BENIGN AND CONSTRUCTIVE BLOODBATHS
Post-Colonial Rot and Counterrevolutionary Terror
The response of American leaders to bloodbaths has been related closely to the nature of the victims and executioners and the political consequences seen as flowing from the massacre and terror. In the Third World, where the United States has set itself firmly against revolutionary change since World War II, it has tried to maintain the disintegrating post-Colonial societies within the “Free World,” irrespective of the drift of social and political forces within those countries. This conservative and counterrevolutionary political objective has defined the spectrum of acceptable and unacceptable violence and bloodshed. From this perspective killings associated with revolution are bad, nefarious and perhaps also mythical - and represent a resort to violence which is improper and unethical as a means for obtaining social change. Such killings are carried out by “terrorists.” The word “violence” itself is generally confined to the use of force by elements and movements which we oppose. An AID report of 1970, for example, refers to the improving capability of the South Vietnamese police, certainly the most extensive employers of torture in the world, as “preventing the spread of violence.” (10) And the 1967 “moderate scholars” statement on Asian policy, sponsored by Freedom House, defended the U.S. assault on Vietnam and, by implication, the mass slaughters in Indonesia, at the same time explicitly condemning those who are “committed to the thesis that violence is the best means of effecting change” (presumably the NLF, DRV and the Indonesian Communists). (11)
Bloodbaths carried out by counter-revolutionary forces are regarded in a different light as they are in the interest of a return of Third World populations to that desirable “measure of passivity and defeatism” such as prevailed before World War II (12), also commonly referred to as “stability,” (13) or “political equilibrium.” Killings undertaken to return these populations to passivity are rarely described as bloodbaths or as involving the use of violence - they are “readjustments” or “dramatic changes” tolerated or applauded as necessary and desirable. This is true whether the bloodbath destroys both the organizational apparatus and the population base of radical movements (as in Indonesia), or kills more modestly, merely disorganizing and terrorizing a population sufficiently to permit rightist totalitarian rule (as in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala or Brazil (14)), or falls somewhere between the two extremes (as in the case of the U.S. effort in South Vietnam).
That revolutions are costly in human life and that those undertaking them should weigh these heavy costs against any potential gains is a conventional cliche. Less attention has been paid to the enormous human costs that have resulted from “stabilization” and counterrevolutionary attempts to forestall revolution. On the evidence of the past two decades of U.S.-sponsored counterrevolutions, a good case can be made that these are far more bloody, on the average, than revolutions. This is conspicuously so where modern technology is put to work in direct counterrevolutionary intervention. Here the indiscriminate violence puts into operation a feedback process of “Communist creation” that affords the intervention legitimacy in the eyes of the imperial power while at the same time giving it a genocidal potential.
Beyond this, of course, are the even larger human costs of “success” in keeping Third World populations in the desired state of “passivity and defeatism,” such as has been achieved in, say, the Dominican Republic or Guatemala. In these countries, there has been a restoration of the corrupting dependency on a foreign power, rule by a reactionary exploiting elite, social polarization, degradation and insecurity for large numbers, and a low level of morale and cultural esprit. (15) In North Vietnam, which had the misfortune to fall into the “iron grip” of Communism, the fighting qualities of its armed forces and the failure of the society to show the smallest signs of disintegration under the most ferocious assault in history have been a puzzle to western analysts. In seeking the sources of strength” of the DRV, Rand specialist Konrad Kellen recently noted the absence of any “signs of instability,” the lack of “resort to the kind of pressure against their population in the North that might have alienated the people”; and he concludes that “the Hanoi regime is perhaps one of the most genuinely popular in the world today. The 20 million North Vietnamese, most of whom live in their agricultural cooperatives, like it there and find the system just and the labor they do rewarding.” (16) The contrast with Free World controlled areas of South Vietnam is startling. (17)
Or consider Greece, where “the Sixth Fleet looks more and more like an extension of the regime and occupying army”; (18) where the survival of the junta is a continuing problem as it jockeys between force, external support, and opportunistic maneuvers, relying upon ‘domestic pacification, foreign investment, American tolerance, martial law, a dilating police force,purges of the professions, media control and military hardware.” A great many people (Greeks, that is) don’t like it in Greece, and a labor shortage is widespread with 10% of the work force (much of it young and able) having emigrated during the last five years. And while talking of “cultural purity,” the Colonels have placed great emphasis on encouraging tourism, diversification via “eye-popping incentives” to foreign captial, and a huge influx of an American commodity-culture mix. (19) But Greece represents “stability,” and its torture chambers have been bothersome to American leaders mainly because they have furnished ammunition to critics of our unswerving support for this incompetent little tyranny.
