world". To be sure, it is clear that: "The Indonesian military takeover of 1965-66, greeted enthusiastically by Western elites, may be considered a model form of Western-sponsored primary terrorism . . . [and] mass imprisonments, and the imposition of permanent martial law, returned the majority of the population to passivity. An 'open door' was established and foreign investment soared, although the drain imposed by the ruling elite on foreign investors through corruption was very large" ("The Terrorism Industry: The Experts and Institutions that Shape our View of Terror" by Edward Herman & Gerry O'Sullivan, Pantheon Books, 1989, p15).  * The late Pol Pot was the leader of the fundamentalist Communist Khmer Rouge government of Cambodia, which carried out an equally savage genocide there, in the 1970s. Ed.


Pilger's film, "The New Rulers of the World" makes this sequence of events very clear. The film reveals how, having cleansed the country of the Communists, Western capital set up shop in Indonesia via a specially arranged conference hosted by Time-Life Corporation in Switzerland in 1967. At this conference, the corporates met with Indonesian government representatives and wrote the rules for foreign control of the Indonesian economy. David Rockefeller and other top businessmen were there. Transnational corporations (TNCs) included ICI, Siemens, British Leyland, Heinz, General Motors, British American Tobacco (BAT), Daimler-Benz, American Express, Chase Manhattan Bank, Warburg & Co., Dunlop, Standard Oil, US Steel, Aluminium Co. of America, International Paper Co., and the Swiss Bank Corp.  These were the vultures to pick over the bones of the dead as it were. Indonesia's mineral riches, and especially oil, were a big attraction.   Killings were still going on - as they did until some time in 1969. The conference was held in Geneva, in November 1967. However, earlier in August that year, the Stanford [University] Research Institute (SRI) had "brought 170 'senior executives' to Jakarta for a three day parley and look-see. ‘The Indonesians have cut out the cancer that was destroying their economy', a SRI executive later reported approvingly" ('The Berkeley Mafia and the Indonesian Massacre' by David Ransom, in Ramparts, October 1970, pp28/9 & 48/9, quote on p47).  


In 1966, with most of the bloodbath completed, the US Embassy and an US Agency for International Development (AID)-sponsored "Harvard [University] economist, fresh from writing South Korea's banking regulations", had helped Indonesian administrators write the country's economic plans, later refined and finalised at the 1967 Geneva conference. Selling points at the Geneva conference were: "political stability . . . abundance of cheap labour . . . vast potential market . . . treasurehouse of resources" (ibid.). Later, a development team from Harvard, funded through the Ford Foundation, made sure that everything was running according to what the foreign controllers of Indonesia had prescribed.


As David Ransom (cited above) and others have shown, there had previously been a very extensive and coordinated US educational, cultural and economic input into the Indonesian elite which took power in 1965.    By 1954, the National Security Council had "decided that the US would use 'all feasible covert means' as well as overt, including 'the use of armed force if necessary', to prevent the richest parts of Indonesia from falling into Communist hands" ("Confronting the Third World", p174).  In particular, Ransom's research drew attention to what he called the "Berkeley Mafia", a clique of Indonesian economists trained at Berkeley, the University of California. These economists had great influence on the military high command in the early 1960s, and rose to be the mandarins of Indonesia's "modernisation" in Suharto's New Order. Incorporated in the comprehensive American programme were the Ford Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation, Rockefeller Foundation, and some universities, among various other bodies. Peter Dale Scott has described this programme and its ramifications in considerable detail (see his 'Exporting Military-Economic Development: America and the Overthrow of Sukarno' in "Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia", edited by Malcolm Caldwell, Spokesman Books, 1975, pp209/63). By 1965, some 4,000 officers of the Indonesian armed forces had received military training in the US, while the top staff had been schooled in integrated "military economic" development and given a pro-American political orientation. Writing in 1970, Ransom considered - at that stage of knowledge - and since this politicised aid programme was so pervasive in influence, that "neither the CIA nor the Pentagon needed to play any more than a subordinate role" in the 1965 takeover (Ramparts, October 1970, p45). We now know that this was not true but what is so striking from the research of analysts like Ransom and Scott is the extent and depth of the US policy of subversion, using a whole range of methods to effect the eventual objective.  


In the several years just prior to September 1965, while loans and aid had been severely cut back, military assistance was actually increased, although this was also stopped in early 1965 when Indonesia's confrontation policy with Malaysia became acute, and Sukarno had stepped up his nationalisation of foreign  oil and rubber firms. As early as 1959, the military controlled sub-economy, which was focused on the oil company, Pertamina, led some Western journalists to see the armed forces enforcing a "creeping coup d'etat" ("Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia", p236); and over time, too, more and more government ministries were usurped by the military.  Pertamina itself, indeed, served as a convenient conduit for foreign money to the military. Besides certain Western oil companies, Japanese oil firms and other Japanese interests were connected with those plotting Sukarno's overthrow and the demise of the PKI.     


For some 30 years, the cost of corruption for Indonesia proved to be very high with Suharto, his family and cronies estimated to have siphoned off about US$15 billion from World Bank loans, etc. ("The New Rulers of the World").  In fact, about a third of the Bank's loans disappeared into the pockets of the Suharto clique.    But, despite this blatant abuse carried out for many years, the World Bank was consistently fulsome in its praise for the Indonesian government, lauding the regime as a model of development. Only when crisis was imminent did the Bank finally become critical. All this gives some indication as to just how profitable Western TNCs found Indonesia to be. Pertinently enough, the US State Department had calculated in March 1966, that the corruption of Indonesia's new elite would facilitate foreign control ("Confronting the Third World", p183).


Celebration, Cover-up And A Murky History


Although Western agencies were to try hard to cover up their role in the 1965-66 takeover, celebration of Suharto's success was garishly open and callous. Time (15/7/66) called the massacres the "West's best news for years in Asia", displaying a picture of Suharto on the cover bearing the legend, "Vengeance with a Smile" ("The New Rulers of the World"; "Year 501: The Conquest Continues" by Noam Chomsky, Verso, 1993, p128). Its propaganda message was perverted enough to portray Suharto as having an "almost innocent face", while describing the new Army regime as "scrupulously constitutional" ("Year 501", p128).   US News & World Report enthused over an Indonesia where there was now hope, and the New York Times (19/6/66) saw "A Gleam of Light in Asia" ("Year 501", p128; "The New Rulers of the World"). The general thrust of the American media message was that anti-Communist forces had risen up to take back the country, although the NYT's leading political writer, James Reston, did slyly suggest a deeper US role in the whole episode (19/6/66; "Year 501", p128).   This could surely be guessed at given the very revealing US response. At a much less visible level, from the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, to the Ambassador to Indonesia, Marshall Green, American leaders expressed great satisfaction with the results that had been achieved. By 1968, however, when the CIA published its disinformation book on the Suharto takeover - "Indonesia-1965: The Coup That Backfired" - the US propaganda strategy was to further play down the role of the Indonesian Army, and to picture the massacre as a spontaneous, uncontrollable burst of the people's fury at the PKI, resulting in an unfortunately high body count. 


A brilliant chapter in Noam Chomsky's "Year 501" (chapter 5, 'Human Rights: The Pragmatic Criterion', pp119/37) dissects in typically scathing fashion the covert Western, especially American, encouragement and support for the massacres. What is so evident from his well documented account is the utterly cynical ruthlessness of the US leadership when dealing with those that it defines as its enemies, whether active or potential. Only mobilised public outcry, in America and around the world, can serve as any constraint on such activity. The leading CIA and RAND Corp. policy analyst on Indonesia, Guy Pauker, saw things explicitly in terms of what the Nazis did to the Communists in Germany, and thus what the Indonesian Army should do to the PKI. Even some years before 1965, Pauker had been advocating to the Indonesian military the need to take action and wipe out the Communist opposition. He and others had continued to do so, and in 1969 after the massacres were virtually completed, Pauker reflected with satisfaction that the 1965 coup attempt "elicited the ruthlessness that I had not anticipated a year earlier and resulted in the death of large numbers of Communist cadres" (ibid, p122). 


