147. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1

868. Ref: Embtel 852.2

Events of the past few days have put PKI and pro-Communist elements very much on defensive and they may embolden army at long last to act effectively against Communists.
At same time we seem to be witnessing what may be the passing of power from Sukarno’s hands to a figure or figures whose identity is yet unknown, possibly bringing changes in national policy and posture in its wake.
Right now, our key problem is if we can help shape developments to our advantage, bearing in mind that events will largely follow their own course as determined by basic forces far beyond our capability to control.
Following guidelines may supply part of the answer to what our posture should be:
Avoid overt involvement as power struggle unfolds.
Covertly, however, indicate clearly to key people in army such as Nasution and Suharto our desire to be of assistance where we can, while at same time conveying to them our assumption that we should avoid appearance of involvement or interference in any way,.
Maintain and if possible extend our contact with military.
Avoid moves that might be interpreted as note of nonconfidence in army (such as precipately moving out our dependents or cutting staff).
Spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is perhaps most needed immediate assistance we can [Page 308] give army if we can find way to do it without identifying it as solely or largely US effort).
Support through information output and such other means as becomes available to us unity of Indonesian armed forces.
Bear in mind that Moscow and Peking are in basic conflict regarding Indonesia, and that Soviet Union might find itself even more in line with our thinking than at present. This will be subject of our next Country Team meeting and we may have specific recommendations for exploiting this phenomenon.
Continue to consult closely with friendly embassies (who take up much of our time and occasionally our facilities) extending our line of credit and enhancing our image generally through them as a constructive influence here.
Continue for time being to maintain low profile and be restrained about any apparent opportunities to rush in with new, overt programs (although need for stepped-up information effort will be great).
We will submit further recommendations as these seem to be appropriate to what will undoubtedly be fast-moving or at least uncertain situation for some time to come.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON. Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD, Canberra, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur, London, Manila, New Delhi, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, and Wellington. Passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and USUN. In situation report 9 of the Indonesia Working Group, October 5, this was described as the “first of a series of telegrams recommending courses of action (Djakarta 868, October 5) which generally suggests that the United States avoid overt involvement in the power struggle but should indicate, clearly but covertly, to key Army officers our desire to assist where we can.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. V, Cables, 10/65–11/65, [3 of 3])
  2. In telegram 852, October 5, 0405Z, the Embassy reported on the implications of the unsuccessful September 30 coup, suggesting that Army had an opportunity to move against the PKI. The Embassy stated, “it’s now or never” and estimated that the “agony of ridding Indonesia of the effects of Sukarno and NASAKOM has begun,” but it would be wrong “to assume process will be over easily or quickly.” (Ibid.)