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The United States and the 1965–1966 Mass Murders in Indonesia

This article was adapted from Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960–1968 by Bradley Simpson. © 2008 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Used with permission of Stanford University Press, Published in cloth, paperback, and digital formats.

On October 1, 1965, the teletype in the White House relayed the account of a supposed “coup” by a group of Indonesian army officers calling themselves the September 30th Movement. In Jakarta the movement, which had begun the night before under the alleged leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Untung with the kidnapping and killing of six generals of the Indonesian Army High Command, was already unraveling. The September 30th Movement was a relatively small-scale affair. It was poorly planned and so clumsily executed that it seemed almost preordained to fail. Major General Suharto, the commander of the army’s Strategic Reserve Command (KOSTRAD) rapidly routed the meager forces under Untung’s command, took control of the army, and blamed what he labeled a “coup attempt” entirely on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Within two weeks, a much more momentous army-led and U.S.-backed movement to exterminate the PKI and its supporters was under way. Working with Muslim organizations, student groups, and other anti-Communist organizations, the army proceeded over the next five months to murder hundreds of thousands of unarmed, alleged PKI members. The slaughter paved the way for the army’s ouster of Sukarno in March 1966, its ascension to power, and the reconfiguration of Indonesian politics and foreign policy.1

The liquidation of the PKI in Indonesia was “perhaps the greatest setback for Communism in the Third World in the 1960s” and an event with enormous implications for each of the Great Powers. For the United States, the PKI’s destruction changed the political calculus of the Vietnam War and decreased by an order of magnitude the possible regional consequences of victory by Hanoi and the NLF (National Liberation Front), although ironically it was too late to affect the course of the Johnson administration’s escalation of the war. For the Soviet Union and China, the destruction of the left in Indonesia increased the importance that each attached to holding firm in Vietnam, lest their credibility as revolutionary powers in the region be further undermined.2

Domestically, the PKI’s annihilation destroyed the political balance of power, dramatically undermining Sukarno and removing the only mass-based alternative to army rule. However, the emergence of the Indonesian army as the dominant political force and the military’s pressing need to address the country’s deep-rooted economic crisis also provided the United States and other Western powers with unusual leverage to shape the conditions under which the army would consolidate its power and legitimize its role in a military modernizing regime.

The September 30th Movement and its bloody aftermath are central events in postwar Indonesian history, and competing interpretations of their roots, meaning, and legacy have become a cottage industry.3 Much of the debate has centered on the precise role of the PKI, the degree of Sukarno’s and/or Suharto’s foreknowledge of the “coup attempt,” and the local circumstances of the mass killings that followed.

More important than the September 30th Movement itself was the use to which Suharto, the Indonesian army, and its international supporters put it in order to justify the annihilation of the PKI. Here the recent partial declassification of U.S. and British materials has made it possible to evaluate competing claims on the role of the United States and the United Kingdom with greater precision (and, since Suharto’s fall, less ideological baggage) and to come to a few tentative conclusions. First, although the available evidence does not directly implicate the United States in the September 30th Movement or in Sukarno’s ouster, quests for Washington’s hidden hand in this respect are beside the point. The United States and Britain unquestionably sought to entice the PKI into a coup attempt or some other rash action in the hopes of provoking a violent response by the army and organized covert operations and propaganda efforts to this end for the better part of a year, a fact unmitigated by Washington and London’s surprise at the actual timing of events. Second, U.S. encouragement of and support for the mass killings of alleged PKI supporters was greater than historians have heretofore acknowledged, as was that of the United Kingdom. But U.S. involvement in mass murder is only part of the story, and it is less illustrative of Washington’s long-range goals for Jakarta than the manner in which it engaged with the Indonesian army at the time of its greatest need to help midwife a parallel state apparatus, a strand of the story historians have accorded much less attention.

“This Business Has a Very Bad Smell to It”

On October 3 the bodies of the six murdered generals were discovered. Their exhumation became a major public event, and army-controlled newspapers luridly reported on their condition and printed grisly photos purportedly showing that several of the generals had been tortured, slashed with razor blades, and had their eyes gouged out and genitals cut off by bloodthirsty PKI activists from Pemuda Rakjat and the PKI Women’s Front Gerwani. The army paper Angkatan Bersendjata on October 5 reported “barbarous deeds in the form of tortures executed beyond the bounds of human feeling,” descriptions picked up and amplified by Berita Yudha and other publications in the ensuing months.4 Claims about the alleged torture and mutilation of the generals became staples of a well-organized and unusually gendered Indonesian and Western propaganda campaign aimed at whipping up public frenzy in support of attacks on the PKI, and they became staples of U.S. reporting on the September 30th Movement and its aftermath for years after.5 The descriptions, however, were deliberate fabrications—the official autopsies conducted on the bodies immediately after they were exhumed showed no signs of torture.6

Sukarno realized that the political forces unleashed on October 1 posed a threat to his rule, and he immediately sought to bring the army to heel. The president was also anxious to shield the air force—his strongest military ally—from the army’s wrath and to prevent a crackdown on the PKI that might upend the delicate balance of power. In radio addresses Sukarno appealed for calm, denied air force involvement in the movement, and warned, “we must remain on guard so that the Army and Air Force are not pitted against each other with beneficial results for the Nekolim [neocolonialists and imperialists] and others.”7 Suharto and other army leaders, however, were determined to use the murder of the generals to move against the PKI and seize power, and in this task they had willing allies both locally and abroad. “Regardless of whether the Army really believes that the PKI was solely responsible,” the CIA later reported, “it is presenting this as the case and is acting accordingly.”8 Army leaders quickly contacted anti-Communist groups, including Muslim organizations that had been mobilizing for months to counter the PKI in Java and Sumatra, and urged them into action. On October 2 Brigadier General Sutjipto called a meeting of anti-Communist leaders, who formed the Action Front to Crush the Thirtieth of September Movement (KAP-Gestapu). Two days later KAP-Gestapu held its first rally denouncing the PKI and Chairman Aidit. The Armed Forces Day parade planned for October 5 instead turned into a massive funeral march for the slain generals, punctuated by calls for revenge against the PKI. Sukarno was as conspicuous by his absence as Marshall Green was by his presence near the front of the reviewing stand—the U.S. ambassador was “much impressed,” according to British ambassador Gilchrist, at the American training the slain generals had received.9

Army leaders also reestablished contact with the U.S. embassy, thereafter maintaining frequent, often daily communications.10 In Washington, officials assembled an ad hoc Indonesia working group, recognizing that a major opportunity to crush the PKI was at hand but fearing the army might not go all the way.11 “This is a critical time for the Army,” Under Secretary of State George Ball told columnist James Reston. “If the Army does move they have strength to wipe up earth with [the] PKI and if they don’t they may not have another chance.”12

