PETRUS DADI RATU
exploits the name of Semar, magically powerful figure in Ja In the early
1930s, Bung Karno [Sukarno] was hauled before a Dutch colonial court on a
variety of charges of ‘subversion’. He was perfectly aware that the whole
legal process was prearranged by the authorities, and he was in court
merely to receive a heavy sentence. Accordingly, rather than wasting his
time on defending himself against the charges, he decided to go on the
attack by laying bare all aspects of the racist colonial system. Known by
its title ‘Indonesia Accuses!’ his defence plea
has since become a key historical document for the future of the
Indonesian people he loved so well.
forty-five years later, Colonel Abdul Latief was brought before a special
military court—after thirteen years in solitary confinement, also on a
variety of charges of subversion. Since he, too,
was perfectly aware that the whole process was prearranged by the
authorities, he followed in Bung Karno’s footsteps by turning his defence
plea into a biting attack on the New Order, and especially on the
cruelty, cunning and despotism of its creator. It is a great pity that
this historic document has had to wait twenty-two years to become
available to the Indonesian people whom he, also, loves so well. 
But who is, and was, Abdul Latief, who in his youth was called Gus
Dul? While still a young boy of fifteen, he was conscripted by the Dutch
for basic military training in the face of an impending mass assault by
the forces of Imperial Japan. However, the colonial authorities quickly
surrendered, and Gus Dul was briefly imprisoned by the occupying
he joined the Seinendan and the Peta in East Java.  After
the Revolution broke out in 1945, he served continuously on the front
lines, at first along the perimeter of Surabaya, and subsequently in Central Java. Towards the end he played
a key role in the famous General Assault of March 1, 1949 on Jogjakarta
[the revolutionary capital just captured by the Dutch]: directly under
the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Suharto. After the transfer of
sovereignty in December 1949, Latief led combat units against various
rebel forces: the groups of Andi Azis and Kahar Muzakar in South
Sulawesi; the separatist Republic of the South Moluccas; the radical
Islamic Battalion 426 in Central Java, the Darul Islam in West Java, and
finally the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia [CIA-financed
and armed rebellion of 1957–58] in West Sumatra. He was a member of the
second graduating class of the Staff and Command
(Suharto was a member of the first class). Finally, during the
Confrontation with Malaysia, he was
assigned the important post of Commander of Brigade 1 in Jakarta,
directly under the capital’s Territorial Commander, General Umar
Wirahadikusumah. In this capacity he played an important, but not
central, role in the September 30th Movement of 1965. From this sketch it
is clear that Gus Dul was and is a true-blue combat soldier, with a
psychological formation typical of the nationalist freedom-fighters of
the Indepen-dence Revolution, and an absolute loyalty to its Great
culture? The many references in his defence speech both to the Koran and
to the New Testament indicate a characteristic Javanese syncretism.
Standard Marxist phraseology is almost wholly absent. And his
accusations? The first is that Suharto, then the Commander of the Army’s
Strategic Reserve [Kostrad], was fully briefed
beforehand, by Latief himself, on the Council of Generals plotting
Sukarno’s overthrow, and on the September 30th Movement’s plans for
preventive action. General Umar too was informed through the hierarchies
of the Jakarta Garrison and the Jakarta Military Police. This means that
Suharto deliberately allowed the September 30th Movement to start its
operations, and did not report on it to his superiors, General Nasution
and General Yani.  By the same token, Suharto was
perfectly positioned to take action against the September 30th Movement,
once his rivals at the top of the military command structure had been
eliminated. Machiavelli would have applauded.
know that Suharto gave two contradictory public accounts of his meeting
with Latief late in the night of September 30th at the Army Hospital.
Neither one is plausible. To the American journalist Arnold Brackman,
Suharto said that Latief had come to the hospital to ‘check’ on him
(Suharto’s baby son Tommy was being treated for minor burns from scalding
soup). But checking on him for what? Suharto did not say. To Der
Spiegel Suharto later confided that Latief had come to kill him, but
lost his nerve because there were too many people around (as if Gus Dul
only then realized that hospitals are very busy places!). The degree of
Suharto’s commitment to truth can be gauged from the following facts. By
October 4, 1965, a team of forensic doctors had given him directly their
detailed autopsies on the bodies of the murdered generals. The autopsies
showed that all the victims had been gunned down by military weapons. But
two days later, a campaign was initiated in the mass media, by then fully
under Kostrad control, to the effect that the generals’ eyes had been
gouged out, and their genitals cut off, by members of Gerwani [the Communist
Party’s women’s affiliate]. These icy lies were planned to create an
anti-communist hysteria in all strata of Indonesian society.
facts strengthen Latief’s accusation. Almost all the key military
participants in the September 30th Movement were, either currently or
previously, close sub-ordinates of Suharto: Lieutenant-Colonel Untung,
Colonel Latief, and Brigadier-General Supardjo in Jakarta, and Colonel Suherman, Major
Usman, and their associates at the Diponegoro Division’s HQ in Semarang.
When Untung got married in 1963, Suharto made a special trip to a small Central
Javanese village to attend the ceremony. When Suharto’s son Sigit was
circumcised, Latief was invited to attend, and when Latiefs sons turn
came, the Suharto family were honoured guests. It is quite plain that
these officers, who were not born yesterday, fully believed that Suharto
was with them in their endeavour to rescue Sukarno from the conspiracy of
the Council of Generals. Such trust is incomprehensible unless Suharto,
directly or indirectly, gave his assent to their plans. It is therefore
not at all surprising that Latief´s answer to my question, How did you
feel on the evening of October 1st?’—Suharto had full control of the
capital by late afternoon was, I felt I had been betrayed.
Latief’s account explains clearly one of the many mysteries surrounding
the September 30th Movement. Why were the two generals who commanded
directly all the troops in Jakarta,
except for the Presidential Guard—namely Kostrad Commander Suharto and
Jakarta Military Territory Commander Umar—not ‘taken care of’ by the
September 30th Movement, if its members really intended a coup to
overthrow the government, as the Military Prosecutor charged? The reason
is that the two men were regarded as friends. A further point is this. We
now know that, months before October 1, Ali Murtopo, then Kostrad’s
intelligence chief, was pursuing a foreign policy kept secret from both
Sukarno and Yani. Exploiting the contacts of former rebels, clandestine
connexions were made with the leaderships of two then enemy countries, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as
with the United States.
At that time Benny Murdani  was furthering these
connexions from Bangkok,
where he was disguised as an employee in the local Garuda [Indonesian
National Airline] office. Hence it looks as if Latief is right when he
states that Suharto was two-faced, or, perhaps better put, two-fisted. In
one fist he held Latief–Untung–Supardjo, and in the other Murtopo–Yoga Sugama –Murdani.
second accusation reverses the charges of the Military Prosecutor that
the September 30th Movement intended to overthrow the government and that
the Council of Generals was a pack of lies. Latief’s conclusion is that
it was precisely Suharto who planned and executed the overthrow of Sukarno;
and that a Council of Generals did exist —composed
not of Nasution, Yani, et al., but rather of Suharto and his trusted
associates, who went on to create a dictatorship based on the Army which
lasted for decades thereafter. Here once again, the facts are on Latief’s
side. General Pranoto Reksosamudro, appointed by
President/Commander-in-Chief Sukarno as acting Army Commander after Yani’s
murder, found his appointment rejected by Suharto, and his person soon
put under detention. Aidit, Lukman and Nyoto, the three top leaders of
the Indonesian Communist Party, then holding ministerial rank in Sukarno’s
government, were murdered out of hand. And although President Sukarno did
his utmost to prevent it, Suharto and his associates planned and carried
out vast massacres in the months of October, November and December 1965.
As Latief himself underlines, in March 1966 a ‘silent coup’ took place:
military units surrounded the building where a plenary cabinet meeting
was taking place, and hours later the President was forced, more or less
at gunpoint, to sign the super-murky Supersemar.
Suharto immediately cashiered Sukarno’s cabinet and arrested fifteen
ministers. Latief’s simple verdict is that it was not the September 30th
Movement which was guilty of grave and planned insubordination against
the President, ending in his overthrow, but rather the man whom young
wags have been calling Mr. TEK.
third accusation is broader than the others and just as grave. He accuses
the New Order authorities of extraordinary, and wholly extra-legal,
cruelty. That the Accuser is today still alive, with his wits intact, and
his heart full of fire, shows him to be a man of almost miraculous
fortitude. During his arrest on October 11, 1965, many key nerves in his
right thigh were severed by a bayonet, while his left knee was completely
shattered by bullets (in fact, he put up no resistance). In the Military
his entire body was put into a gypsum cast, so that he could only move
his head. Yet in this condition, he was still interrogated before being
thrust into a tiny, dank and filthy isolation cell where he remained for
the following thirteen years. His wounds became gangrenous and emitted
the foul smell of carrion. When on one occasion the cast was removed for
inspection, hundreds of maggots came crawling out. At the sight, one of
the jailers had to run outside to vomit. For two and a half years Latief
lay there in his cast before being operated on. He was forcibly given an
injection of penicillin, though he told his guards he was violently
allergic to it, with the result that he fainted and almost died. Over the
years he suffered from haemorrhoids, a hernia, kidney stones, and
calcification of the spine. The treatment received by other prisoners,
especially the many military men among them, was not very different, and
their food was scarce and often rotting. It is no surprise, therefore,
that many died in the Salemba Prison, many became paralytics after
torture, and still others went mad. In the face of such sadism, perhaps
even the Kempeitai  would have blanched. And this
was merely Salemba—one among the countless prisons in Jakarta
and throughout the archipelago, where hundreds of thousands of human
beings were held for years without trial. Who was responsible for the
construction of this tropical Gulag?
textbooks for Indonesia’s
schoolchildren speak of a colonial monster named Captain ‘Turk’
Westerling. They usually give the number of his victims in South Sulawesi in 1946 as forty
thousand. It is certain that many more were wounded, many houses were
burned down, much property looted and, here and there, women raped. The
defence speech of Gus Dul asks the reader to reflect on an ice-cold ‘native’
monster, whose sadism far outstripped that of the infamous Captain. In
the massacres of 1965–66, a minimum of six hundred thousand were
murdered. If the reported deathbed confession of Sarwo Edhie to Mas
Permadi is true, the number may have reached over two million.
 Between 1977 and 1979, at least two hundred thousand human
beings in East Timor
died before their time, either killed directly or condemned to planned
death through systematic starvation and its accompanying diseases.
Amnesty International reckons that seven thousand people were
extra-judicially assassinated in the Petrus Affair of 1983. 
To these victims, we must add those in Aceh, Irian, Lampung, Tanjung
Priok and elsewhere. At the most conservative estimate: eight hundred
thousand lives, or twenty times the ‘score’ of Westerling. And all these
victims, at the time they died, were regarded officially as
fellow-nationals of the monster.
speaks of other portions of the national tragedy which are also food for
thought. For example, the hundreds of thousands of people who spent years
in prison, without clear charges against them, and without any due
process of law, besides suffering, on a routine basis, excruciating
torture. To say nothing of uncountable losses of property to theft and
looting, casual, everyday rapes, and social ostracism for years, not only
for former prisoners themselves, but for their wives and widows,
children, and kinfolk in the widest sense. Latief’s J’accuse was
written twenty-two years ago, and many things have happened in his
country in the meantime. But it is only now perhaps that it can acquire
its greatest importance, if it serves to prick the conscience of the
Indonesian people, especially the young. To make a big fuss about the
corruption of Suharto and his family, as though his criminality were of
the same gravity as Eddy Tansil’s,  is like making
a big fuss about Idi Amin’s mistresses, Slobodan Miloševic’s peculations,
or Adolf Hitler’s kitschy taste in art. That Jakarta´s middle class, and
a substantial part of its intelligentsia, still busy themselves with the
cash stolen by ‘Father Harto’ (perhaps in their dreams they think of it
as ‘our cash’) shows very clearly that they are still unprepared to face
the totality of Indonesia´s modern history. This attitude, which is that
of the ostrich that plunges its head into the desert sands, is very
dangerous. A wise man once said: Those who forget/ignore the past are
condemned to repeat it. Terrifying, no?
as it is, Latief´s defence, composed under exceptional conditions, cannot
lift the veil which still shrouds many aspects of the September 30th
Movement and its aftermath. Among so many questions, one could raise at
least these. Why was Latief himself not executed, when Untung, Supardjo,
Air Force Major Suyono, and others had their death sentences carried out?
