Sunday, 10 July 2016 20:52

Greg Poulgrain, The Incubus of Intervention

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Jim DiEugenio calls this book "a provocative revisionist history of why the epochal coup in Indonesia happened as it did in 1965 ... [and which] has enlightened us on the crucial figures of Allen Dulles, Sukarno, Dag Hammarskjold and John Kennedy, how they played with and against each other and how this nexus led to a horrible tragedy."


The sub-title of Professor Poulgrain’s book is “Conflicting Indonesia Strategies of John F. Kennedy and Allen Dulles.” In this author’s opinion it is a valuable book because, although it does not deal directly with the 1965 CIA-inspired coup against Achmed Sukarno of Indonesia, it traces the major events and crises that caused that epic slaughter, which is usually labeled the bloodiest CIA coup in history.

To this day, no one can say for certain how many people perished in the overthrow of Sukarno. The estimates range from 350,000 to a million. But almost everyone who has written about that event agrees that it was the most cleverly disguised coup d’état the Agency ever executed in a foreign country.  It literally took years to even begin to really understand what had happened. Over fifty years later, there is still much to be uncovered about what happened, and why, on September 30, 1965, and how this caused the mass murders that were then enacted all the way into the summer of the next year.

As former CIA officer Ralph McGehee once said, the Agency very much guarded how it achieved the overthrow of Sukarno. They considered it such a near masterpiece of covert action that they used it as a model to teach certain tactics and strategies. (The Nation, April 11, 1981) In fact, the Agency has so clouded its own role in the twisted affair that to this day there is no single book that comes close to constituting a definitive study of the coup, which is not the case with say, the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala or Mossadegh in Iran.

In fact, one of the first hints of what really happened in Indonesia in late September of 1965 was almost inadvertently delivered by James Reston in the New York Times.  On June 19, 1966, Reston was trying to defend Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War and the failure of that escalation to achieve its goals.  Therefore, he wrote that this should be balanced by more “hopeful political developments elsewhere in Asia.”  Reston then pointed to the “transformation of Indonesia from a pro-Chinese policy under Sukarno to a defiantly anti-Communist policy under General Suharto.”  Reston, of course, was lying about Sukarno being a pro-Chinese communist; he was nothing of the sort. But, as with Patrice Lumumba in Congo, this is what the CIA used to justify the overthrow of his government.  Reston then hinted that such was the case when he wrote, “Washington is careful not to claim any credit for this change…but this does not mean that Washington had nothing to do with it.”  If the reader can comprehend it, Reston’s column was entitled “A Gleam of Light in Asia.”  No comment can underscore the sick inappropriateness of that rubric.

In his introduction to the book The Silent Slaughter, Bertrand Russell wrote that according to two witnesses he knew, the 7th Fleet was in the waters off the coast of Java at the time, and General Nasution, who led the communist crackdown along with his colleague General Suharto, had a mission in Washington; therefore, the US “was directly involved in the day to day events.”

On February 12, 1965, the New York Times, almost eight months before the cataclysm, partly explained why the USA was determined to overthrow Sukarno. They wrote that when “Sukarno threatened the Federation of Malaysia, he placed himself in the path of U.S. and British interests to contain communist China. Washington has left active defense of Malaysia to the British Commonwealth...” but seeks to influence Indonesia by aiding her army “against the expected Communist bid for power.” Again, this is another deception. There was no bid for power by the communist party on the archipelago called the PKI.  But the CIA used this specter--first conjured up by CIA Director Allen Dulles and his brother Secretary of State John Foster Dulles--to begin the planning for the coup. 

And, in fact, that planning may have begun the year before.  Peter Scott in an article for Lobster, (Fall 1990), quoted a letter from a former researcher who had seen a certain letter from a former ambassador who had a conversation with a Dutch intelligence officer assigned to NATO. According to the researcher’s notes, the ambassador’s letter was dated from December of 1964.  It said that Indonesia would soon fall to the west like a rotten apple. Western intelligence agencies would organize a “premature communist coup [which would be] foredoomed to fail, providing a legitimate and welcome opportunity to the army to crush the communists and make Sukarno a prisoner of the army’s goodwill.”

