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Seluruh Korban Rejim Jendral Suharto

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

Chomsky on Indonesia

Securing the Anchor

"The problem of Indonesia" is "the most crucial issue of the moment in our struggle with the Kremlin," Kennan wrote in 1948. "Indonesia is the anchor in that chain of islands stretching from Hokkaido to Sumatra which we should develop as a politico-economic counter-force to communism" and a "base area" for possible military action beyond. A Communist Indonesia, he warned, would be an "infection" that "would sweep westward" through all of South Asia. Resource-rich Indonesia was also designated to be a critical part of the "Empire toward the South" that the US intended to recreate for Japan, now within the US-dominated system.

In accord with standard reasoning, "ultra-nationalism"  Indonesia would prevent Southeast Asia from "fulfilling its main function" as a service area for the core industrial powers. Accordingly, the US urged the former Dutch rulers to grant independence, but under Dutch tutelage, an outcome critical to "Western Europe's economic rehabilitation, and to America's strategic well-being," Leffler observes, and to Japan's reconstruction as well. The principled antagonism to independent nationalism that animates US foreign policy took on particular significance in this case.4

After its liberation from the Dutch, Indonesia was ruled by the nationalist leader Sukarno. At first, the United States was willing to tolerate this arrangement, particularly after Sukarno and the army suppressed a land reform movement supported by the Indonesian Communist Party [PKI] in the Madiun region in 1948, virtually destroying the party's leadership and jailing 36,000 people. But Sukarno's nationalist and neutralist commitments soon proved entirely unacceptable.

The two major power centers in Indonesia were the army and the PKI, the only mass-based political force. Internal politics were dominated by Sukarno's balancing of these two forces. Western aims were largely shared by the army, who therefore qualified as moderates. To achieve these aims, it was necessary somehow to overcome the anti-American extremists. Other methods having failed, mass extermination remained as a last resort.

In the early 1950s, the CIA tried covert support of right-wing parties, and in 1957-1958 the US backed and participated in armed insurrection against Sukarno, possibly including assassination attempts. After the rebellions were put down, the US turned to a program of military aid and training coupled with a cutback of economic aid, a classic mode of pre-coup planning, followed in Chile a few years later, and attempted in Iran with the dispatch of arms via Israel from shortly after the Khomeini takeover -- one of the many crucial elements of the Iran-contra affair suppressed in the subsequent cover-up.5 Universities and corporations also lent their willing hands.

In a RAND study published by Princeton University in 1962, Guy Pauker, closely involved with US policy-making through RAND and the CIA, urged his contacts in the Indonesian military to take "full responsibility" for their country, "fulfill a mission," and "strike, sweep their house clean." In 1963, former CIA staff officer William Kintner, then at a CIA-subsidized research institute at the University of Pennsylvania, warned that "If the PKI is able to maintain its legal existence and Soviet influence continues to grow, it is possible that Indonesia may be the first Southeast Asia country to be taken over by a popularly based, legally elected communist government... In the meantime, with Western help, free Asian political leaders -- together with the military -- must not only hold on and manage, but reform and advance while liquidating the enemy's political and guerrilla armies." The prospects for liquidation of the popularly based political forces were regarded as uncertain, however. In a 1964 RAND memorandum, Pauker expressed his concern that the groups backed by the US "would probably lack the ruthlessness that made it possible for the Nazis to suppress the Communist Party of Germany... [These right-wing and military elements] are weaker than the Nazis, not only in numbers and in mass support, but also in unity, discipline, and leadership."

Pauker's pessimism proved unfounded. After an alleged Communist coup attempt on September 30, 1965, and the murder of six Indonesian generals, pro-American General Suharto took charge and launched a bloodbath in which hundreds of thousands of people, mostly landless peasants, were slaughtered. Reflecting on the matter in 1969, Pauker noted that the assassination of the generals "elicited the ruthlessness that I had not anticipated a year earlier and resulted in the death of large numbers of Communist cadres."

The scale of the massacre is unknown. The CIA estimates 250,000 killed. The head of the Indonesia state security system later estimated the toll at over half a million; Amnesty International gave the figure of "many more than one million." Whatever the numbers, no one doubts that there was incredible butchery. Seven-hundred-fifty-thousand more were arrested, according to official figures, many of them kept for years under miserable conditions without trial. President Sukarno was overthrown and the military ruled unchallenged. Meanwhile the country was opened to Western exploitation, hindered only by the rapacity of the rulers.

The US role in these events is uncertain, one reason being the gaps in the documentary record. Gabriel Kolko observes that "U.S. documents for the three months preceding September 30, 1965, and dealing with the convoluted background and intrigues, much less the embassy's and the CIA's roles, have been withheld from public scrutiny. Given the detailed materials available before and after July-September 1965, one can only assume that the release of these papers would embarrass the U.S. government." Ex-CIA officer Ralph McGehee reports that he is familiar with a highly classified CIA report on the agency's role in provoking the destruction of the PKI, and attributes the slaughter to the "C.I.A. [one word deleted] operation." The deletion was imposed by CIA censorship. Peter Dale Scott, who has carried out the most careful attempt to reconstruct the events, suggests that the deleted word is "deception," referring to CIA propaganda that "creates the appropriate situations," in McGehee's uncensored words, for this and other mass murder operations (citing also Chile). McGehee referred specifically to atrocity fabrication by the CIA to lay the basis for violence against the PKI.6

There is no doubt that Washington was aware of the slaughter, and approved. Secretary of State Dean Rusk cabled to Ambassador Marshall Green on October 29 that the "campaign against PKI" must continue and that the military, who were orchestrating it, "are [the] only force capable of creating order in Indonesia" and must continue to do so with US help for a "major military campaign against PKI." The US moved quickly to provide aid to the army, but details have not been made public. Cables from the Jakarta Embassy on October 30 and November 4 indicate that deliveries of communications equipment to the Indonesian army were accelerated and the sale of US aircraft approved, while the Deputy Chief of Mission noted that "The embassy and the USG were generally sympathetic with and admiring of what the army was doing."7

For clarity, we must distinguish several issues. On the one hand, there are questions of historical fact: What took place in Indonesia and Washington in 1965-1966? There are also questions of cultural history: How did the US government, and articulate sectors at home, react to what they took to be the facts? The political history is murky. On the matter of cultural history, however, the public record provides ample evidence. The cultural history is by far the more informative with regard to the implications for the longer term. It is from the reactions that we draw lessons for the future.

There is no serious controversy about Washington's sympathy for "what the army was doing." An analysis by H.W. Brands is of particular interest in this connection.8 Of the more careful studies of the events themselves, his is the most skeptical concerning the US role, which he regards as basically that of a confused observer, with "only a marginal ability to change a very dangerous situation for the better." But he leaves no doubt about Washington's enthusiasm about the turn "for the better" as the slaughter proceeded.

According to Brands's reconstruction of events, by early 1964 the US was engaged in "quiet efforts to encourage action by the army against the PKI," ensuring that when the expected conflict broke out, "the army [would know] it had friends in Washington." The goal of the continuing civic action and military training programs, Secretary of State Dean Rusk commented, was "strengthening anti-Communist elements in Indonesia in the continuing and coming struggle with the PKI." Chief of Staff Nasution, regarded by US Ambassador Howard Jones as "the strongest man in the country," informed Jones in March 1964 that "Madiun would be mild compared with an army crackdown today," referring to the bloody repression of 1948.

Through 1965, the main question in Washington was how to encourage army action against the PKI. US emissary Ellsworth Bunker felt that Washington should keep a low profile so that the generals could proceed "without the incubus of being attacked as defenders of the neo-colonialists and imperialists." The State Department agreed. Prospects, however, remained uncertain, and September 1965 ended, Brands continues, "with American officials anticipating little good news soon."

The September 30 strike against the army leadership came as a surprise to Washington, Brands concludes, and the CIA knew little about it. Ambassador Green, who had replaced Jones, told Washington he could not establish any PKI role, though the official story then and since is that it was a "Communist coup attempt." The "good news" was not long in coming. "American officials soon recognized that the situation in Indonesia was changing drastically and, from their perspective, for the better," Brands continues. "As information arrived from the  countryside indicating that a purge of the PKI was beginning, the principal worry of American officials in Jakarta and in Washington was that the army would fail to take advantage of its opportunity," and when the army seemed to hesitate, Washington sought ways "to encourage the officers" to proceed. Green recommended covert efforts to "spread the story of the PKI's guilt, treachery, and brutality," though he knew of no PKI role. Such efforts were undertaken to good effect, according to McGehee's account of the internal CIA record. George Ball, the leading Administration dove, recommended that the US stay in the background because "the generals were doing quite well on their own" (Brands's paraphrase), and the military aid and training programs "should have established clearly in the minds of the army leaders that the US stands behind them if they should need help" (Ball). Ball instructed the Jakarta embassy to exercise "extreme caution lest our well-meaning efforts to offer assistance or steel their resolve may in fact play into the hands of Sukarno and [his political associate] Subandrio." Dean Rusk added that "If the army's willingness to follow through against the PKI is in anyway contingent on or subject to influence by the United States, we do not want to miss the opportunity to consider U.S. action."

Brands concludes that US covert aid "may have facilitated the liquidation of the PKI," but "at most it speeded what probably would have happened more slowly." "Whatever the American role in these developments," he continues, "the administration found the overall trend encouraging. In mid-December Ball reported with satisfaction that the army's campaign to destroy the PKI was `moving fairly swiftly and smoothly.' At about the same time Green cabled from Jakarta: `The elimination of the communists continues apace'." By early February 1966, President Johnson was informed that about 100,000 had been massacred. Shortly before, the CIA reported that Sukarno was finished, and "The army has virtually destroyed the PKI."

Nevertheless, Brands continues, "Despite that good news the administration remained reluctant to commit itself publicly to Suharto," fearing that the outcome was still uncertain. But doubts soon faded. Johnson's new National Security Adviser Walt Rostow "found Suharto's `New Order' encouraging," US aid began to flow openly, and Washington officials began to take credit for the great success.

According to this skeptical view, then, "The United States did not overthrow Sukarno, and it was not responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths involved in the liquidation of the PKI," though it did what it could to encourage the army to liquidate the only mass popular organization in Indonesia, hesitated to become more directly involved only because it feared that these efforts would be counterproductive, greeted the "good news" with enthusiasm as the slaughter mounted, and turned enthusiastically to assisting the "New Order" that arose from the bloodshed as the moderates triumphed.

3. Celebration

The public Western reaction was one of relief and pride. Deputy Undersecretary of State Alexis Johnson celebrated "The reversal of the Communist tide in the great country of Indonesia" as "an event that will probably rank along with the Vietnamese war as perhaps the most historic turning point of Asia in this decade" (October 1966). Appearing before a Senate Committee, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was asked whether US military aid during the pre-coup period had "paid dividends." He agreed that it had, and was therefore justified -- the major dividend being a huge pile of corpses. In a private communication to President Johnson in March 1967, McNamara went further, saying that US military assistance to the Indonesian army had "encouraged it to move against the PKI when the opportunity was presented." Particularly valuable, he said, was the program bringing Indonesian ilitary personnel to the United States for training at universities, where they learned the lessons they put to use so well. These were "very significant factors in determining the favorable orientation of the new Indonesian political elite" (the army), McNamara argued. A congressional report also held that training and continued communication with military officers paid "enormous dividends." The same reasoning has long been standard with regard to Latin America, with similar results.9

Across a broad spectrum, commentators credited the US intervention in Vietnam with having encouraged these welcome developments, providing a sign of American commitment to the anti-Communist cause and a "shield" behind which the generals could act without undue concern about Sukarno's Chinese ally. A Freedom House statement in November 1966 signed by "145 distinguished Americans" justified the US war in Vietnam for having "provided a shield for the sharp reversal of Indonesia's shift toward Communism," with no reservations concerning the means mployed. Speaking to US troops in November 1966, President Johnson told them that their exploits in Indochina were the reason why "In Indonesia there are 100 million people that enjoy a measure of freedom today that they didn't enjoy yesterday." These reactions reflect the logic of the US war in Indochina.10

In line with his general skepticism, Brands believes these claims to be exaggerated. McNamara's "attempts to appropriate responsibility for the general's rise to power," he thinks, were a reaction to President Johnson's "enthusiasm for the Suharto regime." US assurances to the Indonesian military "certainly had some effect on Suharto's assessment of his prospects," but not much, because they "merely reiterated the obvious fact that the United States prefers rightists to leftists" -- including rightists who conduct a huge slaughter and install a terrorist "New Order." As for the war in Vietnam, the CIA doubted that "the US display of determination in Vietnam directly influenced the outcome of the Indonesian crisis in any significant way," CIA director Helms wrote to Walt Rostow in 1966. As Brands himself puts it, the Johnson administration had been concerned that Indonesia might suffer "the fate from which the United States was then attempting to rescue South Vietnam." Fortunately, Indonesia rescued itself.

There was no condemnation of the slaughter on the floor of Congress, and no major US relief agency offered aid. The World Bank restored Indonesia to favor, soon making it the third largest borrower. Western governments and corporations followed along.