It is a notable fact that in the Third World countries subjected to a heavy U.S. hand and thereby kept within the Free World, graft, corruption, and the amassing of huge fortunes by the leadership of the collaborating elite have been uniform phenomena (in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, the “new” Cambodia, Laos, the “old” China and Taiwan, and South Vietnam). In the case of Chiang Kai Shek’s “old China,” General Stuwell’s lengthy experience with the Kuomintang led him to the oft-expressed conclusion that they were simply “gangsters,” who believe (accurately it turned out) that they can “go on milking the United States for money and munitions by using the old gag about quitting if...not supported.” (20) As Kolko remarks, “No serious account of China during the period 1942-1945 differs on the proposition that the corruption and venality of the ruling elite was its sole consistent characteristic.” (21) A study of $43 million in U.S. savings certificates and bonds put up for sale in October 1943 showed that the bulk was in the hands of Kuomintang leaders: T. V. Soong held $4.4 million; K. P. Chen,$4.1 million; H. H. Kung $1.4 million; and so forth. (22)
The Philippines show the same pattern. A recent Business Week, in expressing scepticism on the likelihood that Marcos will stamp out corruption, notes that (23)
the President and his close associates are hardly free from suspicion. Since taking office seven years ago as a man of relatively moderate wealth, Marcos has become one of the Philippines’ top ten taxpayers. In a country with its share of multimillionaires, that is not bad on his official salary of $4,500 a year. It is also well known that Marcos has demanded that he and his associates in the government be cut in on the profits of local businesses.
And in the case of South Vietnam, huge fortunes were being made by comprador elements even before the escalation of 1965 brought in really large resources capable of being stolen. General Khanh, leader of the South Vietnamese state by American choice for a brief period (241 in 1964, and an expatriate shortly thereafter, prided himself on his restraint in having built up an estate of only $10 million prior to his exit. (25)
In the official American view, all of this is treated as a rule of “Asian nature.” As pointed out recently by Donald Kirk, Far Eastern correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, “Kim (a South Korean poet) blames the suffering of his people in large part on the kind of bribery and chicanery that American officials smilingly dismiss as ‘routine’ in ‘all Asian countries’ -notably those allied with the United States.” (26) Both Kim and the American officials are right, as the “Asian nature” familiar and relevant to the Americans is of those willing to cooperate with the imperial powers in suppressing revolutionary nationalism and maintaining Free World control. Under U.S. auspices, the native leadership consists of carefully selected elite military and comprador elements who, if capable of meeting American criteria, are likely to lack social vision relevant to their own country and any basis or capacity to mobilize large numbers of their compatriots. (27) By the nature of the policies and in- terests they must pursue in order to meet their external sponsor’s demands, their constituency almost certainly is going to be a reactionary and priveleged local elite (plus the dominant foreign power). Their ideology centers in a negative and single-minded anti-Communism, which is what brings them into symbiosis with the U.S. leadership in the first place. Their solutions to national problems-invariably consistent in general outline with the desires of their sponsor-place heavy weight on free enterprise and external aid and the importation of huge amounts of foreign capital. (28) (It is a small irony, although perfectly understandable in a functional context, that Richard Nixon, of self-reliance fame, should be attracted so uniformly to Third World leaders whose specialty is international welfare and blackmail!)
Forcible repression of the revolutionary forces is a natural for the Colonels to whom the dominant power gravitates. Not very sophisticated as social analysts despite their schooling in Panama and Washington, D.C., and chosen for the purity of their anti-Communism, these creatures of imperial policy uniformly interpret revolutionary ferment as the product of a Communist conspiracy that must be forcibly suppressed. They espouse no positive social values and offer no constructive solutions to the critical problems of poverty and under- development. Often crass opportunists or outright plunderers, invariably associated with corruption, they rule by force. Their armies and police, quasi-mercenary forces trained, supplied, often paid and directed by the United States, lack social purpose, motivation, and discipline -- still another factor reinforcing bloodbath tendencies. Restraints coming from the dominant power tend to be minimal; in fact, bloodshed is facilitated by the generous supply of weapons, and even advanced prison and interrogation methods. The dominant power may, in fact, be outdoing the client and mercenary forces in bloodletting.