According to several writers, in the early spring of 1965, the Agency sent in the so-called first team.  And according to at least one author--Donald Freed--David Phillips was part of this advance team.  One of the things they did was to organize an informal alliance of conservative generals--led by Nasution and Suharto among others. It eventually numbered over two dozen. As the months went by, it was formally called the Council of Generals. It was this body that reportedly plotted against Sukarno. Part of the point of this subterfuge was to try and provoke a response by the PKI.  In anticipation of that response, Bradley Simpson has written, “the CIA organized covert operations and propaganda efforts for the better part of a year.” As he also notes, the CIA had a role in encouraging and aiding the mass killings of PKI supporters through Moslem groups, youth gangs, and other anti communist forces. (For a gripping recreation of how this was done locally, see the acclaimed documentary film The Act of Killing)

But Washington’s covert aid was consciously kept as secret as possible, since it would have provided a great propaganda boon to Sukarno in reining in the bloody chaos that was consuming his country. In the face of the massacres, National Security Advisor Walt Rostow recommended a policy of silence by the White House. But secretly the CIA was sending cash, small arms and communications equipment to aid the slaughter, since Nasution and Suharto had requested them. If that wasn’t enough, the American Embassy was furnishing the army with lists of PKI members. (See Monthly Review, December 2015)

After placing Sukarno under house arrest, the Council of Generals eventually took complete power in 1966. Once the PKI was liquidated, the Council sold off their fabulously rich country to American and European imperialists. Suharto, for one example, became a billionaire; while the great mass of Indonesians lived in brutal, grinding poverty.

As I said, I am not going to attempt to elucidate in any serious detail the chilling events that occurred in September and October of 1965 in Indonesia.  Authors who have studied it for years still have yet to convincingly explicate all of its complications. And that is not Poulgrain’s aim either.  What his book does is explain the long back-story as to why the horror of 1965 happened.  And it does so mainly through the figure of Allen Dulles.


In narrating this discouraging, sometimes depressing, tragic epic, it is imperative to understand that it was Sukarno who convened the first conference of non-aligned nations in Indonesia in 1955, which was actually arranged by his foreign minister and held in Bandung. For Sukarno, the term "non-aligned" meant just that.  These were nations that did not want to commit themselves one way or the other to the Cold War competition between the U.S. and Russia. They wanted to be neutral and to stay neutral.  They also wanted to be free to accept aid from both superpowers without the acceptance showing a commitment to Moscow or Washington. 

This was not satisfactory with the Eisenhower administration, especially with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles.  Yet the irony is that Sukarno and many of his allies like Nasser of Egypt staged the conference for the specific reason that they did not trust the Dulles brothers.  (Robert Rakove, Kennedy, Johnson and the Non-Aligned World, p. 3)  One could understand that readily after watching what happened in Iran and Guatemala in 1953 and 1954. Foster Dulles’s State Department issued a paper calling Sukarno’s conference and the growing non-aligned movement, “one of the most dangerous political trends of the fifties.” (ibid, p. 6) The Secretary seriously contemplated staging a shadow Bandung conference with conservative, sympathetic American allied nations. (ibid, p. 9)  In a speech Foster Dulles gave in Iowa in 1956, he called neutrality in the Cold War a false pretense and he said he had constructed his string of alliances across the world, such as SEATO, the Baghdad Pact, to eliminate neutrals. Because of this, Allen Dulles began secretly funding the Masjumi Muslim party to the tune of a million dollars in one year. In fact, the Church Committee did find some evidence that the CIA may have been behind the assassination attempt of Sukarno in 1957. (op. cit. Scott)

This was one point of contention between Sukarno and the Eisenhower administration. Another one was the dispute between the Netherlands and Sukarno over the territory of West Irian (also called Irian Java, West Papua and West New Guinea). This was part of an island territory that the Dutch maintained control of after Indonesia won its independence a few years after World War II. As Rakove notes, although Foster Dulles was neutral about this dispute in public, privately he did not want to give the territory over to Sukarno. (p. 15)

Kennedy and Sukarno meet at the White House

The first researcher to fully integrate this dispute over West Irian into a comprehensive essay on the Indonesia overthrow of 1965 was Lisa Pease.  She did this in her landmark essay entitled “JFK, Indonesia, CIA and Freeport Sulphur."  That scintillating essay was first published in the May/June 1996 issue of Probe magazineIt was Part Two of her series on the huge mining company Freeport Sulphur, today called Freeport McMoran. And although some have said that her essays are in the book The Assassinations, they are not. One has to purchase the Probe CD to read that excellent series. (Oddly, Poulgrain does not source Lisa’s work in his notes or bibliography.)

