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Gestapu: The CIA's "Track Two" in Indonesia

The events of October 1, 1965, in Indonesia and their origin may truly be called "a riddle wrapped in an enigma."
There is no consensus among students of Indonesia about the "correct" explanation.
All existing theories have their articulate and plausible critics. Probably the majority of careful Indonesian scholars have abandoned the search for explanation.
GESTAPU is an enormously complicated puzzle in which the pieces never fit together, their shape constantly changes, and new pieces keep appearing.

GESTAPU worked. It is probably the most successful covert operation that the CIA has ever carried out.
The participation of the CIA in GESTAPU--its "fingerprints on the gun"--cannot be proven unless the Congress digs hard
to find the truth, as was done partly in the case of Chile. The CIA connection is hypothesized because it seems a logical outcome of U.S. policy toward Indonesia and because of the relative sophistication and complexity of the GESTAPU operation. Because of the close contact between the Indonesian Army and U.S. Defense Department advisers and
attache's it is probable that certain of these personnel were also involved.


Background to October 1st
Undoubtedly, elements of the Indonesian military (and other anti-Communist groups) were also considering what to do
about the drift of Indonesia toward Communist rule.
It was highly unlikely, however, that the U.S. could sit passively and expect that Indonesians on their own would do what
had to be done. American analysts seemed to have concluded that no Indonesian group on its own had the capability
and will to do what was necessary to prevent Communist takeover.
American initiative and cooperation were necessary.

The U.S. over the years had built up close relationships with many Indonesians, particularly in the Army.
In fact, this was the essence of U.S. policy toward Indonesia over the previous five or more years.

The coincidence of U.S. and anti-PKI Army interest would make natural, and simply a continuation of patterns already established, a collaboration and pooling of resources to carry out the best means available for stopping the PKI and "saving" Indonesia. The CIA provided a pool of expertise and technical capability for devising and implementing a relatively sophisticated and delicate maneuver.




The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965-1967

......the complex and ambiguous story of the Indonesian bloodbath is also in essence simpler and easier to believe than the public version inspired by President Suharto and U.S. government sources.

Gestapu, in other words, was only the first phase of a three-phase right-wing coup -- one which had been both publicly encouraged and secretly assisted by U.S. spokesmen and officials.3






Gestapu: The CIA's "Track Two" in Indonesia
By David Johnson, 1976

[October 1995 note from David Johnson: This is a paper I wrote in 1976. It is presented here in its original version. It was written to encourage Congressional investigation of the issue by the Church Committee at the time. This paper was circulated privately but never published. It may have some enduring merit. Comments and criticisms are welcome.


1958 -1965

As evidence that the subject matter is still relevant,
please note this recently declassified quotation:
Ambassador Howard Jones:

"From our viewpoint, of course,
an unsuccessful coup attempt by the PKI
might be the most effective development
to start a reversal of political trends in Indonesia."

Then US Ambassador to Indonesia Howard Jones



Quoted in Audrey R. Kahin and George McT. Kahin,

"Subversion as Foreign Policy:
The Secret Eisenhower and Dulles Debacle in Indonesia," 1995, p.225]

This startling new book reveals a covert intervention by the United States in Indonesia in the late 1950s involving, among other things, the supply of thousands of weapons, the creation and deployment of a secret CIA air force and logistical support from the Seventh Fleet. The intervention occurred on such a massive scale that it is difficult to believe it has been kept almost totally secret from the American public for nearly 40 years. And this CIA operation proved to be even more disastrous than the Bay of Pigs". -- San Francisco Chronicle


David T. Johnson
Center for Defense Information
1500 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington DC 20005

Before examining what took place on October 1st it is important to recognize that (if the thesis of this paper is correct) we are looking at a collection of actors and a sequence of events that were put together primarily to accomplish a very immediate and urgent task: the discrediting of the PKI
(and its allies) in as dramatic and quick a fashion as possible, and the immobilization of factors that might complicate the situation.

While some thought had obviously been given to cover, it is doubtful that extensive effort was put into constructing a cover story that would withstand close, dispassionate scrutiny.

The ability of the Cornell researchers, after only a few months of research using primarily written materials, to reveal the weaknesses of the immediate cover story is testimony to its inherent crudeness.

The CIA-Suharto group probably felt that, if they moved quickly and drastically enough, there was little likelihood that much foreign effort would be put into examining GESTAPU in detail.

Certainly no Indonesian would he disposed to raise doubts.


This paper presents the preliminary outline of a new interpretation of the events in Indonesia in 1965 that climaxed in the "coup" attempt of October 1st and the actions of the September 30th Movement (GESTAPU). It is argued that the September 30th Movement was not an action by "progressive" or dissatisfied middle-level military officers, nor a creature of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), nor was it stimulated by President Sukarno. GESTAPU was an instrument directly in the hands of General Suharto (and probably General Nasution) [1995 note from David Johnson: today I would delete the reference to Nasution] and most likely a creation of the Central Intelligence Agency for the purpose of "saving Indonesia from Communism" in a desperate situation. GESTAPU served the crucial function of providing a legitimate pretext for the drastic extermination of the PKI. It was calculated to put the reins of power quickly into the hands of Suharto and to place Sukarno in a restricted position.

GESTAPU worked. It is probably the most successful covert operation that the CIA has ever carried out. The participation of the CIA in GESTAPU--its "fingerprints on the gun"--cannot be proven unless the Congress digs hard to find the truth, as was done partly in the case of Chile. The CIA connection is hypothesized because it seems a logical outcome of U.S. policy toward Indonesia and because of the relative sophistication and complexity of the GESTAPU operation. Because of the close contact between the Indonesian Army and U.S. Defense Department advisers and attaches it is probable that certain of these personnel were also involved.

It is not maintained that the thesis of this paper is necessarily correct or proven. The author's hope is to demonstrate that it is sufficiently plausible that further research along these lines will be conducted by those more knowledgeable than he and that those in a position to do something about it will begin to look into the secret official record. The thesis is presented without a great deal of hedging but the author is aware that many of the facts he uses are open to a number of alternative explanations. Of course, many "facts" are in dispute. This first draft assumes some knowledge on the part of the reader of the basic events of the time and of the existing interpretive controversy. No special attempt is made here, however, to refute alternative theories. Only a portion of the supporting material is indicated.

The events of October 1, 1965, in Indonesia and their origin may truly be called "a riddle wrapped in an enigma.~
There is no consensus among students of Indonesia about the "correct" explanation. All existing theories have their articulate and plausible critics. Probably the majority of careful Indonesian scholars have abandoned the search for explanation. GESTAPU is an enormously complicated puzzle in which the pieces never fit together, their shape constantly changes, and new pieces keep appearing.

In an earlier age of innocence, the attributing to the CIA of a significant causal role in international affairs was a disreputable enterprise in which most professional analysts seldom engaged. With the revelations of recent years, however, the inhibitions on serious study of CIA activities have somewhat broken down. We also know far more than we did ten years ago about the extent of CIA operations and how the CIA works. In many cases, including Indonesia, we still know very little about what the CIA actually did over the years. But more than before we can feel on safe ground to think that the CIA was active. This is not CIA scapegoating, left-wing propaganda, conspiracy fascination, or a search for simple-minded solutions. It is a necessary and important research effort that must be undertaken before it can be seriously rejected. Of course, the great secrecy that envelops the subject places substantial restrictions on what normal academic research can accomplish.

This paper is based in the first instance on the author's reading of the recently released CIA Research Study "Indonesia-1965: The Coup That Backfired." The author has also read nearly everything available in English in the Library of Congress on the events of 1965. The major source material that has not been examined, except as described in secondary sources, is the large body of records of post-October 1 interrogations of prisoners held by the Indonesian Army and the records of the numerous trials that have been held. Undoubtedly new insights can be derived from these materials. The author's knowledge of Indonesia in general is relatively sparse, although he has visited the country and spent some time in previous years studying Indonesian political development. The present paper is the product of a month of very intensive research on the events of 1965 as well as some limited examination of studies on the CIA.
U.S. Assessment of Indonesia

At some point in 1964 or 1965 (probably late 1964) the deterioration of U.S. relations with Indonesia and the left-ward drift of Indonesia had gone so far that the U.S. faced the need to reassess its policy toward Indonesia with an eye toward adopting new policies. Howard Jones, the American ambassador at the time, has described the extremely pessimist official assessment of how bad things had gotten from the American point of view. Ewa Pauker and Guy Pauker at RAND have described the projection of near-term PKI takeover and the pessimism about the ability of the Indonesian Army to reverse
the apparently inevitable flow of events.

Jones indicates that a number of important meetings were held in which U.S. policy toward Indonesia was reassessed, beginning at the State Department in August 1964 after Sukarno's Independence Day speech, his most anti-American statement up to that time. The March 1965 annual meeting of U.S. mission chiefs held in the Philippines with Averell Harriman and William Bundy, was also important. Ellsworth Bunker, personal representative of President Johnson, spent
15 days in Indonesia in April 1965 evaluating the situation. There were undoubtedly other secret and perhaps more
important meetings in which U.S. policy was put together.

The U.S. seems to have faced essentially six options with regard to Indonesia:

1. A hands-off policy of continuing much the same as before, letting things drift.
(Of course, the U.S. had never been passive toward Indonesia and this can only be characterized as a hands-off policy in contrast to the other options.) The probable result would be that Indonesia would go Communist. There seems to have been near unanimous official agreement on the inevitability of Communist takeover in Indonesia if existing trends continued. The most important country in Southeast Asia would be lost. The U.S. effort to save Vietnam (bombing of North Vietnam began in February 1965) would probably be frustrated and all of Southeast Asia would be threatened. Clearly, this was an unacceptable option.

2. Try to get Sukarno to change his apparent policy of leading Indonesia toward Communist rule.
The Embassy under Ambassador Jones had been pursuing this course for years, with little success (in American eyes). Sukarno had made more than clear his determination to continue his left-ward drive, both domestically and in foreign policy. Most Washington officials had given up on Sukarno and many agreed that "Sukarno has to go." Some identified him as a "crypto- Communist." This option was simply unworkable.

3. Eliminate Sukarno.
Apparently this was considered, but rejected. The consequences would be too unpredictable.
he Communist Party and its affiliates were so large and so extensively embedded in Indonesian society and political life that even in the absence of Sukarno's protection they might be able to hang on and prosper. An effort to go after the PKI in such circumstances would probably result in a very unpredictable and dangerous civil war which the United States, preoccupied with Vietnam, was not in a position to handle. A danger of killing Sukarno was that those who might be identified with it would be discredited because of Sukarno's enormous popularity in Indonesia, which efforts to undermine over the years had been unable to shake. Blaming an assassination on the left would not be credible because of the close alliance between Sukarno and the Communists. The PKI would have no plausible motive for such an action. An arranged "natural" death for Sukarno would leave the PKI as a very important force in Indonesia, and perhaps as the logical successor.

4. Encourage the Indonesian Army to take over the government.
The Embassy had been pushing this option for years with some success but without achieving the final objective.
Disunity within the Army had prevented any such explicit step to date and there seemed to be other inhibitions on a
direct military takeover. The Army as a whole was still unwilling to move directly against Sukarno.
ukarno's determination to resist any further expansion of the Army's role was clear. In fact, he was doing much to try to "domesticate" and undermine the Army as an independent, anti-Communist force. Even in the event of an Army coup, without a solid pretext for quickly eliminating the PKI and a means of controlling Sukarno, the prospect of civil war would arise for the same reasons indicated in Option 3. While the U.S. could continue to cultivate military officials and try to
stiffen their "backbone," Army takeover via some sort of coup would not resolve the problem in Indonesia.

5. Try to undermine the PKI and get the Communists to take actions
that would discredit themselves and legitimize their elimination
(Option 6, the fabrication of such a discrediting, is a variant of this option.) Such a step would also necessitate moving against Sukarno as he probably would never permit the Army to act forcefully against the PKI no matter how objectionable the PKI might appear to be. A variety of covert efforts were mounted to try to damage the PKI's reputation and provoke it to misbehavior. These included linking the PKI with China, trying to show that the PKI did not really support "Sukarnoism"
(the BPS episode), and the fabrication of documents and the attributing of provocative statements to PKI spokesmen
(printed in non-Communist papers). But Sukarno helped to frustrate these efforts by banning almost all non-Communist political and press activity. The PKI was careful not to go too far and not to provide the excuse for its elimination.

As PKI Chairman Aidit said,
"We are prepared to tolerate insults and threats.
We will not be provoked. If the army spits in our faces we will wipe it off and smile.
We will not retaliate."
Option 5 was continually tried but it did not seem to be working.

6. If the PKI would not provide its own death warrant, the pretext for extermination had to be fabricated for it.
The optimum implementation of this option would serve to eliminate both the PKI and Sukarno as dominant forces in Indonesian political life.
This option appears to have been the one finally chosen, although the point at which commitment
to it was irrevocable is very uncertain. Parts of the other options, other "tracks" continued at the same time.

Background to October 1st
Undoubtedly, elements of the Indonesian military (and other anti-Communist groups) were also considering what to do
about the drift of Indonesia toward Communist rule.
It was highly unlikely, however, that the U.S. could sit passively and expect that Indonesians on their own would do what
had to be done. American analysts seemed to have concluded that no Indonesian group on its own had the capability
and will to do what was necessary to prevent Communist takeover. American initiative and cooperation were necessary.

The U.S. over the years had built up close relationships with many Indonesians, particularly in the Army.
In fact, this was the essence of U.S. policy toward Indonesia over the previous five or more years.
The coincidence of U.S. and anti-PKI Army interest would make natural, and simply a continuation of patterns already established, a collaboration and pooling of resources to carry out the best means available for stopping the PKI and "saving" Indonesia. The CIA provided a pool of expertise and technical capability for devising and implementing a relatively sophisticated and delicate maneuver.

The problem of lack of Army internal cohesion, as indicated in Option 4, remained a stumbling bloc.
Efforts were made to achieve unity in moving against the PKI (and necessarily Sukarno) but although most generals
agreed that the PKI had to go, some very important officers--notably the Army Chief of Staff General Yani-- were
apparently unwilling to take steps that would severely damage Sukarno.
After the failure of attempts to secure Army unity, the U.S. and the collaborating generals (principally Suharto and Nasution) [1995 note: again, I would today delete Nasution] decided that the urgency of the threat and the need for quick action required working with those who were willing. It was necessary to move in spite of the absence of Army unity.