Much mystery has been associated with the actual coup attempt on September 30, 1965. In this attempted coup, six of seven top military officers were murdered.  Soon after, media fabrications about how these men were treated before being killed were to play a big part "in stirring up popular resentment against the PKI.   Photographs of the bodies of the dead generals - badly decomposed [after being dumped in a well] - were featured in all the newspapers and on television. Stories accompanying the pictures falsely claimed that the generals had been castrated and their eyes gouged out by Communist women" ("Deadly Deceits", pp57/8).   The September 30/1 October coup is known as the "Gestapu" affair, with the attempt itself being crushed by the commander of the Army's strategic command, Major-General Suharto, within fewer than 24 hours ("The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966", p45). Aspects about the coup attempt have led to speculation about the possible role of an agent provocateur (or provocateurs). Was it in fact part of a more comprehensive CIA/Suharto plot? Peter Dale Scott has evidently made the strongest case, based on detailed analytical research, that even the coup attempt was probably manipulated from the inside by Suharto and the CIA (Pacific Affairs, volume 58, no.2, Summer 1985).         


But the swift labelling of the Gestapu affair as a botched Communist grab for power has generally prevailed ever since, becoming a standard item of mainstream historical writing. Whatever the exact truth here, it is fascinating to see how the spurious Suharto/CIA version of history has regularly got reproduced, and in the most respected histories. For example, eminent (and very conservative) Oxford University historian, John Roberts, has had this to say: "Food shortages and inflation led to an attempted coup by the Communists (or so the military said), and in 1965, the Army stood back ostentatiously while popular massacre removed the Communists to whom Sukarno might have turned.  He himself was duly set aside the following year and a solidly anti-Communist regime took power" ("Shorter Illustrated History of the World", BCA, 1994, p547).    So while Roberts does signal a doubt about the nature of the coup, he goes on, incredibly enough, to: (1) promote the blatant and easily demonstrable lie that the military had nothing to do with the genocide; (2) actually give the massacre a positive tone in the sense that it was purportedly "popular"; and, (3) then give the new regime a similarly positive tone in that it was "solidly" founded. All this can justly be called the crudest propaganda. Even Roberts' expressed reservation about the coup seems tailored as well to help transmit the idea of a considered, judicious judgement. Such then is the best tradition of Western history-making on matters of this sort; and the fate of some one million people, brutally butchered, is cavalierly consigned to the dustbin of capitalist history.  


One of the problems in investigating the 1965-69 genocide is the lack of reliable documentary evidence of the more specific details of what happened. Most of the killings during the peak period - from October 1965 through to March 1966 - were dispersed in action, and done at night in the countryside by small bands.   "The New Rulers of the World" claimed to show the only extant photograph of any of the killings. Unlike the case with the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Indonesian official and unofficial records are very scanty. This seems to have been deliberate policy to a large degree so as to not only prevent scrutiny at the time, but also obfuscate any future efforts to establish the truth, or, worst of all, accountability.    However, we do now know crucial elements of the American and British connections to the murders. 



International Mass Murder Incorporated


Along with Marshall Green's appointment in June 1965 as Ambassador to Indonesia during the critical period leading up to the Gestapu affair, had been the arrival earlier in 1964 of a new, activist CIA Chief of Station, "Bernardo Hugh Tovar, a naturalised Colombian who had spent years in the Philippines with the CIA's Edward Lansdale in the early 1950s" ("Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia", p243). Lansdale had specialised in unconventional warfare techniques against opponents of the Filipino regime. Later, Tovar, went on to CIA dirty work in Indochina. Thanks to the dedicated digging of researcher Kathy Kadane, we have learnt that the CIA and American Embassy officials in Jakarta passed on the names of Communist organisers and activists to Suharto's death squads (e.g. San Francisco Examiner, 20/5/90; "Year 501", pp131/33). Kadane found that: "The US government played a significant role by supplying the names of thousands of Communist Party leaders to the Indonesian Army, which hunted down the Leftists and killed them, former US diplomats say . . . As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian Army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured, according to US officials . . . The lists were a detailed who's who of the leadership of the Party of three million members, [foreign service Robert] Martens said" ("Year 501", p131; Examiner, 20/5/90; see also "The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966”, p7). 


In an interview with Kadane, Robert Martens, a former member of the US Embassy's political section (and when interviewed, a State Department consultant), acknowledged: "It really was a big help to the Army . . . They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad.    There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment" (San Francisco Examiner, 20/5/90; also see Washington Post, 21/5/90; Boston Globe, 23/5/90). By 1990, several American newspapers at least were willing to print some hard material contesting the official version of events, although what should have been seen as a sensational and most important story was in fact, as might be expected, little used by the media. The Examiner report (20/5/90) declared that: "Silent for a quarter century, former senior US diplomats and CIA officers described in lengthy interviews how they aided Indonesian President Suharto, then Army leader, in his attack on the PKI". Ex-diplomat and political section chief, Edward Masters, who had been Martens' boss, confirmed that "CIA agents contributed in drawing up the death lists" (ibid.). Joseph Lazarksy, who was the deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta when Suharto took over, has admitted that the list of names was used as a "shooting list" by the Indonesian Army. All this, of course, was denied in 1990 by a CIA spokesman.  


"Kadane reports that top US Embassy officials acknowledged in interviews that they had approved of the release of the names" ("Year 501", p131). These officials included Ambassador Marshall Green, deputy chief of mission Jack Lydman, and Edward Masters. According to Howard Federspiel, the then Indonesia expert for State Department intelligence: 'No one cared as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered; no one was getting very worked up about it" (ibid, p131). Green has commented that: "I know we had a lot more information [about the PKI] than the Indonesians themselves" (Examiner, 20/5/90).     Likewise, Masters said that the Indonesian intelligence was "not as comprehensive as the American lists".    Martens supplied the American-compiled lists to an Indonesian emissary over a number of months. This emissary was an aide to Indonesian minister Adam Malik who in turn passed them on to Suharto's headquarters. Lazarsky disclosed that information about who had been captured and killed came back from the Suharto command centre. "By the end of January 1966, Lazarsky said, the checked off names were so numerous the CIA analysts in Washington concluded the PKI leadership had been destroyed" (ibid.). It is important to record here "that in many cases Party members were killed along with their entire families in order to prevent the possibility of retaliation in the future" ("The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966", p11; also note the Time {17/12/65} report cited earlier). 


Direct US complicity in the mass murders was actually already known from "cable traffic between the US Embassy in Jakarta and the State Department" ("Year 501", pp123 & 132; & "Confronting the Third World", pp177/83). For instance, Secretary of State Dean Rusk had instructed Ambassador Green on October 29 1965, that the "campaign against PKI" must continue and would receive US military aid to do so ("Confronting the Third World", p181). US cable exchanges showed a high level of concern about whether or not the army would have the resolve to carry out the genocide. On October 14 1965 Green had cabled Washington that: "Their success or failure is going to determine our own in Indonesia for some time to come" (ibid, p180). Later, on November 4, 1965, Green told Rusk that Embassy staff had made it clear that the Embassy and the US government were "generally sympathetic with and admiring of what Army doing"; and a few days later reported that the Army was acting "ruthlessly" carrying out "wholesale killings" (ibid, p181). Green ensured "carefully placed assistance which will help Army cope with PKI", to facilitate what the CIA called the "destruction" of the Party (ibid.). It needs to be noted that relevant US documents for the three months preceding September 30 1965 have been withheld from public scrutiny. As Kolko observes, given all the other material available, "one can only assume that the release of these papers would embarrass the US government" (ibid, p177). As Kolko suggests, too, the Suharto takeover could have already been planned for such an opportune moment.


