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Rabu, 23 Januari 2008

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

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