There have been a number of massacres throughout history, none of which have ever
been held in a positive regard. As the world began to move into the connected age, large scale
massacres have become less common amongst modem nations, though they still occur in many
less developed countries. Today it is considered a war crime and an act that has been deemed
unacceptable for nearly a century. The Indonesian Massacre of 1965 is a crime that, to this day,
has not received, the rightful recognition that it deserves, from the rest of the world for the
atrocity that it was.
In 1965 a failed coup, supposedly staged by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), left
many of the Indonesian’s generals dead except for one: Suharto. Stopping the coup within 24
hours, Suharto claimed the coup was the working of the PKI, though there was no evidence to
indicate it was a PKI plot. For his effort against the coup and because he was one of the only
prominent political figures left, Suharto came into power and gave military authority to movie
theater gangsters. The crimes of these gangsters had only previously consisted of scalping movie
theater tickets for little to no profit. With control over his newly acquired “military forces”,
Suharto ordered the killing over half a million members of the PKI (Cribb). Undemocratic shifts
in power are not uncommon among third world countries especially with the unstable state of
political alliances during the Cold War era. While forceful shifts in government authority can be seen as a social injustice in itself, this particular shift in power should not be overlooked, as it played a key role in allowing a greater social injustice to occur. The injustice being that
Indonesia called itself a democracy yet allowed Suharto to come into power without the consent
of the people or any government officials. However, the more prominent social injustice was the actual killing of more than half a million innocent Indonesian citizens.
Killing, in any form, is rarely justified by any means, but the massacre extended to
innocent people who had no part in the supposed coup. Members of the PKI were often tortured
to get them to confess information. Given the circumstances the victim gave up the information
to appease the torturer and it was usually not even accurate or useful information. They were
then in killed in a brutal fashion that was derived from the sadistic mind of man who held the
communists in the lowest regard. (Oppenheimer). Methods such as this were used in the Spanish
Inquisition in the 15th century, yet this event happened only fifty years ago. Village raids were
also common in the massacre. Most likely having no idea of Suharto’s rise to power or the failed
coup, many of them may not even have considered themselves to be part of the PKI party, but
were still killed without mercy. They did not die because they believed in something or because
they fought for a cause. They died because soldiers, who were put into command without any
formal training, decided that they deserved to be executed because of a crime they did not
commit. This crime has echoed into the modem world because the criminals who committed
them have not yet been punished. In fact, they are held in the highest regard in their country.
A prominent group in the massacre known as the Panscila Youth are cheered on and
treated as heroes as they march through the streets (Openheimer). The fact that this group still
exists is a troubling thought in itself, but the way that they are treated in Indonesia is almost
incomprehensible. This group is still recruiting young impressionable kids today who are told the
glorified version of the massacre that their leaders once had a part in. Even after the fall of Suharto’s regime in 1998, the current president has no plans to make amends to the victims of the massacre effectively telling them to forget about it (Asia Sentinel). The government’s complete disregard for their inaction against Suharto is something that should not be allowed in the modem world, and has not even been addressed foreign superpowers .. The most disturbing
injustice is the United States’ direct involvement in the massacre. A study by Brad Simpson,
Assistant professor of history and international studies at Princeton University, suggests that “the US and Britain did ‘everything in their power’ to ensure that the Indonesian armies would carry
out the mass killings.” (Braddock). Meaning that the U.S directly funded Suharto’s party during the time that he ordered the killings. The support for the communist killings is most likely due to
the Cold War and the U.S hostilities to all communists. To this day the U.S refuses to
acknowledge and make amends for the direct aid of the crimes against the Indonesian people.
There is no one to come to the aid of the victims and the criminals still allowed to continue on
with their lives unpunished for the atrocities they committed.
Everything about the events of Indonesia in 1965 can be considered an injustice. From
the shift in power to the brutal murder of countless innocent citizens and the effect it had on the
country in the coming years. Considering how much time has passed, it would be difficult to give
retribution to the criminals, but it is never too late to give compensation to the victims of these
horrible crimes. It is the duty of the United States as a country to aid those affected by the
massacre. The Indonesian Massacre of 1965 is an event that was buried by history, and even if it
is not the duty of a person to be punished for a crime they didn’t commit, it is still important that
it is exposed for the world to see.
Asia Sentinel Correspondent. “Golkar Tells Indonesia’s 1965 Massacre Survivors Forget It.”
Online posting. Asia Sentinel. Asia Sentinel, 24 Aug. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
Braddock, John. “Historian Says US Backed “efficacious Terror” in 1965 Indonesian
Massacre.” Global Research. Global Research, 7 July 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2013.
Cribb, Robert. “Indonesia.” Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. Vol. 2.
Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005.516-21. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web.
13 Nov. 2013.
Gittings, John. “Image and Reality.” wwwjohngittings.com. Mark Levene & Penny Roberts,
Eds., 1999. Web.
The Act of Killing. Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, and Christine Cynn. Prod. Signe B.
Serensen, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Anne Kohncke. Final Cut for Real, 2012. DVD.