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Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
1965 Indonesian Massacre:
What Britain and the US Knew but Never Revealed
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Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is embarking on a further mission to bolster the international "coalition against terrorism".
He is flying to the Polish capital Warsaw today for meetings with senior ministers, before going on to the Russian capital Moscow on Wednesday. There talks are scheduled with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, focusing on international terrorism.
The two-day visit, which follows a previous tour of the Middle East by the Foreign Secretary and another trip to Turkey, takes place as part of a week of concerted British diplomatic activity, which will see several senior ministers criss-crossing the globe.
Speaking of the military campaign in Afghanistan before leaving London for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg which took place yesterday, Jack Straw said: "It is going as well as could be expected." "We have, however, got to ask people to be patient here. We have never said it will be solved in a matter of days or weeks. It is going to take time," he said.
The talks in Luxembourg with EU ministers were said to have shored up support for the "coalition against terrorism", amid what news agencies were reporting as fears that the mounting death toll and the failure so far to find Osama bin Laden were undermining unity.
As he left Luxembourg, Jack Straw said: "There was no difficulty today. Everyone supports the coalition against terrorism." But he acknowledged that there was concern about civilian deaths - "which do sadly take place".
It is reported that EU foreign ministers focused their attention more on the crisis in the Middle East than on tackling the Taleban, and analysts drew attention to their position that stability in the Middle East is now a crucial factor in winning the "anti-terrorism war".
"We agreed that the European Union must work even more closely with the United States to secure a proper peaceful settlement in the Middle East," said the Foreign Secretary.
Clearly it is a difficult time for the leaders of the "coalition".
Following the October 1-5 UN General Assembly debate on measures to eliminate terrorism, a committee was assigned to oversee a working group negotiating the UN Convention on Terrorism so as to provide the General Assembly with a draft convention by November 15. However, on October 26, Jan Fischer, spokesman for UN General Assembly president Han Seung-soo of South Korea, said the working group negotiating the convention had ended its discussion with three issues unresolved.
There is disagreement "on whether to exempt military forces and national liberation movements from its provisions", "over the definition of terrorism" and concerning "the links between the proposed comprehensive convention and 12 existing international legal instruments for combating terrorism". News agencies quote diplomats saying that "the only real obstacle was the exemption clause". Negotiators still cannot agree whether language exempting "the activities of armed forces during an armed conflict" from any accusation of terrorism should be extended to include all national liberation movements, news agencies report. It is reported that countries which sign the eventual treaty would agree to make defined acts of terrorism a criminal offence. In other words, the overall aim of the Convention is to establish "an extradite or prosecute regime".
It is reported that at the time the September 11 attacks took place against the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the working group had already been discussing a draft convention proposed by India, for several months. Rohan Perera, the Sri Lankan diplomat who chaired the discussions of the working group, said that following the attacks the speed with which the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding that all countries co-operate to fight terrorism has "acted as a catalyst" on this group. He said, "Opinions converged after the adoption of the resolution on September 28 after barely 24 hours of discussion," and that up to last week, he was "cautiously optimistic" the working group would be able to send a final draft to the committee which had been asked to report to the UN General Assembly by November 15. He added, "Technically, by the end of this year you could have a convention."
It is reported that the exemption argument centred on the Middle East. Diplomats said that Arab negotiators are insisting that actions by Palestinians against Israeli forces not be classed as terrorism. Rohan Perera said that nonetheless, negotiators were close to agreement on a definition of terrorism that would outlaw attacks on innocent civilians. "Here that defence is taken away," he said. "If you harm innocent civilians by the use of indiscriminate violence, your motivation cannot excuse your crime," he said.
In the light of the impasse, Jan Fischer said that the committee overseeing the working group "may try to find compromise language" in the hope of bringing the draft to the General Assembly by November 15. Or it might ask the working group to resume negotiations early next year. "Although we were all hoping for a draft convention, we have to remember that the working group is dealing with some very difficult issues. A lot of progress was made," Fischer is quoted as saying.
According to news agencies, up to 10,000 armed Pakistanis set out on October 27 in a 100-truck convoy to cross the border into Afghanistan to join the war against the United States.
"Led by Soofi Mohammad, head of Tehreek Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammadi (movement for enforcement of Islamic Sharia law), the tribesmen are close to the Afghan border in Bajur tribal area," a Pakistani interior ministry official told media in Islamabad. Bajur is in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan.