On Bali an estimated 80,000 people, or roughly 5% of the population, were killed. "The populations of whole villages were executed, the victims either shot with automatic weapons or hacked to death with knives and machetes. Some of the killers were said to have drunk the blood of their victims or to have gloated over the numbers of people they had put to death" ("The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in Bali" by Geoffrey Robinson, Cornell University Press, 1995, p1). In chapter 11 of his profound, in-depth study on Bali, Robinson goes into some detail as to extent and nature of US involvement in the massacres. His overall assessment is that: "Even if it is not possible to establish definitively the extent of US complicity, it can be demonstrated that US policy contributed substantially to the seizure of power by the military under Suharto and to the massacre that ensued" (ibid, p282). As he emphasises, at least as early as 1957, US policy initiatives had been deliberately exploiting and encouraging "internal political cleavages in Indonesia with the intention of bringing down the established government" (ibid). On Bali, it was the arrival of the military with death lists and logistical support that mobilised the slaughter on a large scale. There was an orchestrated propaganda campaign to both instigate and legitimate the killings of those defined as the enemy. The Western-created myth of exotic Bali as a marvellously peaceful island so appropriate as a tourist Mecca masks a violent tradition, and Bali's part in the 1965-66 genocide was actually not quite the aberration it might seem.


Like Kolko, Robinson has analysed and reproduced key aspects of US documentation relating to the opportunity presented by the Gestapu affair. "Just days after the coup, the CIA in Jakarta telegraphed to the White House: 'The Army must act quickly if it is to exploit its opportunity to move against the PKI': CIA Report no.14 to the White House, 5/10/65" (ibid, p283). US officials were then well aware that the Army was inciting popular violence against the PKI, and the strategies of murder which were being employed. Despite its delight, the Johnson Administration still "put on a public show of tolerant noninterference in Indonesia's 'internal affairs'"(ibid, p284). In addition to such observations, Robinson draws attention to several matters connected with Indonesian public media during 1965 that are most suggestive of a typical CIA operation aimed at destabilisation of an existing government. For instance, an inflammatory newspaper Api Pancasila mysteriously emerged only days after the coup attempt and later just as suddenly disappeared, having contributed to the creation of an anti-Communist frenzy (ibid, p285).


The Empire Soldiers On


The British connections to all this have emerged in a variety of ways. Most damning have been the revelations from official documents. Whereas the Foreign Office has regularly denied that Britain was involved in the fall of Sukarno, new revelations in the mid/late 1990s showed that British Intelligence agencies and propaganda specialists carried out covert operations to overthrow the regime. Mark Curtis, author of "The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy since 1945" (Zed Books, 1995), had an excoriating editorial in 1996 in The Ecologist (Vol.26, no.5, September/October, 1996, pp202/04). Titled "Democratic Genocide", it presented his findings "from recently declassified secret Government files".   Quotes immediately below in the next three paragraphs are from his editorial unless otherwise indicated. 


Curtis states that: "The secret files reveal three crucial aspects of the British role". The first was its intention to get rid of Sukarno. "According to a CIA memorandum of June 1962, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and President John Kennedy 'agreed to liquidate President Sukarno, depending on the situation and the available opportunities'.  In the late 1950s, Britain had aided covert attempts to organise a guerrilla army to overthrow Sukarno". By 1965, the British Ambassador to Indonesia, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, was telling the Foreign Office that: "I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change" (see also "The New Rulers of the World"). Gilchrist went on in October 1965, after the Gestapu affair, to strongly press the generals to take ruthless action against the Communists. Meantime, the US Embassy had declared: "Now is the ideal time in some ways for the Army to be committed to a struggle to the death with the PKI". 


The second way that Curtis identifies that Britain undermined Sukarno in the 1960s was through specific covert operations, including carefully targeted propaganda like stories about China's supposed links with the Indonesian Communist Party leader. Another action had more sinister implications. Indonesia had been in confrontation with Britain over the federation of Malaysia. Gilchrist suggested that word be passed on to the Indonesian generals that British forces would "not attack them whilst they are chasing the PKI. The C-in-C [British military commander in Singapore] thinks that this has some merit and might ensure that the Army is not detracted [sic] from what we consider to be a necessary task". This suggestion was duly implemented, and a "secret communication was made to the Generals through the American contact". Britain's third type of role was indeed characterised by the "extremely close relations between the US and British embassies in Jakarta". The US and Britain apparently agreed on supplying arms to "Moslem and nationalist youths", i.e. the civilian-based death squads that the Indonesian military high command was initiating and sustaining in the field. With cynical black humour, this covert aid (weapons, etc.) was dubbed "medicines". In "The New Rulers of the World", Roland Challis, once a BBC correspondent in the region during 1964-69, observed that at one stage some Indonesian troops were taken by ship from Sumatra to new killing fields in Java. The troop transport vessel sailed down the Malacca Strait escorted by two British warships.  


An insight into the meaning of free trade in such creatively innovative situations is highlighted by a memo written by the then Labour Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart, to Prime Minister Harold Wilson during the genocide: "It is only the economic chaos of Indonesia which prevents that country from offering great potential opportunities to British exporters. If there is going to be a deal with Indonesia, as I hope one day there may be, I think we ought to take an active part and try and secure a slice of the cake ourselves". So already, while the slaughter was in process, British strategists were planning an Indonesia designed to fit their business requirements. As we have seen, these plans took fruition at the conference held in Switzerland in 1967 courtesy of Time-Life Corp. when Time and Co. followed up their celebration of the massacres with practical facilitation of the economic gains - at a party where they cut up the cake with the Indonesian clients who had carried out their dirty work ("The New Rulers of the World"). Professor Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University has pointed out that the imposition by Western capital of such a comprehensive package on a country at a one-off event appears so far to have been unique to Indonesia (ibid.). Perhaps Afghanistan is the next candidate? After all, while Afghanistan itself is resource poor it is very strategically placed for access to the oil and gas reserves of Central Asia. The US has ambitions for a gas pipeline from Central Asia running through Afghanistan (see e.g., NZ Listener, 13/10/01, p23).  


More of the evidence of Britain's involvement in the Indonesian genocide has been published in Paul Lashmar and James Oliver's book, "Britain's Secret Propaganda War 1948-1997" (Sutton Publishers, 1998). In late 1965, Britain sent a senior Foreign Office official and propaganda specialist to assist on the spot with the anti-Sukarno campaign. Foreign service operative, Norman Reddaway, was given 100,000 pounds by Foreign Office head, Joe (later Lord) Garner, to manipulate the media and told to do anything he could to get rid of Sukarno. Reddaway has said that the removal of Sukarno was considered a huge success, with Indonesia becoming one of Britain's biggest customers for arms. British operations included coordinated activity by Foreign Office personnel, MI6 (Britain’s external Intelligence agency), and Army psychological warfare officers to spread anti-Sukarno propaganda. Reddaway's unit aided pro-Western elements in the Indonesian military. As well as actions based in Singapore, and directly on the ground in Indonesia, Britain's Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) eavesdropping agency listened in to the Sukarno government's communications and passed on relevant information to his military opponents. 