Those close at hand may have drawn further lessons about peasant massacre. Ambassador Green went on to the State Department, where he presided over the bombing of rural Cambodia, among other achievements. As the bombing was stepped up to historically unprecedented levels in 1973, slaughtering tens of thousands of peasants, Green testified before Congress that the massacre should continue because of our desire for peace: our experience with "these characters in Hanoi" teaches that only the rivers of blood of Cambodian peasants might bring them to the negotiating table. The "experience" to which he referred was the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi, undertaken to force those characters in Hanoi to modify the agreements reached with the Nixon Administration in October but ejected by Washington, then restored without change after the US stopped the bombing because it proved too costly. The events and their remarkable aftermath having been concealed by the Free Press, Green could be confident that there would be no exposure of his colossal  fabrications in the interest of continued mass murder.11

Returning to Indonesia, the media were pleased, even euphoric. As the army moved to take control, Times correspondent Max Frankel described the delight of Johnson Administration officials over the "dramatic new opportunity" in Indonesia. The "military showed power," so that "Indonesia can now be saved from what had appeared to be an inevitable drift towards a peaceful takeover from within" -- an unthinkable disaster, since internal politics was not under US control. US officials "believe the army will cripple and perhaps destroy the Communists as a significant political force," leading to "the elimination of Communist influences at all levels of Indonesian society." Consequently, there is now "hope where only two weeks ago there was despair."12

Not everyone was so enthusiastic about the opportunity to destroy the one popular political force in the country. Japan's leading newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, urged caution: "In view of the fact that the Communist influence is deeply entrenched among the Indonesian grassroots, it would cause further deterioration in the confused national state of affairs if a firm crackdown were carried out against them."13 But such more somber reflections were rare.

In mid-1966, well after the results were known, U.S. News & World Report headlined a long and enthusiastic story "Indonesia: `HOPE...WHERE ONCE THERE WAS NONE.'" "Indonesians these days can talk and argue freely, no longer fearful of being denounced and imprisoned," the journal reported, describing an emerging totalitarian terror state with hundreds of thousands in prison and the blood still flowing. In a cover story, Time magazine celebrated "The West's best news for years in Asia" under the heading "Vengeance with a Smile," devoting 5 pages of text and 6 more of pictures to the "boiling bloodbath that almost unnoticed took 400,000 lives." The new army regime is "scrupulously constitutional," Time happily announced, "based on law not on mere power," in the words of its "quietly determined" leader Suharto with his "almost innocent face." The elimination of the 3 million-member PKI by its "only possible rival," the army, and the removal from power of the "genuine folk hero" Sukarno, may virtually be considered a triumph of democracy.14

The leading political thinker of the New York Times, James Reston, chimed in under the heading "A Gleam of Light in Asia." The regular channel for the State Department, Reston admonished Americans not to let the bad news in Vietnam displace "the more hopeful developments in Asia," primary among them being "the savage transformation of Indonesia from a pro-Chinese policy under Sukarno to a defiantly anti-Communist policy under General Suharto":

Washington is being careful not to claim any credit for this change in the sixth most populous and one of the richest nations in the world, but this does not mean that Washington had nothing to do with it. There was a great deal more contact between the anti-Communist forces in that country and at least one very high official in Washington before and during the Indonesian massacre than is generally realized. General Suharto's forces, at times severely short of food and munitions, have been getting aid from here through various third countries, and it is doubtful if the coup would ever have been attempted without the American show of strength in Vietnam or been sustained without the clandestine aid it has received indirectly from here. The news story on Indonesia the same day carried more glad tidings. Headlined "Indonesians View U.S. Films Again," it described "the biggest public social event in the Indonesian capital these days," the showing of American films to "smartly dressed Indonesians" who "alight from expensive limousines," "one sign of the country's rejection of the anti-American pro-Communist policy of the Indonesian Government" before the gleam of light broke through the clouds.15

Recall that according to the skeptical view of Brands and others, Reston's proud claim that the US government could fairly claim credit for the massacre and the establishment of the "New Order" was exaggerated, though understandable.

Editorial reaction to the bloodbath was judicious. The Times was pleased that the Indonesian army had "de-fused the country's political time-bomb, the powerful Indonesian Communist party," and praised Washington for having "wisely stayed in the background during the recent upheavals" instead of assisting openly and trumpeting its glee; the idea that Washington, or anyone, should have protested and sought to abort the useful slaughter was beyond the pale. Washington should continue this wise course, the editors urged, supporting international aid to the "Indonesian moderates" who had conducted the massacre. A February 1966 editorial outlined the likely advantages for the United States now that the Indonesian military had taken power and "proceeded to dismantle the entire P.K.I. apparatus." A follow-up in August recognized that there had been a "staggering mass slaughter of Communists and pro-Communists," with hundreds of thousands killed. This "situation...raises critical questions for the United States," which, fortunately, have been correctly answered: Washington "wisely has not intruded into the Indonesian turmoil" by "embrac[ing] the country's new rulers publicly," which "could well hurt them" -- the only "critical question" that comes to mind. A month later the editors described the relief in Washington over the fact that "Indonesia was lost and has been found again." The successes of the "moderates" had been rewarded "with generous pledges of rice, cotton and machinery" and preparations to resume the economic aid that was held back before the "staggering mass slaughter" set matters right. The US "has adequate reasons of state to come to terms with the new regime," not to speak of more than adequate reasons of profit.16

Within a few years, a complete role reversal had been achieved. George McArthur of the Los Angeles Times, a respected Asia hand, wrote in 1977 that the PKI had "attempted to seize power and subjected the country to a bloodbath," placing their necks under the knife in a major Communist atrocity.17

By then, the Indonesian generals, in addition to compiling one of the worst human rights records in the world at home, had escalated their 1975 attack on the former Portuguese colony of East Timor to near-genocidal levels, with another "staggering mass slaughter," which bears comparison to the atrocities of Pol Pot in the same years. In this case, the deed was done with the crucial support of the Human Rights Administration and its allies. They understand "reasons of state" as well as the Times editors, who, with their North American and European colleagues, did what they could to facilitate the slaughter by suppressing the readily available facts in favor of (occasional) fairy tales told by Indonesian generals and the State Department. US-Canadian reporting on Timor, which had been substantial before the invasion in the context of Western concerns over the collapse of the Portuguese empire, reduced to zero in 1978 as atrocities peaked along with the flow of US arms.18

Times editors were not alone in extolling the moderates who had stirred up the "boiling bloodbath." "Many in the West were keen to cultivate Jakarta's new moderate leader, Suharto," the Christian Science Monitor later reported. Times Southeast Asia correspondent Philip Shenon adds, more cautiously, that Suharto's human rights record is "checkered." The London Economist described this great mass murderer and torturer as "at heart benign," doubtless thinking of his compassion for TNCs. Unfortunately, there are those who try to impugn his benign nature: "propagandists for the guerrillas" in East Timor and West Papua (Irian Jaya) "talk of the army's savagery and use of torture" -- including the Bishop and other church sources, thousands of refugees in Australia and Portugal, Western diplomats and journalists who have chosen to see, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. They are all "propagandists," rather than intrepid champions of human rights, because they have quite the wrong story to tell.19

In the Wall Street Journal, Barry Wain, editor of its Asia affiliate, described how General Suharto "moved boldly in defeating the coup makers and consolidating his power," using "strength and finesse" to take total control. "By most standards, he has done well," though there have been a few problems, specifically, government involvement in the killing of several thousand alleged criminals from 1982 to 1985. Some lingering questions about earlier years aside, a few weeks before Wain's laudatory column, Asiaweek reported another massacre in Sumatra, where armed troops burnt a village of 300 people to the ground, killing dozens of civilians, part of an operation to quell unrest in the province. Suharto is "a Figure of Stability," a Wall Street Journal headline reads, using the term in the PC sense already discussed. The upbeat story does not overlook the events of 1965. One sentence reads: Suharto "took command of the effort to crush the coup attempt, and succeeded."20

When the victims are classified as less than human -- wild beasts in the shape of men, Communists, terrorists, or whatever may be the contemporary term of art -- their extermination raises no moral qualms. And the agents of extermination are praiseworthy moderates -- our Nazis, to translate from Newspeak. The practice is standard. Recall the "moderate" General Gramajo, to mention someone ho might aspire to Suharto's league.

2.       Closing the Books

In 1990-1991, several events elicited some uncharacteristic concern over US-backed Indonesian atrocities. In May 1990, States News Service released a study in Washington by Kathy Kadane, which found that the U.S. government played a significant role by supplying the names of thousands of Communist Party leaders to the Indonesian army, which hunted down the leftists and killed them, former U.S. diplomats say...As many as 5000 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 U.S. officials... The lists were a detailed who's-who of the leadership of the party of 3 million members, [foreign service officer Robert] 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. The names were passed on to the military, which used them as a "shooting list," according to Joseph Lazarsky, deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta at the time, who adds that some were kept for interrogation or "kangaroo courts" because the  Indonesians "didn't have enough goon squads to zap them all." Kadane reports that top US Embassy officials acknowledged in interviews that they had approved of the release of the names. William Colby compared the operation to his Phoenix program in Vietnam, in exculpation of his own campaign of political assassination (which Phoenix clearly was, though he denies it).

"No one cared as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered," said Howard Federspiel, then Indonesia expert for State Department intelligence; "No one was getting very worked up about it." "It really was a big help to the army," Martens said. "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."

The story was picked up by a few newspapers, though no one got worked up about it. Just more business as usual; after all, the US Embassy had done much the same in Guatemala a decade earlier, as another useful slaughter was getting underway.21

While ruffling some feathers briefly, the report was soon consigned to oblivion. The Newspaper of Record (the New York Times) waited almost two months to take notice, long enough to marshal the required denials. Reporter Michael Wines repeats every government propaganda cliché about the events themselves, however tenuous, as unquestioned fact. Ambassador Green dismisses the Kadane report as "garbage." He and others claim that the US had nothing to do with the list of names, which were of no significance anyway. Wines cites a Martens letter to the Washington Post saying that the names were publicly available in the Indonesian press, but not his amplification of this remark, in which he stressed the importance of handing over the list of names; Martens wrote that he "saw nothing wrong with helping out," and still doesn't, because "the pro-Communist terror leading to the final coup...against the non-Communist army leaders...had prevented systematic collection of data on the Communists" (a fanciful tale, but no matter). Wines says nothing about the Times celebration of the slaughter, or the pride of their leading political commentator on the US role in expediting it.22

Stephen Rosenfeld of the Washington Post was one of the few in the national press to be troubled by the Kadane revelations. His reaction too is instructive.

After the Kadane story appeared, the Post carried a letter by Indonesian human rights activist Carmel Budiardjo, who pointed out that direct US complicity in the massacre was already known from the cable traffic between the US Embassy in Jakarta and the State Department published by Gabriel Kolko, specifically, the Green-Rusk interchange cited earlier. A month later, Rosenfeld expressed some concern, adding that "in the one account I read" -- namely, Kolko's book -- some doubts are raised about Communist complicity in the alleged coup attempt that served as the pretext for the massacres (note the evasion of the crucial issues, a deft stroke). But, Rosenfeld continued, Kolko's "typical revisionist blame-America-first point of view makes me distrust his conclusions." He expressed the hope that "someone whose politics are more mainstream would sift through the material and provide an independent account." His plea for rescue appears under the heading, "Indonesia 1965: Year of Living Cynically?"

Fortunately, relief was soon on its way. A week later, under the heading "Indonesia 1965: Year of U.S. Irrelevance," Rosenfeld wrote that he had received in the mail an "independent account" by a historian "without political bias" -- that is, one who could assure him that the state he loves had done no wrong. This antidote was "full of delights and surprises," concluding that the US had no responsibility for the deaths or the overthrow of Sukarno. It "clears Americans of the damaging lingering suspicion of responsibility for the Indonesian coup and massacre," Rosenfeld concludes happily: "For me, the question of the American role in Indonesia is closed."23

How easy is the life of the true believer.

The article that closed the books, to Rosenfeld's immense relief, was the Brands study reviewed earlier. That Brands is an "independent" commentator "without political bias" is demonstrated throughout: The US war in Vietnam was an attempt "to rescue South Vietnam"; the information reaching Washington that "The army has virtually destroyed the PKI" in a huge massacre was "good news"; "the most serious deficiency of covert warfare" is "its inevitable tendency to poison the well of public opinion," that is, to tar the US with "bum raps" elsewhere; etc. Much more significant are the "delights and surprises" that put any lingering doubts to rest. Since the study closes all questions for good, we may now rest easy in the knowledge that Washington did all it could to encourage the greatest massacre since the days of Hitler and Stalin, welcomed the outcome with enthusiasm, and immediately turned to the task of supporting Suharto's aptly named "New Order." Thankfully, there is nothing to trouble the liberal conscience.

One interesting non-reaction to the Kadane report appeared in the lead article in the New York Review of Books by Senator Daniel Moynihan. He fears that "we are poisoning the wells of our historical memory," suppressing unpleasant features of our past. He contrasts these failures with the "extraordinary period of exhuming the worst crimes of its hideous history" now underway in the Soviet Union. Of course, "the United States has no such history. To the contrary." Our history is quite pure. There are no crimes to "exhume" against the indigenous population or Africans in the 70 years following our revolution, or against Filipinos, Central Americans, Indochinese, and others later on. Still, even we are not perfect: "not everything we have done in this country has been done in the open," Moynihan observes, though "not everything could be. Or should have been." But we conceal too much, the gravest crime of our history.24

It is hard to believe that as he was writing these words, the Senator did not have the recent revelations about Indonesia in mind. He, after all, has a special personal relation to Indonesian atrocities. He was UN Ambassador at the time of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and takes pride, in his memoirs, in having forestalled any international reaction to the aggression and massacre. "The United States wished things to turn out as they did," he writes, "and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success." Moynihan was well aware of how things turned out, noting that within a few weeks some 60,000 people had been killed, "10 percent of the population, almost the proportion of casualties experienced by the Soviet Union during the Second World War." Thus he took credit for achievements that he compares to those of the Nazis. And he is surely familiar with the subsequent US government role in escalating the slaughter, and the contribution of the media and political class in concealing it. But the newly released information about the US role in mass slaughter did not stir his historical memory, or suggest some reflections on our practices, apart from our single blemish: insufficient candor.