Actions were undertaken to try to polarize Indonesian politics between the Communists and others, an effort that it was hoped might move the reluctant generals to the "right" side. The Gilchrist letter seems to have been part of a covert effort
to stimulate distrust and antagonism between Sukarno and General Yani.
It appears, however, that General Yani remained something of a Sukarno-loyalist. General Yani had become dispensable
and probably he stood in the way of what had to be done.

The "Generals' Council" rumor, frequently considered the product of PKI work, was probably an important element of the CIA-Suharto covert operation in preparing the ground for GESTAPU. The rumor served a number of useful purposes.
It helped to further the heightening of tension and uncertainty in Indonesian political life. It served to stimulate mistrust between Sukarno and certain generals that the CIA wanted to break with Sukarno. It alarmed the PKI and might even
make it take the provocatory step that was hoped for. It provided a focus for debate and rumor that distracted attention
from the real "conspiracy." It bore a resemblance to something that actually existed, General Yani's "braintrust," and thus provided a ready target group for the GESTAPU operation, plausible victims for the "PKI's" atrocities.

The rumor helped to create a climate in which people would find GESTAPU at least superficially plausible, especially immediately on October 1st. There would be widespread belief in the imminent threat of a Generals' Council coup and "unwitting" people (notably the soldiers used by GESTAPU on October 1st) would be willing to take actions that they
might otherwise question. The General's Council rumor helped to create something of a "controlled environment" in which certain planned stimuli would produce a relatively predictable response. Finally, the rumor was an important part of the
cover story for why the PKI might be believed to have taken the action to be attributed to it.

The exploitation of the Sukarno's health rumor mill was another important part of the cover for GESTAPU.
Unfortunately for the cover story, however, it turns out to have been one of the weak links.
The post-1965 explanation of why the PKI allegedly carried out GESTAPU attributes a major role to the presumed fear
on the part of the PKI that Sukarno was about to die. Chinese doctors are alleged to have convinced Aidit of this.
The problem is that Sukarno recovered rapidly from his illness in August 1965 and Aidit, who was in constant contact
with Sukarno, had more than sufficient time to find out about Sukarno's health for himself and to turn off any plans that
were based on Sukarno's imminent demise. (The implausibility of this story may in part account for the growth of theories that attribute the authorship of GESTAPU to Sukarno and place the PKI in a subordinate role.
Even the Suharto government seems to have adopted this "explanation.~) In 1965, however, the circulation of rumors by
the CIA-Suharto group served to create a climate that would make GESTAPU plausible as well as the PKI's complicity in it.

It does seem clear that the PKI Politburo held meetings in August 1965 at which the health of Sukarno was discussed, as well as the Generals' Council rumors, and probably the existence of "progressive" officers. What was actually said about these subjects, however, is far from clear. The official Army version, presented through "confessions," probably took real events, kernels of truth, and spun them into the required pattern.

A very interesting question is whether the Untung group made contact with the PKI, perhaps to get the PKI to directly implicate itself or at least to take actions that could later be interpreted as "participation in GESTAPU."
It seems likely that the GESTAPU conspirators would have considered it risky to acquaint anyone not "in the know" with what was going on. The danger would have been very great that the PKI would be suspicious and pass the information to Sukarno who would investigate. The PKI was constantly on the alert for "provocations." There is a possibility, however,
that some vague intimation of GESTAPU was passed to Aidit via a source that Aidit would have found credible.
If so, it appears that Aidit rejected PKI participation, despite later trial evidence.

An overlooked source of information on the relationship, if any, between the PKI and a "progressive" officers GESTAPU
group is an article by the leftist journalist Wilfred Burchett that was originally published in November 1965.
Burchett, relying on "an Indonesian whom I know as having close contact with the PKI leadership and who escaped the
army dragnet in Jakarta," states that the PKI received "documentary" evidence of the existence of a Generals' Council in August and informed Sukarno about it. Burchett continues:

"In late September, Colonel Untung, head of the presidential guard, learned of the planned coup from independent sources. He approached leaders of the PKI, among others, revealing what they had known for some time, and urged joint action. to thwart the coup. The PKI leaders reportedly refused on the ground that such an action would be "premature" and that as
long as Sukarno remained at the helm everything possible should be done to maintain unity, while all patriotic elements within the armed forces should remain vigilant to deal with any coup from above."
Of course, we have no way of knowing if this is what happened but it is possible.

The backgrounds of Lt. Col. Untung, the alleged leader of the September 30th Movement, and his colleagues have been examined by a number of independent scholars.
The picture that emerges is not that of a group of "progressive" or disgruntled officers, but rather of a group of successful
and professional military officers who had exhibited signs of anti-PKI views, had been given sensitive positions in which
their past and present political affiliations and views would have been subjected to careful examination, and some of whom--perhaps the most important ones--had recently been trained in the U.S. (General Supardjo and Col. Suherman)
and undoubtedly exhaustively "vetted" by the CIA and U.S. defense intelligence.

What seems to link most of the GESTAPU officers together is not their "progressiveness" but their association, both past and present, with General Suharto. Those participants, particularly in the Air Force, not overtly linked with Suharto may
be considered CIA-Suharto "assets" activated to play their role in the GESTAPU scenario.
The penetration of the Air Force and the Palace Guard by anti-PKI Army forces (and the CIA) is at least as plausible as
the degree of penetration attributed to the PKI. The vigilance of the anti-PKI generals in keeping PKI influence out of their officer corps is well known, as is the effort to keep track of and penetrate the more leftist branches of the military services.

Before examining what took place on October 1st it is important to recognize that (if the thesis of this paper is correct) we are looking at a collection of actors and a sequence of events that were put together primarily to accomplish a very immediate and urgent task: the discrediting of the PKI (and its allies) in as dramatic and quick a fashion as possible,
and the immobilization of factors that might complicate the situation.
While some thought had obviously been given to cover, it is doubtful that extensive effort was put into constructing a cover story that would withstand close, dispassionate scrutiny . The ability of the Cornell researchers, after only a few months
of research using primarily written materials, to reveal the weaknesses of the immediate cover story is testimony to its inherent crudeness.
The CIA-Suharto group probably felt that, if they moved quickly and drastically enough, there was little likelihood that much foreign effort would be put into examining GESTAPU in detail. Certainly no Indonesian would he disposed to raise doubts.

A certain refinement of cover and justification for actions that, for the most part, had already been taken (the murder of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians) was provided by the obviously spurious Aidit "confession" and the fabricated confession and show trial of Njono. Untung was also put on trial early in 1966. Even sympathetic foreign journalists have raised questions about these early trials (no foreign journalists were permitted to attend and only selected Indonesians). We do not know at what point the Indonesian authorities found out about the Cornell study and other evidence that apparently their story was not going over abroad as well as they had hoped. It seems probable that the trials of Dani and Subandrio were primarily milestones in the campaign to remove Sukarno and less parts of the GESTAPU cover story. It was the trial of Sudisman in 1967 and that of Sjam in 1968 that were explicitly calculated for their effect on the foreign skeptics. Of course, Suharto has had other reasons as well for continuing the show trials.
The Events of October 1st

The major military units involved on the side of the September 30th movement were officially under the command of General Suharto's KOSTRAD, the Army's Strategic Reserve. The semi-official Indonesian Army history of GESTAPU states: "Both the 454th and 530th Battalions together with the 328th Kudjong Battalion of the Siliwangi Division were under the operations command of the 3d Paratroop Brigade of the Army's Strategic Reserve." The Army book observes further that "KOSTRAD troops were scattered all over Indonesia, as [sic] that at the time of the coup General Soeharto had only the dc Kudjava and dc Parakomando battalion around Djakarta. Other KOSTRAD troops were at 'the other side.'"

The major mission of these KOSTRAD "coup" units was to take up positions around the crucial Merdeka Square, controlling Sukarno's Palace, the Indonesian Radio station, and the central telecommunications facilities.

One company of soldiers from the Palace Guard, the Tjakrabirawa, are said to have participated, together with KOSTRAD elements, in the kidnapping-murder of the six army generals. Lt. Col. Untung had been since May 1965 commander of one of the three Tjakrabirawa battalions. Considering Untung's position, this participation is quite possible, although it could have introduced a perhaps unnecessary complication into the proceedings. General Sabur, the commander of the Palace Guard, played a very unclear role in the GESTAPU and its aftermath. Although jailed for a period after 1965, he has been released and no charges have been brought against him. Whether Untung could have acted without Sabur's knowledge is uncertain. Only a few Tjakrabirawa troops were really necessary on October 1st, and they could have been KOSTRAD soldiers in Palace Guard uniforms. The extraordinary lack of professionalism in the execution of the "kidnappings" makes it unlikely that "unwitting" Tjakrabirawa troops played a significant role. Their role seems to have been that of making the first contact at each of the victim's home.

In the early morning hours of October 1st GESTAPU troops went to the homes of seven generals. Three of the generals, including Army head General Yani, were killed immediately and their bodies and three other generals were taken to a place called Lubang Buaja (Crocodile's Hole) on the outskirts of Halim Air Force Base. More than 100 troops surrounded the house of General Nasution but in a "near miraculous" escape, Nasution got away by climbing over a wall and hiding in the bushes. The fiction that one of his aides was captured and successfully impersonated one of the best known men in Indonesia for some hours afterwards (a crucial element in the CIA Research Study version of events), need not puzzle us. No such thing happened and General Nasution was meant to "escape," (The shooting of his daughter, apparently by accident through a door, seems too ghastly to have been part of the GESTAPU plan, although her death and funeral were very important in whipping up the subsequent fury against the PKI. Nasution's much commented upon "moodiness" after October 1st may in part be accounted for by his remorse about not taking better precautions to protect his family.)

General Nasution, the leading anti-Communist military figure in Indonesia, had to be on the list of victims of GESTAPU. His absence would have been incredible. He was not, however, a member of General Yani's "Generals' Council." The fact that it was General Suharto, rather than the more well known Nasution, who took the leadership of the counter-GESTAPU forces may have a complicated explanation. We do not know the subtleties of the Suharto-Nasution relationship. The most probable explanation is that the immediate appearance of Nasution as the head of the anti-PKI effort would have aroused suspicions. Some stories have Nasution being kept "protected" in a hidden place on October 1st from 6 AM until 7 PM when he finally appeared at KOSTRAD headquarters. Other reports have him at KOSTRAD headquarters on the morning of October 1st. Nasution is alleged to have broken his ankle in climbing over the wall, probably part of the cover story for why it had to be Suharto who took the lead.

Among the more incredible "mistakes" of the GESTAPU movement was the failure to try to kill or kidnap the two generals in Djakarta who had operational command of military forces in the area, General Suharto and General Umar.

Ruth McVey has commented on how extraordinary this omission was, in view of the fact that Col. Latief was one of the
major GESTAPU conspirators: "Col. A. Latief headed the mobile force of the Djaya (Djakarta) Division and had commanded
a series of interservice capital defense maneuvers; he must have known the basic provisions for an emergency in the capital." In fact, Col. Latief seems to have been one of Suharto's men. McVey states: "Latief, also a Diponegoro Division officer (Suharto's former division), had fought under Suharto during the revolution; at the time of the Irian campaign he was
at the Mandala Command headquarters in Ambone....He was assigned to KOSTRAD; his command at the time of the coup, Brigade I, was one of the KOSTRAD infantry brigades." Latief, according to Suharto himself, visited him on the night of September 30th at the hospital where Suharto was seeing his ill son. Another account has Col. Latief paying a visit to the military hospital on the morning of October 1st where Nasution's injured daughter had been brought. General Suharto and General Umar worked closely together almost immediately from the beginning on October 1st in "defeating" GESTAPU.

One general who was supposed to have originally been on the list of GESTAPU victims because of his position on General Yani's staff was General Sukendro. He was in Peking on October 1st. In fact, Sukendro was a close associate of Nasution and had the reputation of a man with intimate associations with the American military and the CIA.
Sukendro came back from Peking with the story that on October 1st Chinese officials had shown Indonesians a list of the murdered generals before it had been announced. (Intimations of Chinese involvement in GESTAPU were rampant in the early months after October 1st but faded to nothing after their purpose had been served.)

What exactly occurred at Lubang Buaja where the six murdered and captured generals were taken and eventually dumped into a well is uncertain. Why they were taken there seems clear. Lubang Buaja, despite stories that "secret" military training of PKI people was occurring there, was well known as a place where Air Force officers since July had been conducting training of volunteers for the Malaysian Confrontation. Those trained included youths from both PKI and other organizations. The quick murder of the generals and their alleged mutilation by Communists was the core of the GESTAPU scenario. Whether there were people from Communist organizations present at Lubang Buaja is uncertain. It is possible that unwitting volunteers had been brought there to lend their presence to the proceedings. This could have been complicating however. It was sufficient that the dastardly deed be done at a place that was known as a gathering spot for the training of PKI volunteers. "Confessions" could be produced later.

There are a few indications that if, in fact, there were "volunteers" present at Lubang Buaja on the morning of October 1st they were not necessarily from PKI organizations. The eye-witness account used in the CIA Research Study states that there were civilians crowding around the prisoners yelling "kill the unbelievers," rather extraordinary words for Communists to be uttering. Accounts seem . to agree that the generals were almost unidentifiable, bloodied and beaten up, wearing pajamas, and blindfolded. Mortimer states that, among other non-Communist youths, people from the Moslem Ansor youth organization were expected at Lubang Buaja for training on October 1st. We may speculate that the GESTAPU officers present may have told anti-PKI youths that they had captured the killers of the generals.

Whoever killed and "mutilated" the generals, their murder served several important purposes for GESTAPU. Most importantly, it could be blamed on the PKI. The murder of General Yani opened the way for Suharto to take over control of the Army and implement the wrap-up of GESTAPU. It was standing procedure for Suharto to become acting Army head whenever Yani was not available. Suharto's behavior on October 1st seems to be that of someone who is immediately aware that Yani is dead. We find no discussion in accounts of October 1st of efforts by Suharto to locate and rescue captured generals until late in the day. He acted very quickly to take charge. He exhibited none of the uncertainty and hesitancy that characterized nearly everyone else on October 1st.

