"One of the great needs of the twentieth century is a scientific study of atrocity and of the moral issues involved."1
I want to begin by expressing my debt to Cribb's important book, with which I shall sometimes take issue on particulars of interpretation. In general, Cribb's approach is phenomenological, mine is aetiological; he stresses irrationality where I also see rationality. I freely concede that there is merit to both approaches.
"What we're really doing in Vietnam is killing the cause of `wars of liberation.' It's a testing ground -- like Germany in Spain. It's an example to Central America and other guerrilla prone areas."2
As any reader of a newspaper knows, we live in an age, not just of atrocities, but of atrocities exploited to achieve political ends. This fact tends to be both under-reported and under-registered in our minds, for the whole topic of atrocity is so distasteful that we prefer to avert our eyes. And we comfort ourselves with the consolation that what cannot be helped, uncontrollable irrationality, need not really concern us.
Unfortunately for the reader, my researches into atrocities have persuaded me that this consolation is not only false, it is part of the problem to be corrected. The biggest atrocities of this century have not arisen primarily from spontaneous behavior, humans out of control. They have been managed atrocities, outrages provoked and exploited by state powers within the so-called civilized world. Our personal psychological denial of this elementary fact facilitates and reinforces the large-scale political denial which allows the phenomenon of managed atrocity to continue.
The atrocities I address in this article are those committed on a personal level: mass rapes, mass murders and torture. I do not mean to imply that we should be less concerned about impersonal atrocities, the indiscriminate slaughter inflicted by saturation bombings or nuclear weapons. The two phenomena are sometimes related, as when in Cambodia anti-Western killings on the ground followed years of American carpet bombing from the air.
There is some denial about bombings as well. In America there are many who still feel outrage about the fascist bombing of Guernica, while knowing or feeling little about the massive bombings of Dresden and Hamburg. But it is hard to deny the elementary American responsibility for the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the saturation bombings of Vietnam.
It is different with hand-to-hand massacres. Here American media are quick to cast light on the personal atrocities of others, who happen (not by coincidence) to be our enemies. We have been told much about the outrages committed by Nazi Germany and Japan during World War II, and then in the post-war era by Stalin and by China down through the Cultural Revolution and Tien-An-Men. The massacres in Cambodia, with their pyramids of skulls, have been succeeded in our media by the killing fields of East Africa, Bosnia, and Algeria.
The massacres we do not hear about, at least at the time, are those for which the United States itself is responsible. This on-going, systematic suppression, from the Philippines in the 1950s to El Salvador in the 1980s, falsifies our understanding, not just of our own history, but of all managed atrocities throughout the world.
For managed atrocities do not "just happen;" they are not an inevitable consequence of human frailty and hatefulness. The more they are studied, the more they emerge as part of a single coherent narrative. Most of the bloody massacres today can be seen as part of the on-going legacy of colonialism: a single narrative, whether the colonialism we speak of is capitalist, socialist, or Islamic.
In many parts of the world the seminal acts of atrocity were connected to Western expansion, such as that of the British into India, the French into Indochina, the Spanish into Latin America, the Dutch into Indonesia. Indeed one can ask if the extensive spread of power over alien populations has ever been achieved without the use of atrocities to intimidate the conquered into submission. Though many attempts have been made to link the commission of atrocities to the ethos of particular expansionist nations, my studies suggest rather that atrocities are a feature of expansionist power itself.
A related question is this: has there ever been a seminal atrocity that was not simultaneously a state atrocity? Appearances often might suggest this. However, when history is taken into account, my tentative answer would be No.
Often the perpetrators of massacre have also been victims of previous atrocities, or have perceived themselves so. In some cases the perpetrators are motivated by a wish to conquer, or by fear of a successful challenge to their own privileged power. Such atrocities are not responsive but seminal, and in modern times they are nearly always planned. These planned atrocities may be declining in number, but they tend to be the biggest. And they continue to be significant: the ones which do most to help explain the rest.
For example: the atrocities today in North Africa, Yugoslavia, and the Near East antedate the imperial conquests of these areas; and are rooted in religious persecutions of a millennium or more ago. Nevertheless the French scorched-earth campaign of the 1830s in Algeria and ensuing repression can still be considered seminal atrocities, quantum escalations in brutality whose consequences are seen in the responsive atrocities there today.
Likewise the history of Indonesia, the subject of this essay, is a succession of invasions and atrocities. Nevertheless the carefully planned and executed massacre of 1965, in which perhaps a million were killed, can be called a seminal escalation, one whose consequences are still being suffered.
Let me at this point what clarify what I mean by managed atrocities. Atrocities can be used politically in different ways. They can be threatened (this practice is widespread). They can be committed. Or the commission of atrocity can be directed and exploited psychologically to induce further terror among survivors.
This last stage, which I call managed atrocity, is known and taught at special U.S. military schools as part of psychological warfare or psywar. A fully managed atrocity is one in which the pretext for the exploited atrocity is developed by the managers of the atrocity itself. Not all psywar is managed atrocity. But all managed atrocity is psywar, and psywar is responsible for the seminal managed atrocities of today.3
We close this century with the sad awareness that virtually all major states, and particularly those states who have prided themselves on their degree of civilization, have been responsible for major massacres of civilians. Recurringly, indeed predictably, it has been civilization itself that has been cited as a justification for atrocious massacre. As was once the case with religion, people will commit atrocities in the name of civilization that they might not contemplate otherwise. The greater the faith in one's civilizing mission, the greater the likelihood of unprecedented atrocity.4
The U.S. government in particular has begun to admit its involvement, not only in assassinations and torture, but in the teaching of these arts to the managers of death squads in Central and South America. It is today no secret that veterans of the Phoenix program in Vietnam transferred their skills and attention to Latin America in the late 1960s and 1970s, and that assassination and torture continued to be taught at the School of the Americas as late as the 1990s.5
If this essay on atrocity appears to focus inordinately on such management details as the display of corpses, it is because such details figure in America's psywar curriculum.
This essay began as a study into the theory and practice of U.S. psywar, as applied to the Indonesian archipelago. Here the case for U.S. responsibility is more controversial than what has been conceded in Latin America. The scale of atrocity is also immensely larger, leading in the case of East Timor to the death of perhaps one third of the population.
This essay has grown as I saw more and more clearly the relevance of my research to superficially different massacres in Chile (1973), Cambodia (after 1975), and Algeria (in the 1990s). And I have come to appreciate more and more the difference between the two latter (which I shall argue were responsive to earlier managed atrocities) and Chile (which at the level of massacre was unprovoked, seminal, and ours).
The reader should understand that this nasty, obsessive narrative, however unpleasant, is in the end optimistic. It is difficult to handle responsive atrocities, such as that in Bosnia today. However seminal atrocities, precisely because they are planned, can also be controlled. For this reason I consider it imperative to address the residues of America's managed atrocities in the world today.
For I do believe that if we can terminate America's management of atrocity, that is the best formula for helping the responsive atrocities to subside. For example, if public protest had deterred the U.S. from training and arming terrorists in Afghanistan after 1979, we might not have had the responsive atrocity of the World Trade Center by one of our own erstwhile terrorists in 1993.
For three decades, with long interludes to preserve my sanity, I have studied U.S. involvement (along with other countries like Britain and Japan) in the great Indonesian massacre of 1965. Only in the last few years have I come to focus on what I now think was the defining paradigm for what happened: a psywar operation.