Moynihan's successes at the UN have entered history in the conventional manner. Measures taken against Iraq and Libya "show again how the collapse of Communism has given the Security Council the cohesion needed to enforce its orders," Times UN correspondent Paul Lewis explains in a front-page story: "That was impossible in earlier cases like...Indonesia's annexation of East Timor."25

There was also a flicker of concern about Indonesia after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. It was hard not to notice the similarity to Indonesia's (vastly more murderous) aggression and annexation. A decade earlier, when glimmerings of what had happened finally began to break through, there had been occasional notice of the comparison between Suharto's exploits in Timor and the simultaneous Pol Pot slaughters. As in 1990, the US and its allies were charged at most with "ignoring" Indonesian atrocities. The truth was well concealed throughout: Indonesia was given critical military and diplomatic support for its monstrous war crimes; and crucially, unlike the case of Pol Pot and Saddam, these could readily have been halted, simply by withdrawal of Western aid and breaking the silence.

Ingenious efforts have been made to explain away the radically different response to Suharto, on the one hand, and Pol Pot and Saddam, on the other, and to avoid the obvious explanation in terms of interest, which of course covers a vastly wider range. William Shawcross offered a "more structurally serious explanation" for the Timor-Cambodia case: "a comparative lack of sources" and lack of access to refugees, Lisbon and Australia being so inaccessible in comparison with the Thai-Cambodian border. Gérard Chaliand dismissed France's active support for the Indonesian slaughter in the midst of a great show of anguish about Pol Pot on grounds that the Timorese are "geographically and historically marginal." The difference between Kuwait and Timor, according to Fred Halliday, is that Kuwait "has been up and running as an independent state since 1961"; to evaluate the proposal, recall that the US prevented the UN from interfering with Israel's invasion of Lebanon or following through on its condemnation of Israel's (virtual) annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, and that, unlike Suharto in Timor, Saddam had offered to withdraw from Kuwait, how seriously we do not know, since the US rejected the offers instantly out of fear that they might "defuse the crisis." A common stance is that "American influence on [Indonesia's decision to invade] may easily be exaggerated," though the US "averted its eyes from East Timor" and "could have done far more than it did to distance itself from the carnage" (James Fallows). The fault, then, is failure to act, not the decisive contribution to the ongoing carnage by increasing the flow of arms as atrocities mounted and by rendering the UN "utterly ineffective" because "The United States wished things to turn out as they did" (Ambassador Moynihan), while the intellectual community preferred to denounce the crimes of official enemies. Others tried different techniques to evade the obvious, adding further footnotes to the inglorious story.26

The Australian government was more forthright. "There is no binding legal obligation not to recognize the acquisition of territory that was acquired by force," Foreign Minister Gareth Evans explained, adding that "The world is a pretty unfair place, littered with examples of acquisition by force..." (in the same breath, following the US-UK lead, he banned all official contacts with the PLO with proper indignation because of its "consistently defending and associating itself with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait"). Prime Minister Hawke declared that "big countries cannot invade small neighbors and get away with it" (referring to Iraq and Kuwait), proclaiming that in the "new order" established by the virtuous Anglo-Americans, "would-be aggressors will think twice before invading smaller neighbours." The weak will "feel more secure because they know that they will not stand alone if they are threatened," now that, at last, "all nations should know that the rule of law must prevail over the rule of force in International relations."

Australia has a special relation to Timor; tens of thousands of Timorese were killed during World War II protecting a few Australian guerrillas fighting in Timor to deter an impending Japanese invasion of Australia. Australia has been the most outspoken defender of the Indonesian invasion. One reason, known early on, is the rich natural gas and oil reserves in the Timor Gap, "a cold, hard, sobering reality that must be addressed," Foreign Minister Bill Hayden explained frankly in April 1984. In Decem-ber 1989, Evans signed a treaty with the Indonesian conquerors dividing up Timor's wealth; through 1990, Australia received $Aus. 31 million from sales of permits to oil companies for exploration. Evans's remarks, quoted above, were made in explana-tion of Australia's rejection of a protest against the treaty brought to the World Court by Portugal, generally regarded as the responsible authority.27

While British political figures and intellectuals lectured with due gravity on the values of their traditional culture, now at last to be imposed by the righteous in the "new world order" (referring to Iraq-Kuwait), British Aerospace entered into new arrange-ments to sell Indonesia jet fighters and enter into co-production arrangements, "what could turn out to be one of the largest arms packages any company has sold to an Asian country," the Far Eastern Economic Review reported. Britain had become "one of Indonesia's major arms suppliers, selling £290 million worth of equipment in the 1986-1990 period alone," Oxford historian Peter Carey writes.28

The public has been protected from such undesirable facts, kept in the shadows along with a Fall 1990 Indonesian military offensive in Timor under the cover of the Gulf crisis, and the Western-backed Indonesian operations that may wipe out a million tribal people in West Papua, with thousands of victims of chemical weapons among the dead according to human rights activists and the few observers. Solemn discourse on international law, the crime of aggression, and our perhaps too-fervent idealism can therefore proceed, untroubled. The attention of the civilized West is to be focused, laser-like, on the crimes of official enemies, not on those it could readily mitigate or bring to an end.29

The Timor-Kuwait embarrassment, such as it was, quickly subsided; reasonably, since it is only one of a host of similar examples that demonstrate the utter cynicism of the posturing during the Gulf War. But problems arose again in November 1991, when Indonesia made a foolish error, carrying out a massacre in the capital city of Dili in front of TV cameras and severely beating two US reporters, Alan Nairn and Amy Goodman. That is bad form, and requires the conventional remedy: an inquiry to whitewash the atrocity, a tap on the wrist for the authorities, mild punishment of subordinates, and applause from the rich men's club over this impressive proof that our moderate client is making still further progress. The script, familiar to the point of boredom, was followed routinely. Meanwhile Timorese were harshly punished and the atmosphere of terror deepened.

Business proceeded as usual. A few weeks after the Dili massacre, the Indonesia-Australia joint authority signed six contracts for oil exploration in the Timor Gap, with four more in January. Eleven contracts with 55 companies were reported by mid-1992, including Australian, British, Japanese, Dutch, and US. The naive might ask what the reaction would have been had 55 western companies joined with Iraq in exploiting Kuwaiti oil, though the analogy is imprecise, since Suharto's atrocities in Timor were a hundred times as great. Britain stepped up its arms sales, announcing plans in January to sell Indonesia a naval vessel. As Indonesian courts sentenced Timorese "subversives" to 15-year terms for having allegedly instigated the Dili massacre, British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce negotiated a multi-million pound deal for 40 Hawk fighter-trainers, adding to the 15 already in service, some used in crushing the Timorese. Meanwhile Indonesia was targeted for a new sales campaign by British firms because of its prospects for aerospace industries. As the slight tremor subsided, others followed suit.30

The "Gleam of Light in Asia" in 1965-1966 and the glow it has left until today illuminate the traditional attitudes towards human rights and democracy, the reasons for them, and the critical role of the educated classes. They reveal with equal brilliance the reach of the pragmatic criterion that effectively dismisses any human values in the culture of respectability.


1.      Thomas Friedman, NYT, Jan. 12, 1992; see p. 183. Taylor, Swords, 159. Pfaff and Hoopes, virtually identical commentary with no cross-reference, so it is unclear who should receive the credit; see AWWA, 297-300, FRS, 94-5. Wohlstetter, WSJ, Aug. 25, 1992. Hegel, Philosophy, 96.

2.      Schoultz, Comparative Politics, Jan. 1981. Herman, in PEHR, I, ch. 2.1.1; Real Terror Network, 126ff. PEHR, MC, for comparative analysis. And a huge literature on case studies.

3       See TNCW, 73f., for further discussion. Also NI, DD, among others.

4       Leffler, Preponderance, 260, 165. See ch. 10.4, and for the background, ch. 2.1-2. On Japan-SEA, see RC, ch. 2.1. Below, unless otherwise indicated, see Peter Dale Scott, "Exporting Military-Economic Development," in Caldwell, Ten Years, and "The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno," Pacific Affairs, Summer 1985; PEHR, vol. I, ch. 4.1; Kolko, Confronting.

5       FTR, 457ff.; COT, ch. 8. Marshall, et al., Iran-Contra, chs. 7, 8.

6       McGehee, Nation, April 11, 1981. Also News from Asia Watch, June 21, 1990.

7       bid. Rusk cited by Kolko.

8       Brands, "The Limits of Manipulation: How the United States Didn't Topple Sukarno," J. of American History, Dec. 1989.

9       Johnson cited by Kolko, Confronting. McNamara and congressional report cited in Wolpin, Military Aid, 8, 128. McNamara to Johnson, Brands, op. cit. Ch. 7.3.

10      Public Papers of the Presidents, 1966 (Washington, 1987), Book II, 563.

11      NYT, March 29, 1973. See ch. 10, n. 64.

12      Frankel, NYT, Oct. 11, 1965.

13      Quoted in NYT, Oct. 17, 1965.

14      Robert Martin, U.S. News, June 6, 1966. Time, July 15, 1966.

15      NYT, June 19, 1966.

16      Editorials, NYT, Dec. 22, 1965; Feb. 17, Aug. 25, Sept. 29, 1966.

17      IHT, Dec. 5, 1977, from LAT.

18      PEHR, I, ch. 3.4.4; TNCW, ch. 13; Peck, Chomsky Reader, 303-13. For an overview, Taylor, Indonesia's Forgotten War.

19      John Murray Brown, CSM, Feb. 6, 1987; Shenon, NYT, Sept. 3, 1992; Economist, Aug. 15, 1987.

20      Wain, WSJ, April 25, 1989; Asia Week, Feb. 24, 1989, cited in TAPOL Bulletin, April 1989. Richard Borsuk, WSJ, June 8, 1992.

21      Kadane, SFE, May 20, 1990. WP, May 21; AP, May 21; Guardian (London), May 22; BG, May 23, 1990. One exception to the general dismissal was the New Yorker, "Talk of the Town," July 2, 1990. Guatemala, ch. 7.7.

22      Wines, NYT, July 12; Martens, letter, WP, June 2, 1990.

23      Budiarjo, letters, WP, June 13; Rosenfeld, WP, July 13, July 20, 1990.

24      Moynihan, NYRB, June 28, 1990.

25      See TNCW, ch. 13. Lewis, NYT, April 16, 1992.

26      Shawcross, see MC, 284f.; for more detail, Peck, op. cit. Chaliand, Nouvelles littéraires, Nov. 10, 1981; Fallows, Atlantic Monthly, Feb., June 1982. Halliday, Guardian Weekly, Aug. 16, 1992.

27      Daily Hansard SENATE (Australia), 1 November, 1989, 2707. Indonesia News Service, Nov. 1, 1990. Green left mideast.gulf.346, electronic communication, Feb. 18, 1991. Monthly Record, Parliament (Australia), March 1991. Reuters, Canberra, Feb. 24; Communiqué, International Court of Justice, Feb. 22, 1991. PEHR, I, 163-6. Taylor, Indonesia's Forgotten War, 171.

28      FEER, 25 July, 1991. Carey, letter, Guardian Weekly, July 12, 1992.

29      ABC (Australia) radio, "Background briefing; East Timor," Feb. 17, 1991; Osborne, Indonesia's Secret Wars; Monbiot, Poisoned Arrows; Anti-Slavery Society, West Papua.

30      Age (Australia), Jan. 11, Feb. 18; IPS, Kupang, Jan. 20; Australian, July 6; Carey, op. cit.; The Engineer, March 26, 1992. See also TAPOL Bulletin, Aug. 1992.
Chomsky on Indonesia
From Year 501 Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky.Published by South End Press.
Chapter 5: Human Rights: The Pragmatic Criterion Segment 2/9

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The Coup

By 1965 Indonesia had become a dangerous cockpit of social and political antagonisms. The PKI's rapid growth aroused the hostility of Islamic groups and the military. The ABRI-PKI balancing act, which supported Sukarno's Guided Democracy regime, was going awry. One of the most serious points of contention was the PKI's desire to establish a "fifth force" of armed peasants and workers in conjunction with the four branches of the regular armed forces. Many officers were bitterly hostile, especially after Chinese premier Zhou Enlai offered to supply the "fifth force" with arms. By 1965 ABRI's highest ranks were divided into factions supporting Sukarno and the PKI and those opposed, the latter including ABRI chief of staff Nasution and Major General Suharto, commander of Kostrad. Sukarno's collapse at a speech and rumors that he was dying also added to the atmosphere of instability.

The circumstances surrounding the abortive coup d'état of September 30, 1965--an event that led to Sukarno's displacement from power; a bloody purge of PKI members on Java, Bali, and elsewhere; and the rise of Suharto as architect of the New Order regime--remain shrouded in mystery and controversy. The official and generally accepted account is that procommunist military officers, calling themselves the September 30 Movement (Gestapu), attempted to seize power. Capturing the Indonesian state radio station on October 1, 1965, they announced that they had formed the Revolutionary Council and a cabinet in order to avert a coup d'état by corrupt generals who were allegedly in the pay of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The coup perpetrators murdered five generals on the night of September 30 and fatally wounded Nasution's daughter in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate him. Contingents of the Diponegoro Division, based in Jawa Tengah Province, rallied in support of the September 30 Movement. Communist officials in various parts of Java also expressed their support.

