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Indonesia 1965
A power move with far-reaching implications
By Clinton Fernandes

On September 1, 1965, the US State Department prepared a Special National Intelligence Estimate for Indonesia. Written by the Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organisations of the Departments of State and Defence and the National Security Agency, it assessed the prospects for, and strategic implications of, a communist takeover in Indonesia.

It assessed that the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was “by far the best organised and most dynamic entity in Indonesia”.1 Only a few months later, the PKI would cease to exist. Its destruction, according to former US ambassador Marshall Green, “was a momentous event in world affairs, and I don’t think that the press and the public has ever seen it that way”.2

This article will discuss aspects of that event.3

Indonesia after independence

Indonesian independence was proclaimed on August 17, 1945. There followed a four-year guerrilla war to defeat Dutch attempts to recolonise the territory. The Dutch conceded defeat in 1949, and Indonesia’s political independence was assured. The newly independent state assigned a high priority to the education of its population, establishing schools and literacy programs at a rapid rate. It was quite successful in its efforts: in 1950, basic literacy was estimated at about 10 per cent of the population and only 230 Indonesians had received tertiary education. Ten years later, almost every village had a school and basic literacy was nearly 80 per cent. Tertiary education had also shot up dramatically.

Formal schooling was only one aspect of the new, post-independence culture. The public began to participate in politics to a much greater extent. Centuries of colonisation had stifled popular involvement in the social, political and cultural spheres. Such involvement had grown fitfully in the final decades of the independence struggle, although colonial repression remained a significant constraining factor. With political independence, however, a more participatory culture took shape. The social and cultural spheres were occupied by numerous organisations such as credit unions, chess clubs, prayer groups, housewives’ associations, cultural groups, worker and peasant unions, youth groups and student bodies. These diverse organisations were associated with certain political parties. The combination of political party and associated organisations came to be known as cultural streams or aliran’. The years after independence brought the growth of several such aliran, which were an everyday affair ie more than simply a machine for generating votes in the lead-up to an election campaign. Many Indonesian citizens saw these aliran as constituting their primary identity. As a result, political life beame connected to the population’s social and cultural life.

Australian planners recognised that Indonesia had "a strong Communist Party with considerable prospects of increasing its popular appeal".4 The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) defended the interests of the poor and was rapidly increasing its support among landless peasants. The PKI was allied with the left wing of the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI). Under this allied leadership, an organised movement of workers and peasants campaigned for the redistribution of land in the countryside, the nationalisation of foreign companies and greater economic equality. It opposed the US war in Vietnam and supported national liberation movements around the world.

The PKI was no tool of China or the Soviet Union, however. According to a standard source on the subject, the PKI "had won widespread support not as a revolutionary party but as an organisation defending the interests of the poor within the existing system". As the US’s Special National Intelligence Estimate put it, should the PKI come to power, its "foreign policy decisions … would stress Indonesian national interests above those of Peking, Moscow, or international communism in general". It "would be sufficiently nationalistic to refuse to grant air or naval bases or missile sites to either Moscow or Peking".6

The Australian government viewed the PKI’s growing support with alarm. Australian strategic planners shared this concern, warning that a communist victory "would be a considerable blow to Western prestige in South East Asia and would assist in the growth of Communist and neutralist sentiment throughout the area".7 Subsequent analysis by US intelligence agreed, observing that in the longer term "Indonesia would provide a powerful example for the underdeveloped world and hence a credit to communism and a setback for Western prestige."8

The reference to "neutralist sentiment" is instructive. As a leading anti-colonialist advocate and founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Indonesia wielded great influence in the Third World. Australian planners feared that other countries would join it in pursuing similar goals and choose their own path of economic and social development. By the mid-1950s, Indonesia’s non-alignment, coupled with the growing popularity of the PKI, was a matter of serious concern to Western policymakers. US President Eisenhower wondered out loud, ‘Why the hell did we ever urge the Dutch to get out of Indonesia?’9 The US, with Australian participation, tried to break up Indonesia by encouraging an outer islands rebellion on Sumatra and Sulawesi. The Indonesian military demonstrated its strength by crushing this rebellion. The US therefore realised the importance of cultivating the military, and began providing it with limited military aid in order to sustain anti-communist elements in the officer corps.

