Cheers to Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer for Op-Ed Exposing U.S.-Backed Massacre in Indonesia

October 13, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party being taken to a Jakarta prison, October 30, 1965.

Members of the youth wing of the Indonesian Communist Party being hauled to a Jakarta prison, October 30, 1965. AP photo

From 1965 to 1966, the military in Indonesia carried out a massive slaughter of communists and others. In a September 29 op-ed in the New York Times, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer writes, “This week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of a mass slaughter in Indonesia. With American support, more than 500,000 people were murdered by the Indonesian Army and its civilian death squads. At least 750,000 more were tortured and sent to concentration camps, many for decades.” (“Suharto’s Purge, Indonesia’s Silence”)

The massacre targeted communists and others the reactionary army considered opponents of the Suharto regime, which had come to power in a U.S.-backed coup. So many people were killed that rivers in parts of Indonesia were filled with bodies.

5 Stops

Oppenheimer, director of two documentary films about the mass slaughter, The Act of Killing (2013) and The Look of Silence (2015), goes on to expose U.S. culpability in the massacre. He notes that U.S. and British officials had met earlier in 1962 to discuss how to “liquidate” the populist Indonesian President Sukarno and “to replace him with someone more deferential to Western strategic and commercial interests”—the Suharto military regime. “Then, when genocide broke out, America provided equipment, weapons and money. The United States compiled lists containing thousands of names of public figures likely to oppose the new military regime, and handed them over to the Indonesian military, presumably with the expectation that they would be killed. Western aid to Suharto’s dictatorship, ultimately amounting to tens of billions of dollars, began flowing while corpses still clogged Indonesia’s rivers. The American media celebrated Suharto’s rise and his campaign of death. Time magazine said it was the ‘best news for years in Asia.’”

The 1965-66 massacre in Indonesia is yet another towering crime of U.S. imperialism that all too many people in the U.S. do not know about—and that they should open their eyes to and oppose.





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