From: Carmel Budiardjo <>
Newsgroups: reg.indonesia
Subject: Britain's role in 1965 revealed
Lines: 263

From: Carmel Budiardjo <tapol>

/* Written 11:46 AM  Dec  1, 1996 by tapol in gn:act.indonesia */
/* ---------- "Britain's role in 1965 revealed" ---------- */
From: tapol (Tapol)

Democratic Genocide
By: Mark Curtis

If a democratic country is found to have aided the killing of hundreds of
thousands of people, how should its institutions respond? While Western
leaders and the media pronounce on the importance of tribunals for war
criminals in Rwanda and Bosnia, mere silence has greeted evidence from
recently declassified secret government files which shows that in 1965
Britain aided the slaughter of over half a million people in Indonesia.
The killings started when a group of left-wing army officers loyal to the
government of President Sukarno assassinated several Generals on 30
September 1965. They believed the Generals were about to stage a coup to
overthrow Sukarno. The instability, however, provided other anti-Sukarno
Generals, led by General Suharto, with an excuse for the army to move
against a powerful political faction, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
It did so swiftly: in a few months hundreds of thousands of PKI supporters
and ordinary people were killed and the PKI destroyed.
Suharto's rule was soon consolidated, and he remains in power today. His
regime is one of the world's most repressive, notably in East Timor, which
it invaded in 1975 and where over 200,000 people have died as a result.
Suharto is a key British ally and the recipient of increasing British aid
and major weapons such as Hawk aircraft. Military contacts between London
and Jakarta, which include training in the UK, are "reasonably extensive and
gradually increasing", noted then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in 1994.
Since then, huge arms sales have been in the offing. The evidence uncovered
in the declassified files suggests that the closeness of today's
relationship may owe something to the British role in 1965.

Wiping Out Opposition
The secret files reveal three crucial aspects of the British role. The first
is that Britain wanted the anti-Sukarno Generals to act against the PKI and
welcomed it. Both Britain and the US were keen to see the fall of the
Sukarno regime. It was a nonaligned, independent nationalist government
which by the early 1960s was, in a policy of military "confrontation",
claiming parts of Malaya, a British ally which had recently become
independent. British forces had been deployed in Borneo to prevent
Indonesian encroachments. The US and Britain saw great economic
opportunities in Indonesia, provided the right regime was in power.
According to a CIA memorandum of June 1962, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
and President John Kennedy "agreed to liquidate President Sukarno, depending
on the situation and the available opportunities". In the late 1950s,
Britain had aided covert US attempts to organise a guerilla army to
overthrow Sukarno.
The newly-released British government documents show British concerns in
1965. The British Ambassador in lakarta, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, informed the
Foreign Office on 5 October that year that "I have never concealed from you
my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential
preliminary to effective change". On 6 October, the Foreign Office in London
stated that "the crucial question still remains whether the Generals will
pluck up enough courage to take decisive action against the PKI". Gilchrist
noted that the army was "full of good anti-communist ideas", but lamented
the fact that, a week after the assassinations of 30 September, the Generals
were "reluctant to take, or incapable of taking, effective action in the
political field".
On 16 October, the Foreign Office noted that "we must surely prefer an Army
to a Communist regime" and declared:
"It seems pretty clear that the Generals are going to need all the help they
can get and accept without being tagged as hopelessly pro-Western, if they
are going to be able to gain ascendancy over the Communists. In the short
run, and while the present confusion continues, we can hardly go wrong by
tacitly backing the Generals."
The Indonesian army's actions soon involved carrying out and facilitating
mass killings. The Foreign Office stated on 19 October that "the Generals
are now trying to demolish the political organization of the PKI . . . and
to eliminate its political influence". The US embassy in Jakarta reported on
22 October that "the army has moved swiftly in the first half of October to
crack down on the PKI" and continued: "Now is the ideal time in some ways
for the army to be committed to a struggle to the death with the PKI".
A month later, a British official reported on 25 November that "PKI men and
women are being executed in very large numbers". Some victims "are given a
knife and invited to kill themselves. Most refuse and are told to turn round
and are shot in the back". One executioner considered it "his duty to
exterminate what he called 'less than animals"'. (Interestingly, the file
this statement is taken from housed at the Public Record Office is only
partly declassified. It states: "This is a copy: The original has been
closed under section 5 (1) of the Public Records Act 1958 until 2006 .'
In mid-December 1965, the British embassy noted that the "PKI and its
affiliates have now been dissolved" in one province and that the military
commander in another "said that the dissolution of the Party in his area
presents 'no basic problem' because the whole region has been purged
already". By this time, the US embassy estimated that over one hundred
thousand people had been killed. An official in the British embassy wrote to
the Ambassador on 16 December:
"You like me may have been somewhat surprised to see estimates by the
American embassy that well over a hundred thousand people have been killed
in the troubles since 1 October. I am, however, readier to accept such
figures after "receiving] some horrifying details of the purges that have
been taking place . . . The local army commander . . . has a list of PKI
members in five categories. He has been given orders to kill those in the
first three categories. So far, some 2,000 people have been killed in the
environs . . . A woman of 78 . . . was taken away one night by a village
execution squad . . . Half a dozen heads were neatly arranged on the parapet
of a small bridge."
It was not only PKI supporters who were the targets of this slaughter. As
the British files show, 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"
with the connivance of the army. The campaign was against all opposition; it
was aimed at wiping out all prospects of any form of political development
outside the control of the army. In the meantime, Indonesia's economic
riches continued to be eyed by both the leading Western powers.