In her essay, Lisa was one of the first to point out the importance of the Ertsberg lode and how it figured into the dispute between the Dutch and Sukarno. And further, how it later figured into the overthrow of Sukarno’s government, which he called a “guided democracy.” 

In 1936 a Dutch geologist named J. J. Dozy discovered two enormous mineral deposits in West Irian.  One was called the Ertsberg and the other, only two kilometers away, was called the Grasberg.  The former was a mountain, the latter an elevated meadow.  (Poulgrain, p. 6) The political ramifications of this find have extended over the decades to this very day because the Dozy report was both kept hidden and also deliberately distorted.  One of the reasons for this is that Dozy discovered that the concentration of gold ore at Ertsberg was twice as rich as the wealthiest gold mine in the world at that time, which was located in South Africa. But further, the same gold ore at the Grasberg appeared to be even richer than the Ertsberg. (Ibid, pgs. 6,7)

Needless to say, this discovery significantly altered the geopolitical importance of Indonesia—especially for the so-called Power Elite. A central reason for this was that one of the main architects of the Dozy expedition was Allen Dulles through his law firm Sullivan and Cromwell. (Poulgrain, p. 7)  Dozy was instructed not to formally announce the results of his findings for the simple reason that the Dutch control of West Irian was weak.  But further, the consortium of companies that arranged and financed the three-man expedition was a dual Dutch/American operation. On the American side, the two partners were two divisions of the Rockefeller-controlled petroleum colossus, Standard Oil. Since Sullivan and Cromwell organized the expedition, it was Standard that had a 60% controlling interest in the enterprise. (ibid, p. 17)

As the author notes, in its decades long struggle to hang on to West Irian, the Dutch never made public the true facts of what Dozy’s expedition had discovered. But also, the American side of the consortium never accepted the Dutch offer to begin to actually break ground and exploit the mining potential of both areas. As Poulgrain postulates, the Ertsberg and Grasberg were at high elevations (about 14,000 feet) and in difficult locations for mining operations.  The Dutch did not have the wherewithal at the time to pull off such an engineering feat. In fact, as Lisa Pease points out, when Freeport Sulphur finally did break ground, they had to go to Bechtel Corporation to construct the engineering aspects of the mining.

The Dulles brothers

In a subsequent report about the expedition that was technical in nature, the gold potential of the Ertsberg was greatly discounted, while its copper content and remoteness was played up. (ibid, p. 24)  With this camouflage in place, the next objective for Sullivan and Cromwell was to force the Dutch out of the deal.  By refusing to cooperate with them on the mining engineering, Standard was attempting to do just that.

In 1962, a second expedition ascended the Ertsberg. This was on the occasion of Sukarno and Indonesia taking control of the area.  This second mission actually discovered a notebook deliberately left behind by Dozy but again, the content of this notebook was kept shrouded in secrecy. In fact, Dozy lied to Poulgrain about it being returned to him. (p. 31)  Even at this late date, both Dozy and Freeport Sulphur’s geologist Forbes Wilson continued to discount the gold and silver deposits there and to exalt the copper deposits. Dozy’s secret report said that the gold at Ertsberg amounted to 15 grains per ton. In reality it was 15 grams per ton, which makes for a large difference. (ibid, p. 37)

Around this time, something else was afoot. In interviews Poulgrain did with two Indonesian officials, they both revealed that secret money began to be siphoned to the Indonesian government. It was earmarked for the struggle with the Dutch over West Irian.  The funds were from American sources. (p. 33)  As Standard did not want to help the Dutch mine the area, the Americans did not want the Dutch to take permanent control of West Irian. Standard Oil could find its own partners and the mining company Freeport Sulphur was another Rockefeller-controlled company.