Why were Yani and the other generals killed at all, when the original
plan was to bring them, as a group, face-to-face with Sukarno? Why did
First Lieutenant Dul Arief of the Presidential Guard, who actually led
the attacks on the generals’ homes, subsequently vanish without a trace?
How and why did all of Central
Java fall into the hands of supporters of the
September 30th Movement for a day and a half, while nothing similar
occurred in any other province? Why did Colonel Suherman, Major Usman and
their associates in Sema-rang also disappear without a trace? Who really
was Syam alias Kamaruzzaman  —former official of
the Recomba of the Federal State of Pasundan,  former
member of the anti-communist Indonesian Socialist Party, former intelligence
opera-tive for the Greater Jakarta Military Command at the time of the
huge smuggling racket run by General Nasution and General Ibnu Sutowo out
of Tanjung Priok, as well as former close friend of D. N. Aidit? Was he
an army spy in the ranks of the Communists? Or a Communist spy inside the
military? Or a spy for a third party? Or all three simultaneously? Was he
really executed, or does he live comfortably abroad with a new name and a
also cannot give us answers to questions about key aspects of the
activities of the September 30th Movement, above all its political
stupidities. Lieutenant-Colonel Untung’s radio announcement that starting
from October 1st, the highest military rank would be the one he himself
held, automatically made enemies of all the generals and colonels in
Indonesia, many of whom held command of important combat units. Crazy,
surely? Why was the announced list of the members of the so-called
Revolutionary Council so confused and implausible?  Why
did the Movement not announce that it was acting on the orders of
President Sukarno (even if this was untrue), but instead dismissed
Sukarno’s own cabinet? Why did it not appeal to the masses to crowd into
the streets to help safeguard the nation’s head? It passes belief that
such experienced and intelligent leaders as Aidit, Nyoto and Sudisman 
would have made such a string of political blunders. Hence the
suspicion naturally arises that this string was deliberately arranged to
ensure the Movement’s failure. Announcements of the kind mentioned above
merely confused the public, paralysed the masses, and provided easy
pretexts for smashing the September 30th Movement itself. In this event,
who really set up these bizarre announcements and arranged for their
broadcast over national radio?
of the main actors in, and key witnesses to, the crisis of 1965, have
either died or been killed. Those who are still alive have kept their
lips tightly sealed, for various motives: for example, Umar
Wirahadikusumah, Omar Dhani, Sudharmono, Rewang, M. Panggabean, Benny
Murdani, Mrs. Hartini, Mursyid, Yoga Sugama, Andi Yusuf and Kemal Idris.
 Now that thirty-five years have passed since 1965,
would it not be a good thing for the future of the Indonesian nation if
these people were required to provide the most detailed accounts of what
they did and witnessed, before they go to meet their Maker?
to an old popular saying, the mills of God grind slowly but very fine.
The meaning of this adage is that in the end the rice of truth will be
separated from the chaff of confusion and lies. In every part of the
world, one day or another, long-held classified documents, memoirs in
manuscript locked away in cabinets, and diaries gathering dust in the
attics of grandchildren will be brought to His mill, and their contents
will become known to later generations. With this book of his, ‘shut
away’ during twenty-one years of extraordinary suffering, Abdul Latief,
with his astonishing strength, has provided an impressive exemplification
of the old saying. Who knows, some day his accusations may provide
valuable material for the script of that play in the repertoire of the
National History Shadow-Theatre which is entitled . . . well, what else
could it be?—Petrus Becomes King.
traditional Javanese shadow-theatre, Petruk Dadi Ratu is a rollicking
farce in which Petruk, a well-loved clown, briefly becomes King, with
predictably hilarious and grotesque consequences. For Petrus, read Killer—see
note 12 above. Suharto notoriously saw himself as a new kind of Javanese monarch, thinly disguised as a President of the Republic
********************** 0 0 0 0 0 ************************
"...in four months,
five times as many
people died in
Indonesia as in
-- Bertrand Russell, 1966
The following article appeared in the Spartanburg, South Carolina
Herald-Journal on May 19, 1990, then in the San Francisco
Examiner on May 20, 1990, the Washington Post on May 21, 1990,
and the Boston Globe on May 23, 1990. The version below is from
Ex-agents say CIA
compiled death lists for Indonesians
After 25 years,
Americans speak of their role in exterminating Communist Party
Kadane, States News Service, 1990
WASHINGTON -- The U.S.
government played a significant role in one of the worst massacres of the
century by supplying the names of thousands of Communist Party leaders to
the Indonesian army, which hunted down the leftists and killed them,
the first time, U.S.
officials acknowledge that in 1965 they systematically compiled
comprehensive lists of Communist operatives, from top echelons down to
village cadres. 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 the U.S.
killings were part of a massive bloodletting that took an estimated
of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) was part of a U.S. drive to ensure
that Communists did not come to power in the largest country in Southeast
Asia, where the United
States was already fighting an
undeclared war in Vietnam.
is the fifth most-populous country in the world.
for a quarter-century, former senior U.S.
diplomats and CIA officers described in lengthy interviews how they aided
Indonesian President Suharto, then army leader, in his attack on the PKI.
really was a big help to the army," said Robert J. Martens, a former
member of the U.S. Embassy's political section who is now a consultant to
the State Department. "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."
House and State Department spokesmen declined comment on the disclosures.
former deputy CIA station chief Joseph Lazarsky and former diplomat
Edward Masters, who was Martens' boss, said CIA agents contributed in
drawing up the death lists, CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said,
"There is no substance to the allegation that the CIA was involved
in the preparation and/or distribution of a list that was used to track
down and kill PKI members. It is simply not true."
Embassy spokesman Makarim Wibisono said he had no personal knowledge of
events described by former U.S.
officials. "In terms of fighting the Communists, as far as I'm
concerned, the Indonesian people fought by themselves to eradicate the
Communists," he said.
an experienced analyst of communist affairs, headed an embassy group of
State Department and CIA officers that spent two years compiling the
lists. He later delivered them to an army intermediary.
named on the lists were captured in overwhelming numbers, Martens said,
adding, "It's a big part of the reason the PKI has never come
PKI was the third-largest Communist Party in the world, with an estimated
3 million members. Through affiliated organizations such as labor and
youth groups it claimed the loyalties of another 17 million.
1966 the Washington Post published an estimate that 500,000 were killed
in the purge and the brief civil war it triggered. In a 1968 report, the
CIA estimated there had been 250,000 deaths, and called the carnage
"one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century."
for the release of the names came from the top U.S. Embassy officials,
including former Ambassador Marshall Green, deputy chief of mission Jack
Lydman and political section chief Edward Masters, the three acknowledged
embassy cables and State Department reports from early October 1965,
before the names were turned over, show that U.S.
officials knew Suharto had begun roundups of PKI cadres, and that the
embassy had unconfirmed reports that firing squads were being formed to
kill PKI prisoners.
CIA Director William Colby, in an interview, compared the embassy's
campaign 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 U.S. covert strategy
what I set up in the Phoenix Program in Vietnam
-- that I've been kicked around for a lot," he said. "That's
exactly what it was. It was an attempt to identify the structure" of
the Communist Party.
Phoenix was a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese program set up by the CIA in
December 1967 that aimed at neutralizing members of the National
Liberation Front, the Vietcong political cadres. It was widely criticized
for alleged human rights abuses.
idea of identifying the local apparatus was designed to -- well, you go
out and get them to surrender, or you capture or you shoot them,"
Colby said of the Phoenix Program. "I mean, it was a war, and they
were fighting. So it was really aimed at providing intelligence for
operations rather than a big picture of the thing."
1962, when he took over as chief of the CIA's Far East division, Colby
said he discovered the United States
did not have comprehensive lists of PKI activists. Not having the lists
"could have been criticized as a gap in the intelligence
system," he said, adding they were useful for "operation
planning" and provided a picture of how the party was organized.
Without such lists, he said, "you're fighting blind."
if the CIA had been responsible for sending Martens, a foreign service
officer, to Jakarta in 1963
to compile the lists, Colby said, "Maybe, I don't know. Maybe we did
it. I've forgotten."
lists were a detailed who's-who of the
leadership of the party of 3 million members, Martens said. They included
names of provincial, city and other local PKI committee members, and
leaders of the "mass organizations," such as the PKI national
labor federation, women's and youth groups.
know we had a lot more information" about the PKI "than the
Indonesians themselves," Green said. Martens "told me on a
number of occasions that ... the government did not have very good
information on the Communist setup, and he gave me the impression that
this information was superior to anything they had."
the embassy's political section chief, said he believed the army had
lists of its own, but they were not as comprehensive as the American
lists. He said he could not remember whether the decision to release the
names had been cleared with Washington.
lists were turned over piecemeal, Martens said, beginning at the top of
the communist organization. Martens supplied thousands of names to an
Indonesian emissary over a number of months, he said. The emissary was an
aide to Adam Malik, an Indonesian minister who was an ally of Suharto in
the attack on the Communists.
in Jakarta, the
aide, Tirta Kentjana ("Kim") Adhyatman, confirmed he had met
with Martens and received lists of thousands of names, which he in turn
gave to Malik. Malik passed them on to Suharto's headquarters, he said.
officials carefully recorded the subsequent destruction of the PKI
organization. Using Martens' lists as a guide, they checked off names of
captured and assassinated PKI leaders, tracking the steady dismantling of
the party apparatus, former U.S. officials said.
about who had been captured and killed came from Suharto's headquarters,
according to Joseph Lazarsky, deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta
in 1965. Suharto's Jakarta
headquarters was the central collection point for military reports from
around the country detailing the capture and killing of PKI leaders,
were getting a good account in Jakarta
of who was being picked up," Lazarsky said. "The army had a
'shooting list' of about 4,000 or 5,000 people."
centers were set up to hold those who were not killed immediately.
didn't have enough goon squads to zap them all, and some individuals were
valuable for interrogation," Lazarsky said. "The infrastructure
was zapped almost immediately. We knew what they were doing. We knew they
would keep a few and save them for the kangaroo courts, but Suharto and
his advisers said, if you keep them alive, you have to feed them."
the chief of the political section, said, "We had these lists"
constructed by Martens, "and we were using them to check off what
was happening to the party, what the effect" of the killings
"was on it."
said the checkoff work was also carried out at the CIA's intelligence
directorate in Washington.
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.
one cared, as long as they were Communists, that they were being
butchered," said Howard Federspiel, who in 1965 was the Indonesia
expert at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
"No one was getting very worked up about it."
about the checkoffs, Colby said, "We came to the conclusion that
with the sort of Draconian way it was carried out, it really set
them" -- the communists -- "back for years."
if he meant the checkoffs were proof that the PKI leadership had been
caught or killed, he said, "Yeah, yeah, that's right,
... the leading elements, yeah."
from Kathy Kadane...
