International Relations Kushay's Matter Bank

[AK] Facts About Indonesia – 1965 Purge

This note will briefly discuss US’ involvement in the 1965 purge in Indonesia. Source:

The US National Security Archive has released a trove of documents from US embassy and CIA showing big American involvement during the 1965 communist purge in Indonesia, when millions of people who were accused of harboring leftist sympathies, even non-PKI members, were massacred. The documents show that not only the US were aware that most of the victims are innocent, but also offered help in things like suppressing media coverage, creating anti-communist propaganda videos, and others. During that time, the US framed itself as a bystander; it’s not true.

“It really was a big help to the army,” Robert J. Martens, a former member of the embassy’s political section, told The Washington Post in 1990. “They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad.”

US involvement in Indonesia goes back before 1965, they also backed up armed rebels against Sukarno at 1958, only to be stopped when a US pilot, Allen Pope, was captured during a bombing raid. They also produced a pornographic film starring someone with a Sukarno mask in order to delegitimize him.
The importance of bringing this to light is three-fold:

1. The 1965 Indonesian purge is relatively unknown in comparison to the Vietnam War and CIA Latin America coups, so discussion about it is little.

2. Suharto, who was the main actor behind the purge, was perceived to rise in power *coincidentally* with the purge; it’s not true. He rose to power *because* of the purge.

3. The Indonesian government actively suppresses investigation & discussion about the purge, because that would damage their legitimacy as a politically influential institution.

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