The extent and nature of PKI involvement in the coup are unclear, however. Whereas the official accounts promulgated by the military describe the communists as having a "puppetmaster" role, some foreign scholars have suggested that PKI involvement was minimal and that the coup was the result of rivalry between military factions. Although evidence presented at trials of coup leaders by the military implicated the PKI, the testimony of witnesses may have been coerced. A pivotal figure seems to have been Syam, head of the PKI's secret operations, who was close to Aidit and allegedly had fostered close contacts with dissident elements within the military. But one scholar has suggested that Syam may have been an army agent provocateur who deceived the communist leadership into believing that sympathetic elements in the ranks were strong enough to conduct a successful bid for power. Another hypothesis is that Aidit and PKI leaders then in Beijing had seriously miscalculated Sukarno's medical problems and moved to consolidate their support in the military. Others believe that ironically Sukarno himself was responsible for masterminding the coup with the cooperation of the PKI.

In a series of papers written after the coup and published in 1971, Cornell University scholars Benedict R.O'G. Anderson and Ruth T. McVey argued that it was an "internal army affair" and that the PKI was not involved. There was, they argued, no reason for the PKI to attempt to overthrow the regime when it had been steadily gaining power on the local level. More radical scenarios allege significant United States involvement. United States military assistance programs to Indonesia were substantial even during the Guided Democracy period and allegedly were designed to establish a pro-United States, anticommunist constituency within the armed forces.

In the wake of the September 30 coup's failure, there was a violent anticommunist reaction. By December 1965, mobs were engaged in large-scale killings, most notably in Jawa Timur Province and on Bali, but also in parts of Sumatra. Members of Ansor, the Nahdatul Ulama's youth branch, were particularly zealous in carrying out a "holy war" against the PKI on the village level. Chinese were also targets of mob violence. Estimates of the number killed--both Chinese and others--vary widely, from a low of 78,000 to 2 million; probably somewhere around 300,000 is most likely. Whichever figure is true, the elimination of the PKI was the bloodiest event in postwar Southeast Asia until the Khmer Rouge established its regime in Cambodia a decade later.

The period from October 1965 to March 1966 witnessed the eclipse of Sukarno and the rise of Suharto to a position of supreme power. Born in the Yogyakarta region in 1921, Suharto came from a lower priyayi family and received military training in Peta during the Japanese occupation. During the war for independence, he distinguished himself by leading a lightning attack on Yogyakarta, seizing it on March 1, 1949, after the Dutch had captured it in their second "police action." Rising quickly through the ranks, he was placed in charge of the Diponegoro Division in 1962 and Kostrad the following year.

After the elimination of the PKI and purge of the armed forces of pro-Sukarno elements, the president was left in an isolated, defenseless position. By signing the executive order of March 11, 1966, Supersemar, he was obliged to transfer supreme authority to Suharto. On March 12, 1967, the MPRS stripped Sukarno of all political power and installed Suharto as acting president. Sukarno was kept under virtual house arrest, a lonely and tragic figure, until his death in June 1970.

The year 1966 marked the beginning of dramatic changes in Indonesian foreign policy. Friendly relations were restored with Western countries, Confrontation with Malaysia ended on August 11, and in September Indonesia rejoined the UN. In 1967 ties with Beijing were, in the words of Indonesian minister of foreign affairs Adam Malik, "frozen." This meant that although relations with Beijing were suspended, Jakarta did not seek to establish relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan. That same year, Indonesia joined Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore to form a new regional and officially nonaligned grouping, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was friendly to the West.

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US And British Complicity In Indonesia 1965

by Mark Curtis

October 21, 2002

US officials at the time called a “reign of terror” and British officials “ruthless terror”. However, unlike the terrorists responsible for the outrage of September 11, precisely nothing has ever been done to bring those responsible in Indonesia – and their supporters in Washington and London - to account.

The killings in Indonesia started when a group of army officers loyal to President Sukarno assassinated several generals on 30 September 1965. They believed the generals were about to stage a coup to overthrow Sukarno. The instability, however, provided other anti-Sukarno generals, led by General Suharto, with an excuse for the army to move against a powerful and popular political faction with mass support, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). It did so brutally: in a few months hundreds of thousands of PKI members and ordinary people were killed and the PKI destroyed. Suharto emerged as leader and instituted a repressive regime that lasted until 1998.

The declassified documents show five ways in which the US and Britain were complicit in this slaughter. First, both the US and Britain wanted the army to act and encouraged them to do it. US officials expressed their hope of “army at long last to act effectively against Communists” [sic]. “We are, as always, sympathetic to army’s desire to eliminate communist influence” and ”it is important to assure the army of our full support of its efforts to crush the PKI”, other officials noted.

The British were equally enthusiastic. “I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change”, the ambassador in Jakarta, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, informed the Foreign Office on 5 October.

The following day the Foreign Office in London stated that “the crucial question still remains whether the Generals will pluck up enough courage to take decisive action against the PKI”. Later it noted that “we must surely prefer an Army to a Communist regime” and declared: “It seems pretty clear that the Generals are going to need all the help they can get and accept without being tagged as hopelessly pro-Western, if they are going to be able to gain ascendancy over the Communists. In the short run, and while the present confusion continues, we can hardly go wrong by tacitly backing the Generals”. British policy was “to encourage the emergence of a General’s regime”, one intelligence official explained.

Support for army actions continued throughout the period of the worst killings; there is no question that US and British officials knew exactly what they were supporting. US Ambassador Marshall Green noted three weeks after the attempted coup and with the killings having begun, that “Army has… been working hard at destroying PKI and I, for one, have increasing respect for its determination and organisation in carrying out this crucial assignment”. Green noted in the same despatch the “execution of PKI cadres”, putting the figure at “several hundred of them” in “Djakarta area alone” [sic]. “To date, army has performed far better than anticipated in attacking PKI and regrouping”

On 1 November, Green informed the State Department of the army’s “moving relentlessly to exterminate the PKI as far as that is possible to do”. Three days later he noted that “Embassy and USG generally sympathetic with and admiring of what army doing” [sic]. Four days after this the US Embassy reported that the Army and allied elements “has continued systematic drive to destroy PKI in northern Sumatra with wholesale killings reported”.

By 16 November, the US Consulate in Medan was reporting that “much indiscriminate killing is taking place”. “Something like a reign of terror against PKI is taking place. This terror is not discriminating very carefully between PKI leaders and ordinary PKI members with no ideological bond to the party”. A British official reported on 25 November that “PKI men and women are being executed in very large numbers”.

By mid December the State Department noted approvingly that “Indonesian military leaders’ campaign to destroy PKI is moving fairly swiftly and smoothly”. By 14 February 1966 Ambassador Green could note that “the PKI has been destroyed as an effective political force for some time to come” and that “the Communists…have been decimated by wholesale massacre”.

The British files reveal that by January the US estimated the number of dead at 150,000, although one Indonesian armed forces liaison officer told US attaches of a figure of 500,000. By March one British official wondered “how much of it [the PKI] is left, after six months of killing” and believed that over 200,000 had been killed in Sumatra alone. By April, the US Embassy stated that “we frankly do not know whether the real figure 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”.

Summarising the events of 1965 the British Consul in Medan referred to the army by noting that: “Posing as saviours of the nation from a communist terror, they unleashed a ruthless terror of their own, the scare of which will take many years to heal.” Another British memo referred to the “an operation carried out on a very large scale and often with appalling savagery”. Another simply referred to the “bloodbath”.

The US and British files reveal total support for these massacres. I could find no reference to any concern about the extent of killing at all - other than constant encouragement for the army to continue. And it was not only PKI activists who were the targets of this terror. As the British files show, many of the victims were the “merest rank and file “ of the PKI who were “often no more than bewildered peasants who give the wrong answer on a dark night to bloodthirsty hooligans bent on violence”, with the connivance of the army.

The second way in the US and Britain supported the slaughter concerned the “Confrontation” between Malaya and Indonesia. Here, Britain had deployed tens of thousands troops, mainly in Borneo, to defend Malaya against possible Indonesian encroachments following territorial claims. British policy “did not want to distract the Indonesian army by getting them engaged in fighting in Borneo and so discourage them from the attempts which they now seem to be making to deal with the PKI”. British Ambassador Gilchrist proposed that “we should get word to the Generals that we shall not attack them whilst they are chasing the PKI”, described as a “necessary task”. In October the British passed to the Generals, through a US contact “a carefully phrased oral message about not biting the Generals in the back for the present”.

The US files confirm that the message from the US, conveyed on 14 October, read: “First, we wish to assure you that we have no intention of interfering Indonesian internal affairs directly or indirectly. Second, we have good reason to believe that none of our allies intend to initiate any offensive action against Indonesia” [sic]. The message was greatly welcomed by the army: One of the Indonesian Defence Minister’s aides noted that “this was just what was needed by way of assurances that we (the army) weren’t going to be hit from all angles as we moved to straighten things out here”.

Third is the “hit list” of targets supplied by the US to the Indonesian army. As the journalist Kathy Kadane has revealed, as many as 5,000 names of provincial, city and other local PKI committee members and leaders of the mass organisations of the PKI, such as the national labour federation, women’s and youth groups, were passed on the Generals, many of whom were subsequently killed. “It really was a big help to the army” noted Robert Martens, a former member of the US embassy. “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”.

The declassified US files do not provide many further details about the provision of this hit list, although they do confirm it. One list of names, for example, was passed to the Indonesians in December 1965 and “is apparently being used by Indonesian security authorities who seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership at the time”. It also notes that “lists of other officials in the PKI affiliates, Partindo and Baperki were also provided to GOI [Government of Indonesia] officials at their request”.

The fourth means of support was propaganda operations. On 5 October a “political adviser” at the British intelligence base in Singapore reported to the Foreign Office in London that: “we should not miss the present opportunity to use the situation to our advantage… I recommend that we should have no hesitation in doing what we can surreptitiously to blacken the PKI in the eyes of the army and the people of Indonesia”. The Foreign Office replied: “We certainly do not exclude any unattributable propaganda or psywar [psychological warfare] activities which would contribute to weakening the PKI permanently. We therefore agree with the [above] recommendation… Suitable propaganda themes might be… Chinese interference in particular arms shipments; PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign commu-nists”.

On 9 October the political adviser confirmed that “we have made arrangements for distribution of certain unattributable material based on the general guidance” in the Foreign Office memo. This involved “promoting and coordinating publicity” critical of the Sukarno government to “news agencies, newspapers and radio”. “The impact has been considerable”, one file notes.

The fifth means of support was provision of equipment - although this remains the murkiest area to uncover. Past US support to the military “should have established clearly in minds Army leaders that US stands behind them if they should need help”, the State Department noted. US strategy was to “avoid overt involvement in the power struggle but… indicate, clearly but covertly, to key Army officers our desire to assist where we can.”

The first US supplies to the Indonesian army were radio equipment “to help in internal security” and to help the Generals “in their task of overcoming the Communists”, as British Ambassador Gilchrist out it. The US historian Gabriel Kolko has shown that in early November 1965 the US received a request from the Generals to “arm Moslem and nationalist youths…for use against the PKI”. The recently published files confirm this approach from the Indonesians. On 1 November Ambassador Green cabled Washington that “as to the provision of small arms I would be leery about telling army we are in position to provide same, although we should act, not close our minds to this possibility… We could explore availability of small arms stocks, preferable of non-US origin, which could be obtained without any overt US government involvement. We might also examine channels through which we could, if necessary, provide covert assistance to army for purchase of weapons”.

A CIA memo of 9 November stated that the US should avoid being “too hesitant about the propriety of extending such assistance provided we can do so covertly, in a manner which will not embarrass them or embarrass our government”. It then noted that mechanisms exist or can be created to deliver “any of the types of the materiel requested to date in reasonable quantities”. One line of text is then not declassified before the memo notes: “The same can be said of purchasers and transfer agents for such items as small arms, medicine and other items requested.” The memo goes on to note that “we do not propose that the Indonesian army be furnished such equipment at this time”. However, “if the Army leaders justify their needs in detail…it is likely that at least will help ensure their success and provide the basis for future collaboration with the US”. “The means for covert implementation” for the delivery of arms “are within our capabilities”.

In response to the Indonesia request for arms, Kolko has shown that the US promised to provide such covert aid, and dubbed them “medicines”. The declassified files state that “the Army really needed the medicines” and that the US was keen to indicate “approval in a practical way of the actions of the Indonesian army”. The extent of arms provided is not revealed in the files but the amount “the medicines would cost was a mere pittance compared with the advantages that might accrue to the US as a result of ‘getting in on the ground floor’”, one file reads. A meeting in Washington of 4 December approved the provision of such “medicines”.

The British knew of these arms supplies and it is likely they also approved them. Britain was initially reluctant to see US equipment go to the Generals lest it be used in the “Confrontation”. Thus the British files show that the US State Department had “undertaken to consult with us before they do anything to support the Generals”. It is possible that the US reneged on this commitment; however, in earlier discussions about this possibility, a British official at the embassy in Washington noted that “I do not think that is very likely”.