Covert Operations
The second British role concerns support for the campaign through covert
operations. On 5 October 1965, the British political adviser to the
Commander-in-Chief in Singapore (the main British military and intelligence
base in the region) reported to the Foreign Office in London:
"We should not miss the present opportunity to use the situation to our
advantage . . . I recommend that we should have no hesitation in doing what
we can surreptitiously to blacken the PKI in the eyes of the army and the
people of Indonesia."
The Foreign Office replied:
"We certainly do not exclude any unattributable propaganda or psywar
[psychological warfare] activities which would contribute to weakening the
PKI permanently. We therefore agree with the [above] recommendation . . .
Suitable propaganda themes might be . . . Chinese interference in particular
arms shipments; PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign communists . .
. We want to act quickly while the Indonesians are still off balance but
treatment will need to be subtle . . . Please let us know of any suggestions
you may have on these lines where we could be helpful at this end."
On 9 October, the political adviser confirmed that "we have made
arrangements for distribution of certain unattributable material based on
the general guidance" in the Foreign Office memo, although the files do not
reveal what these were.
Other files allude to a plan, instigated by the US to which the British
pledged support, to propagandize the links between PKI leader, Aidit, and
China after Aidit's arrest had become public knowledge. The Foreign Office
wrote: "We are willing to cooperate with the Americans in using Aidit's
arrest when confirmed to further our policy of blackening the PKI and
emphasizing Chinese interference".
However, there is an even more sinister side to covert British support for
Suharto's Generals. Britain was engaged n "confrontation" with Indonesia
over Malaya. On 6 October, the Foreign Office stated that British policy
"did not want to distract the Indonesian army by getting them engaged in
fighting in Borneo and so discourage them from the attempts which they now
seem to be making to deal with the 'KI". The US was worried that Britain
might take advantage of the instability in Indonesia by launching a
"counter-offensive from Singapore to stab the good Generals in the back", as
Ambassador Gilchrist described the US fear.
The British political adviser in Singapore wrote to the Foreign Office:=20
"We have considered Gilchrist's suggestion . . . that we should get word to
the Generals that we shall not attack them whilst they are chasing the PKI.
The C-in-C [British military commander in Singapore] thinks that this has
some merit and might ensure that the army is not detracted [sic] from what
we consider to be a necessary task. I hope that you are urgently considering
whether something of the kind can be done. Clearly to be effective any
message should be delivered within the next day or two. Our views are that
the message should be oral (and therefore deniable)".
Gilchrist confirmed that he would "pass a carefully phrased oral message
about not biting the Generals in the rear for the present". A file of 20
October shows that the message went ahead, noting that "the secret
communication was made to the Generals, through the American contact."