The killing of the generals was also important in inhibiting Sukarno from declaring in favor of the September 30th Movement, a danger that could have upset the scenario but which had been taken into account. The fact that Lubang Buaja could also be associated with the Air Force (although, contrary to general impression, it was not in fact located on Halim Air Force Base) was also useful in assuring that General Dani and the Air Force would not be tempted to throw their military forces behind the September 30th Movement. Once it became known what an enormous crime had been committed by the "progressive" GESTAPU--political murder was very rare in Indonesia--no one was likely to jump on the band-wagon and complicate the planned failure of GESTAPU. Of course, the discrediting of the leftist Air Force and General Dani was part of the purpose of GESTAPU.

It is probable that the killing of the generals was communicated as rapidly as possible to Sukarno so that he would not think of backing GESTAPU. Accounts have a helicopter flying over Lubang Buaja, perhaps part of Sukarno's (or Suharto~s?) efforts to verify absolutely that it was true. Sukarno was also probably told how the PKI was linked to the murders. His early knowledge that Nasution had probably "escaped" also served to inhibit any impulse to support GESTAPU.

When the first message of the September 30th Movement was broadcast over Radio Indonesia around 7 AM it was announced that Sukarno was being protected and that certain prominent persons who were to be targets of the Generals' Council action had also been taken under "protection." This was actually part of a deliberate action to control the behavior of and information available to leading non-GESTAPU political figures whom, if at large, could interfere with the GESTAPU scenario. PKI Chairman Aidit was brought to Halim very early on October 1st. (His wife states that he was kidnapped from his home.) Dani was brought to Halim. (Accounts differ on this.) Sukarno was brought to Halim. Most of Sukarno's advisors, such as Subandrio, Njoto, and Ali Sastroamidjojo, were not in Djakarta. Reports have it at if they had been in Djakarta they were on the list of persons to be "protected." Although there was some contact between these individuals at Halim, much of the time they were kept separated from each other in different houses with GESTAPU messengers going back and forth. (The phones had been cut in Djakarta. Only the Army had an emergency communication system functioning.) Aidit in particular was kept "protected" from any contact with Sukarno.

From the CIA Research Study account we learn that "Aidit definitely was accompanied by two bodyguards, who stayed with him the whole day of the 1st while he was at Halim and who accompanied him on the plane on his flight from Halim to Jogjakarta on the morning of the 2nd." The actual function of these "bodyguards" seems obvious. (It is remarkable how little role, even in the official accounts, Aidit seems to have played at Halim in guiding the movement that he is alleged to have been responsible for.)

Back at Merdeka Square, the GESTAPU-KOSTRAD troops had occupied the radio station at about the same time that the generals were being kidnapped. The use of the radio to broadcast a carefully prepared series of messages was a crucial part of the GESTAPU operation. The fact that Suharto, located just across the square in KOSTRAD headquarters, took no action until the evening to put the radio off the air--although he says that he very quickly decided that something was wrong--was suspicious and "explained" in the official version in terms of Suharto's desire to avoid violence. (His tolerance toward troops who had apparently killed or abducted six leading Army generals is remarkable.) In fact, Suharto deliberately waited to "retake" the radio station until the planned messages were completed. This he accomplished without firing a shot. (In the whole GESTAPU affair, including outside of Djakarta, only a handful of people were killed other than the generals.)

The most important characteristic of the first 7 AM GESTAPU radio broadcast in which the existence of the September 30th Movement was announced was that it was unclear whether GESTAPU was pro- or anti-Sukarno. The deliberate creation of uncertainty was necessary in part so as to prevent anyone "unexpected" from involving themselves. The fact that the name of Sukarno was not invoked in support of GESTAPU, which any genuine leftist coup attempt would probably have faked if necessary in order to increase the chances for success, probably made GESTAPU seem somewhat anti-Sukarno. The emphasis on its being "inside the military" was calculated to prevent anyone, especially the PKI, from taking to the streets and getting in the way. Basically, the impact of the 7 AM message was to confuse people and keep them sitting still waiting for the next message. In any event, given the climate of rumor in Djakarta, GESTAPU was not an implausible event, although who was behind it and what it was to accomplish was uncertain.

Another apparently calculated aspect of the first radio broadcast was the statement that a Revolutionary Council was going to be set up, with the implication--later made very clear--that it would be the new government. It was not until the afternoon that the "rather peculiar assortment of names" on the Revolutionary Council was announced. The indication of the abolition of the existing cabinet, however, was apparently partially intended to provide a rationale and gloss of legality for General Suharto to take quick command of the Army without consultation with Sukarno. In justifying his behavior afterwards, Suharto has cited the fact that GESTAPU had overthrown the existing government and therefore he was free to act on his own. (One of the contradictions in the post-1965 explanation of GESTAPU is that if the Untung group was primarily concerned to execute a limited operation to purge the Army of leading anti-PKI generals, why was it necessary to set aside the existing government, giving the operation the clear flavor of a political coup?)

Even the term "Revolutionary Council" may have been devised as another bit of dust thrown in the eyes of the confused public. Apparently the last time that "Revolutionary Councils" had been established in Indonesia was in 1956 and 1957 when some of the dissident anti-PKI regional military commanders had done so.

Although the radio announcement of the membership of the new Revolutionary Council, "the source of all authority in the Republic of Indonesia," was not broadcast until about 2 PM, we will discuss it here. It seems possible to discern several functions for this message. The rather heterogeneous and lack-luster membership seems calculated to discourage anyone from rallying to support. (Clearly, few, if any, of the non-military members of the Council had been informed before hand. A better selection could have been faked if assuring the success of the "coup" had really been important.) The unknown middle-ranking officers took the top positions for themselves. The heads of the non-Army military services were prominently displayed as members of the Council, perhaps part of the overall plan to prevent uncontrolled military forces from involving themselves in the GESTAPU events. Linking the heads of the Air Force, Navy, and Police with GESTAPU would make it possible to label any unwanted military action by these forces as part of the GESTAPU revolt.

It is uncertain how much additional calculation was put into the membership list. A handful of PKI officials from affiliated organizations were included, but none of the top PKI leaders. This again would discourage unplanned PKI involvement Later analyses of the membership indicate the possibility that the CIA's "experts" on communism may have devised the list according to their calculation of a plausible "stage" which the "revolution" in Indonesia had reached. In October 1965 The Washington Post published a story by Chalmers Roberts, apparently based on CIA briefings, that said U.S. officials reported to have evidence that Sukarno, through a coup, had "intended to turn his country into an Indonesian version of a Communist 'People's Democracy.'" We may guess that as part of the devising of a cover story for GESTAPU the CIA experts tried to simulate the kind of government that the PKI and Sukarno (apparently little distinction was made) might plausibly have been expected to set up if a pro-Communist coup occurred in Indonesia in the fall of 1965.

The 1968 CIA Research Study states that "the Revolutionary Council was the perfect Communist front organization." Justus van der Kroef has provided the most extensive exposition of the "People's Democracy" thesis, along the lines of Eastern European experience. Actually, judging by a more careful study of Soviet and Chinese examples, the PKI membership on the Revolutionary Council was too limited and the composition of the Council was far from being a "perfect" simulation. (The eight year old CIA Research Study contains several rather amateurish efforts to show the traces of Chinese Communist ideology or practice in the GESTAPU events, reflective of the spirit of the times.)

The behavior of Sukarno on October 1st, the subject of much speculation later on, seems to be that of someone who is unsure of what is going on, but wary and trying desperately to get a handle on the situation. The GESTAPU officers did not actually keep him prisoner at Halim Air Force Base--General Supardjo's role seems to have been that of a rather skilled handler of Sukarno, keeping up the GESTAPU pretence--and permitted him to send and receive messages and selected visitors. To the extent possible, however, information and advice available to Sukarno was controlled. (Sukarno's later emphasis on his being at Halim of his own free will was in the context of the rising anti-PKI hysteria. Sukarno struggled to keep it under control and did not want people to think that the "PKI-GESTAPU" had kidnapped him.)

We must assume that the CIA had prepared a psychological assessment of Sukarno which was an ingredient in planning the GESTAPU operation. How accurate and insightful the CIA's profile may have been we do not know. Considering the obsession of Westerners with Sukarno's sex life and the image of irresponsibility and irrationality that had been built up about him, we may suspect that the assessment was not highly useful. Some Americans seem to have considered Sukarno a coward and Howard Jones cites a Washington view, circa 1958, that Sukarno "did not have the intestinal fortitude to order the Indonesian military into action since it would split the country. Sukarno had worked all his life to unite his country; he was the last man to take an action that would result in a division that might be irrevocable." The view of Sukarno as unwilling to take decisive and divisive military action against other Indonesians could have been a factor in the planning of GESTAPU. Sukarno's lack of ruthlessness would be exploited.

One of the clearer indications of the absence of collusion between Sukarno and the GESTAPU officers, and of their willingness to ignore him when necessary, is the fact that (according to the CIA Research Study) at about noon on October 1st Sukarno told General Supardjo to stop the September 30th Movement. However, some important radio broadcasts had yet to be made, and the rationale for the apparently fabricated incriminating October 2 Harian Rakjat editorial would have been destroyed if General Supardjo had immediately stopped GESTAPU. The GESTAPU actions continued in Djakarta until the evening.

At about 1 PM an announcement, over General Sabur's name, was broadcast that "President Sukarno is safe and well and continues to execute the leadership of the State." This seems to have been a genuine statement from Sukarno, and implied his rejection of the September 30th Movement. Sukarno did not leave Halim until about 8:30 PM when he went to Bogor, having failed to prevent Suharto from taking over the Army.

In addition to the GESTAPU radio broadcasts containing the details of the Revolutionary Council, the other important afternoon message was a statement attributed to General Dani, the leftist Air Force Chief of Staff, expressing support for the September 30th Movement. This was broadcast at 3:30 PM. The means by which this "Order of the Day" was elicited from Dani, or whether it was fabricated, is uncertain. The statement carried a dating of 9:30 AM, before Sukarno's radio message, although it was not actually broadcast until six hours later.

The CIA Research Study comments on this "incredibly poorly timed" message of General Dani: "Two hours after Sukarno had studiously avoided committing himself over the radio the Air Force Chief Dani had pledged support of the Air Force to the coup." The peculiarity of this was accentuated by the fact that Dani was considered to be a man who carefully calculated his steps to fall in line with Sukarno. It seemed impossible that Dani could take such an action without Sukarno's endorsement. Perhaps in the confused and controlled circumstances at Halim the GESTAPU officers had managed to convince Dani earlier in the day that Sukarno wanted him to prepare a pro-GESTAPU Order of the Day to have on hand in case of need. (The possibility of straight fabrication exists, although the author has found no emphatic assertion to this effect by Dani.)

Assuming that the Dani message was a planned part of the GESTAPU scenario, it's purpose, of course, was to incriminate the leftist Dani and the Air Force in the GESTAPU coup attempt and the murder of the generals. (In the early days after October 1st Suharto seems to have been even more interested in defaming the Air Force than the PKI. After all, the Air Force had weapons and the PKI did not.) The Dani message also helped to enhance the plausibility of a PKI newspaper editorial expressing similar views on the next day. Early and unambiguous identification of Dani with GESTAPU would also inhibit him from taking unwanted military action.

Following the broadcast of the Dani statement, there were only a few steps left for GESTAPU, except for the action in Central Java to be examined later. Another incident of incriminating PKI involvement in GESTAPU was the alleged appearance late in the day near Merdeka Square of Pemuda Rakjat (the PKI youth organization) youths armed with Chinese weapons supposedly given to them by the Air Force. They were quickly disarmed by units of the KOSTRAD-GESTAPU 530th Battalion which had already "rejoined" the loyal forces. (Perhaps the incident was arranged in part to demonstrate that the KOSTRAD-GESTAPU units were not really bad.)

This futile arming of "PKI" youths with marked Chinese weapons that were never used is another of the almost endless string of GESTAPU "mistakes." The CIA Research Study comments: "The weapons were all small arms of Chinese origin, with the 'Chung' trademark stamped on them. The Indonesian army was known not to have any weapons of that type. There is absolutely no doubt that the arms were the property of the Indonesian Air Force." (Suharto is later said to have thrust one of these "Chung" guns before Sukarno as proof of GESTAPU's evil.)

While the CIA analyst may have "no doubt," another explanation seems more probable. (Stories of Chinese arms shipments to Indonesia were rife after October 1st but even the CIA Study, in other places, questions their accuracy.) The CIA is known to have had a large store of Chinese weapons at this time, which were used for a variety of purposes, including such "incriminating" schemes. This incident was simply another planned part of the GESTAPU effort to incriminate the PKI in GESTAPU in dramatic fashion. The youths might have been unwitting Pemuda Rakjat but that could have been too dangerous and it seems more probable that they were other youths, or possibly it did not even happen at all.

Apparently there were armed anti-PKI youths in Djakarta already on October 1st who had some idea of what was going on. Donald Hindley has written the following:

"October 1 was an even more confusing day for the civilians of Djakarta....And yet, while the situation was still in doubt, a few civilians did take action to use the September 30 Movement as the excuse for a public attack on the Communist Party. "By the evening of 1 October, several Moslems had met and agreed to form a Moslem Action Command Against Communism. These initial, and very few, activists were members of HMI (Moslem University Student's Association), PII (Moslem High School Students), Gasbiindo (Indonesian Moslem Trade Union Association), and the Muhammadijah, all of them organizations formerly affiliated with Masjumi. The only politician willing to be involved on that first day was Subchan, a vice-chairman of the NU and, in many ways, atypical of his party's leadership. That evening the group made contact with the army leadership, in the person of Djakarta commander Major General Umar Wirahadikusuma, who agreed to give them a few weapons. More important, Umar approved the formation of KAP-Gestapu (Action Front for the Crushing of Gestapu: Gestapu being an abbreviation of the Indonesian for 'September 30 Movement'). The plans for the more narrowly based, specifically Moslem Action Command were quietly dropped. Already, then, the army leadership had proffered its encouragement and (as yet less clearly apparent) protection for those who would spearhead a civilian campaign against the PKI."