The British files in particular show very close relations between the US and British embassies in Jakarta. They point to a somewhat coordinated joint US-UK operation to help install a Generals regime and bring about a government more favourable to Western economic and political interests. The Indonesia campaign is one of the most bloody in the postwar history of US-UK collaboration that includes the joint overthrow of the Musaddiq regime in Iran in 1953, the removal of the population of the British island of Diego Garcia to make way for a US military base in 1965, UK support for US aggression in Vietnam, Central America, Grenada, Panama and Libya and covert operations in Cambodia and Afghanistan. The current phase of the special relationship is witnessed in joint military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Basic US and British concerns and priorities regarding mid-1960s Indonesia are laid out in the files. For the British the importance of Southeast Asia was partly explained by the fact that “Southeast Asia is a major producer of some essential commodities” such as rubber, copra and chromuim ore. “Economically, Southeast Asia is a major producer of raw materials… and the defence of the sources of these products and their denial to a possible enemy are major interests to the Western powers”. Indonesia also “occupies a key position in world communications”, straddling important sea and air routes. And Britain wanted, of course, to see a change in regime in Jakarta to bring an end to the “Confrontation” with Malaya.

British Foreign Secretary Michel Stewart wrote at the time that “it is only the economic chaos of Indonesia which prevents that country from offering great poten-tial opportunities to British exporters. If there is going to be a deal in Indonesia… I think we ought to take an act and try to secure a slice of the cake ourselves”. The British feared “the resurgence of Communist and radical nationalism”.

For the US, Under Secretary of State George Ball had noted that Indonesia “may be more important to us than South V-N [Vietnam]” (251). “At stake”, one US memo read, “are 100 million people, vast potential resources and a strategically important chain of islands”. Basic US priorities were virtually identical in Vietnam and Indonesia: to prevent the consolidation of an independent nationalist regime, with communist components and sympathies, that threatened Western economic and political interests and that could act as a successful development model.

The US Ambassador in Malaysia cabled Washington a year before the October 1965 events in Indonesia saying that “our difficulties with Indonesia stem basically from deliberate, positive GOI [Government of Indonesia] strategy of seeking to push Britain and the US out of Southeast Asia”. Ball noted in March 1965 that “our relations with Indonesia are on the verge of falling apart”. “Not only has the manage-ment of the American rubber plants been taken over, but there are dangers of an imminent seizure of the American oil companies”.

The Sukarno regime clearly had the wrong priorities. According to one US report: “the government occupies a dominant position in basic industry, public utilities, internal transportation and communication”. “It is probable that private ownership will disappear and may be succeeded by some form of production-profit-sharing contract arrangements to be applied to all foreign in vestment”. Overall, “the avowed Indonesian objective is ‘to stand on their own feet’ in developing their economy, free from foreign, especially Western, influence” – clearly all heretical priorities to basic US-UK strategy that – as today - needed to be defeated.

The problem with the PKI was not so much its communism but its nationalism: “it is likely that PKI foreign policy decisions, like those of Sukarno, would stress Indone-sian national interests above those of Peking, Moscow or international communism in general”, one memo reads. The real danger of a Communist Indonesia was outlined in a Special National Intelligence Estimate of 1 September 1965. This referred to the PKI’s moving “to energize and unite the Indonesia nation” and stated that “if these efforts succeeded, Indonesia would provide a powerful example for the under-developed world and hence a credit to communism and a setback for Western prestige”. The problem was that Indonesia would be too successful, a fear in the minds of US planners well documented by Kolko and Noam Chomsky in policy towards numerous other countries.

The Army was by no means the perfect ally of the US in Indonesia – as the files note, it “was strongly nationalist in orientation and strongly favours the takeover of Western economic interests”. Nevertheless in the choice between Sukarno and the PKI on the one hand and the army on the other, “the army deserves our support”. And over time a combination of Western advice, aid and investment did transform the Indonesian economy into one that, although retaining an important nationalist element, provided substantial opportunities and profits for Western investors, aided by an increasingly corrupt President Suharto. The West supported Suharto throughout the three-decade long rule of repression, including in the regime’s murderous policies in East Timor after the invasion of 1975. The hundreds of thousands of deaths then were as irrelevant to US and British officials as those in 1965.

For notes and sources, see the forthcoming book, The Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World, Vintage, 2003. Mark Curtis can be contacted at He is the author of The Great Deception: Anglo-American Power and World Order, Pluto, London (

Note: The US files referred to were published last year in the Foreign Relations of the United States series by the US Government Printing Office. British files are in Public Record Office, London.

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source:  Znet

"Covert Operations: Indonesia 1965"

[October 1995 note from David Johnson: This is a paper I wrote in 1976. It is presented here in its original version. It was written to encourage Congressional investigation of the issue by the Church Committee at the time. This paper was circulated privately but never published. It may have some enduring merit. Comments and criticisms are welcome.

As evidence that the subject matter is still relevant, please note this recently declassified quotation: "From our viewpoint, of course, an unsuccessful coup attempt by the PKI might be the most effective development to start a reversal of political trends in Indonesia."

Then-US Ambassador to Indonesia Howard Jones

March 10, 1965

Chiefs of Mission Conference, Baguio, Philippines

Quoted in Audrey R. Kahin and George McT. Kahin, "Subversion as Foreign Policy: The Secret Eisenhower and Dulles Debacle in Indonesia," 1995, p.225]

David T. Johnson

Center for Defense Information

1500 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Washington DC 20005



CDI web page

GESTAPU: The CIA's "Track Two" in Indonesia*

"Track Two" was the name given to a CIA covert operation undertaken in Chile in the fall of 1970 at the direction of President Nixon. Its purpose was to use all possible means to prevent Allende from assuming the presidency. Knowledge of Track Two was very tightly held. The State Department, the Defense Department, the American Ambassador in Chile, and the Forty Committee were not informed. Track Two was partially responsible for the murder of General Schneider, the Chilean Army Chief of Staff who opposed efforts of other military officers to stage a coup. Track Two failed in its objective in 1970. Other analogies to the Indonesian events are the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the Reichstag fire.


This paper presents the preliminary outline of a new interpretation of the events in Indonesia in 1965 that climaxed in the "coup" attempt of October 1st and the actions of the September 30th Movement (GESTAPU). It is argued that the September 30th Movement was not an action by "progressive" or dissatisfied middle-level military officers, nor a creature of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), nor was it stimulated by President Sukarno. GESTAPU was an instrument directly in the hands of General Suharto (and probably General Nasution) [1995 note from David Johnson: today I would delete the reference to Nasution] and most likely a creation of the Central Intelligence Agency for the purpose of "saving Indonesia from Communism" in a desperate situation. GESTAPU served the crucial function of providing a legitimate pretext for the drastic extermination of the PKI. It was calculated to put the reins of power quickly into the hands of Suharto and to place Sukarno in a restricted position.

GESTAPU worked.

It is probably the most successful covert operation that the CIA has ever carried out. The participation of the CIA in GESTAPU--its "fingerprints on the gun"--cannot be proven unless the Congress digs hard to find the truth, as was done partly in the case of Chile. The CIA connection is hypothesized because it seems a logical outcome of U.S. policy toward Indonesia and because of the relative sophistication and complexity of the GESTAPU operation. Because of the close contact between the Indonesian Army and U.S. Defense Department advisers and attaches it is probable that certain of these personnel were also involved

It is not maintained that the thesis of this paper is necessarily correct or proven. The author's hope is to demonstrate that it is sufficiently plausible that further research along these lines will be conducted by those more knowledgeable than he and that those in a position to do something about it will begin to look into the secret official record. The thesis is presented without a great deal of hedging but the author is aware that many of the facts he uses are open to a number of alternative explanations. Of course, many "facts" are in dispute. This first draft assumes some knowledge on the part of the reader of the basic events of the time and of the existing interpretive controversy. No special attempt is made here, however, to refute alternative theories. Only a portion of the supporting material is indicated.

The events of October 1, 1965, in Indonesia and their origin may truly be called "a riddle wrapped in an enigma. There is no consensus among students of Indonesia about the "correct" explanation. All existing theories have their articulate and plausible critics. Probably the majority of careful Indonesian scholars have abandoned the search for explanation. GESTAPU is an enormously complicated puzzle in which the pieces never fit together, their shape constantly changes, and new pieces keep appearing.

In an earlier age of innocence, the attributing to the CIA of a significant causal role in international affairs was a disreputable enterprise in which most professional analysts seldom engaged. With the revelations of recent years, however, the inhibitions on serious study of CIA activities have somewhat broken down. We also know far more than we did ten years ago about the extent of CIA operations and how the CIA works. In many cases, including Indonesia, we still know very little about what the CIA actually did over the years. But more than before we can feel on safe ground to think that the CIA was active. This is not CIA scapegoating, left-wing propaganda, conspiracy fascination, or a search for simple-minded solutions. It is a necessary and important research effort that must be undertaken before it can be seriously rejected. Of course, the great secrecy that envelops the subject places substantial restrictions on what normal academic research can accomplish.

This paper is based in the first instance on the author's reading of the recently released CIA Research Study "Indonesia-1965: The Coup That Backfired." The author has also read nearly everything available in English in the Library of Congress on the events of 1965. The major source material that has not been examined, except as described in secondary sources, is the large body of records of post-October 1 interrogations of prisoners held by the Indonesian Army and the records of the numerous trials that have been held. Undoubtedly new insights can be derived from these materials. The author's knowledge of Indonesia in general is relatively sparse, although he has visited the country and spent some time in previous years studying Indonesian political development. The present paper is the product of a month of very intensive research on the events of 1965 as well as some limited examination of studies on the CIA.

U.S. Assessment of Indonesia

At some point in 1964 or 1965 (probably late 1964) the deterioration of U.S. relations with Indonesia and the left-ward drift of Indonesia had gone so far that the U.S. faced the need to reassess its policy toward Indonesia with an eye toward adopting new policies. Howard Jones, the American ambassador at the time, has described the extremely pessimist official assessment of how bad things had gotten from the American point of view. Ewa Pauker and Guy Pauker at RAND have described the projection of near-term PKI takeover and the pessimism about the ability of the Indonesian Army to reverse the apparently inevitable flow of events.

Jones indicates that a number of important meetings were held in which U.S. policy toward Indonesia was reassessed, beginning at the State Department in August 1964 after Sukarno's Independence Day speech, his most anti-American statement up to that time. The March 1965 annual meeting of U.S. mission chiefs held in the Philippines with Averell Harriman and William Bundy, was also important. Ellsworth Bunker, personal representative of President Johnson, spent 15 days in Indonesia in April 1965 evaluating the situation. There were undoubtedly other secret and perhaps more important meetings in which U.S. policy was put together.

The U.S. seems to have faced essentially six options with regard to Indonesia:

1.   A hands-off policy of continuing much the same as before, letting things drift. (Of course, the U.S. had never been passive toward Indonesia and this can only be characterized as a hands-off policy in contrast to the other options.) The probable result would be that Indonesia would go Communist. There seems to have been near unanimous official agreement on the inevitability of Communist takeover in Indonesia if existing trends continued. The most important country in Southeast Asia would be lost. The U.S. effort to save Vietnam (bombing of North Vietnam began in February 1965) would probably be frustrated and all of Southeast Asia would be threatened. Clearly, this was an unacceptable option.

2.   Try to get Sukarno to change his apparent policy of leading Indonesia toward Communist rule. The Embassy under Ambassador Jones had been pursuing this course for years, with little success (in American eyes). Sukarno had made more than clear his determination to continue his left-ward drive, both domestically and in foreign policy. Most Washington officials had given up on Sukarno and many agreed that "Sukarno has to go." Some identified him as a "crypto- Communist." This option was simply unworkable.

3.   Eliminate Sukarno. Apparently this was considered, but rejected. The consequences would be too unpredictable. The Communist Party and its affiliates were so large and so extensively embedded in Indonesian society and political life that even in the absence of Sukarno's protection they might be able to hang on and prosper. An effort to go after the PKI in such circumstances would probably result in a very unpredictable and dangerous civil war which the United States, preoccupied with Vietnam, was not in a position to handle. A danger of killing Sukarno was that those who might be identified with it would be discredited because of Sukarno's enormous popularity in Indonesia, which efforts to undermine over the years had been unable to shake. Blaming an assassination on the left would not be credible because of the close alliance between Sukarno and the Communists. The PKI would have no plausible motive for such an action. An arranged "natural" death for Sukarno would leave the PKI as a very important force in Indonesia, and perhaps as the logical successor.

4.   Encourage the Indonesian Army to take over the government. The Embassy had been pushing this option for years with some success but without achieving the final objective. Disunity within the Army had prevented any such explicit step to date and there seemed to be other inhibitions on a direct military takeover. The Army as a whole was still unwilling to move directly against Sukarno. Sukarno's determination to resist any further expansion of the Army's role was clear. In fact, he was doing much to try to "domesticate" and undermine the Army as an independent, anti-Communist force. Even in the event of an Army coup, without a solid pretext for quickly eliminating the PKI and a means of controlling Sukarno, the prospect of civil war would arise for the same reasons indicated in Option 3. While the U.S. could continue to cultivate military officials and try to stiffen their "backbone," Army takeover via some sort of coup would not resolve the problem in Indonesia.

5.   Try to undermine the PKI and get the Communists to take actions that would discredit themselves and legitimize their elimination. (Option 6, the fabrication of such a discrediting, is a variant of this option.) Such a step would also necessitate moving against Sukarno as he probably would never permit the Army to act forcefully against the PKI no matter how objectionable the PKI might appear to be. A variety of covert efforts were mounted to try to damage the PKI's reputation and provoke it to misbehavior. These included linking the PKI with China, trying to show that the PKI did not really support "Sukarnoism" (the BPS episode), and the fabrication of documents and the attributing of provocative statements to PKI spokesmen (printed in non-Communist papers). But Sukarno helped to frustrate these efforts by banning almost all non-Communist political and press activity. The PKI was careful not to go too far and not to provide the excuse for its elimination. As PKI Chairman Aidit said, "We are prepared to tolerate insults and threats. We will not be provoked. If the army spits in our faces we will wipe it off and smile. We will not retaliate." Option 5 was continually tried but it did not seem to be working.