Letter to the Editor, New York
Review of Books, April 10, 1997
much admired Ms. Laber's piece on Indonesian politics and the origins of
the Soeharto regime. In connection with her assertion that little is
known about a CIA (or US) role in the 1965 coup and the army massacre
that followed, I would like to make your readers aware of a compelling
body of evidence about this that is publicly available, but the public
access to it is little known.
consists of a series of on-the-record, taped interviews with the men who
headed the US
embassy in Jakarta
or were at high levels in Washington
agencies in 1965. I published a news story based on the interviews in The
Washington Post ("U.S. Officials' Lists Aided Indonesian
Bloodbath in '60s," May 21, 1990), and have since transferred the
tapes, my notes, and a small collection of documents, including a few
declassified cables on which the story was based, to the National
Security Archive in Washington, D.C. The Archive is a nongovernmental
research institute and library, located at the George
former officials interviewed included Ambassador Marshall Green, Deputy
Chief of Mission Jack Lydman, Political Counsellor (later Ambassador)
Edward E. Masters, Robert Martens (an analyst of the Indonesian left
working under Masters' supervision), and (then) director of the Central
Intelligence Agency's Far East division, William Colby.
tapes, along with notes of conversations, show that the United States
furnished critical intelligence -- the names of thousands of leftist
activists, both Communist and non-Communist -- to the Indonesian Army
that were then used in the bloody manhunt.
were other details that illustrate the depth of US
involvement and culpability in the killings which I learned from former
top-level embassy officials, but have not previously published. For
example, the US
provided key logistical equipment, hastily shipped in at the last minute
as Soeharto weighed the risky decision to attack. Jeeps were supplied by
the Pentagon to speed troops over Indonesia's
notoriously bad roads, along with "dozens and dozens" of field
radios that the Army lacked. As Ms. Laber noted, the US
(namely, the Pentagon) also supplied "arms." Cables show these
were small arms, used for killing at close range.
supply of radios is perhaps the most telling detail. They served not only
as field communications but also became an element of a broad, US
intelligence-gathering operation constructed as the manhunt went forward.
According to a former embassy official, the Central Intelligence Agency
hastily provided the radios -- state-of-the-art Collins KWM-2s,
high-frequency single-sideband transceivers, the highest-powered mobile
unit available at that time to the civilian and commercial market. The
radios, stored at Clark Field in the Philippines, were
secretly flown by the US Air Force into Indonesia.
They were then distributed directly to Soeharto's headquarters -- called
by its acronym KOSTRAD -- by Pentagon representatives. The radios plugged
a major hole in Army communications: at that critical moment, there were
no means for troops on Java and the out-islands
to talk directly with Jakarta.
the embassy told reporters the US
had no information about the operation, the opposite was true. There were
at least two direct sources of information. During the weeks in which the
American lists were being turned over to the Army, embassy officials met
secretly with men from Soeharto's intelligence unit at regular intervals
concerning who had been arrested or killed. In addition, the US
more generally had information from its systematic monitoring of Army
radios. According to a former US official, the US listened in to the
broadcasts on the US-supplied radios for weeks as the manhunt went
forward, overhearing, among other things, commands from Soeharto's
intelligence unit to kill particular persons at given locations.
method by which the intercepts were accomplished was also described. The
mobile radios transmitted to a large, portable antenna in front of
KOSTRAD (also hastily supplied by the US
-- I was told it was flown in in a C-130 aircraft). The CIA made sure the
frequencies the Army would use were known in advance to the National
Security Agency. NSA intercepted the broadcasts at a site in Southeast Asia, where its analysts
subsequently translated them. The intercepts were then sent on to Washington,
where analysts merged them with reports from the embassy. The combined
reporting, intercepts plus "human" intelligence, was the
primary basis for Washington's
assessment of the effectiveness of the manhunt as it destroyed the
organizations of the left, including, inter alia, the Indonesian
Communist Party, the PKI.
about the relative importance of the American lists. It appears the CIA
had some access prior to 1965 to intelligence files on the PKI housed at
the G-2 section of the Indonesian Army, then headed by Major-General S.
Parman. CIA officials had been dealing with Parman about intelligence
concerning the PKI, among other matters, in the years prior to the coup,
according to a former US
official who was involved (Parman was killed in the coup). The former
official, whose account was corroborated by others whom I interviewed,
said that the Indonesian lists, or files, were considered inadequate by
US analysts because they identified PKI officials at the
"national" level, but failed to identify thousands who ran the
party at the regional and municipal levels, or who were secret
operatives, or had some other standing, such as financier.
asked about the possible reason for this apparent inadequacy, former US
Ambassador Marshall Green, in a December 1989 interview, characterized
his understanding this way:
that we had a lot more information than the Indonesians themselves....
For one thing, it would have been rather dangerous [for the Indonesian
military to construct such a list] because the Communist Party was so
pervasive and [the intelligence gatherers] would be fingered...because of
the people up the line [the higher-ups, some of whom sympathized with the
PKI]. In the [Indonesian] Air Force, it would have been lethal to do
that. And probably that would be true for the police, the Marines, the
Navy -- in the Army, it depended. My guess is that once this thing broke,
the Army was desperate for information as to who was who [in the PKI].
end of January 1966, US intelligence assessments comparing the American
lists with the reports of those arrested or killed showed the Army had
destroyed the PKI. The general attitude was one of great relief:
"Nobody cared" about the butchery and mass arrests because the
victims were Communists, one Washington
official told me.
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immediate release, 27 July 2001
Archive director Tom Blanton, 994-7000
STALLING STATE DEPARTMENT HISTORIES
POSTS ONE OF TWO DISPUTED VOLUMES ON WEB
HISTORIANS CONCLUDE U.S.
PASSED NAMES OF COMMUNISTS
INDONESIAN ARMY, WHICH KILLED AT LEAST 105,000 IN 1965-66
D.C., 27 July – George Washington University’s
National Security Archive today posted on the Web (www.nsarchive.org)
one of two State Department documentary histories whose release the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency is stalling, even though the documents
included in the volumes were officially declassified in 1998 and 1999, according
to public State Department records.The two disputed State Department
volumes cover Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines in the years 1964-68 and
Greece-Turkey-Cyprus in the same period.
CIA, as well as action officers at the State Department, have prevented
the official release of either volume, already printed and bound by the
Government Printing Office.The National Security Archive obtained the
Indonesia volume posted today when the GPO, apparently by mistake,
shipped copies to various GPO bookstores; but the Greece volume is still
locked up in GPO warehouses.
Indonesia volume includes significant new documentation on the Indonesian
Army’s campaign against the Indonesia Communist Party (PKI) in 1965-66, which
brought to power the dictator Suharto.(Ironically, Suharto’s successor,
ex-President Wahid, is on his way to Baltimore this week for medical
treatment, and has been replaced by his vice-president, who is the
daughter of the man Suharto over-threw.)For example, U.S. Embassy
reporting on November 13, 1965 passed on information from the police that
“from 50 to 100 PKI members were being killed every night in East and Central
Java….”; and the Embassy admitted in an April 15, 1966 airgram to Washington
that “We frankly do not know whether the real figure [of PKI killed] is
closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000 but believe it wiser to err on the side of
the lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press.”On page
339, the volume seems to endorse the figure of 105,000 killed that was
proposed in 1970 by foreign service officer Richard Cabot Howland in a
classified CIA publication.
highly controversial issue – that of U.S. involvement in the killings –
the volume includes an “Editorial Note” on page 387 describing Ambassador
Marshall Green’s August 10, 1966 airgram to Washington reporting that an
Embassy-prepared list of top Communist leaders with Embassy attribution
removed “is apparently being used by Indonesian security authorities who
seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership at the
time….” On December 2, 1965, Green endorsed a 50 million rupiah covert
payment to the Kap-Gestapu movement leading the repression; but the
December 3 CIA response to State is withheld in
full (pp. 379-380).
intervention in the State Department publication is only the latest in a
series of such controversies, dating back to 1990 when the CIA censored a
State volume on Iran in the early 1950s to leave out any reference to the
CIA-backed coup that overthrew Mossadegh in 1953.The chair of the State
Department historical advisory committee resigned in protest, producing
an outcry among academics and journalists (see “History Bleached at
State,” New York Times editorial, May 16, 1990, p. A26:“At the very
moment that Moscow is coming clean on Stalin’s massacre of Polish
officers, Washington is putting out history in the old Soviet mode.”).Congress
then passed a law in 1991 requiring the State Department volumes to
include covert operations as well as overt diplomacy, so as to provide an
accurate historical picture of U.S.
foreign policy, 30 years after the events.
1. Editorial note from the Indonesia
volume on the number of Indonesian PKI members who were killed in
1965-66, pp. 338-340.
note from the Indonesia
volume on the U.S. Embassy’s role in providing lists to the Indonesian
Army of PKI members, pp. 386-387.
2a. Ambassador Green's
December 2, 1965 endorsement of a 50 million rupiah covert payment to the
"army-inspired but civilian-staffed action group [Kap-Gestapu]...
still carrying burden of current repressive efforts targeted against
PKI...." The document immediately following, presumably CIA's
response to this proposal from December 3, 1965 (written by William Colby
of CIA's Far East division to the State Department's William Bundy), was
withheld in full from the volume. (pp.379-380)
3. Description of the
declassification review of the Indonesia
volume, written by the State Department historian, p. VII.This includes the
official description of the “High Level Panel” which makes final
decisions on acknowledgement of covert operations.
4. State Department
Historical Advisory Committee’s summary as of September 1, 1999 of the
“Status of Johnson and Nixon Era FRUS High Level Panel Covert Action Cases”
(2 pages).This document shows that the Panel decided on April 20, 1998 to
acknowledge covert action in Indonesia, that the CIA completed review of
the documents on August 28, 1998, and that the volume then went into page
proofs, “however, publication has been delayed.”The summary also shows
that CIA completed its review of the Cyprus-Greece-Turkey volume on May
14, 1999, that the volume was in revised page proofs as of September 1
and was expected to be published by December 1999.
5. Excerpts from the House
of Representatives' final version of Public Law 102-138, signed by
President George H.W. Bush on October 28, 1991, which requires that the Foreign
Relations of the United States series be a thorough, accurate, and
reliable record of major U.S. foreign policy
decisions and significant U.S.
6. Title page and table of
contents of the Indonesia
************** 0 0 0 0 0 0 ****************
Foreign Relations of the United
Table of Contents (Details see:
This table is posted in sections corresponding to the divisions of the
Administration Volumes IX
Convert Action Programs XXXIII
confrontation With Malaysia:
January-November 1964 1
confrontation With the United States:
December 1964 - September 1965 189
and Counter Reaction:
October 1965-March 1966 300
The United States
April 1966-December 1968 427
************** 0 0 0 0 0 0 ****************
YAYASAN PENELITIAN KORBAN PEMBUNUHAN 1965/1966
INDONESIAN INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF 1965/1966 MASSACRE
Address: Jalan Kalibesar Timur No. 3 Jakarta Barat 111110 – Indonesia
PO BOX 4923 JKTF 11049
Telp. +62 21- 6930324, Cell Phone: 0812 9240360
Bank: BNI CAPEM CIMONE, TANGERANG. ACC: 001027.495.001
The Indonesian Institute for the Study of 1965/1966 Massacre (YPKP
Movement of 30 September » (Gerakan 30 September) was launched in 1965 by
a group of Indonesian army officers led by the Commander of the
Presidential Guard (Lieutenant Colonel Untung). A Revolutionary Council
was proclaimed to protect and bolster the policies of President Sukarno.
six high ranking officers of the army were kidnapped and killed. The
Indonesian army command, headed by Major General Suharto reacted
strongly. They accused some leading members of the PKI (Indonesian
Communist Party) and suspected president Sukarno of having had a hand in
this affair. A country wide campaign to crush the PKI and other pro
Sukarno organisations was put into effect.
period of 16 months in 1965-1966 a huge number of Indonesians were
massacred by the army (and its supporters) or imprisoned for long
periods, most often without trial. Amongst the victims were leaders and
activists of the PKI (at all levels) and members of various mass
organisation including workers, peasants, teachers, students, government
officials, women, intellectuals, artists and journalists. The outcome of
all this was that president Sukarno lost power and was replaced by
Suharto, whose authoritarian presidency lasted until 1998.