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is to lead a delegation of businessmen on an official visit to Moscow from October 31 to November 2. Top-level talks focus on international terrorism, Middle East peace and trade and economic relations.
On November 1, a Russian-US group for the elimination of threats emanating from Afghanistan is to hold one of a regular series of meetings (the last one was on September 19) to discuss the fight against the alleged global terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan. The group was set up last year and is co-chaired by Russia's First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and US Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is paying an official visit to Russia from November 4-7 to hold talks with President Putin and top political and business leaders. Bilateral and international issues, including international terrorism, are on the talks' agenda. It is reported that bilateral economic agreements are to be signed.
The previous week, Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe was the scene of diplomatic activity as Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and his ministers hosted a back-to-back series of high-level delegations from other Central Asian states, Russia, Germany, Iran and Afghanistan.
On October 18, Rakhmonov and his minister of defence, Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, met with Russian army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin to discuss military and political developments in Afghanistan and ways to strengthen Tajikistan's border security. The talks were conducted behind closed doors. Upon his arrival in Dushanbe the previous day, Kvashnin had conferred with the military commander of the Afghan Northern Alliance, General Mohammad Fahimkhan, and with its foreign minister, Dr. Abdullah, about Russia's ongoing operation to provide weapons and other military assistance to the anti-Taleban opposition.
On October 19 in Dushanbe, Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu met with his counterparts from the five Central Asian nations to streamline long-term strategies for delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. On the eve of the meeting, Shoigu's deputy, Yurii Brazhnikov, told RIA-Novosti that its goal was to establish "a regional humanitarian coalition to enable the countries in questions to administer bilateral and multilateral humanitarian programmes".
Shoigu told journalists that Russia had already delivered about $4 million worth of food, winter clothes, and tents to northern Afghanistan, where an estimated 250,000 refugees have massed. But he warned that more aid was needed quickly to stem a stampede for the borders.
The largest-ever military exercise held by NATO in the South Caucasus as part of the Partnership for Peace programme takes place from November 1-20 in Azerbaijan, codenamed Co-operative Determination-2001.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited Islamabad for talks with General Pervez Musharraf on October 28.
On Saturday, Pakistan's president again emphasised his desire that the military campaign in Afghanistan should be brief. "I still maintain that it ought to be short because any prolonging of the operation is not in the interests of anybody, not even the United States," he said at a news conference. "One can only hope and wish that the military objectives are achieved, and it remains as short as possible."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in Islamabad en route to India, opposed any let up in the attacks until the Taleban are driven from power. The German leader said any government set up in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taleban would need UN protection. "For a certain continuing period this new government, whatever form it might take, will require the protection and will have to work under the umbrella of the United Nations," he said at a joint news conference.
Accompanied by his economics and home ministers, Gerhard Schroeder is visiting India from October 28-31 for talks with President K.R. Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. He then travels to Beijing and Shanghai for talks with President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji from October 31 to November 2.
WDIE is reproducing the observations of a Japanese doctor on the Taleban. The article was written by Mutsuko Murakami, and appeared on Asiaweek.com earlier this month.
Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura works with leprosy patients and refugees in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's a job that keeps him in touch with the raw reality of life in that troubled country. And he says that from what he has seen, the Taleban are being wrongly portrayed internationally. "There's something wrong with the media reports," he says. "This talk of the Taleban being vicious and disliked doesn't fit with reality." Nakamura says the fundamentalists have wide support from the population, particularly in rural areas. "Otherwise, how can they rule 95% of the country with only 15,000 soldiers?"
Villagers around Nakamura's Peshawar base hospital and 10 clinics in both north-western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan were pleased to see peace established under Taleban rule, he says. The Pushtun people, who make up two-thirds of the Afghan population, can accept strict Muslim codes because they have lived by them all their lives, he says. Women are not deprived of education or jobs, as far as he can see. In fact, half the local doctors at his clinics are women.
So why are the people of the capital, Kabul, reportedly hoping to see the Taleban overthrown? "The Taleban may act differently there," he told me when we met recently in Tokyo. "They're obliged to fix the corrupt urban life. The people most vocal in criticising the Taleban are upper-class Afghans who have been deprived of their privileges." Nakamura's words reminded me of news footage I have seen several times since the attacks on New York and Washington. Shot by French journalists in Afghanistan, it showed Afghan women speaking critically of the Taleban. Significantly, they are dressed in shiny silk-like costumes, with large rings on their fingers.
