The Model Pupil
excerpted from the book
The New Rulers of the World
by John Pilger
Verso, 2002, paper
Flying into Jakarta, it is not difficult to imagine the city below
fitting the World Bank's description of Indonesia. A 'model pupil
of globalisation' was the last of many laurels the bank bestowed.
That was almost five years ago. Within weeks, short-term global
capital had fled the country, the stock market and currency had
crashed, and the number of people living in absolute poverty had
reached almost 70 million. The next year, 1998, General Suharto
was forced to resign after thirty years as dictator, taking with
him severance pay estimated at $15 billion, the equivalent of
almost 13 percent of his country's foreign debt, much of it owed
to the World Bank.'
Nike workers get about 4 per cent of the retail price of the shoes
they make, which is not enough to buy the laces.
The workers I met later, secretly, told me: 'If Gap trousers have
to be finished, we don't leave. We stay till the order is full,
no matter the time. If you want to go to the toilet, you have
to be lucky. If the supervisor says no, you shit in your pants
. . . we are treated like animals because we have to work hard
all the time | without saying a word.'
I told them the Gap company boasted about
a 'code of conduct' that protected workers' basic rights.
'We've never seen it,' they said. 'Foreigners
from Gap come to the factory, but they are interested only in
quality control and the rate of production. They never ask about
working conditions. They don't even look at us.'
Agribusiness in the West, especially the United States and Europe,
has produced its famous surpluses and export power only because
of high tariff walls and massive domestic subsidies. The result
has been a monopoly on humanity's staples
... according to a CIA memorandum, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
and President John Kennedy had agreed to 'liquidate President
Sukarno, depending on the situation and available opportunities'.
The CIA author added, 'It is not clear to me whether murder or
overthrow is intended by the word liquidate.'
Sukarno was a populist, the founder of
modern Indonesia and of the non-aligned movement of developing
countries, which he hoped would forge a genuine 'third way' between
the spheres of the two superpowers. In 1955, he convened the 'Asia-Africa
Conference' in the Javanese hill city of Bandung. It was the first
time the leaders of the developing world, the majority of humanity,
had met to forge common interests: a prospect that alarmed the
western powers, especially as the vision and idealism of nonalignment
represented a potentially popular force that might seriously challenge
neo-colonialism. The hopes invested in such an unprecedented meeting
are glimpsed in the faded tableaux and black-and-white photographs
in the museum at Bandung and in the forecourt of the splendid
art deco Savoy Hotel, where the following Bandung Principles are
I - Respect for fundamental human rights
and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
2 - Respect for the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of all nations.
3 - The recognition of the equality of
4 - The settlement of disputes by peaceful
Sukarno could be a democrat and a demagogue.
For a time, Indonesia was a parliamentary democracy, then became
what he called a 'guided democracy'. He encouraged mass trade
unions and peasant, women's and cultural movements. Between 1959
and 1965, more than 15 million people joined political parties
or affiliated mass organisations that were encouraged to challenge
British and American influence in the region. With 3 million members,
the PKI was the largest communist party in the world outside the
Soviet Union and China. According to the Australian historian
Harold Crouch, 'the PKI had won widespread support not as a revolutionary
party but as an organisation defending the interests of 'the poor
within the existing system'. It was this popularity, rather than
any armed insurgency, that alarmed the Americans. Like Vietnam
to the north, Indonesia might 'go communist' .
In 1990, the American investigative journalist
Kathy Kadane revealed the extent of secret American collaboration
in the massacres of 1965-66 which allowed Suharto to seize the
presidency. Following a series of interviews with former US officials,
she wrote, 'They systematically compiled comprehensive lists of
communist operatives. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to
the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names
of those who had been killed or captured.' One of those interviewed
was Robert J Martens, a political officer in the US embassy in
Jakarta. 'It was a big help to the army,' he said. 'They probably
killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my
hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to
strike hard at a decisive moment.' Joseph Lazarsky, the deputy
CIA station chief in Jakarta, said that confirmation of the killings
came straight from Suharto's headquarters. 'We were getting a
good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up,' he said.
'The army had a "shooting list" of about 4,000 or 5,000
people. They didn't have enough goon squads to zap them all, and
some individuals were valuable for interrogation. The infrastructure
[of the PKI] was zapped almost immediately. We knew what they
were doing . . . Suharto and his advisers said, if you keep them
alive you have to feed them.'
