Book revealing US role in Indonesian killings is suppressed

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The Independent Online

The publication of a history book that reveals American involvement in the deaths of more than 100,000 communists in Indonesia has been halted by the Bush administration.

The book ­ produced by the State Department ­ records US diplomatic and intelligence activities in Indonesia during 1965-66. It shows how during a bloody crackdown against communists, the US embassy in Jakarta provided security forces with a list of top leaders of the PKI ­ the Communist Party opposition at the time.

It also suggests that the US information contributed to the killing of more than 100,000 PKI members. In the chaotic struggle ­ portrayed in the film The Year of Living Dangerously ­ General Suharto became the country's dictator, replacing president Sukarno. The CIA advised that the book be withdrawn to avoid damaging relations at a time of political turmoil in Indonesia.

A copy of the book was obtained by the National Security Archive, a non-profit research institute in Washington that campaigns for access to official documents that have been declassified, after it was accidentally shipped to government bookstores.

According to the archive, the book says that in December 1965, Marshall Green, the US Ambassador, "endorsed a 50 million rupiah (£3,500) covert payment to the Kap-Gestapu movement leading the repression". Other documents contained within the book refer to the death of communist opposition members.

"We frankly do not know whether the real figure [of communists who have been killed] is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000 but believe it wiser to err on the side of the lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press," says one of the documents sent to Washington.

Another says: "The chances of detection ... of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be."

The book is just the latest in a 350-volume series of books on foreign relations that have been published by the State Department since 1861. The department says the books are designed to present "the official documentary historical record of major US foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity". Other volumes cover the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Arab-Israeli conflicts in the mid-1960s and Vietnam in 1966.

A State Department official told The New York Times newspaper that earlier this year, they "began the process of arranging" release of the book. But he added that the government printing office mistakenly began distributing copies of the book before an "internal process" of review had been completed by the State Department. No one from the National Security Archive was available for comment yesterday.

Last week, Sukarno's daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, replaced Abdurrahman Wahid as Indonesia's president. Mr Wahid, 60, who has had two strokes and is nearly blind, arrived in the United States on Friday for a medical check-up.