What opened my eyes was one of the first eyewitness accounts of the slaughter. This made it clear that the corpses flooding the rivers of East Java were not just dumped their to dispose of them; they had been rigged to float, and thus terrorize those living downstream:
"Stomachs torn open. The smell was unbelievable. To make sure they didn't sink, the carcasses were deliberately tied to, or impaled on, bamboo stakes. And the departure of corpses from the Kediri region down the Brantas achieved its golden age when bodies were stacked on rafts over which the PKI banner proudly flew."6
This exploitative detail, the display of mutilated corpses, has been recurringly cited for its horror as a symptom of "unplanned brutality,"7 or "mass hysteria."8
In fact it falls well within the parameters of planned U.S. atrocities. It is in particular a signature of U.S.-trained atrocity managers in Chile, El Salvador, and today in Colombia.9
The display of corpses by arranging to float them down river was a feature of U.S. counterinsurgency in the Philippines in the 1900s, and again in the 1950s.10
Corpses were also displayed by the Indonesians in East Timor after 1975, as part of a genocidal campaign supported and supplied by the United States. I will have more to say about the display of corpses, not because this atrocious detail is intrinsically worse than others, but because it is a forensic clue of techniques that have been transmitted through instruction.
Though less spectacular today, the East Timor campaign continues. So does the atrocity management in West Papua, a territory ceded by the Dutch (under U.S. pressure) to Indonesia, as a U.S.-dominated multinational (now called Freeport McMoRan) began to carry out plans to develop one of the world's largest known deposits of copper and gold. Closer to home, army and U.S.-backed massacres continue in Colombia, and increasingly in Mexico. With these examples in mind, I have chosen a title, "Using Atrocities" (rather than "Managed Atrocities"), to stress that the process we are talking about continues.
At least in theory, these processes are amenable to human control and amendment. We saw in the 1980s how the U.S.-backed atrocities in El Salvador and Nicaragua were terminated after Congressional action, especially after the long-denied massacre at El Mozote in 1981 (by a U.S.-trained battalion) was finally acknowledged. The delayed exposure of atrocities in East Timor has led to recent U.S. pressures on Indonesia, in the form of withholding military aid; and there are signs that Indonesia may soon respond in some way to the increasing pressures on it from the rest of the world.
The holding of an impartial referendum on self-determination in
East Timor would
represent a great victory for the people of that small and sorry
nation. But the
termination of managed atrocity in that country could have global
consequences as well: as
a statement that managed atrocity in this world is not inevitable,
not acceptable, and
Of all the western nations, the one whose people knows least about the current regime of Indonesian terror in East Timor is probably the United States. This is no accident. Despite deceptive public protestations about human rights, the United States is also the major power with the greatest responsibility for those conditions of on-going psychological warfare, which is to say terror.
Those who have made this case in the past, like Noam Chomsky, have focused on three aspects of U.S. responsibility: political encouragement, military support, and propaganda preparation. This paper will point to a fourth: U.S. responsibility for teaching the Indonesian Army the psychological warfare (psywar) techniques of terror, which were then practiced in the great massacre of 1965, and again in East Timor a decade later. I shall argue that, whereas massacre is unfortunately only too common a human experience, massacre as a psywar technique of terror has a narrower history. Although we shall see precedents from the Mongols and Tatars, and later Japan during World War II, the chief country of transmission would appear to be the United States.
Deliberate atrocity is not easy to read or write about. Even at the post-war Tribunal on Japanese war-crimes, the record shows recurring moments when the presiding judge did not wish to hear details, and one time when even the prosecutor declined to continue. What will always remain obscure is the line between the spontaneous mayhem of soldiers who have run amok, and the mayhem that has been intended to terrorize a civilian population. Unfortunately the record from Indonesia in 1965 and East Timor since 1975 is unambiguous that terror was deliberately practiced as part of psywar campaigns, for which the U.S., to a greater or lesser degree, shared ultimate responsibility.
As a way of introducing this topic, I will look first at the broader context of U.S. responsibility, and particularly the involvement of the U.S. (along with other countries) in the psychological propaganda campaign which prepared world opinion to accept the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor.
A political green light for the Indonesian invasion of December 7, 1975 was given by President Ford and Henry Kissinger in Jakarta a few hours before, when all the Americans demanded was that the attack be delayed until after their departure.12 The U.S. abstained in the subsequent U.N. vote condemning the invasion, and the Indonesians rightly interpreted this abstention also as tacit acceptance. As U.N. Ambassador Moynihan later wrote of his service under Jimmy Carter (the "human rights" president), "The Department of State desired that the U.N. prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. The task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success."13
Meanwhile the United States continued to supply U.S. arms and materiel to Indonesia, which were used to crush the Timorese people. As both countries were well aware, the use of U.S. arms to attack a third country violated the military assistance agreement under which the arms had been provided. Yet, as Noam Chomsky told the UN General Assembly in 1979,
Contrary to false testimony by government witnesses at congressional hearings, new offers of arms were immediately accepted after the invasion. Then, and since, the flow of arms has been uninterrupted, including attack helicopters and other equipment required to wipe hundreds of villages off the face of the earth, destroy crops, and herd the remnants of the population into internment centers.14
The arms supplied by the U.S. and other countries, such as Rockwell's Bronco OV-10F airplane, were not for general defense purposes. They were specifically chosen to meet the needs of the East Timor counterinsurgency campaign, in which saturation bombing by the Bronco jets came to play a key role.15
This is perhaps the most obvious sign of U.S. involvement in the on-going atrocities of East Timor. The planes were used both to bomb villages directly, and also to defoliate the earth as part of a campaign of forced resettlement. As a letter from 1977 narrates, "Many elements of the population were killed under inhuman conditions of bombardment and starvation....The waters of the river were filled with blood and bodies."16
A third aspect of US involvement raised by Chomsky and others is its propaganda role in preparing for Indonesian takeover of East Timor.17 I would like to begin by distinguishing between mere advocacy of East Timor into Indonesia, and manipulative psychological preparation for it.
According to the Australian observer James Dunn, the first published example of the former may have been in a December 1966 article in the journal Asian Survey, published by the University of California at Berkeley. The author, Donald Weatherbee, concluded that "when Indonesian ideology and interests converge in a Timor `liberation' policy, the Portuguese will be faced with realities of power in the Archipelago;" and he added that "In a sense Portuguese Timor is a trust territory, the Portuguese holding it in trust for Indonesia."18
Dunn, who was a diplomat at the time, attaches some importance to this article, reporting that its "cursory dismissal of East Timor's right to self-determination...was common among the few Australian and American officials responsible for handling Indonesian affairs, and during informal contacts it was inevitably conveyed to Indonesian officials."19 Later he describes its view that Timor's future lay with Indonesia as one "that had developed in political, diplomatic, and academic circles since the early 1960s," adding that "The Suharto regime would not have missed the work of Professor Donald Weatherbee."20
There is not much in the public record to corroborate Dunn's sense of the article's importance. I can find only one citation of it before the 1975 invasion, and this was in a French academic journal. But Asian Survey was edited by two men, Professors Robert Scalapino and Leo E. Rose, who were also involved in the formation of U.S. Asian policy. When in 1980 the Indonesian Government finally invited a delegation of friendly American academics to approve of their handiwork in East Timor, the invitees, chosen by the U.S. State Department, included both Prof. Weatherbee and Prof. Rose. (To this day Prof. Rose argues that the Timorese he met were happy to be assimilated, and that Fretilin leaders were no more than a group of mesticos from the cities. This last claim, according to Dunn, is another propaganda canard; all but two of Fretilin's Central Committee were full-blooded Timorese.)21 and Asian Survey's assessment in 1976 of the Indonesian invasion, though vastly more sensitive than Weatherbee to Timorese conditions and suffering, again concluded that the Indonesian takeover was probably "inevitable."22
If Weatherbee's article has any importance, it is by default. I can find no other American articles about Timorese politics before 1974-75, and virtually none about Timor at all. Apart from a few anthropological essays and reviews, the only periodical reference to Timor I could locate was a travel article in the February 1968 issue of Motor Boating.
