Indonesia: Vengeance with a Smile

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Late in September, three Chinese acupuncturators summoned from Peking to treat Sukarno for a kidney ailment reported that the Bung was failing fast. Immediately, the party swung into action, advising the President that they were trying to forestall an army coup. Sukarno apparently gave the plotters his blessing. In any case, on the morning of Oct. 1 the youth cadres, a battalion of mobile police and two renegade army battalions set out from Halim Air Force base near Djakarta to launch the coup. Led by Colonel Untung, commander of Sukarno's own palace guards, they quickly seized the government radio station and the telephone office, took over the presidential palace, and rounded up six leading anti-Communist generals, executed them and stuffed their bodies down a well. They missed the most important officers of all.

Unmarked Grave. General Abdul Haris Nasution, the man who had built the army's power, leaped out of a rear window when his would-be kidnapers stormed into his home (they killed his six-year-old daughter, instead). General Suharto, who as chief of KOSTRAD (Strategic Reserve Command) was commander of all combat troops, was aroused by firing when the Reds apparently barged into the wrong house. Suspecting the worst, he drove to army headquarters to organize a counterattack.

It was not difficult to manage, for the Reds' supposed millions ignored the party's call to rise, and Sukarno got cold feet and refused to come out publicly on the side of the rebels. Together, Nasution and Suharto regained control of Djakarta within 24 hours, wiped out the last resistance in the Red strongholds of East and Central Java in less than six weeks. Party Boss Aidit, who was found hiding in the closet of a friend's house in Solo, was executed in a military jail and buried in an unmarked grave.

Amok is a Javanese word, and it describes what happened at the collapse of the Communist coup. In a national explosion of pent-up hatred, Indonesia embarked on an orgy of slaughter that took more lives than the U.S. has lost in all wars in this century. The army was responsible for much of the killing, but Nationalist and Moslem mobs took the greatest toll. The slaughter began on Oct. 15 in Sukarno's home town of Blitar, quickly spread through Java and the other major islands, and did not end until last month in the rubber plantations of the Sumatran rain forest. During the eight months the terror lasted, to be a known Communist was usually to become a dead Communist.

There was little remorse anywhere. "The Communists deserved the people's wrath," said Hadji Makrus AH, 57, the Kiai (Imam) of Kediri (pop. 250,000), a town that was about 60% Commu nist before the coup. To the Kiai, the slaughter was a "holy war," and he told his flocks that by killing Communists they were serving both the state and Islam. The flocks responded by hauling 25,000 suspected Communists out of their homes. Many were decapitated, their heads impaled on poles outside their front doors for widows and children to see. So many bodies were thrown into the Brantas River that Kediri townsfolk are still afraid to eat fish —and communities downstream had to take emergency measures to prevent an outbreak of the plague.

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