The general point involved here has not gone unnoticed by the more astute theorists of counterinsurgency. Bernard Fall, writing in the early 1960s, raised the relevant question and provided a partial answer: (29)
Why is it that we must use top-notch elite forces, the cream of the crop of American, British, French or Australian commando and special warfare schools; armed with the very best that advanced technology can provide; to defeat Viet-Minh, Algerians, or Malay “CT’s” (Chinese terrorists), almost none of whom can lay claim to similar expert training and only in the rarest of cases to equality in fire power?
The answer is very simple: It takes all the technical proficiency our system can provide to make up for the woeful lack of popular support and political savvy of most of the regimes that the West has thus far sought to prop up. The Americans who are now fighting in South Vietnam have come to appreciate this fact out of first-hand experience.
The Americans indeed did come to appreciate this fact, and they now are facing the familiar problem once again in Cambodia. The lesson is obvious enough, though it is almost never drawn by American political commentators, who continue to maintain a pose of self-righteousness even as they deplore the “errors” or “blunders” that led to this or that catastrophe. This pervasive inability to perceive the meaning of the facts that Fall cites, and that are now even more overwhelmingly evident, gives revealing insight into the nature and quality of imperial attitudes and ideology.
Thailand: A Corrupt “Firm Base”
An illustrative case of great current relevance is Thailand, which emerged from World War II as the only state in Southeast Asia whose military leadership had collaborated with the Japanese to the extent of declaring war on the United States and Great Britain. Immediately after the war U.S. officials refused to go along with the British desire to dismantle the apparatus of military power in Thailand. Thereafter the U.S. gradually increased its support of the military faction. As a result, after but a few years of constitutional rule characterized by “temporizing” support of democratic forces by the U.S., the military were able to reestablish full control, and Phibun Songkhram became “the first pro-Axis dictator to regain power after the war.... (30) Phibun quickly mastered the art of extracting both moral and material support from the American cold warriors (“milking,” to use Joe Stilwell’s earthy reference to Chiang), constantly creating alarms of external and internal Red threats, encouraging local newspapers “to denounce the United States so that his government could appeal for more American aid on the grounds that it would help to pacify this ‘anti-American’ segment of public opinion”(31); and, of course, serving as a loyal agent of his North American supporters in SEATO and elsewhere.
In the apt language of the NLF’s description of the Diem regime and its successors, this was a “country-selling government” in the Orwellian perceptions of Washington officialdom, however, this all reflected the free choice of the Thai people (“Thailand (sic) decided to adopt collective security as the basis for its foreign policy.”) (32) Phibun used the diplomatic support, money and arms provided by the United States leadership as his primary source of political power in Thailand, frequently timing his violence against his opponents to “coincide with an important meeting of the SEATO alliance, thereby minimizing local and foreign criticism.” (33) As the Thai police state consolidated itself and became both more bloody and more corrupt, American support was in no way diminished and criticism by American leaders, public and private, was minimal. In fact, “a notable trend throughout this period was the growing intimacy between the Thai military leaders and the top-level military officials from the United States.” (34) Legion of Merit awards were given to three Thai generals in 1954, and in 1955 Phibun himself was given a Doctorate of Laws at Columbia University, and the Legion of Merit award by Eisenhower for his services in “the cause of freedom.” Vice President Nixon referred to Thailand’s “dedication to freedom,” while New York Governor Dewey was most impressed with the “settled, orderly situation.. .a steady improvement toward stability.” (35)
When attention is called to the fact that Thailand under U.S. auspices has been a military dictatorship, the official response has been to point to “encouraging” political trends. If none can be dredged up at a particular moment, “Asian nature” and customs are cited, along with the need to preserve Thailand’s “independence.” Those who are still more cynical contend that it would be “arrogant” (Rogers) for us to intervene -- God forbid that we should ever descend to it -- and impose our views on other people. At the time of Ambassador Leonard Unger’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1969, a constitutional facade was in fleeting existence, and he was greatly encouraged by this development, which “rounds out a system in which the people of the country feel that they do have representation in Bangkok (36) But if their democracy is not quite like ours, the Thai people “have their own conviction about the better system of government, about how representation should be carried out. ..and I personally believe it would be a mistake for us to try to lecture them on the operation of democracy.” (37) Our lectures in fact have been accolades to the military dictators, and to fend off criticism at home, philosophical observations on Asian nature have been coupled with the plea that it would be arrogant of us to intrude into the internal affairs of these “independent” states. In fact, however, our impact and influence have been continuous and decisive in helping the military faction to extinguish the constitutional regime of 1946-7 and to consolidate its rule thereafter.