It is against this background of silence that we must judge the sudden propaganda sequence of stories in the New York Times. (mostly based on dispatches from the British news agency Reuters), between August 11, 1975 and the following July.23 This was a clear example of political complicity and duplicity in preparing public opinion to accept Indonesian intervention as a solution to violence, rather than what it had already been, a source of it.24
The reality in East Timor was much clearer than the anarchic chaos these stories portrayed. The infant East Timorese political parties had encountered difficulties in agreeing on a common approach to independence; and the Indonesians, aware of the situation, had encouraged one of the parties (the Uniao Democratica Timorense, or UDT), to proclaim a unilateral coup d'etat in August. But the UDT had swiftly collapsed under a counterattack from the more radical and popularly-based Fretilin, so that by the end of August, after a swift but bloody civil war lasting only a fortnight, the UDT forces had withdrawn from the capital and begun their retreat into West Timor.25 UDT- Fretilin fighting lasted another month near the West Timor border, as Fretilin inexorably mopped up the last pockets of UDT resistance, now increasingly supported by invading Indonesian commandos. By September 26 the CIA, which had access to monitoring of the Indonesian communications, reported that the UDT had failed to offer a serious resistance to Fretilin, and that the Indonesians themselves had suffered casualties.26
Though fighting resumed in October, it was now between Fretilin and (as the CIA reported on October 10) invading "Indonesian troops," supported by an amphibious task force.27 The civil war was now over, except in the pages of foreign journals like the New York Times. (As we shall see, a Times special correspondent could write, as late as November 26, about Indonesia's "hands-off policy with respect to the civil war that is engulfing Portuguese Timor.")28 In June 1976 the Times' David Andelman reported that the Indonesian takeover of East Timor was now complete, and approved by a People's Assembly in Dili.29
Others have noted how, through two and a half subsequent years of a genocidal Indonesian campaign (leading to the death of perhaps one third of the population), the Times ran only two brief stories, about the problem of East Timorese refugees in Lisbon.30 But just as slanted was the extensive Times reporting in the months leading up to and including the December 1975 invasion. A series of stories repeated Indonesian propaganda lies about the Fretilin government in Dili, as "Communists" receiving arms from Communist bloc countries, who in seizing power "had cut the throats of babies," and who were violating the Indonesian territory of West Timor.31 Former Australian diplomat James Dunn, who was in Dili at the time, has since denounced these claims as either "macabre fantasy" or else fabrications from the Indonesian intelligence agency Bakin.32
Chomsky and Herman have further shown how an article by Gerald Stone in the London Times (summarizing atrocity reports) was acutely censored when reprinted in the New York Times. In particular authorial warnings such as the following were deleted: "I am convinced that many of the stories fed to the public in the past two weeks were not simply exaggerations; they were the product of a purposeful campaign to plant lies."33
Meanwhile on November 26, an extraordinary dispatch from the Times' own correspondent David Andelman spoke of Indonesia's "hands-off policy with respect to the civil war that is engulfing Portuguese Timor," and noted that "The Indonesian forces...have been showing remarkable restraint."34 This was seven weeks after the Indonesians, as the CIA had reported internally on October 10, had launched an overt military attack from West Timor, in order (according to Dunn) "to keep up the fiction that the civil war was continuing to rage."35 Again, writing after the East Timorese town Atabae had been bombarded for twelve days by Indonesian gunships, Andelman wrote that U.S.-supplied Indonesian destroyers "cruise the waters around Timor to prevent infiltration of arms by sea to the left-wing rebels."36
In short the Times coverage of East Timor exactly fit the goals of Indonesian propaganda, as summarized by James Dunn:
The flow of disinformation from Jakarta...was carried by Australian, US, British and some other foreign media and news agencies, which served to divert world attention to Indonesia's false dilemma -- what should it do to help the strife-torn people of Timor? Many observers were thus asking the obvious question: how much longer could Indonesia stand by and not intervene with this terrible war going on right on its own borders, and posing a potential threat to its security?37
It is hard to imagine how the tiny half-island of East Timor could have posed a threat to one of the world's largest nations. Yet the Times' articles certainly strengthened this illusion.
The Times' subsequent news blackout in the wake of the full invasion suggests that this heavy slanting of the news was not from ignorance. What is most striking about the stream of pre-invasion scare stories is the absence of a single dateline from Washington, the Times' usual source. This was in keeping with Washington's desire to distance itself as far as possible from the East Timorese situation, the State Department having even directed its Embassy in Jakarta to cut back on its reporting of the subject.38
This distancing fit the so-called Nixon doctrine of devolving security responsibilities on to regional powers like Indonesia. Back in August the U.S. Ambassador in Jakarta had already told an Indonesian official that the U.S. had no objection to integration of East Timor, and that although difficulties could arise if the Indonesians resorted to force, these difficulties had to do with a possible Congressional reaction which could threaten the military assistance program.39
It is clear that, even if the U.S. press was complicit in this psychological preparation of the path to Indonesian invasion, so were the media of Australia, Britain, and other western powers. I hope however to show that this preparation was part of an inclusive psywar campaign, including terror, for whose application the U.S. among these powers bears primary responsibility.
As the invasion and bombardments fade into history, I would like to focus on a fourth aspect of responsibility which is both chilling and on-going, and for which the U.S. in particular may have been the principal source. This is responsibility for teaching the psywar (psychological warfare) techniques that have been used, persistently even though unsuccessfully, to break the will of the Maubere people in East Timor. These psywar techniques include not only killings and rapes (which require no instruction), but more sophisticated tactics such as forced relocations of populations, and training civilian youths as paramilitary goon squads to localize terror and propagate it further. Among these standard techniques, which are widely practiced and disseminated through the world, is one which appears to carry a particular U.S. signature: the public display of decapitated and mutilated bodies, bodies not of criminals or guerrillas but of average civilians.
The practice of exposing corpses in public places is as old as Confucius in the East and Homer in the West, and is familiar to Christians from the example of the crucifixion.40
History thereafter records a succession of devastating massacres leaving behind them abandoned corpses, or even skulls collected into monuments. It was also common for punishment of those judged to be criminals, especially political criminals or rebels, to include the deliberate display of the person's body or decapitated head.
The most notorious monument of skulls (originally severed heads) is probably that erected by Timur Lenk (Tamerlane) at the ruined fort of Takrit in Central Asia. This monument was certainly designed to deter opposition: its base carried the legend, "Behold the fate of lawless men and evil doers." It is noteworthy however that at Takrit the defending warriors were first separated from civilians, and the latter spared.41
A similar, more relevant, and probably mimetic example is the Mimizuka or Ear Tomb constructed in Kyoto by the Japanese samurai Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1597 AD, "as evidence" of his campaign in Korea, and probably also as a deterrent to rebellion in a highly unstable and transitional Japan.42 The monument was constructed from the ears and noses of 38,000 slaughtered Koreans, after it was deemed that the export of 38,000 skulls to Japan would be too difficult.43
It is conjectured that Hideyoshi, who died the next year, contemplated expansion into China in the tradition of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. It is also said that Hideyoshi, who earlier appeared much more moderate in his treatment of captives, was by 1597 losing his judgment.44 The fact that this exotic memorial is still treated reverently in Japan (to the distaste of Koreans) should perhaps be related to reports (as we shall see) that Japanese atrocities in China in World War II were consciously modeled on the precedents of the Mongols and Tatars.