Having already armed and equipped much
of the army, Washington secretly supplied Suharto's troops with
a field communications network as the killings got under way.
Flown in at night by US air force planes based in the Philippines,
this was state-of-the-art equipment, whose high frequencies were
known to the CIA and the National Security Agency advising President
Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto's generals to co-ordinate
the killings, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration
were listening in and that Suharto could seal off large areas
of the country. Although there is archive film of people being
herded into trucks and driven away, a single fuzzy photograph
of a massacre is, to my knowledge, the only pictorial record of
what was Asia's holocaust
The American Ambassador in Jakarta was
Marshall Green, known in the State Department as 'the coupmaster'.
Green had arrived in Jakarta only months earlier, bringing with
him a reputation for having masterminded the overthrow of the
Korean leader Syngman Rhee, who had fallen out with the Americans.
When the killings got under way in Indonesia, manuals on student
organising, written in Korean and English, were distributed by
the US embassy to the Indonesian Student Action Command (KAMI),
whose leaders were sponsored by the CIA.
On October 5, 1965, Green cabled Washington
on how the United States could 'shape developments to our advantage'.
The plan was to blacken the name of the PKI and its 'protector',
Sukarno. The propaganda should be based on '[spreading] the story
of the PKI's guilt, treachery and brutality'. At the height of
the bloodbath, Green assured General Suharto: 'The US is generally
sympathetic with and admiring of what the army is doing.'' As
for the numbers killed, Howard Federspiel, the Indonesia expert
at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research
in 1965, said, 'No one cared, as long as they were communists,
that they were being butchered. No one was getting very worked
up about it.'
The Americans worked closely with the
British, the reputed masters and inventors of the 'black' propaganda
admired and adapted by Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s. Sir Andrew
Gilchrist, the Ambassador in Jakarta, made his position clear
in a cable to the Foreign Office: 'I have never concealed from
you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an
essential preliminary to effective change.' With more than 'a
little shooting' under way, and with no evidence of the PKI's
guilt, the embassy advised British intelligence headquarters in
Singapore on the line to be taken, with the aim of 'weakening
the PKI permanently' .
Suitable propaganda themes might be:
PKI brutality in murdering Generals and [Foreign
Minister] Nasution's daughter . . . PKI subverting Indonesia as
agents of foreign Communists . . . But treatment will need to
be subtle, e.g. (a) all activities should be strictly unattributable,
(b) British participation or co-operation should be carefully
Within two weeks, an office of the Foreign
Office's Information Research Department (IRD) had opened in Singapore.
The IRD was a top-secret, cold war propaganda unit headed by Norman
Reddaway, one of Her Majesty's most experienced liars. It would
be salutary for journalists these days to study the critical role
western propaganda played then, as it does now, in shaping the
news. Indeed, Reddaway and his colleagues manipulated the press
so expertly that he boasted to Gilchrist in a letter marked 'secret
and personal' that the story he had promoted - that Sukarno's
continued rule would lead to a communist takeover - 'went all
over the world and back again' . He described how an experienced
Fleet Street journalist agreed 'to give exactly your angle on
events in his article ... . i.e. that this was a kid glove coup
Roland Challis, the BBC's South-East Asia
correspondent, was a particular target of Reddaway, who claimed
that the official version of events could be 'put almost instantly
back to Indonesia via the BBC'. Prevented from entering Indonesia
along with other foreign journalists, Challis was unaware of the
extent of the slaughter. 'It was a triumph for western propaganda,'
he told me. 'My British sources purported not to know what was
going on, but they knew what the American plan was. There were
bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in
Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian
troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in
this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned
the American embassy was supplying names and ticking them off
as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing
the Suharto regime, the involvement of the IMF and the World Bank
was part of it. Sukarno had kicked them out; now Suharto would
bring them back. That was the deal.'
With Sukarno now virtually powerless and
ill, and Suharto about to appoint himself acting president, the
American press reported the Washington-backed coup not as a great
human catastrophe, but in terms of the new economic advantages.
The massacres were described by Time as 'The West's Best News
in Asia'. A headline in US News and World Report read: 'Indonesia:
Hope . . . where there was once none'. The renowned New York Times
columnist James Reston celebrated 'A gleam of light in Asia' and
wrote a kid-glove version that he had clearly been given. The
Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, who was visiting the US,
offered a striking example of his sense of humour: 'With 500,000
to a million communist sympathisers knocked off,' he said approvingly,
'I think it's safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.'