The Disinformation Game


An article in the Guardian (1/8/01), titled "Our Bloody Coup in Indonesia: Britain colluded in one of the worst massacres of the century" by Isabel Hilton, has indicated that a 1966 study carried out at Cornell University "discovered that what most of the officers [in the Gestapu Affair] had in common was not any association with the PKI, but a connection with General Suharto". As Hilton says "there is also evidence that the British and US responsibility for the fall of Sukarno goes back to the event that triggered it - an alleged Leftwing coup attempt in 1965". Lt. Col. Untung, the supposed leader of the officers involved, was a known anti-Communist and some of his colleagues had been trained in the US. "It has been known for more than ten years that the CIA supplied lists of names for Suharto's assassination squads. What is less widely known is that the supposed pro-Communist coup that triggered the crisis was almost certainly the work of the CIA" (ibid.). Hilton points out "that the British and American governments did not just cover up the massacre: they had a direct hand in bringing it about"; and, furthermore, they succeeded "in selling a false version of events that persists to this day". An intriguing aspect of the "Gestapu" affair is its very name. The term was allegedly coined as an acronym by an Indonesian army officer, "presumably with the intention of investing it with the aura of evil associated with the term 'Gestapo'" ("The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966", p46).   Although the word would surely mean little in this sense to the average Indonesian, it would certainly have a suitably sinister ring in the Western media.


Roland Challis, the BBC correspondent, "has described how British diplomats planted misleading stories in British newspapers at the time" (Guardian, 1/8/01). Conservative media like the Atlantic Monthly systematically whitewashed the genocide. The Atlantic Monthly assured its readers that Suharto "is regarded by Indonesians who know him well as incorruptible . . . In attacking the Communists, he was not acting as a Western puppet; he was doing simply what he believed to be best for Indonesia" (Guardian, 1/8/01). This just happened to include "the granting of lucrative concessions to Western mining and oil companies", along with such bonuses as the buying of British military aircraft (ibid).       


It is sobering to recall that not too long ago Don McKinnon, as NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs (and now Commonwealth Secretary General!), was telling us how Indonesia was his kind of democracy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) was most happy to indicate Indonesia as a development success story.    In the past, too, McKinnon brazenly justified Indonesia's annexation of East Timor where some 200,000 people, about a third of the total population, had been killed by Suharto's forces (e.g. TV1 6pm News, 21/3/95). Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975 was carried out with Western, including Australasian, complicity. In fact, newly released documents show President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, gave Suharto’s invasion the green light (NZ Herald, 8/12/01; Press, 8/12/01). Then, too, there has been the subjugation of West Irian. Suharto has apparently been a bigger mass murderer than Pol Pot (compare the figures for Khmer Rouge genocide in "The Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966", p18). NZ's dirty little collaborationist role in all of this is a story still to be told.


Significantly enough, 1965 was the year that NZ was "finally briefed on ASIS [Australian Secret Intelligence Service] in order to facilitate official discussions being held in Canberra with delegations from Wellington and London" ("Oyster: The Story of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service" by Brian Toohey & William Pinwill, William Heinemann, 1989, p110). Previously, the NZ government had not been officially informed of this Intelligence agency's existence. Over the years, ASIS was involved in various projects to destabilise the Sukarno regime. In fact, "Sukarno's Indonesia was the main playground for ASIS attempts at 'dirty tricks'" (ibid, p96).   The working relations between the CIA and ASIS were very close. 


"By June 1965, when the ANZUS* Ministers met in Washington for their annual consultations [US] Secretary of State Dean Rusk was voicing deep concern about the extent of Communist influence" (ibid, p100). State Department records show that Rusk "expected there would be some effort by various groups to prevent the PKI from further solidifying its control" (ibid). At the very least, ASIS played a part in creating a climate conducive to mass murder, and then joined in American and British rejoicing at Sukarno's downfall. In point of fact here, it was specifically praised by the US Ambassador to Australia at the time, Ed Clark, for acting as much as it could to overthrow the Sukarno government; and this aid included "exchanges of top level intelligence, both formal and informal, to . . . possibly more active participation in Sukarno's downfall" (ibid, p102). Even the CIA relied a lot on ASIS reporting in 1966 when Indonesia was in turmoil. A Captain Edward Kenny later testified that he had worked as an ASIS operative in the destabilisation programme but had resigned in disgust over the bloodbath. Critical to the covert action, he claimed, was the bribing of high-ranking Indonesian military officers. Whatever the exact mechanisms of destabilisation involved, the NZ government - certainly some key politicians and officials - must have been well aware of much of the real story of events. Along with trade and investment ties, until relatively recently NZ had also been a military partner of the Suharto regime, training personnel and selling equipment. *ANZUS – the 1951 military treaty between Australia, NZ and the US. The US unilaterally suspended NZ from it, in 1986, as punishment for NZ’s nuclear free policy. It still exists between Australia and the US. But as far as New Zealand is concerned, it is dead. Ed.


The maxim that truth is the first casualty of war is an old wisdom. But in 2002 it is more vital than ever to keep it in mind. During the Cold War, a constant refrain of the free press was the Communist atrocity story.   Whether fact or fiction depending on the occasion, the theme was a recurring one. The obvious implication was that the Communist foe used methods of political control that the West and its allies would never stoop to use. Instead, values that the West supposedly stood for like freedom and democracy meant that Western forces consistently kept some measure of human decency in tailoring means to ends. Yet the 1965-66 Indonesian genocide clearly showed that any supposed regard for human rights could even be openly discounted in the media celebration of a particularly gruesome outcome. To carry this off convincingly, the right propaganda spin was critical. For the most part it was essential to deny any Western responsibility, or at least only admit this to a carefully calculated degree, and then only in a properly contrived context. So in the Indonesian case, as we have seen, the massacres were presented as the outraged response to a botched Communist takeover; a spontaneous, uncontrollable uprising of the masses; a desperate mobilisation in self-defence, etc. The victims were systematically dehumanised in all sorts of ways - some general in technique, others very much adapted to cultural and regional/local factors.     


Cover-up Continues - "Ignorance is Strength"


With regard to the media, my own personal experience of the treatment by Christchurch's Press of the Indonesian genocide has proved very illuminating. Some of this was once written up and published in Peace Researcher (first series, no.13, June 1987), as 'The Free Press and the CIA'. This particular piece was prompted by the initial refusal of the Press to publish a letter of mine to the Editor, originally sent in September 1986. My letter had contended that certain recent items in the Press on Indonesia showed how CIA-inspired propaganda works in the West. In the letter I specifically took up the issue of the Gestapu affair and the alleged Communist coup. I had included the statement that analysts like Peter Dale Scott "demonstrate that even the coup attempt was manipulated from the inside by Suharto and the CIA. This coup attempt was the excuse for the planned systematic murder of Communist and other groups".


After a direct personal approach and remonstrance with the then Editor, the matter of actual publication was resolved and my letter duly appeared. Various other related matters came to converge with this particular concern and so a Peace Researcher article took shape as well. The Press is a long time apologist for US foreign policy, whatever the crime, and has regularly used the atrocity story against American enemies while covering up and protecting the perpetrators of Western terrorism.  In Suharto's case, applying the pragmatic criterion of human rights, it turned against him like other media when the Indonesian President had obviously reached his "use-by" date. 


