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Issue #1753      October 19, 2016

1965 Indonesia bloodbath

A US/Australian coup

In a 1965 fascist coup in Indonesia led by army generals including Major General Suharto (who became president), the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), third largest in the world, was virtually wiped out.

President Sukarno of Indonesia shaking hands with Robert Menzies during Menzies’ visit to Indonesia in 1959.

Although accused of planning and even attempting an “armed coup”, it is clear that the PKI in fact was largely unarmed and in no way contemplating military action. Its members were unable to offer “meaningful resistance” to the wave of terror unleashed against them by Generals Nasution and Suharto.

The coup – which saw the deaths of around one million people – involved the US Embassy with US Ambassador Marshall Green actively supporting the army-organised orgy of killing: consulting with leaders of anti-Communist death squads, arranging for the US Information Agency to beam anti-PKI propaganda over the radio and orchestrating an international media barrage to push the Indonesian Army’s cover story of a “Communist coup”.

Green rejoiced in the slaughter of Communist leaders, the forced closing of the Communist university (and the banning of “leftist” student organisations), and the sacking of PKI bookstores.

The Suharto-Nasution clique were of a like mind with the US about the necessity to undermine the prestige of China in Indonesia.

The generals sought the aid of the US to “alert the Indonesian people to the dangers of association with Communist China” using the techniques of psychological warfare” which the US was only too happy to supply.

US Embassy cables also pointed to the US covertly supplying weapons to the Indonesian Army for the arming of the “civilian anti-communist groups” that at one stage were killing “50-100 PKI members every night” in Central Java alone.

Under President Sukarno, Indonesia had become a leading force in the non-aligned movement, a major impediment to US efforts to “roll back Communism” and to isolate China, in particular.

It is inconceivable that the US government would just sit back and wait hopefully for something to happen in Indonesia to change that situation.

US diplomats and CIA agents would have been working flatout to bring that change about and nobody in the world is more proactive than the State Department and the CIA.

To prevent Sarawak and North Borneo eventually becoming part of “left-leaning” Indonesia, they had been brought in 1963 into a federation with newly independent but staunchly anti-Communist Malaya, to be called Malaysia.

Indonesia objected, and in 1965 US allies Britain and Australia joined in sending troops to Borneo. (Australia was as concerned as the US about “rolling back” Communism: in April that same year it had committed the first Australian troops to Vietnam.)

At the same time, the policies and practices of US oil companies in Indonesia, as in other parts of the developing world, were causing concern in Jakarta.

The country’s huge and much needed oil wealth was going to enrich Caltex rather than the people of Indonesia.

Sukarno went so far as to threaten to break diplomatic relations with the US and to nationalise US oil assets. Perbum, the Communist-led oil workers’ union, was very active in defending the rights and conditions of Caltex’s Indonesian employees.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Subandrio, claimed Western diplomats were conspiring with senior Indonesia army officers to kill or otherwise eliminate Sukarno.

In late October, a US diplomat reported from Riau province in Sumatra: “Army has raided PKI leaders’ houses and informed Caltex management it plans on October 29 to arrest key leaders of communist oil workers’ union Perbum, which forms core of PKI structure in that province”.

A declassified Australian Embassy report tells how the Army dealt with worker unrest. The Army would assemble the workforce of the factory or mine “and ask them whether they wish to continue work as usual. Those who decline are asked again and, unless they change their mind, summarily shot.”

The US and Australian governments eagerly supported one of the worst bloodbaths of the 20th century because it was basically “good for business”.

Next article – Film review – Snowden

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