One of the most interesting parts of the book is the chapter concerning John Kennedy’s relationship with United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold. Until reading Poulgrain, much of what most observers knew about this relationship was based upon the pair’s interplay in the monumental Congo crisis. Author Richard Mahoney had made that conflict the basis for his milestone book on Kennedy, JFK: Ordeal in Africa.  Kennedy had developed a strong interest in the issues of colonialism and Africa while he was in the Senate. His stance on the two was quite different than the Eisenhower administration’s, for he did not see the emerging countries of the Third World through the “with us or against us” lens that the administration did. For instance, he understood why Nasser did not join the Baghdad Pact.  And Kennedy looked at Foster Dulles’ reaction to this--his attempt to isolate Nasser, favoring Saudi Arabia, and pulling out of the Aswan Dam project--with disdain, since, for one thing, it threw Nasser into the arms of the Russians to get funding for the dam. But Kennedy also thought that America should actually favor someone like Nasser who was more of a socialist/secularist rather than the Saudis who were more Moslem fundamentalists. (See Philip Muehlenbeck’s Betting on the Africans, p. 10ff)

Dag Hammarskjold was a Swedish economist who worked on the Marshall Plan for Europe. He later became chair of the Swedish delegation to the UN General Assembly.  In 1953 he was elected Secretary General of that body.  Kennedy had nothing but respect and admiration for Hammarskjold.  Upon his death in 1961, he called him the greatest statesman of the 20th century.  As Mahoney pointed out at length and in depth, the two men had much in common during the Congo crisis, and Hammarskjold’s death in a suspicious plane crash in 1961 seemed to galvanize Kennedy on that front.  He was determined to back the followers of Patrice Lumumba and to prevent the mineral rich province of Katanga from splitting off from the country.  He backed a UN military action to prevent the latter. Kennedy’s Congo policy was drastically altered after his death.

What Poulgrain adds to this equation is that Kennedy and Hammarskjold were also working on a plan for Indonesia. (p. 77)  In interviews the author did with Hammarskjold’s friend and colleague at the UN, the late George Ivan Smith, Smith told Poulgrain that JFK and Hammarskjold were discussing a solution to the West Irian crisis; the Netherlands wanted to hang onto the territory, while Sukarno thought it should be part of Indonesia. Considering the contents of the Dozy report, one can understand the motivation of the Dutch.  

But further, Smith revealed that those discussions included a back channel by Kennedy to former president Harry Truman. (ibid)  In fact, Truman was well informed enough about the progress that upon hearing of Hammarskjold’s plane crash, he commented: “Dag Hammarskjold was on the point of getting something done when they killed him.  Notice that I said, ‘When they killed him.’”  When asked to develop that point, Truman replied with, “That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter. Draw your own conclusions.” (ibid, p. 78)  In itself, this is remarkable, but it is even more so when coupled with Truman’s famous editorial in the Washington Post a month after Kennedy’s assassination. That column was about how the CIA had strayed too far from what Truman imagined its original mission was. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed,  pgs. 378-79) With this new revelation about Indonesia, it now becomes apparent that Truman knew something--and if the Warren Commission had been a true fact finding body, which it was not, he would have been a witness before  it.

As readers of the second edition of Destiny Betrayed know, Allen Dulles visited Truman in April of 1964.  Although Dulles was sitting on the Commission at the time, the visit was not formally related to that body. Dulles was there to try and get Truman to retract his editorial about the CIA becoming a rogue agency.  By the end of the conversation, it had become apparent that the former CIA director suspected that Truman had written the column because he felt the Agency was involved in the JFK murder. (ibid, pgs. 379-81)

Poulgrain, using Susan Williams’s book Who Killed Hammarskjold?, adduces evidence that Dulles was involved with the murder of Hammarskjold. During the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, Desmond Tutu discovered documents concerning a covert project called Operation Celeste. This appears to be a plan to murder the UN Secretary General and there were records of communications from Dulles in the file. The proposed plot machinations included planting a small bomb to disable the outside steering mechanism.  One of the communications stated that the UN had become troublesome and it is felt that Hammarskjold should be removed. Dulles agreed and “has promised full cooperation from his people…” (Poulgrain, p. 74)  And as Williams pointed out, there were two CIA planes on the same runway Hammarskjold was supposed to land on that night. Congruent with this, Dulles had also forwarded information describing the plane the Secretary General would be traveling on and the date of his arrival.  Smith, needless to day, told Poulgrain that he thought Hammarskjold was murdered.

There was one other project Kennedy was working on with Hammarskjold.  This was something called OPEX.  Hammarskjold was determined to help colonized peoples free themselves, but as an economist, he was also going to try and aid their development once they were free of colonialism. OPEX was a UN group that would send professionals into newly freed states to aid their development--not as advisors, but as adjuncts to the new governments. (ibid, p. 80) Poulgrain writes that this was the concept Dag had in mind for West Irian.  He was planning on turning over the territory to the natives on the island called Papuans. After Dag's death, Kennedy had to soldier both the Congo and Indonesia crises more or less alone.