The immediate dilemma facing the Johnson administration was how best to encourage the army to such violence. The State Department was understandably wary of overt U.S. assistance to the military, fearing that disclosure of any aid would prove embarrassing and play into the hands of Sukarno and the PKI, undermining its longer-term goals. George Ball warned the embassy in Jakarta to “exercise extreme caution in our contacts with the Army.”13 Green shared the State Department’s concern, recommending that the United States hold off on aid but quietly assure Suharto and Nasution of Washington’s readiness to covertly assist if needed. In the meantime, the ambassador urged clandestine propaganda efforts to “spread the story of the PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality” as the “most needed immediate assistance we can give [the] army.”14

The United States and Britain were well positioned to provide such help. As early as 1963 the British had set up shop in Singapore for agents from the IRD [Information Research Department, a covert anti-Communist propaganda unit within the UK Foreign Office]. There they worked with army psychological warfare officers conducting “black propaganda operations” against Indonesia. Norman Reddaway, the British coordinator of political warfare against Indonesia, who had been slated to arrive in Singapore in November, was instead rushed to his post on October 15 to take advantage of the changed circumstances in Jakarta.15 By the time Reddaway arrived in Singapore, the Indonesian army had complete control over print media and radio and was, according to Australia’s Ministry for External Affairs, “using its control…to discredit the PKI and limit the president’s field of action by manipulation of public opinion.”16 Over the next two weeks, a sophisticated, multinational propaganda operation unfolded. Reddaway and U.S. officials received regular updates from intelligence officials and the U.S. embassy in Jakarta as well as, apparently, from listening in on the radio broadcasts of Indonesian military units. They would then distribute “strictly unattributable” news conforming to British and American propaganda aims to the Singapore Straits Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, and the Daily Mail and to Western journalists who had been kicked out of Jakarta and were reporting from Bangkok, Hong Kong, or Singapore.17 In their articles the reporters would cite “western sources” or “sources in Bangkok” who were among the few people with hard information on what was happening inside Indonesia.18 Other press materials were doctored to make them appear as though they had originated in the Philippines or Pakistan. The Voice of America and the State Department duly circulated stories “playing up brutality of Sept. 30 rebels” from the army-controlled newspapers Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha—the only newspapers publishing in Jakarta for the first week in October—amplifying the army’s own propaganda activities for international consumption.19

Major networks such as ABC expressed interest in exploiting the “film and tape possibilities” of the generals’ exhumation and funerals. The army’s propaganda themes and calls for destroying the PKI were “the sort of thing which interests the Americans,” the British embassy in Washington wrote the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office instructed officials in Phoenix Park, headquarters of the British Far Eastern Command in Singapore, to “not exclude any unattributable propaganda or psywar activities” that might help the anti-PKI campaign, including a list of “suitable propaganda themes” similar to those recommended at the same time by the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.20 Near the end of December Reddaway proudly surveyed his handiwork for the Foreign Office, noting that the Indonesian army’s own propaganda often contained information drawn from printed IRD materials and that “anything which we here can have carried by a newspaper will find its way quickly into Indonesia.”21

U.S. officials were particularly interested in linking the September 30th plotters to Beijing. They helped to spread stories about China’s alleged involvement and reported on caches of weapons purportedly “discovered” by the Indonesian army with the hammer and sickle conveniently stamped on them. “We have bonanza chance to nail chicoms on disastrous events in Indonesia,” Green wrote the State Department. He urged a “continuation [of] covert propaganda” as one of the “best means of spreading [the] idea of chicom complicity,” an allegation still being put forth by former U.S. officials forty years later.22 Such efforts, intended or not, also encouraged attacks against Indonesia’s indigenous Chinese minority and businessmen. Army leaders were actually worried by the strident tone of British and U.S. efforts and urged the U.S. embassy “not to unduly emphasize that [it] is seeking revenge,” arguing that the military had its “hands full restoring order and stability without creating [the] impression it [is] going to massacre Communists.”23

Over the next few weeks, the army swiftly consolidated its gains and encouraged anti-Communist and religious groups to move against the PKI while building a public case that the Party represented a mortal alien threat to Indonesian society, a cancer to be cut out of the body politic. (When asked later by the Pakistani military attaché—a man respected for his excellent intelligence ties—how he could engage in the close killing of unarmed civilians, an Indonesian military interrogator said he considered it “a duty to exterminate what he called ‘less than animals.'”) The CIA reported that senior Indonesian generals met after the funeral for the slain generals and agreed to implement plans to “crush the PKI.”24 Three days later KAP-Gestapu held a second rally in Jakarta, this one drawing tens of thousands, after which protestors sacked and burned the PKI’s new headquarters. Signs and graffiti declaring “Hang the PKI” and “Hang Aidit” sprang up around the city.25 On October 10, Suharto established the Operations Command for the Restoration of Order and Security (KOPKAMTIB), which he used to launch a massive purge of the government apparatus and arrest thousands of PKI activists in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, Ali Murtopo, chief of the Indonesian Army Special Operations Command (OSPUS), expanded the army’s own propaganda operations. Sordid accounts and photos of the generals’ murder and alleged mutilation circulated throughout the country, and army newspapers reported the discovery of PKI death lists, mass graves, and documents detailing the Party’s purported plans for the annihilation of its opponents. One scholar of the post-coup attempt massacres has concluded that “in the highly charged atmosphere of the time these ‘revelations’ were sufficient to make the Party in general appear to be a demonic force whose destruction would be a service to the nation.”26 Although we still lack access to many of the relevant classified U.S. and British materials, it is highly likely that a key element of U.S. and British covert operations in this period involved the creation of such “black” propaganda inside Indonesia itself.27

With the exception of Medan, where KOSTRAD forces under the command of Brigadier General Kemal Idris immediately began slaughtering alleged PKI members—mainly rubber plantation workers—on a large scale after October 1, Suharto appears initially to have issued few direct orders for military commanders in the provinces to take specific actions against the Party.28 The army was far from monolithic, and in significant swaths of Central and East Java local commanders remained loyal to Sukarno, and some initially were even sympathetic to the September 30th Movement. But the OSPUS propaganda campaign, encouragement of KAP-Gestapu actions, and public statements by Suharto sent clear signals of the new leadership’s intention to move violently against the PKI. When local army units hesitated or Suharto judged local officers insufficiently anti-Communist, he purged them and sent loyal RPKAD units to organize the killings, often working through local civilian forces. In East Java, members of the NU (Nahdlatul Ulama) youth wing Ansor led attacks on PKI members and Chinese businessmen, with the first mass killings reported in mid-October. In Aceh, Muslim leaders again took the lead, initiating “what amounted to holy war of extermination” in early October against PKI members and often their extended families, killing thousands over the next two months and reportedly wiping out entire villages.29

