Did ‘Fake News’ Lead to 1965 Indonesia Bloodletting?
British-US intelligence disinformation led to generals’ death
By: Greg Poulgrain
Buried deep in British archives [FO 371:180314] is a description of a June 1965 British-US intelligence operation that, like a bad movie script, led directly to the bloody regime change in Indonesia. Was it the cataclysmic consequences or the sheer simplicity of the operation that discouraged disclosure?
It was disinformation designed to confirm a rumor about a “Council of Generals” planning a coup against President Sukarno, who, while in Bangkok, was to be taken to the British embassy and held in the dungeon. The pretext for this would be to “help him” because the PKI was preparing a coup in Jakarta. Meanwhile, the army there would seize power in his absence
The campaign led directly to the death of six generals on October 1, 1965, which in turn led to the mass killing – one of the worst in the 20th century, of 500,000 to a million people, mostly rice farmers – and the Suharto government.
The target of the disinformation scheme was D.N. Aidit, leader of the Indonesian communist party (PKI). It also influenced two fervently pro-Sukarno army officers, Lt. Colonel Untung in the Palace Guard (Cakrabrirawa) and Colonel Abdul Latief in the Jakarta garrison. Determined to protect the founding father of Indonesia, Untung and Latief formed the September 30 Movement, together with Sjam, a representative from Aidit. Only under the aegis of President Sukarno could Aidit’s Javanese-style communist party be part of the Indonesian polity, otherwise the PKI would be put to rout by the army.