From: Carmel Budiardjo <email@example.com> 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 operations. 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 ourselves." 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= war 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= killings. 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 PS. From: Carmel Budiardjo <firstname.lastname@example.org> Newsgroups: reg.indonesia Subject: Re: Britain's role in 1965 revealed Date: Sun, 01 Dec 1996 14:37:24 +0000 X-Gateway: email@example.com Lines: 8 The source of this article is: The Ecologist, Vol 26, No 5, September-October 1996 Correction: Para before the heading, 'The Pursuit of National Interests', the word 'presents' in the first sentence should read 'prevents'.