The U.S., Indonesia & the NY Times

The U.S., Indonesia & The Times

Dispatches From The Edge

Jan. 20, 2012

Why is the New York Times concealing the key role that the United States played in the 1965 coup in Indonesia that ended up killing somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people? In a story Jan. 19—“Indonesia Chips Away At the Enforced Silence Around a Dark History”—the Times writes that the coup was “one of the darkest periods in modern Indonesian history, and the least discussed, until now.”

Indeed it is, but the Times is not only continuing to ignore U.S. involvement in planning and carrying out the coup, but apparently doesn’t even bother to read its own clip files from that time that reported the Johnson administration’s “delight with the news from Indonesia.” The newspaper also reported a cable by Secretary of State Dean Rusk supporting the “campaign against the communists” and assuring the leader of the coup, General Suharto, that the “U.S. government [is] generally sympathetic with, and admiring of, what the army is doing.”

What the Indonesian Army was doing was raping and beheading communists, leftists, and trade unionists. Many people were savagely tortured to death by the military and its right-wing Muslim allies in the Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah. A number of those butchered were fingered by U.S. intelligence.

According to a three-part series in the July 1999 Sydney Morning Herald, interviews with Indonesian political prisoners, and examinations of U.S. and Australian documents, “Western powers urged the Indonesian military commanders to seize upon the false claims of a coup attempt instigated bu the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), in order to carry out one of the greatest civilian massacres of the 20th century and establish a military dictatorship.”

General Suharto claimed that the PKI was behind the assassination of six leading generals on the night of July 30, 1965, the incident that ignited the coup. But the Herald series included interviews with two of the men involved in the so-called September 30 putsch, both of who claim the PKI had nothing to do with the uprising. At the time, the PKI was part of a coalition government, had foresworn violence, and had an official policy of a “peaceful transition” to socialism. In fact, the organization made no attempt to mobilize its three million members to resist the coup.

The U.S. made sure that very few of those communists—as well as the leaders of peasant, women, union, and youth organizations— survived the holocaust. According to U.S. National Security Archives published by George Washington University, U.S. intelligence agents fingered many of those people. Then U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, Marshall Green, said that an Embassy list of top Communist leaders “is being used by the Indonesian security authorities that seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership at the time…”

The U.S. was well aware of the scale of the killings. In an April 15, 1966 telegram to Washington, the Embassy wrote, “We frankly do not know whether the real figure [of PKI killed] is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000, but believe it wiser to err on the side of the lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press.”

Besides helping the military track down and murder any leftists, the U.S. also supplied the right-wing Kap-Gestapu movement with money. Writing in a memo to then Assistant Secretary of State McGeorge Bundy, Green wrote “The chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be.”

States News Service reporter Kathy Kadane interviewed several former diplomats and intelligence agents and found that the list turned over to the Indonesian security forces had around 5,000 names on it. “It was really a big help to the Army,” former embassy political officer Robert J. Martens told Kadane. “They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that is not all bad. There is a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.”

At the time, Washington was beginning a major escalation of the Vietnam War, and the Johnson administration was fixated on its mythical domino theory that communists were about to take over Asia. The U.S. considered Indonesia to be a strategically important country, not only because it controlled important sea passages, but also because it was rich in raw materials in which U.S. corporations were heavily invested. These included Richfield and Mobil oil companies, Uniroyal, Union carbide, Eastern Airlines, Singer Sewing Machines, National Cash Register, and the Freeport McMorRan gold and copper mining company.

At the time, Indonesian President Sukarno was one of the leaders of the “third force” movement, an alliance of nations that tried to keep itself aloof from the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The 1955 Bandung Conference drew countries from throughout Asia and Africa to Indonesia to create an anti-colonialist, non-aligned movement. It also drew the ire of the U.S, which refused to send a representative to Bangdung.

In the polarized world of the Cold War, non-alignment was not acceptable to Washington, and the U.S. began using a combination of diplomacy, military force and outright subversion to undermine countries like Indonesia and to bring them into alliances with the U.S. and its allies. The CIA encouraged separatist movements in the oil-rich provinces of Sumatra and Sulawesi. The British and the Australians were also up to their elbows in the 1965 coup, and France increased its trade with Indonesia following the massacre.