If this is true, it indicates either remarkable prescience (it occurred before any evidence of PKI connection to GESTAPU had been announced) or, in our interpretation, that the GESTAPU action was a CIA-Suharto creation. The list of organizations involved on October 1st reads like a list of those civilian groups who would most likely have been working under CIA guidance. The use of anti-PKI students by the Army after October 1st is well known. The use of similar groups in many countries is also standard CIA practice. The extraordinarily early creation of KAP-GESTAPU with Army support is evidence of how the groundwork for the subsequent exploitation of the GESTAPU events was laid right from the beginning, if not before.

By about 7 PM on October 1st the Army had retaken the Indonesian Radio station and at 8:45 PM an announcement was broadcast that the "counter-revolutionary" September 30th Movement had kidnapped a number of generals but that Sukarno and Nasution were now safe and "the general situation is again under control."

Then occurred what subsequent observers have considered one of the most puzzling GESTAPU "mistakes," the appearance on October 2nd (after almost all other papers had ceased publication) of an issue of the PKI newspaper Harian Rakjat containing an editorial and cartoon endorsing the September 30th Movement. There is a remote possibility that the PKI editors were taken in by the messages they heard over the radio and had thrown caution overboard and in fact wrote such an editorial, but it is more probable that it was a fabrication. The Cornell study examined the October 2nd issue of Harian Rakjat at length and raised some doubts about the authenticity of the editorial and cartoon. The Cornell researchers, however, did not go so far as to declare them phony. The Cornell study does state that "the Djakarta garrison commander, Maj. Gen. Umar Wirahadikusumae, issued an order dated 6:00 p.m. on the 1st to the effect that no publications of any kind were to appear without permission of the Djakarta war authority, save for the Army newspapers Berita Yudha and Angkatan Bersendjata, whose buildings were to be guarded to ensure that they did come out." The Cornell study states that it is "quite likely that the Harian Rakjat office and plant...was occupied by government troops at or not long after the time that Gen. Umar gave this order."

The Cornell researchers rejected "the most obvious explanation, that of an Army falsification" for the appearance of the October 2nd issue on rather weak grounds: "Everything is written in the normal Harian Rakjat jargon, and the competence of the PKI's enemies at falsifying party documents has always been abysmally low." The Cornell study had already pointed out that the editorial, and the cartoon, were not in typical Harian Rakjat style; the mere appearance of "authentic" jargon does not exclude the falsification hypothesis. The clumsiness of some earlier falsifications might lead one to suspect that the Army had help on this one, from the falsification experts in the CIA.

The CIA Research Study finds the October 2nd editorial "mystifying," "an act of political suicide." The Study's explanation for how it happened is that Aidit was too busy doing other things to contact the Harian Rakjat editors and tell them to stop: "They could certainly have prevented its circulation....In the confusion of the moment, Aidit obviously did not have the time or the opportunity to contact the editors of Harian Rakjat if the matter of the editorial even occurred to him. He was totally occupied at the time with more important matters." With Sukarno having not endorsed the September 30th Movement, it is highly unlikely that Aidit, if he had been able to act, would have permitted the PKI to come out in public so quickly in favor of it. The Suharto-CIA thesis seems a more plausible explanation than "oversight. "

The activities of the September 30th Movement outside of Djakarta were restricted almost completely to Central Java and officers of the Diponegoro Division, General Suharto's former command. The CIA Research Study states: "In the three key cities of Central Java, there occurred the same basic pattern of military action followed by a public statement of support for Untung's movement and an announcement of the formation of a Revolutionary Council." Officers of the Diponegoro Division, led by Col Suherman, the Chief of Army Intelligence for Central Java (who had returned from training in the U.S. a month before), carried out these actions. (A number of analysts, including the semi-official Army historians, have noted that apparently the PKI had infiltrated the intelligence and civic action branches of the Army most successfully. It would seem more probable that the Suharto-CIA group had infiltrated those branches where American influence, guidance, and training were strong.)

The Djakarta pattern was followed even to the extent of having another remarkable "escape" of the leading military figure, General Sujosumpeno, the Division Commander, who then put down the coup with ease. Only two officers were killed by GESTAPU, Col. Katamso, the commanding officer in Jogjakarta, and his deputy. The subsequent discovery of their bodies was again used to whip up anti-PKI emotions. The interesting wrinkle in this case is that Col. Katamso was a most unlikely victim of the "progressive" GESTAPU. According to Ruth McVey's research, Katamso was a relatively pro-PKI military officer and, in Rex Mortimer's words, "the singling out of Colonel Katamso for destruction seems decidedly perverse." (We may speculate that as no further victims of the Yani-type were needed, the CIA-GESTAPU group decided that they might as well make a pro-PKI officer the sacrificial lamb in Central Java.)

There were a few alleged PKI demonstrations of support for GESTAPU in Central Java but it appears that, as in Djakarta, most, if not all, were fabricated. The "PKI" action that received most attention was a demonstration in Jogjakarta on October 2nd. Major Muljono, a civic action officer in the Diponegoro Division, was the GESTAPU leader in Jogjakarta. He seems to have been the one that put together the demonstration and other pro-GESTAPU actions. The CIA Research Study states that "The major PKI mass organizations were restrained from action....Apparently Muljono was able to influence the Communist youth more than the PKI leadership." The Cornell study states that the demonstration in Jogjakarta "appears to have been chiefly a function of connections between the local coup leader, Major Muljono, and civilian youth groups. The demonstration was notable for the absence of PKI, SOBSI, Gerwani, and BTI participants." Major Muljono was the only important officer in Central Java who was later put on trial. He "confessed" everything.

The wrap up of GESTAPU in Central Java took slightly longer than in Djakarta but followed the same pattern of "Suharto-style" negotiations and immediate, cooperative surrender.

Our analysis is that the basic reason why the CIA-Suharto group decided to extend GESTAPU outside of Djakarta is that they wanted to show that the PKI-GESTAPU was a nation-wide threat so as to justify a nation-wide repression of the PKI. Central Java was the easiest place for Suharto to arrange the necessary GESTAPU actions and PKI "implication." GESTAPU was limited to a few cities where the Diponegoro Division was concentrated. As the CIA Research Study states, "Nothing of the sort that happened in Semarang, Jogjakarta, and Solo happened anywhere else in Java, not even in East Java, where there were many powerful centers of Communist strength." The Cornell study comments on the Central Java coup efforts that "what is extraordinary is not the amount of Communist participation in the initial phase of the affair but the lack of it."

Before concluding, let us consider the fate of the leading GESTAPU conspirators. Some of them were tried and sentenced to death (Lt. Col. Untung, General Supardjo), others were said to have been killed in military clashes (Col. Suherman), and others (Col. Latief) have never been brought to trial or had their execution announced. It is our assumption that all of the leading military officers involved in GESTAPU on October 1st were "witting" actors in the CIA-Suharto plan. There is a remote chance that someone like Untung could have been unwitting but considerations of security would seem to have excluded the possibility of using someone who might easily have informed higher authorities of GESTAPU's existence or plans. We believe, particularly if the CIA connection is accurate, that these conspirators have subsequently been provided with new identities by the CIA and resettled outside of Indonesia. This kind of resettlement and looking after one's assets is relatively standard CIA procedure. The temptation to tie up loose ends and prevent any possibility of leaks raises the suggestion that the GESTAPU officers have been eliminated after serving their purpose but, not to be ironic, the honorable men at the CIA would probably consider this to be in violation of their code of conduct.

The official announcements of executions of GESTAPU officers, such as there have been, have been rather vague. For example, although Untung was tried and convicted in early 1966, it was not until September 1968 that Suharto stated for the first time that Untung and three other military leaders of the coup had been executed in December 1967. The 1968 CIA Research Study speculated that Latief was one of those executed in 1967 but in 1972 Latief made his first public appearance as a witness in the trial of Pono, an alleged PKI coup organizer. General Supardjo remained at large after October 1965 and was not arrested until early 1967. Apparently the Army knew where he was and his arrest was timed to serve a purpose in the ouster of Sukarno. In December 1965 it was announced that Col. Suherman and the other important GESTAPU officers from the Diponegoro Division headquarters had been shot dead in a clash with government troops in Central Java. Other Army sources have said that they were actually captured before they were shot. The evidence available to the author indicates that there have been no public or independently verified executions of any of the GESTAPU officers.

Discounting the dubious confessions displayed at the post-1965 show trials, the CIA-Suharto hypothesis seems to have the following advantages over other explanations of GESTAPU:

1. It is consistent with PKI policy and behavior before, during, and after the October 1st events. It explains PKI unpreparedness.

2. It is consistent with President Sukarno's behavior before, during, and after the events of October 1st. Sukarno had never resorted to political murder.

3. It explains why the coup was launched in such a disadvantageous military situation, why it was carried out with such incompetence, and why it failed so easily. GESTAPU was meant to fail, and quickly.

4. It is consistent with expected U.S. activism. It is highly implausible that the U.S. would have passively permitted Indonesia to "go Communist." Something had to be done. A desperate situation required desperate measures.

5. It relates the GESTAPU action to those who benefited from it.

6. It is consistent with what we know of the backgrounds of the GESTAPU officers. They were, for the most part, Suharto's men and there is no evidence, except for that obtained through "confessions," that they had any pro-PKI inclinations.

7. It explains why General Yani and his associates were killed (and not merely kidnapped or put on trial). There were several strong motives for the CIA and Suharto to get rid of Yani. Victims of the "PKI" were required and in the Indonesian context, Yani was a "constitutionalist," loyal to the existing regime, as General Schneider was later in Chile.

8. It is inconsistent (a positive value) with a series of highly suspicious trials that were stage-managed by the Indonesian Army for obvious political purposes. As Justus van der Kroef wrote in 1970, "What Indonesians have been reading about Gestapu thus far is likely, in retrospect, to be more valuable as an index to the manipulation of the opinion and feelings concerning the September 30 events than as a contribution to an understanding of the coup itself." That a few trials, those of Sudisman and Sjam, impressed some foreign observers is only indicative of the fact that the state of the art has advanced since the 1930's in the Soviet Union.

The Cornell study in 1966 perceived the absence of links between GESTAPU on the one side and the PKI and Sukarno on the other and the essentially reactive behavior of the latter. The Cornell researchers concluded that the GESTAPU actors were entirely within the military establishment. A number of analysts noted the many associations between the GESTAPU officers and General Suharto. In the climate of 10 years ago, however, prior to the revelations of CIA operations, few were willing to take the next step and draw the logical connections that most adequately explain GESTAPU and its origins.






The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965-1967
Peter Dale Scott

See also: www.sukarno-years.net/415usrelations.htm


U.S. Support for the Suharto Faction Before Gestapu
American officials commenting on the role of U.S. aid in this period have taken credit for assisting the anti-Communist seizure of power, without ever hinting at any degree of conspiratorial responsibility in the planning of the bloodbath. The impression created is that U.S. officials remained aloof from the actual planning of events, and we can see from recently declassified cable traffic how carefully the U.S. government fostered this image of detachment from what was happening in Indonesia.81

In fact, however, the U.S. government was lying about its involvement.
In Fiscal Year 1965, a period when The New York Times claimed "all United States aid to Indonesia was stopped," the number of MAP (Military Assistance Program) personnel in Jakarta actually increased, beyond what had been projected, to an unprecedented high.82 According to figures released in 1966,83 from FY 1963 to FY 1965 the value of MAP deliveries fell from about fourteen million dollars to just over two million dollars.

Despite this decline, the number of MAP military personnel remained almost unchanged, approximately thirty, while in FY 1965 civilian personnel (fifteen) were present for the first time. Whether or not one doubts that aid deliveries fell off as sharply as the figures would suggest, the MILTAG personnel figures indicate that their "civic action" program was being escalated, not decreased.84
We have seen that some months before Gestapu, a Suharto emissary with past CIA connections (Colonel Jan Walandouw) made contact with the U.S. government.

From as early as May 1965, U.S. military suppliers with CIA connections (principally Lockheed) were negotiating equipment sales with payoffs to middlemen, in such a way as to generate payoffs to backers of the hitherto little-known leader of a new third faction in the army, Major-General Suharto -- rather than to those backing Nasution or Yani, the titular leaders of the armed forces. Only in the last year has it been confirmed that secret funds administered by the U.S. Air Force (possibly on behalf of the CIA) were laundered as "commissions" on sales of Lockheed equipment and services, in order to make political payoffs to the military personnel of foreign countries.85


In this short paper on a huge and vexed subject, I discuss the U.S. involvement in the bloody overthrow of Indonesia's President Sukarno, 1965-67.
The whole story of that ill-understood period would transcend even the fullest possible written analysis.

Much of what happened can never be documented; and of the documentation that survives, much is both controversial and unverifiable. The slaughter of Sukarno's left-wing allies was a product of widespread paranoia as well as of conspiratorial policy, and represents a tragedy beyond the intentions of any single group or coalition. Nor is it suggested that in 1965 the only provocations and violence came from the right-wing Indonesian military, their contacts in the United States, or (also important, but barely touched on here) their mutual contacts in British, German and Japanese intelligence.
And yet, after all this has been said, the complex and ambiguous story of the Indonesian bloodbath is also in essence simpler and easier to believe than the public version inspired by President Suharto and U.S. government sources.

Their problematic claim is that in the so-called Gestapu (Gerakan September Tigahpuluh) coup attempt of September 30, 1965 (when six senior army generals were murdered), the left attacked the right, leading to a restoration of power, and punitive purge of the left, by the center.1

This article argues instead that, by inducing, or at a minimum helping to induce, the Gestapu "coup," the right in the Indonesian Army eliminated its rivals at the army's center, thus paving the way to a long-planned elimination of the civilian left, and eventually to the establishment of a military dictatorship.2

Gestapu, in other words, was only the first phase of a three-phase right-wing coup -- one which had been both publicly encouraged and secretly assisted by U.S. spokesmen and officials.3

Before turning to U.S. involvement in what the CIA itself has called "one of the worst mass murders of the twentieth century,"4 let us recall what actually led up to it. According to the Australian scholar Harold Crouch, by 1965 the Indonesian Army General Staff was split into two camps. At the center were the general staff officers appointed with, and loyal to, the army commander General Yani, who in turn was reluctant to challenge President Sukarno's policy of national unity in alliance with the Indonesian Communist party, or PKI. The second group, including the right-wing generals Nasution and Suharto, comprised those opposed to Yani and his Sukarnoist policies.5 All of these generals were anti-PKI, but by 1965 the divisive issue was Sukarno.