In general the public display of bodies and heads, of civilians chosen almost at random, appears to have a narrow history, characteristic above all of this century. This practice is part of a complex of psywar terror (or so-called "counterterror") techniques was developed by U.S. advisors in the Philippine counterinsurgency campaign of the 1950s, and soon afterwards expanded upon in Vietnam. The techniques were subsequently written down, by Philippine psywar practitioners like Edward G. Lansdale, Charles Bohannon, and Napoleon Valeriano, and incorporated into U.S. Army psywar training manuals.45
Although the most senior of these men was Lansdale, the man most associated with mass killing was Valeriano, a Filipino whose units were known as "skull squadrons" for their practice of beheading suspected Huks.46 The journals of Lansdale, a non-soldier and p.r.-man, reveal that he found the killings carried out by his friend Valeriano "rather sickening."47
Judging from subsequent behavior, it would appear that these techniques were taught to the Indonesian army prior to the great anti-PKI bloodbath of 1965, just as we know they were taught to the armies of other countries where decapitations and the like also became common. These countries include Vietnam, Colombia, El Salvador, and Guatemala, all of which were visited by U.S. counterinsurgency advisors in the early 1960s.48
This teaching occurred in two venues. Key Indonesian officers were sent to the United States for training, such as General Suwarto, who after 1958 built the Army Staff and Command School in Bandung (SESKOAD) into a training-ground for the takeover of political power.49 Another example is Suharto's son-in-law Maj.-Gen. Prabowo Subianto, a key figure in the East Timor occupation who is said to have graduated first in his U.S. Special Forces officer class.50 At the same time U.S. advisors in Indonesia had trained the Army since the 1950s, especially in counterinsurgency. As we shall see, U.S. aid in 1962-65 was channeled through a Military Training Advisory Group whose purpose was seen as helping to resist Communist takeover.51 By the time of the 1965 coup, over 4000 Indonesian officers had been trained in the United States; and almost half of the officer corps had received some kind of training from the Americans.52
My case that some of them were taught psywar terror tactics lacks proper documentation, and is based chiefly on the congruities between the psywar behavior in Indonesia with that of U.S. trainees elsewhere. Thus, inevitably, my argument is in large part a historical one. The consequences of what we shall discuss are however very contemporary.
One of the more conspicuous features of the Indonesian army repression in East Timor today is the widespread use of torture. The precise techniques of torture used, in which detainees are "tied, beaten, kicked, hung, hooded, and sometimes slashed," are exactly those used by counterintelligence interrogators of the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s.53 To argue U.S. responsibility for training in these techniques does not exclude the possibility that third-party nations, such as Taiwan or Israel, have been involved in their transmission. But it is the United States, more than any other country, that has disseminated these techniques widely through the world. And particularly, as I shall now argue, in Indonesia.
Indonesian troops themselves have declared to their victims that their terror campaign in East Timor is modeled on the great anti-PKI massacres of 1965.54 I and others have argued that the United States played an important role in encouraging, planning, financing, and supplying trainers and military equipment for this operation.55 My own previous arguments focused primarily on political and military developments in this period. I was not then aware of the extent to which the whole operation was conceived of as a psychological warfare (psywar) operation along American lines.
In the light of what I now know about psychological warfare, I see the 1965 Indonesian "coup attempt," and subsequent massacre, as part of a single co-ordinated psychological warfare operation, arguably the largest that the world has ever seen. It would seem to respond to what U.S. Ambassador Howard P. Jones was calling for in 1961, as part of his seven-point program to prevent Indonesia's slide toward communism. One of his proposals was that the U.S. prepare for a "possible major psychological war campaign coordinating covert and overt resources, when proper climate can be developed."56
What Jones had in mind may possibly be illuminated by his subsequent actions and statements, which were in line with what eventually developed. Jones tried in 1964 to persuade former Army Chief of Staff Nasution to have the army take matters in its own hands against the PKI (Indonesian Communist party).57
In March 1965, fearing accommodation between the army and PKI, Jones told senior officials: "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."58
This had been Washington's goal from as early as 1960, when the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council wrote to President-elect Kennedy that the U.S. should .
give priority treatment to programs which offer opportunities to isolate the PKI, to drive it into positions of open confrontation with the Indonesian Government, thereby creating the grounds for repressive measures, politically justifiable in terms of the Indonesian national interest.59
The campaign of 1965 was defined as psychological warfare by at least one of its key protagonists. This was Col. Sarwo Edhie, a CIA asset and commander of the RPKAD Red Berets who oversaw the killings in central Java, eastern Java, and Bali.60
We learn from an official Indonesian account of the campaign to crush the Indonesian Communists ("the G30S/PKI"), that Sarwo Edhie's meeting to plan this campaign in Surakarta on October 26, 1965, was organized along the following principle (with the underlined words not in Bahasa Indonesia but in English):
The G30S/PKI should be given no opportunity to concentrate/consolidate. It should be pushed back systematically by all means, including psywar, distribution of pamphlets and the spreading of information to achieve the goal of slowing down [G30S/PKI activities].61
What followed this meeting is well-known from other sources: not leaflet distribution, but the training of youths as death squads for civilian killings.62
Until recently, I was unaware that, from its first English use in 1941, the term "psychological warfare" had been linked to terror, and explicitly linked "mass communication with selective application of violence (murder, sabotage, assassination, insurrection, counterinsurrection, etc.)."63 Christopher Simpson quotes from a U.S. Army document to show that among the weapons of psychological warfare are "miscellaneous operations such as assassination."64
Lansdale's "tactical psywar" campaign against Philippine guerrillas in the early 1950s added some sophistication to an earlier campaign of what the CIA called "gradual extermination." In these psy-ops (psychological operations), "terror played an important part."65 Though relatively restrained in comparison to the terror operations of the 1960s in Indonesia and Vietnam, Lansdale's write-up of his successful campaign was (according to Michael McClintock) to legitimate for future U.S. Army Manuals (such as Army Pamphlet 525-7-1 of April 1976) what McClintock calls "exemplary criminal violence -- the murder and mutilation of captives and the display of their bodies."66
Accounts of the 1965 massacres in Indonesia have tended to focus on the unprecedented scale and brutality of the murders, rather than on the psywar exploitation of the corpses. In fact the display of mutilated bodies and body-parts, widespread throughout the campaign, is one of the sure signs that the mayhem was not spontaneous and unpredictable (as U.S. apologists like John Hughes have argued), but centrally planned and directed.67
Kenneth Young's useful analysis of local influences and differences in the slaughter of 1965 also misses this unifying theme of psywar exploitation.68 Young makes the distinction that the PKI were chiefly slaughtered by Ansor gangs guided by santri Muslims in Java, and by the PNI in Hindu Bali.69 Relying on a dubious claim attributed to Sarwo Edhie (the chief organizer of the Java killings), Young argues, more tendentiously, that in Bali "the RPKAD was ordered in, not to supervise the purge of the PKI, but to restore order."70 (Robinson has since retorted that the bulk of the killings occurred after the RPKAD troops arrived, "and in all probability took place under their supervision....Virtually all of the evidence indicates that military forces, both local and Java-based...orchestrated and incited the violence in Bali, as they did in Java.") Young's conclusion, that the slaughters exhibited "very variable results from region to region," is uncontestable, and important. This does not however address the recurring features of psywar exploitation.71
A notable example of this in 1965 was the display of decapitated heads on roads. This occurred in both Java and Bali, where the common denominator was that the civilian killers had been trained by Sarwo Edhie's RPKAD. In East Java, according to Time, "Moslem bands placed the heads of victims on poles and paraded them through villages."72 In the Kediri district of East Java (contrasted by Young with Bali), the road leading up to Mount Klotok "was decorated with PKI heads."73 In the same region Muslim Ansor youth gang cut off the head of a village teacher, "stuck it on a bamboo stake (bambu runcing) and placed it on a guard post at an intersection in the village of Gumul."74 Further east, in Banyuwangi, heads "were cut off and placed on bamboo stakes along the roadside or hung from trees."75 Robinson quotes an elderly Balinese woman as saying, "Of course I remember 1965. There were heads lying around in the street out there. Sometimes the heads of people you knew."76
Both in Java and in Bali, it was also the practice to leave headless bodies in the middle of roads.77 Both in Java and in Bali, the killers practiced not only decapitation but dismemberment; and body parts, including male genitals, were also displayed in public places.78
These same practices had previously been practiced by CT (Counterterror) teams in Vietnam, also recruited by the military from civilians. They would leave a Viet Cong head on a pole as they left a village, or a mutilated body, or ears nailed to houses ("The idea was that fear was a good weapon").79 The CIA advisor who introduced this counterterror to South Vietnam, Ralph Johnson, "formulated his theory in the Philippines in the mid-1950's and as a police advisor in Indonesia in 1957 and 1958, prior to the failed Sukarno [sic] coup."80 I might add parenthetically that in 1997 one can see bodies and decapitated heads in the streets of rural Colombia, another country where U.S. psywar training has been prominent.81 And for a decade some of the most celebrated horror photographs from East Timor have been of Indonesian troops posing with decapitated heads.82
In 1985 the world received a technical but compelling new indication that the mayhem committed by Ansor gangs in the Kediri district was not spontaneous, but organized, deliberate, and calculated to achieve maximum psychological impact. This was in Pipit Rochijat's celebrated memoir, "Am I PKI on Non-PKI," translated with an Afterword by Ben Anderson. As the author recalled,