The relations between Jakarta and Washington are long and sordid. The U.S. gave Indonesia the green light to invade and occupy East Timor, an act that resulted in the death of over 200,000 people, or one-third of the Timorese population, a kill ratio greater than Pol Pot’s genocidal mania in Cambodia. Washington is also supportive of Indonesia’s seizure of Irian Jaya (West Papua) and, rather than condemning the brutality of the occupation, has blamed much of the violence on the local natives.

The Cold War is over, but not U.S. interests in Asia. The Obama administration is pouring military forces into the region and has made it clear that it intends to contest China’s growing influence in Asia and Southeast Asia. Here Indonesia is key. Some 80 percent of China’s energy supplies pass through Indonesian-controlled waters, and Indonesia is still a gold mine—literally in the case of Freeport McMoRan on Irian Jaya—of valuable resources.

So once again, the U.S. is turning a blind eye to the brutal and repressive Indonesian military that doesn’t fight wars but is devilishly good at suppressing its own people and cornering many of those resources for itself. The recent decision by the White House to begin working with Kopassus—Indonesia’s equivalent of the Nazi SS—is a case in point. Kopassus has been implicated in torture and murder in Irian Jaya and played in key role in the 1999 sacking of East Timor that destroyed 70 percent of that country’s infrastructure following Timor’s independence vote. Over 1500 Timorese were killed and 250,000 kidnapped to Indonesian West Timor.

It appears that Indonesians are beginning to speak up about the horrors of the 1965 coup. Books like Geoffrey Robinson’s “The Dark Side of Paradise” and Robert Lemelson’s documentary film, “40 Years of Silence: an Indonesian Tragedy,” are slowly wearing away at the history manufactured by the military dictatorship.

But the U.S. has yet to come clean on its role in the 1965 horror, and the New York Times has apparently decided to continue that silence, perhaps because once again Indonesia is pivotal to Washington’s plans for Asia?

—30—

19 Comments

Filed under Asia, China, FPIF Blogs, Indonesia, Oil, Pacific

19 responses to “The U.S., Indonesia & the NY Times

  1. nice writing, very insightful. I like it a lot. I come acoss this website by yahoo search engine. I may visit your site oftenly and introduce it to my neibourghhood. Please keep it updated. Keep on the good work. – A sweet girl

  2. Hey! Nice stuff, do tell us when you post something like that!

  3. I sometimes read your blog, if you can, please publish new stuff more often :D

  4. This site is my breathing in, real wonderful design and perfect content material .

  5. Hi, Thanks for your page. I discovered your page by means of Bing and hope you keep providing a lot more great articles.

  6. Its exceptional as your other articles : D, regards for posting .

  7. Very efficiently written article. It will be supportive to anyone who usess it, as well as me. Keep doing what you are doing – can’r wait to read more posts.

  8. *An interesting discussion is worth comment. I feel which you really should write more on this subject, it might not be a taboo topic but generally individuals are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  9. The most comprehensive and extremely effectively thought out write up I’ve found on this subject on the net. Keep on writing, I will keep on coming by to read your new content. This really is my fourth time coming by your blog.

  10. This really is my very initial time i go to here. I discovered a terrific number of entertaining stuff within your blog website, particularly its discussion. From your tons of feedback in your articles, I guess I’m not the only one possessing each with the satisfaction here! Preserve up the great operate.

  11. *You created some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the concern and located most individuals will go along with together with your web site.

  12. Aw, i thought this was quite a very good post. In concept I would like to devote writing such as this moreover – spending time and actual effort to produce a terrific article… but exactly what do I say… I procrastinate alot by no indicates manage to get something done.

  13. Oh my goodness! an remarkable write-up dude. Thank you Nonetheless I’m experiencing issue with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss difficulty? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  14. This website is my aspiration , really wonderful pattern and perfect articles .

  15. Intriguing, how do I make use of this?

  16. Thank you for another magnificent post. The place else may just anybody get that kind of information in such a perfect manner of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such info.

  17. Wonderful post, I conceive web site owners ought to larn a whole lot from this web site its quite user friendly .

  18. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was excellent. I do not know who you are but certainly you might be going to a famous blogger in the event you aren’t already Cheers!

  19. Many thanks for an unbelievable submit, would study your personal others topics. thank you your thinking within this, I soon became a bit strike by this post. Thanks again! You wanna make a good point. Portrays natures best by the wonderful facts here. I do think that in case more individuals consideration for it like this, they’d have a better moment in time obtain the hold ofing the issue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s