US-British Connivance
The third British role concerns its relationship with the United States. It
is known from declassified US records that the US covertly provided arms to
the Generals to aid their campaign of slaughter. The US embassy in Jakarta
also gave the Indonesian army a hit list of thousands of PKI supporters, who
were subsequently hunted down and killed. The British files reveal extremely
close relations between the US and British embassies in Jakarta. "Everything
of significance from the American embassy . . . is being reported to their
embassy in London", one UK official noted. Also, US "sit-reps [situation
reports] of intelligence go back to" the Foreign Office in London.
Britain was initially reluctant to see US equipment go to the Generals lest
it be used in the "confrontation" against British forces in Borneo. Thus the
British files show that the US State Department has "undertaken to consult
with us before they do anything to support the Generals".
The first US supplies to the Indonesian army were radio equipment "to help
in internal security" and to help the Generals "in their task of overcoming
the Communists", noted Ambassador Gilchrist. Patrick Dean, the British
Ambassador in Washington, wrote that such supplies would be a "short-term
gesture of encouragement" from the US to the Generals. "I see no reason to
object or complain" to these supplies, Gilchrist commented. Later, he noted
that the equipment "had been very gratefully accepted".
The story goes further. The secret US files documented by historian Gabriel
Kolko show that, in early November 1965, the US received a request from the
Indonesian Generals for equipment "to arm Moslem and nationalist youths . .
. for use against the PKI". The US promised to supply such covert aid dubbed
"medicines". In the British files, the British Ambassador noted on 14
November: "Agreement has been reached on the supply in the near future of
medicines and communications equipment to the value of something under one
million dollars".
The British files do not reveal whether British officials knew that these
"medicines" were weapons. It is possible that the US reneged on its
undertaking to consult the British about arms transfers; however, in earlier
discussions about this possibility, a British official at the embassy in
Washington noted: "I do not think that this is very likely". Given their
close relations, it is likely that the US did inform the British of the true
nature of these supplies and that the British approved them. The approval of
radio sets to the army for "internal security" already showed British
willingness to aid the Generals' campaign, as did their other covert
No wonder close military, diplomatic and economic relations have developed
between London and Jakarta over the past 30 years; the bloody beginnings of
Suharto's rule owe at least something to British foreign policy. A memo
written by then (Labour) Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart to Prime Minister
Wilson during the killings is apt today:
"It is only the economic chaos of Indonesia which presents that country from
offering great potential opportunities to British exporters. If there is
going to be a deal with Indonesia, as I hope one day there may be, I think
we ought to take an active part and try to secure a slice of the cake

The Pursuit of "National Interests"
Britain has in fact played a significant supportive role in some of the
world's worst acts of mass killing. Together with the US, Britain helped to
legitimize the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s and early 1980s, following
their genocide of over one million people in Cambodia, by continuing to
recognize at the United Nations the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate government
of Cambodia. In the 1980s, the SAS also covertly trained guerillas allied to
the Khmer Rouge (and the Khmer Rouge directly, according to journalist John
Pilger) in the use of weapons and mine-laying techniques.
The worst recent example is Rwanda in 1994 where a million people were
killed in a planned strategy of mass murder. Britain was a key member of the
UN Security Council which reduced the UN's troop presence in Rwanda in April
1994, effectively sending a green light to the killers. As the killings
mounted, the government=97followed by the media carried on identifying the=
as "civil strife" when what was taking place was a planned strategy of mass
killing. Terming it "civil war" served to absolve external actors of
responsibility for helping to stop it, as in Bosnia. Britain also helped the
Security Council to reject describing the killings as "genocide"=97to have
done so would have compelled them, under the terms of the Geneva Convention,
to "prevent and punish" those responsible. Along with other states on the
Security Council, Britain also allowed the Rwandan government to retain its
seat on the Council during the massacres, even as its ambassador delivered a
speech blaming the victims (by then numbering around 200,000) for the=
What these events have in common is the usual pursuit of "national
interests" (that is, the interests of the ruling groups that control policy)
in the face of the grossest crimes. This is systematic and consistent rather
than evidence of occasional "double standards". This systematic British role
is rarely exposed. British academics rarely consult the declassified files,
many of which have simply been sitting in the Public Record Office for
years, apparently untouched; when researchers do look at them, the reality
of policy rarely emerges.
Neither does the conservative or liberal media betray much interest in
exposing the topical realities of British policies. There are few sources
for discovering the current role of the SAS in Colombia, for instance, or
the nature of the close relations between London and a Turkish government
engaged in gross abuses against Kurds, or the intelligence and military
relations with the Persian Gulf states.
The truth is that our so-called democratic governments have little concern
for protecting civilized values; neither do those other institutions=97media
and academia which are, in theory, in a position to counter, rather than
aid, official power.
Mark Curtis

Mark Curtis is the author of The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign
Policy since 1945, Zed Books, London, 1995 (see p.213 to order). For a
referenced version of this editorial, please send a stamped addressed
envelope to The Ecologist, Agriculture House, Bath Road, Sturminster Newton,
Dorset DT10 lDU, UK


From: Carmel Budiardjo <>
Newsgroups: reg.indonesia
Subject: Re: Britain's role in 1965 revealed
Date: Sun, 01 Dec 1996 14:37:24 +0000
Lines: 8

The source of this article is: The Ecologist,
Vol 26, No 5, September-October 1996

Para before the heading, 'The Pursuit of
National Interests', the word 'presents'
in the first sentence should read