The large inflow of U.S. aid and arms, which totalled in excess of $2 billion between 1949 and 1969, in the official (Unger) view, helped Thailand “to improve its internal security forces so that it will be better able to meet the guerilla and terrorist threats which have been mounted by the Communists.” (38) In reality, throughout this period, until the American invasion of Vietnam in 1965, the Communist “threat” in Thailand was slight and the obvious and predictable use and effect of this aid was to establish a police state and suppress the substantial non-Communist opposition.
Another facet of the official mythology and propaganda regarding arms aid is that it “contributed to Thailand’s economic growth by enabling Thailand to devote a greater share of its resources to economic development.” (39) Awkwardly, however, between 1954, the year of the SEATO treaty, and 1959, the value of Thai military expenditures rose by 250%. This is explained by Unger as a result of growth stimulated by military aid, which provided “an expanding income some of which could be devoted to security expenditures.” (40) But Thai income per capita in 1959 was well below the levels of 1950-1952. (41) Control by an internally unconstrained military junta, dependent on the largesse of an external sponsor engaged in an anti-Communist crusade, is the key to this huge expansion of military outlays in a country with pressing development needs.
Rising security expenditures were part of the total package of aid-armament-repression that was immensely advantageous to the Thai military elite and at the same time met the requirements of the selectively benevolent tutelage of the American cold warriors. In this package the military leaders of this “land of the free” (Dulles) not only were able to rely on U.S. support to establish and control a police state, but also with virtually no restraint were permitted to convert their political power into graft and monopoly income, including significant contributions by the American taxpayer. From 1948 onward they “took over the directorships of banks, private companies, and government corporations, and they diverted large amounts of public funds to themselves.” (42) Each military leader developed a huge private income to finance his own political organization. Police Chief Phao (U.S. Legion of Merit, 1954) “derived most of his funds from the opium trade,” while army chief Sarit (U.S. Legion of Merit, 1954) got the proceeds of the national lottery. (43) At his death in 1963 Sarit left a fortune of approximately $140 million, a matter disclosed only as a result of relatives squabbling over the booty. (44)
A substantial fraction of American aid almost certainly went into the pockets of the military junta, sometimes revealed “in the extensive travel and luxuries they enjoyed after fleeing the country.” (45) Darling suggests that the military leadership of Thailand was able to siphon off for their personal use a staggering 12% of national income.(46) The acceptability of this huge plundering to the American leadership can be interpreted as recognition of the “Asian nature” of the elements who could best serve cold war ends (the same people, in this case, as could best serve the aims of the Japanese co-prosperity sphere during World War II), and the necessary costs to the American taxpayer of purchasing the services of these “patriots.”
Bloodshed by the Thai military junta in consolidating its police state was substantial, but was not noticeably disturbing to its sponsors. Truman’s ambassador Stanton was particularly energetic in urging even more vigorous repression, and “frequently encourage Phibun to be alert to the allegedly increasing signs of Communist subversion among intellectuals, students, priests, and writers.” (47) After a 1957 coup, according to Darling (48):
It was also discovered that the police chief (Phao, opium trader and recipient of the U.S. Legion of Merit award) had been much more ruthless in suppressing his political opponents than formerly assumed. Some of his atrocities rivaled those of the Nazis and the Communists. The graves of Nai Tiang Sinkliand and four unidentified persons were uncovered in Kan bun province, and further investigation revealed that these victims had been strangled to death while being interrogated by the police. Tiang had been a courageous leader in the Free Thai movement during World War II and later served in the National Assembly. Phao claimed that the former Free Thai leader had escaped from Thailand and joined the Communists. (49) The deaths of other victims of the police were also investigated, but the extent of the torture and murder committed by the former police chief will probably never be fully known.
One of the “major assets” of the police chief was “the extensive assistance he received from the American-owned Sea Supply Corporation which enabled him to build the police force into a powerful military organization which was better led, better paid, and more efficient than the army... By 1954 American assistance enabled Phao to increase the police force to 42,835 men or one policeman for every 407 people. This was one of the highest ratios between policemen and citizens of any country in the world.” (50) The pattern has a familiar ring.