6.   If the PKI would not provide its own death warrant, the pretext for extermination had to be fabricated for it. The optimum implementation of this option would serve to eliminate both the PKI and Sukarno as dominant forces in Indonesian political life. This option appears to have been the one finally chosen, although the point at which commitment to it was irrevocable is very uncertain. Parts of the other options, other "tracks" continued at the same time.

Background to October 1st

Undoubtedly, elements of the Indonesian military (and other anti-Communist groups) were also considering what to do about the drift of Indonesia toward Communist rule. It was highly unlikely, however, that the U.S. could sit passively and expect that Indonesians on their own would do what had to be done. American analysts seemed to have concluded that no Indonesian group on its own had the capability and will to do what was necessary to prevent Communist takeover. American initiative and cooperation were necessary.

The U.S. over the years had built up close relationships with many Indonesians, particularly in the Army. In fact, this was the essence of U.S. policy toward Indonesia over the previous five or more years. The coincidence of U.S. and anti-PKI Army interest would make natural, and simply a continuation of patterns already established, a collaboration and pooling of resources to carry out the best means available for stopping the PKI and "saving" Indonesia. The CIA provided a pool of expertise and technical capability for devising and implementing a relatively sophisticated and delicate maneuver.

The problem of lack of Army internal cohesion, as indicated in Option 4, remained a stumbling bloc. Efforts were made to achieve unity in moving against the PKI (and necessarily Sukarno) but although most generals agreed that the PKI had to go, some very important officers--notably the Army Chief of Staff General Yani-- were apparently unwilling to take steps that would severely damage Sukarno. After the failure of attempts to secure Army unity, the U.S. and the collaborating generals (principally Suharto and Nasution) [1995 note: again, I would today delete Nasution] decided that the urgency of the threat and the need for quick action required working with those who were willing. It was necessary to move in spite of the absence of Army unity.

Actions were undertaken to try to polarize Indonesian politics between the Communists and others, an effort that it was hoped might move the reluctant generals to the "right" side. The Gilchrist letter seems to have been part of a covert effort to stimulate distrust and antagonism between Sukarno and General Yani. It appears, however, that General Yani remained something of a Sukarno-loyalist. General Yani had become dispensable and probably he stood in the way of what had to be done.

The "Generals' Council" rumor, frequently considered the product of PKI work, was probably an important element of the CIA-Suharto covert operation in preparing the ground for GESTAPU. The rumor served a number of useful purposes. It helped to further the heightening of tension and uncertainty in Indonesian political life. It served to stimulate mistrust between Sukarno and certain generals that the CIA wanted to break with Sukarno. It alarmed the PKI and might even make it take the provocatory step that was hoped for. It provided a focus for debate and rumor that distracted attention from the real "conspiracy." It bore a resemblance to something that actually existed, General Yani's "braintrust," and thus provided a ready target group for the GESTAPU operation, plausible victims for the "PKI's" atrocities. The rumor helped to create a climate in which people would find GESTAPU at least superficially plausible, especially immediately on October 1st. There would be widespread belief in the imminent threat of a Generals' Council coup and "unwitting" people (notably the soldiers used by GESTAPU on October 1st) would be willing to take actions that they might otherwise question. The General's Council rumor helped to create something of a "controlled environment" in which certain planned stimuli would produce a relatively predictable response. Finally, the rumor was an important part of the cover story for why the PKI might be believed to have taken the action to be attributed to it.

The exploitation of the Sukarno's health rumor mill was another important part of the cover for GESTAPU. Unfortunately for the cover story, however, it turns out to have been one of the weak links. The post-1965 explanation of why the PKI allegedly carried out GESTAPU attributes a major role to the presumed fear on the part of the PKI that Sukarno was about to die. Chinese doctors are alleged to have convinced Aidit of this. The problem is that Sukarno recovered rapidly from his illness in August 1965 and Aidit, who was in constant contact with Sukarno, had more than sufficient time to find out about Sukarno's health for himself and to turn off any plans that were based on Sukarno's imminent demise. (The implausibility of this story may in part account for the growth of theories that attribute the authorship of GESTAPU to Sukarno and place the PKI in a subordinate role. Even the Suharto government seems to have adopted this "explanation.~) In 1965, however, the circulation of rumors by the CIA-Suharto group served to create a climate that would make GESTAPU plausible as well as the PKI's complicity in it.

It does seem clear that the PKI Politburo held meetings in August 1965 at which the health of Sukarno was discussed, as well as the Generals' Council rumors, and probably the existence of "progressive" officers. What was actually said about these subjects, however, is far from clear. The official Army version, presented through "confessions," probably took real events, kernels of truth, and spun them into the required pattern.

A very interesting question is whether the Untung group made contact with the PKI, perhaps to get the PKI to directly implicate itself or at least to take actions that could later be interpreted as "participation in GESTAPU." It seems likely that the GESTAPU conspirators would have considered it risky to acquaint anyone not "in the know" with what was going on. The danger would have been very great that the PKI would be suspicious and pass the information to Sukarno who would investigate. The PKI was constantly on the alert for "provocations." There is a possibility, however, that some vague intimation of GESTAPU was passed to Aidit via a source that Aidit would have found credible. If so, it appears that Aidit rejected PKI participation, despite later trial evidence.

An overlooked source of information on the relationship, if any, between the PKI and a "progressive" officers GESTAPU group is an article by the leftist journalist Wilfred Burchett that was originally published in November 1965. Burchett, relying on "an Indonesian whom I know as having close contact with the PKI leadership and who escaped the army dragnet in Jakarta," states that the PKI received "documentary" evidence of the existence of a Generals' Council in August and informed Sukarno about it. Burchett continues:

"In late September, Colonel Untung, head of the presidential guard, learned of the planned coup from independent sources. He approached leaders of the PKI, among others, revealing what they had known for some time, and urged joint action. to thwart the coup. The PKI leaders reportedly refused on the ground that such an action would be "premature" and that as long as Sukarno remained at the helm everything possible should be done to maintain unity, while all patriotic elements within the armed forces should remain vigilant to deal with any coup from above."

Of course, we have no way of knowing if this is what happened but it is possible.

The backgrounds of Lt. Col. Untung, the alleged leader of the September 30th Movement, and his colleagues have been examined by a number of independent scholars. The picture that emerges is not that of a group of "progressive" or disgruntled officers, but rather of a group of successful and professional military officers who had exhibited signs of anti-PKI views, had been given sensitive positions in which their past and present political affiliations and views would have been subjected to careful examination, and some of whom--perhaps the most important ones--had recently been trained in the U.S. (General Supardjo and Col. Suherman) and undoubtedly exhaustively "vetted" by the CIA and U.S. defense intelligence.

What seems to link most of the GESTAPU officers together is not their "progressiveness" but their association, both past and present, with General Suharto. Those participants, particularly in the Air Force, not overtly linked with Suharto may be considered CIA-Suharto "assets" activated to play their role in the GESTAPU scenario. The penetration of the Air Force and the Palace Guard by anti-PKI Army forces (and the CIA) is at least as plausible as the degree of penetration attributed to the PKI. The vigilance of the anti-PKI generals in keeping PKI influence out of their officer corps is well known, as is the effort to keep track of and penetrate the more leftist branches of the military services.

Before examining what took place on October 1st it is important to recognize that (if the thesis of this paper is correct) we are looking at a collection of actors and a sequence of events that were put together primarily to accomplish a very immediate and urgent task: the discrediting of the PKI (and its allies) in as dramatic and quick a fashion as possible, and the immobilization of factors that might complicate the situation. While some thought had obviously been given to cover, it is doubtful that extensive effort was put into constructing a cover story that would withstand close, dispassionate scrutiny . The ability of the Cornell researchers, after only a few months of research using primarily written materials, to reveal the weaknesses of the immediate cover story is testimony to its inherent crudeness. The CIA-Suharto group probably felt that, if they moved quickly and drastically enough, there was little likelihood that much foreign effort would be put into examining GESTAPU in detail. Certainly no Indonesian would he disposed to raise doubts.

A certain refinement of cover and justification for actions that, for the most part, had already been taken (the murder of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians) was provided by the obviously spurious Aidit "confession" and the fabricated confession and show trial of Njono. Untung was also put on trial early in 1966. Even sympathetic foreign journalists have raised questions about these early trials (no foreign journalists were permitted to attend and only selected Indonesians). We do not know at what point the Indonesian authorities found out about the Cornell study and other evidence that apparently their story was not going over abroad as well as they had hoped. It seems probable that the trials of Dani and Subandrio were primarily milestones in the campaign to remove Sukarno and less parts of the GESTAPU cover story. It was the trial of Sudisman in 1967 and that of Sjam in 1968 that were explicitly calculated for their effect on the foreign skeptics. Of course, Suharto has had other reasons as well for continuing the show trials

The Events of October 1st

The major military units involved on the side of the September 30th movement were officially under the command of General Suharto's KOSTRAD, the Army's Strategic Reserve. The semi-official Indonesian Army history of GESTAPU states: "Both the 454th and 530th Battalions together with the 328th Kudjong Battalion of the Siliwangi Division were under the operations command of the 3d Paratroop Brigade of the Army's Strategic Reserve." The Army book observes further that "KOSTRAD troops were scattered all over Indonesia, as [sic] that at the time of the coup General Soeharto had only the dc Kudjava and dc Parakomando battalion around Djakarta. Other KOSTRAD troops were at 'the other side.'

The major mission of these KOSTRAD "coup" units was to take up positions around the crucial Merdeka Square, controlling Sukarno's Palace, the Indonesian Radio station, and the central telecommunications facilities.

One company of soldiers from the Palace Guard, the Tjakrabirawa, are said to have participated, together with KOSTRAD elements, in the kidnapping-murder of the six army generals. Lt. Col. Untung had been since May 1965 commander of one of the three Tjakrabirawa battalions. Considering Untung's position, this participation is quite possible, although it could have introduced a perhaps unnecessary complication into the proceedings. General Sabur, the commander of the Palace Guard, played a very unclear role in the GESTAPU and its aftermath. Although jailed for a period after 1965, he has been released and no charges have been brought against him. Whether Untung could have acted without Sabur's knowledge is uncertain. Only a few Tjakrabirawa troops were really necessary on October 1st, and they could have been KOSTRAD soldiers in Palace Guard uniforms. The extraordinary lack of professionalism in the execution of the "kidnappings" makes it unlikely that "unwitting" Tjakrabirawa troops played a significant role. Their role seems to have been that of making the first contact at each of the victim's home.

In the early morning hours of October 1st GESTAPU troops went to the homes of seven generals. Three of the generals, including Army head General Yani, were killed immediately and their bodies and three other generals were taken to a place called Lubang Buaja (Crocodile's Hole) on the outskirts of Halim Air Force Base. More than 100 troops surrounded the house of General Nasution but in a "near miraculous" escape, Nasution got away by climbing over a wall and hiding in the bushes. The fiction that one of his aides was captured and successfully impersonated one of the best known men in Indonesia for some hours afterwards (a crucial element in the CIA Research Study version of events), need not puzzle us. No such thing happened and General Nasution was meant to "escape," (The shooting of his daughter, apparently by accident through a door, seems too ghastly to have been part of the GESTAPU plan, although her death and funeral were very important in whipping up the subsequent fury against the PKI. Nasution's much commented upon "moodiness" after October 1st may in part be accounted for by his remorse about not taking better precautions to protect his family.)

General Nasution, the leading anti-Communist military figure in Indonesia, had to be on the list of victims of GESTAPU. His absence would have been incredible. He was not, however, a member of General Yani's "Generals' Council." The fact that it was General Suharto, rather than the more well known Nasution, who took the leadership of the counter-GESTAPU forces may have a complicated explanation. We do not know the subtleties of the Suharto-Nasution relationship. The most probable explanation is that the immediate appearance of Nasution as the head of the anti-PKI effort would have aroused suspicions. Some stories have Nasution being kept "protected" in a hidden place on October 1st from 6 AM until 7 PM when he finally appeared at KOSTRAD headquarters. Other reports have him at KOSTRAD headquarters on the morning of October 1st. Nasution is alleged to have broken his ankle in climbing over the wall, probably part of the cover story for why it had to be Suharto who took the lead.

Among the more incredible "mistakes" of the GESTAPU movement was the failure to try to kill or kidnap the two generals in Djakarta who had operational command of military forces in the area, General Suharto and General Umar. Ruth McVey has commented on how extraordinary this omission was, in view of the fact that Col. Latief was one of the major GESTAPU conspirators: "Col. A. Latief headed the mobile force of the Djaya (Djakarta) Division and had commanded a series of interservice capital defense maneuvers; he must have known the basic provisions for an emergency in the capital." In fact, Col. Latief seems to have been one of Suharto's men. McVey states: "Latief, also a Diponegoro Division officer (Suharto's former division), had fought under Suharto during the revolution; at the time of the Irian campaign he was at the Mandala Command headquarters in Ambone....He was assigned to KOSTRAD; his command at the time of the coup, Brigade I, was one of the KOSTRAD infantry brigades." Latief, according to Suharto himself, visited him on the night of September 30th at the hospital where Suharto was seeing his ill son. Another account has Col. Latief paying a visit to the military hospital on the morning of October 1st where Nasution's injured daughter had been brought. General Suharto and General Umar worked closely together almost immediately from the beginning on October 1st in "defeating" GESTAPU.