In this author’s opinion, the Hammarskjold assassination (I will not call it a plane crash anymore) has been gravely overlooked by JFK researchers and with the work of Williams, Poulgrain, and Lisa Pease, it should not be. (  Dag's assassination, and the Congo crisis, are of key importance in the saga of John F. Kennedy’s career and his murder.


Allen Dulles had been working the Indonesia terrain with covert operations for six years when Kennedy became president. It is strongly suspected that the Agency was behind the use of the Moslem extremists Darul Islam in an attempt to assassinate Sukarno in 1957. As Poulgrain notes, it is important to understand that Darul Islam later morphed into Jemmah Islamiah, the terrorist group linked to the Bali bombing of 2002. (p. 86) In other words, the work of the Dulles brothers in backing Saudi Arabia against Nasser, and Darul Islam against Sukarno, had sinister and pernicious future consequences.

In his work on the background of Allen Dulles, Poulgrain found that in working for the State Department in 1920, one of his functions was to monitor the progress of the Russian Civil War. One reason for this was American interest (read Standard Oil) in the great oil fields at Baku. (ibid, p. 97)  It was here that Dulles met Sergius Alexander Von Mohrenschildt. Sergius was a director of the Nobel family oil fields in Baku, and he was also modernizing the Russian army. Sergius was the father of George DeMohrenschildt.  At the time, George and his mother were living in Baku at the domicile of Sergius. George’s brother Dimitri was in the Russian navy and would soon emigrate (actually escape) to the United States.

Since Sergius was a White Russian, he was arrested by the Reds but he escaped to Poland with his wife and George.  They lived on a large estate in Poland, but George’s mother died soon after the move. George served in the Polish cavalry for a period of 18 months.  He then went to Belgium for university studies. (p 98)  In 1938, like his brother, George also emigrated to the U.S. He changed his name by dropping the Von and changing it to “de."

Standard Oil had targeted the petroleum in the Dutch East Indies since the twenties. They even established a phony Dutch front company to do so. But it was not until 1928 when Standard got concessions for exploration from the Netherlands. Allen Dulles worked on this by telling the Dutch they might lose everything to an outside force, like Japan, because their hold of the archipelago was tenuous.

During World War II, Dulles arranged for Standard Oil to sell petroleum to Vichy France, effectively selling it to the Germans and that case involved George DeMohrenschildt. (p. 110)  In 1938, George lived with Dimitri on Park Avenue in New York.  It is there that he met Mrs. Bouvier, the mother of Jackie Kennedy.

The International Cooperation Administration (ICA) was frequently used for CIA cover duties. It was established by Allen and his brother in 1955.  DeMohrenschildt worked for this unit when he went to Yugoslavia as an oil and gas specialist. His job was to recruit workers for a job in Egypt using American equipment.

Poulgrain makes the case that because of some of his controversial work for Standard Oil  (like with Vichy France), Dulles got DeMohrenschildt out of the country and working for another Rockefeller oil subsidiary called Humble Oil.  He makes a circumstantial case that George was transferred to West Irian in the Dutch East Indies to work on Standard’s oil drilling there. It turned out that in addition to the Ertsberg and Grasberg, West Irian was the home of what turned out to be the largest oil deposit in all of New Guinea. (p. 121)  It was called the Vogelkop, and again, the Dutch tried to keep this hidden. Humble Oil did some preliminary drilling and thought the prospects were promising.  But as Poulgrain shows, this was kept a secret among the Power Elite.  Like the Ertsberg and Grasberg, the idea was to not let Sukarno know about these deposits. In fact, the author makes the case that not even Kennedy knew about them; it puzzled him that the Dutch would want to hang on to what he thought was such a desolate area as West Irian.


Poulgrain has written a book about the CIA-aided rebellion of the Outer Islands military forces against Sukarno and the central government located at Jakarta.  I have not read the book yet, but he incorporates some of that work into his chapter on the rebellion. The ostensible cause of the uprising was the fact that, for example the island of Sumatra was responsible for about 70% of GDP, but only got about 30% of it back in revenues. In fact Mohammad Hatta, who was Sukarno’s second in command when Indonesia was set free in 1949, resigned from the government in late 1956 over this issue.