The benefits to the American leadership from this support of a bloody and corrupt tyranny were simple and decisive. For American money and help in preserving their power and filling their pockets, this military clique was willing to subordinate its foreign policy to that of the United States (51), serve as agent and errand boy, maintain an “open door” to American economic interests, and allow the use of Thailand as a base for U.S. counterrevolutionary intervention in Southeast Asia. Immediately following the Geneva Accords of 1954 the National Security Council laid out a plan for subversion throughout Southeast Asia, with Thailand “as the focal point of U.S. covert and psychological operations,” including “covert operations on a large and effective scale” throughout Indochina, with the explicit intention of “making more difficult the control by the Viet Minh of North Vietnam (5~ The toleration level of U.S. leaders for graft, torture, and bloodbaths by “patriotic leaders” willing to defend their independence against Communist aggression by serving as a firm base” for their sponsor’s activities, is large.
The acquiescence of American leaders in depredations of friendly military juntas extends beyond mere graft and local bloodbaths; it carries to the point where they will support and cover up for activities involving serious and direct damage to the American citizenry. The most interesting illustration of this has been Washington’s long-term alliance with and toleration of heroin traders. It is another small irony that the defeat of one of our instruments of “stability,” Chiang Kai Shek, with the resultant “shut down of China’s vast illicit market with the change of governments there in 1949,” is listed by the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics as the most important event in the postwar history of the heroin trade. (53) But the slack was taken up by leadership elements in each of America’s remaining Asian satellites. We have already noted Thai police chief Phao’s heavy involvement, but a very important part was also played by Kuomintang, Lao (54), and South Vietnamese generals and high-level politicians. (55) The epidemic of heroin use that struck American GIs in South Vietnam in 1970 and continued thereafter was a direct result of the extensive trade in the American protected Golden Triangle, and the aggressive sales campaign among the GIs carried out by pushers who were protected by the South Vietnamese police and army, and who worked as part of an apparatus in which Marshal Ky and other South Vietnamese officials had long been involved. (56) While using “any means possible to protect the Thieu regime from investigation of its involvement in the heroin trade,” the Nixon administration has at the same time been “dumping” back into the United States one or two thousand CI addicts per month on grounds of their having “negligible value to the United States Army.” (57) The CI addicts may well be fathering a generation of junkies, and the rich sources of heroin protected by Washington have found new routes to the United States. The American leadership, in brief, is quite prepared to accept as “benign” a huge drug addiction toll among Our Boys (as well as large numbers of secondary home population victims)- although controlling addiction and protecting Our Boys are both allegedly first priority for Washington-in pursuit of “stability” and the preservation of Third World comprador regimes and “firm bases.”
Benign and Constructive Bloodbaths: East Pakistan, Burundi, and Indonesia
Bloodbaths carried out by counterrevolutionary regimes ordinarily are given very little attention in the U.S. mass media. Thousands have been slaughtered by the Rightists installed and/or supported by the United States in Guatemala (58) and the Dominican Republic (59), but even a sharp media watcher would have to be alert for the small back-page items in which these events are hinted at. The huge rape and slaughter of Bengalis in East Pakistan carried out by West Pakistani military forces in 1971 was given greater publicity, however, and a small segment of the American public became aroused and active in opposition to American policy in this area. This resulted in part from the sheer magnitude of the massacres, which one authority described as “the most massive calculated savagery that has been visited on a civil population in recent times.” (60) For the Nixon administration, nevertheless, this was a “benign” bloodbath, and its scope and brutality failed to deter Washington from continuing military and economic aid to the government engaging in the slaughter. This was a bloodbath imposed by a friendly military elite with which U.S. authorities had a traditional affinity -- “notorious in Mr. Nixon’s case” as Max Frankel pointed out (61) -- and American policy “tilted” toward Pakistan just enough to maintain the friendly relationship with the ruling junta required by U.S. strategic planning for the Persian Gulf and South Asia. (62) Consequently the matter was purely internal” (63) to Pakistan, the bloodbath was benign, and Washington was “not nearly so exercised about Pakistani suppression of the East Bengalis as about what they saw as Indian aggression against Pakistan.” (64)
During the spring and summer of 1972 as many as 250,000 people were systematically murdered in Burundi by a tribal minority government that attempted “to kill every possible Hutu male of distinction over the age of fourteen.” (65) According to an American Universities Field Staff report on Burundi, which U.S. officials judged accurate, the extermination toll included (66) ..the four Hutu members of the cabinet, all the Hutu officers and virtually all the Hutu soldiers in the armed forces; half of Burundi’s primary school teachers; and thousands of civil servants, bank clerks, small businessmen, and domestic servants. At present (August) there is only one Hutu nurse left in the entire country, and only a thousand secondary school students survive.