One general who was supposed to have originally been on the list of GESTAPU victims because of his position on General Yani's staff was General Sukendro. He was in Peking on October 1st. In fact, Sukendro was a close associate of Nasution and had the reputation of a man with intimate associations with the American military and the CIA. Sukendro came back from Peking with the story that on October 1st Chinese officials had shown Indonesians a list of the murdered generals before it had been announced. (Intimations of Chinese involvement in GESTAPU were rampant in the early months after October 1st but faded to nothing after their purpose had been served.) What exactly occurred at Lubang Buaja where the six murdered and captured generals were taken and eventually dumped into a well is uncertain. Why they were taken there seems clear. Lubang Buaja, despite stories that "secret" military training of PKI people was occurring there, was well known as a place where Air Force officers since July had been conducting training of volunteers for the Malaysian Confrontation. Those trained included youths from both PKI and other organizations. The quick murder of the generals and their alleged mutilation by Communists was the core of the GESTAPU scenario. Whether there were people from Communist organizations present at Lubang Buaja is uncertain. It is possible that unwitting volunteers had been brought there to lend their presence to the proceedings. This could have been complicating however. It was sufficient that the dastardly deed be done at a place that was known as a gathering spot for the training of PKI volunteers. "Confessions" could be produced later.

There are a few indications that if, in fact, there were "volunteers" present at Lubang Buaja on the morning of October 1st they were not necessarily from PKI organizations. The eye-witness account used in the CIA Research Study states that there were civilians crowding around the prisoners yelling "kill the unbelievers," rather extraordinary words for Communists to be uttering. Accounts seem . to agree that the generals were almost unidentifiable, bloodied and beaten up, wearing pajamas, and blindfolded. Mortimer states that, among other non-Communist youths, people from the Moslem Ansor youth organization were expected at Lubang Buaja for training on October 1st. We may speculate that the GESTAPU officers present may have told anti-PKI youths that they had captured the killers of the generals.

Whoever killed and "mutilated" the generals, their murder served several important purposes for GESTAPU. Most importantly, it could be blamed on the PKI. The murder of General Yani opened the way for Suharto to take over control of the Army and implement the wrap-up of GESTAPU. It was standing procedure for Suharto to become acting Army head whenever Yani was not available. Suharto's behavior on October 1st seems to be that of someone who is immediately aware that Yani is dead. We find no discussion in accounts of October 1st of efforts by Suharto to locate and rescue captured generals until late in the day. He acted very quickly to take charge. He exhibited none of the uncertainty and hesitancy that characterized nearly everyone else on October 1st.

The killing of the generals was also important in inhibiting Sukarno from declaring in favor of the September 30th Movement, a danger that could have upset the scenario but which had been taken into account. The fact that Lubang Buaja could also be associated with the Air Force (although, contrary to general impression, it was not in fact located on Halim Air Force Base) was also useful in assuring that General Dani and the Air Force would not be tempted to throw their military forces behind the September 30th Movement. Once it became known what an enormous crime had been committed by the "progressive" GESTAPU--political murder was very rare in Indonesia--no one was likely to jump on the band-wagon and complicate the planned failure of GESTAPU. Of course, the discrediting of the leftist Air Force and General Dani was part of the purpose of GESTAPU.

It is probable that the killing of the generals was communicated as rapidly as possible to Sukarno so that he would not think of backing GESTAPU. Accounts have a helicopter flying over Lubang Buaja, perhaps part of Sukarno's (or Suharto~s?) efforts to verify absolutely that it was true. Sukarno was also probably told how the PKI was linked to the murders. His early knowledge that Nasution had probably "escaped" also served to inhibit any impulse to support GESTAPU.

When the first message of the September 30th Movement was broadcast over Radio Indonesia around 7 AM it was announced that Sukarno was being protected and that certain prominent persons who were to be targets of the Generals' Council action had also been taken under "protection." This was actually part of a deliberate action to control the behavior of and information available to leading non-GESTAPU political figures whom, if at large, could interfere with the GESTAPU scenario. PKI Chairman Aidit was brought to Halim very early on October 1st. (His wife states that he was kidnapped from his home.) Dani was brought to Halim. (Accounts differ on this.) Sukarno was brought to Halim. Most of Sukarno's advisors, such as Subandrio, Njoto, and Ali Sastroamidjojo, were not in Djakarta. Reports have it at if they had been in Djakarta they were on the list of persons to be "protected." Although there was some contact between these individuals at Halim, much of the time they were kept separated from each other in different houses with GESTAPU messengers going back and forth. (The phones had been cut in Djakarta. Only the Army had an emergency communication system functioning.) Aidit in particular was kept "protected" from any contact with Sukarno. From the CIA Research Study account we learn that "Aidit definitely was accompanied by two bodyguards, who stayed with him the whole day of the 1st while he was at Halim and who accompanied him on the plane on his flight from Halim to Jogjakarta on the morning of the 2nd." The actual function of these "bodyguards" seems obvious. (It is remarkable how little role, even in the official accounts, Aidit seems to have played at Halim in guiding the movement that he is alleged to have been responsible for.)

Back at Merdeka Square, the GESTAPU-KOSTRAD troops had occupied the radio station at about the same time that the generals were being kidnapped. The use of the radio to broadcast a carefully prepared series of messages was a crucial part of the GESTAPU operation. The fact that Suharto, located just across the square in KOSTRAD headquarters, took no action until the evening to put the radio off the air--although he says that he very quickly decided that something was wrong--was suspicious and "explained" in the official version in terms of Suharto's desire to avoid violence. (His tolerance toward troops who had apparently killed or abducted six leading Army generals is remarkable.) In fact, Suharto deliberately waited to "retake" the radio station until the planned messages were completed. This he accomplished without firing a shot. (In the whole GESTAPU affair, including outside of Djakarta, only a handful of people were killed other than the generals.)

The most important characteristic of the first 7 AM GESTAPU radio broadcast in which the existence of the September 30th Movement was announced was that it was unclear whether GESTAPU was pro- or anti-Sukarno. The deliberate creation of uncertainty was necessary in part so as to prevent anyone "unexpected" from involving themselves. The fact that the name of Sukarno was not invoked in support of GESTAPU, which any genuine leftist coup attempt would probably have faked if necessary in order to increase the chances for success, probably made GESTAPU seem somewhat anti-Sukarno. The emphasis on its being "inside the military" was calculated to prevent anyone, especially the PKI, from taking to the streets and getting in the way. Basically, the impact of the 7 AM message was to confuse people and keep them sitting still waiting for the next message. In any event, given the climate of rumor in Djakarta, GESTAPU was not an implausible event, although who was behind it and what it was to accomplish was uncertain.

Another apparently calculated aspect of the first radio broadcast was the statement that a Revolutionary Council was going to be set up, with the implication--later made very clear--that it would be the new government. It was not until the afternoon that the "rather peculiar assortment of names" on the Revolutionary Council was announced. The indication of the abolition of the existing cabinet, however, was apparently partially intended to provide a rationale and gloss of legality for General Suharto to take quick command of the Army without consultation with Sukarno. In justifying his behavior afterwards, Suharto has cited the fact that GESTAPU had overthrown the existing government and therefore he was free to act on his own. (One of the contradictions in the post-1965 explanation of GESTAPU is that if the Untung group was primarily concerned to execute a limited operation to purge the Army of leading anti-PKI generals, why was it necessary to set aside the existing government, giving the operation the clear flavor of a political coup?)

Even the term "Revolutionary Council" may have been devised as another bit of dust thrown in the eyes of the confused public. Apparently the last time that "Revolutionary Councils" had been established in Indonesia was in 1956 and 1957 when some of the dissident anti-PKI regional military commanders had done so

.Although the radio announcement of the membership of the new Revolutionary Council, "the source of all authority in the Republic of Indonesia," was not broadcast until about 2 PM, we will discuss it here. It seems possible to discern several functions for this message. The rather heterogeneous and lack-luster membership seems calculated to discourage anyone from rallying to support. (Clearly, few, if any, of the non-military members of the Council had been informed before hand. A better selection could have been faked if assuring the success of the "coup" had really been important.) The unknown middle-ranking officers took the top positions for themselves. The heads of the non-Army military services were prominently displayed as members of the Council, perhaps part of the overall plan to prevent uncontrolled military forces from involving themselves in the GESTAPU events. Linking the heads of the Air Force, Navy, and Police with GESTAPU would make it possible to label any unwanted military action by these forces as part of the GESTAPU revolt.

It is uncertain how much additional calculation was put into the membership list. A handful of PKI officials from affiliated organizations were included, but none of the top PKI leaders. This again would discourage unplanned PKI involvement Later analyses of the membership indicate the possibility that the CIA's "experts" on communism may have devised the list according to their calculation of a plausible "stage" which the "revolution" in Indonesia had reached. In October 1965 The Washington Post published a story by Chalmers Roberts, apparently based on CIA briefings, that said U.S. officials reported to have evidence that Sukarno, through a coup, had ~intended to turn his country into an Indonesian version of a Communist 'People's Democracy.'" We may guess that as part of the devising of a cover story for GESTAPU the CIA experts tried to simulate the kind of government that the PKI and Sukarno (apparently little distinction was made) might plausibly have been expected to set up if a pro-Communist coup occurred in Indonesia in the fall of 1965.

The 1968 CIA Research Study states that "the Revolutionary Council was the perfect Communist front organization." Justus van der Kroef has provided the most extensive exposition of the "People's Democracy" thesis, along the lines of Eastern European experience. Actually, judging by a more careful study of Soviet and Chinese examples, the PKI membership on the Revolutionary Council was too limited and the composition of the Council was far from being a "perfect" simulation. (The eight year old CIA Research Study contains several rather amateurish efforts to show the traces of Chinese Communist ideology or practice in the GESTAPU events, reflective of the spirit of the times.)

The behavior of Sukarno on October 1st, the subject of much speculation later on, seems to be that of someone who is unsure of what is going on, but wary and trying desperately to get a handle on the situation. The GESTAPU officers did not actually keep him prisoner at Halim Air Force Base--General Supardjo's role seems to have been that of a rather skilled handler of Sukarno, keeping up the GESTAPU pretence--and permitted him to send and receive messages and selected visitors. To the extent possible, however, information and advice available to Sukarno was controlled. (Sukarno's later emphasis on his being at Halim of his own free will was in the context of the rising anti-PKI hysteria. Sukarno struggled to keep it under control and did not want people to think that the "PKI-GESTAPU" had kidnapped him.)

We must assume that the CIA had prepared a psychological assessment of Sukarno which was an ingredient in planning the GESTAPU operation. How accurate and insightful the CIA's profile may have been we do not know. Considering the obsession of Westerners with Sukarno's sex life and the image of irresponsibility and irrationality that had been built up about him, we may suspect that the assessment was not highly useful. Some Americans seem to have considered Sukarno a coward and Howard Jones cites a Washington view, circa 1958, that Sukarno "did not have the intestinal fortitude to order the Indonesian military into action since it would split the country. Sukarno had worked all his life to unite his country; he was the last man to take an action that would result in a division that might be irrevocable." The view of Sukarno as unwilling to take decisive and divisive military action against other Indonesians could have been a factor in the planning of GESTAPU. Sukarno's lack of ruthlessness would be exploited.

One of the clearer indications of the absence of collusion between Sukarno and the GESTAPU officers, and of their willingness to ignore him when necessary, is the fact that (according to the CIA Research Study) at about noon on October 1st Sukarno told General Supardjo to stop the September 30th Movement. However, some important radio broadcasts had yet to be made, and the rationale for the apparently fabricated incriminating October 2 Harian Rakjat editorial would have been destroyed if General Supardjo had immediately stopped GESTAPU. The GESTAPU actions continued in Djakarta until the evening.

At about 1 PM an announcement, over General Sabur's name, was broadcast that "President Sukarno is safe and well and continues to execute the leadership of the State." This seems to have been a genuine statement from Sukarno, and implied his rejection of the September 30th Movement. Sukarno did not leave Halim until about 8:30 PM when he went to Bogor, having failed to prevent Suharto from taking over the Army.

In addition to the GESTAPU radio broadcasts containing the details of the Revolutionary Council, the other important afternoon message was a statement attributed to General Dani, the leftist Air Force Chief of Staff, expressing support for the September 30th Movement. This was broadcast at 3:30 PM. The means by which this "Order of the Day" was elicited from Dani, or whether it was fabricated, is uncertain. The statement carried a dating of 9:30 AM, before Sukarno's radio message, although it was not actually broadcast until six hours later

The CIA Research Study comments on this "incredibly poorly timed" message of General Dani: "Two hours after Sukarno had studiously avoided committing himself over the radio the Air Force Chief Dani had pledged support of the Air Force to the coup." The peculiarity of this was accentuated by the fact that Dani was considered to be a man who carefully calculated his steps to fall in line with Sukarno. It seemed impossible that Dani could take such an action without Sukarno's endorsement. Perhaps in the confused and controlled circumstances at Halim the GESTAPU officers had managed to convince Dani earlier in the day that Sukarno wanted him to prepare a pro-GESTAPU Order of the Day to have on hand in case of need. (The possibility of straight fabrication exists, although the author has found no emphatic assertion to this effect by Dani.)

Assuming that the Dani message was a planned part of the GESTAPU scenario, it's purpose, of course, was to incriminate the leftist Dani and the Air Force in the GESTAPU coup attempt and the murder of the generals. (In the early days after October 1st Suharto seems to have been even more interested in defaming the Air Force than the PKI. After all, the Air Force had weapons and the PKI did not.) The Dani message also helped to enhance the plausibility of a PKI newspaper editorial expressing similar views on the next day. Early and unambiguous identification of Dani with GESTAPU would also inhibit him from taking unwanted military action.

