It Was 40 Years Ago Today...
In 1965, in Indonesia, the American embassy furnished General Suharto with roughly 5,000 names. These were people for assassination, and a senior American diplomat checked off the names as they were killed or captured. Most were members of the PKI, the Indonesian Communist Party. Having already armed and equipped Suharto's army, Washington secretly flew in state-of-the-art communication equipment whose high frequencies were known to the CIA and the National Security Council advising the president, Lyndon B Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto's generals to co-ordinate the massacres, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration were listening in.
The Americans worked closely with the British. The British ambassador in Jakarta, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, cabled 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." The "little shooting" saw off between half a million and a million people.
However, it was in the field of propaganda, of "managing" the media and eradicating the victims from people's memory in the west, that the British shone. British intelligence officers outlined how the British press and the BBC could be manipulated. "Treatment will need to be subtle," they wrote, "eg, a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, b) British [government] participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed." To achieve this, the Foreign Office opened a branch of its Information Research Department (IRD) in Singapore.
The IRD was a top-secret, cold war propaganda unit headed by Norman Reddaway, one of Her Majesty's most experienced liars. Reddaway and his colleagues manipulated the "embedded" press and the BBC so expertly that he boasted to Gilchrist in a secret message that the fake story he had promoted - that a communist takeover was imminent in Indonesia - "went all over the world and back again". He described how an experienced Sunday newspaper journalist agreed "to give exactly your angle on events in his article . . . ie, that this was a kid-glove coup without butchery".
These lies, bragged Reddaway, could be "put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC". Prevented from entering Indonesia, Roland Challis, the BBC's south-east Asia corres-pondent, was unaware of the slaughter. "My British sources purported not to know what was going on," Challis told me, "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 later that we learned that 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 . . . Suharto would bring them back. That was the deal."
The bloodbath was ignored almost entirely by the BBC and the rest of the western media. The headline news was that "communism" had been overthrown in Indonesia, which, Time reported, "is the west's best news in Asia". In November 1967, at a conference in Geneva overseen by the billionaire banker David Rockefeller, the booty was handed out. All the corporate giants were represented, from General Motors, Chase Manhattan Bank and US Steel to ICI and British American Tobacco...