death-toll of the massacre
been impossible to establish realistically the death-toll resulting from the
1965-1966 massacres, as Suharto's military regime has firmly discouraged
any such efforts. A kind of state terror was exercised to silence public
opinion and independent research. The following figures speak for
1. A fact-finding Commission
originally formed by President Sukarno before his eviction from power has
estimated a figure of 78 000 deaths
2. General Sudomo (former
Commander of National Security and Order in the Suharto regime) -2
000 000 deaths
3. Encyclopaedia Britannica
- between 80 000 to 1 000 000 deaths
4. General Sarwo Edhie, who
headed military actions during this period - 3 000 000 deaths
5. President Habibie
mentioned (to the Indonesian press, 8 October 1999) the figure of 500 000
to1 000 000 deaths
Suharto's deposure and now that Habibie is no longer president, it may be
possible at last to carry out serious research regarding the extent of
the massacres, as well as the imprisonment's, and flagrant abuses of
power perpetrated during the 32 years of the Suharto's regime : a regime
which has brought Indonesia to its knees economically, morally and
founding of the Institute
work on the massacres was first instigated in 1994 by Mrs Sulami (former
Secretary General of Gerwani, the leading women's organisation) but
limited its scope to Central and East
Java. This work was both very difficult and
dangerous at the time. All those involved have agreed that there is a
need and heed for a specialised organisation to continue the task in a
serious, in depth and objective manner. The results will enable future
generations of Indonesians to have a clear view regarding these years of
Institute for the Study of 1965/1966 Massacre” is the direct result : it was constituted by notarial act on 7th
April 1999. Amongst its founding members are Pramoedya Ananta Toer
(writer), Hasan Raid, Koesalah Soebagio Toer, Mrs Soelami, Mrs Soemini
Martono, Dr. Ribka Ciptaning and Soeharno. Its office is in Tangerang,
Institute's activities so far have been :
1. to treat and
process data collected since 1994, including testimonies and other
sources of evidence.
2. to establish a
network of YPKP branches inside Java and to prepare its extension to
other parts of Indonesia
in order to collect further information.
3. to cooperate
with other Indonesian organisations with similar aims.
4. to organise support from abroad
(including the Indonesian Diaspora)
Institute works with a small budget, essentially individual contributions
from founding members and sympathisers. Much of the works done is
voluntary. Despite the budget limitation, the Institute has organised
conferences and workshops for activists and volunteers from Central and East Java in order to establish a
common methodology. Even today the YPKP is obliged to carry on its
activities with prudence in order to maintain security for all. A much
larger budget will be required to enlarge the scope of activity.
aims and programmes of the Institute
1. To continue
collecting data concerning the number of victims, their identities and
the circumstances at the time of arrest and/or disappearance in
1965-1966. The data to be stored in data-base or conventional files as
well as in the forms of reports, etc.
2. To prepare all
documentation needed to bring legal action against individuals or groups
who were directly or indirectly involved in the massacres or other
3. To call for the
rehabilitation of rights and honours of the victims and their families,
and the complete restoration of civil rights to ex-political prisoners
and former members of the PKI and their relatives.
5. To demand correction of
falsified versions of national history, especially those concerning the
events of 1965-1966, and the policies of “Orde Baru” (New Order) during
with witnesses of the condition at times of arrest, of movements into or
out of prisons and concentration camps, or of the killings.
recording of interviews, the collecting of photographs of victims, the
mapping of massacre sites, the collecting of direct evidence (bones,
skulls etc). The reconstruc-tion of pictures of kidnap locations,
concentration camps and killing grounds.
of the work is immense, so efforts will have to be made step by step and
area by area in accordance with political conditions, budget and human
resources. The areas covered will include Central Java, Yogyakarta, East
Java, West Java, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, South
Sumatra, NORTH Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi,
Maluku, Irian Jaya and other regions where sufficient evidence is
should be carried out during the period of one year from September 1999 till
common task at home and abroad
events in question took place some 36 years ago. Many of those involved
directly or indirectly are still living, and some have reason to exert
considerable influence to keep matters quiet. So the work to be done by
the Institute will not be easy. But it is of great importance to restore
normal citizen's rights to the millions of relatives of victims and to
rehabilitate the surviving victims themselves.
Institute will need financial help from organisations and societies in Indonesia
and abroad. It may perhaps hope for from many circles now that the
presidency and the government have changed. It will need donations. It
will need voluntary work. It will need co-operation from humanitarian
organisations, historians, jurists, universities, parliamentarians, and
others, at home and abroad.
task is immense, and of great importance to Indonesia and the world, as
it implies no less than a restoration of justice to the millions who have
suffered or died because of the events of 1965-1966, but also a true
revision of history as it was written and taught by those responsible for
Institute wishes to cooperate with all who share this aim. The task
merits interna-tional solidarity.
For direct contacts at Jakarta
(preferably in English or
Indonesian language) :
Yayasan Penelitian Korban
(Indonesian Institute for the
Study of 1965/1966 Massacre)
Address : Jalan Kalibesar
Timur no.3 Jakarta Barat 11110 – Indonesia
Phone 62-21-5312 17 70 or
62-21-551 2314 and Cell Phone 0812 9240 360
Bank : BNI Capem Cimone,
Tangerang, account number 001.027.495.001
E-mail : ypkp_pusat at 37.com
Email: YPKP_NED at xs4all.nl
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the Indonesian Pot Boiling':
Covert Intervention in Indonesia,
October 1965 - March 1966
London School of Economics and Political Science,
UK. Email: D.Easter@lse.ac.uk.
study examines the role played by the West in the destruction of the
Indonesian communist party, the PKI, and the removal of the radical
Indonesian president, Sukarno, in 1965-66. After the murder of six
generals in October 1965 the Indonesian army massacred thousands of
communists and seized power from Sukarno. The United States
secretly helped the army in this period by providing intelligence, arms,
medicines and radios and by giving assurances that Britain would not
while the army was suppressing the PKI. The US, Britain, Australia and Malaysia also used
propaganda to encourage hostility in Indonesia
towards the PKI. The article assesses the impact of Western covert
intervention and concludes that Western propaganda may have encouraged
the mass killings of the communists.
changes that took place in Indonesia from
October 1965 to March 1966 were a watershed in the history of South-East Asia and a major reverse for
communism in the Cold War. Prior to October 1965 Indonesia was a
radical Third World
state. Its charismatic president, Sukarno, was a vocal anti-imperialist,
dedicated to resisting what he called the Nekolim
(neo-colonialists-imperialists) of the West. Sukarno openly aligned
himself with the communist bloc in this struggle, proclaiming support for
the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War, establishing close ties with the
People's Republic of China and angrily
out of the United Nations in January 1965. Sukarno also tried to
destabilize his pro-Western neighbour Malaysia
through a campaign called 'Confrontation'. He denounced Malaysia
as a British neo-colonialist creation and sponsored a guerrilla
insurgency in the country. To leaders in Washington, London and Canberra, Sukarno appeared to be mounting
a omprehensive challenge to Western interests in
internal affairs Sukarno was also moving Indonesia
to the left. For many years there had been an uneasily balanced triangle
of power in the country between Sukarno, the staunchly anti-communist
army and the large Indonesian communist party, the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia).
During 1964-65 Sukarno increasingly favoured the PKI. Government
propaganda campaigns created a siege mentality by warning of Nekolim
'encirclement' of Indonesia
and alleging American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plots to
assassinate Sukarno. The president banned rival political parties to the
PKI or allowed them to be taken over by the leftists. He also permitted
the communists to gain control over most of the press and the Antara news
appeared that Sukarno, who was 64 years old and known to be in ill
health, was creating the conditions for the PKI to take control in Indonesia
after his death. Such an outcome would have been a major defeat for the
West as Indonesia
was a glittering geo-strategic prize. With a population of 103 million it
was one of largest countries in the world, it had abundant raw materials
and the sprawling Indonesian island chain covered vital sea lanes.
loss of Indonesia
would also outflank American efforts to contain communism in South Vietnam.
in the winter of 1965-66 completely transformed the situation. An
abortive coup took place in Jakarta
on 1 October, which, although unsuccessful, caused the death of six
leading army generals. The Indonesian army blamed the coup attempt on the
PKI and it retaliated with a ferocious campaign of repression against the
party. An estimated 300,000-500,000 people were killed in an
anti-communist Terror and the PKI was extinguished as a political force.
The army leader, Suharto, then compelled Sukarno in March 1966 to hand
over executive powers to him in what was effectively a military coup.
Under Suharto's leadership Indonesia moved
sharply to the right, both domestically and internationally, making peace
and breaking ties with China.
Sukarno was marginalized and died while under house arrest in 1970.
'reverse course' in Indonesia
was an important victory for the Western powers in the Cold War. It
removed the spectre of a communist Indonesia
and ended Sukarno's troublesome anti-Malaysia campaign. Since the West
was such an obvious beneficiary of the reverse course, there has been
speculation as to whether the Western powers were actually responsible
for it.1 Peter Dale Scott has argued that the events of 1965-66 were in
fact 'a three phase right-wing coup - one which had been both publicly
encouraged and secretly assisted by U.S. spokesmen and officials'.2 Scott
sees Suharto as the puppet master behind the reverse course, 'inducing,
or at a minimum helping to induce' the October 1965 coup attempt and then
using it as pretext to eliminate the PKI and remove Sukarno. In this
conspiracy Scott believes Suharto had strong covert support from the United States,
especially in areas like propaganda and secret aid to the Indonesian
army. By contrast, the historian H.W. Brands has argued that Washington was not to blame for the
changes in Indonesia.3 Examining the documentary sources Brands could
find no evidence of American links to the October 1965 coup attempt and
he claims that the United States
only gave cautious and limited support to the army in the subsequent
power struggle. In short, he thinks that 'Sukarno's overthrow had little
to do with American machinations. It resulted instead from developments
of essentially Indonesian origin'.4
writers have focused on Britain's role.5 The
journalists Paul Lashmar and James Oliver claim in their book Britain's Secret
Propaganda War that 'the British government secretly helped overthrow
President Sukarno of Indonesia,
assisting the rise of General Suharto . to
power'.6 Lashmar and Oliver draw on interviews with former Foreign Office
officials to show that London mounted a covert propaganda campaign
against Sukarno after the October 1965 coup attempt. However, Lashmar and
Oliver provide little documentary proof and they also make bold claims
about earlier Western plotting against Sukarno which are not supported by
article will seek to answer the question of whether the West was
responsible for the reverse course in Indonesia.
Using British, Australian and American sources it will examine the covert
role played by the West in the destruction of the Indonesian communist
party and the ousting of Sukarno.
summer of 1965 there was a consensus amongst Britain, the United States, Australia and Malaysia,
that Sukarno was an implacable enemy, threatening the stability of the
region and leading his country to communism. Both the British and the
Americans believed that the longer Sukarno remained in power the greater
chance there was of a communist takeover in Indonesia
after his death.8
Western powers responded to this threat in a similar way: by using
propaganda and covert action. For the three Commonwealth powers the
immediate problem was Confrontation. Britain and Australia had
committed substantial forces to defend Malaysia
but for political reasons they were reluctant to openly retaliate for the
Indonesian guerrilla raids. If, for example, the British and Australians
bombed targets in Indonesia
it would confirm to the Indonesian public Sukarno's warnings about the
threat posed by the Nekolim. An open war between Britain, Australia and Indonesia
could strengthen the position of the PKI and damage the prestige of the
army, hastening moves towards a communist takeover. The Commonwealth
allies therefore had to rely on covert pressures to make Indonesia halt
Confrontation; British and Australian soldiers secretly crossed the
jungle border to attack guerrilla units inside Indonesia and Britain and Malaysia gave aid to
rebel groups in the outer Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi.9
addition, the British and Malaysians used covert propaganda to erode
support for Confrontation and encourage disunity in Indonesia.10 In
February 1965 the Information Research Department of the Foreign Office,
which specialized in unattributable propaganda, set up the South East
Asia Monitoring Unit in Singapore to carry out propaganda directed at
Indonesian audiences.11 London instructed that the propaganda from
Singapore should undermine the will of the Indonesian armed forces to
attack Malaysia, by representing that their real enemies were the PKI and
should also 'Discredit any potential successor to Sukarno
. whose accession to power might benefit
the PKI'.12 In July the Foreign Office decided to step up its propaganda
operations by appointing a Political Warfare Coordinator in Singapore.