Following the broadcast of the Dani statement, there were only a few steps left for GESTAPU, except for the action in Central Java to be examined later. Another incident of incriminating PKI involvement in GESTAPU was the alleged appearance late in the day near Merdeka Square of Pemuda Rakjat (the PKI youth organization) youths armed with Chinese weapons supposedly given to them by the Air Force. They were quickly disarmed by units of the KOSTRAD-GESTAPU 530th Battalion which had already "rejoined" the loyal forces. (Perhaps the incident was arranged in part to demonstrate that the KOSTRAD-GESTAPU units were not really bad.)

This futile arming of "PKI" youths with marked Chinese weapons that were never used is another of the almost endless string of GESTAPU "mistakes." The CIA Research Study comments: "The weapons were all small arms of Chinese origin, with the 'Chung' trademark stamped on them. The Indonesian army was known not to have any weapons of that type. There is absolutely no doubt that the arms were the property of the Indonesian Air Force." (Suharto is later said to have thrust one of these "Chung" guns before Sukarno as proof of GESTAPU's evil.)

While the CIA analyst may have "no doubt," another explanation seems more probable. (Stories of Chinese arms shipments to Indonesia were rife after October 1st but even the CIA Study, in other places, questions their accuracy.) The CIA is known to have had a large store of Chinese weapons at this time, which were used for a variety of purposes, including such "incriminating" schemes. This incident was simply another planned part of the GESTAPU effort to incriminate the PKI in GESTAPU in dramatic fashion. The youths might have been unwitting Pemuda Rakjat but that could have been too dangerous and it seems more probable that they were other youths, or possibly it did not even happen at all.

Apparently there were armed anti-PKI youths in Djakarta already on October 1st who had some idea of what was going on. Donald Hindley has written the following:

"October 1 was an even more confusing day for the civilians of Djakarta....And yet, while the situation was still in doubt, a few civilians did take action to use the September 30 Movement as the excuse for a public attack on the Communist Party.

"By the evening of 1 October, several Moslems had met and agreed to form a Moslem Action Command Against Communism. These initial, and very few, activists were members of HMI (Moslem University Student's Association), PII (Moslem High School Students), Gasbiindo (Indonesian Moslem Trade Union Association), and the Muhammadijah, all of them organizations formerly affiliated with Masjumi. The only politician willing to be involved on that first day was Subchan, a vice-chairman of the NU and, in many ways, atypical of his party's leadership. That evening the group made contact with the army leadership, in the person of Djakarta commander Major General Umar Wirahadikusuma, who agreed to give them a few weapons. More important, Umar approved the formation of KAP-Gestapu (Action Front for the Crushing of Gestapu: Gestapu being an abbreviation of the Indonesian for 'September 30 Movement'). The plans for the more narrowly based, specifically Moslem Action Command were quietly dropped. Already, then, the army leadership had proffered its encouragement and (as yet less clearly apparent) protection for those who would spearhead a civilian campaign against the PKI."

If this is true, it indicates either remarkable prescience (it occurred before any evidence of PKI connection to GESTAPU had been announced) or, in our interpretation, that the GESTAPU action was a CIA-Suharto creation. The list of organizations involved on October 1st reads like a list of those civilian groups who would most likely have been working under CIA guidance. The use of anti-PKI students by the Army after October 1st is well known. The use of similar groups in many countries is also standard CIA practice. The extraordinarily early creation of KAP- GESTAPU with Army support is evidence of how the groundwork for the subsequent exploitation of the GESTAPU events was laid right from the beginning, if not before.

By about 7 PM on October 1st the Army had retaken the Indonesian Radio station and at 8:45 PM an announcement was broadcast that the "counter-revolutionary" September 30th Movement had kidnapped a number of generals but that Sukarno and Nasution were now safe and "the general situation is again under control."

Then occurred what subsequent observers have considered one of the most puzzling GESTAPU "mistakes," the appearance on October 2nd (after almost all other papers had ceased publication) of an issue of the PKI newspaper Harian Rakjat containing an editorial and cartoon endorsing the September 30th Movement. There is a remote possibility that the PKI editors were taken in by the messages they heard over the radio and had thrown caution overboard and in fact wrote such an editorial, but it is more probable that it was a fabrication. The Cornell study examined the October 2nd issue of Harian Rakjat at length and raised some doubts about the authenticity of the editorial and cartoon. The Cornell researchers, however, did not go so far as to declare them phony. The Cornell study does state that "the Djakarta garrison commander, Maj. Gen. Umar Wirahadikusumae, issued an order dated 6:00 p.m. on the 1st to the effect that no publications of any kind were to appear without permission of the Djakarta war authority, save for the Army newspapers Berita Yudha and Angkatan Bersendjata, whose buildings were to be guarded to ensure that they did come out." The Cornell study states that it is "quite likely that the Harian Rakjat office and plant...was occupied by government troops at or not long after the time that Gen. Umar gave this order."

The Cornell researchers rejected "the most obvious explanation, that of an Army falsification" for the appearance of the October 2nd issue on rather weak grounds: "Everything is written in the normal Harian Rakjat jargon, and the competence of the PKI's enemies at falsifying party documents has always been abysmally low." The Cornell study had already pointed out that the editorial, and the cartoon, were not in typical Harian Rakjat style; the mere appearance of "authentic" jargon does not exclude the falsification hypothesis. The clumsiness of some earlier falsifications might lead one to suspect that the Army had help on this one, from the falsification experts in the CIA

The CIA Research Study finds the October 2nd editorial "mystifying," "an act of political suicide." The Study's explanation for how it happened is that Aidit was too busy doing other things to contact the Harian Rakjat editors and tell them to stop: "They could certainly have prevented its circulation....In the confusion of the moment, Aidit obviously did not have the time or the opportunity to contact the editors of Harian Rakjat if the matter of the editorial even occurred to him. He was totally occupied at the time with more important matters." With Sukarno having not endorsed the September 30th Movement, it is highly unlikely that Aidit, if he had been able to act, would have permitted the PKI to come out in public so quickly in favor of it. The Suharto-CIA thesis seems a more plausible explanation than "oversight."

The activities of the September 30th Movement outside of Djakarta were restricted almost completely to Central Java and officers of the Diponegoro Division, General Suharto's former command. The CIA Research Study states: "In the three key cities of Central Java, there occurred the same basic pattern of military action followed by a public statement of support for Untung's movement and an announcement of the formation of a Revolutionary Council." Officers of the Diponegoro Division, led by Col Suherman, the Chief of Army Intelligence for Central Java (who had returned from training in the U.S. a month before), carried out these actions. (A number of analysts, including the semi-official Army historians, have noted that apparently the PKI had infiltrated the intelligence and civic action branches of the Army most successfully. It would seem more probable that the Suharto-CIA group had infiltrated those branches where American influence, guidance, and training were strong.)

The Djakarta pattern was followed even to the extent of having another remarkable "escape" of the leading military figure, General Sujosumpeno, the Division Commander, who then put down the coup with ease. Only two officers were killed by GESTAPU, Col. Katamso, the commanding officer in Jogjakarta, and his deputy. The subsequent discovery of their bodies was again used to whip up anti-PKI emotions. The interesting wrinkle in this case is that Col. Katamso was a most unlikely victim of the "progressive" GESTAPU. According to Ruth McVey's research, Katamso was a relatively pro-PKI military officer and, in Rex Mortimer's words, "the singling out of Colonel Katamso for destruction seems decidedly perverse." (We may speculate that as no further victims of the Yani-type were needed, the CIA-GESTAPU group decided that they might as well make a pro-PKI officer the sacrificial lamb in Central Java.)

There were a few alleged PKI demonstrations of support for GESTAPU in Central Java but it appears that, as in Djakarta, most, if not all, were fabricated. The "PKI" action that received most attention was a demonstration in Jogjakarta on October 2nd. Major Muljono, a civic action officer in the Diponegoro Division, was the GESTAPU leader in Jogjakarta. He seems to have been the one that put together the demonstration and other pro-GESTAPU actions. The CIA Research Study states that "The major PKI mass organizations were restrained from action....Apparently Muljono was able to influence the Communist youth more than the PKI leadership." The Cornell study states that the demonstration in Jogjakarta "appears to have been chiefly a function of connections between the local coup leader, Major Muljono, and civilian youth groups. The demonstration was notable for the absence of PKI, SOBSI, Gerwani, and BTI participants." Major Muljono was the only important officer in Central Java who was later put on trial. He "confessed" everything.

The wrap up of GESTAPU in Central Java took slightly longer than in Djakarta but followed the same pattern of "Suharto-style" negotiations and immediate, cooperative surrender.

Our analysis is that the basic reason why the CIA-Suharto group decided to extend GESTAPU outside of Djakarta is that they wanted to show that the PKI-GESTAPU was a nation-wide threat so as to justify a nation-wide repression of the PKI. Central Java was the easiest place for Suharto to arrange the necessary GESTAPU actions and PKI "implication." GESTAPU was limited to a few cities where the Diponegoro Division was concentrated. As the CIA Research Study states, "Nothing of the sort that happened in Semarang, Jogjakarta, and Solo happened anywhere else in Java, not even in East Java, where there were many powerful centers of Communist strength." The Cornell study comments on the Central Java coup efforts that "what is extraordinary is not the amount of Communist participation in the initial phase of the affair but the lack of it."

Before concluding, let us consider the fate of the leading GESTAPU conspirators. Some of them were tried and sentenced to death (Lt. Col. Untung, General Supardjo), others were said to have been killed in military clashes (Col. Suherman), and others (Col. Latief) have never been brought to trial or had their execution announced. It is our assumption that all of the leading military officers involved in GESTAPU on October 1st were "witting" actors in the CIA-Suharto plan. There is a remote chance that someone like Untung could have been unwitting but considerations of security would seem to have excluded the possibility of using someone who might easily have informed higher authorities of GESTAPU's existence or plans. We believe, particularly if the CIA connection is accurate, that these conspirators have subsequently been provided with new identities by the CIA and resettled outside of Indonesia. This kind of resettlement and looking after one's assets is relatively standard CIA procedure. The temptation to tie up loose ends and prevent any possibility of leaks raises the suggestion that the GESTAPU officers have been eliminated after serving their purpose but, not to be ironic, the honorable men at the CIA would probably consider this to be in violation of their code of conduct.

The official announcements of executions of GESTAPU officers, such as there have been, have been rather vague. For example, although Untung was tried and convicted in early 1966, it was not until September 1968 that Suharto stated for the first time that Untung and three other military leaders of the coup had been executed in December 1967. The 1968 CIA Research Study speculated that Latief was one of those executed in 1967 but in 1972 Latief made his first public appearance as a witness in the trial of Pono, an alleged PKI coup organizer. General Supardjo remained at large after October 1965 and was not arrested until early 1967. Apparently the Army knew where he was and his arrest was timed to serve a purpose in the ouster of Sukarno. In December 1965 it was announced that Col. Suherman and the other important GESTAPU officers from the Diponegoro Division headquarters had been shot dead in a clash with government troops in Central Java. Other Army sources have said that they were actually captured before they were shot. The evidence available to the author indicates that there have been no public or independently verified executions of any of the GESTAPU officers.


Discounting the dubious confessions displayed at the post-1965 show trials, the CIA-Suharto hypothesis seems to have the following advantages over other explanations of GESTAPU:

1.   It is consistent with PKI policy and behavior before, during, and after the October 1st events. It explains PKI unpreparedness.

2.   It is consistent with President Sukarno's behavior before, during, and after the events of October 1st. Sukarno had never resorted to political murder.

3.   It explains why the coup was launched in such a disadvantageous military situation, why it was carried out with such incompetence, and why it failed so easily. GESTAPU was meant to fail, and quickly.

4.   It is consistent with expected U.S. activism. It is highly implausible that the U.S. would have passively permitted Indonesia to "go Communist." Something had to be done. A desperate situation required desperate measures.

5.   It relates the GESTAPU action to those who benefited from it.

6.   It is consistent with what we know of the backgrounds of the GESTAPU officers. They were, for the most part, Suharto's men and there is no evidence, except for that obtained through "confessions," that they had any pro-PKI inclinations.

7.   It explains why General Yani and his associates were killed (and not merely kidnapped or put on trial). There were several strong motives for the CIA and Suharto to get rid of Yani. Victims of the "PKI" were required and in the Indonesian context, Yani was a "constitutionalist," loyal to the existing regime, as General Schneider was later in Chile.

8.   It is inconsistent (a positive value) with a series of highly suspicious trials that were stage-managed by the Indonesian Army for obvious political purposes. As Justus van der Kroef wrote in 1970, "What Indonesians have been reading about Gestapu thus far is likely, in retrospect, to be more valuable as an index to the manipulation of the opinion and feelings concerning the September 30 events than as a contribution to an understanding of the coup itself." That a few trials, those of Sudisman and Sjam, impressed some foreign observers is only indicative of the fact that the state of the art has advanced since the 1930's in the Soviet Union.

The Cornell study in 1966 perceived the absence of links between GESTAPU on the one side and the PKI and Sukarno on the other and the essentially reactive behavior of the latter. The Cornell researchers concluded that the GESTAPU actors were entirely within the military establishment. A number of analysts noted the many associations between the GESTAPU officers and General Suharto. In the climate of 10 years ago, however, prior to the revelations of CIA operations, few were willing to take the next step and draw the logical connections that most adequately explain GESTAPU and its origins.

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