Until 1957 the PKI had been excluded from government, but it benefited from the system of so-called Guided Democracy. This system was proposed by President Sukarno, who argued that the indigenous Indonesian way of deciding important questions was to have extensive deliberation (musyawarah) designed to achieve a consensus (mufakat). Since this "democracy with guidance" operated at the village level, he argued that it should be the model for the nation. Guided Democracy would consist of a government based on the four main political parties plus a national council representing the parties and "functional groups" workers, peasants, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, religious bodies, youth groups, women’s groups, and so on. Under presidential guidance, a national consensus could be formulated.

From 1957 onwards, Dutch-owned assets in Indonesia were occupied in a series of direct actions, and then nationalised as part of a campaign for the recovery of West Irian. The army took over the management of these plantations, mines and other estates. Military entrepreneurs began to play a strong role in the domestic economy. (In later years, it became customary to attribute the decline in the productivity of these assets to the influence of the PKI. In fact, however, they declined under military management.) The influence of the PKI continued to increase. Its members began to hold a range of bureaucratic and political posts. From 1957, several cities on Java had communist mayors and several provincial governors were close to the party. However, the PKI and the left wing of the PNI did not occupy any but the most symbolic positions in Cabinet. Control over the productive capacity of the economy rested in the hands of senior bureaucrats and military officers, who did not support Sukarno’s economic program. It was they — not Sukarno or the PKI — who implemented strategic economic decisions. As for Cabinet, it too disagreed with Sukarno in the economic sphere.

When John F. Kennedy became president of the United States, there was a tactical shift in US policy towards Indonesia. Kennedy and several of his key officials on the National Security Council believed that Eisenhower’s approach had been counter-productive, driving Indonesia even further away from US influence. They therefore used a more tolerant rhetoric toward the Non-Aligned Movement, and received Sukarno amiably in Washington in April 1961. The Dutch were persuaded to leave West Irian soon after.

Growth of the Indonesian Communist Party

Between 1960 and 1965, the PKI and its allied peasant organisations began to carry out a program of land seizures in order to make landlords comply with existing laws. These actions resulted in violent responses by landlords, and fights between security forces and peasants. Mass mobilisations began to increase very rapidly, with large protests in the main cities and a growing number of smaller protests in other towns and villages. The party also took up the cause of plantation and industrial workers in North Sumatra, and of Javanese migrants in North and South Sumatra. It supported Hindus against East Javanese orthodox Muslims who were members of the local elite, as well as opponents of Hindu priestly authority in Bali. All this grassroots activity contributed to a major increase in the membership of the PKI and the left wing of the PNI. By 1965, the PKI had three million members and was said to be the largest communist party in the world outside the Soviet Union and China. In addition to its vast membership, more than 15 million people had indirect connections to it through their membership of the peasant associations, labour unions and other affiliates.

The PKI was opposed by sections of the commercial and land-owning establishment, senior figures in the bureaucratic apparatus, and a number of right-wing intellectuals and students. This conservative alliance also had the support of a large number of smaller Islamic parties. Crucially, it was backed by the powerful – and increasingly apprehensive – Indonesian military. While there were important left-wing and populist forces within the army itself, the right wing was always stronger. Indeed the army had demonstrated its power and right-wing credentials in 1948 when it put down an uprising supported by the PKI in the Madiun region of Central Java. The divisions in Indonesian society were reflected in an increasingly tense situation inside the army as well. In subsequent years, particularly from 1962-65, there were sharp internal struggles between left-wing populists and right-wing forces within the army.

In late 1963, US policy became more aggressive. Lyndon Johnson had succeeded Kennedy as president, and his "personal antipathy toward Sukarno, along with several important bureaucratic changes … combined to introduce a far less forgiving stance toward Indonesian actions in the Far East Bureau of the State Department and on McGeorge Bundy's National Security Council (NSC) staff’".10 This policy shift coincided with regional friction as Indonesia challenged Britain's role in the creation of Malaysia. In March next year, after an American magazine called for the US to end all aid unless Indonesian attacks on Malaysia were halted, Sukarno said in a speech in Jakarta that he would tell any country that tried to attach strings to its foreign assistance, "You can go to hell with your aid." This remark (made in English) was widely reported in the US. All US aid came to an end, except for "military assistance" intended for the Indonesian army.