In October 2000, there was a sense of deja vu when a letter of mine to the Press Editor was similarly declined on the topic of the Indonesian genocide. Ironically enough, the Press has a Latin motto proclaiming that "there is nothing useful which is not honourable"; and advertises itself as dealing with "every issue". My October 2000 letter was another comment on a Press article about Suharto, the Gestapu affair and the massacre. Following the non-appearance of my letter, I next resubmitted it by hand, once more unsuccessfully. This time, I decided against going into the newspaper offices and trying to argue with the editor over the matter. Rather it is best written up here as yet another example of the continuing general cover-up of Western participation in the genocide.   First of all, the letter is reproduced as follows: 


"Peter Fry's article blaming former President Suharto for the genocide of Communists, Chinese and other peoples in Indonesia during 1965-67 (Press, 2/10/00, p9) only tells part of the story. The massacres were deliberately planned and orchestrated by key Intelligence and military forces within the Western alliance.   There is now ample documentation and admission of what really happened. In his book, 'Deadly Deceits', former CIA agent Ralph McGehee revealed how the Agency falsely portrayed the coup attempt against Sukarno as 'Communist', and how the CIA embraced the whole episode, including the massacres, as a model for future covert Third World interventions.  American and British embassy staff in Indonesia drew up hit lists of victims for Suharto's death squads as shown for example by declassified British files described in The Ecologist, vol.26, no.5, September/October 1996, p202. Today, Suharto is a scapegoat for the Western betrayal of the Indonesian people".


Ever since economic crisis hit Indonesia and the Suharto regime started to crumble, the West has been disassociating itself from the regime and placing all the blame for Indonesia's woes on the notoriously corrupt ruling family. This has been a standard, well practised tactic with a number of dictators that the West, particularly the US, has strongly supported in the past. These rulers have been ditched at strategic points, and the transition then made (or attempted) to the establishment of more acceptable rulers. Dramatic examples of this well tried practice include Marcos in the Philippines, "Baby Doc" Duvalier in Haiti, and Mobutu in Zaire/Congo. On the eve of the new Millennium, and in completely cynical fashion, Time actually launched its own campaign on Suharto's abuse of the Indonesian economy. The World Bank's development model was now the target of unashamedly hypocritical criticism, and not only by the Bank. A May 1999 cover story of Time (24/5/99) grandly proclaimed: "Suharto's Billions. Luxury homes, fine art and private jets - our special investigation undercovers the former Indonesian leader's staggering family fortune" (see also Murray Horton's cover story on the NZ connections in Foreign Control Watchdog, no.92, December 1999).    So this media wing of the Time-Life Corporation which hosted the 1967 business conference in Switzerland, a meeting that wrote the rules for foreign investment and trade in Indonesia, has now rounded quite nastily on its former client, a dictator whom it helped protect for many years. The political economy of the media and human rights is most fascinating.


Myth-making And New Spin


As indicated, my letter to the Editor of the Press in October 2000 was directed against an article by Peter Fry, billed as "formerly an Army colonel and defence attache in Indonesia". The headlines for his article read: "Suharto's double double-cross: As Indonesia grapples with Suharto's legacy of corruption, Peter Fry questions the role the general played in the 1965 coup". It was a most interesting article with not a hint of Western involvement in the whole episode. Suharto, the coup makers, the PKI and Sukarno shared all the blame, with Suharto coming in for special attention. A summary of Fry's article is needed for an adequate examination of what he had to say. Until indicated, the quotes below come from his Press article. Fry maintained that: "On the eve of the coup, the PKI were confidantes to the President and at the brink of achieving political power through legal and peaceful means, while their arch-enemy, the Indonesian Army, was becoming increasingly at odds with Mr Sukarno". As Fry rightly puts it, the official story that the PKI plotted and engineered the Gestapu affair does not make sense. "It seems unlikely that the PKI, poised to assume power legally, would have chanced its future on such an unpredictable mechanism as a violent coup d'etat". Fry goes on to portray the coup attempt as a revolt by disillusioned officers, who invited PKI participation at a late stage, and that the PKI leadership then "gave the plan its cautious support". He suggests that somehow Sukarno was in on it too and would announce his support for the coup makers at the appropriate moment. 


However, as Fry points out, the plotters had inexplicably failed to ensure that Major-General Suharto was included on the list of generals to be purged. This was the result, Fry suggests, of Suharto's "double double-cross" of the coup makers whereby Suharto was "fully part of the conspiracy" which he then betrayed.   Next, to save the Army's image, Suharto used the PKI as a scapegoat, picturing the Party as the instigator of the plot all along.  In Fry's words: "The Communists were easily blamed, but more was possible. Their guilt could be managed to obliterate all trace of Army complicity and eliminate the PKI. For the people of Indonesia the worst was to come. The horror was yet to be played out". Fry goes on to emphasise the butchery and how: "The forces of retribution were unleashed, masked as spontaneous acts of revenge by local people". He concludes by saying, whatever the truth of Suharto's role in the coup attempt, "he did not fail to seize the opportunities presented to him, and in the bloody aftermath, ruthlessly destroyed the PKI and its supporters". 


Fry's Press piece fits in with the recent Western approach of putting most of the blame for the genocide on Suharto, and certainly avoiding any Western responsibility. Some progress has been made, I suppose, in one sense. My 1986 letter to the Editor alleged that Suharto and the CIA manipulated the 1965 coup attempt from inside. Now we have reached the stage where Suharto's role at least is being suggested by Establishment sources. On the other hand, of course, CIA connections to mass murder have always been highly sensitive and this is now especially true in the new era, after September 11, 2001, of the US/British "war on terrorism". US government politicians and officials do not want the ghosts of previous American State-sponsored terrorist campaigns to come back and haunt them. In 1994 a lengthy US State Department document was released that disclosed details of major covert operations conducted by the CIA in Indonesia during the 1950s. It showed how the Eisenhower Administration secretly intervened in backing armed opposition groups on the islands of Sulawesi and Sumatra, supplying advisers, arms and communications equipment among other things. This bid to overthrow Sukarno had been in reaction to his efforts to nationalise Western commercial enterprises.  But in 2001 a State Department study of the 1965-66 events in Indonesia was suppressed from public scrutiny by the Bush Administration. And this was even before the "war on terrorism"! 


Controversy in the US over the State Department book was reported in July 2001 (Radio NZ, 29/7/01; Independent [London], 20/7/01). A copy of it was accidentally obtained in the US by the National Security Archive, an organisation that campaigns for access to declassified official documents. This State Department study is very revealing of the US role in the massacres. It further documents diplomatic cables showing how the US Embassy supplied the names of Communist Party members to the Indonesian army in Jakarta, and also American funding for a militia group (death squad). It shows, too, how the US worked to lower estimates of the number of people killed, and discloses that the US information given to the Indonesian military high command contributed to the murder of more than 100,000 PKI members. One of the documents sent to Washington states: "The chances of detection . . . of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be" (Independent, 20/7/01). According to the Archive, the book says that in December 1965, Marshall Green, as US Ambassador, "endorsed a 50 million rupiah (3,500 pounds) covert payment to the Kap-Gestapu movement leading the repression" (ibid). "Kap-Gestapu" was a special, militant anti-Communist group set up by the Army to spearhead the genocide - literally "action command to crush Gestapu". NB. The Archive has posted one of two disputed volumes on


More widely interpreted, this then is what the American idea of freedom means for the Third World, today most dramatically represented by Bush's "war on terrorism". Any resistance to US-led globalisation is to be similarly crushed, one way or another. Globalisation supposedly represents the inexorable advance of Western civilisation to which the rest of the world has to conform or else . . . Ex-Ambassador Green once "told writer Tad Szulc of a 1967 interview he had with Richard Nixon. Green said, 'The Indonesian experience had been one of particular interest to [Nixon] because things had gone well in Indonesia. I think he was very interested in that whole experience as pointing to the way we should handle our relationships on a wider basis in Southeast Asia generally, and maybe in the world'" (In These Times, July 4-17, 1990).    With President Bush unleashing the CIA and covert operations against anybody whom this very Rightwing Administration considers a "terrorist", it is most likely that the Indonesian model will be dusted off and implemented again (for a rare academic scrutiny of Western terrorism, see “Western State Terrorism”, ed. Alex George, Polity-Blackwell, 1991).      