Nakamura, 55, says the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance are not the freedom fighters some journalists describe them as. Villagers are frightened of them because they are more violent and cruel than the Taleban, he says. They execute innocent people in horrific ways, though not in public as the Taleban do as a warning to others.
Nakamura works for Peshawar kai Medical Services, a Japanese aid agency based in Fukuoka City that has been operating in the Peshawar district for 17 years. He first visited the area as an alpinist when he was still a medical school student in Fukuoka. Shocked by the lack of medical care in the area, particularly for leprosy patients, he volunteered to work at a local hospital in l984. He says: "I spent most of my time not in straight medical work but in trying to understand my patients, their lifestyles and values what makes them weep or what matters most for them." "Luckily, I can eat anything and sleep anywhere," he grins.
Nakamura has seen foreigners visiting Afghanistan and returning home to criticise the Muslim culture from a Western perspective. These people may be "heroes or heroines in London or New York," he says, "but they contribute nothing to the welfare of Afghans." As for suggestions the Taleban have cut the country off from the world, Nakamura says the Afghans are perhaps better informed than the Japanese, as they listen daily to BBC radio in their own language.
The doctor's greatest concern is the fate of millions of starving refugees in and around Afghanistan. Over one million of them are suffering from hunger, he says, while up to 40% are bordering on starvation. He thinks 10% could die during the winter. Nakamura and his staff stopped focusing exclusively on leprosy in the l980s as they had so many refugees to deal with, many suffering from malaria, diarrhoea, infections and fever. Severe drought in recent years created hundreds of thousands of refugees. And now the American bombing and the fear of an invasion has brought more. His aid agency helps to dig wells not only to provide water but also for irrigation for farms, so that the refugees can return to their villages.
Back home in Japan temporarily and thinking of his base area in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Nakamura says: "It's all like a mirage far off in the desert." He fondly recalls the red-brown soil of Afghanistan fields, the villagers sharing their joy about water from newly dug wells, and the friendly faces of Taleban soldiers helping villagers. "I have one simple question," he says. "What are the big powers trying to defend by attacking this ailing, tiny country?" It's a good question.
1965 Indonesian Massacre:
Recently released telegrams between the US embassy in Jakarta and Washington in late 1965 have supplied more evidence exposing Washingtons backing for the Indonesian armys bloody repression of Indonesian communists when a million people were slaughtered. A book published in July shows also how the British embassy helped to spread disinformation about what was happening in Jakarta. These examples of the criminal modus operandi of Anglo-US imperialism are of particular interest when the same Anglo-US imperialism is today committing aggression against the Afghan people under the pretext of "evidence" against alleged terrorists and a terrorist network, for what many suspect are its own economic and strategic interests, and backing up this military campaign with moral justifications and its own disinformation offensive.
In its October online bulletin, Tapol, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign which campaigns to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh points out that both Washington and London were of the opinion years before these events that President Sukarno should be removed. The communist party was growing fast in a country of strategic and economic importance to both Britain and the US. Sukarno had gone too far in his advocacy of a policy of non-alignment and his friendly links with the Soviet Union and China.
After the CIAs disastrous involvement in the regional rebellions of the late 1950s, Washington changed tack and now saw that its interests lay in building close ties with the Indonesian armed forces under its commander, General A.H. Nasution. In mid 1960, Nasution proved his worth by using special martial law powers to ban the communist party in three provinces, South Sumatra, South Sulawesi and South Kalimantan.
While on a visit to Washington in September 1960 for talks with the State and Defence Departments, General Nasution was given an assurance of US support in the event of a showdown between him and Sukarno over the communist issue. Assistant Secretary of State Graham Parsons was given the authority to tell Nasution that "we are aware of and heartened by recent actions which the Army has taken to curb Communist power... If American help is wanted in the form of military and economic assistance, the United States in such circumstances does its best to be helpful and quickly...We would like General Nasution to feel that the United States would wish to be helpful to Indonesia too in such circumstances."(1) Five years later, the US had the chance to honour that pledge.