A mass of Ansor Youth would be brought in from the various pondok and pesantrén in the Kediri region. On average, about 3,000 people would be involved....Each day, as Kartawidjaja's Son No. 2 went to, or returned from, State Senior High School No. 1, he always saw corpses of Communists floating in the River Brantas.... And usually the corpses were no longer recognizable as human. Headless. Stomachs torn open. The smell was unbelievable. To make sure they didn't sink, the carcasses were deliberately tied to, or impaled on, bamboo stakes. And the departure of corpses from the Kediri region down the Brantas achieved its golden age when bodies were stacked on rafts over which the PKI banner proudly flew.83 (Similarly on the Solo river, people "watched rafts of corpses floating down, gaily bedecked with Communist flags.")84
This deliberate impalement on stakes, to ensure that the psychological message reached the maximum number of villages, does not fit Cribb's description of it as "unplanned brutality," "compounded by inexpert techniques and a desire to make the bodies unrecognizable."84 Rather it seems to exemplify the practice of corpse-mutilation and display in the Philippine experience, as codified in the 1962 handbook, Counterguerrilla Operations ("Few weapons have quite the same effect on guerrilla morale.").85 Even the use of the river was not original. One of the handbook's two authors, Napoleon Valeriano, had headed a special squadron, whose tactic, according to another observer,
was to cordon off areas; anyone they caught inside the cordon was considered an enemy....almost daily you could find bodies floating in the river, many of them victims of Valeriano's Nenita Unit.86
In 1970, when CIA-trained assassins carried out mass executions of Vietnamese civilians in Cambodia, "they cut off their heads and threw them in the river."87 During the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, beheadings, and the subsequent display of heads, were recorded by both eyewitnesses and photographs.88 In Aceh the dumping of unidentified corpses along roads, rivers and plantations has continued into the 1990s, as part of the Indonesian Army's counterinsurgency campaign.89
Until recently, most narratives of the massacres in East Java ignore altogether the presence of Sarwo Edhie's RPKAD. Instead they attribute leadership of the Ansor gangs to santri religious scholars and teachers, who reportedly incited their followers (as the Army did a decade later in East Timor), to a jihad or holy war.90 But, whatever the degree of Islamic responsibility for the numbers of people killed, the deliberate display of bodies was a psywar feature which directly contradicted Muslim decorum about the treatment of corpses. The practice rather was that of the Army; and Muslim extremists were the Army's first known victims. Already in the 1950s, the Army had started dragging the corpses of its victims into markets and similar public places for public viewing. The first instance I can find of this practice, in 1957, was against the militant Islamic sect Darul Islam.91
It is perhaps appropriate at this moment to ask what other precedents there are, apart from U.S. practice and psywar manuals, for the organized and systematic display of mutilated corpses. My research into this subject is limited, and fallible; but I have been unable hitherto to find other sources for the Indonesian experience..
The search for historical sources is complicated by the fact that in the 1950s the Americans and the French collaborated in teaching psychological and special warfare, mutually drawing on U.S. experience in Greece and Korea as well as the Philippines, and French experience in Indochina and Algeria. Much as in the Philippines, the French displayed corpses in Algeria and used hunter-killer teams like Valeriano's there.92 In his seminal textbook on Modern Warfare, translated into English and often quoted in American military journals, Trinquier had defined terrorism (including torture) as "a weapon of warfare."93 But there seems to be no question of direct French influence on the Indonesian Army.
One thinks rather of the Japanese, who certainly terrorized peoples with mass killings and rapes from North China to East Timor. Writing in 1952, George Kahin was concerned about the "disposition to rely on violence and brutality" which the Japanese had instilled into their Indonesian military and paramilitary trainees, many of whom were later incorporated into the Indonesian Army.94
Coincidentally or not, some of the features of Japanese terror recur decades later in Indonesia and East Timor. One was the Japanese army's predilection, inherited from the Samurai, for almost ritualistic mass beheadings.95 (This led to numerous soldiers' photographs of beheadings and severed heads, much like those taken by Indonesian troops in East Timor.)96 Another was the habit of dumping bodies into rivers, as a way to dispose of them.97
As we have seen, both of these practices were continued by Valeriano in the Philippines. Lansdale noted in his journal that "Both MPs and Huks have told me they learned to kill during the Jap occupation."98 (While his statement may be true, we shall see that it also suppresses, perhaps unconsciously, the ample American precedent for such atrocities, including the deliberate floating of corpses down rivers for psychological purposes.)99
The Japanese lust for massacre and torture in China and the Philippines can, like the 1965 massacres, be seen both as irrational and as calculating. Certainly the excesses committed have baffled scholars seeking to understand the mindset behind them.100 At the same time, as Iris Chang has observed, Japanese soldiers were instructed in the beheading and bayoneting of prisoners, to harden them "for the task of murdering," and to the numb them to the human instinct against killing non-combatants.101
When however we turn to detailed accounts of Japanese atrocities, there is little evidence that they were designed to be displayed in order to control the affected population. In her research for her important book, The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang was told that the Japanese consciously cultivated a tactic of atrocity to demoralize China, as the Mongols had before them.102
With respect to the atrocities at Nanking, John Toland also concluded that they were far in excess of spontaneous behavior: "they could only have been incited by some of the more radical officers, in the belief that the Chinese should be taught a lesson."103
On the other hand, orders in the Philippines for indiscriminate killing were issued with the proviso that "care must be taken to do it in a remote place and leave no evidence."104
The Japanese attitudes towards atrocity varied widely, reflecting profound differences within the military itself. Both Nanking and the Philippines were nominally under the command of generals (Matsui and Homma) who, hopeful of good relations with the conquered, disapproved of atrocities and tried vainly to prevent them. Both were overruled by colonels with conspiratorial backgrounds and secret connections to Tokyo, who had a different objective. Both colonels, Prince Asaka at Nanking, Tsuji Masanobu in the Philippines, issued and partially enforced the same inflammatory command: "Kill all prisoners."105 At Nanking another conspiratorial colonel, Hashimoto Kingoro (founder of the secret Sakurakai or Cherry Society), arranged for the provocative shelling of British and American gunboats, the Ladybird and the Panay.106
Historians have not yet agreed on the motives of the conspiratorial colonels; but Tsuji's at least appear to have been to cleanse Asia of those who (at Singapore and in the Philippines) had collaborated with westerners.107 What matters for our narrative is that the commission of major atrocities at Nanking and in the Philippines was intentional, to fulfill a policy objective. It need not particularly concern us what that objective was.108
The Japanese experience in both places corroborates the findings of the social psychologist Stanley Milgram: that most humans are not naturally inclined to commit mayhem, but can be easily induced by authority to do so.109 Such findings can be seen as ultimately optimistic. If the slaughter at Nanking and elsewhere was not just spontaneous but consciously induced, then the culprit is less human nature, than a human leadership that can theoretically be altered.110
The atrocities of the rape of Nanking were replicated just before the Japanese evacuation of Manila in 1945, when troops "impaled babies on bayonets, raped women, beheaded men and mutilated the corpses."111 In addition other cities and regions in China were sprayed with fleas carrying plague germs. The "three-all" campaign of 1941 ("Loot all, kill all, burn all") in North China, where Communist guerrillas were prevalent, produced orders to kill every person in the region; and a million or more may have died.112
But if massive atrocities were committed by the Japanese, there were few arrangements for their psywar exploitation. In particular, one fails to find among them arrangements for the display of mutilated corpses. A review of the indexed proceedings of the post-war War Crimes tribunal in Japan yields only one truly relevant example: the crucifixion of a rebel. (It may or may not be pertinent that this, too, occurred in the Philippines.)113
Japan is not the only precedent cited for the horrors of 1965. Others, such as Robert Cribb, have suggested that "the killings drew on traditions of violence in Indonesian society" itself; and that "the killers allowed their depredations to become all the more cataclysmic by comparing them to the Bharatayuddha, the final destructive battle of the Mahabharata epic, which is the basis of Java's wayang koelit or shadow puppet tradition."114 Even Robinson, who like myself argues for the central initiative role played by the Army's RPKAD in Bali, concedes that one cannot ignore the role of trance and frenzy in Balinese culture.115
Robinson has also pointed out to me that during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, although they:
did not use decapitation or mutilation as a tactic, they certainly did orchestrate the forced relocation of populations, and they did mobilize `civilian' youths into paramilitary squads. The latter practice continued during Indonesia's National Revolution (1945-49), with such groups forming the core of the Republican fighting force against the Dutch. Such groups were certainly not above the use of `terror' tactics. The Dutch also encouraged the formation of `civilian' paramilitary groups, and these groups too were very much involved in deliberate terror, killing, and other abuses.116
In 1946-47, and again in 1949-50, the death squads of the Dutch irregular soldier, Captain Raymond "Turk" Westerling, killed thousands of Indonesians in an arbitrary terror campaign.117 The unleashing of Westerling can be seen as an anachronistic reversion to the bloody campaigns (and countercampaigns) of the early Dutch colonial era.118
Similar ruthlessness characterized the repressions of the British in India, the French in Indochina, and the Spanish (and later Americans) in the Philippines. It is arguable that all of the indigenous atrocities of Southeast Asia should be seen as responsive, to seminal colonial atrocities now submerged in history.
