Declassified files expose U.S. support for 1965 Indonesia slaughter
In this Oct. 30, 1965 file photo, members of the Youth Wing of the Communist Party of Indonesia are watched by soldiers as they await transfer to prison and likely execution in Jakarta. Declassified files have revealed new details of American government knowledge and support of an Indonesian army extermination campaign that killed up to 3 million civilians. | AP

Declassified files have exposed just how much the U.S. knew about and supported the massacre of millions of Indonesians in the 1965 anti-communist purges.

The non-governmental National Security Archive research group published 39 documents on Tuesday, out of thousands of pages of newly declassified files from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.

They cover the period from 1963-66, documenting official knowledge and approval of the army’s death-squad operations to wipe out the three million-strong Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and its supporters.

Up to three million people were rounded up across the country, executed, and dumped in mass graves.

The files show that the U.S. provided the Indonesian army with lists of senior communist party officials, equipment, and money during the massacres.

The purges led to the overthrow of communist-backed nationalist president Sukarno and the 31-year dictatorship of General Suharto that followed.

The documents show U.S. officials had credible evidence that contradicted the army’s claim that a supposed Sept. 30, 1965 coup attempt by junior officers was ordered by the PKI—a claim used by the army as justification for the massacres.

A Dec. 21, 1965 diplomatic cable from the embassy’s first secretary Mary Vance Trent to Washington noted the “fantastic switch which has occurred over 10 short weeks.” Trent estimated 100,000 had already been slaughtered by then.

A previously released April 1966 embassy cable said: “We frankly do not know whether the real figure is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000”—and even the Indonesian government had only a “vague idea.”

A report covering November 1965 by embassy political affairs officer Edward Masters addressed the “problem” of holding and feeding suspected PKI prisoners.

On Sept. 3, 2016, 80-year-old Muchran poses for a photo with the monument marking a mass grave where he believes his uncle, Sachroni, was buried with other victims of 1965-1966 anti communist massacre, in Plumbon village, Central Java, Indonesia. | Dita Alangkara / AP

“Many provinces appear to be successfully meeting this problem by executing their PKI prisoners, or killing them before they are captured, a task in which Moslem [sic] youth groups are providing assistance,” he wrote.

A month later, the U.S. consulate in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province in Indonesia, wrote that imams from the Muhammadiyah Muslim organization were preaching that all communists should be killed, calling them the “lowest order of infidel, the shedding of whose blood is comparable to killing chicken.”

Today, anti-communism appears to again be on the rise in Indonesia, with right-wingers trying to shut down a meeting focused on the massacres just last month.

This article originally appeared in Morning Star.


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The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.

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