On October 13 Secretary of State Dean Rusk cabled Jakarta that the time had come “to give some indication to [the] military of our attitudes toward recent and current developments.” The army’s campaign against the PKI was picking up steam, and “if [the] army’s willingness to follow though against the PKI is in any way contingent upon or subject to influence by [the United States], we do not wish [to] miss opportunity for U.S. action.”30 The State Department still had great reservations about substantially aiding the army, because it was not yet clear who was in charge or what the army’s longer-range intentions were. Moreover, Sukarno still wielded substantial authority and commanded the loyalty of significant elements of the military. The risks of revelation with covert aid were great, and the administration considered it “essential not [to] give Subandrio and PKI citable evidence that [the United States] supports [the] Army against Sukarno.”31

The next day, Sukarno was forced to name General Suharto commander of the armed forces. Most army leaders were anxious to avoid confronting Sukarno and hoped that he would bow to political realities and condemn the PKI and the September 30th Movement. The Great Leader’s persistent refusal to do so deeply frustrated the army, prompting some to call for his overthrow.32 “There are now two power centers in Indonesia, and not one,” the embassy cabled Foggy Bottom. It was important to let the army know which side the United States was on. (The Indonesian army, for its part, thought it was dealing with three power centers: the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA.)33 General Nasution provided an opportunity when his aide approached Marshall Green to request portable communications equipment for use by the Army High Command. It was just the sort of request the embassy could easily—and discreetly—meet, the State Department noted with approval, observing that the army was still keen to hide U.S. support and that “for [the] short run our assistance to them would probably have to be on covert or semi-covert basis related [to] specific, small, ad hoc needs.”34 The move toward covert U.S. assistance for the Indonesian military signaled Washington’s tacit withdrawal of recognition of Sukarno as the legitimate leader of Indonesia.

The embassy’s political reporting during these weeks wavered between optimism at every indication of Sukarno and the PKI’s decline and anxiety at every suggestion that the army might blow its opportunity to exterminate Communism in Indonesia and deal Sukarno a fatal blow in the process. The CIA warned in early October of the danger that the army might only “settle for action against those directly involved in the murder of the generals and permit Sukarno to get much of his power back,” a concern shared by the Foreign Office. A few weeks later Green fretted that the army “seems to be moving toward a ‘political settlement'” and might “hush up evidence of [Sukarno’s] involvement in September 30” in order to preserve national unity, perhaps to the point of permitting a rehabilitated Communist Party to reemerge.35 The army’s destruction of the PKI, the ambassador cabled Washington, “will not be successful unless it is willing to attack Communism as such,” which meant going after Sukarno and the entire PKI apparatus, including unarmed rank-and-file members and affiliates. Despite his worries, Green observed that the army “has nevertheless been working hard at destroying [the] PKI and I, for one, have increasing respect for its determination and organization in carrying out this crucial assignment.”36

The Post-September 30 Massacres and the US. Response

U.S. officials initially thought that the struggle against Sukarno and the PKI would be bitter and protracted. But evidence reaching the embassy in Jakarta by the end of October indicated that the army was moving decisively to break the back of the PKI and defying or ignoring President Sukarno’s efforts to restrain it. Local military commanders were taking the initiative to ban the PKI and its affiliates, whereas weak PKI branches simply dissolved in a desperate attempt to stave off annihilation. Only a month after the murder of the generals, the PKI had been banned or dissolved in almost all of Java and Sulawesi, and despite his maneuvering, cajoling, and threats, Sukarno was proving unable to shield his political allies from attack.37 The army was especially keen to get Subandrio (whom the political correspondent of the army newspaper Berita Yudha described to Australian embassy officials in Jakarta as “a bastard who will get what’s coming to him”), in part because it could not challenge Sukarno directly. In late October army leaders convinced the president to remove Subandrio from his position as foreign minister, later placing him under house arrest when he attempted to leave the country.38

As the welcome returns on the army’s campaign against the PKI poured in, Marshall Green’s anxiety dissipated and he prodded Foggy Bottom to “explore [the] possibility of short-term one shot aid on covert, non-attributable basis” as a sign of U.S. support.39 The State Department replied with a lengthy assessment approved by Dean Rusk. The PKI was “in headlong retreat in [the] face [of] mass attacks encouraged by [the] Army,” which was “already making top policy decisions independently of Sukarno and is more and more acting as a de facto government.” Moreover, as Indonesia’s economic and political crisis deepened, the military would have to turn to the West for assistance, with the United States and Japan in particular poised to help. The army would need food, raw materials, access to credit, and “small weapons and equipment…to deal with the PKI.” As a result, “the next few days, weeks, and months may offer unprecedented opportunities for us to begin to influence people and events, as the military begin to understand problems and dilemmas in which they find themselves.”40 This meant, in the short run, signaling to army leaders the need to cease political attacks against U.S. policy and end the harassment of U.S. oil companies.41

At the end of October, White House officials established an interagency working group to plan for covert aid to the Indonesian military to meet its needs in fighting the PKI. Many initial reports reaching the embassy couched PKI resistance to Muslim and army-led attacks as the opening salvos of a possible guerrilla campaign.42 Although in most regions the PKI—which had never organized itself for armed struggle—was unprepared for the attacks against it, the Party was putting up stiff resistance in Central Java. A few days before the working group met, the embassy received “multiple reports of increasing insecurity and bloodshed in Central Java, particularly around Solo, Semarang and Jogja.” Later reports told of fierce clashes between PKI youth and Ansor members, with dozens of casualties on both sides.43 On October 18 Suharto authorized the deployment of several RPKAD battalions under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edhie to the provincial capital of Semarang in Central Java, after which mass killings of PKI supporters commenced. Shortly after, the commander of the Central Java military area declared a state of war.44

The Indonesia working group instructed the embassy to inventory the army’s needs for waging war against the PKI. The most pressing need was for tactical communications equipment for both army headquarters and field units, which the working group thought the administration should provide covertly through a third country, such as Thailand, using untraceable existing stocks rather than attempting to resume MAP [Military Assistance Program] shipments. In late October a CIA communications specialist traveled to Jakarta to consult with the embassy and conduct an on-site investigation of the army’s needs. Two days after the working group met, General Sukendro made the first high-level approach to the embassy, requesting rice, communications equipment, medicines, and small arms. Ambassador Green recommended that the administration move forward with assistance, noting approvingly that the army was “moving relentlessly to exterminate the PKI.”45