Consider, in the Philippines, the suppression in 1841 of the religious brotherhood founded by Apolinario de la Cruz. Apolinario was a mystic denied admission into a Spanish monastic order because of his native origin, who then created a lay confraternity, dedicated to spreading the gospel and healing the sick. His sermons were pleas for love and charity, but the Catholic authorities soon excommunicated him as a heretic.119 Spanish troops then besieged and massacred some 300 to 1,000 of his followers, reporting on their return that all "had been slain, beheaded, and dismembered."120 After Apolinario himself was captured the next day and summarily tried, "he was shot, his body cut up into pieces, his head put into a cage and displayed atop a pole stuck along the roadside leading to Majayjay."121
We see from this celebrated massacre the Smontsh propensity to commit atrocities, and to manage them as well. However this atrocity, by 20th century standards, was strictly limited. Those killed, even if they had not intended to revolt, had defended themselves with primitive weapons. Several hundred prisoners were taken, including women.
The outbreak of rebellion in 1896 was was again answered by wanton slaughter against Filipinos, the killing of prisoners, and forced relocation of peasants.122 The arrival of the American forces in 1899 saw a gross escalation of atrocities on both sides, resulting in an estimated 200,000 deaths.123 In the Ilocos a U.S. colonel reported on his use of corpses as "a useful object lesson: `Have this situation thoroughly in hand, the dead now lying in front of the tribunal.'"124
A news correspondent reported in 1900 how American soldiers killed "men, women, children...from lads of ten and up, an idea prevailing that the Filipino, as such, was little better than a dog."
Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to `make them talk,' have taken prisoner people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down as an example to those who found their bullet riddled corpses.
This testimonial is the more credible because the correspondent approved of these tactics: "We are not dealing with a civilized people. The only thing they know and fear is force, violence, and brutality."125 The resistants, often armed only with bolos or machetes, resorted in turn to an orgy of imaginative beheadings and mutilations.126
We see that the managed display of corpses in rivers had been practiced by Americans in the Philippines at the turn of the century. I would conclude that the deliberate impalement of corpses on bamboo, so that they would float rather than sink, is a part of the psywar inflicted by Sarwo Edhie's RPKAD commandos, even though it is still unfashionable to admit that the RPKAD organized the slaughter in East Java, as well as Central Java and Bali.127
Furthermore, there is no doubt that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta knew of the gruesome display campaign, encouraged it, and facilitated it. In early November a senior embassy official reported to Washington that he had made clear to a high-ranking army officer "that the embassy and the U.S. G[overnment] were generally sympathetic with and admiring of what the army was doing."128 The U.S. quickly fulfilled an army request to the embassy, on 6 November 1965, for weapons "to arm Moslem and nationalist youth in Central Java for use against the PKI," as part of the overall army policy "to eliminate the PKI."129
My poem Coming to Jakarta quotes from the following Embassy cable of December 20, 1965:
Elimination of Communists continues apace....Ban of PKI... brings total of province-level areas in which party formally terminated to 14. Only 11 more to go! Continuing massacre in Bali....American observer reports many headless bodies encountered on roads....Tourists would probably be well advised to postpone pleasure trips to island of the gods130
An American journalist, Kathy Kadane, revealed in 1990 that U.S. Embassy officials, in the period of the massacre, had forwarded up to 5000 names of PKI and other left-wing personnel to an Indonesian official, who in turn had transmitted them through a secure channel to the Indonesian Army. After Kadane's article had generated denials from the then U.S. Ambassador, Marshall Green, and others, Kadane's press agency published some of her recorded interviews. These corroborated that a large number of names had been supplied as a matter of Embassy policy over a period of some weeks, well into the period when it was obvious that the Army's plan for dealing with PKI leaders was to kill them.131
U.S. approval of the campaign is corroborated by subsequent developments in Chile in 1973, developments which can in no way be attributed to the Indonesian Army. In Chile, as Tad Szulc and others have written, "CIA agents in Santiago assisted Chilean military intelligence in drafting bogus Z-plan documents alleging that [President] Allende and his supporters were planning to behead Chilean military commanders."132 This standard CIA destabilization program included a relevant detail: both left and right received small cards printed with the ominous words Djakarta de acerca (Jakarta is approaching).133 After this psywar preparation had helped precipitate a military coup, headless corpses (much as in East Java, except in smaller numbers) clogged a Chilean river. According to Amnesty International, the bodies were "sometimes disfigured beyond recognition."134
Three years earlier, in 1970, the CIA Station in Santiago had already been actively attempting to "create a coup climate" in Chile. A cable from CIA Headquarters observed, "It still appears that [the proposed] coup has no pretext or justification that it can offer....It therefore would seem necessary to create one to bolster what will probably be their claim to a coup to save Chile from Communism."135
The Station's efforts went beyond propaganda to plotting the elimination of General Schneider, the armed forces chief and "a strong constitutionalist, in hopes of creating a climate for more violence."136 To channel this violence it was intended to blame Schneider's death on the left.
In short the CIA psywar operations plan for Chile would seem closely to parallel the 1965 events in Indonesia. This does not of itself answer the question of when the CIA first evolved this plan, before 1965, or in the wake of it. We will see however that the U.S. had a startlingly similar plan for use in 1968 against Sihanouk in Cambodia, and that in these events the Indonesian Army's psywar experts were involved.
And there were yet other parallels between Indonesia and Chile, notably the recruitment of ideological civilian squads to help perpetrate the massacre.
This psywar exploitation of corpses is the most unambiguous exemplification of the psywar agenda prescribed by U.S. psywar advisors, and apparently also by Sarwo Edhie for the RPKAD. Other gruesome acts of terror, though widely replicated, are not so easily attributable to indoctrination. For example, the evisceration of women's bodies, though a common feature of the 1965 and East Timor terror campaigns, may be no more than the acts of individual killers run amok.137
On the other hand, the dismemberment of babies (which surely should have no place in a holy war), is possibly intended as the ultimate reinforcement for the message that no one is safe, none shall be spared.138 I was once told by a former American "soldier of fortune" (with mysterious but obviously high-level Washington connections) that he had taught troops in a third world country to bayonet the bodies of babies on to trees by the roadside.