The Indonesian Model - "Jakarta is Coming!"


After the fall of Suharto, despite continuing efforts by much of the Western Establishment to cover up the record of destabilisation of the Sukarno government, it is becoming easier for those concerned to research and communicate on the issue. In particular, the Indonesian Institute for the Study of the 1965/66 Massacre - Yayasan Penelitian Korban Pembunuhan 1965/1966 - is engaged in this work. In March 2001, it declared that: "After the downfall of Suharto's military regime, it is now possible at last to carry out serious research regarding the extent of the massacres, as well as the imprisonments, and flagrant abuses of power perpetrated during more than 30 years of the Suharto regime, a regime which has brought Indonesia to its knees economically, morally and socially" (the Institute’s e-mail address is:


The militarised national security state instituted by Suharto has been scrutinised in the past, to some extent at least. Ten years after the military takeover in 1965, it was estimated that about 100,000 political prisoners were still being held "in a vast number of prisons, detention centres, work camps and military units" ("Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia", p100). Known as "tapols" (from "tahanan politik", meaning political prisoner), the jails were regularly replenished with inmates following arrests on the pretext of alleged involvement, directly or indirectly, in the Gestapu affair. Likewise, some years later, researchers found that: "More than 15 years after the coup [attempt], the regime's sustained anti-Communist propaganda and terror campaign effectively continues" ("Indonesia: Law, Propaganda and Terror" by Julie Southwood & Patrick Flanagan, Zed Books, 1983, p133). This pattern was long to prevail.


Most grotesquely, in Stalinist fashion, supposed leading Gestapu participants were periodically executed after show trials in order to remind the populace of the importance of obedience to governmental authority, and this practice carried on into the 1990s. Writing in July 1990, Joel Bleifuss observed that "since 1985, 20 people have been executed for their alleged role in the coup or for membership in the PKI. These deaths were a product of Indonesia's formal judicial system. That was not the case, however, with the so-called ‘mysterious killings’ of some 5,000 Indonesians during the ‘anti-crime’ campaigns of 1983/86. President Suharto writes in his 1989 autobiography that these deaths were in fact officially sanctioned summary executions of suspected criminals" (In These Times, July 4-17, 1990). The legacy of the genocide was obviously a lasting one throughout the 32 years of Suharto's rule; and it took many and diverse forms.     


As indicated earlier, ex-CIA agent Ralph McGehee has flagged the significance of the CIA's Indonesian 1965-66 operation as a model for other covert operations. Among a range of aspects, there are certain features we can readily identify: (1) cultivation of Rightwing military elements; (2) using an alleged atrocity to inflame public opinion; (3) general media manipulation to incite violent reaction; (4) instigation and logistic support for civilian vigilante groups; (5) swift and hard coordinated response targeted at the mass elimination of opponents, or potential opponents; and, (6) a continuing programme of disinformation and cover-up.    Since some of these principles, if not all, were already standard guidelines for US covert operations, the perceived US success might have resided in the overall package and its secret, effective coordination.    Perhaps manipulation of the Gestapu affair was the key element. At one point in his book, "Deadly Deceits", McGehee refers to the "CIA [one word deleted] operation" (p57). Peter Dale Scott has suggested that the missing word is "deception" ("Year 501", p123). Peter Fry, please take note. Whatever the exact success of the deception performed, there is no doubt that the greatest sense of US satisfaction came from wiping out the PKI. 

When he visited Aotearoa/NZ in 1986, McGehee told us that probably the clearest example of the model's application was the Pinochet* takeover in Chile in 1973. This CIA operation involved agents like Dr Ray Cline who later tried to set up a so-called "ANZUS think tank" here at the time of the mid-1980's crisis over visits by American nuclear warships to NZ. As part of the psychological warfare programme leading up to the Pinochet coup in Chile, the warning slogans, "Jakarta, Jakarta", and "Jakarta is coming", were painted on walls around Santiago. "Covert Action in Chile: 1963-1973", a staff report to a US Senate Select Committee, showed that: "In addition to support for political parties, the CIA mounted a massive, anti-Communist propaganda campaign. Extensive use was made of the press, radio, films, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, direct mailing, paper streamers, and wall painting. It was a 'scare campaign' . . ." (US Govt., 1975, p15). This campaign was aimed at goading the political opposition "or the Chilean military into action" (ibid, p23). *General Pinochet, dictator of Chile, 1973-90. A particularly brutal military coup overthrew the elected Leftwing government, headed by President Allende, who was amongst the thousands killed. Ed.


Among media-related activities, Time magazine was put on the right track by the CIA in its story line on Chile (ibid, p25). Indeed, in a six week period, according to the CIA itself, "partial returns showed that 726 articles, broadcasts, editorials, and similar items directly resulted from Agency activity" with regard to the Latin American and European media (ibid.). Most significantly, the CIA engaged in a "deception operation" to influence the Chilean military against the Allende government (ibid, pp37/9). When he visited Aotearoa/NZ in 1986, Ralph McGehee told us it was the CIA's boast that it could play on the world's media like a giant Wurlitzer (pipe organ). Locally, it is interesting to note that one of the Press's editorial staff is so enamoured of CIA operations during the Cold War that he sees the secret funding by the Agency of Encounter * and other magazines as "one of the most extraordinarily beneficial pieces of patronage in modern times and certainly one of the more benign instances of secret spending ever to occur". Indeed, for this journalist "the CIA helped save Western culture" and evidently the tradition of the free press (Press, 9/8/00). *Monthly magazine of art, literature, politics, funded by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a CIA front. Published a number of the leading Western writers during the Cold War years. Ed.     


Besides the 1973 Chilean coup, among the many other coups in which the CIA has been a prime agent after Indonesia 1965, was that in Cambodia in 1970, of which many observers noted the same complex of CIA plotters, Japanese secret societies and oil interests behind the military takeover there. Even Suharto's Army was implicated ("Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia", pp239/40). “Suharto remained ‘our kind of guy’, as the Clinton Administration called him, as he compiled one of the most horrendous records of slaughter and other abuses of the late 20th Century” (“September 11”, Noam Chomsky, Allen and Unwin, 2001, pp 78/79).


Friendly Fascism


Obviously the wholesale elimination of opponents is a central feature of the covert coup operations which the US has repeatedly put into effect. In this connection, it is worth recording that Marshall Green went on to oversee the American bombing of neutral Cambodia for the State Department in the Vietnam War, apparently drawing lessons from his Indonesian experience. "As the bombing was stepped up to historically unprecedented levels in 1973, slaughtering tens of thousands of peasants, Green testified before Congress that the massacre should continue because of our desire for peace . . . ", appealing here to the alleged success in forcing concessions by bombing Hanoi in 1972 ("Year 501", p127).  Green well knew that the Hanoi success was a lie - yet another untruth conveniently "concealed by the Free Press" - and therefore he "could be confident that there would be no exposure of his colossal fabrications in the interest of continued mass murder" (ibid). The bombing of Cambodia was an initially covert operation that in the end accounted  for about 600,000 deaths over six years, as estimated by the CIA (Pilger interview, Radio NZ, 22/9/01).    Significantly enough, the CIA recognised at the time that this bombing campaign was helping create the Khmer Rouge. Consequently, Green was an agent in two of the US's mass killings in the 20th Century, and indirectly also an agent of the barbarism inflicted on Cambodia by Pol Pot and his henchmen. Pol Pot was even supported by the West in various ways following the 1978 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.