Washington agreed, but the administration was split over whether to tie the provision of short-term covert aid to larger questions concerning relations with Jakarta. White House and Pentagon officials thought that the United States should attach no strings to covert aid, arguing “it is important to assure the Army of our full support of its efforts to crush the PKI.” The State Department disagreed, arguing that now was the time to open up a broader political dialogue with Suharto and Nasution and to make clear that Washington expected Indonesia to reverse course on policies inimical to U.S. interests as a condition of aid.46 A few days later Francis Galbraith met with Nasution’s contact for a discussion along these lines. Although the United States was “generally sympathetic with and admiring of what [the] army [is] doing,” Galbraith said, serious disagreements between the two countries remained, especially with regard to U.S. oil interests, which if not resolved could preclude the extension of aid.47

The White House and the CIA still worried about the risks of exposure as they moved to covertly aid the army, which they had functionally recognized as Indonesia’s new government, in overthrowing Sukarno and destroying the PKI.48 The administration set up contact with General Sukendro (who had studied at the University of Pittsburgh and was one of the CIA’s highest level contacts in the army) and a designated liaison in Bangkok, with whom it discussed the army’s requests for communications equipment, small arms, and other supplies totaling more than $1 million. Sukendro cut short a visit to Beijing and stopped by the CIA station in Bangkok upon hearing of the September 30th Movement, before returning to Jakarta.49

The 303 Committee [the White House covert actions oversight group chaired by McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor] approved the provision of medical supplies on November 5 and established covert mechanisms for delivery, which began two weeks later. The White House also authorized the CIA station in Bangkok to provide small arms to Sukendro in order to “arm Muslim and nationalist youth in Central Java for use against the PKI.” The CIA was not yet convinced of the army’s need for the weapons and was anxious about its ability to control the use and distribution of arms, which were being given to poorly trained Muslim militias and student groups, such as the Indonesian Student Action Front (KAMI), and thus was at risk of exposure. But it concluded that “these risks…must be weighed against the greater risk that failure to provide such aid which the Army claims it needs” would weaken Washington’s influence down the road.50 The 303 Committee met again two weeks later to discuss the army’s “urgent need for communications equipment.” Suharto and Nasution were expressing grave concerns about their ability to communicate not just with regional military commanders in outlying provinces but with army leaders in Jakarta, hampering the coordination of anti-PKI military operations. To this end General Sukendro requested portable voice radios for the general staff in Jakarta; an army voice circuit linking Jakarta with military commands in Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi; and tactical communications equipment for army units operating in Central Java.51 The embassy team in Jakarta recommended approval of Sukendro’s request as “critical” in the army’s struggle against Sukarno and the PKI and argued that the equipment’s importance “far outweighs [its] relatively minor cost.”52 The 303 Committee approved the aid but urged that “extreme care” be taken to prevent disclosure of its origins, delaying delivery for several weeks. In early December the CIA located and purchased mobile antennae and the first installment of the radio equipment on a commercial basis, arranging for its covert delivery from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines to KOSTRAD headquarters in Jakarta.53 According to the British embassy in Washington, the transaction which Ambassador Gilchrist estimated was worth nearly $1 million was “so covert that it is not intended to show up in Congress at all.”54 CIA technicians trained army communications officers and tuned their radios to frequencies known in advance by the National Security Agency (NSA). Afterward the NSA monitored army transmissions, providing U.S. intelligence officials with detailed information about army operations, including specific orders to kill individual PKI members.55

The Johnson administration’s decisions to extend aid were made after it had become clear that the United States would be directly assisting the army, Muslim organizations, student groups, and other anti-Communist forces in a campaign of mass murder against unarmed civilians—alleged members of the PKI and its affiliate organizations. Moreover, U.S. officials knew and expected that the covert assistance they provided would further this campaign. Army contacts informed the embassy that 150 PKI members had been executed in Jakarta during the first week of October alone by forces under the leadership of West Java military commander General Adjie and that firing squads had been formed elsewhere for this purpose.56 At the end of October reports reached the embassy of mass attacks against PKI supporters in East, Central, and West Java. A U.S. military adviser just returned from Bandung reported that villagers were “clearing out PKI members and affiliates and turning them over to Army” for arrest or execution.57

The day before the 303 Committee approved the shipment of medicines to the army, the embassy cabled the State Department that RPKAD forces in Central Java under Edhie’s command were “providing Muslim youth with training and arms and ‘will keep them out in front’ against PKI.” While army leaders arrested higher-level PKI leaders for interrogation, “smaller fry” were “being systematically arrested and jailed or executed.”58 In North Sumatra and Aceh a few days later, “IP-KI [sic] Youth Organization [the Ikatan Pendukung Kemerdekaan Indonesia, or League of Upholders of Indonesian Independence, was an army-affiliated party], and other anti-Com elements” were engaged in a “systematic drive to destroy [the] PKI…with wholesale killings reported”; the “specific message” from the army “is that it is seeking to ‘finish off’ the PKI.”59 On November 13 police information chief Colonel Budi Juwono reported that “from 50–100 PKI members are being killed every night in east and central Java by civilian anti-Communist groups with blessing of [the] Army.” Three days later “bloodthirsty” Pemuda Pantjasila members informed the consulate in Medan that the organization “intends to kill every PKI member they can get their hands on.” Other sources told the consulate that “much indiscriminate killing is taking place.” Consular officials concluded that, even accounting for exaggerations, a “real reign of terror” was taking place.60 The CIA reported late in the month that former PKI members in Central Java were being “shot on sight by [the] Army.” Missionaries in East Java told the consulate in Surabaya that 15,000 Communists had reportedly been killed in the East Javanese city of Tulungagung alone. Again, even discounting for exaggerations, the consulate reported that a “widespread slaughter” was taking place.61 An Indonesian intelligence officer in East Java described several mass killings of PKI activists and supporters in Kediri (where 300 peasant farmers were killed, apparently by mistake), Wates (1,200 killed), and Ponggok (about 300 killed), with “many of those being killed…followers who do not know much.”62 It was still November.