The problem of distinguishing irrational frenzy from psywar training is compounded when the latter deliberately simulates or exploits the former. For example, Geoffrey Robinson, in conceding that frenzied behavior played some role in the dynamic of mass killing, notes that "drinking the blood of victims was not unheard of as a guarantee against subsequent guilt or madness."139 But in Vietnam at this time, American trainers encouraged indigenous paramilitaries to devour the livers or other parts of their victims during terror operations, where tribal superstitions made them believe that they thereby enhanced their spiritual powers.
One psywar terror detail that we know to have been taught as well as practiced is the precautionary killing of entire families. This was a very widespread practice in East Timor, as earlier in Aceh, Java and Bali, where a Dutch observer noted in 1965 that the purpose was "in order to prevent later acts of revenge."140 This is the same rationale for exterminating families -- "to prevent blood feud" -- offered in 1986 by Neil Livingstone, a counterterrorism consultant to Oliver North and the Reagan Administration.141
These more ambiguous examples of psywar terror, while not demonstrative by themselves, help fill out a picture that is more coherent as a whole, and makes sense out of apparently irrational details not usually related to each other. In this picture I wish to focus particularly on two features: the recruitment of civilians to commit most of the murders, and the preliminary "psyching" of them to commit mayhem by an anticipatory propaganda campaign.
The recruitment of civilians to massacre, whether amateur or professional, has been a distinctive feature of U.S.-backed counterterror campaigns from Vietnam to El Salvador. The prototype was the Psychological Warfare Division established by Lansdale in the Philippines, and soon renamed the Civil Affairs Office.142 The task of this Civil Affairs Office (CAO) was what Lansdale dubbed "civic action," later described by him as a program of instilling soldiers "with courteous manners and striving to stop the age-old soldier's habit of stealing chickens."143 Even Lansdale admits however that "civic action" also included "combat psywar," which he exemplified with the "practical joke" of freaking a Huk patrol by leaving a blood-drained corpse on the trail.144
This terror aspect was reinforced in Lansdale's "civic action" program of 1955 in Vietnam, where (according to Douglas Valentine) one of its four defined aims was "to provide cover for counterterror."145 Largely to avoid the restrictions of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Indochina, U.S. Special Forces Commandos used "civic action" as a cover to organize civilian paramilitary units in remote regions.146 It was in this program that Ralph Johnson trained civilian Civic Action/commando teams to stick a Vietcong head on a pole as they left a village.147
This Vietnam experience was an important link between "civic action" in the Philippines and (under the name "civic mission") in Indonesia.148 Philippine landowners had long possessed their own private armies of local gangsters to resist guerrilla demands; then as today these armies had formal police powers, were subject to government control, and were in part publicly funded. Not surprisingly, these "civilian guards" assumed an important role in the counterinsurgency campaign. Subsequently they "provided prototypes for U.S.-sponsored counterinsurgency programs around the world in the 1960s."149
As I wrote in 1985, U.S. aid to Indonesia after 1962 was focused on Indonesian Army's civic action programs; and a special U.S. MILTAG (Military Training Advisory Group) was set up in 1962 to work with the Indonesian Army to implement this program.150 Although in Indonesia also "civic action" had the usual friendly face of work gangs and entertainment groups, the main aim, to quote Sundhaussen, was "to contain the political advances of the PKI."151 This was well understood at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, which took the unusual step of making the Indonesian military aid budget secret, and concealing it even from Congress.152
"Civic action" was first developed by the Siliwangi Division in West Java. Sundhaussen has described how anti-Sukarno officers used "civic action" as a cover to develop political links to civilians, including PSI and Muslim student leaders in Bandung.153 In May 1963 these links were exploited to foster student-led riots against the Chinese, riots that set a precedent for the first anti-PKI riots of 1965.154 In the same year, Army headquarters, as part of its dwi-fungsi doctrine of involvement in civilian politics, decided to expand the civic action programs developed in West Java to the national level.155
In the 1965 massacre, the leading civilian groups involved were those initially contacted under cover of "civic action." It is indeed noteworthy that where those links were longest established, in West Java, the killings occurred both early, and with relative restraint. As the weeks passed by, and the RPKAD extended its bloody work from region to region, the civilians appear to have been recruited more hastily; and the killings lurched more and more excessive.156
But, however spontaneous some of the behavior may have been, the cadres involved were part of a pre-planned structure, with (it would appear) U.S. precedent and inspiration. The Indonesian experience itself may have become a precedent. In El Salvador, the civil affairs branch of the Army general staff, formed in the mid-1970s by the CIA, had responsibility for death squads, including a "large paramilitary force of people dressed in civilian clothes."157
One can see U.S. precedent and inspiration also in the most important part of the supplementary psywar picture: that relating to the preparation for massacre. Here CIA involvement has been alleged, while the role of the Indonesian Army is unmistakable.
For all the latent tensions in certain areas of Indonesia, it seems clear that the involvement of masses in killing did not happen spontaneously, but had to be elaborately prepared for. If we work backwards in time from the murders themselves, we encounter the following organized phases of preparation.
1) An army propaganda campaign to polarize the population. Robinson describes this in Bali as a campaign,
launched under Kopkamtib [Operational Command for Restoration of Security and Order] auspices, to make it impossible for ordinary people to remain politically neutral, a technique of psychological warfare later employed by Indonesian forces in Aceh and East Timor. Beginning in mid-November, propaganda teams (Team Penerangan Operasi Mental, or TOM) toured rural areas pressing the logic of non-neutrality. "It was stressed that there are only two possible alternatives; to be on the side of the G-30-S or to stand behind the government in crushing the G-30-S. There is no such thing as a neutral position."158
Such a campaign makes little sense as an end in itself, but much more as a preparation for a clarifying cataclysm. Once again, an energetic campaign to force villagers to choose sides was part of Lansdale's psywar campaign in the Philippines.159 The CIA launched subsequent polarization campaigns in Laos, Vietnam, and Chile, and almost certainly in Indonesia as well.160
2) Instigations to preliminary violence.
Some two weeks earlier, in what the Kopkamtib Commander called aksi2 polisionil (police actions ??),the houses of the PKI and the Chinese in Bali were ransacked and sometimes burned.161 Although civilians, usually youth, carried out these attacks, there are again signs, and more than one eyewitness account, that the military instigated their behavior.162 As already noted, such army-instigated attacks on Chinese using local youth groups and reportedly relying on CIA funds, dated back to 1959 and 1963.163
3) Anticipatory projection: from almost the time of the alleged Gestapu coup, a domestic propaganda campaign to justify counterterror. This campaign was conducted largely through the army-controlled media, "aimed at creating popular fear and loathing of the PKI and its supporters."164 Wildly exaggerated tales of PKI massacres were circulated, while the army and police claimed to have discovered PKI "hit-lists" of prominent leaders, and detailed plans "to commit a variety of depraved acts."165 This campaign relied heavily on photographs and lurid descriptions of the corpses of the murdered generals, who allegedly had been castrated by the pro-PKI women's movement Gerwani before their mutilated corpses were dropped down a well at Lubang Buaya (Crocodile Hole). (In fact the corpses were not mutilated.)166 According to Anderson, "a successful psychological warfare campaign was launched by the army to persuade anti-Communist notables and political leaders that the PKI had secretly prepared thousands of comparable `holes' for their burial after execution."167
Former CIA officer Ralph McGehee, relying on a document he saw inside the Agency, has written that the CIA itself designed this "cynically manufactured campaign...to foment public anger against the Communists and set the stage for a massacre." McGehee compared this to the psywar campaign against Allende in Chile, where "the CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders."168 Roger Morris and Richard Mauzy have also written that "the fear of Communist subversion, which erupted in a frenzy of killing in 1965-1966, had been encouraged in the `penetration' propaganda of the Agency in Indonesia."169
One can also compare this psywar campaign to that of Lansdale in Vietnam in 1954, when he spread of:
false rumors of a Communist bloodbath. In this last regard, a missionary named Tom Dooley concocted lurid tales of Vietminh soldiers' disemboweling pregnant Catholic women, castrating priests, and sticking bamboo slivers in the ears of children so they could not hear the word of God.170
I will not dwell on this often-described Indonesian propaganda campaign, except to note the pervasive feature of anticipatory projection. That is, it attributed in advance to the PKI the precise features of massacre, torture and mutilation which would subsequently be carried out by army-led killers.