Norman Reddaway, the Regional Information Officer in Beirut, was selected for the position,
although Reddaway would not take up the post until November.13 Malaysian
propaganda against Sukarno and the PKI was disseminated overtly, through
external broadcasts to Indonesia,
and covertly, through a 'black' radio station, 'Radio Free Indonesia',
which masqueraded as the work of Indonesian émigrés.14
The United States'
primary concern was the communist threat. In March 1965 the 303 Committee
of the National Security Council approved a CIA-State Department
political action programme to reduce the influence of the PKI and
communist China and support non-communist elements in Indonesia.15 As
part of the programme the US would 'develop black and grey propaganda
themes for use within Indonesia and via appropriate media assets outside
Indonesia'.16 The aim would be to 'Portray the PKI as an increasingly
ambitious, dangerous opponent of Sukarno and legitimate nationalism and
instrument of Chinese neo-imperialism'. The next month the United States
effectively abandoned any attempt to work with Sukarno. The veteran
American diplomat Ellsworth Bunker visited Sukarno in April but he could
find no common ground - he came back convinced that the Indonesian leader
'was a Marxist at heart'.17 Bunker warned President Lyndon Johnson that
the large and widespread American presence in Indonesia gave the PKI political
targets to attack and allowed it to portray those who were friendly to
the US, such as the army, as defenders and stooges of the imperialists.
He therefore recommended that 'U.S. visibility should be reduced so that
those opposed to the communists and extremists may be free to handle a
confrontation, which they believe will come, without the incubus of being
attacked as defenders of the neo-colonialists and imperialists'.18 The
Americans should quietly keep in contact with 'the constructive elements
of strength in Indonesia' and try to give these elements 'the most
favourable conditions for confrontation [with the PKI]', although Bunker
thought that Indonesia 'would essentially have to save itself'.
Washington put Bunker's recommendations into effect and adopted what one
American official described as a 'low silhouette' policy.19 American
diplomats and aid workers were pulled out and the visible US
presence reduced. At the same time Washington tried to find ways to
influence opinion in Indonesia.
Plans were drawn up to improve Voice of America (VOA)'s signal to
Indonesia by erecting ten transmitters at Clark Field air base in the
Philippines.20 In August US officials also held talks with the
Australians in Canberra to discuss possible cooperation in broadcasts to
Indonesia.21 It is clear, then, that by September 1965 the Western powers
were hostile to Indonesia and trying to use propaganda to combat the PKI.
But it was the coup attempt in Indonesia
that gave them a real opportunity to do this. In the early hours of 1
October a group headed by Lieutenant Colonel Untung, a left-wing
commander in the Presidential Guard, abducted and killed six leading
Indonesian generals. Untung's troops also took over broadcasting
facilities in Jakarta and
announced the formation of a Revolutionary Council.
Untung putsch swiftly collapsed. Its armed bands failed to capture the
Defence Minister, General Naustion, although they did manage to fatally
injure his six-year-old daughter, and Major General Suharto, commander of
the army's strategic reserves, used his troops to regain control of the
capital and crush the plotters. By 2 October the coup was effectively
was less easily resolved and which remains a mystery to this day, is
whether Untung was acting on behalf of other forces. There has been a
welter of conflicting theories as to who was behind the coup attempt.22
Some on the right have blamed the PKI, Red China, the pro-communist
Indonesian Foreign Minister Subandrio or even Sukarno. Others, such as
Scott, have constructed an elaborate conspiracy theory that the coup
attempt was an army provocation, led by Suharto, to give a pretext for a
crack-down on the communists.
is insufficient space here to assess all the conflicting theories of the
coup's origins but looking at American, British and Australian primary
sources it is apparent that despite their interest in covert action and
propaganda, the Western powers were surprised by the coup attempt. In the
first few days of October American, Australian and British diplomats in
Jakarta were shocked and confused and had trouble in finding out what was
going on.23 There is no evidence that the coup attempt was a
Western-backed army provocation. Indeed, on 1 October the American Deputy
Director of Central Intelligence, Richard Helms, told George Ball at the
State Department that the CIA 'had had absolutely nothing to do with
it'.24 The immediate suspicion of Western officials was of a possible
connection to the PKI.25
evidence for PKI involvement in the coup was not clear-cut. Communist
transport and communications unions helped Untung on 1 October by cutting
communications in and out of Jakarta
and the next day a communist newspaper endorsed the action he had taken.
The coup attempt was centred on the Halim air force base and made use of
communist cadres being given military training there. But the PKI did not
try to mobilize its massive party membership behind the coup and an
American 'clandestine source' reported that the PKI central committee
only decided to give Untung military support after hearing his radio
broadcast on 1 October.26 After the coup had failed the PKI denied any
involvement and claimed it had been an internal army matter, with junior
officers attacking senior officers.
with this conflicting evidence, privately Western policymakers were
uncertain how far the PKI was responsible for the abortive coup. US State
Department officials believed that the PKI had not planned or engineered
the coup attempt.27 Instead they thought that Untung, without consulting
the party, might have put into effect a communist contingency plan to
seize power on the death of Sukarno. Certainly there had been a flurry of
reports in August-September that the president was seriously ill and
these could have sparked Untung into action. Once the coup was underway
the PKI felt it had no choice but to get on board. Sir Andrew Gilchrist,
the British Ambassador in Jakarta, suspected that the communists only
became aware of Untung's plan at a late stage and joined in because they
feared that if the army crushed Untung it would crush them as well.28 The
Australian Joint Intelligence Committee noted that while individual
communist groups clearly participated in the coup, 'evidence of actual
PKI involvement - that is of prior planning by the Central Committee - is
largely circumstantial'.29 By contrast, Marshall Green, the US Ambassador
to Indonesia, was convinced that party chairman Aidit and other top PKI
leaders 'were almost certainly in on planning' the coup although he
conceded that the 'PKI decision to participate seems to have been hurried
Western policymakers were unsure about the role of the communists the
Indonesian army appeared to have no doubts and it pressed Sukarno for strong
action against the PKI. However, the president tried to protect the PKI
and he refused to ban the party. He promised a peaceful political
settlement and called for national unity, warning that division would
only benefit the Nekolim. Reportedly at a cabinet meeting on 6 October
Sukarno and Subandrio blamed the coup attempt on the CIA and alleged that
the CIA's aim was to spread confusion before an American and British
invasion of Indonesia.31 The army, though, was not diverted by Sukarno's
appeals for unity and it began to move against the PKI. It arrested
communist cadres and encouraged anti-PKI demonstrations in Jakarta.
It also tried to mobilize public opinion by taking control of the mass
media.32 The army closed down the communist press while ensuring the
continued publication of military newspapers such as Angkatan
Bersendjada, Berita Yudha and the English language Jakarta Daily Mail. It
took control over Radio Indonesia
and the Antara news agency, which was the main supplier of news carried
by Indonesian radio stations and newspapers. Through these outlets the
army attacked the PKI and linked it to Untung's coup attempt. On 4
October an editorial in Angkatan Bersendjada lambasted the PKI as
'devils' who were 'injecting poison into the Indonesian nation and the
revolution'.33 Two days later the paper claimed the coup attempt was
masterminded by the PKI and called on the government to declare the party
illegal.34 One prominent theme in this propaganda campaign was the murder
of the six Indonesian generals. The army-controlled media alleged that
members of the PKI youth organization, Pemuda Rakjat, and the communist
women's group, Gerwani, had brutally tortured the generals before killing
them.35 For example, on 10 October Berita Yudha reported that the
generals' eyes had been gouged out. These claims were untrue. Although
the generals' bodies had partially decomposed after being dumped in a
well by the rebels, autopsies showed they had not been tortured or
mutilated after death.36 Nonetheless this story became a central feature
of the army's propaganda campaign and a founding myth for the later
mid-October Suharto seems to have given approval for army units to deal
with the PKI and the army rounded up and killed party members throughout
the country. It also armed nationalist and Muslim groups, such as the
Ansor Muslim youth organization, and encouraged them to eliminate the
communists. The result was a wave of mass killings, spreading across
Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and into Bali by December and then onto Timor,
Flores and Lombok.
News of the slaughter slowly reached Western diplomats in Jakarta,
who had only limited information on what was happening outside the
capital. On 9 November an Australian teacher returning from central Java
reported 'All manner of atrocities, stakes through heads, eye gouging,
live burials being freely committed by both sides'.37 On 14 November an
American missionary told her embassy of the massacre of 3,400 PKI
activists by Ansor at Kediri, in East Java.38 An Indonesian source
informed the British air attaché that PKI men and women were being
executed in very large numbers.39 Often they were given knives and told
to kill themselves. If they refused they were shot in the back. An
American observer in Bali reported 'many headless bodies encountered on
roads' and a traveller in Sumatra saw Muslim youth group members stop a
bus, drag out numerous communist passengers and hack them to death.40 In
February 1966 a visiting Australian diplomat learnt that 250 PKI members
had been killed in the town of Kupang in Timor.41 He was told by the
chief of the Public Works Department in Kupang that torture was the
customary prelude to death and was in fact carried out in the army
establishment next door to his own home. The nightly executions, carried
out just outside Kupang, were open to the public provided those who
attended took part in the executions. The Army was in complete control of
how many were killed in the massacres is not known and may never be
known. Estimates varied widely.42 In January 1966 Colonel Stamboul, an
army liaison officer, confided to the British military attaches that the
army had no exact idea of the death toll but he estimated 500,000. Others
in the army put the figure far higher. Major-General Adjie, the fiercely
anti-communist commander of the Siliwangi division in West Java, told the Australian military
attaché that nearly two million were killed. Short of hard evidence
Western governments were cautious on the scale of the bloodletting. In
April 1966 the State Department thought that around 300,000 had died.43
Even so, the violence from October 1965 to January 1966 would still rank
as one of the largest mass killings of the twentieth century.
army-controlled media in Indonesia
did not report the massacres. Instead the media stoked up hatred of the
communists by portraying them as sadistic murderers, intent on killing
their opponents. It alleged that the coup attempt and the murder of the
generals had been only the start of the communists' plans for a reign of
terror. Antara reported at the beginning of November that a list had been
found in Garut of the names of hundreds of government officials the PKI
had planned to kill if the coup had been a success.44 In December the news
agency ran a story that Aidit had offered party activists in Java 25
million rupiahs if they murdered more than 1,000 people on a PKI
atrocity stories were also a prominent feature in the media.46 In
November Antara claimed that Pemuda Rakjat members in Sumatra had
kidnapped two youths and tortured them for five days, removing eyes and
cutting off hands and testicles, before killing them. Another Pemuda
Rakjat gang in Sumatra
was alleged to have attacked Muslims praying on the bank of a river and
again tortured and murdered them. The moral depravity of the communists
was emphasized in other ways: Antara reported on 8 December that Aidit
had encouraged the Gerwani and Pemuda Rakjat killers of the generals to
take part in 'delirious sexual orgies' for six months before the coup.47
In December the Jakarta Daily Mail denounced the communists as 'mentally
and morally perverted creatures who consider slander, abduction,
mutilation and murder their way of life'.48 The paper declared that there
was no place for the PKI in God-fearing Indonesia and called on people to
'Cast out this spawn of hell root and branch'. Such demonization of the
PKI could only have fuelled the pogrom against the party. This is
certainly what Sukarno feared. The Indonesian president tried to protect
the communists from the massacres - he constantly called for calm and
national unity, condemned the killings and threatened to punish by death
those who used force against the PKI.49 He also repeatedly warned the
press not to incite the public with inflammatory articles and
irresponsible reporting.50 Sukarno and Subandrio both denied stories that
the communists had tortured and mutilated the six generals during the
coup.51 They pointed out that the general's death certificates had not
mentioned any 'abnormalities'.
efforts were in vain though. The army retained control of most of the
media and it ensured that Sukarno's message did not get through to the
Indonesian public. Newspapers and Antara frequently failed to publish the
text of speeches by the president.52 Other papers, such as the Jakarta
Daily Mail, carried commentaries which distorted Sukarno's remarks, to
make them appear to add up to a case for destroying the PKI.53 Sukarno
was powerless in the face of the massacres. During the period of
repression the West gave covert support to the army. The Western powers
had been greatly heartened by the events in Indonesia
after 1 October. A real chance had appeared to smash the PKI and perhaps
remove Sukarno, and the West was anxious that the army leaders fully
seized the opportunity. As both the Australian and American embassies put
it in telegrams on 5 October, it was 'now or never' for the army.54 The
key question was how the West could best encourage and help Suharto and
Nasution. Any overt support was likely to be counterproductive as Sukarno
and Subandrio would immediately denounce Nekolim interference in Indonesia.