The U.S. response to mass murder in Indonesia was enthusiastic—and instructive. Former U.S. officials such as CIA station chief Hugh Tovar (whose delight at the killings is exceeded only by the tendentiousness of his account of the U.S. role) and some historians have argued that Washington was either unaware of the killings when covert aid began or was “taken aback…by the violence of the purge.”63 Both claims are patently false. They ignore voluminous contemporary accounts of the slaughter that were reaching the U.S. and other embassies and the crucial fact that Washington continued its assistance long after it was clear that mass killings were taking place and in the expectation that U.S. aid would contribute to this end. Not a single U.S. official, however, ever expressed concern in public or private about the slaughter, although even cursory readers of the U.S. press understood what was happening.64 “Our policy was silence,” National Security Advisor Walt Rostow later wrote President Johnson, a good thing “in light of the wholesale killings that have accompanied the transition” from Sukarno to Suharto.65 In fact, Washington was so effusive in its support for Suharto and his allies that army officials told the embassy “to lay off praising it” for fear of tarnishing their nationalist credentials, a point British officials also made.66 The CIA argued that “we should avoid being too cynical about [the army’s] motives and its self-interest, or too hesitant about the propriety of extending…assistance provided we can do so covertly” and without being embarrassed. “No one cared,” recalled Howard Federspiel, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research staffer for Indonesia in 1965, “as long as they were Communists, that they were being butchered.”67

At the height of the massacres, the Johnson administration continued to extend covert assistance directly to the forces carrying out the killings, apparently including small arms delivered to the army through the CIA station in Bangkok.68 In early December the State Department also approved a covert payment of 50 million rupiah to finance the activities of KAP-Gestapu. Marshall Green noted approvingly that KAP-Gestapu’s activities “have been an important factor in the Army’s program,” especially in Central Java, where it was leading the attack on the PKI. The ambassador considered the risks of revelation in this case to be “as minimal as any black bag operation can be.”69 At about this time General Achmad, the newly appointed chief of KOTI’s economic staff, told military attaché Willis Ethel that he estimated that more than 100,000 people had been killed in North Sumatra and East and Central Java alone. If accurate, Ethel noted, this meant that “far more Communists have been killed in Indonesia over past two months than even in Vietnam.”70

The embassy also turned over lists identifying thousands of PKI leaders and cadres to Indonesian army intermediaries.71 For several years U.S. officials had considered the Indonesian army’s intelligence gathering on the PKI to be woefully inadequate, especially at the local level. Marshall Green cabled the State Department in 1966 that Indonesian authorities still “seem to lack even the simplest information on PKI leadership.”72 Political officer Robert Martens and CIA analysts in the embassy compiled the lists, using published sources, to create detailed profiles of the PKI and its affiliate organizations from the national leadership down to regional, provincial, and local cadres. Martens handed the lists to Tirta Kentjana Adhyatman, an aide to Adam Malik who in turn passed them on to Suharto, who used them to track down PKI members for arrest and execution.73 Embassy officials subsequently denied that they had drawn up assassination lists, as did the major media in numerous exculpatory articles.

The post-coup massacres in Indonesia varied widely according to regional circumstances, as numerous local studies have shown, although much research remains to be done.74 In East Java and North Sumatra, for example, fragmentary evidence suggests that local Muslim groups might have launched the first attacks against PKI supporters, encouraged and often assisted by local army units acting with relative caution until reinforcements arrived from Jakarta. In Central Java and Bali arriving RPKAD forces initiated the massacres when they arrived in early December, first hastily arming and training Muslim youth and other anti-Communist groups and then conducting village sweeps in which local PKI members were identified and either arrested or executed. This was close killing, often conducted with bamboo spears, machetes, or army-supplied weapons against one’s neighbors. In the village of Pasuruan in East Java, a British engineer named Ross Taylor who was working at the Gratit Cotton Spinning Factory described the massacres of workers at the nearby Nebritex textile factory. Using lists of known or suspected members of the PKI, the trade union SOBSI, or PKI-affiliated groups, the local army commander placed victims in one of five categories, killing those in the first three and arresting the rest. Taylor estimated that 2,000 people had been killed in the vicinity of the factory since late November, with army units working from the main roads and radiating outward.75

The most intense killings generally took place where the PKI and its affiliates were strongest and where PKI activities, particularly in the area of land reform and labor activism, posed the greatest threat to existing social relations. As one scholar of the post-coup massacres put it, “The PKI was attacked because it proposed a full-scale restructuring of Indonesian society and in doing so had already created its own victims amongst those it saw as the beneficiaries and upholders of the established social order.”76 The army’s opposition to the PKI was, the CIA noted, “far more complicated than simple anti-Communism.” This was a war of position—army leaders viewed their campaign to eliminate the PKI leadership and destroy its infrastructure in strategic terms, as “a power struggle, not an ideological struggle,” with a rival power center in Indonesia that posed the chief obstacle to their vision of military-led modernization. The British consul at Medan framed the army-PKI struggle in Sumatra over control of local ports and rubber and tin estates as one “for the commanding heights of the Indonesian economy” and for the foreign exchange reserves and access to resources that such control conveyed. Not surprisingly, the tin and rubber estates in Northern Sumatra were the scene of some of the bloodiest attacks against PKI supporters, with the army “arresting, converting or otherwise disposing of some 3,000 PKI members a week.”77 The army, however, had to balance its desire to eliminate the PKI as a political force with its eventual need to restore political stability. By mid-December army leaders were expressing concern that the indiscriminate nature of the slaughter might exacerbate the breakdown in state power and unleash “monster[s] largely of its own creation,” such as political Islam and the student movement that could emerge as rival power centers and complicate the consolidation of their rule.78 Unevenly, the army began taking steps to bring the killings more directly under their control, although the murder of PKI supporters and prisoners continued on a smaller scale well into 1966.

“The savagery and scale of the killings” in Indonesia, the Australian embassy observed in 1966, “is probably unique.”79 Estimates of the death toll from the massacres vary widely, ranging from the 78,000 cited by Sukarno in December 1965, well before the killings had ended, to 1 million, the conclusion of a survey conducted by “university graduates” at the behest of KOPKAMTIB in 1966. At least 1 million more were arrested, with many tens of thousands kept in prison well into the 1970s.80 U.S. and British officials were certainly aware by early 1966 that hundreds of thousands had been killed. In mid-January, armed forces liaison Colonel Stamboul told British military attaches attending a briefing at army headquarters that half a million people had been killed. Australian officials claimed to have an Indonesian police report putting the death toll “in Bali alone at 28,000.”81 Ambassador Gilchrist told Marshall Green a month later he thought the total toll was closer to 400,000, a figure that the Swedish ambassador found “quite incredible” and a serious underestimate based on his recent travels in the countryside.82 Walt Rostow cited even lower figures of 300,000 dead in briefings for President Johnson.83 Journalist Stanley Karnow, after a tour of Central and East Java and Bali, told political consul Edward Masters that press estimates based on Western diplomatic sources were “way too low” and that he thought 400,000 a minimum figure. Appropriately, Masters had just met with an assistant to Adam Malik—who also thought U.S.-cited figures of 300,000 were far too conservative—to discuss “the desirability of downplaying the extent of the carnage,” remarking that “we believe it wiser to err on the side of lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press.”84

General Suharto and the Indonesian army must bear primary responsibility for the slaughter following the September 30th Movement, in addition to the Islamist NU, PNI, and other civilian groups that made up the bulk of the civilian militias engaged in the killings. Although the roots of the massacres lay in long-standing local grievances against the PKI, as Harold Crouch and other scholars have concluded, “the huge scale of the massacre was possible only because of the encouragement given by the army.”85 The extermination of the PKI was a military campaign, planned and directed by the armed forces to clear away the chief barrier to its own ascension to power. The killings did not, as the U.S. embassy, Western journalists, and many Indonesia scholars argued, stem from “that strange Malay streak, that inner, frenzied blood-lust” rooted in pathologies of Indonesian culture that produced “a kind of mass running amok.”86