4) An international propaganda campaign, antedating the alleged Gestapu coup. Throughout 1965, rumors had increased that mainland China was smuggling arms to the PKI for an imminent revolt. Two weeks before the alleged Gestapu coup, a Malaysian newspaper printed a story to this effect, citing Bangkok sources which relied in turn on Hong Kong sources. Though still widely repeated, this claim has been dismissed as not credible by the American scholar David Mozingo.171
The alert reader may have noticed that this and other propaganda details anticipate by a decade the media propaganda campaign with which we began, against East Timor just before the 1975 invasion. In 1975 the bogus scare of Chinese arms deliveries was again trotted out, this time publicly by leading Indonesian generals.172 But we can now focus more narrowly on the anticipatory projection of the 1975 campaign. The charge that Fretilin assassins with cutlasses "beheaded and dismembered babies," dismissed by Dunn (who was there) as "macabre fantasy," echoed not only the 1965 propaganda campaign, but the exemplary dismemberment of babies which soon followed.173 It also anticipated the repetitive horrors that would follow the imminent deployment of the RPKAD, again amidst talk of jihad, to East Timor.174
The role of the U.S. media was much more prominent in the 1965 psywar propaganda campaign, than in that which followed a decade later. A central source of PKI paranoia in 1965 (and allegedly also of the purportedly anti-CIA Gestapu coup) was the widely circulating rumor that a CIA-backed "council of generals" was plotting to suppress the PKI. The first and perhaps only authoritative published reference to such a council was in a Washington Post column of March 1965 by the insider columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak.175
Another contribution to the image of Gestapu as an anti-CIA coup was made by an otherwise explicable article in the New York Times of August 1965, about Indonesian Army General Nasution. In reality the CIA and the rest of the U.S. Government had already turned against Nasution: not only was he opposed to Army moves against Sukarno (making him analogous to General Schneider in Chile, another CIA target), he had in 1965 echoed Sukarno's verbal attacks against British bases in Malaysia. As Nasution was about to be neutralized (though not actually killed) by the Gestapu coup, the attack on him might have made it difficult to sustain the claim that Gestapu was in support of Sukarno and against the CIA. But at this point an anachronistic profile of Nasution was published in the New York Times, claiming (quite incongruously) that Nasution was "considered the strongest opponent of Communism in Indonesia."176 (This was far from the current opinion of Nasution in Washington.)
It is not my purpose in this paper to develop my thesis, set out elsewhere, that Gestapu itself was a psywar operation. I will merely point out that to initiate violence by first attributing it to the enemy, or even simulating it in a black operation, is an old psywar device. Hitler used it against the Communists in Germany in 1933; and it is perhaps significant that Guy Pauker, an important link between Washington and the Indonesian Army in the 1957-65 period, cited Hitler's violence in 1933 as an example of strength that he feared the Indonesian generals would not emulate.177 In October 1965 Ohio Senator Stephen Young charged that in Vietnam "the CIA hired mercenaries to disguise themselves at Vietcong and discredit Communists by committing atrocities."178 Former Army psywar operative Anthony Herbert has written that one month later he was asked "to take charge of execution teams that wiped out entire families and tried to make it look as though the VC themselves had done the killing."179 In El Salvador, death squad soldiers, "using a modus operandi perfected in Vietnam...shucked their uniforms and dressed as left-wing guerrillas."180 Once again, the trick of dressing in the enemy's uniform can be traced back to psywar tactics in the Philippines.181
Seymour Hersh has written that Green Beret assassination teams in South Vietnam routinely dressed as Vietcong cadre on their missions. He has also reported that (according to a former U.S. navy intelligence specialist) a U.S. plan in 1968 to overthrow Sihanouk in Cambodia included a vetoed proposal "to insert a U.S.-trained assassination team disguised as Vietcong insurgents into Phnom Penh to kill Prince Sihanouk as a pretext for revolution."182 This would parallel the argument by a Dutch scholar that in the 1965 Gestapu events outside killers, suitably disguised as Indonesian soldiers, may have actually killed the Indonesian generals.183
Those interested in Gestapu should look closely at Lon Nol's CIA-assisted coup of 1970 against Sihanouk in Cambodia. Soon after,Newsweek reported that Cambodian officers plotting against Sihanouk "secretly visited Indonesia last November , and again in January , to study in depth how the Indonesian Army managed to overthrow President Sukarno."184 Shortly after the coup CIA-trained assassins, with Indonesian Army psywar experts present in Cambodia, massacred Vietnamese, decapitated them, and threw their bodies in the river.185
But there is no need to be distracted by the complexities surrounding Gestapu. It is quite clear from other evidence that the United States, through its military aid, training, and propaganda programs, bears a major responsibility for the psywar terror operations of 1965 in Indonesia, and again for the imitation of these which continue in East Timor to the present day. When I first made a case for this responsibility in 1975, few were inclined to believe it: it was too outlandish to believe that the United States, or even the CIA, could have been involved in such an appalling massacre.
But since then we have seen irrefutable revelations about the U.S.-directed Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, a program incorporating assassination, terror, and torture, and which aroused the objection in Congress that it was not only immoral but "violated several treaties and laws."186 The massacre of entire El Salvador villages by the elite U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion, denied for years by the United States Government and media, is likewise now an established fact. It is also now confirmed that it was a signature of the Battalion to leave behind mutilated corpses as a warning.187 Recent revelations about the decades of near-genocide in Guatemala have focused on the organizing role played by killers who were also CIA agents.188
I review these gloomy findings in a spirit, not of despair, but of hope. Since the fading away of the Contra program the mood in Congress has grown that mass killings, terror, and torture, have no place in the U.S. arsenal. The success of the Esquipulas peace process in Central America, which at first was vigorously resisted by the U.S. State Department, came about in part because Congress finally voted to terminate the controversial Contra program. Since then there have been further revelations about the role of the School of the Americas in teaching terror and torture. A movement in Congress is growing to terminate these activities as well.189
It is obvious that when Indonesia went into East Timor, it did so relying on the tacit acceptance of this by the U.S. Government. There were conditions in 1975 influencing both countries which no longer pertain today. The Cold War still dominated strategic thinking in Washington and Jakarta. Saigon had just fallen. A left-wing revolution in Portugal had produced conditions of great uncertainty, and was threatening to move still farther left.
Behind these geopolitical uncertainties were more practical considerations. The United States was suffering from the consequences of OPEC's oil embargo, and knew very well that Indonesia was the most moderate and pro-Western Muslim country in OPEC. Indonesia, meanwhile, had its own debt crisis, caused by the near bankruptcy of its state oil firm Pertamina. In these circumstances, the prospect of a pro-Western Timor, rid of alleged Communist influence, must have tempted both countries with its future oil prospects.
The constraints of 1975 no longer pertain today. Meanwhile, in the U.S. media, the Congress, and even in the Administration, there are increasing signs that the long period of acceptance is ending.190 One might hope that this will be part of a larger movement for the U.S. to finally disown and move to end all of the terror programs with which it has been associated.
At the same time, one has seen recent signs in Indonesia of the revival of the social and cultural diversity that has been a feature of that nation's extraordinary heritage. There are signs also that the leadership, as well as the public, are growing weary of the bloody impasse in East Timor. A key example was the provocative metaphor used recently by Foreign Minister Ali Alatas: that East Timor is a pebble in Indonesia's shoe. What to do with such a pebble is obvious: get rid of it.
The happiest path to the end of terror in East Timor would be to see it disowned and terminated by Indonesia itself. But U.S. responsibility is so great that the American people must also work to end the atrocities there.
As I said at the outset, there is even more at stake than an end to the sufferings of the East Timorese. What needs urgently to be terminated is the management of atrocities everywhere. The extrication of the United States from its involvement is a needed first step.
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