Historian Claims West Backed Post-Coup Mass Killings in ’65

Historians in the News

Singapore. Western governments supported the mass murder of more than half a million alleged communist supporters in the wake of the 1965 coup, a noted historian said on Wednesday.

Speaking on the opening day of an international conference in Singapore to discuss arguably the darkest chapter in Indonesia’s history, Bradley R. Simpson, an assistant professor at Princeton University and an expert on Indonesia, said that the US and British governments did everything in their power to ensure that the Indonesian army would carry out the mass killings.

Simpson, the author of “Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and US-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968,” said the administration of US President Lyndon Johnson initially provided expressions of political support to the Suharto regime after the coup on Sept. 30, 1965.

He said the US government then provided covert monetary assistance to the Indonesian Army, while the CIA provided the small arms from Thailand.

The US government also decided to provide limited amounts of communications equipment, medicine and a range of other items, including shoes and uniforms, he said.

“The United States was directly involved to the extent that they provided the Indonesian Armed Forces with assistance that they introduced to help facilitate the mass killings,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the British government extended an emergency loan of 1 million pounds ($2 million) to Indonesia in late 1965 and promised not to attack Borneo if Indonesia withdrew soldiers engaged in a conflict with British-backed Malaysia.

But Simpson said that he found “zero evidence” that the US government masterminded the coup, in which communist-leaning founding President Sukarno was effectively replaced by Western-leaning future dictator Suharto.

“There is a lot of evidence that the US was engaged in covert operations . . . to provoke a clash between the Army and the PKI . . . to wipe them out,” Simpson said, referring to the Indonesian Communist Party.
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