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Seluruh Korban Rejim Jendral Suharto

English Version
Dedicated to:
all the Victims of General Suharto´s Regime




Deliberately 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 his defence plea has since become a key historical document for the future of the Indonesian people he loved so well.

Roughly 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. [1] 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 Japanese.

Subsequently, he joined the Seinendan and the Peta in East Java. [2] 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 College (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 Leader. [3]

His 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. [4] 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.

We 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.

Other 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.

Furthermore, 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,[5] 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 [6] 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[7] –Murdani.

The 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.[8] 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.[9]

Latief’s 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 Hospital 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 [10] 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?

History 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. [11] 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. [12] 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.

Latief 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, [13] 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?

Important 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 [14] —former official of the Recomba of the Federal State of Pasundan, [15] 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 fat wallet?

Latief 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? [16] 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 [17] 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?

Most 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. [18] 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?

According 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.

In 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 of Indonesia.



[1]     Kolonel Abdul Latief, Soeharto Terlibat G30S—Pledoi Kol. A. Latief [ Suharto was Involved in the September 30 Movement—Defence Speech of Colonel A. Latief ] Institut Studi Arus Informasi: Jakarta 2000, 285 pp.

[2]     Respectively: paramilitary youth organization and auxiliary military apparatus set up by the Japanese.

[3]     Ironic reference to the title Sukarno gave himself in the early 1960s.

[4]     Nasution was Defence Minister and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Yani Army Chief of Staff. Yani was killed on October l, and Nasution just escaped with his life.

[5]     From the 1957–58 civil war, when these people were closely tied to the CIA as well as the Special Branch in Singapore and Malaya.

[6]     he legendary Indonesian military intelligence czar of the 1970s and 1980s.

[7]     A Japanese-trained high-ranking intelligence officer.

[8]     Acronym for Surat Perintah Sebelas Maret, Decree of March 11, which turned over most executive functions ad interim to Suharto; the acronym vanese shadow puppet theatre.

[9]     ‘Thug Escaped from Kemusu’: the Suharto regime regularly named all its supposed subversive enemies as GPK, Gerakan Pengacau Keamanan, or Order-Disturbing Elements. The wags made this Gali Pelarian Kemusu—Suharto was born in the village of Kemusu.

[10]    Japanese military police, famous for war-time brutality.

[11]    Then Colonel Sarwo Edhie, commander of the elite Red Beret paratroops, was the operational executor of the massacres; Mas Permadi is a well-known psychic.

[12]    The organized slaughter of petty hoodlums, often previously agents of the regime. A grim joke of the time called the death-squads of soldiers-in-mufti ‘Petrus’, as in St. Peter, an acronym derived from Penembak Misterius or Mysterious Killers.

[13]    Famous high-flying Sino-Indonesian crook who escaped abroad with millions of embezzled dollars.

[14]    Allegedly the head of the Communist Party’s secret Special Bureau for military affairs, and planner of the September 30th Movement.

[15]    In 1948–49, the Dutch set up a series of puppet regimes in various provinces they controlled to offset the power and prestige of the independent Republic. Recomba was the name of this type of regime in Java, and Pasundan is the old name for the Sundanese-speaking territory of West Java.

[16]    The Movement proclaimed this Council as the temporary ruling authority in Indonesia, but its membership included right-wing generals, second-tier left-wingers, and various notoriously opportunist politicians, while omitting almost all figures with national reputations and large organizations behind them.

[17]    Secretary-General of the Communist Party.

[18]    Omar Dhani: Air Force chief in 1965, sentenced to death, had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment, and was recently released. Sudharmono: for decades close aide to Suharto. Rewang: former candidate member of the Communist Party’s Politbureau. Panggabean: top general in Suharto’s clique and his successor as commander of Kostrad. Hartini: Sukarno’s second wife in 1965. Mursyid: Sukarnoist general heading military operations for the Army Staff in 1965, subsequently arrested. Yusuf and Idris: both these generals played central roles in the overthrow of Sukarno.

********************** 0 0 0 0 0 ************************

Kathy Kadane *)

" four months,

five times as many

people died in

Indonesia as in

Vietnam in

twelve years."

-- 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 the Examiner.

Ex-agents say CIA compiled death lists for Indonesians

After 25 years, Americans speak of their role in exterminating Communist Party

by Kathy 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, former U.S. diplomats say.

For 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. officials.

The killings were part of a massive bloodletting that took an estimated 250,000 lives.

The purge 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. Indonesia is the fifth most-populous country in the world.

Silent 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.

"It 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."

White House and State Department spokesmen declined comment on the disclosures.

Although 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."

Indonesian 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.

Martens, 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.

People 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 back."

The 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.

In 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."

U.S. Embassy approval

Approval 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 in interviews.

Declassified 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.

Former 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 in Asia.

"That's 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.

"You shoot them"

"The 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."

In 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."

Asked 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."

The 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.

Better information

"I 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."

Masters, 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.

The 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.

Interviewed 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.

"Shooting list"

Embassy 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.

Information 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, Lazarsky said.

"We 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."

Detention centers were set up to hold those who were not killed immediately.

"They 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."

Masters, 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."

Lazarsky said the checkoff work was also carried out at the CIA's intelligence directorate in Washington.

Leadership destroyed

By the end of January 1966, Lazarsky said, the checked-off names were so numerous the CIA analysts in Washington concluded the PKI leadership had been destroyed.

"No 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."

Asked 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."

Asked 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."


More from Kathy Kadane...