The Prime Minister of Belgium advised his cabinet as early as May, 1972 that Burundi was the scene of “veritable genocide,” and in June the term “genocide” began to appear in State Department internal memos and cables. Yet after a small news flurry in June, and speeches on the subject by Senators Kennedy and Tunney, the U.S. press and Congress lasped into virtual silence. (67) In confirming a new ambassador to Burundi in June, 1972 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee showed itself to be not only uniformed on the history and recent events in that country, but also quite unconcerned with the massacre. (68)
A recent Carnegie Endowment study of American policy toward the Burundi massacres states that “the United States has still not uttered a single public word to describe the immensity of the crime against humanity in Burundi – or to condemn it.” (69) Although the United States buys 80 per cent of the main export crop (coffee) of Burundi, at no point in the unfolding of the massacre was a threatened or actual withdrawal of this fundamental support to the massacre leadership ever considered. (70) In fact, no serious or potentially effective action was taken by the United States government, despite its detailed knowledge of events in Burundi (kept out of the public domain insofar as possible), and despite an internal memorandum prepared within the African Bureau that suggested a U.S. legal obligation to act in the face of massive abuses of human rights. (71) The Carnegie study observes (72) that this was ... one of those rare episodes in recent American foreign policy in which the ostensible humanitarian concern of the United States had not collided with competing interests. In Bangladesh, the human disaster had been subordinated to Washington’s relationship with Pakistan and the tangled secret diplomacy with Peking. In Bia Ira, relief seemed choked not only by the politics of a civil war, but also by a State Department policy which placed more value on good relations with the regime in Federal Nigeria. Yet there appeared to be no comparable interests in Burundi to weigh against the human factor.
In the end, however, the relevant considerations were the absence of significant American political or economic interests, along with “the conviction in the African Bureau that avoiding the disapproval of African states was more important than the human lives or the international legal issues in Burundi.” (73) This was an unremarkable, or benign bloodbath.
The huge massacre in Indonesia 1965-69 provides the most impressive demonstration of the U.S establishment’s response to a major bloodbath where the political results of the slaughter are regarded as “positive.” During the Indonesian counterrevolutionary bloodbath of 1965-66, at a minimum several hundred thousand men, women and children were butchered summarily in cold blood, with the estimated numbers of victims running up to a million. (74) The army played a key role in this holocaust, doing a large part of the killing directly, supplying trucks, weapons and encouragement to para-military and vigilante death squads, and actively stimulating an anti-Communist hysteria that contributed greatly to wholesale mass murder. This slaughter was described by the anti-Communist Indonesia expert Justus M. van der Kroef as “a frightful anti-Communist pogrom where, “it is to be feared, innocent victims of mere hearsay were killed” (as opposed, presumably, to the guilty Communist men, women and children who fully deserved their fate). (75) In 1968 there was a renewal of mass executions, and in one single case in early 1969 army and local civic guards in Central Java “were said to have killed some 3500 alleged followers of the PKI by means of blows of iron staves in the neck.” (76)
During this period of massacres, the number of political prisoners, almost invariably untried and often maltreated, ran from a minimum estimate of 70,000 to well over 100,000. Similar numbers remain imprisoned today, untried and with little prospect of trial. (77) The rule of law was (and still is) suspended for the purposes of this continuing bloodbath and mass incarceration, according to van der Kroef, it was a period of “endless and often arbitrary arrests, brutalization of prisoners, and an atmosphere of distrust in which exhibitions of violent anti-communism are believed to be the best way to convince suspicious local military of one’s bona tides.” (78)
Meanwhile, this land of mass murder and huge concentration camps has become “a paradise for investors.” (79) Following the “showcase contract” with Freeport Sulphur (which included, among other things, a lengthy tax holiday), things tightened up a little, but applications for licenses to exploit Indonesia’s mineral resources increased rapidly. Speaking at a news conference held in the Wall Street offices of International Nickel Company in July, 1970, a high official of the Indonesian government pointed out that foreign capital was showing great confidence in his country’s ability to resist nationalization pressures. (80) This investor appeal has not been noticeably affected by (and has gone hand in hand with) the “rampant corruption in the bureaucracy and the armed forces.... Some foreign investors bidding for concessions find that they have to pay huge bribes.” (81)