Perpetrators of mass violence in the twentieth century, however, usually have accomplices, and the passive or direct involvement of external powers. The killings in Indonesia were no different. Indonesia’s international supporters could have pressured it to limit the scope and scale of the violence had they considered it in their interests to do so. The United States, however, viewed the wholesale annihilation of the PKI and its civilian backers as an indispensable prerequisite to Indonesia’s reintegration into the regional political economy, the ascendance of a military modernizing regime, and the crippling or overthrow of Sukarno. Indeed, Washington did everything in its power to encourage and facilitate the army-led massacre of alleged PKI members, and U.S. officials worried only that the killing of the Party’s unarmed supporters might not go far enough, permitting Sukarno to return to power and frustrate the administration’s emerging plans for a post-Sukarno Indonesia.87 This was efficacious terror, an essential building block of the neoliberal policies that the West would attempt to impose on Indonesia after Sukarno’s ouster. U.S. officials have always denied that Washington offered meaningful covert assistance to the army as it carried out these killings and have ignored the question of covert operations before September 30 entirely.88 Many scholars of U.S.-Indonesian relations, lacking access to significant CIA materials, have largely accepted this interpretation.89 But declassification of just a fraction of the CIA’s records demonstrates that the agency’s covert operations in Indonesia were more widespread and insidious than previously acknowledged. These records also reveal that the Johnson administration was a direct and willing accomplice to one of the great bloodbaths of twentieth-century history. The major media did their part as well, crudely cheering the “boiling bloodbath” in Indonesia as “the West’s best news for years in Asia.” The last word might be left to C. L. Sulzberger of the New York Times, who observed approvingly with the crude yet unremarkable racism of the day that “the killing attained a volume impressive even in violent Asia, where life is cheap.”90


