October 10, 2015


It's Been 50 Years Since the Biggest US-Backed Genocide You've Never Heard Of : As many as 1 million people were killed by Indonesia's Cold War regime--and we still don't know the full story of our government's involvement. (Samantha Michaels, Oct. 1, 2015, Mother Jones)

During the the Cold War, why was the United States concerned about Indonesia? After Indonesia won its war of independence against the Netherlands in 1949, a hero of the struggle named Sukarno became president. The United States was not a fan of his politics: Though he was not a communist himself, he was an anti-West populist-socialist who took steps after the war to nationalize plantations and other lucrative assets. He also protected the rapidly growing communist party, known as the PKI, which by 1965 was the biggest such organization outside of a communist country. The United States conducted covert operations during the late 1950s intended to weaken Sukarno's government and strengthen the staunchly anti-communist Indonesian military. "They considered the army to have the muscle to balance Sukarno," says Indonesian journalist Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

What sparked the mass murders? In the early hours of October 1, 1965, a group of army conspirators killed six generals in Jakarta, the country's capital. Maj. Gen. Suharto, who would soon become Indonesia's dictator for more than three decades, took control of the armed forces, claiming that the killings were part of an attempted communist coup. Then he and the military launched a campaign to purge Indonesians believed to be connected with the communist party or left-leaning organizations. They also targeted hundreds of thousands of Indonesians unconnected to the party who they saw as potential opponents of their new regime, including union members, small farmers, intellectuals, activists, and ethnic Chinese. The carnage was so intense that people stopped eating fish--fearing that the fish were consuming the human corpses flooding the rivers.

So, how was the United States involved? Speculation abounds over the US role in the 1965 military takeover, though there's no concrete proof in the public record that America had a direct hand in it. However, investigations by journalists, as well as government documents, have made it clear that the United States provided money, weapons, and equipment to the Indonesian military while it was undertaking the killings. What's more, according to excerpts of contemporary cables released by the US State Department, officials at the US embassy created lists of thousands of names of communists and provided them to the military. It has been reported that the CIA worked on the lists, too, but the agency has denied involvement, Harsono says.

And what did Indonesia get out of it other than alliance with the lone superpower, a stable Islamist democracy and an emerging economy?

Posted by at October 10, 2015 8:13 AM

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