Another perceived problem for the military was the growing influence of the PKI.  Which by 1955 was the fourth largest party in Indonesia. (p. 142)  Sukarno did not really perceive the party as being communists and thought they were more nationalists; this is what he told President Kennedy later. But what accented this for Allen Dulles was Sukarno’s turn toward what he called Guided Democracy. This amounted to taking advice from certain groups in society like veterans and laborers. (p. 148) which to Dulles, looked like a class-oriented government, and not, as he preferred, from the Power Elite down.

Guy Pauker, a professor at Berkeley and an expert of Southeast Asia, was a consultant for Dulles on Indonesia.  He recommended using the Outer Island dispute to play up the threat of the PKI. (p. 152)  The problem for Allen Dulles was John Allison who was the American ambassador in Jakarta.  He did not see the PKI as a real threat to take over and he did not see Sukarno as a communist or even a pinko. The problem was that many of his reports never got through to John Foster Dulles. In fact, Allen Dulles had installed his man at a new position called the Bureau of Research and Intelligence at State. This is where the directives inside the department came to support the rebellion (p. 153) and there was a working group set up inside this agency that included navy admiral Arleigh Burke that was in direct communication with Sullivan and Cromwell. (p. 155)  Finally Allen Dulles sent a friend and colleague in the Agency named Al Ulmer to visit Jakarta.  He came back and told Foster Dulles that Allison was soft on communism. Allison was now removed as ambassador and sent to Czechoslovakia.  (p. 159)

Allison was removed in January of 1958. The rebellion began in February.  The story of the rebellion, and its failure, was well told in the book Subversion as Foreign Policy back in 1995.  Poulgrain has clearly read that book, as he refers to it often. But his thesis is different and revisionist.  He argues that Allen Dulles never really wanted the rebellion to succeed for the simple reason that the Dutch still controlled West Irian.  His plan was to have Indonesia take control of West Irian first, and then dislodge Sukarno and decimate the PKI. For that to happen, the main tool would be the army. Dulles felt the army was not a unified force at this time, as exemplified by the dissidents on the outer islands.  Therefore, he would use the rebellion to centralize the army in Jakarta. Once that was done, the possibility of dislodging the charismatic Sukarno was much stronger but only after West Irian was part of Indonesia.

Poulgrain argues this thesis vigorously with some interesting points that have either been ignored or which he dug up on his own. For instance, Dulles helped General Nasution (who led the counter attack for Sukarno) recover a huge weapons drop originally meant for the rebels. (p. 148)  Also, there was never any serious discussion about rescuing American personnel. Third, a CIA officer named Sterling Cottrell called Nasution four times in one night.  The reason? To be sure he was aware that there was an arms drop for him at Pekanbaru airfield on Sumatra. (p. 204)  Dulles then camouflaged this to the National Security Council by saying the arms were delivered by an unknown third country.

But further, after the rebellion was defeated, Dulles kept supplying it at a low level even though it had no chance of success. Poulgrain argues that the aim of this was to 1) Maintain martial law, which Sukarno had declared at the outbreak; and 2) Stop any elections from being held so the PKI could not increase its power in the government.


Joseph Luns

In January of 1961, Nasution was in Moscow reviewing a large arms purchase from the Russians. The purchase included bombers, fighters, torpedo boats, submarines, warships and cruisers. (p. 213)  These were to be used in an amphibious assault against the Dutch on West Irian. At the same time, Nasution was talking to Australia who owned the eastern part of New Guinea. He and Sukarno wanted Australia to stay neutral in the coming conflict which they agreed to do. And finally to round off the triangular arrangements, Nasution wires Washington that there is nothing more to his visit to Moscow than an arms deal and he has no sympathies towards the Soviets. (p. 215)

Dutch foreign minister Joseph Luns visited Washington in April of 1961. He told President Kennedy that Foster Dulles had told him that the U.S. would support the Netherlands if it came to a military confrontation. Kennedy clearly was not sympathetic to this at all.  As stated previously, he could not understand why the Dutch were so determined to maintain such a faraway and desolate island. Luns, of course, was not going to tell him about the Dozy mission and what they found there. (p. 219)

Luns later proposed a trusteeship that would be administered by the Netherlands. Kennedy and Hammarskjold had discussed a genuine trusteeship, one that would be administered by a neutral third party. They would then allow the Papuans to vote on what they wanted in a referendum. (p. 220)  In fact, Kennedy wanted Hammarskjold to handle the issue. But when the Secretary was killed in September of 1961, the issue fell to him.