Western intelligence analysts turned their attention to Sukarno, describing him as an "intuitive politician" and a "mass leader of extraordinary skill". State Department analysts believed that Sukarno operated according to "opportunistic, play-it-by-ear policies rather than by a long-range fixed plan". The CIA concluded that his "Marxist inclination"’ were "largely emotionally based". It characterised his relationship with the Communists as one of "mutual exploitation". Sukarno needed the PKI because he lacked a mass political organisation of his own; the PKI needed Sukarno for protection against the army. As for the army, Sukarno used it to counterbalance the PKI, and the army saw Sukarno as the best person to hold the far-flung and diverse parts of Indonesia together.11

Strengthening the Indonesian military

It became clear to US policymakers that the Indonesian army’s hand would have to be strengthened. US ambassador to Malaysia James Bell, who had had considerable previous Indonesian experience, suggested reassuring the army that the West would not interfere if it moved against the PKI: "If we can give them this kind of shot in the arm they might have more inclination to act."12 McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor to President Johnson, sent Bell’s memo to Chester Cooper, his senior assistant on the Far East. He wrote, "Cooper: It makes sense to me. Can we do it? MG.B." US ambassador to Indonesia Howard Jones argued against Bell, warning that such an approach "would rebound as [an] unwarranted attempt [to] interfere internally". Cooper therefore wrote back to Bundy, attaching his note to the cables from Bell and Jones: "Mac You asked my views on the coming from Malaya (attached). I have brooded and have checked around and agree with Jones. Chet."13

Ambassador Jones approached a friendly Indonesian diplomat, asking what would happen if Sukarno were "suddenly removed from the scene". The diplomat predicted a polarisation of the country around Defence Minister Nasution and D.N. Aidit, the head of the PKI. He said that General Nasution was "the strongest man in the country" who had the loyalty of the officer corps. Jones visited Nasution three days later, asking him "whether some military leaders welcomed the disintegration of the economy on the theory that the PKI would make a bid for power and the military could then crack down on the PKI". Nasution "avoided like the plague any discussion of a possible military takeover, even though this hovered in the air throughout the talk, and at no time did he pick up obvious hints of US support in time of crisis". But Nasution had obviously talked it over with his fellow generals, for they met two weeks later. This time Nasution assured the ambassador that the military was "strongly pro-US and anti-PKI". He said the PKI was probably unprepared to make a bid for power, but if it did, "Madiun would be mild compared with an army crackdown today."14. The US kept encouraging the Indonesian military to increase the pressure on Sukarno. The 303 Committee of the National Security Council approved a CIA-State Department political action program aimed at portraying the PKI "as an increasingly ambitious, dangerous opponent of Sukarno and legitimate nationalism and instrument of Chinese neo-imperialism".15 Western policymakers knew that it would be folly to take on Sukarno directly because of his tremendous popularity.

In April 1965, President Johnson dispatched his special envoy Ellsworth Bunker to Indonesia. Bunker reported back that relations with Indonesia were unlikely to improve. He confirmed that Sukarno "is still the symbol for Indonesian unity and independence, believes in himself and his destiny, and is able and shrewd. There is little question of his continued hold on the loyalty of the Indonesian people, who in large measure look to him for leadership, trust his leadership, and are willing to follow him. No force in this country can attack him nor is there evidence that any significant group would want to do so."16 As for the PKI, Bunker argued that its strengths were "powerful organisation", "brilliant manipulation of other political forces", "dominance in the labour field", and "virtual control of the national press and radio". Its weaknesses were that: "The bulk of its strength is in Java, a handicap in a country where animosity against Javanese is strong in the outer islands; it has no paramilitary arm to challenge the army, although it is now making strong efforts to build one; and its freedom of action remains limited by the need to continue a subservient posture toward Sukarno."17