Britain was also in on the act. A CIA memorandum of June 1962 stated that President Kennedy and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had agreed at a meeting in April that year that it was desirable to "liquidate" Sukarno, "depending on the situation and available circumstances".(2) Britains hostility towards Sukarno went back many years and intensified after he launched his konfrontasi policy against the establishment of Malaysia in 1963. There were even British and Australian plans to spread the war being waged along the border between Indonesias Kalimantan and the northern territories of Borneo to other parts of Indonesia.(3) The animosity towards Sukarno continued after the Labour Party took over government from the Conservatives in 1964.
Supporting the massacre
The action taken by a group of army officers in Jakarta on October 1, 1965, when six generals were kidnapped and killed ostensibly in a move to pre-empt a coup against Sukarno, led within hours to a counter-attack and to a counter-coup by General Suharto. A massacre of unprecedented proportions against the PKI and its millions of supporters was soon underway and Suharto slowly but surely undermined and eventually ousted Sukarno, installing himself as president.
On October 5, 1965, in what was probably his first comment on the events of October 1, the British ambassador, Andrew Gilchrist, said in a letter to the Foreign Office: "I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change in Indonesia, but it makes me sad to think that they have begun with the wrong people."(4) Soon his hopes for "a littler shooting" against the "right" people were to be fulfilled, beyond his wildest dreams.
Within days of the murders on October 1, both the British and US ambassadors were directing their attention to spreading disinformation on the PKI and destroying the credibility of Sukarno. On October 6, without waiting for any evidence of the PKIs involvement in the murder of the generals, the British embassy in Jakarta advised British intelligence headquarters in Singapore about the line to be taken regarding events in Jakarta: "...we certainly do not exclude any unattributable propaganda or psywar activities which would contribute to weakening the PKI permanently. Suitable propaganda themes might be: PKI brutality in murdering Generals and Nasutions daughter... PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign Communists... But treatment will need to be subtle, e.g. (a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, (b) British participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed... (d) material should preferably appear to originate from Pakistan or Philippines."(5)
Although Britain and Indonesia were still in a state of war, it was in Britains interests to ensure that the Indonesian army should now concentrate its forces on destroying the PKI. A telegram from the Political Adviser (POLAD) to the Commander-in-Chief Far East in Singapore to the Foreign Office in London on October 8 referred to a suggestion of Ambassador Gilchrist in Jakarta "that we should get word to the generals that we will not attack them whilst they are chasing the PKI. The C-in-C thinks this has some merit and might ensure that the Army is not detracted from what we consider to be a necessary task."
On October 5, the US ambassador, Marshall Green, said in a cable to Washington that events in Jakarta "may embolden army at long last to act effectively against Communists". Weighing up what the US could do to "shape developments to our advantage", Green set out a number of guidelines, Point B of which was: "Covertly indicate clearly to key people in army such as Nasution and Suharto our desire to be of assistance where we can", while Point E was: "Spread the story of PKIs guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is perhaps the most needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find way to do it without identifying it solely or largely as US effort)."(6)
On October 20, 1965, Ambassador Green reported to Washington that "the (communist) party has received... blow to its image... and some damage to its organisational strength through arrest, harassment and, in some cases, execution of PKI cadres... Some thousands of PKI cadres have reportedly been arrested in Djakarta area alone and several hundred of them have been executed." While admitting that the PKI organisation may still be largely intact, Green concluded by saying: "Army has nevertheless been working hard at destroying PKI and I, for one, have increasing respect for its determination and organisation in carrying out this crucial assignment."(7)
A memorandum on the Indonesian army circulated within the State Department early in November said the armys relations with the Pentagon were based on associations developed during training in the US and were "founded on trust, respect and a network of deep personal friendships". Going on to consider how the US government might support the army, it said: "In the life and death struggle which has finally been joined with the PKI, the Army deserves our support."(8)
The bulletin goes on to point out that arrangements would take the form of the "Armys ostensible purchase of medicines and a review of the medical list by Sukendros doctor".(9) Sukendro was a senior intelligence officer.
Britains disinformation campaign
The points made in the British embassys note of October 6 led to the opening in Singapore two weeks later of an office of the Foreign Offices Information Research Department (IRD). It was headed by Norman Reddaway, one of the Foreign Offices most experienced propaganda specialists, and chosen by Gilchrist as the best man for the job.