All things considered, then, the developments of the past seven years in Indonesia have been favorable to the predominant interests of the Free World. Appropriately, therefore, the American response to the holocaust proper was restrained. No Congressman denounced it on the floor of Congress, and no major American relief organization offered aid. (82) Media treatment of the events was sparse with the victims usually described merely as “Communists and sympathizers.” Little mention was made of the large numbers of women and children massacred or the modes and details of the slaughter. For the leaders of the United States this bloodbath was a plus. In a Freedom House advertisement in November, 1966, signed by “145 distinguished Americans” including Jacob Javits, Dean Acheson, Thomas D. Cabot, Harry Gideonse, Lewis E. Powell, Whitelaw Reid, Lincoln Bloomfield and Samuel Huntington, the events in Indonesia were treated as follows.’ “It (the Vietnam intervention by the United States) provided a shield for the sharp reversal of Indonesia’s shift toward Communism, which has removed the threats to Singapore and Malaysia.” (83) And in the statement on Asian policy sponsored by Freedom House and signed initially by 14 leading “moderate” political scientists and historians, the series of events that included the huge Indonesian bloodbath were described merely as “dramatic changes” implicitly constructive in character, although these scholars, as noted earlier, condemn “violence” as a mode of achieving social change. (84) This humanistic treatment was paralleled by that of the late Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who told the River Club of New York City in July 1966 that “with 500,000 to 1 million Communist sympathizers knocked off, I think’ it is safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.” (85)
Late in 1972 General Maxwell Taylor explained to U.S. News and World Report that “Indonesia’s independence today and its relative freedom from an internal Communist threat is attributable, to a large degree, to what we’ve accomplished in South Vietnam.” With large U.S. forces moving into Vietnam the Indonesian anti-Communists “were willing to run the risk of eliminating President Sukarno and destroying the Indonesian Communists.” (86) That’s all. It apparently does not even occur to this “military adviser to four Presidents” that there might be any moral issue in “destroying the Indonesian Communists.” This was a constructive bloodbath. The victims, once identified as Communists, have lost all claim to humanity and merit whatever treatment they received. Since the result is the preservation of a neo-colonial economic and social structure and an “open door” to American investment, only sentimentalists will moralize over the bloodbath. America’s academic, business and political leaders must turn their attention to more serious matters.
Repacification in the Philippines
There is no better illustration of the promise that American policy holds for Southeast Asia than the case of the Philippines, the only official U.S. colony in Asia for half a century and now, once again, the scene of a rising insurgency. Filipino nationalists had declared their independence from Spain in 1898, only to bejaced with an extended American war of counterinsurgency, complete with massacres of civilians, depopulation campaigns, burning of villages, and the other appurtenances of pacification. In those less cynical days American commanders openly admitted their intention to turn resisting areas into a “howling wilderness.” (87) The problem faced by the American conquerors was well expressed by General J. Franklin Bell, who explained that “practically the entire population has been hostile to us at heart.” Thus it was necessary to terrorize them into submission, keeping them “in such a state of anxiety and apprehension that living under such conditions will soon become unbearable” and their “burning desire for the war to cease” will ultimately “impel them to devote themselves in earnest to bringing about a real state of peace...(and)...to join hands with the Americans.” (88) Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were pacified permanently in this early exercise in winning hearts and minds.
After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the Philippines were granted technical independence under the rule of a conservative oligarchy closely linked to the U.S. and with the pre-war colonial economy restored. The first President was Japanese collaborator Manuel Roxas, reinstated by General McArthur under the pretext that he had been a double agent. The Philippine Communist Party (PKP), which had been in the forefront of the anti-Japanese guerrilla struggle, attempted “to enter the Philippine political arena legally through a front political party, the Democratic Alliance (DA),” but “failed, as DA-elected members of the Phillippine Congress were denied their seats...” (89) The insurgency that followed was suppressed with extensive American aid. As Jonathan Fast observes, the Philippine counter-insurgency effort of the early 1950s served as a laboratory for later American involvement in Vietnam,” where General Lansdale “tried to repeat his Philippine success with Ngo Dinh Diem.” (90)
The salient features of this “success are described by van der Kroef: “declining real wage rates (91), persistent extreme disparities in income levels, the seemingly unchecked power of private U.S. capital (especially in the context of the operations of a few Filipino family corporations)” (92); and “graft and corruption prevalent everywhere, but particularly in government, whose machinery of justice was felt to benefit only the rich.” (93) The Philippines had evolved into a virtual gangster society, dominated by a tiny and very wealthy elite, including the U.S. favorite Ferdinand Marcos. American investment in the Islands is variously estimated at $1 to $3 billion.