As a master diplomat for Washington, among further similar achievements, Green's track record also includes "direct experience of the CIA-sponsored replacement of President Syngman Rhee by the military regime of Chung Hee Park" when he was a US Foreign Service Officer in Seoul, South Korea, in 1960 ("Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia", p243).  Rhee resigned because of student-led disorder and Peter Dale Scott suggests that one of Green's qualifications for the Ambassador's post in Indonesia in 1965 was his proven ability at fomenting violent student movements. "Because of the role of students in that eventual military takeover [Park's coup], Green was widely suspected in Indonesia of encouraging the student activists in the post-coup purge of the PKI" (ibid, p244). Later, Green was US Ambassador at the time of the Whitlam Labor government’s fall in Australia in 1975. The CIA and other spy and covert action agencies were accused of engineering the fall, and there is much evidence for that interpretation, including the "panic" shown by the CIA over Whitlam's intention to name a CIA agent in connection with the US Pine Gap spy base in Australia (see e.g. "Oyster", pp177/80).  


One Australian Labor Government Minister has reported an earlier threat made by Green "that if Labor handed control and ownership of US multinational subsidiaries to the Australian people 'we would move in'" ("Rooted in Secrecy: The Clandestine Element in Australian Politics" by Joan Coxsedge et al, Campaign Against Political Police, 1982, p24). With regard to Indonesia, Green regularly told Australian audiences that when he was there in the mid-1960s: "we did what we had to do and you'd better be glad we did because if we hadn't Asia would be a different place today" ("Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia", p244; "The CIA: A Forgotten History" by William Blum, Zed Books, 1986, p220). The pragmatic criterion of human rights is ever triumphant, but may ultimately eventuate in unpleasant consequences as well. 


A lovely Press puff-piece by Christopher Moore on Green's visit to Aotearoa/NZ in 1988 had this to say about the master diplomat: "For nearly 40 years, he trod the delicate tightrope of power politics with considerable skill. The archetypal New Englander, Marshall Green treats life with flinty personal integrity, a bemused view of human foibles and a robust, no-nonsense approach which has seen him confronting student mobs in Jakarta and devious politicians in Washington DC, with the manner of a strict but benign headmaster" (16/3/88). Such then is the Free Press's portrayal of a man bloodied with the terrorist mass murders of Indonesian and Cambodian peasants. Fittingly, it was observed that Green, after his retirement from the foreign service, was still "active in foreign affairs think tanks and groups examining the world population crisis" (ibid.). For sure, Green was then a director of the Population Crisis Committee. The urbane New Englander had certainly made his own peculiarly personal contribution to this crisis through wholesale slaughter. With a final thoughtful touch, the Press article ends on Green's considered wish: "I hope that throughout it all I have always remained a realistic humanitarian" (ibid). Exactly.   Ironically, 1988, the year of Green's visit to NZ was also the year of publication of Gabriel Kolko's book, "Confronting the Third World" (cited above), which presented the damning evidence from cable traffic of Green's role in the perpetration of the Indonesian genocide.


Another puff-piece in the Dominion Sunday Times (28/2/88) by Richard Long on Green's 1988 visit was equally enlightening. Long commented that: "He was appointed Ambassador to Jakarta in 1965 when the moderates managed to defeat President Sukarno's Communist takeover attempt". We thus have a very neat summary of Western disinformation here from Long who was well known to be close to the US Embassy in Wellington. A standard item in the disinformation package is the line that fascist-style mass murderers are "moderates" ("Year 501", chapter 5). Long went on to present Green as "far from being an old hawk" - to be sure, the old boy sounded "positively dovish on some issues" (Dominion Sunday Times, 28/2/88). Green praised the Indonesians who had the "great courage to oppose Sukarno"; and said this courage was "demonstrated, not just by the military, but also by other elements throughout the Indonesian bureaucracy and society" (ibid.). Besides all the propaganda previously described, it should be noted that by mid-1964 President Sukarno had become seriously ill (he died in 1970 in a state of virtual house arrest). The only concession by Long to any doubts about Green's record was the observation that Green maintained "there are great fallacies in the conspiracy theories attempting to link Washington to coups and overthrows in the region", including Whitlam's fall (ibid). In the Indonesian case, the problem for Mr. Green's historical integrity is all the incriminating documentary evidence accumulated in his own name.


Fighting The "War on Terrorism"


In pursuit of the US "war on terrorism", President Bush has announced his intention to institute secret, military tribunals to try any captured non-American terrorists for their crimes, with execution to follow within 30 days (of course, New Zealand is ahead of the world on this one. As far back as 1989, Mike Moore, our blink-and-miss-him Prime Minister and currently the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, talked of the new global problem of terrorism and called for the NZ military to have the death penalty for treason. Holmes, TVNZ, 14/6/89. Ed). Meantime, US treatment of prisoners taken from Afghanistan to their military base in Cuba is arousing worldwide concern, as well as (to a regrettably far lesser extent) treatment of prisoners within Afghanistan itself. In connection with the latter, Physicians for Human Rights, an American group, has drawn attention to thousands of captives suffering terrible conditions and even dying from their plight (Press, 30/1/02). Many of the world's worst terrorists are obviously living in Washington and elsewhere in the US, and the President's own father could be considered to be among them; but the danger for the future is that not only will they remain unaccountable, but that there will soon be a new Orwellian institution operated unilaterally by the world's self-appointed guardian of freedom and democracy. Such moves will project Western hypocrisy on a scale that will further erode any respect for Western professions of justice in the eyes of so many of the world's peoples.


The US has, of course, strenuously resisted the application of impartially constituted international law and courts which can adjudicate on crimes done against human rights in the conduct of its foreign policy - like support for the Indonesian genocide of the 1960s; and its sponsorship of death squad slaughter in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc. The aim of the Bush Administration is clearly to fight terrorism with terrorism, mobilising what has been called "The Real Terror Network" (see Edward Herman's superb book of the same name - South End Press, 1982).  As the mainstream Western media have done so assiduously in the past, the prevalent practice will be to protect and whitewash the US and its allies from any responsibility, let alone accountability for human rights abuses (see “Globalisation Into Global War?”, Foreign Control Waatchdog 98, December 2001, pp14-26).


Already atrocities, summary executions and massacres have been carried out by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in a campaign supposedly about stopping terrorism, and Western forces are implicated. This sort of crime has been perpetrated virtually with the collaboration of much of the Western media on the spot who openly took the side of the Alliance, a militia which has a grim history of repression and butchery that it is now blatantly extending (for example, see Time, 26/11/01, for a two page colour photo spread of Northern Alliance soldiers murdering a wounded Taliban. Ed). Moreover, the American Administration has stated that a lot of its "war on terrorism" will be carried out in secret so human rights abuses are likely to be routine and extensive in the new wave of dirty warfare. In the meantime, the Pentagon has again hired the Rendon Group, an American public relations company, to sell its war on Afghanistan. Rendon was the outfit which put out the propaganda lie about Iraqi soldiers killing babies during the 1991 Gulf War, and has apparently worked with the CIA to further demonise Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.