Reddaways prime target was the BBCs Southeast Asia correspondent, Roland Challis, whose book, published earlier this year, exposes the methods used by Reddaway and Gilchrist to spread disinformation about what was happening in Indonesia.(10)
The brief of IRD (set up in 1948 and disbanded in 1977) was to "collect information about communist policy, tactics and propaganda and to promote anti-communist policy via missions and information services abroad". But IRD in Singapore had an extra brief, explained in a note from Reddaway to Challis: "...do anything you can think of to get rid of Sukarno". IRDs strategy was threefold, to target the PKI, to associate Sukarno with the communists and to provide documentary support for Suhartos interpretation of the events of October 1, 1965. Foreign journalists relied almost exclusively on information from this single source, since they were not able till mid 1966 to visit Indonesia though, as Challis writes, "MI6 agents came and went at will".
Reddaways main source of information was top secret telegrams, about four a week, by diplomat pouch from Gilchrist in Jakarta. Besides this, information was flowing into the IRD office from other sources, through intercepts, and from US and Australian intelligence sources all of whom knew exactly what was going on but, writes Challis, "control of information was rigorous. No word of the slaughter came my way." Other British media on the receiving end of the IRDs doctored reports were The Times, Daily Telegraph, Observer and the Daily Mail. A quick perusal of the distortions that appeared in the British press, "civil war", "armed communist gangs", and so on, as the massacres progressed show how successful this disinformation was.
When Reddaway was asked by Gilchrist many years later to summarise some of the stories re-cycled from the embassy through the IRD, his list included the following: "Various sitreps from yourself which were put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC. You may remember complaining that the versions put back were uncomfortably close to those put out by yourself."(11)
What the embassy really knew
Documents released by the Public Records Office in the mid-1990s, in accordance with the 30-year rule, include many telegrams from the embassy to the Foreign Office in London which show how closely British diplomats were following the slaughter. And they were liasing closely with the Americans and the Australians in a joint effort to "try to keep a score".
In a telegram dated January 13, 1966, James Murray, British Chargé dAffaires, wrote: "It is a matter for constant speculation here how many Indonesians have been killed ... since 30 September... The Americans, with their considerable intelligence resource, try to keep a score and I understood their latest estimate was about 150,000. A report that the Australians have from a police source puts the deaths in Bali alone at 28,000."
On February 23, 1966, Gilchrist wrote a three-page report containing the findings of the Swedish ambassador who had been able to make a tour of Central and East Java in the company of a Swedish engineer who was inspecting telephone exchanges installed by Ericsson. Travelling with his Indonesian wife, the ambassador was able to speak to lower-ranking officials out of earshot of government officials. Here are extracts from his letter:
"The Ambassador and I had discussed the killings before he left and he had found my suggested figure of 400,000 quite incredible. His enquiries have led him to consider it a very serious under-estimate."
"A bank manager in Surabaya with 20 employees said that four had been removed one night and (to his certain knowledge) beheaded. A British expert employed in setting up a spinning factory near Surabaya said that about a third of the factory technicians, being members of a Communist union, had been killed. ... The killings in Bali, according to what the Ambassador could pick up, had been particularly monstrous. In certain areas, it was felt that not enough people (emphasis in the original) had been killed."
The man who had spoken of the need for "a little shooting" four months earlier now appeared to be horrified himself at what was happening. Needless to say, none of this was allowed to leak out to the public.
It was clearly with Anglo-American connivance, to say the least, that the true horror of the killings unleashed as Suharto took control of Indonesia were kept secret. Even today, few commentators or journalists have the conception of Suharto being a genocidal killer and his name and those of his backers are rarely mentioned in calls for the worlds worst criminals against humanity to be called to account.
1. US National Archives, RG 59 Records of DOS, Decimal File 1960-63.The document was cited in Roland Challis, Shadow of a Revolution, 2001, Sutton Publishing Ltd, p 48.
2. James Oliver and Paul Lashmar, Britains Secret Propaganda War, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1998, p 4.
3. Ibid., p. 5.
4. Letter from Andrew Gilchrist to E.H. Peck, head of the Southeast Asia Division at the FO, 5 October 1965.
5. British embassy cable to POLAD (Political Adviser) Singapore, No 1835, 6 October 1965.
6. Cable No 868. Ref: Embtel 852, 5 October 1965.
7. Cable No 1090, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 12 INDON.
8. Memorandum from Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs to Assistant Secretary of State for Fear Eastern Affairs, 3 November.
9. RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL, 23-9 INDON, 5 November 1965.
10. Roland Challis, Shadow of a Revolution: Indonesia and the Generals, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2001.
11. Challis, p 102.
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