Holt's remark was an accurate reflection
of the complicity of the Australian foreign affairs and political
establishment in the agony of its closest neighbour. The Australian
embassy in Jakarta described the massacres as a 'cleansing operation'.
The Australian Ambassador, KCO Shann, enthused to Canberra that
the Indonesian army was 'refreshingly determined to do over the
PKI', adding that the generals had spoken approvingly of the reporting
on Radio Australia, which he described as 'a bit dishonest'.'
In the Prime Minister's Department, officials considered supporting
'any measures to assist the Indonesian army ... cope with the
In February 1966, [British] Ambassador
Gilchrist wrote a report on the scale of the massacres based on
the findings of the Swedish Ambassador, who had toured central
and eastern Java with his Indonesian wife and had been able to
speak to people out of earshot of government officials. Gilchrist
wrote to the Foreign Office: 'The Ambassador and I had discussed
the killings before he left [on the tour] and he had found my
suggested figure of 400,000 quite incredible. His enquiries have
led him to reconsider it a very serious under-estimate. A bank
manager in Surabaya with twenty employees said that four had been
removed one night and beheaded . . . A third of a spinning factory's
technicians, being members of a Communist union, had been killed
... The killings in Bali had been particularly monstrous. In certain
areas, it was felt that not enough people [emphasis in the original]
had been killed.'
On the island of Bali, the 'reorientation'
described by Prime Minister Holt meant the violent deaths of at
least 80,000 people, although this is generally regarded as a
conservative figure. The many western, mostly Australian, tourists
who have since taken advantage of cheap package holidays to the
island might reflect that beneath the car parks of several of
the major tourist hotels are buried countless bodies.
The distinguished campaigner and author
Carmel Budiardjo, an Englishwoman married to a tapol and herself
a former political prisoner, returned to Indonesia in 2000 and
found 'the trauma left by the killings thirty-five years ago still
gripping many communities on the island'. She described meeting,
in Denpasar, fifty people who had never spoken about their experiences
before in public. 'One witness,' she wrote, 'who was 20 years
old at the time calmly told us how he had been arrested and held
in a large cell by the military, 52 people in all, mostly members
of mass organisations from nearby villages. Every few days, a
batch of men was taken out, their hands tied behind their backs
and driven off to be shot. Only two of the prisoners survived
. . . Another witness, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian, gave testimony
about the killing of 103 people, some as young as 15. In this
case, the people were not arrested but simply taken from their
homes and killed, as their names were ticked off a list.'
'In the early sixties,' he said, 'the pressure on Indonesia to
do what the Americans wanted was intense. Sukarno wanted good
relations with them, but he didn't want their economic system.
With America, that is never possible. So he became an enemy. All
of us who wanted an independent country, free to make our own
mistakes, were made the enemy. They didn't call it globalisation
then; but it was the same thing. If you accepted it, you were
America's friend. If you chose another way, you were given warnings,
and if you didn't comply, hell was visited on you. But I am back;
I am well; I have my family. They didn't win.'
Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations
officer in the 1960s, described the terror in Indonesia from 1965
- 66 as a 'model operation' for the American-run coup that got
rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. 'The CIA forged
a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean
military leaders,' he wrote, '[just like] what happened in Indonesia
in 1965.' He says Indonesia was also the model for Operation Phoenix
in Vietnam, where American-directed death squads assassinated
up to 50,000 people. 'You can trace back all the major, bloody
events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power,'
he told me. 'The success of that meant that it would be repeated,
again and again.'
Indonesia, once owing nothing but having been plundered of its
gold, precious stones, wood, spices and other natural riches by
its colonial masters, the Dutch, today has a total indebtedness
estimated at $262 billion, which is 170 per cent of its gross
domestic product. There is no debt like it on earth. It can never
be repaid. It is a bottomless hole.
Today, in rebellious West Papua, the army openly supports an Islamic
group, Lashkar Jihad, while playing its traditional role of terrorising
the local population in order to 'protect' the vast multinational
Freeport copper and gold mine, the world's largest. In Aceh, where
the American Exxon company has holdings in oil drilling and liquefied
natural gas, human rights violations by the army are well documented.
The United States and Australia, in the meantime, have quietly
resumed training the officer corps of a military that has never
repudiated its genocidal past. In the name of the 'war on terror',
the state terrorism that the West backed for forty years is making
New Rulers of the World