U.S. Had Role In Massacre Of 250,000, Ex-Diplomats Say

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government played a significant role in one of the worst massacres of the century by supplying the names of thousands of Communist Party leaders to the Indonesian army, which hunted them down and killed them, former U.S. diplomats say.

For the first time, U.S. officials acknowledge that in 1965 they systematically compiled comprehensive lists of Communist Party officials, from top echelons down to village cadres. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured, according to the U.S. officials.

The assassinations were part of a massacre that took an estimated 250,000 lives.

The purge of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) was part of a U.S. drive to ensure communists did not come to power in Indonesia, a large country on the southern flank of Vietnam, where the United States was at war with communist guerrillas.

Silent for a quarter-century, former high-ranking U.S. diplomats and Central Intelligence Agency officials described in long interviews how they aided Indonesian army leader Suharto - now president of Indonesia - in his attack on the PKI.

``It really was a big help to the army,'' said Robert Martens, a former member of the U.S. Embassy's political section who is now a consultant to the State Department. ``They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands.

``But that's not all bad - there's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment,''

White House and State Department spokesmen declined comment on the disclosures.

Although former deputy CIA station chief Joseph Lazarsky and former diplomat Edward Masters, Martens' boss, said CIA employees contributed to the PKI lists, CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said, ``There is no substance to the allegation that the CIA was involved in the preparation and/or distribution of a list that was used to track down and kill PKI members - it is simply not true.''

Indonesian Embassy spokesman Makarim Wibisono said he had had no personal knowledge of events described by former U.S. officials. ``In terms of fighting the communists,'' he said, ``as far as I'm concerned, the Indonesian people fought by themselves to eradicate the communists.''

Martens, an experienced analyst of communist affairs, headed an embassy group of State Department and CIA officials that spent two years compiling the lists. He later delivered them to an army intermediary.

People named on the lists were captured in overwhelming numbers, Martens said, adding, ``It's a big part of the reason the PKI has never come back.''

The PKI was the third-largest communist party in the world, after the Soviet Union and China, with an estimated 3 million members. Through affiliated organizations such as labor and youth groups, it claimed the loyalties of 17 million others.

In 1966, The Washington Post published an estimate that half a million were killed in the purge, which triggered a brief civil war. In a 1968 report, the CIA estimated there had been 250,000 deaths, and called the carnage ``one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.''

Approval for release of the names came from the top U.S. Embassy officials, including former Ambassador Marshall Green; his deputy, Jack Lydman; and political-section chief Masters, the three acknowledged in interviews.

Declassified embassy cables and State Department reports from early October 1965 - before the names were turned over - show U.S. officials knew Suharto had begun rounding up PKI cadres, and that the embassy had unconfirmed reports that firing squads were being formed to kill PKI prisoners.

Former CIA Director William Colby, in an interview, compared the embassy's campaign to identify the PKI leadership to the CIA's controversial Phoenix program in Vietnam. In 1965, Colby was the director of the CIA's Far East division and was responsible for directing U.S. covert strategy in Asia.

``That's what I set up in the Phoenix program in Vietnam - that I've been kicked around for a lot,'' he said. ``That's exactly what it was - it was an attempt to identify the structure of the Communist Party.''

Phoenix was a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese program set up by the CIA in December 1967, aimed at ``neutralizing'' members of the National Liberation Front, the Vietcong political cadres. It was widely criticized for human-rights abuses and was said to have resulted in the killing of tens of thousands of Vietnamese.

``The idea of identifying the local apparatus (communist leaders) was designed to - well, you go out and get them to surrender, or you capture or you shoot them,'' Colby said of the Phoenix program. ``I mean, it was a war, and they were fighting. So it was really aimed at providing intelligence for operations rather than a big picture of the thing.''

In 1962, when he took over as chief of the CIA's Far East division, Colby said, he discovered the United States did not have comprehensive lists of PKI activists. Not having the lists ``could have been criticized as a gap in the intelligence system,'' he said, adding they were useful for ``operational planning'' and provided a picture of how the party was organized. Without such lists, he said, ``you're fighting blind.''

Asked if the CIA had been responsible for sending Martens, a Foreign Service officer, to Jakarta in 1963 to compile the lists, Colby said, ``Maybe, I don't know. Maybe we did it - I've forgotten.''

The lists were a detailed who's who of the leadership of the party, Martens said. They included names of provincial, city and other local PKI committee members, and leaders of the ``mass organizations,'' such as the PKI national labor federation, women's and youth groups.

``I know we had a lot more information (about the PKI) than the Indonesians themselves,'' Green said.

Masters said he believed the army had lists of its own, but they were not as comprehensive as the U.S. lists. He said he could not remember whether the decision to release the names had been cleared with officials in Washington.

The lists were turned over piecemeal, Martens said, beginning at the top of the communist organization. Martens supplied thousands of names to an Indonesian emissary over a number of months, he said. The emissary was an aide to Adam Malik, the Indonesian statesman, who was an ally of Suharto's in the attack on the communists.

Interviewed in Jakarta, the aide, Tirta Kentjana ``Kim'' Adhyatman, confirmed he had met with Martens and received lists of thousands of names, which he in turn gave to Malik. Malik passed them on to Suharto's headquarters, he said.

Embassy officials carefully recorded the subsequent destruction of the PKI organization. Using Martens' lists as a guide, they checked off names of captured and assassinated PKI leaders, tracking the steady dismantling of the party apparatus, former U.S. officials said.

Information about who had been captured and killed came from Suharto's headquarters, according to Joseph Lazarsky, deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta in 1965. Suharto's Jakarta headquarters was the central collection point for military reports from around the country detailing the capture and killing of PKI leaders, Lazarsky said.

``We were getting a good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up,'' Lazarsky said. ``The army had a `shooting list' of about 4,000 or 5,000 people.''

Lazarsky said the check-off work was also carried out at the CIA's intelligence directorate in Washington.

By the end of January 1966, Lazarsky said, the checked-off names were so numerous that CIA analysts concluded the PKI leadership had been destroyed.

``No one cared, so long as they were communists, that they were being butchered,'' said Howard Federspiel, who in 1965 was the Indonesia expert at the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research. ``No one was getting very worked up about it.''

Asked about the checkoffs, Colby said, ``We came to the conclusion that with the sort of draconian way it was carried out, it really set them (the communists) back for years.''