In November of 1961, an event occurred which worked against the trusteeship/referendum concept. Nelson Rockefeller’s son Michael disappeared off the coast of New Guinea. His body was never found after his boat overturned. Although he was collecting primitive art artifacts, Michael was in direct contact with a Standard Oil exploration team. They started a rumor that Papuan cannibals had eaten him. (p. 223)  Since the story was front-page news, it seriously damaged the image of the Papuans.

Kennedy now wrote Sukarno and told him to hold off on any military attack but Sukarno did call for a general mobilization and launched a small torpedo boat attack, which was met by two Dutch destroyers.  How did they know this was coming?  In a preview of his role in the future, General Suharto relayed the information to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. The military wanted their NATO ally, the Dutch, to be prepared.  (p. 232)

Kennedy now arranged a conference in New York in which the U.S. would moderate between the two sides. The two representatives for the U.S. were veteran diplomat Ellsworth Bunker and Attorney General Robert Kennedy.  Luns later reported on how vociferous the U.S. was in favor of Sukarno, especially Robert Kennedy.

Click image to see larger version

Two notes should be added about the New York Agreement. First, President Kennedy insisted on a clause maintaining a plebiscite for the Papuans in 1969. At that time, they would choose to be independent or stay a part of Indonesia.  Since Suharto had taken control of Indonesia by then and signed a deal with Freeport Sulphur in 1967, this vote turned out to be a military-controlled sham. Second, although Indonesia was not supposed to take over the territory until 1964, they actually took control in May of 1963. This may have been to ensure that the official lease on the Ertsberg expired when it was outside of Dutch control. This was probably urged on by the numerous American allies and CIA agents inside Sukarno’s entourage, like Suharto and diplomat and economist Adam Malik, a highly paid CIA agent.

After the New York Agreement was signed, Kennedy sent out memos to every relevant agency of  government. He wanted a full-court press in sending as much developmental aid as possible to Sukarno. (p. 236)  He wanted the economy stabilized and growing in order to keep Sukarno friendly with the west.

A painting of Suharto

But these good relations were short-circuited by Sukarno’s enemies in government, in Congress, and in the UK. Specifically, these included Dulles’ friend General Lucius Clay and Representative Gerald Ford.  They used Sukarno’s confrontation with the British over the creation of the state of Malaysia to begin to criticize Sukarno over his belligerence with our British friends. Sukarno now began to expel and expropriate foreign businesses, including Standard Oil’s Caltex and Stanvac. Kennedy insisted that they stay, but they negotiate profit sharing deals with Sukarno on a 60/40 basis favoring Indonesia.  Kennedy sent two trade representatives to successfully negotiate the deal. (p. 242)  In comparison, after Suharto, the split Freeport McMoran has with Indonesia today is reportedly 90/10 in Freeport’s favor. The reader can only imagine what Sukarno could have done for the people of Indonesia with the tens of billions he would have gotten in a 60/40 split over the Ertsberg and Grasberg mines.

The Malaysian confrontation started riots in Jakarta at the British embassy. Kennedy insisted that this should not influence congressional approval over how much aid should go to Sukarno. (p. 244)  But it did and the aid package started to be pecked apart. Sukarno now told the American ambassador in Jakarta, Howard Jones, that he thought the CIA was out to topple his regime. To try and save the situation, Kennedy and Sukarno arranged a state visit for the president to Jakarta in 1964.  One of Kennedy’s goals was to wind down the tensions between Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact, he stated, why stop aid to Indonesia ”because of its attitude toward Malaysia, when three months from now it may or may not be the same as it is today?” (p. 247)

Kennedy, of course, never got to visit Indonesia or halt the Malaysian crisis. Without Kennedy’s help, Sukarno’s prediction to Jones about the CIA toppling him came true. Sukarno said about JFK’s murder: “Kennedy was killed precisely to prevent him from visiting Indonesia.”

Greg Poulgrain has written a provocative revisionist history of why the epochal coup in Indonesia happened as it did in 1965.  Along the way he has enlightened us on the crucial figures of Allen Dulles, Sukarno, Dag Hammarskjold and John Kennedy and how they played with and against each other and how this nexus led to a horrible tragedy.

Last modified on Sunday, 06 November 2016 01:01
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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