The West would therefore have to be circumspect in its approach. For
Green the priority was to smear the PKI's image through propaganda. On 5
October the ambassador had urged Washington to 'Spread the story of PKI's
guilt, treachery and brutality', adding that this was 'perhaps the most
needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find way to do it
without identifying it as sole or largely US effort'.55 The State
Department agreed. It had already begun a VOA and information programme
connecting the PKI to the coup attempt.56 Green appeared satisfied with
the results. He cabled Washington
on 7 November 'that VOA doing good job'.57 There are also indications
that the CIA carried out covert anti-PKI propaganda after the coup.58
Australians were also active in this field. After 1 October the
Department of External Affairs gave daily guidance to Radio Australia
over its broadcasts to Indonesia.59 The Department stressed that Radio
Australia should not give information to the Indonesian people that the
army-controlled internal media would withhold, such as disavowals by the
PKI of responsibility for the coup. Instead the station should highlight
reports discrediting the PKI and showing its involvement in the Untung
coup attempt. The station seems to have faithfully followed these
guidelines, for Keith Shann, the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta, was pleased with Radio Australia's
output, describing it as 'generally good'.60
their part the Malaysians tried to blame the putsch on the communists and
inflame popular feeling in Indonesia.
For example, on 13 October a news commentator on Radio Malaysia read out
an editorial from the Beirut newspaper Lissan Al-Hal which claimed that,
'without the slightest shade of doubt', the coup was contrived by the
PKI.61 He recalled the murder of Naustion's daughter and 'the mutilated
bodies of the six Muslim generals. who [were]
dismembered, cut to small bits and thrown in a well'. Whipping up
feelings further, the newsreader said 'Such atrocities against Muslims cannot
but make the blood boil in every Muslim heart . they open every Muslim
eye to the dirty work which no communist lackey would hesitate to do
whenever the master dictates'. The British were working on similar lines.
The Foreign Office hoped to 'encourage anti-Communist Indonesians to more
vigorous action in the hope of crushing Communism in Indonesia altogether'
.62 The Information Research Department would stimulate broadcasts to Indonesia by the BBC,
and VOA. It would also try to disseminate propaganda through newspapers
read in Indonesia
such as the Straits Times. The same anti-PKI message was to be spread by
more clandestine outlets, such as a 'black transmitter' (presumably Radio
Free Indonesia) and 'IRD's regular newsletter', which seems to have been
'black' propaganda prepared in Singapore by the Information Research
Department's South East Asia Monitoring Unit.63 Suggested propaganda
themes included 'PKI brutality in murdering Generals and families,
Chinese interference, particularly arms shipments, PKI subverting
Indonesia as the agents of foreign Communists'.64 On 9 October the
Foreign Office reported that it was mounting some 'short term
unattributable ploys designed to keep the Indonesian pot boiling'.65
propaganda efforts were strengthened by the arrival in November of Norman
Reddaway as Political Warfare Coordinator in Singapore.
Reddaway received news on the situation in Indonesia from the
embassy in Jakarta
and from intelligence sources, which seem to have included signals
intelligence, as Britain had broken
the Indonesian ciphers.66 He would then supply information that suited
British purposes to news agencies, newspapers and radio via contacts in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. This news would be carried
out into the world's media and return to Indonesia, allowing Britain
to influence Indonesian opinion. The reports were designed to damage the
communists. A draft Foreign Office brief in late November explained that
Britain had been 'blackening the PKI's reputation within Indonesia and
outside, by feeding into the ordinary publicity media news from Indonesia
that associates the PKI and the Chinese with Untung's treachery plus
corresponding covert activity'. Thus, despite some private doubts over
communist responsibility for the coup attempt, all four Western powers
used the media to pin the blame on the PKI and discredit the party in Indonesia.
This propaganda offensive supported the army's own activities, as the
stories on VOA, Radio Malaysia, Radio Australia
and the BBC and in the press confirmed the stories in the army-controlled
media. The synergy between the two publicity campaigns was not
accidental. The British and Americans recycled reports from Radio Jakarta
or the army newspapers by broadcasting them back to Indonesia.67 For
example, on 5 November the Jakarta Daily Mail claimed that on the day of
the coup 100 women from Gerwani had tortured one of the generals by using
razor blades and knives to slash his genitals before he was shot.68 In
December an Information Research Department official noted that this
atrocity story would be included in the South East Asia Monitoring Unit's
propaganda output.69 Furthermore the Indonesian army actively advised the
Western powers on the themes they should or should not use in their
propaganda. On 2-3 November Indonesian Brigadier-General Sukendro had secret
talks in Bangkok with
Dato Ghazali Shafie, the Permanent Secretary at the Malaysian Ministry of
External Affairs.70 Sukendro said that Radio Malaysia should not give the
army 'too much credit' or criticize Sukarno but should emphasize PKI
atrocities and the party's role in the coup. Sukendro also asked for help
in 'the character and political assassination' of Subandrio and offered
to send background information on the Foreign Minister which could be
used by the Malaysians. On 5 November an Indonesian military contact also
approached the Americans and warned them against broadcasts that implied
approval of army actions.71 An officer in the army information section
told Shann that Radio Australia should never suggest that the army was
pro-Western or rightist and should mention other organizations, such as
Muslim and youth groups, opposing the PKI.72
well as using propaganda against the PKI the Western powers helped the
army in other ways. The Americans set up a back-channel link to the army leaders
through Colonel Willis Ethel, the US Army Attaché in Jakarta,
who regularly met with an aide to Naustion. Through this channel the
Americans reassured the Indonesian army about British activities and
intentions, for although these two groups shared a common interest in the
removal of the communists, because of the Confrontation the army was
suspicious of Britain.
mistrust could reach ludicrous levels. In mid-October Nasution's aide
quizzed Ethel about reports of British arms shipments to the PKI and
asked whether the coup could have been a plot by Britain and communist
China.73 To Washington these bizarre ideas showed the 'somewhat naïve
international view ' of the army leaders, but they genuinely seemed to
suspect a conspiracy between London and Beijing.74 Ethel had to assure
them that Britain had not colluded with the Chinese and the PKI.75
also gave a broader assurance that Britain
would not escalate the Confrontation while the army was dealing with the
communists. With the approval of London, on 14 October Ethel told
Nasution's aide that the British did not intend to start any offensive
military action.76 In early November the British and Australians
reinforced this message.77 Counsellor James Murray promised General
Mokoginta, the Commander of Indonesian Armed Forces in Sumatra, that
Britain had no intention of stepping up the Confrontation while the army
was engaged with the PKI. Gilchrist and Shann said the same thing to
Helmi, an Under-Secretary at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
who was close to the army. Shann declared that the army 'would be
completely safe in using their forces for whatever purpose they saw
fit'.78 The Indonesian army could suppress the communists without
worrying about British and Australian operations in the Confrontation. In
addition, the Americans secretly gave the army material aid. At the end
of October Sukendro asked the US for medical
supplies, communications equipment, rice and small arms to support the
army's campaign against the PKI.79 Washington
was willing to help but it knew that there were major political risks
involved. If American aid was exposed Sukarno and Subandrio would have
proof of Nekolim interference in Indonesian internal affairs and this
would seriously embarrass both the United States
and the army. So the Americans moved carefully. On 12 November the State
Department informed the British and Australians that the US had agreed to
send $100,000-worth of medical supplies to the Indonesian army via covert
channels.80 The 303 Committee also agreed on 19 November to give the army
leaders a secure communications system, to maintain contact with each
other and with 'U.S. elements'.81 In interviews in 1981-82 Sukendro
confirmed that the US had secretly supplied medicines, radios and small arms
through the Bangkok CIA station.82 Money may have been provided as well -
in December Green recommended a 'black bag' operation giving 50 million
rupiahs to Adam Malik, a key figure in KAP-Gestapu, an army-inspired
action group that organized anti-PKI demonstrations.83
supplied the army with intelligence.84 The American embassy in Jakarta
had compiled lists of names of the PKI leadership and senior cadres and,
according to Green, this information was
superior to anything held by the Indonesian army. After the coup attempt
embassy officials passed on to the army lists of names of known PKI
leaders. The army could use this information to round up key communists
and dismantle the party structure.
actions taken by the army in suppressing the communists did seem to
trouble the consciences of some of the Western ambassadors in Jakarta.
In a telegram to Canberra
on 19 December Shann wrote that 'In many cases the massacre of entire
families because one member spoke to the Communists, has occurred. Some
of the methods adopted are unspeakable . [It has
been] a blood-bath of savage intensity, remarkably unpublicised and
locally regarded with a ghoulish cynicism'.85 Gilchrist asked Reddaway in
February 1966 'What have we to hope from the [Indonesian] generals?
400,000 people murdered, far more than total casualties in Vietnam+nobody
cares. "They were communists." Were they? And are communists
not human beings?'86
the massacre of thousands of communists did not affect Western policy.
logic of the Cold War meant that the army was fulfilling the Western
interest by eliminating the PKI and removing the danger of Indonesia
falling to communism. The army was also the only means to dispose of
Sukarno and end the Confrontation. Therefore, despite distaste for the
army's methods, the West still wanted to support it. The main problem for
this policy was not ethical concerns but the fear that overt aid could
embarrass the army in its power struggle with Sukaro and Subandrio. On
1-2 December 1965 American, Australian, British and New Zealand
officials held secret Quadripartite talks to coordinate policy towards
Indonesia.87 The mass killings were not even mentioned. Instead the
officials discussed the difficulties in helping the army while Sukarno
and Subandrio remained in power. The West still had to take care not to
make the army appear to be Nekolim stooges and for this reason it was
agreed at the meeting that 'except for some cautious propaganda (on lines
already agreed) we should take no initiative at this moment to help the
was another reason why the West would not offer greater aid, especially
economic aid: the army did not seem to want it. In November Sukendro had
raised the possibility of the US and Malaysia
giving rice, which was in short supply in some areas in Indonesia.88 But
by the middle of December the army leaders
seemed to have abandoned this idea. On 13 December Malik told Green that
there was an urgent need for food and clothing in Indonesia but Suharto
and Nasution wanted to let Sukarno and Subandrio 'stew in their own
juice'.89 Economic mismanagement hurt the civilian government, not the
army, and if the situation worsened Sukarno and Subandrio would be
blamed. Malik advised the US
not to give aid yet.
prediction about the effects of economic distress soon came true. To try
and rescue the floundering economy in mid-December Sukarno's government
devalued the rupiah by an order of 1,000 and then quadrupled fuel prices
in early January.90 These harsh fiscal measures provoked mass student
protests. An Indonesian Student Action Front, composed mainly of Muslim
and nationalist students, organized demonstrations. They linked economic
discontent to political protest, demanding not just a reduction in prices
but also the removal of left-wing ministers, such as Subandrio, and the
formal banning of the PKI. The army gave covert assistance to the
students, transporting them to demonstrations and protecting them. The
army leaders saw the student protests as a way to undermine Sukarno's
rule and ease him and Subandrio from office.
