Indonesian mass killer and U.S. puppet Suharto dies
Loyal servant of U.S. imperialism
Indonesia’s former military dictator Suharto was buried Jan. 28 in a family mausoleum near his hometown. His death marks the end of one of the most barbaric lives in modern history. Strictly following U.S. dictates, Suharto butchered more than a million people while simultaneously plundering Indonesia’s wealth through now legendary corruption.
Suharto was born in 1921 in the central portion of the island of Java near the town of Yogyakarta. He had little education and joined the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army at the age of 19. His ascent to political power was rooted entirely within the Indonesian military, particularly during Indonesia’s war for independence from Dutch colonialism (1945-49). Suharto was not regarded as an especially skilled military leader, but he expertly exploited his commands to build political alliances while securing and enforcing the absolute loyalty of the Indonesian military. These were key to his eventual consolidation of power.In the early 1960s, Suharto, then a Major General, was named commander of KOSTRAD, the Indonesian Army’s Strategic Reserve Command. Suharto used his command of KOSTRAD to seize broad control of the army following a staged coup attempt pinned on the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) on Sept. 30, 1965.
Starting with lists of names compiled by the CIA, Suharto directed the near-extermination of the PKI, its allies and broad swathes of progressive Indonesian society. Employing death squads wielding rifles and machetes, one million or more Indonesians were murdered in the span of less than six months.
This made Indonesia the locus of one of the most concentrated paroxysms of savagery in known human history. Countless others were tortured and brutalized in notorious Indonesian prison camps.
President, mass murderer
Suharto assumed the Indonesian Presidency in 1967. In 1968, he became the formal supreme commander of the army as well. Suharto received extensive political, military and economic support from successive U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, who considered him a loyal pro-imperialist ally.
Suharto’s first task, after overseeing the historic mass murder, was subjugating Indonesia’s shattered economy to the interests of Western capital. Lacking expertise of his own, he turned the task over to a group of predominantly U.S.-trained economic advisers, who developed a major foreign investment plan in consultation with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
According to these imperialist institutions, Indonesia experienced steady economic growth through much of Suharto’s rule, owing principally to oil revenues. But these numbers masked rapidly sharpening inequality and a near-constant deterioration of living conditions for Indonesia’s poor. They also masked the vast amounts of wealth plundered by Suharto’s family. According to the United Nations, through a complex network of state- and military-controlled businesses and fronts, Suharto diverted as much as $30 billion to himself and his family, making him one of the world’s richest and most corrupt men.
Suharto directed a voracious and predatory foreign policy as well. In 1969, Indonesia annexed the territory of West Papua in a fraudulent U.N.-sponsored “Act of Free Choice.” Similar repression took place in Aceh, where the Indonesian armed forces killed tens of thousands of civilians in a counterinsurgency war that began in the late 1970s.
In December 1975, Suharto authorized the invasion of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. Nearly a third of East Timor’s population died as a result of Indonesia’s invasion and subsequent occupation. Yet despite substantial U.S. military and diplomatic support, Indonesia never fully consolidated its conquest of East Timor. The territory eventually regained its nominal political independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in August 1999. Indonesian troops promptly burned East Timor to the ground and displaced the majority of the population.
Enacting Washington’s will
In the wake of Suharto’s death, the U.S. government declassified a number of documents that related the close interconnection of Suharto’s murderous brutality and Washington’s goals. “One thing that is clear from the tens of thousands of pages of which we had declassified concerning U.S. ties with Suharto from 1966 to 1998—at no moment did U.S. presidents ever exercise their maximum leverage over his regime to press for human rights or democratization,” Brad Simpson of the National Security Archive told Agence France-Presse.
Of course, Simpson misses the point: Suharto was not resisting pressure from U.S. presidents. Rather, he was enacting their will. This remained constant from the Johnson presidency through several Republican administrations and all the way to Bill Clinton.
Suharto made his first visit as head of state to the United States in May 1970, and at a White House meeting Nixon told the Indonesian leader he was presiding over one of the “largest democratic countries in the world.” “There are no issues between the U.S. and Indonesia,” Kissinger wrote to Nixon approvingly, “and relations are excellent.”
Indeed, the only time Washington “decisively intervened” against Suharto was in 1998, when Indonesia was reeling from a financial meltdown and widespread protest against the Indonesian government. Bill Clinton personally phoned Suharto half a dozen times, pressing the Indonesian dictator to adopt the adjustment program demanded by the IMF. As always, Suharto adhered to the demands of the United States and the IMF.
Following Suharto’s death on Jan. 27, he was hailed by the U.S. embassy in Jakarta as a “historic figure” who “achieved remarkable economic development.” “Though there may be some controversy over his legacy, President Suharto … left a lasting imprint on Indonesia and the region of Southeast Asia,” the embassy statement read.
Every person of conscience must respond with shock and anger to the colossal horrors perpetrated upon the people of Indonesia and elsewhere by dictator Suharto. The worst of these crimes were unequivocally directed by U.S. imperialism. Now, the global working class has been rid of a nightmarish presence.