Noam Chomsky on Our Wonderful Indonesian Moderates

by Daniel Falcone

teleSUR | October 30, 2017

General Suharto led the massacre of over 500,000 communists and sympathizers in Indonesia.

General Suharto led the massacre of over 500,000 communists and sympathizers in Indonesia. | Photo: Archives
The editors at the New York Times were well aware at once of crucial U.S. government involvement in the Indonesian bloodbath.

Noam Chomsky discussed the responsibility of intellectuals and pointed out how, “historical amnesia is dangerous not only because it undermines moral and intellectual integrity, but also it lays the groundwork for crimes that still lie ahead.” According to Josefhine Chitra and Andhyta F. Utami“his quote holds some truth for Indonesia’s bleak past in settling its human rights violations (with U.S. support).”

Recently, a collection of released documentsrevealed U.S. support of human rights violations in support of Indonesia and the greater Cold War strategy. Hannah Beech last week in the New York Times reported “U.S. Stood By as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show.” “It was an anti-Communist bloodbath of at least half a million Indonesians. And U.S. officials watched it happen without raising any public objections, at times even applauding the forces behind the killing, according to newly declassified State Department files that show diplomats meticulously documenting the purge in 1965-66,” writes Beech. If the Times took a moment to review its own archives it would notice that government officials were not the only ones applauding.

Vincent Bevins also reported in the Atlantic, “While the newly declassified documents further illustrated the horror of Indonesia’s 1965 mass murder, they also confirmed that U.S. authorities backed Suharto’s purge. Perhaps, even more striking: As the documents show, U.S. officials knew most of his victims were entirely innocent.” Again, this is accurate reporting but fails to mention mainstream press culpability, endorsement, if not outright denial of the U.S. backing of Suharto for three decades.

While it is good that the New York Times, the Atlantic and the Financial Timesreported on the revelation, (very little has been printed elsewhere) Noam Chomsky has indicated what’s interesting about the articles: what doesn’t appear. Chomsky remarked, “The New York Times certainly knew about the slaughters as early as 1965 as the events occurred. It reported accurately the “staggering mass slaughter,” as did others.

Chomsky also referred to the July 15, 1966, edition of Time Magazine that devoted over ten pages in regards to the “boiling bloodbath.” These incidents were not pointed out as crimes, but with euphoria. One of the more respected liberal journalists at the time, New York Times columnist James Reston referred to the U.S. backed regime as “a gleam of light in Asia.”

The editors at the New York Times were well aware at once of crucial U.S. government involvement and praised Washington, D.C. for concealing its own role so that full credit would be given to the “Indonesian moderates” who carried out this wonderful slaughter. This was welcomed with aid and praise as Suharto compiled one of the world’s worst human rights records and invaded East Timor with U.S. help in the subsequent virtual genocide. Suharto and the Indonesian Government represented “Our Kind of Guy” as the Clinton administration called him.

Chomsky notes that there were good reasons for the U.S. support of Indonesia. From the perspectives of the wartime planners, it crucially related to the Vietnam War. McGeorge Bundy reflected that the U.S. should have pulled out of Vietnam as early as 1965. Why? Because there was no longer any fear that a major domino would topple.

By failing to take this into account, The New York Times and The Atlantic were remiss.

Daniel Falcone is an independent journalist, interviewer, researcher, activist and teacher. He has a graduate degree in modern American History and first started interviewing public intellectuals Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky after Sept. 11, 2001.


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