The simple (yet untold) story of Sukarno's overthrow is that in the fall of 1965 Yani and his inner circle of generals were murdered, paving the way for a seizure of power by right-wing anti-Yani forces allied to Suharto. The key to this was the so-called Gestapu coup attempt which, in the name of supporting Sukarno, in fact targeted very precisely the leading members of the army's most loyal faction, the Yani group.6 An army unity meeting in January 1965, between "Yani's inner circle" and those (including Suharto) who "had grievances of one sort or another against Yani," lined up the victims of September 30 against those who came to power after their murder.7

Not one anti-Sukarno general was targeted by Gestapu, with the obvious exception of General Nasution.8 But by 1961 the CIA operatives had become disillusioned with Nasution as a reliable asset, because of his "consistent record of yielding to Sukarno on several major counts."9 Relations between Suharto and Nasution were also cool, since Nasution, after investigating Suharto on corruption charges in 1959, had transferred him from his command.10

The duplicitous distortions of reality, first by Lt. Colonel Untung's statements for Gestapu, and then by Suharto in "putting down" Gestapu, are mutually supporting lies.11 Untung, on October 1, announced ambiguously that Sukarno was under Gestapu's "protection" (he was not); also, that a CIA-backed Council of Generals had planned a coup for before October 5, and had for this purpose brought "troops from East, Central, and West Java" to Jakarta.12 Troops from these areas had indeed been brought to Jakarta for an Armed Forces Day parade on October 5th. Untung did not mention, however, that "he himself had been involved in the planning for the Armed Forces Day parade and in selecting the units to participate in it;"13 nor that these units (which included his own former battalion, the 454th) supplied most of the allies for his new battalion's Gestapu activities in Jakarta.

Suharto's first two broadcasts reaffirmed the army's constant loyalty to "Bung Karno the Great Leader," and also blamed the deaths of six generals on PKI youth and women, plus "elements of the Air Force" -- on no other evidence than the site of the well where the corpses were found.14 At this time he knew very well that the killings had in fact been carried out by the very army elements Untung referred to, elements under Suharto's own command.15

Thus, whatever the motivation of individuals such as Untung in the Gestapu putsch, Gestapu as such was duplicitous. Both its rhetoric and above all its actions were not simply inept; they were carefully designed to prepare for Suharto's equally duplicitous response. For example, Gestapu's decision to guard all sides of the downtown Merdeka Square in Jakarta, except that on which Suharto's KOSTRAD [Army Strategic Reserve Command] headquarters were situated, is consistent with Gestapu's decision to target the only army generals who might have challenged Suharto's assumption of power. Again, Gestapu's announced transfer of power to a totally fictitious "Revolutionary Council," from which Sukarno had been excluded, allowed Suharto in turn to masquerade as Sukarno's defender while in fact preventing him from resuming control. More importantly, Gestapu's gratuitous murder of the generals near the air force base where PKI youth had been trained allowed Suharto, in a Goebbels-like manoeuvre, to transfer the blame for the killings from the troops under his own command (whom he knew had carried out the kidnappings) to air force and PKI personnel who where ignorant of them.16

From the pro-Suharto sources -- notably the CIA study of Gestapu published in 1968 -- we learn how few troops were involved in the alleged Gestapu rebellion, and, more importantly, that in Jakarta as in Central Java the same battalions that supplied the "rebellious" companies were also used to "put the rebellion down." Two thirds of one paratroop brigade (which Suharto had inspected the previous day) plus one company and one platoon constituted the whole of Gestapu forces in Jakarta; all but one of these units were commanded by present or former Diponegoro Division officers close to Suharto; and the last was under an officer who obeyed Suharto's close political ally, Basuki Rachmat.17

Two of these companies, from the 454th and 530th battalions, were elite raiders, and from 1962 these units had been among the main Indonesian recipients of U.S. assistance.18 This fact, which in itself proves nothing, increases our curiosity about the many Gestapu leaders who had been U.S.-trained. The Gestapu leader in Central Java, Saherman, had returned from training at Fort Leavenworth and Okinawa, shortly before meeting with Untung and Major Sukirno of the 454th Battalion in mid-August 1965.19 As Ruth McVey has observed, Saherman's acceptance for training at Fort Leavenworth "would mean that he had passed review by CIA observers."20

Thus there is continuity between the achievements of both Gestapu and the response to it by Suharto, who in the name of defending Sukarno and attacking Gestapu continued its task of eliminating the pro-Yani members of the Army General Staff, along with such other residual elements of support for first Yani and then Sukarno as remained.21

The biggest part of this task was of course the elimination of the PKI and its supporters, in a bloodbath which, as some Suharto allies now concede, may have taken more than a half-million lives. These three events -- Gestapu, Suharto's response, and the bloodbath -- have nearly always been presented in this country as separately motivated: Gestapu being described as a plot by leftists, and the bloodbath as for the most part an irrational act of popular frenzy.

U.S. officials, journalists and scholars, some with rather prominent CIA connections, are perhaps principally responsible for the myth that the bloodbath was a spontaneous, popular revulsion to what U.S. Ambassador Jones later called PKI "carnage."22 Although the PKI certainly contributed its share to the political hysteria of 1965, Crouch has shown that subsequent claims of a PKI terror campaign were grossly exaggerated.23 In fact systematic killing occurred under army instigation in staggered stages, the worst occurring as Colonel Sarwo Edhie's RPKAD [Army Paracommando Regiment] moved from Jakarta to Central and East Java, and finally to Bali.24 Civilians involved in the massacre were either recruited and trained by the army on the spot, or were drawn from groups (such as the army- and CIA-sponsored SOKSI trade unions [Central Organization of Indonesian Socialist Employees], and allied student organizations) which had collaborated for years with the army on political matters. It is clear from Sundhaussen's account that in most of the first areas of organized massacre (North Sumatra, Aceh, Cirebon, the whole of Central and East Java), there were local army commanders with especially strong and proven anti-PKI sentiments. Many of these had for years cooperated with civilians, through so-called "civic action" programs sponsored by the United States, in operations directed against the PKI and sometimes Sukarno. Thus one can legitimately suspect conspiracy in the fact that anti-PKI "civilian responses" began on October 1, when the army began handing out arms to Muslim students and unionists, before there was any publicly available evidence linking Gestapu to the PKI.25

Even Sundhaussen, who downplays the army's role in arming and inciting the civilian murder bands, concludes that, whatever the strength of popular anti-PKI hatred and fear, "without the Army's anti-PKI propaganda the massacre might not have happened."26 The present article goes further and argues that Gestapu, Suharto's response, and the bloodbath were part of a single coherent scenario for a military takeover, a scenario which was again followed closely in Chile in the years 1970-73 (and to some extent in Cambodia in 1970).

Suharto, of course, would be a principal conspirator in this scenario: his duplicitous role of posing as a defender of the constitutional status quo, while in fact moving deliberately to overthrow it, is analogous to that of General Pinochet in Chile. But a more direct role in organizing the bloodbath was played by civilians and officers close to the cadres of the CIA's failed rebellion of 1958, now working in so-called "civic action" programs funded and trained by the United States. Necessary ingredients of the scenario had to be, and clearly were, supplied by other nations in support of Suharto. Many such countries appear to have played such a supporting role: Japan, Britain, Germany,27 possibly Australia. But I wish to focus on the encouragement and support for military "putschism" and mass murder which came from the U.S., from the CIA, the military, RAND, the Ford Foundation, and individuals.28

The United States and the Indonesian Army's "Mission"
It seems clear that from as early as 1953 the U.S. was interested in helping to foment the regional crisis in Indonesia, usually recognized as the "immediate cause" that induced Sukarno, on March 14, 1957, to proclaim martial law, and bring "the officer corps legitimately into politics."29

By 1953 (if not earlier) the U.S. National Security Council had already adopted one of a series of policy documents calling for "appropriate action, in collaboration with other friendly countries, to prevent permanent communist control" of Indonesia.30 Already NSC 171/1 of that year envisaged military training as a means of increasing U.S. influence, even though the CIA's primary efforts were directed towards right-wing political parties ("moderates ... on the right," as NSC 171 called them): notably the Masjumi Muslim and the PSI "Socialist" parties. The millions of dollars which the CIA poured into the Masjumi and the PSI in the mid-1950s were a factor influencing the events of 1965, when a former PSI member -- Sjam -- was the alleged mastermind of Gestapu,31 and PSI-leaning officers -- notably Suwarto and Sarwo Edhie -- were prominent in planning and carrying out the anti-PKI response to Gestapu.32

In 1957-58, the CIA infiltrated arms and personnel in support of the regional rebellions against Sukarno. These operations were nominally covert, even though an American plane and pilot were captured, and the CIA efforts were accompanied by an offshore task force of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.33 In 1975 a Senate Select Committee studying the CIA discovered what it called "some evidence of CIA involvement in plans to assassinate President Sukarno"; but, after an initial investigation of the November 1957 assassination attempt in the Cikini district of Jakarta, the committee did not pursue the matter.34

On August 1, 1958, after the failure of the CIA-sponsored PRRI-Permesta regional rebellions against Sukarno, the U.S. began an upgraded military assistance program to Indonesia in the order of twenty million dollars a year.35 A U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff memo of 1958 makes it clear this aid was given to the Indonesian Army ("the only non-Communist force ... with the capability of obstructing the ... PKI") as "encouragement" to Nasution to "carry out his 'plan' for the control of Communism."36

The JCS had no need to spell out Nasution's "plan," to which other documents at this time made reference.37 It could only imply the tactics for which Nasution had distinguished himself (in American eyes) during the crushing of the PKI in the Madiun Affair of 1948: mass murders and mass arrests, at a minimum of the party's cadres, possibly after an army provocation.38 Nasution confirmed this in November 1965, after the Gestapu slaughter, when he called for the total extinction of the PKI, "down to its very roots so there will be no third Madiun."39

By 1958, however, the PKI had emerged as the largest mass movement in the country. It is in this period that a small group of U.S. academic researchers in U.S. Air Force- and CIA-subsidized "think-tanks" began pressuring their contacts in the Indonesian military publicly, often through U.S. scholarly journals and presses, to seize power and liquidate the PKI opposition.40 The most prominent example is Guy Pauker, who in 1958 both taught at the University of California at Berkeley and served as a consultant at the RAND Corporation. In the latter capacity he maintained frequent contact with what he himself called "a very small group" of PSI intellectuals and their friends in the army.41

In a RAND Corporation book published by the Princeton University Press, Pauker urged his contacts in the Indonesian military to assume "full responsibility" for their nation's leadership, "fulfill a mission," and hence "to strike, sweep their house clean."42 Although Pauker may not have intended anything like the scale of bloodbath which eventually ensued, there is no escaping the fact that "mission" and "sweep clean" were buzz-words for counterinsurgency and massacre, and as such were used frequently before and during the coup. The first murder order, by military officers to Muslim students in early october, was the word sikat, meaning "sweep," "clean out," "wipe out," or "massacre."43

Pauker's closest friend in the Indonesian army was a U.S.-trained General Suwarto, who played an important part in the conversion of the army from a revolutionary to a counterinsurgency function. In the years after 1958, Suwarto built the Indonesian Army Staff and Command School in Bandung (SESKOAD) into a training-ground for the takeover of political power. SESKOAD in this period became a focal-point of attention from the Pentagon, the CIA, RAND, and (indirectly) the Ford Foundation.44

Under the guidance of Nasution and Suwarto, SESKOAD developed a new strategic doctrine, that of Territorial Warfare (in a document translated into English by Pauker), which gave priority to counterinsurgency as the army's role. Especially after 1962, when the Kennedy administration aided the Indonesian Army in developing Civic Mission or "civic action" programs, this meant the organization of its own political infrastructure, or "Territorial Organization," reaching in some cases down to the village level.45 As the result of an official U.S. State Department recommendation in 1962, which Pauker helped write, a special U.S. MILTAG (Military Training Advisory Group) was set up in Jakarta, to assist in the implementation of SESKOAD's Civic Mission programs.46

SESKOAD also trained the army officers in economics and administration, and thus to operate virtually as a para-state, independent of Sukarno's government. So the army began to collaborate, and even sign contracts, with U.S. and other foreign corporations in areas which were now under its control. This training program was entrusted to officers and civilians close to the PSI.47 U.S. officials have confirmed that the civilians, who themselves were in a training program funded by the Ford Foundation, became involved in what the (then) U.S. military attache called "contingency planning" to prevent a PKI takeover.48

But the most significant focus of U.S. training and aid was the Territorial Organization's increasing liaison with "the civilian administration, religious and cultural organizations, youth groups, veterans, trade unions, peasant organizations, political parties and groups at regional and local levels."49 These political liaisons with civilian groups provided the structure for the ruthless suppression of the PKI in 1965, including the bloodbath.50

Soon these army and civilian cadres were together plotting disruptive activities, such as the Bandung anti-Chinese riots of May 1963, which embarrassed not just the PKI, but Sukarno himself. Chomsky and Herman report that "Army-inspired anti-Chinese programs that took place in West Java in 1959 were financed by U.S. contributions to the local army commander"; apparently CIA funds were used by the commander (Colonel Kosasih) to pay local thugs in what Mozingo calls "the army's (and probably the Americans') campaign to rupture relations with China."51 The 1963 riot, which took place in the very shadow of SESKOAD, is linked by Sundhaussen to an army "civic action" organization; and shows conspiratorial contact between elements (an underground PSI cell, PSI- and Masjumi-affiliated student groups, and General Ishak Djuarsa of the Siliwangi Division's "civic action" organization) that would all be prominent in the very first phase of Suharto's so-called "response" to the Gestapu.52 The May 1963 student riots were repeated in October 1965 and (especially in Bandung) January 1966, at which time the liaison between students and the army was largely in the hands of PSI-leaning officers like Sarwo Edhie and Kemal Idris.53 The CIA Plans Directorate was sympathetic to the increasing deflection of a nominally anti-PKI operation into one embarrassing Sukarno. This turn would have come as no surprise: Suwarto, Kemal Idris and the PSI had been prominent in a near-coup (the so-called "Lubis affair") in 1956.54

But increasingly Suwarto cultivated a new student, Colonel Suharto, who arrived at SESKOAD in October 1959. According to Sundhaussen, a relatively pro-Suharto scholar: "In the early 1960s Soeharto was involved in the formation of the Doctrine of Territorial Warfare and the Army's policy on Civic Mission (that is, penetration of army officers into all fields of government activities and responsibilities).55 Central to the public image of Gestapu and Suharto's response is the much-publicized fact that Suharto, unlike his sometime teacher Suwarto, and his long-time chief of staff Achmad Wiranatakusuma, had never studied in the United States. But his involvement in Civic Mission (or what Americans called "civic action") programs located him along with PSI-leaning officers at the focal point of U.S. training activities in Indonesia, in a program which was nakedly political.56

The refinement of Territorial Warfare and Civic Mission Doctrine into a new strategic doctrine for army political intervention became by 1965 the ideological process consolidating the army for political takeover. After Gestapu, when Suwarto was an important political advisor to his former SESKOAD pupil Suharto, his strategic doctrine was the justification for Suharto's announcement on August 15, 1966, in fulfillment of Pauker's public and private urgings, that the army had to assume a leading role in all fields.57

Hence the army unity meeting of January 1965, arranged after Suharto had duplicitously urged Nasution to take "a more accommodating line"58 towards Sukarno, was in fact a necessary step in the process whereby Suharto effectively took over from his rivals Yani and Nasution. It led to the April 1965 seminar at SESKOAD for a compromise army strategic doctrine, the Tri Ubaya Cakti, which "reaffirmed the army's claim to an independent political role."59 On August 15, 1966, Suharto, speaking to the nation, justified his increasing prominence in terms of the "Revolutionary Mission" of the Tri Ubaya Cakti doctrine. Two weeks later at SESKOAD the doctrine was revised, at Suharto's instigation but in a setting "carefully orchestrated by Brigadier Suwarto," to embody still more clearly Pauker's emphasis on the army's "Civic Mission" or counterrevolutionary role.60 This "Civic Mission," so important to Suharto, was also the principal goal and fruit of U.S. military aid to Indonesia.

