Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pacific News Minute: Declassified Documents Show U.S. Did Nothing Amid Indonesian Massacre

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Declassified documents from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta show that U.S. officials closely followed the massacre in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, but did and said nothing. At least 500,000 Indonesians died after a bungled Communist coup but the documents make clear that mass murders spread to include ethnic Chinese, students and union members as well as communists. Details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Half a century later, the massacres remain highly sensitive in Indonesia.

Last month, meetings to discuss the anniversary of the most convulsive period in the country’s history were disrupted and shut down by right wing mobs. Proposals to create a truth and reconciliation process draw lukewarm responses from current and former military and government officials.  

The 39 documents released by the National Declassification Center, part of the National Archives, show that U.S. officials monitored events closely. A telegram dated December 28, 1965 says, “victims are taken out of populous areas before being killed and bodies are buried, rather than thrown in the river.”

It adds that suspected communists were being “delivered to civilians for slaughter.” Muslim preachers are quoted as saying that communists “are classified as the lowest order of infidel, the shedding of whose blood is comparable to killing a chicken.”  

The U.S. government remained silent and one document shows it tried to suppress foreign news coverage.

Another cable made it clear that no U.S. aid would be provided as long as anti-American President Sukarno remained in office. It resumed when General Suharto took power in 1966; one document described the transition as “a fantastic switch.” CIA documents from the period are set to be released later this year.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Related Stories