Jakarta: One of the daughters of Indonesia’s first president has called for the US to apologise after the release of a “top secret” document from 1975 that reveals the CIA considered assassinating Sukarno during the Cold War.
The document – a summary of an investigation into CIA involvement in plans to assassinate foreign leaders – was among 2800 previously classified files related to the assassination of President John F Kennedy that were released last week.
It details CIA attempts to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro and says the CIA also considered killing Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba and Indonesian president Sukarno.
“America should not only apologise to Indonesia, America should apologise to all the countries they disturbed, if they will admit to it,” Sukarno’s daughter Sukmawati Sukarnoputri told Fairfax Media. “They never want to admit to it, especially the CIA.”
The newly declassified document reveals the degree to which the US was prepared to intervene in other nations’ affairs during the Cold War.
It said Richard Bissell, who was CIA Deputy Director of Plans at the time, testified there had been discussion within the CIA of the “possibility of an attempt on the life of President Sukarno of Indonesia”.
The plotting “progressed as far as the identification of an asset who it was felt might be recruited for this purpose”.
Bissell testified that the assassination plan “was never perfected to the point where it seemed feasible”.
He stressed the CIA had “absolutely nothing” to do with the death of Sukarno in 1970, when his health deteriorated after being put under house arrest.
Ms Sukmawati claimed the CIA had been responsible for riots, revolts and coups in Asia, Africa and Latin America because the US was opposed to the Non-Aligned Movement of nations, of which Sukarno was a founding member.
Ho Chi Minh, then president of North Vietnam, chats with Sukarno in Indonesia in 1959. Photo: AP
The founding members believed that developing countries should not help either the Western or Eastern blocs in the Cold War.
“Sukarno was warned by his friends before the (launch of the) Non-Aligned Movement: ‘Be careful, the US will launch a coup against any state leader who is not pro the US’,” Ms Sukmawati said.
She said her father’s foreign policy had not been “pro-US” because he was opposed to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
PhD scholar Donald Greenlees said this was not the first time documents had been released relating to CIA plans to assassinate Sukarno.
“I would like to know the identity of the CIA ‘asset’. I assume that is buried in a file somewhere,” he said.
Mr Greenlees said there were assassination attempts against Sukarno. “Sukarno was a divisive figure. He had enemies at home. But it remains unclear whether the assassination attempts were simply coincidence, whether people cultivated by the CIA acted alone, or whether some in the CIA were entrepreneurial.”
University of Melbourne Associate Professor Kate McGregor said the US had been concerned at the time about Sukarno’s increasingly radical policies including his campaign against Malaysia, turn to China and support for the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI.
She said the then president had increasing visibility and influence as an anti-imperialist icon across Asia and Africa who was not afraid to challenge ongoing economic and cultural imperialism.
At the time the West believed there was a real threat that Indonesia would fall to the communists.
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Sukarno in 1960. Photo: Fairfax Media
Professor of Asian history at the Australian National University, Robert Cribb, says the CIA and US State Department had been obsessed with Sukarno and the potential damage he could do to their interests in South-east Asia.
“What we are seeing is a little bit more evidence that the CIA was closer to planning an assassination,” Professor Cribb said. “There doesn’t seem to be evidence of a definite plot but there is serious discussion of an assassination.”
The JFK documents are the second batch of newly declassified documents that shed fascinating light on the Cold War period in Indonesia.
Earlier this month the National Security Archive in the US published newly declassified documents from the US Embassy in Jakarta from 1964 to 1968 that revealed the US government’s knowledge and support of a campaign of mass murder against the PKI.
One cable cites as its source a “reliable Australian journalist”, who is understood to be Frank Palmos.
It suggests US officials were well aware that alleged PKI supporters and members being arrested or killed in an army-led campaign of repression and mass murder had no role in – or even knowledge of – an abortive coup in which six army generals were murdered.
Another cable cites the observations of anthropologist James Fox – now a professor at the Australian National University – who was living on Rote island in East Nusa Tenggara at the time and reported the execution of “between 40 and 50 local Rote communists plus another 30 communists” from the neighbouring island of Sawu.
Professor Cribb said it is fascinating every time previously classified documents are released.
“Next year I will be teaching a course called ‘Lies, Conspiracy and Propaganda’ and this will be a very good bit of material for that course.”
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.