Indonesia’s poor economic performance under military management was compounded by the fact that sales of rubber, its major export earner, were shrinking as a result of competition from synthetic alternatives. Indonesia was therefore deprived of an important source of foreign currency. Despite the economic problems, Bunker noted the country’s "resilience to economic adversity" because "over half the population live outside the monetised sector of the economy as self-sufficient farmers".18 As for the Indonesian government, it "occupies a dominant position in basic industry, public utilities, internal transportation and communication". Bunker warned that should the drift towards PKI dominance continue: "It is probable that private ownership will disappear and may be succeeded by some form of production-profit-sharing contract arrangements to be applied to all foreign investment." In Bunker’s assessment: "The avowed Indonesian objective is 'to stand on their own feet' in developing their economy, free from foreign, especially Western, influence."19

Bunker advised that the US should reduce its visibility "so that those opposed to the communists and extremists may be free to handle a confrontation, which they believe will come, without the incubus of being attacked as defenders of the neo-colonialists and imperialists".20 He warned against any attempt to foment military rebellion along the lines of 1958 because "the ideal of national unity is an overriding obsession with practically all Indonesians, stronger by far than any real divisive regional feeling".21

Accordingly, the US adopted a "low silhouette" policy; its official presence "shrank from over 400 in April to only 35 in August. But the CIA station maintained its staff of 12, including its full complement of eight clandestine operatives responsible for intelligence collection and, on occasion, covert action. Similarly, the top personnel in the Embassy’s political section and the military attaches remained."22 Soon after, Marshall Green replaced Howard Jones as the new ambassador to Indonesia. He arrived in Jakarta on July 23, 1965.23 Green "had the complete trust of the State Department", which "never moved a muscle without his advice".24

The mutiny

Tensions within a now thoroughly polarised Indonesian society continued to build, until they exploded into open conflict on the evening of September 30, 1965, when a small number of middle-ranking, left-wing army officers staged a mutiny. The mutineers killed six generals (Yani, Suprapto, Parman, Sutojo, Harjono and Panjaitan) and a lieutenant (Tendean). The circumstances of this mutiny have never been fully explained, but there are good reasons to believe that it was designed to prevent a coup by a right-wing Council of Generals. However, the mutineers — led by Lieutenant Colonel Untung, a left-wing commander in the Presidential Guard — failed to arrest key generals, including Major General Suharto. Strong evidence suggests that Suharto had been tipped off beforehand about the mutiny.

The mutiny did not appear to have planned in much detail no serious measures were taken to seize choke points in the capital. The worker and peasant movements had been given no forewarning, and most of them were caught unawares. The PKI did not try to mobilise its massive party membership. According to a US clandestine source, the PKI central committee reacted only after hearing the mutineers’ radio broadcast. Sir Andrew Gilchrist, the British ambassador, also suspected that the PKI had not been kept in the loop, joining in only "because they feared that if the army crushed Untung it would crush them as well".25 The Australian Joint Intelligence Committee noted that while individual communist groups clearly participated in the mutiny, "evidence of actual PKI involvement that is, of prior planning by the Central Committee is largely circumstantial".26

The US appears to have been caught by surprise.27 One of its diplomats saw roadblocks and unusual military activity as he went to work on the morning of October 1, 1965. At first he assumed that Sukarno had died or become incapacitated. So did other US diplomats, who did not know much about Major-General Suharto. There was more than one Suharto in the senior ranks of the army, and at first they misidentified him. Similarly, the CIA’s research bureau knew little of Suharto or his politics; all it could say of him in the initial period was that he was "considered to be an anti-Communist"28 not very illuminating, considering his profession and rank. US analysts later realised that five of the six generals killed had been trained in the US. Suharto himself had not trained in the US but thirteen of his top aides had.29

The crackdown

The Indonesian military moved swiftly and decisively. It arrested PKI members and took control of the media, using Radio Indonesia and the Antara news agency to encourage anti-PKI action. A major theme in its propaganda campaign was the murder of the six Indonesian generals. The military claimed that the generals were tortured and their genitals cut off by members of the PKI-affiliated women’s organisation Gerwani. Major-General Suharto said that "it was obvious for those of us who saw [the bodies] with our own eyes what savage tortures had been inflicted by the barbarous adventurers calling themselves 'The September 30th Movement'".30 Autopsies ordered personally by Major-General Suharto revealed that these stories were false, but the propaganda continued. (According to the autopsies, none of the victims’ eyes had been gouged out, and all their penises were intact.31) Sukarno and his foreign minister Subandrio tried to inform the public that the post mortem certificates had not mentioned any abnormalities, but the army was firmly in command of the media and these messages did not get through32.