By August 1964, moreover, Suharto had initiated political contacts with Malaysia, and hence eventually with Japan, Britain, and the United States.61 Although the initial purpose of these contacts may have been to head off war with Malaysia, Sundhaussen suggests that Suharto's motive was his concern, buttressed in mid-1964 by a KOSTRAD intelligence report, about PKI political advances.62 Mrazek links the peace feelers to the withdrawal of "some of the best army units" back to Java in the summer of 1965.63 These movements, together with earlier deployment of a politically insecure Diponegoro battalion in the other direction, can also be seen as preparations for the seizure of power.64

In Nishihara's informed Japanese account, former PRRI / Permesta personnel with intelligence connections in Japan were prominent in these negotiations, along with Japanese officials.65 Nishihara also heard that an intimate ally of these personnel, Jan Walandouw, who may have acted as a CIA contact for the 1958 rebellion, later again "visited Washington and advocated Suharto as a leader."66 I am reliably informed that Walandouw's visit to Washington on behalf of Suharto was made some months before Gestapu.67

The U.S. Moves Against Sukarno
Many people in Washington, especially in the CIA Plans Directorate, had long desired the "removal" of Sukarno as well as of the PKI.68 By 1961 key policy hard-liners, notably Guy Pauker, had also turned against Nasution.69 Nevertheless, despite last-minute memoranda from the outgoing Eisenhower administration which would have opposed "whatever regime" in Indonesia was "increasingly friendly toward the Sino-Soviet bloc," the Kennedy administration stepped up aid to both Sukarno and the army.70

However, Lyndon Johnson's accession to the presidency was followed almost immediately by a shift to a more anti-Sukarno policy. This is clear from Johnson's decision in December 1963 to withhold economic aid which (according to Ambassador Jones) Kennedy would have supplied "almost as a matter of routine."71

This refusal suggests that the U.S. aggravation of Indonesia's economic woes in 1963-65 was a matter of policy rather than inadvertence. Indeed, if the CIA's overthrow of Allende is a relevant analogy, then one would expect someday to learn that the CIA, through currency speculations and other hostile acts, contributed actively to the radical destabilization of the Indonesian economy in the weeks just before the coup, when "the price of rice quadrupled between June 30 and October 1, and the black market price of the dollar skyrocketed, particularly in September."72

As was the case in Chile, the gradual cutoff of all economic aid to Indonesia in the years 1962-65 was accompanied by a shift in military aid to friendly elements in the Indonesian Army: U.S. military aid amounted to $39.5 million in the four years 1962-65 (with a peak of $16.3 million in 1962) as opposed to $28.3 million for the thirteen years 1949-61.73 After March 1964, when Sukarno told the U.S., "go to hell with your aid," it became increasingly difficult to extract any aid from the U.S. congress: those persons not aware of what was developing found it hard to understand why the U.S. should help arm a country which was nationalizing U.S. economic interests, and using immense aid subsidies from the Soviet Union to confront the British in Malaysia.

Thus a public image was created that under Johnson "all United States aid to Indonesia was stopped," a claim so buttressed by misleading documentation that competent scholars have repeated it.74 In fact, Congress had agreed to treat U.S. funding of the Indonesian military (unlike aid to any other country) as a covert matter, restricting congressional review of the president's determinations on Indonesian aid to two Senate committees, and the House Speaker, who were concurrently involved in oversight of the CIA.75

Ambassador Jones' more candid account admits that "suspension" meant "the U.S. government undertook no new commitments of assistance, although it continued with ongoing programs.... By maintaining our modest assistance to [the Indonesian Army and the police brigade], we fortified them for a virtually inevitable showdown with the burgeoning PKI."76

Only from recently released documents do we learn that new military aid was en route as late as July 1965, in the form of a secret contract to deliver two hundred Aero-Commanders to the Indonesian Army: these were light aircraft suitable for use in "civic action" or counterinsurgency operations, presumably by the Army Flying Corps whose senior officers were virtually all trained in the U.S.77 By this time, the publicly admitted U.S. aid was virtually limited to the completion of an army communications system and to "civic action" training. It was by using the army's new communications system, rather than the civilian system in the hands of Sukarno loyalists, that Suharto on October 1, 1965 was able to implement his swift purge of Sukarno-Yani loyalists and leftists, while "civic action" officers formed the hard core of lower-level Gestapu officers in Central Java.78

Before turning to the more covert aspects of U.S. military aid to Indonesia in 1963-65, let us review the overall changes in U.S.-Indonesian relations. Economic aid was now in abeyance, and military aid tightly channeled so as to strengthen the army domestically. U.S. government funding had obviously shifted from the Indonesian state to one of its least loyal components.

As a result of agreements beginning with martial law in 1957, but accelerated by the U.S.-negotiated oil agreement of 1963, we see exactly the same shift in the flow of payments from U.S. oil companies. Instead of token royalties to the Sukarno government, the two big U.S. oil companies in Indonesia, Stanvac and Caltex, now made much larger payments to the army's oil company, Permina, headed by an eventual political ally of Suharto, General Ibnu Sutowo; and to a second company, Pertamin, headed by the anti-PKI and pro-U.S. politician, Chaerul Saleh.79
After Suharto's overthrow of Sukarno, Fortune wrote that "Sutowo's still small company played a key part in bankrolling those crucial operations, and the army has never forgotten it."80

U.S. Support for the Suharto Faction Before Gestapu
American officials commenting on the role of U.S. aid in this period have taken credit for assisting the anti-Communist seizure of power, without ever hinting at any degree of conspiratorial responsibility in the planning of the bloodbath. The impression created is that U.S. officials remained aloof from the actual planning of events, and we can see from recently declassified cable traffic how carefully the U.S. government fostered this image of detachment from what was happening in Indonesia.81

In fact, however, the U.S. government was lying about its involvement. In Fiscal Year 1965, a period when The New York Times claimed "all United States aid to Indonesia was stopped," the number of MAP (Military Assistance Program) personnel in Jakarta actually increased, beyond what had been projected, to an unprecedented high.82 According to figures released in 1966,83 from FY 1963 to FY 1965 the value of MAP deliveries fell from about fourteen million dollars to just over two million dollars. Despite this decline, the number of MAP military personnel remained almost unchanged, approximately thirty, while in FY 1965 civilian personnel (fifteen) were present for the first time.

Whether or not one doubts that aid deliveries fell off as sharply as the figures would suggest, the MILTAG personnel figures indicate that their "civic action" program was being escalated, not decreased.84 We have seen that some months before Gestapu, a Suharto emissary with past CIA connections (Colonel Jan Walandouw) made contact with the U.S. government.

From as early as May 1965, U.S. military suppliers with CIA connections (principally Lockheed) were negotiating equipment sales with payoffs to middlemen, in such a way as to generate payoffs to backers of the hitherto little-known leader of a new third faction in the army, Major-General Suharto -- rather than to those backing Nasution or Yani, the titular leaders of the armed forces. Only in the last year has it been confirmed that secret funds administered by the U.S. Air Force (possibly on behalf of the CIA) were laundered as "commissions" on sales of Lockheed equipment and services, in order to make political payoffs to the military personnel of foreign countries.85

A 1976 Senate investigation into these payoffs revealed, almost inadvertently, that in May 1965, over the legal objections of Lockheed's counsel, Lockheed commissions in Indonesia had been redirected to a new contract and company set up by the firm's long-time local agent or middleman.86 Its internal memos at the time show no reasons for the change, but in a later memo the economic counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta is reported as saying that there were "some political considerations behind it."87 If this is true, it would suggest that in May 1965, five months before the coup, Lockheed had redirected its payoffs to a new political eminence, at the risk (as its assistant chief counsel pointed out) of being sued for default on its former contractual obligations.

The Indonesian middleman, August Munir Dasaad, was "known to have assisted Sukarno financially since the 1930's."88 In 1965, however, Dasaad was building connections with the Suharto forces, via a family relative, General Alamsjah, who had served briefly under Suharto in 1960, after Suharto completed his term at SESKOAD. Via the new contract, Lockheed, Dasaad and Alamsjah were apparently hitching their wagons to Suharto's rising star:

When the coup was made during which Suharto replaced Sukarno, Alamsjah, who controlled certain considerable funds, at once made these available to Suharto, which obviously earned him the gratitude of the new President. In due course he was appointed to a position of trust and confidence and today Alamsjah is, one might say, the second important man after the President.89
Thus in 1966 the U.S. Embassy advised Lockheed it should "continue to use" the Dasaad-Alamsjah-Suharto connection.90

In July 1965, at the alleged nadir of U.S.-Indonesian aid relations, Rockwell-Standard had a contractual agreement to deliver two hundred light aircraft (Aero-Commanders) to the Indonesian Army (not the Air Force) in the next two months.91 Once again the commission agent on the deal, Bob Hasan, was a political associate (and eventual business partner) of Suharto.92 More specifically, Suharto and Bob Hasan established two shipping companies to be operated by the Central Java army division, Diponegoro. This division, as has long been noticed, supplied the bulk of the personnel on both sides of the Gestapu coup drama -- both those staging the coup attempt, and those putting it down. And one of the three leaders in the Central Java Gestapu movement was Lt. Col. Usman Sastrodibroto, chief of the Diponegoro Division's "section dealing with extramilitary functions."93

Thus of the two known U.S. military sales contracts from the eve of the Gestapu Putsch, both involved political payoffs to persons who emerged after Gestapu as close Suharto allies. The use of this traditional channel for CIA patronage suggests that the U.S. was not at arm's length from the ugly political developments of 1965, despite the public indications, from both government spokesmen and the U.S. business press, that Indonesia was now virtually lost to communism and nothing could be done about it.

The actions of some U.S. corporations, moreover, made it clear that by early 1965 they expected a significant boost to the U.S. standing in Indonesia. For example, a recently declassified cable reveals that Freeport Sulphur had by April 1965 reached a preliminary "arrangement" with Indonesian officials for what would become a $500 million investment in West Papua copper. This gives the lie to the public claim that the company did not initiate negotiations with Indonesians (the inevitable Ibnu Sutowo) until February 1966.94 And in September 1965, shortly after World Oil reported that "indonesia's gas and oil industry appeared to be slipping deeper into the political morass,"95 the president of a small oil company (Asamera) in a joint venture with Ibnu Sutowo's Permina purchased $50,000 worth of shares in his own ostensibly-threatened company. Ironically this double purchase (on September 9 and September 21) was reported in the Wall Street Journal of September 30, 1965, the day of Gestapu.

The CIA's "[One Word Deleted] Operation" in 1965
Less than a year after Gestapu and the bloodbath, James Reston wrote appreciatively about them as "A Gleam of Light in Asia":

Washington is being careful not to claim any credit for this change in the sixth most populous and one of the richest nations in the world, but this does not mean that Washington had nothing to do with it. There was a great deal more contact between the anti-Communist forces in that country and at least one very high official in Washington before and during the Indonesian massacre than is generally realized.96

As for the CIA in 1965, we have the testimony of former CIA officer Ralph McGehee, curiously corroborated by the selective censorship of his former CIA employers:

Where the necessary circumstances or proofs are lacking to support U.S. intervention, the C.I.A. creates the appropriate situations or else invents them and disseminates its distortions worldwide via its media operations.
A prominent example would be Chile.... Disturbed at the Chilean military's unwillingness to take action against Allende, the C.I.A. forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders. The discovery of this "plot" was headlined in the media and Allende was deposed and murdered.
There is a similarity between events that precipitated the overthrow of Allende and what happened in Indonesia in 1965. Estimates of the number of deaths that occurred as a result of the latter C.I.A. [one word deleted] operation run from one-half million to more than one million people.97

McGehee claims to have once seen, while reviewing CIA documents in Washington, a highly classified report on the agency's role in provoking the destruction of the PKI after Gestapu. It seems appropriate to ask for congressional review and publication of any such report. If, as is alleged, it recommended such murderous techniques as a model for future operations, it would appear to document a major turning-point in the agency's operation history: towards the systematic exploitation of the death squad operations which, absent during the Brazilian coup of 1964, made the Vietnam Phoenix counterinsurgency program notorious after 1967, and after 1968 spread from Guatemala to the rest of Latin America.98

McGehee's claims of a CIA psychological warfare operation against Allende are corroborated by Tad Szulc:

CIA agents in Santiago assisted Chilean military intelligence in drafting bogus Z-plan documents alleging that Allende and his supporters were planning to behead Chilean military commanders. These were issued by the junta to justify the coup.99

Indeed the CIA deception operations against Allende appear to have gone even farther, terrifying both the left and the right with the fear of incipient slaughter by their enemies. Thus militant trade-unionists as well as conservative generals in Chile received small cards printed with the ominous words Djakarta se acerca (Jakarta is approaching).100

This is a model destabilization plan -- to persuade all concerned that they no longer can hope to be protected by the status quo, and hence weaken the center, while inducing both right and left towards more violent provocation of each other.
Such a plan appears to have been followed in Laos in 1959-61, where a CIA officer explained to a reporter that the aim "was to polarize Laos."101
It appears to have been followed in Indonesia in 1965.