US leaders like the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld and his Deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, have made brazenly clear their desire to kill as many of the Taliban, and especially the foreign volunteers, as they can, seeing them as part of the Al Qaeda network. Ironically, a number of the foreign volunteers in Afghanistan were originally recruited under US auspices to fight the 1979-89 Russian invasion. American Defense Department spokesmen have been regularly placing a lot of public emphasis on killing those they see as the enemy. In its asymmetrical war strategy, first implemented on a major scale in the 1991 Gulf War, a technology-weak and often poverty-stricken enemy is blasted with Cruise missiles, bombers and high-tech weapons from a safe distance. Special forces are used for reconnaissance, intelligence operations, targeting, quick raids, and for finishing off the enemy.  As the West's dirty warriors, special forces have often been involved in death squad operations, whether directly or indirectly as initiators and facilitators, as part of the strategy of so-called "low intensity" warfare (Peace Researcher, first series, special issue: "NZ Ready Reactionaries Practise Repression", no.29, August 1991). In 2002 and beyond, the American Administration is out to violently eliminate as many of its "terrorist" opponents as it thinks world opinion can tolerate.  


Again, in this connection too, the advantages of the Indonesian model are plainly evident: in the future, the US will be seeking opportunities for mass slaughter of those it targets, and wherever this can be engineered covertly the better. This can mean employing proxies as much as possible to fight and wipe out the enemy in any ground fighting. "Former CIA Director William Colby, in an interview, compared the [US] Embassy's campaign [in Indonesia] to identify the PKI leadership to the CIA's Phoenix Program in Vietnam. In 1965, Colby was the director of the CIA's Far East division and was responsible for directing US covert strategy in Asia" (San Francisco Examiner, 20/5/90). When in 1962 he took over this position, Colby "said he discovered the US did not have comprehensive lists of PKI activists" in Indonesia, and he identified this "as a gap in the intelligence system" (ibid.).  He was then obviously instrumental in taking action to remedy this situation. Colby had been strongly criticised following disclosure of human rights abuses in the Phoenix Program, and in 1990 he was appealing in the public arena to the Indonesian 1965-66 model as justification for the strategy of targeting selected individual opponents.


Phoenix was basically an assassination project run by US special forces and aimed at cadres of the National Liberation Front (popularly known as the Viet Cong). The far greater visibility of the Vietnam War had led to political and media scrutiny of Phoenix and the probable 41,000 death toll that it had exacted ("The CIA: A Forgotten History", p145). Ever since, exposure of the Phoenix operation has been a sore point with the American unconventional warfare establishment (e.g. see "Special Men and Special Missions: Inside American Special Operations Forces 1945 to the Present" by J Nadel & J Wright, Greenhill Books, 1994, p114). Hence the concerted Western publishing/film programme to glamourise special forces and their employment; similarly to some degree for the CIA. However, as Douglas Valentine, author of “The Phoenix Program” (William Morrow & Co., 1990) warns us, “Phoenix” is reborn; “Wherever governments of the Left or Right use military and security forces to enforce their ideologies under the aegis of anti-terrorism…But, most of all, look for Phoenix in the imaginations of ideologues obsessed with security, who seek to impose their way of thinking on everyone else” (pp. 428/29).


Michael Ignatieff has coined the term "virtual war" to describe those Western interventions in the post-Cold War era that have sought "to achieve their ends at the lowest possible military cost", at least for the Western forces making war ("Virtual War: Kosovo And Beyond", Chatto & Windus, 2000, p162). Virtual war in his terms refers to the sort of war that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) conducted over Kosovo where: hostilities are not formally declared as according to traditional practice; fighting is almost totally one-sided with high-tech weapons wielded at will overwhelmingly by one of the participants; legal questions are constantly canvassed; Western audiences view the conflict on television in some ways as a sort of video game; and where the outcomes are left indeterminate to a large degree. Such virtual wars are relatively remote in concern for Western publics, although international opinion still has limits of tolerance of the level and extent of violence. September 11, 2001 has changed much of this with the virtual war on Kosovo dramatically contrasted with the current war on Afghanistan, and the more general "war on terrorism".    Western publics are now far more involved in what is being sold as a continuing global struggle to the death.    In this connection, Ignatieff's warning about the potential for escalation of "violence which moralises itself as justice and which is unrestrained by consequences" stands as ever more urgent (ibid, p163 and concluding pp214/15). As Ignatieff also aptly declares, "deceptions have become intrinsic to the art of war" and therefore "a good citizen is a highly suspicious one" (ibid, p196).


Guy Pauker, who as we have seen was one of the policy architects of the Indonesian genocide, went on after the successful implementation of his advice in this Asian country, to examine the world situation and the prospects for continued American rule. Most significantly, " . . . the struggle for control of the world's resources between the advanced industrial powers (the 'North') and the underdeveloped countries of the Third World (the 'South')" came to be seen by Pauker and many other Rightwing analysts "as the most explosive threat to long-term US security" ("Beyond the Vietnam Syndrome: US Interventionism in the 1980s" by Michael Klare, IPS, 1981, p23). Pauker gave this outlook "further articulation in a widely-discussed 1977 RAND Corp. report" where he considered the prospect "that mankind is entering a period of increased social instability and faces the possibility of a breakdown of global order as a result of sharpening confrontation between the Third World and the industrial democracies" (ibid). Pauker was then looking ahead to the 1980s when he thought there was a growing likelihood of such conflict erupting. In the intervening years between 1977 and 2001, while there have been serious armed conflicts none of these has thankfully generalised on to wider fronts. However, a lot of world problems have only got worse, and the West seems to be getting mired in the Middle East and Central Asia with the planet's diminishing oil and gas reserves at stake.   


Brave New Wars?


As New World Disorder reigns, President Bush has labelled the US/British war on Afghanistan the first war of the 21st Century, while warning countries from Iraq to North Korea that they could well be next on the US hit list. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Suharto's New Order, long legitimated by the US until just recently, has ended in ignominy, debacle and disgrace with deep uncertainty for the near future. It has all unravelled to such a degree that the country is now being seen as a huge potential risk to Western prosperity and security with a predominantly Muslim population of some 220 million close to Australasia. Presently ruled by a precariously stable government, Indonesia is charged with volatile issues ranging from secessionist movements to political legitimacy at the centre.  The country could well become another candidate for the US "war on terrorism", at least in the sense of certain targeted groups and areas. Australasian forces have intervened in East Timor for ostensibly humanitarian reasons but how much has Australia (and other Western powers) got an eye on oil and gas resources, let alone other minerals?  We should recall here that implicit in the US National Security Council strategy on Indonesia in the 1950s was the possible de facto partition of the country. This is a strategy that the US and other Western states have successfully implemented in Africa and other parts of the Third World.   


Free trade and investment are core elements of the globalisation cultural package that the US and the rest of the West want to roll over the Third World, now meeting especial resistance in regions with large Muslim populations. It was surely salutary that Indonesia was a country which, even on official projections, was deemed one of the least likely to benefit from the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Uruguay Round that closed in the mid-1990s.  As GATT changed into the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the conflicts that are generating the terrorist wars of the early 21st Century only increased in tension. Just one of the many contradictions inherent in all of this is that between US national security and its commitment to free trade and open markets (suitably defined and manipulated), and thus the export of military technology worldwide, enabling other countries to strengthen their capacity to eventually challenge the US more effectively ("Virtual War", p210).


American intervention in Indonesia has demonstrated the pitfalls of economic and military policies toward the Third World that threaten to haunt us all for the foreseeable future unless those who care can rally sufficient support in the years ahead. Terrorism threatens to be employed continually in a truly vicious cycle.     Breaking this cycle will take concerted commitment (see the latest Covert Action Quarterly, 71, Winter 2001 for some relevant articles.