Through the Antara news agency, the Indonesian military claimed that the PKI had drawn up lists of hundreds of government officials marked for execution if the mutineers had succeeded.33 Other stories claimed that members of PKI youth organisation Pemuda Rakyat had kidnapped two youths in Sumatra and tortured them for five days, removing eyes and cutting off hands and testicles, before killing them. It was also claimed that other Pemuda Rakyat members had tortured and murdered Muslims praying on the bank of a river.34 Other, extremely successful, propaganda stories alleged that PKI leader Aidit had encouraged Gerwani and Pemuda Rakyat members to take part in "delirious sexual orgies" for six months before the mutiny.35

Full-scale massacres of PKI members across the Indonesian archipelago occurred when special forces or parachute troops went into the regions. These soldiers participated in the killings, but more frequently used local militias to liquidate suspected PKI sympathisers. Local military units made it clear that they wanted to annihilate the PKI. They provided weapons, equipment, training and encouragement to youth organisations, eg the Muslim Ansor in Central and East Java. These groups usually went from village to village, grabbing PKI members and taking them away to be murdered. In some cases, entire villages were obliterated, but more typically the killers used hit lists and local informants to identify their victims. Particular attention was given to teachers and other village intellectuals. According to declassified British reports, many of the victims were the "merest rank and file" of the PKI, who were "often no more than bewildered peasants who give the wrong answer on a dark night to bloodthirsty hooligans bent on violence".36 According to British historian Mark Curtis, an Australian diplomat learnt that: "Torture was the customary prelude to death and was in fact carried out in the army establishment next door to his own home. The nightly executions, carried out just outside Kupang, were open to the public provided those who attended took part in the executions. The Army was in complete control of these operations."37

Robert Cribb, a leading scholar on these events, writes that the killings were "largely done with knives or swords, but some victims were beaten to death and some were shot. In some cases the victims were forced to dig their own shallow, mass graves in secluded places, or the bodies were dumped in rivers, or concealed in caves … The regions most seriously affected were Central and East Java, Bali and North Sumatra, where the [PKI] had been most active, but there were massacres in every part of the archipelago where communists could be found. A scholarly consensus has settled on a figure of 400,000-500,000 deaths."38

Western support

Western policymakers and diplomats were keen to support the army, but there was a problem: Sukarno’s previous anti-imperialist rhetoric had resonated strongly with the Indonesian public. Any overt support would therefore serve only to expose the army as a tool of the West. Sukarno’s towering reputation presented a significant obstacle. A deft touch was required.

US ambassador Marshall Green understood that economic aid should not be offered because economic difficulties hurt the reputation of the civilian administration, not the army. His military contacts told him that there was an urgent need for food and clothing in Indonesia but it was more important to let Sukarno and Subandrio "stew in their own juice".39
The information campaign in support of the killings was informed by similar principles. The Indonesian army secretly urged that foreign broadcasts not give the army "too much credit" or criticise Sukarno; rather, they should emphasise PKI atrocities and the party’s role in the mutiny.40 While Sukarno could not be directly attacked, an Indonesian general offered to send background information on foreign minister Subandrio, who was regarded as more vulnerable. Australian ambassador Keith Shann was told that Radio Australia should never suggest that the army was pro-Western or right-wing. Instead, credit should be given to other organisations, such as Muslim and youth groups.41
Radio Australia had an important role to play because of its overwhelming popularity with Indonesian listeners. It was said to be more popular than Radio Indonesia because its listeners included both the elite and students, who liked it because it played rock music, which had been officially banned.42 Australia’s Department of External Affairs (as it was then known) was aware that its high signal strength and massive listening audience meant that its Indonesian broadcasts were "a particularly important instrumentality in the present situation". It was therefore told to "be on guard against giving information to the Indonesian people that would be withheld by the Army-controlled internal media". The Australian ambassador worked to ensure that it gave "prominent coverage" to "reports of PKI involvement and Communist Chinese complicity" while playing down or not broadcasting "reports of divisions within the army specifically and armed services more generally". Another senior official recommended that Radio Australia "not do anything which would be helpful to the PKI"; rather it "should highlight reports tending to discredit the PKI and show its involvement in the losing cause".43