  1. Representative works include Coen Holtzappel, “The 30 September Movement: A Political Movement of the Armed Forces or an Intelligence Operation?” Journal of Contemporary Asia 9, no. 2 (1979): 216–40; Central Intelligence Agency, Indonesia—1965: The Coup That Backfired (Washington, DC: CIA, 1968); John Hughes, Indonesian Upheaval (New York: David McKay, 1967); Justus M. van der Kroef, “Interpretations of the 1965 Indonesian Coup: A Review of the Literature,” Pacific Affairs 43 (1970–1971): 557–77; Daniel S. Lev, “Indonesia 1965: The Year of the Coup,” Asian Survey 6 (1966): 103–11; Peter Dale Scott, “The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965–1967,” Pacific Affairs 58 (1985): 239–64; Brian May, Indonesian Tragedy (London: Graham Brash, 1978); R. E. Elson, Suharto: A Political Biography (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2001); and W. F. Wertheim, “Whose Plot? New Light on the 1965 Events,” Journal of Contemporary Asia 9, no. 2 (1979): 197–215.
  2. Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 185; Telegram 868 from Jakarta to State, October 5, 1965, Foreign Relations of the United States [FRUS], 1964–1968, v. 26 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2001), 307.
  3. “The Legacy of Violence in Indonesia,” special edition of Asian Survey 42 (July–August 2002).
  4. C. L. Sulzberger, “When a Nation Runs Amok,” New York Times, April 13, 1966; “Indonesia: Night of Terror, Dawn of Hope,” Reader’s Digest, October 1966.
  5. Saskia Wieringa, “Birth of the New Order State in Indonesia: Sexual Politics and Nationalism,” Journal of Women’s History 15, no. 1 (2003): 70–91. Accounts repeating the army’s propaganda claims include Arnold Brackman, Communist Collapse in Indonesia (New York: Norton, 1969), 79; Hughes, Indonesian Upheaval, 43–57; and Paul F. Gardner, Shared Hopes, Separate Fears: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam (Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1995), 221.
  6. Benedict Anderson, “How Did the Generals Die?” Indonesia 43 (1987): 109–34.
  7. Harold Crouch, The Army and Politics in Indonesia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978), 138–39.
  8. CIA Intel Memo OCI 2940/65, November 8, 1965, National Security Files [NSF], CO Files, Indonesia, Memos, v. 6, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library [LBJL].
  9. Telegram 2134 from Jakarta to Foreign Office, October 13, 1965, FO 371-180318, United Kingdom National Archives [UKNA].
  10. Frederick Bunnell, “American ‘Low-Posture’ Policy Toward Indonesia in the Months Leading Up to the 1965 ‘Coup,'” Indonesia 50 (1990): 59. Military attaché Willis Ethel and Deputy CIA Station Chief Joe Lazarsky met on a near-daily basis with aides of General Nasution and, apparently, Suharto as well.
  11. Telegram 812 from Jakarta to State, October 2, 1965; Telegram 858 from Jakarta to State, October 5, 1965; and CIA Intel Memo OCI 2330/65, “The Upheaval in Indonesia,” October 3, 1965, all in NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, Memos, October-November 1965, LBJL.
  12. Telephone conversation between Ball and James Reston, October 4, 1965, Ball Papers, Box 4, Indonesia, April 1964–November 1965, LBJL.
  13. Telegram 400 from State to Jakarta, October 6, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, National Archives and Records Administration [NA].
  14. Telegram 868 from Jakarta to State, October 5, 1965; and Telegram 851 from Jakarta to State, October 5, 1965, both in RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA; Ralph McGehee, “The CIA and the White Paper on El Salvador,” Nation, April 11, 1981.
  15. Top Secret Telegram from the Political Adviser to CinCFE Singapore, October 1, 1965, FO 1011-2, UKNA.
  16. Memo for the Minister for External Affairs, “The Indonesian Situation,” October 12, 1965, Series A1838/280, Item 3034/2/l/8/Pt. 2, Indonesia—Political—Coup d’État of October 1965, National Archives of Australia.
  17. Telegram 1835 from Foreign Office to POLAD Singapore, October 6, 1965, FO IOII-2, UKNA.
  18. David Easter, “British Intelligence and Propaganda During the Confrontation 1963–6,” Intelligence and National Security 16, no. 2 (2001): 90–99. Ian Stewart of the New York Times, writing from Singapore, cited “Western sources” who claimed that Sukarno “not only knew about the coup but was one of its prime movers” (Stewart, “Sukarno Seen Behind Coup,” New York Times, October 5, 1965). Seth King cited “informed sources in Bangkok,” speaking on “information reaching them through private channels” in Jakarta (King, “Indonesian Army Battles Rebels in Key Java City,” New York Times, October 7, 1965).
  19. Telegram 1835 from Foreign Office to PO LAD Singapore, October 6, 1965, FO 1011-2, UKNA; Telegram 400 from State to Jakarta, October 6, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; CIA Memo on Covert Assistance to Indonesian Armed Forces Leaders, November 9, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 361.
  20. Letter from British Embassy in Washington to Southeast Asia Department of the Foreign Office, October 5, 1965, Indonesia subseries of FO 371 (DH) 1015.163, UKNA; Action Telegram 405 from State to Jakarta, October 6, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1965–1966, POL 23-8, Indonesia, NA; Letter from British Embassy in Washington to Southeast Asia Department of the Foreign Office, October 5, 1965, DH 1015.163, UKNA.
  21. Memo, “Getting at Nasution,” December 24, 1965, FO 1011-8, UKNA.
  22. Ralph McGehee, “Indonesian Massacres and the CIA,” Covert Action 35 (1990): 58; Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), “Counterrevolutionary Documents Uncovered,” October 25, 1965, 12–13; Telegram 1086 from Jakarta to State, October 19, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; Telegram 740 from Hong Kong to State, October 27, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, XR POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA; Gardner, Shared Hopes, Separate Fears, 2l9.
  23. Telegram 903 from Jakarta to State, October 7, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, XR POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  24. Letter from British Embassy Jakarta to Foreign Office, November 25, 1965, FO 371-181323, UKNA; CIA, OCI 13185, October 8, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL.
  25. Telegram 910 from Jakarta to State, October 8, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  26. Michael van Langenberg, “Gestapu and State Power,” and Robert Cribb, “Introduction,” both in Robert Cribb, ed., Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966: Studies from Java and Bali (Victoria, Australia: Monash University Center of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990), 29, 35, 47–49.
  27. Telegram 1863 from Foreign Office to POLAD Singapore, October 9, 1965, FO 1011-2, UKNA.
  28. Airgram A-82 from Jakarta to State, August 17, 1966, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  29. Crouch, Army and Politics in Indonesia, 142–48.
  30. Telegram 452 from State to Jakarta, October 13, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL.
  31. Telegram 400 from State to Jakarta, October 6, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL.
  32. Telegram 971 from Jakarta to State, October 12, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  33. Telegram from Jakarta to State, October 14, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, DEF 21, Indonesia, NA; Memo from David Cuthell to William Bundy, November 3, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 348–51.
  34. Telegram 470 from State to Jakarta, October 14, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; Telegram 508 from State to Jakarta, October 22, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 330–31.
  35. CIA Information Cable, OCI 13114, October 17, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; Telegram 1047 from Jakarta to State, October 17, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  36. Telegram 1090 from Jakarta to State, October 20, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 12, Indonesia, NA.
  37. Telegram 1195 from Jakarta to State, October 25, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  38. Telegram 1171 from Jakarta to State, October 23, 1965; and Telegram 1166 from Jakarta to State, October 23, 1965, both in NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; Australian Embassy, Jakarta Memo of Conversation with Mr. J. S. Hadie, October 13, 1965, Series A1838/280, Item 3034/2/I/8/Pt. 2, Indonesia—Political—Coup d’État of October 1965, National Archives of Australia; Telegram 1182 from Jakarta to State, October 25, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  39. Telegram 1228 from Jakarta to State, October 28, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL.
  40. Telegram 545 from State to Jakarta, October 29, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 340–43.
  41. Telegram 545 from State to Jakarta, October 29, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 340–43.
  42. See Editorial Note, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 338–40.
  43. Telegram 1215 from Jakarta to State, October 26, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL.
  44. Telegram 1255 from Jakarta to State, October 28, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  45. Memo from Assistant for Indonesia to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for ISA, October 30, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 343–45; Telegram 1288 from Jakarta to State, November l, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  46. Telegram 1304 from Jakarta to State, November 2, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; Memo from Assistant for Indonesia to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for ISA, October 30, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 351–53.