Observers like Sundhaussen confirm that to understand the coup story of October 1965 we must look first of all at the "rumour market" which in 1965 ... turned out the wildest stories."102
On September 14, two weeks before the coup, the army was warned that there was a plot to assassinate army leaders four days later; a second such report was discussed at army headquarters on September 30.103 But a year earlier an alleged PKI document, which the PKI denounced as a forgery, had purported to describe a plan to overthrow "Nasutionists" through infiltration of the army. This "document," which was reported in a Malaysian newspaper after being publicized by the pro-U.S. politician Chaerul Saleh104 in mid-December 1964, must have lent credence to Suharto's call for an army unity meeting the next month.105

The army's anxiety was increased by rumors, throughout 1965, that mainland China was smuggling arms to the PKI for an imminent revolt. Two weeks before Gestapu, a story to this effect also appeared in a Malaysian newspaper, citing Bangkok sources which relied in turn on Hong Kong sources.106 Such international untraceability is the stylistic hallmark of stories emanating in this period from what CIA insiders called their "mighty Wurlitzer," the world-wide network of press "assets" through which the CIA, or sister agencies such as Britain's MI-6, could plant unattributable disinformation.107 PKI demands for a popular militia or "fifth force," and the training of PKI youth at Lubang Buaja, seemed much more sinister to the Indonesian army in the light of the Chinese arms stories.

But for months before the coup, the paranoia of the PKI had also been played on, by recurring reports that a CIA-backed "Council of Generals" was plotting to suppress the PKI. It was this mythical council, of course, that Untung announced as the target of his allegedly anti-CIA Gestapu coup. But such rumors did not just originate from anti-American sources; on the contrary, the first authoritative published reference to such a council was in a column of the Washington journalists Evans and Novak:

As far back as March, General Ibrahim Adjie, commander of the Siliwangi Division, had been quoted by two American journalists as saying of the Communists: "we knocked them out before [at Madiun]. We check them and check them again." The same journalists claimed to have information that "...the Army has quietly established an advisory commission of five general officers to report to General Jani ... and General Nasution ... on PKI activities."108
Mortimer sees the coincidence that five generals besides Yani were killed by Gestapu as possibly significant.

But we should also be struck by the revival in the United States of the image of Yani and Nasution as anti-PKI planners, long after the CIA and U.S. press stories had in fact written them off as unwilling to act against Sukarno.109
If the elimination by Gestapu of Suharto's political competitors in the army was to be blamed on the left, then the scenario required just such a revival of the generals' forgotten anti-Communist image in opposition to Sukarno.
An anomalous unsigned August 1965 profile of Nasution in The New York Times, based on an 1963 interview but published only after a verbal attack by Nasution on British bases in Singapore, does just this: it claims (quite incongruously, given the context) that Nasution is "considered the strongest opponent of Communism in Indonesia"; and adds that Sukarno, backed by the PKI, "has been pursuing a campaign to neutralize the ... army as an anti-Communist force."110

In the same month of August 1965, fear of an imminent showdown between "the PKI and the Nasution group" was fomented in Indonesia by an underground pamphlet; this was distributed by the CIA's long-time asset, the PSI, whose cadres were by now deeply involved:

The PKI is combat ready. The Nasution group hope the PKI will be the first to draw the trigger, but this the PKI will not do. The PKI will not allow itself to be provoked as in the Madiun Incident. In the end, however, there will be only two forces left: the PKI and the Nasution group. The middle will have no alternative but to choose and get protection from the stronger force.111
One could hardly hope to find a better epitome of the propaganda necessary for the CIA's program of engineering paranoia.

McGehee's article, after censorship by the CIA, focuses more narrowly on the CIA's role in anti-PKI propaganda alone:
The Agency seized upon this opportunity [Suharto's response to Gestapu] and set out to destroy the P.K.I.... [eight sentences deleted].... Media fabrications played a key role in stirring up popular resentment against the P.K.I. Photographs of the bodies of the dead generals -- badly decomposed -- were featured in all the newspapers and on television. Stories accompanying the pictures falsely claimed that the generals had been castrated and their eyes gouged out by Communist women. This cynically manufactured campaign was designed to foment public anger against the Communists and set the stage for a massacre.112

McGehee might have added that the propaganda stories of torture by hysterical women with razor blades, which serious scholars dismiss as groundless, were revived in a more sophisticated version by a U.S. journalist, John Hughes, who is now the chief spokesman for the State Department.113

Suharto's forces, particularly Col. Sarwo Edhie of the RPKAD commandos, were overtly involved in the cynical exploitation of the victims' bodies.114 But some aspects of the massive propaganda campaign appear to have been orchestrated by non-Indonesians. A case in point is the disputed editorial in support of Gestapu which appeared in the October 2 issue of the PKI newspaper Harian Rakjat. Professors Benedict Anderson and Ruth McVey, who have questioned the authenticity of this issue, have also ruled out the possibility that the newspaper was "an Army falsification," on the grounds that the army's "competence ... at falsifying party documents has always been abysmally low."115

The questions raised by Anderson and McVey have not yet been adequately answered. Why did the PKI show no support for the Gestapu coup while it was in progress, then rashly editorialize in support of Gestapu after it had been crushed? Why did the PKI, whose editorial gave support to Gestapu, fail to mobilize its followers to act on Gestapu's behalf? Why did Suharto, by then in control of Jakarta, close down all newspapers except this one, and one other left-leaning newspaper which also served his propaganda ends?116 Why, in other words, did Suharto on October 2 allow the publication of only two Jakarta newspapers, two which were on the point of being closed down forever?

As was stated at the outset, it would be foolish to suggest that in 1965 the only violence came from the U.S. government, the Indonesian military, and their mutual contacts in British and Japanese intelligence. A longer paper could also discuss the provocative actions of the PKI, and of Sukarno himself, in this tragedy of social breakdown. Assuredly, from one point of view, no one was securely in control of events in this troubled period.117

And yet for two reasons such a fashionably objective summation of events seems inappropriate. In the first place, as the CIA's own study concedes, we are talking about "one of the ghastliest and most concentrated bloodlettings of current times," one whose scale of violence seems out of all proportion to such well-publicized left-wing acts as the murder of an army lieutenant at the Bandar Betsy plantation in May 1965,118 And, in the second place, the scenario described by McGehee for 1965 can be seen as not merely responding to the provocations, paranoia, and sheer noise of events in that year, but as actively encouraging and channeling them.

It should be noted that former CIA Director William Colby has repeatedly denied that there was CIA or other U.S. involvement in the massacre of 1965. (In the absence of a special CIA Task Force, Colby, as head of the CIA's Far Eastern Division from 1962-66, would normally have been responsible for the CIA's operations in Indonesia.) Colby's denial is however linked to the discredited story of a PKI plot to seize political power, a story that he revived in 1978:

Indonesia exploded, with a bid for power by the largest Communist Party in the world outside the curtain, which killed the leadership of the army with Sukarno's tacit approval and then was decimated in reprisal. CIA provided a steady flow of reports on the process in Indonesia, although it did not have any role in the course of events themselves.119

It is important to resolve the issue of U.S. involvement in this systematic murder operation, and particularly to learn more about the CIA account of this which McGehee claims to have seen. McGehee tells us: "The Agency was extremely proud of its successful [one word deleted] and recommended it as a model for future operations [one-half sentence deleted]."120 Ambassador Green reports of an interview with Nixon in 1967:

The Indonesian experience had been one of particular interest to [Nixon] because things had gone well in Indonesia. I think he was very interested in that whole experience as pointing to the way we [!] should handle our relationships on a wider basis in Southeast Asia generally, and maybe in the world.121

Such unchallenged assessments help explain the role of Indonesians in the Nixon-sponsored overthrow of Sihanouk in Cambodia in 1970, the use of the Jakarta scenario for the overthrow of Allende in Chile in 1973, and the U.S. sponsorship today of the death squad regimes in Central America.122

University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A., December 1984

Notes and References in Full Article




Indonesia's official version of the Gestapu "coup"

The statement, more or less a hypothesis, is provided by the Indonesian Army that:

the PKI was the SOLE mastermind of the Gestapu "coup",
President Sukarno possessed foreknowledge of the "coup".

[Sources: Notosusanto and Saleh, 1968; Widjanarko, 1974]

The statement is based on:
the fact that the PKI leader (Dipa Nusantara Aidit) was at the Halim airbase and the PKI organizations ("Pemuda Rakyat" and "Gerwani") were present at the murder and burial scene indicated that the PKI was involved.
an "evidence" that the PKI Special Bureau "Biro Khusus" agents Sjam (alias Kamaruzzaman) and Pono (alias Bono) were
in contact with the Gestapu plotters,
the presence of President Sukarno at Halim air base (
based solely on a document purporting to be a record of the Army interrogation of a Sukarno-aide until 1966 - a Colonel Bambang Widjanarko of the Marine Corps), and Sukarno's refusal
to condemn the PKI or show any real sympathy for the murdered Army Generals.

The weaknesses of Indonesia's official statement:
The PKI leader (Dipa Nusantara Aidit) was never brought to a public trial, not even to MAHMILUB
(Extraordinary Military Tribunal) set up by Maj. Gen. Suharto.
The controversy went on until 5 October 1980, the 15th anniversary of Armed Forces' Day after the "coup".
An account of Aidit's death appeared, unexplained, in Kompas Minggu, one of Jakarta's major newspapers
(Southwood and Flanagan, 1983).

The following account by Aidit's direct executioner, Colonel (now General) Yasir Hadibroto, appears credible because
of independent corroborative evidence.

On 2 October 1965, after hearing news of the "coup", Yasir, then commander of the IVth Infantry Brigade of KOSTRAD in North Sumatra, went straight to his commander at KOSTRAD headquarters in Jakarta.
His commander was (then) Maj. Gen. Suharto, today's Indonesian President.
He was asked by Suharto:
"Where were you at the time of the PKI Madiun rebellion in 1948?"
"I had just moved to West Java.
My company was ordered to confront three communists batallions at Wonosobo", answered Yasir.
"The people rebelling today are the offspring of the Madiun PKI.
Go and deal with them all ['bereskan itu semua']. D.N. Aidit is in Central Java.
Take your troops there", ordered the KOSTRAD commander.

In Central Java, Aidit (the PKI leader) was captured, and Yasir took him to the local KOSTRAD batallion in Boyolali:
Some officers and men woke up. "What's going on?" they asked. "I've got the slant-eyed PKI guy", replied Yasir.
Then he asked, "Is there a well any where?" "Yes, over there", said the men.
The fugitive was taken straight to the place indicated.
Aidit was told to stand there. He was given half an hour before being dealth with.
He made use of his half-hour to deliver a speech.
This passion with which he spoke made all who heard him very angry and they were unable to control their emotions,
so the rifles went off.

Later, Yasir made his report to Suharto (his KOSTRAD commander):
15:00 o'clock, 24 November 1965. Col Yasir was received by Pak Harto [Suharto] at the State Palace in Yogyakarta.
He reported everything that had happened concerning the arrest of the PKI fugitive and the way he [Aidit] had been dealth with.
After making his report, Col. Yasir took courage to ask:
"When you said we were to deal with things, is this what you meant ?"
The Commander of KOSTRAD [Suharto] only SMILED.

Sjam was a cadre of the PSI (Indonesian Socialist Party) and around the same period he had also been in touch with Lt. Col.Suharto, today's Indonesian President, who often came to stay in his house in Yogyakarta (Wertheim, 1979); besides, Sjam (although sentenced to death in 1968) and Pono (alias Bono, his assistant in the Special Bureau) have been treated extaordinarily well in prison, and May (1978) quoted as writing:
"Indonesians who were released after having been detained following the riots in January 1974 said they saw the two men in prison. Far from having been executed, they were allowed OUT from time to time and wrote reports for the Army on the political situation."

The Widjanarko testimony (1974) if used to implicate President Sukarno in the Gestapu "coup" is doubtful. The Army interrogated Widjanarko to try to prove Sukarno's involvement in the "coup". But as Utrecht (1975) revealed, that the original copy of the testimony was not even signed by Widjanarko himself.
Moreover, he himself, as Utrecht (1975) clarified, wished to DISSOCIATE himself completely from the report of his interrogations in 1966-1967.





Suharto tentang Gerakan 30 September 1965  






On the night of September 30, 1965, six of Indonesia's most senior generals were dragged from their beds and brutally murdered. The shocking murders set in motion a national power struggle that would, in a short time, lead to the overthrow of President Sukarno by General Suharto, initiating a bloody reign of terror in which up to a million Indonesians would be killed.

For more than three decades, the events of that fatal night have been shrouded in mystery, the facts obscured by sensation and propaganda. Now, new evidence suggests that the murders were not what they seemed. Through recently declassified documents, interviews with newly liberated Indonesians, and discussions with officials, journalists, and survivors of prison and torture, SHADOW PLAY offers a startling new interpretation of the events that shaped modern Indonesian history and changed the destiny of Southeast Asia.

SHADOW PLAY, a documentary presented by Thirteen/WNET New York, premieres Sunday, June 2 at 10 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).

In the mountains of Java, mass graves are being opened and bodies exhumed for the first time. One of them belongs to Ibnoe Santoro, a promising student who was executed and dumped in a hole along with 22 others branded as communist sympathizers. Today, Ibnoe Santoro's brother, Joyo Santoso, finally feels free enough to talk about what happened.
Dr. Sumiyarsi, a pediatrician, was arrested without warrant, detained without trial, and imprisoned for 11 years for allegedly being associated with the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI. "My only crime was that I was a member of the Indonesian Scientists Organization," she says.

