• 50 Years - A Million Thanks
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FOCUS ON: INDONESIA LIVING DANGEROUSLY THE NEW DEMOCRACY ABOUT THE FILM RESOURCES EDUCATION
Photo of Suharto
Photo pointing to map of Indonesia

The U.S. war against the spread of communism seemed to justify an ugly alliance with the dictatorial government of Indonesia.

" ... The chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be."
Photo of a military official Video Clip

Communist suspects are rounded up.

Photo of Ambassadors of Western nations

Ambassadors of Western nations courted Suharto, seeking influence with the man who would go on to kill millions of his own people.

Living Dangerously


November 8, 1965
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"The Army with the help of Youth Organizations and other anti-Communist elements has continued systematic drive to destroy PKI in northern Sumatra with wholesale killings reported."

Video Clip
Suharto

Suharto's systematic destruction of the Communist party.

November 13, 1965
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"From 50 to 100 PKI members were being killed every night in East and Central Java by civilian anti-Communist troops with the blessing of the Army."

December 1, 1965
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"This is to confirm my earlier concurrence that we provide ... fifty million rupiahs for the activities of the Kap-Gestaup movement. ... This army inspired but civilian staffed action group is still carrying the burden of current repressive efforts targeted against PKI, particularly in central Java. ... The chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be."

April 15, 1966
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"The problem is the impossibility of weighing the countervailing effects of exaggeration ... and the interests of people involved to cover up their crimes. The truth can never be known. Even the Indonesian government has only a vague idea of the truth. We frankly do not know whether the real figure is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000 but we believe it wiser to err on the side of the lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press."

August 10, 1966
Fm: U.S. Embassy, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"A sanitized version of these lists [of PKI leaders] ... has been made available to the Indonesian Government last December ... and is apparently being used by security authorities who seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership. Lists of other officials in the PKI affiliates ... were also provided to officials at their request."

These documents show that the U.S. State Department was aware of the scope of the killings, and they reveal in detail how the U.S. Ambassador encouraged and supported the destruction of the Indonesian Communist Party with both financial backing and intelligence.

No one knows how many people were ultimately killed. Estimates range from half a million to two or even three million. The truth may never be known.

Other results are more tangible. General Suharto completely destroyed the Communist Party in Indonesia and seized control of the Indonesian government. On March 27, 1968, he was officially elected President of Indonesia, a position he would maintain with an iron fist for the next 32 years. Under Suharto's authority, Indonesia quickly made peace with Malaysia and rejoined the United Nations. And General Suharto's government received generous military support and financial assistance from the United States for the next three decades.

Sources:

Interview with Walt Rostow by CNN. Transcript online at the Web site of the National Security Archives for The Cold War, Volume 9, "The Wall." http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/

The State Department documents relating to Indonesia published in FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1964-1968, Volume XXVI, can be seen online at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB52/


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