  47. Telegram 1326 from Jakarta to State, November 4, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  48. Dean Rusk, for example, emphasized to Galbraith the need for a political channel with the army “as distinct from Indonesian Government”; Telegram 562 from State to Jakarta, November 1, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  49. Bunnell, “American ‘Low Posture’ Policy Toward Indonesia,” 59; Telegram 2536 from Jakarta to Foreign Office, November 14, 1965, FO 371-181519, UKNA.
  50. Telegram 920 from Jakarta to State, November 5, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; Memo for the 303 Committee, November 17, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 367–37I; Letter from M. H. Clapham to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, “Arms Given to KAMI,” June 24, 1966, Cablegram, Series AIS3Sh, Item 3034/2/I/8 Pt. 15, Indonesia–Political Coup 30-9-65 Folder, National Archives of Australia.
  51. Telegram 95I from Bangkok to State, November II, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  52. Telegram 1427 from Jakarta to State, November 12, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL, Indonesia-US, NA.
  53. Memo for the 303 Committee, November 17, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 367–71.
  54. Top Secret Memo from the British Embassy in Washington to the Foreign Office, January 4, 1966, FO 371-187583, UKNA; Telegram 2536 from Jakarta to Foreign Office, November 14, 1965, FO 371-181519, UKNA.
  55. Kathy Kadane, letter to Editor, New York Review of Books, April 10, 1997; “Ex-Agents Say CIA Compiled Death Lists for Indonesians,” States News Service, May 19, 1990. The scant CIA documents that have thus far been released are consistent with Kadane’s claims that the CIA set Indonesian army radio frequencies in advance for the purposes of gathering intelligence.
  56. CIA, OCI 12857, October 5, 1965; and Indonesian Working Group, Situation Report 10, October 6, 1965, both in NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL.
  57. Telegram 545 from State to Jakarta, October 29, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 340–43; Telegram 1255 from Jakarta to State, October 28, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  58. Telegram 1326 from Jakarta to State, November 4, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  59. Telegram 1374 from Jakarta to State, November S, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL; Telegram 1401 from Jakarta to State, November 10, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  60. Telegram 1438 from Jakarta to State, November 13, 1965; and Telegram 65 from Consulate in Medan to State, November 16, 1965, both in RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  61. CIA Intel Memo, OCI 2943/65, “Indonesian Army Attitudes Toward Communism,” November 22, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 6, LBJL; Telegram 41 from Surabaya to State, November 27, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-8, Indonesia, NA; Telegram 32 from Surabaya to State, November 14, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 5, LBJL.
  62. “Report from East Java,” Indonesia 41 (April 1966), 145–46; see also Hermanawan Sulistyo, “The Forgotten Years: The Missing History of Indonesia’s Mass Slaughter (Jombang-Kediri 1965–1966),” (PhD diss., Arizona State University, 1997), 188–214.
  63. Quoted in H. W. Brands, “The Limits of Manipulation: How the United States Didn’t Topple Sukarno,” Journal of American History 76 (1989): 803; see also B. Hugh Tovar and J. Foster Collins, “Sukarno’s Apologists Write Again,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 9 (1996): 355; Gardner, Shared Hopes, Separate Fears, 230–33.
  64. “Protest Awaited on Murder of Communists,” letter to Editor, New York Times, January 17, 1966; “Our ‘Anti-Communism,'” letter to Editor, New York Times, March 27, 1966; “Indonesia’s Purge,” letter to Editor, New York Times, May 22, 1966; “Indonesia’s Genocide,” letter to Editor, New York Times, June 19, 1966.
  65. Memo with attachment from Rostow to Johnson, June 8, 1966, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 7, May 1966–June 1967, LBJL.
  66. Telegram 1401 from Jakarta to State, November 10, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA; Confidential Memo from H. S. H. Stanley, October 13, 1965, FO 371-181455-1, UKNA.
  67. Memo prepared in the CIA, November 9, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 361–63; Federspiel, quoted in Kadane, “Ex-Agents Say CIA Compiled Death Lists for Indonesians,” States News Service, May 19, 1990. In a letter to biographer Kai Bird, William Bundy wrote, “I don’t suppose that certain people would forgive what we did, but I thought that it was eminently justified” (Kai Bird, Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy—Brothers in Arms [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998], 353).
  68. In interviews with Bunnell in 1981–1982, Sukendro confirmed that the CIA station in Bangkok did deliver the small arms; Bunnell, “American ‘Low Posture’ Policy Toward Indonesia,” 59.
  69. Telegram 1628 from Jakarta to State, December 2, 1965, FRUS, 1964–1968, v. 26, 379–80.
  70. Telegram 1651 from Jakarta to State, December 4, 1965, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA.
  71. CIA officials helped their Guatemalan intelligence counterparts compile similar lists (of more than 70,000 people), and for similar purposes, after the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of the Arbenz regime in 1954. See Stephen Streeter, Managing the Counterrevolution: The United States and Guatemala, 1954–1961 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2000), 38–41.
  72. Airgram A-74 from Jakarta to State, August 10, 1966, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 12, Indonesia, NA.
  73. Kadane, “Ex-Agents Say CIA Compiled Death Lists for Indonesians”; Michael Wines, “CIA Ties Asserted in Indonesia Purge,” New York Times, July 12, 1990; Stephen Rosenfeld, editorial, Washington Post, July 12, 1990; Robert Barnett note to Green, Green Papers, Box 15, HI; Robert Martens, unpublished manuscript, Green Papers, Box 15, HI.
  74. See Kenneth Young, “Local and National Influences in the Violence of 1965,” in Cribb, Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966, 63–101 and passim; on Bali see Geoffrey Robinson, The Dark Side of Paradise (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 273–304; Robert W. Hefner, Political Economy of Mountain Java (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Sudjatmiko, “The Destruction of the Indonesian Communist Party: A Comparative Analysis of East Java and Bali,” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1992); Sulistyo, “Forgotten Years.”
  75. Letter from British Embassy Jakarta to Foreign Office, December 16, 1965, FO 371-181323, UKNA.
  76. Cribb, Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966, 6; Cribb, “Unresolved Problems in the Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966,” Asian Survey 42 (2002): 550–64.
  77. See Airgram A-512 from Jakarta to State, February 11, 1966, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, DEF 6, Indonesia, NA; Dispatch from Medan to Foreign Office, January 3, 1966, FO 371-186027, UKNA; Letter from British Consulate Medan to Jakarta, January 3, 1966, FO 371-186026, UKNA.
  78. Letter from British Consulate Medan to Jakarta, December 14, 1965, FO 371-180333, UKNA; Guidance no. 26 from Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office to Certain Missions, January 18, 1966, FO 371-186027, UKNA.
  79. Draft, “Indonesia Internal Situation,” undated, Series A1838/2, Item 3034/2/I/8/Pt. 15, Indonesia—Political Coup 30-9-65 Folder, National Archives of Australia.
  80. See Cribb, Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966, 12 and 1–45, for a nuanced and detailed discussion of the historiography of the massacres.
  81. Memo from Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office to Certain Missions, January 18, 1966, DH 1015/280, FO 371-180024, UKNA; Letter from James Murray, Embassy Jakarta, to Foreign Office, January 13, 1966, FO 871180325, UKNA; Memo 1011/66 from James Murray to A. J. de la Mare, January 13, 1966, FO 371-186027, UKNA.
  82. Telegram 2347 from Jakarta to State, February 21, 1966, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 23-9, Indonesia, NA; Letter from British Embassy in Jakarta to Foreign Office, February 23, 1966, DH 1015/80, FO 371-186028, UKNA.
  83. Memo from Rostow to Johnson, June 8, 1966, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 7, May 1966–June 1967, LBJL.
  84. Airgram A-64I from Jakarta to State, April 15, 1966, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 2, Indonesia, NA.
  85. CIA Intel Memo, OCI 2943/65, “Indonesian Army Attitudes Toward Communism,” November 22, 1965, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, v. 6, LBJL; Crouch, Army and Politics in Indonesia, 151–55.
  86. Airgram A-263, December 24, 1966, NSF, CO Files, Indonesia, Box 248, Indonesia Cables, v. 6, November 1965–May 1966, LBJL; C. L. Sulzberger, “When a Nation Runs Amok,” New York Times, April 13, 1966, 40.
  87. Memo of Conversation, February 14, 1966, RG 59, Central Files, 1964–1966, POL 2, Indonesia, NA. Cribb (“Unresolved Problems in the Indonesian Killings”) argues that there is no evidence that Washington’s assistance led to greater levels of killing.
  88. Gardner, Shared Hopes, Separate Fears, 227; Marshall Green, Indonesia: Crisis and Transformation, 1965–1968 (Washington, DC: Compass, 1990), 69; Tovar and Collins, “Sukarno’s Apologists,” 356; Tovar, “Indonesian Crisis of 1965–1966: A Retrospective,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 7, no. 3 (1994).
  89. Robert J. McMahon, The Limits of Empire: The United States and Southeast Asia Since World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 113–24; H. W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 176; John Subritzky, Confronting Sukarno (New York: St. Martin’s, 2000), 176; exceptions include Bunnell, “American ‘Low Posture’ Policy Toward Indonesia,” 58–60; and Bird, Color of Truth, 352–54.
  90. “Vengeance with a Smile,” Time, July 15, 1966; C. L. Sulzberger, “When a Nation Runs Amok.”
2015, Volume 67, Number 7 (December)
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