In an Indonesia now living under democratic rule, former prisoners and relatives of victims are coming forward to tell their stories of the terror campaign of 1965-66 that led to the massacre of up to a million people. Their testimony, along with the newly released documents, provides evidence that this "year of living dangerously" was conducted with the full knowledge and complicity of the United States, Great Britain, and Australia.
Taking its title from the ancient form of Javanese storytelling, SHADOW PLAY looks at how Western powers may have manipulated key figures in Indonesia like shadow puppets as they sought to keep Southeast Asia from falling into communist hands.

At the heart of the story is Achmad Sukarno, the dynamic figure who led the Dutch East Indies to independence from colonial rule and became the first president of the Republic of Indonesia in 1949. In a nation of nationalists, Muslims, leftists, and conservatives, President Sukarno sought to preserve his rule by balancing many competing ideologies.

But President Sukarno's courting of the Indonesian PKI, which, with over three million members, was the largest communist party outside of China and the Soviet Union, increasingly rankled Western powers. With the establishment of the British state of Malaysia on Indonesia's border and the escalation of the U.S. military campaign in Vietnam, Indonesia and the West became increasingly polarized. When President Sukarno became ill, rumors circulated that the army, backed by the CIA, was plotting to overthrow him in order to keep the government out of the hands of the Communists.

Then, on the 30th of September, 1965, junior army officers, supposedly under control of the PKI, kidnapped and killed the head of the army and five senior generals. Twenty-four hours later, the apparent coup was put down by General Mohamed Suharto. In the days and weeks that followed, General Suharto assumed greater and greater powers, controlling the press and spreading stories of how communist women had tortured and mutilated the generals, gouging out their eyes, cutting off their sexual organs and dancing over their bodies.

Soon a nationwide purge was on, leading to mass arrests in Jakarta of anyone with even tenuous ties to the PKI. People like Dr. Sumiyarsi were caught and tortured. After the military pressured President Sukarno into making General Suharto head of the army, the general took his ideological cleansing campaign to the countryside -- where students like Ibnoe Santoro were tortured, shot, and buried in mass graves.
Six months after the murder of the generals, with hundreds of thousands of Communists and their alleged supporters dead, General Suharto deposed President Sukarno and began a dictatorship that would last until 1998.

Looking back on that pivotal year, SHADOW PLAY examines how British propaganda specialists worked with General Suharto to whip up anti-Communist sentiment and solidify the army's position as heroes. It also reviews newly released communiqués from US and Australian ambassadors revealing that Western powers allowed General Suharto to carry out mass murders so that the Indonesian domino would fall on the Western side of the Cold War divide.

Perhaps most shockingly, SHADOW PLAY hears from the only surviving leader of the September 30th movement, Colonel Latief, who endured 33 years in prison. Latief claims he informed General Suharto of their plans. He contends that the rebels had never intended to kill the generals, but only to bring them before President Sukarno to face charges of planning a coup against him. Some now believe it was General Suharto's agents who infiltrated the movement to make sure the generals were killed, giving General Suharto the pretext to launch his purge and eventually take over Indonesia. Immediately after the murder of the generals, extensive foreign aid was provided by Western countries to the Indonesian military. Recently declassified documents contradict years of US government denials that American intelligence was working with the Indonesian army. The full extent of Western involvement awaits complete declassification of documents, which could take decades.

The documentary goes on to show that today, even under the rule of Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sukarno's daughter, Indonesia is still fractured by the events of September 30, 1965. As the families of Ibnoe Santoro and others seek to re-bury the bones of their murdered relatives, many Indonesians violently refuse to allow it, for they are still wary of Communism and those with alleged ties to the PKI. For them, the Communists were the enemy, and their anti-Communist sentiment remains strong. But, as this film shows, Indonesians like Ibnoe Santoro were most likely victims of a Cold War massacre tacitly supported and perhaps even abetted by the West as part of the global ideological struggle.







Dutch colonists extend their control over the archipelago, creating the Dutch East Indies.


Japan invades the Dutch East Indies.



Aug 17

Indonesia proclaims independence and begins to fight against Dutch colonial rule. The Dutch respond by sending troops into the country, which battle forces led by the nationalist leader Achmed Sukarno for the next four years. Under pressure from the United Nations, a settlement is reached with the Dutch granting full independence to Indonesia.



Dec 27

he Dutch officially grant independence to the Republic of Indonesia. Sukarno becomes President.



Sep 30

Malaysia is founded by the British without consulting Indonesia. Sukarno sends troops against Malaysia



Mar 25

Sukarno, at a public rally, tells the U.S. Ambassador to "go to hell with your aid."



Apr 24

Sukamo nationalizes all foreign-owned enterprises.

Jan 7

Indonesia withdraws from the United Nations to protest the UN's acceptance of Malaysia.

Aug 17

Sukarno promotes an anti-imperialist alliance with Beijing and other Asian communist regimes.

Sep 30

Six senior Indonesian generals are killed in an anti-Sukarno coup. Questions remain about the true character of the attempted coup -- some see it as an attempt by the Communist Party to seize control of the country, while others suspect the plot was designed by the armed forces to take control of the nation

Oct 1

General Suharto takes emergency control of the army and arrests the rebel leaders. He orders the Oct 1army to organize a total purge of the Communist Party from Indonesia. During the next two years, between 500,000 and three million people accused of Communist sympathies are killed

1966 March 11

Suharto assumes emergency powers from Sukarno. During the following months, he ends hostilities with Malaysia, reenters the United Nations, and establishes close ties with the United States.


March 28

Suharto is unanimously elected President of Indonesia.


December - Indonesia invades East Timor.

Portugal grants East Timor independence.


Asian economic crisis begins and quickly spreads to Indonesia. The value of the Indonesian currency plummets by 80 percent, banks and businesses close, and millions of workers lose their jobs. The cost of food and basic necessities skyrockets.



Suharto responds to the growing economic and social unrest by cracking down, and on May 12, 1998, four university students are shot dead after a nonviolent protest. Within a week, antigovernment rioting breaks out in Indonesia's six largest cities, and more than a thousand people occupy the legislature in Jakarta, calling for a new government. Under extreme pressure, Suharto resigns from the presidency after 32 years. Vice President B. J. Habibie takes over as President.



June 7

Election is held for the People's Consultative Assembly. This is the first free election in Indonesia in 44 years.

Sept 20

UN Peacekeeping forces arrive in East Timor to halt the violence.

Aug 30

Eighty percent of the population of East Timor votes for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum. Almost immediately, pro-Indonesian militias rampage, killing thousands and devastating major cities.


Abdurrahman Wahid is elected President by the Assembly. Ethnic violence breaks out in Maluku.


Aug 3

Suharto is charged with corruption. Some claim he drained between $500 million and $15 billion from state-run foundations. His lawyers claim that Suharto has suffered two strokes and is unable to testify. His case will be dismissed a year later, when a judge rules that Suharto is too ill to stand trial.


July Wahid is accused of corruption and incompetence and removed from the presidency.

July 23

Megawati Sukarnoputri becomes President of indonesia.


March Tommy Suharto, son of former President Suharto, is charged with planning the murder of an Indonesian Supreme Court judge.


Go to Hell with Your aid

Shadow Play

Living Dangerously

The Cold War was at its height in 1965. Lyndon B. Johnson, the President of the United States, was escalating the war in Vietnam, and the countries of South Asia were seen by the administration as a series of dominoes, each standing
precariously next to the other. If one country fell under communist control, they believed, the rest would tumble after it.

"There was nobody in Asia who had the slightest doubt about the Domino Theory," recalls Dr. Walt Rostow, who served as chairman of the Policy Planning Council for the U.S. State Department from 1961 to 1966. "People in Asia knew that the war
in Vietnam was a war for the future of Southeast Asia."

At this time, American policy makers were growing increasingly worried that Indonesia, with the third largest Communist Party
in the world after China and the Soviet Union, was slipping away from the West. "This became much more concrete with [President] Sukarno leaving the UN early in 1965," says Rostow. "He took up with Aidit [the chairman of the Indonesian Communist Party], and he cut his ties with the UN and the U.S. ...
That was the occasion that Lyndon B. Johnson had to make up his mind -- was he going to fight for Southeast Asia or was
he not? He knew that the whole future of democracy in Southeast Asia and the orientation of Southeast Asia was at stake."

"Go to hell with your aid,"
Sukarno told the U.S. Ambassador, who was attending a public rally on March 25, 1964.

One year later, on August 17, 1965, Sukarno gave another speech suggesting that Indonesia should join an anti-imperialist alliance with Beijing and other Asian communist regimes. America's worst fears, it seemed, were being realized.
The Indonesian domino was teetering.



Six weeks later, a coup against President Sukarno's government began with the killing of six senior generals by a group
of army officers on September 30, 1965. The country was in turmoil. General Suharto, quickly taking control of the army,
captured the plotters and accused the Communist Party of attempting to overthrow the government.

These events were closely followed by Marshall Green, the American Ambassador in Jakarta.
His reports back to Washington, recently released as part of a State Department history
show the role the United States played in events as Suharto moved to destroy
the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).



October 5, 1965

Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
To: State Department, Washington
"What actually happened is still obscure. We can help shape developments to our advantage ... spread the story of the Communist guilt ... treachery and brutality."

November 4, 1965
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"The Army is doing a first class job here of moving against the Communists, and by all current indications is the emerging authority in Indonesia."

November 8, 1965
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"The Army with the help of Youth Organizations and other anti-Communist elements has continued systematic drive to destroy PKI in northern Sumatra with wholesale killings reported."

December 1, 1965
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"This is to confirm my earlier concurrence that we provide ... fifty million rupiahs for the activities of the Kap-Gestapu movement. ... This army inspired but civilian staffed action group is still carrying the burden of current repressive efforts targeted against PKI, particularly in central Java. ... The chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be."

April 15, 1966
Fm: Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"The problem is the impossibility of weighing the countervailing effects of exaggeration ... and the interests of people involved to cover up their crimes.
The truth can never be known. Even the Indonesian government has only a vague idea of the truth.
We frankly do not know whether the real figure is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000 but we believe it wiser to err on the
side of the lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press.

August 10, 1966
Fm: U.S. Embassy, Jakarta
Fm: State Department, Washington
"A sanitized version of these lists [of PKI leaders] ... has been made available to the Indonesian Government last December ... and is apparently being used by security authorities who seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership. Lists of other officials in the PKI affiliates ... were also provided to officials at their request."

These documents show that the U.S. State Department was aware of the scope of the killings, and they reveal
in detail how the U.S. Ambassador encouraged and supported the destruction of the Indonesian Communist Party with both financial backing and intelligence.

No one knows how many people were ultimately killed. Estimates range from half a million to two or even three million. The truth may never be known.

Other results are more tangible. General Suharto completely destroyed the Communist Party in Indonesia and seized control
of the Indonesian government.
On March 27, 1968, he was officially elected President of Indonesia, a position he would maintain with an iron fist for the next
32 years.
Under Suharto's authority, Indonesia quickly made peace with Malaysia and rejoined the United Nations.
And General Suharto's government received generous military support and financial assistance from the United States for the next three decades.

Interview with Walt Rostow by CNN.
Transcript online at the Web site of the National Security Archives for The Cold War, Volume 9, "The Wall." http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/

The State Department documents relating to Indonesia published in FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1964-1968, Volume XXVI, can be seen online at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB52/



General Suharto

Suharto was born into a devout Muslim family on June 8, 1921, on the island of Java. One of 11 children, he grew up in extreme poverty. He attended high school and later worked as a bank clerk, a job he had to give up because he ripped his only sarong and could not afford to replace it.

He went through basic military training in 1940, and became an assistant police chief in Yogyakarta, Java. He welcomed the Japanese, who invaded Indonesia in 1942, as liberators from Dutch colonialism, and joined a local Japanese military unit. By the end of World War II, he concluded that the Japanese were no better than the Dutch, and he joined the fight against them.



When the Dutch tried to reclaim the country after the war, Suharto joined the Indonesian independence movement under the nationalist leader Achmed Sukarno. He led the troops that expelled Dutch troops from the city of Yogyakarta, and when Indonesia became independent, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the new Indonesian army.

Suharto rose quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming commander in chief of the army's Strategic Command in Jakarta. Immediately following the incidents of September 30, 1965, when a group of senior officers were killed in a coup attempt, Suharto led a counterstrike that ended the rebellion. During this period, President Sukarno had been hanging on to power by balancing between the Communist Party and the military -- the two most powerful organizations in the country.

Suharto's cleansing campaign.

General Suharto took advantage of the opportunity to consolidate power, and began a ruthless military campaign to wipe out the Communist Party.

He oversaw a bloody purge of Communists and suspected Communists between 1965 and 1966
that resulted in mass murders in villages and towns across the country. T

he exact number of people killed may never be known, but estimates range
between 500,000 and three million.




on March 12, 1966, referred to these events as

"one of the most savage mass slaughters of modern political history."

The American embassy followed these events
closely, and offered both money and information to
help rid the country of Communist influences.

Marshall Green:
The chances of detection of our support are as minimal as any black bag operation

On March 11, 1966, General Suharto took emergency control over the country. Two years later, he was formally elected President of Indonesia. Suharto was rewarded for his bloody efforts with loans and technical and military assistance from the West. He allowed the army to play a role in all levels of government, which suppressed all forms of political and civil dissent. He also removed large numbers of landless farmers from Java, the most populated island in Indonesia, and settled them in other parts of the country.

Enriched by Western aid and oil revenues during the 1970s, Suharto began an ambitious development program that built roads, established medical clinics, and brought electricity to small villages. Despite these advances, rampant corruption
and the ruthless suppression of dissent created simmering pockets of discontent around the nation.

The invasion of East Timor in December 1975, shortly after the island gained independence from Portugal, revealed that the basic character of Suharto's regime had not changed. The Indonesian military, determined to annex East Timor, tortured and brutalized its population. Amnesty International has estimated the civilian casualties during the Indonesian occupation were as high as 200,000 people -- more than one quarter of the populatio