Fri, 03 Aug 2001

Indonesian PKI

The news that British intelligence was involved in serious cover-up work over the 1965-1966 bloody purges in Indonesia is old news really, but no less important for that.

The British had long been hostile to Indonesia's first president Sukarno and well before "confrontation". As a very small glimpse into that world of anti-Sukarno intelligence- gathering I was told a story last year by my father, a serving Royal Air Force officer in the mid-1950s at Seletar in Singapore, then a British colony.

A colleague of his in logistics was going on a legitimate trip to the South Sumatra oil town of Palembang. Intelligence, whether MI5 or MI6, I don't recall, approached him. He was asked -- in these circumstances this was an order -- to gather as much information as he could about Indonesia's "preparedness". Given what serving CIA officers of the time have said openly about subversion of Sukarno in Sumatra in the 1950s, this is hardly surprising, all part of Britain's cozy relationship with the "Dulles boys" at the time as well as, of course, with its own nervous colonial disposition.

As for the 1965 putsch -- it was not a coup d'etat -- one question that the hysterical anti-communists in the West, who have tried to gloss over the bloodbath that followed, have never answered is, "Why would the Indonesian communist party (PKI), then the third largest communist party in the world, have staged such an action and not called its supporters out onto the streets?"

Given what we know, the PKI could have paralyzed all the major cities of Indonesia. That it did not, does not make sense unless, of course, it was purely a case of adventurism, for which we would have to conclude that it was terminally stupid. So terminally stupid that it exposed itself to immediate retribution, hardly the posture of hardened conspirators. Well, were they?