their campaign the army and students again received propaganda support
from the West. Reddaway reported on 11 February that: We have . stepped up our
efforts. The Malaysian black radio is taking our tapes,
material written by us in Djakarta is appearing in Middle East Muslim
newspapers and being repeated by Radio Malaysia
so that Indonesians hear it. The newsletter undoubtedly continues to get
through and be read. We pick up anti-Subandrio propaganda circulated
and get it published world-wide via news agencies in Hong Kong.91
February Sukarno tried to reassert his authority by reshuffling his
cabinet and sacking Nasution as Defence Minister. But this move
backfired. It triggered off even larger student demonstrations, again
abetted by the army, and on 11 March troops mounted a show of force
outside Sukarno's palace. Under this pressure Sukarno yielded and he
signed a letter of authority handing over executive power to Suharto. Although
Sukarno remained nominally in charge real power was now in the hands of
the army. The Western allies were delighted with the army's seizure of
power. An American official explained to President Johnson on 12 March
hard to overestimate the potential significance of the army's apparent
victory over Sukarno (even though the latter remains as a figurehead). Indonesia has more
people - and probably more resources - than all of mainland Southeast Asia. It was well on the way
to becoming another expansionist Communist state, which would have
critically menaced the rear of the whole Western position in mainland Southeast Asia. Now, though the
unforeseen can always happen, this trend has been sharply reversed.92
pro-communist trend had indeed been reversed. During the remainder of
1966 and 1967 Suharto moved methodically to undo all of Sukarno's
policies. He banned the PKI, detained Subandrio, ended Confrontation with
rejoined the United Nations and froze relations with communist China.
Sukarno was stripped of his remaining powers and died in obscurity.
Indonesia was saved for the West.
question remains of how far the Western powers were responsible for this
outcome. Did Western covert intervention in Indonesia
cause the destruction of the PKI and the removal of Sukarno? The origins
of the coup attempt in October 1965 remain obscure but on the evidence
from currently available American, Australian and British archives it
does not seem to have been a Western-inspired or -supported plot.
Certainly the West gave covert support to the army after the coup but it
appears, as Brands argues, that the indigenous actors were the key to
events in Indonesia
from October 1965 to March 1966. It was the army that chose to crush the
communists and topple Sukarno's government. While the attitude of the
West may have encouraged the army to move against the PKI it probably did
not need much encouragement. Nasution, for example, whose daughter had
been murdered in the coup, had reasons enough of his own. The United States did
help the army by providing radios, medicine, small arms and lists of
names and by giving assurances that Britain
would not escalate the Confrontation, but this support was not essential
to the army's success.
propaganda may have been of more importance in bringing down Sukarno's
regime and in inciting the massacre of the communists. The documentary
sources do, for example, corroborate a lot of Lashmar and Oliver's
revelations about British covert propaganda operations in 1965-66. The
influence of the West on the anti-communist Terror should not be
exaggerated though. The killings were not just political acts in the Cold
War, they were also a complex sociological phenomenon and the
perpetrators had a wide variety of local motives.93 The PKI had supported
land reform in rural areas and this had created bitter resentment between
peasant party members and small landlords. Muslims and, in Bali, Hindus were driven by religious
fervour to slaughter the atheist communists. The killings sometimes had
racial overtones, such as attacks on ethnic Chinese in North Sumatra. In the frenzy of
violence people saw a chance to satisfy personal vendettas. Other factors
than propaganda drove civilians to murder suspected communists. The
killings were not just a reaction to Western propaganda - they were the
culmination of years of built up tension and hatred.
also be questioned how large the audience for Western propaganda actually
was. Australian officials believed that the only about 60 per cent of the
adult Indonesian population was literate and the number of newspaper
readers was thought to be just 500,000.94 Radio was a more important
source of news but the number of listeners was still limited. Radio Indonesia
estimated in 1963 that there were 3.5 million radio sets in the country
with an effective listenership of 17 million, but this might have been an
underestimate, as one radio set could be listened to by a large number in
a small village which had no other sources of information.
foreign radio stations Radio Australia was generally agreed to be the
most popular, indeed an army officer told the Australians in September
1965 that Radio Australia was more popular than Radio Indonesia.95 It was
listened to by the elite - Nasution was said to be a regular listener –
and by students, who liked it because it played rock music, which had
been officially banned in Indonesia. The BBC Indonesian service had far
fewer listeners and was dismissed in an Information Research Department
report in June 1965 as being 'probably only of marginal value'.96 Voice
of America suffered from having a weak signal and was difficult to
hear.97 Green complained to Washington on 19 October 1965 about the
'appalling inadequacy of VOA signal to Indonesia' and called for
emergency measures to give a clear reception.98 Radio Malaysia was
audible, but in the opinion of Gilchrist it was not trusted by
Indonesians and therefore had no great influence.99 The audiences of the
West's covert propaganda outlets are impossible to gauge, but judging by
the relatively few newspaper readers and radio listeners in Indonesia,
Western propaganda may have only been able to reach and affect a limited
number of people.
there are signs that Western propaganda may have had an impact. The
Indonesian government seemed to notice the propaganda campaign and feel
threatened by it. In a speech in January 1966 Sukarno declared those
unhappy with his leadership should say so openly and 'not carry out
campaigns of secret slander inspired by Nekolim to bring about his
downfall' .100 In February an editorial in the Indonesian Herald
newspaper, which acted as the mouthpiece for Subandrio's Foreign
Ministry, warned of a 'Necolim psywar' being used to 'subdue our
other side, British officials believed that their propaganda had been
effective. Gilchrist wrote in April 1966 that military and political
propaganda pressure on Indonesia 'has had no small effect in breaking up
the Soekarno regime'.102 Reportedly, Sir John Grandy, the British
Commander in Chief in the Far East, thought Reddaway's propaganda work
'made an outstanding contribution to the campaign against the
explanations ordinary Indonesians gave for the massacres also appeared to
show the influence of propaganda. Western journalists travelling in Java
in the spring and summer of 1966 observed that people repeatedly
justified the killings as self-defence. Seymour Topping wrote in the New
York Times that 'Many Indonesians say bluntly "It was them or
us"'.104 He heard rumours in the towns of the PKI digging mass
graves prior to the coup and PKI files naming high-ranking army officers,
local officials and religious leaders that were to be executed. Stanley
Karnow reported in the Washington Post that 'Everywhere
. people sought to justify the
destruction of the Communists with the same phrase "If we hadn't
done it to them they would have done it to us"'.105 He believed this
pervasive attitude was largely due to the 'the brutal fashion in which
the Communists murdered [the] six army generals'. Dennis Warner, quoted
an Indonesian in The Sydney Morning Herald as saying 'I think the murder
of the generals and Nasution's daughter had such an impact on us all,
especially when we learnt what was in store for the rest of us, that no
one had any sympathy for the PKI'.106
some of the themes of the propaganda campaign are present here but there
is a difficulty in separating out the effects of internal army propaganda
from Western propaganda, as both were conveying the same message. It is
likely that Western propaganda played a secondary, supporting role. The
news coming from abroad would have confirmed the stories Indonesians were
hearing at home - that the PKI had masterminded the coup, that communist
women tortured and murdered the six generals, that the communists had
planned to massacre their enemies. Western propaganda helped build up the
picture of the communists as menacing, bloodthirsty killers that needed
to be eradicated. The impact of this campaign was to dehumanize the
communists and make it easier to murder them. As one Indonesian civilian,
who executed 18 communists, put it to a journalist in 1966 'I did not
kill people. I killed wild animals'.107 To this extent Western covert
intervention may have encouraged the massacres in Indonesia
in the winter of 1965-66.
1. Scott, 'The United States
and the Overthrow of Sukarno'
2, Scott, 'The United States
and the Overthrow of Sukarno', 239
3. Brands, 'The Limits
4. Brands, 'The Limits
of Manipulation', 787.
5. Lashmar and Oliver, Britain's
Secret Propaganda War, 1-10.
6. Lashmar and Oliver, Britain's
Secret Propaganda War, 1.
7. Lashmar and Oliver
allege that in 1962 the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the
American President John Kennedy secretly agreed to 'liquidate' Sukarno.
This allegation was recently repeated in Blum, Killing Hope. The original
basis for this claim is a partially declassified CIA document,
Declassified Documents Referencing Service (DDRS), British Library of
Political and Economic Science, 1975, Item 240A, CIA Report CS-3/522,563,
17 September 1962. In this document the writer does claim that Macmillan
and Kennedy had agreed to liquidate Sukarno. However, although the
document has been partially sanitized, it is fairly clear that it is a
report from an Indonesian diplomat or intelligence officer which had been
obtained by the CIA (the writer tells a Pakistani diplomat that Pakistan should leave
the Western bloc and become neutralist; he interchangeably refers to Indonesia and 'we'
buying parachutes from Pakistan).
Furthermore the writer's claim about the Kennedy-Macmillan plot is, by
his own admission, based on 'impressions I have received in conversations
with Western diplomats' and not on hard evidence. The document might
illustrate Indonesian fears about Western intentions but it offers no
proof of an Anglo-American plot in 1962 to liquidate Sukarno.
8. The National Archives
(TNA) (Public Records Office) CAB 148/19 OPD(65)25,
26 January 1965; National Intelligence Memorandum NIE 54/55-65, 1 July
1965, FRUS, Indonesia
1964-68, vol. 26, 270-71.
9. Easter, 'British and
Malaysian Covert Support'.
10. Easter, 'British
Intelligence and Propaganda'.
11. TNA FO 1101/1, Minute
'War of nerves Indonesia',
12. Easter, 'British
Intelligence and Propaganda' , 93-4.
13. TNA FO 371/187587,
17 June 1966; TNA FO 371/181530, Telegram 2645 Commonwealth Relations
Office (CRO) to Kuala Lumpur,
19 October 1965.
14. TNA DEFE 28/144,
Minute Drew to PS/Minister, 19 December 1963; TNA FO 953/2140, Telegram
2380 Kuala Lumpur to
CRO, 25 October 1963.
15. Political Action Paper,
19 November 1964; Memorandum for 303 Committee, 23 February 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
16. Memorandum for 303
Committee, 23 February 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
17. TNA FO 371/180337,
Despatch 10342/65 Stewart to Peck, 26 April 1965.
18. Report from
Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker to President Johnson, not dated, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
19. National Archives of Australia (NAA)
A1838/555/1/9/1 Part 1, 'Overseas broadcasts to Indonesia.
Discussions with United States'
3-4 August 1965, not dated; Bunnell, 'American "Low Posture"
Policy towards Indonesia'.
20. NAA A1838/555/1/9/1
Part 1, Telegram 2122 Washington
to Department of External Affairs (DEA), 22 June 1965.
21. NAA A1838/555/1/9/1
Part 1, 'Overseas Broadcasts to Indonesia.
Discussions with United States'
Officials', Canberra 3-4
August 1965, not dated.
22. For an examination of
the different theories see Crouch, The Army and Politics in Indonesia,
97-134, and Elson, Suharto, 110-18.
23. DDRS, Retrospective Collection,
Item 605D, Telegram 800 Jakarta
1 October 1965; NAA A6364/4 JA 1965/07, Telegram 1149, Jakarta to Canberra,
1 October 1965; TNA FO 371/180317, Gilchrist to Foreign Office (FO), 3
24. FRUS, 'Indonesia',
25. TNA FO 371/180317,
Telegram Guidance 398 CRO to Kuala
Lumpur, 4 October 1965; NAA A1838/3034/2/18/8 Part
1, Telegram 3445 Washington
to DEA, 4 October 1965.