The US, Britain and Australia co-operated closely in the propaganda effort. Marshall Green urged Washington to "Spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality", adding that this was "perhaps the most needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find [a] way to do it without identifying it as [a] sole or largely US effort".44 The British Foreign Office hoped to "encourage anti-Communist Indonesians to more vigorous action in the hope of crushing Communism in Indonesia altogether". Britain would emphasise "PKI brutality in murdering Generals and families, Chinese interference, particularly arms shipments, PKI subverting Indonesia as the agents of foreign Communists".45 British ambassador Sir Andrew Gilchrist wrote: "I have never concealed … my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change."46 Throughout this period, Western radio stations continued to recycle stories from Radio Jakarta or the army newspapers and broadcast them back to Indonesia. US Embassy officials established a back-channel link through the US army attache in Jakarta, who regularly met with an aide to General Nasution.

The US Embassy also compiled lists of PKI leaders and thousands of senior members and handed them over to the Indonesian military.47 While these kinds of lists were based entirely on previous reporting by the communist press, they proved invaluable to the military which seemed "to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership at the time".48
General Sukendro secretly approached the US Embassy, asking for assistance in the army’s operations against the PKI. Marshall Green advised the State Department that "we should do what we can as soon as we can, to meet request for medical supplies. Cost is not prohibitive and quantity is such that both finance and shipping could probably be handled covertly."49 As for the army’s requests for small arms, Green said that he "would be leery about telling army we are in position to provide same, although we should act, not close our minds to this possibility. There is a chance that situation in central Java might take such a turn for the worse that we would wish to move quickly with packages of certain types of arms. Meanwhile, we could explore availability of small arms stocks, preferable of non-US origin, which could, if necessary, provide covert assistance to army for purchase of weapons."50 Green also authorised the provision of 50 million rupiahs to the Kap-Gestapu movement, which was leading the crackdown. He advised the State Department that there was "no doubt whatsoever that Kap-Gestapu’s activity is fully consonant with and co-ordinated by the army. We have had substantial intelligence reporting to support this."51 Overall, the US provided the Indonesian army with money, medicines, communications equipment, weapons and intelligence. It was satisfied with the return it received on this investment. As Marshall Green put it, the Embassy and the US government are "generally sympathetic with and admiring of what army [is] doing".52 It would be necessary "to lay [the] foundation of understanding between us" in order to "make it easier for us to act effectively if at some future date army should want help from US". There were potential problems that needed sorting out. "One such problem was [the] position [of] American oil companies."53

On February 21, 1966, Sukarno tried to reshuffle his cabinet and sack General Nasution as Defence Minister. But with the public cowed in fear of the killings, his attempt to assert his authority failed. There were large demonstrations backed by the army, and on March 11, 1966, armed troops mounted a show of force outside the presidential palace. Sukarno capitulated and signed a letter of authority handing over executive power to General Suharto.

The aftermath

In the wake of the massacres, Indonesia’s pre-eminent cultural and intellectual organisations — the Peoples’ Cultural Institute, the National Cultural Institute, and the Indonesian Scholars’ Association — were shut down, and many of their members were arrested or imprisoned. More than one and a half million Indonesians passed through a system of prisons and prison camps. The PKI was physically annihilated, and popular organisations associated with it were suppressed. The whole of Indonesian society was forcibly depoliticised. In village after village, local bureaucrats backed by the army imposed a control matrix of permits, rules and regulations. Citizens were required to obtain a "letter of clean circumstances" certifying that they and their extended families had not been associated with the left before 1965. Indonesian society became devoted to the prevention of any challenge to elite interests.