A Letter to the Editor, New York Review of Books, April 10, 1997

To the Editors:

I very 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.

It 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 Washington University.

The 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.

The 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.

There 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.

The 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.

While 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.

The 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.

A word 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.

When asked about the possible reason for this apparent inadequacy, former US Ambassador Marshall Green, in a December 1989 interview, characterized his understanding this way:

I know 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].

By the 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.

-- Kathy Kadane

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For immediate release, 27 July 2001

For more information:

Archive director Tom Blanton, 994-7000





WASHINGTON, D.C., 27 July – George Washington University’s National Security Archive today posted on the Web ( 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.

The 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.

The 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.

On another 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).

The CIA’s 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.

2.   ditorial 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. diplomatic activity.

6.   Title page and table of contents of the Indonesia volume.

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Details see:

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-68

Volume XXVI


Table of Contents  (Details see:

(Note: This table is posted in sections corresponding to the divisions of the original)

Preface                                                                                   II

Johnson Administration Volumes                                           IX

Sources                                                                                   XIII

Abbreviations                                                                          XXI

Persons                                                                                   XXVII

Note on U.S. Convert Action Programs                                   XXXIII


Sukarno's confrontation With Malaysia:
January-November 1964                                                             1

Sukarno's confrontation With the United States:
December 1964 - September 1965                                              189

Coup and Counter Reaction:
October 1965-March 1966                                                          300

The United States and Suharto:
April 1966-December 1968                                                         427

Malaysia-Singapore                                                                   577

Philippines                                                                                649

Index                                                                                        843


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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 '65/ 66)

The « 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.

Subsequently, 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.

Over a 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.

The death-toll of the massacre

It has 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 themselves :

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

Following 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 socially.

The founding of the Institute

Research 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 their history.

The “Indonesian 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, near Jakarta.

The 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)

The 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.

The 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 atrocities.

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 Suharto's regime

Methods of research

Interviews with witnesses of the condition at times of arrest, of movements into or out of prisons and concentration camps, or of the killings.

The 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.

The extent 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 detected.

Research should be carried out during the period of one year from September 1999 till August 2000.

A common task at home and abroad

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 the crimes.

The 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 Pembunuhan 1965/1966

(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


Email: YPKP_NED at


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'Keep the Indonesian Pot Boiling':

Western Covert Intervention in Indonesia, October 1965 - March 1966

David Easter

London School of Economics and Political Science,

UK. Email:

This 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 attack Indonesia 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.

The 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 pulling Indonesia 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 South-East Asia.

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 agency.

It 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.

The loss of Indonesia would also outflank American efforts to contain communism in South Vietnam.

Events 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 with Malaysia and breaking ties with China. Sukarno was marginalized and died while under house arrest in 1970.

This '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

Other 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 the evidence.7

This 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.

By the 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

The 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

In 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 communist China.

Propaganda 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 Radio Malaysia's 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.

The 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 over.

What 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.

There 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

Yet 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.

Faced 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 one'.30

If 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 Suharto regime.

In 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 these operations.

Precisely 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.

The 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 black-list.45

Communist 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'.

These 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

The 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

For 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, Radio Malaysia, Radio Australia 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

British 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

As 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.

The 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

Ethel 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

Finally, the US 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.

The 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

Yet the massacre of thousands of communists did not affect Western policy.

The 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 Generals'.

There 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.

Malik's 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.

In 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 within Indonesia and get it published world-wide via news agencies in Hong Kong.91

On 21 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 that:

It is 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

The 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 Malaysia, 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.

The 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.

Western 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.

It can 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.

Of the 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.

Nevertheless, 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 revolution'.101

On the 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 Indonesians'.103

The explanations ordinary Indonesians gave for the massacres also appeared to show the influence of propaganda. Western journalists travelling in Java and Bali 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

Clearly, 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 of Manipulation'

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', not dated.

12.     Easter, 'British Intelligence and Propaganda' , 93-4.

13.     TNA FO 371/187587, Minute Stanley to Edmonds, 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', 181-84; 234-37.

16.     Memorandum for 303 Committee, 23 February 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 234-7.

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', 256.

19.     National Archives of Australia (NAA) A1838/555/1/9/1 Part 1, 'Overseas broadcasts to Indonesia. Discussions with United States' officials', Canberra 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 to Washington, 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 October 1965.

24.     FRUS, 'Indonesia', 301 footnote.

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, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 335-7.

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.

35.     Anderson, 'How did the Generals Die?'

36.     Anderson, '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 November 1965.

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 November 1965.

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'” 307-8.

56.     Telegram 400 State Dept to Jakarta, 6 October 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 308-10.

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, Radio Malaysia 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, Minute Stanley 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 November 1965.

71.     Lyndon Johnson NSF, Reel 8, 338-9, Telegram 1357 Jakarta to Washington, 5 November 1965.

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.

74.     Intelligence Memorandum OCI No 2942/65, 18 November 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 372.

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', 317-18; 321-2.

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, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 345-7.

80.     Telegram 749 State Dept to Bangkok, 4 November 1965; Telegram 951 Bangkok to State Dept, 11 November 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 357-8; 364-6.

81.     Memorandum for 303 Committee, 17 November 1965, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 368-71.

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, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 379-80.

84.     Editorial Note, FRUS, 'Indonesia', 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, 'Indonesia', 345-7.

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', 399-401.

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', 419.

93.     Cribb, The Indonesian Killings 1965-1966

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 1965.

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 August 1966.

105.   Washington Post, 16 April 1966.

106.   Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 1966.

107.   The Australian, 22 April 1966.


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