26. DDRS, Retrospective
Collection, Item 29C, CIA Office of Central Intelligence, OCI No 2342/65,
28 October 1965.
27. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 1, Telegram 3445 Washington
to DEA, 4 October 1965; Telegram 3442 Washington
to DEA, 4 October 1965.
28. TNA FO 371/180320,
Despatch DH1015/2/5 Gilchrist to Stewart, 19 October 1965.
29. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 7, Note 'Indonesia,
PKI Responsibility for the Attempted Coup', 9 December 1965.
30. Telegram 1184 Jakarta to State Dept, 26 October 1965,
31. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 28E, Telegram CIA/OCI 12980 Jakarta to Washington, 6 October 1965;
Retrospective Collection, Item 29A, Telegram CIA/OCI 13185 Jakarta to Washington,
8 October 1965.
32. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 1, Telegram 1156 Shann to DEA, 2 October 1965; NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 2, UPI report 274, 11 October 1965; NAA A6364/JA1965/015 Political
Savingram 52, Jakarta to DEA, 15 October 1965; TNA FO 371/180317,
Telegram 2083 Gilchrist to FO, 8 October 1965.
33. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 1, Telegram 1169 Jakarta
to DEA, 5 October 1965.
34. TNA FO 371/180317,
Telegram 2061 Gilchrist to FO, 6 October 1965.
'How did the Generals Die?'
'How did the Generals Die?'. Simons, Indonesia:
The Long Oppression, 173-4.
37. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 5, Record of a conversation with Marietta Smith, 9 November 1965.
38. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 615C, Telegram 171 Surabaya
to Jakarta, 14
39. TNA FO 371/180325,
Letter by Charney, 24 November 1965.
40. Lyndon Johnson
National Security Files (NSF), Kings College, London, Reel 8 634-6, Telegram 1814 Jakarta
to State Dept, 21 December 1965; Sydney Morning Herald, 30 December 1965.
41. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 11, Despatch Starey to DEA, 25 February 1966.
42. NAA A1838/3034/1 Part
2, Visit to Indonesian Military Establishments 20-27 June 1966 by Warner,
30 June 1966. TNA FO 371/186027, Despatch 1011/66 Jakarta
to FO, 13 January 1966.
43. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 13 Memo No 601/66 Birch to DEA, 19 April 1966.
44. TNA FO 371/180322,
Telegram 2426 Jakarta to FO, 3
45. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 8, UPI report 284, 18 December 1965.
46. TNA FO 371/180323, Cambridge to Tonkin, 9 November 1965; Telegram 2528
Gilchrist to FO, 13 November 1965.
47. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 7, UPI report 264, 8 December 1965; UPI report 265, 8 December 1965.
48. TNA FO 371/180325, Jakarta
Daily Mail, 11 December 1965.
49. NAA A1209/1965/6674
Part 1, Telegram 1278 Jakarta to DEA, 22 October 1965; Telegram 1294
Jakarta to DEA, 26 October 1965; NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8 Part 8, UPI report
10, 17 December 1965.
50. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 5, UPI report 96, 10 November 1965; NAA A6364/JA1965/015, Savingram
59, Jakarta to DEA,
25 November 1965.
51. NAA A1838/3006/4/9
Part 30, Interview Subandrio and Hastings,
15 December 1965; NAA A6364/JA1965/015, Savingram 62 Jakarta
to DEA, 17 December 1965.
52. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 611C, Telegram 1195 Jakarta to State Dept, 25 October
1965; NAA A1838/3034/2/1 Part 48, Macdonnell to Ottawa, 18 November 1965.
53. NAA A6364/JA1965/015,
Savingram 64 Jakarta to DEA,
23 December 1965.
54. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 28C, Telegram CIA/OCI 12848 Jakarta to Washington,
5 October 1965; NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8 Part 1, Telegram 1172, Shann to DEA,
5 October 1965.
55. Telegram 868 Green to
State Dept, 5 October 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia'”
56. Telegram 400 State
Dept to Jakarta,
6 October 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
57. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 613A, Telegram 1353 Jakarta
to State Dept, 7 November 1965.
58. McGehee, Deadly Deceits , 57-8.
59. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 3, Minute Hay to Minister, 18 October 1965.
60. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 3, Minute Hay to Minister, 18 October 1965; Najjarine and Cottle,
'The Department of External Affairs'
61. TNA FO 371/180320,
2140 hours News Commentary, 13 October 1965.
62. TNA DEFE 25/170,
Telegram 1863 FO to Singapore,
8 October 1965.
63. TNA FO 371/187587,
Adams to de la Mare, attached diagram, 2 June 1966.
64. TNA FO 371/181455,
Telegram 2679 CRO to Canberra,
13 October 1965.
65. TNA FO 371/181530,
Telegram 1460 Stanley to Reddaway, 9 October 1965.
66. Easter, 'British
Intelligence and Propaganda' , 85; TNA FO1101/5,
Minute Reddaway to Tovey, 30 October 1965.
67. TNA FO 371/181455,
to Cable, 7 October 1965; Telegram 2679 CRO to Canberra,
13 October 1965.
68. TNA FO 371/180324,
Despatch DH 1015/311 Jakarta
to FO, 22 November 1965.
69. TNA FO 371/180324,
Minute by Weilland, 22 December 1965.
70. TNA FO 371/181457,
Record of meeting between Ghazali and Sukendro on 2-3 November 1965, 10
71. Lyndon Johnson NSF,
Reel 8, 338-9, Telegram 1357 Jakarta
to Washington, 5
72. NAA A6364/JA1965/10,
Telegram 1340 Shann to Canberra,
5 November 1965.
73. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 610B, Telegram 497 State Dept to Jakarta, 21 October 1965; Johnson NSF,
Reel 8, 251-2, Telegram 1139 Jakarta
to State Dept, 22 October 1965.
Memorandum OCI No 2942/65, 18 November 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
75. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 611D, Telegram 526 State Dept to Jakarta, 26 October
1965; Johnson NSF Reel 8, 288-289, Telegram 1201, Jakarta to State Dept,
26 October 1965.
76. Telegram unnumbered, Jakarta to State Dept, 10 October 1965;
Telegram 1006 Jakarta
to State Dept, 14 October 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
77. TNA FO 371/181457,
Record of Conversation with General Mokoginta by James Murray, 9 November
1965; Telegram 2509 Gilchrist to FO, 12 November 1965.
78. NAA A6364/JA1965/10,
Telegram 1383 Shann to DEA, 12 November 1965.
79. Telegram 1288 Jakarta to State Dept, 1 November 1965,
80. Telegram 749 State
Dept to Bangkok,
4 November 1965; Telegram 951 Bangkok
to State Dept, 11 November 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
81. Memorandum for 303
Committee, 17 November 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
82. Bunnell, 'American
"Low Posture" Policy towards Indonesia',
59, footnote. On the supply of radios see also a letter from the
journalist Kathy Kadane to the Editor, New York Review of Books, 10 April 1997.
83. Telegram 1628 Jakarta to State Dept, 2 December 1965,
84. Editorial Note, FRUS,
386-7; Article by Kathy Kadane in San Francisco
Examiner, 20 May 1990.
85. NAA A6364/JA1965/10,
Telegram 1503 Jakarta to DEA,
19 December 1965.
86. TNA FO 1101/30,
Gilchrist to Reddaway, 9 February 1966.
87. NAA A1209/1968/9055,
Memorandum by Eastman for DEA, 9 December 1966.
88. TNA FO 371/181457,
Record of meeting Ghazali and Sukendro on 2-3 November 1965, 10 November
1965; Telegram 1288 Jakarta to State Dept, 1 November 1965, FRUS,
89. NAA A1838 3034/2/1/8
Part 8, Telegram 8 Washington to DEA, 4 January 1966; Memorandum of
conversation, 14 February 1966, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
90. NAA A1838 3034/2/1/8
Part 7, UPI report 284, 14 December 1965. NAA A1838 3034/2/1/8 Part 8,
UPI report 230, 4 January 1966.
91. TNA FO 1101/23,
Minute by Reddaway, 11 February 1966. Reddaway's comments suggest that
the editorial in Lissan Al-Hal broadcast by Radio Malaysia
on 13 October 1965 may have been British-inspired.
92. Memorandum Komer to
Johnson, 12 March 1966, FRUS, 'Indonesia',
93. Cribb, The Indonesian
94. NAA A1838/3034/1 Part
2, 'Head of Mission Meeting, Bangkok,
December 1965, Indonesia',
not dated. NAA A1838/570/5/1/4 Part 1, Upton to DEA, not dated.
95. NAA A1838/555/1/9
Part 2, Conversation Sofjan and Jackson, 21 September 1965; NAA
A1838/555/1/9/1 Part 1, Memorandum 'Radio Australia Indonesian Audience',
by Barnett, not dated; TNA FO1101/1, Gilchrist to Reddaway, 11 August
96. TNA FO1101/1, Report
by Drinkall, 3 June 1965. Audience figures were assessed by the number of
letters the station received from Indonesian listeners. While Radio Australia
received 16,000 letters a month, the BBC Indonesia service received 4,000
letters a year. NAA A1838 555/1/9 Part 2, Memorandum 'Australian
information policy towards Indonesia',
not dated; TNA FO1101/11, Reddaway to Commander in Chief, 3 March 1966.
97. NAA A1838/555/1/9/1
Part 1, Telegram 2069 Washington
to DEA, 17 June 1965.
98. DDRS Retrospective
Collection, Item 609G, Telegram 1086 Jakarta
to State Dept, 19 October 1965.
99. TNA FO1101/1,
Gilchrist to Reddaway, 11 August 1965.
100. NAA A1838/3034/2/1/8
Part 9, Savingram 3 Jakarta
to DEA, 19 January 1965.
101. TNA FO1101/23,
Indonesian Herald, 3 February 1966.
102. TNA FO 371/186044,
Despatch 5 Gilchrist to Stewart, 12 April 1966.
103. TNA FO 1101/32,
Telegram 205 POLAD Singapore to Bangkok,
26 September 1966.
104. New York Times, 24
Post, 16 April 1966.
106. Sydney Morning Herald,
15 June 1966.
107. The Australian, 22
Anderson B. How Did the Generals Die?, Indonesia,
43 (1987) 109-34.
Brands H.W. The Limits of
Manipulation: How the United States
didn't Topple Sukarno, Journal of American History, 76(3) (1989) 785-808.
Blum William Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World
War 2. London: Zed
Bunnell F. American "Low Posture" Policy towards Indonesia in the
Leading Up to the 1965 Coup, Indonesia,
50 (1990) 29-60.
Cribb R. The Indonesian Killings 1965-1966: Studies from Java and Bali.
Clayton: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash
Crouch Harold The Army and Politics in Indonesia.
Ithaca, NY: Cornell
Easter David, British and Malaysian Covert Support for Rebel Movements in
Indonesia during the "Confrontation", 1963-66, The Clandestine
Cold War in Asia 1945-65, R. Aldrich, G. Rawnsley and M. Rawnsley. London:
Frank Cass (2000) 195-208.
British Intelligence and Propaganda during the
"Confrontation"1963-66, Intelligence and National Security,
16(2) (2001) 83-102.
Elson R. Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge
Lashmar Paul and Oliver James. Britain's
Secret Propaganda War. Stroud: Sutton Publishing (1998).
McGehee R. Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA. New York:
Najjarine K. and D. Cottle. The Department of External Affairs, the ABC
and Reporting of the Indonesian Crisis 1965-1969, Australian Journal of
Politics and History, 49(1) (2003) 48-60.
Scott Paul The United States
and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965-67, Pacific Affairs, 58(2) (1985)
Simons G. Indonesia: The Long Oppression. Basingstoke: Macmillan (2000).
TNA FO, 371/181457, Minute Stanley
to Peck, 25 November 1965.
US Senate Foreign Relations of the United States
1964-68, vol. 26. Washington:
Government Printing Office (2001).
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