Control of the universities, newspapers, and cultural institutions was handed to conservative writers and intellectuals, who collaborated with the New Order’s program and did not oppose the jailing of their left-wing cultural rivals. Along with the violence, certain cultural values were strongly promoted — discussion of personal, religious and consumerist issues was encouraged, while discussion of politics was considered to be in bad taste. The conservative establishment also monopolised Indonesia’s external cultural relations.

Suharto would rule for more than 30 years until a popular uprising and a crisis-ridden economy forced his resignation on May 21, 1998.

Dr Clinton Fernandes is a historian and author of Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia and the independence of East Timor (Scribe, 2004). He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. These are his views.


1 Foreign Relations of the United States 1964-1968, Volume XXVI (FRUS), pp289-292.
2 National Security Archive 15 January 1997, Interview with Marshall Green, Episode 15.
3 I have borrowed in part from Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia and the Independence of East Timor (Scribe, 2004).
4 Department of Defence 1958, Importance of Indonesia to Australia and Regional Defence.
5 H. Crouch 1978, The Army and Politics in Indonesia, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, p 351.
6 FRUS, p 292.
7 Department of Defence 1958, Importance of Indonesia to Australia and Regional Defence.
8 FRUS, p 292.
9 M. Jones 2002, US relations with Indonesia, the Kennedy-Johnson Transition, and the Vietnam Connection, 1963-1965, Diplomatic History Vol 26 No 2, p 253 n14.
10 M. Jones 2002, US relations with Indonesia, the Kennedy-Johnson Transition, and the Vietnam Connection, 1963-1965, Diplomatic History Vol 26 No 2.
11 H. Brands 1989, The Limits of Manipulation, Journal of American History, Vol 76, p 792.
12 F. Bunnell 1990, American ‘low posture’ policy toward Indonesia in the months leading to the 1965 coup, Indonesia No.50, p 35.
13 F. Bunnell, p 36.
14 H. Brands 1989, The Limits of Manipulation, Journal of American History, Vol 76, pp 793-4.
15 D. Easter 2005, ‘Keep the Indonesian Pot Boiling’: Western Covert Intervention in Indonesia, October 1965 – March 1965, Cold War History Vol 5, No 1, p 58.
16 FRUS, p 257.
17 F. Bunnell, p 43.
18 FRUS, p 257.
19 FRUS, p 257.
20 FRUS, p 256-7.
21 FRUS, p 258.
22 F. Bunnell, p 50.
23 F. Bunnell, p 49.
24 H. Brands, p 800.
25 D. Easter, p 59.
26 D. Easter, pp 59-60.
27 According to that day’s CIA Situation Report, ‘A power move which may have far-reaching implications is under way in Jakarta’. Source: FRUS, p 300.
28 H. Brands, p 801.
29 H. Brands, p 805.
30 B. Anderson 1987, How did the generals die?, Indonesia, p 110.
31 B. Anderson 1987, p 111.
32 D. Easter, p 62.
33 D. Easter, p 61.
34 D. Easter, p 61.
35 D. Easter, p 62.
36 M. Curtis 2003, Web of Deceit: Britain’s real role in the world, Vintage, p 392.
37 M. Curtis 2003, p 392.
38 R. Cribb 2001, Genocide in Indonesia, 1965-1966, Journal of Genocide Research, 3(2), 219-239.
39 H. Brands, p 803.
40 D. Easter, p 64.
41 D. Easter, p 64.
42 D. Easter, p 68.
43 K. Najjarine and D. Cottle 2003, The DEA, the ABC and Reporting of the Indonesian Crisis 1965-1969, Australian Journal of Politics and History vol 49 no 1, pp 48-60.
44 D. Easter, p 64.
45 D. Easter, p 64.
46 M. Curtis, p 389.
47 FRUS, p 386.
48 FRUS, p 387.
49 FRUS, p 346.
50 FRUS, p 346.
51 FRUS, pp 379-380.
52 FRUS, p 355.
53 FRUS, p 355.
Madiun. An uprising in eastern Java in September 1948 that was crushed by the military and resulted in the death of PKI leader Musso and the capture and execution of Trotskyist leader Tan Malaka. This led the US to change its view of the republicans, which it had previously viewed as communist.

Dr Clinton Fernandes is a historian and author of Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia and the Independence of East Timor (Scribe, 2004). He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. These are his views.
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