As the domestic crisis began to get out of hand, Marcos declared martial law in September, 1972 with widespread arrests of opposition figures and intellectuals, tight control of the press (94), and new constitutional proposals considerably more favorable to American business interests than leftist and more radical nationalist sentiment in the (Constitutional) Convention would have wanted.” (95) Marcos “seemed eager to stay on the right side of the U.S. capital... He also seemed intent on expanding opportunities for the domestic Philippine business of a few powerful families whose links with foreign interests, and preponderant power in so many aspects of Philippine political life have long been viewed, particularly in PKP and NPA (New People’s Army) circles, as major obstacles to all significant reforms” (96) – and rightly so.
Before the Constitutional Convention was aborted by the Marcos coup, charges had been made that USAID and the CIA were training Philippine police under the public safety program “for eventual para-military and counterinsurgency operations as part of a global programme designed to militarize and ‘mercenarize’ the police forces of client states.” (97) Between 1948 and 1968 more than $1.7 billion had been provided in U.S. economic and military grants and loans under the U.S. military assistance program, including more than $400 million in hardware. (98) Under the rubric of “technical assistance,” U.S. AID finances the Office of Public Safety (OPS), which has been extensively involved “in reorganizing, funding and training the Philippine police apparatus both in the Philippines and the U.S. from 1965 to September 21, 1972, the day martial law was declared.”(99) In December, 1966, Frank Walton, fresh from service in Saigon, where “he oversaw the growth and large-scale reorganization of the South Vietnamese police force -- all part of the overall CIA plan to dissolve the political infrastructure of the NLF” (100) -- was installed as “Team Chief” for AIDIOPS. He was assisted by a variety of U.S. officials with experience in Brazil, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and elsewhere, as well as by Philippine intelligence officers who had been trained by the CIA during the U.S.-backed suppression of the Huk insurgency, “and had become resident experts on counter-intelligence operations in and around Saigon.” (101) Walton’s group submitted a report to USAID in February, 1967 which “served as the impetus for a drastic reorganization of the Philippine police apparatus and for a much enlarged and more involved US Public Safety Division.” (102) For fiscal year 1972-3, the expanded Public Safety program was budgeted by the U.S. government at $3.9 million, a marked increase. Police are trained in the United States at CIA, FBI, army and local police training centers, and in the Philippines at training academies which “were easily converted into detention camps to hold the large numbers of political prisoners” after martial law was declared. (103)
With increased U.S. involvement in internal security problems, the new program is patterned on the CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support) program -- the pacification program -- in Vietnam. The new Philippines project is staffed by former CORDS officials from Vietnam headed by Thomas Rose, who was AID public administration chief in Saigon, and Richard Knegel, former CORDS provincial adviser in Bindinh province. American military units have been “involved in ‘civic action’ operations in conjunction with the Filipino army that clearly had a relevance to internal security problems.” (104) On July 12, 1973, William Sullivan was confirmed by the Senate for the post of Ambassador to the Philippines. Sullivan had been U.S. Ambassador in Laos from 1964 to 1969, where, as Anthony Lewis remarks, he ‘played a decisive part in what must qualify as the most appalling episode of lawless cruelty in American history, the bombing of Laos.” (105) Sullivan has had a major role in organizing and coordinating U.S. subversive and military activities in Southeast Asia, and although his contributions to the people of Laos pale before those of his murderous successor, G. McMurtrie Godley, who implemented the Nixon-Kissinger program, they nevertheless achieved considerable scale. (106) It is altogether appropriate that Sullivan should now be shifted to the Philippines, just as Lansdale moved from the Philippines to Vietnam twenty years earlier, as part of the continuing effort to assist the people of Southeast Asia to remain in the Free World.
There are, and always will be, the naive, or credulous, or simply deceitful, who see American actions in Vietnam as an aberration, a deviation from the disinterested concern and noble goals that animate American policy in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. For many years the Philippines have stood as a neglected monument contradicting the “error” view, from the brutal exercise in pacification at the turn of the century to the early post-World War II “Philippinization” and repression. As the groundwork is being laid in neo-colonial economic and social conditions, aided by U.S.-financed and -sponsored pacification techniques and policies, no one should be surprised if a renewed constructive bloodbath begins to unfold in that country. And as has been pointed out by Geoffrey Arlin (107):
All talk of American withdrawal from Asia not withstanding, the evidence is that America will pursue its old policy of interference and domination in Asia through other means. At one end of the spectrum is the case of Laos, where Thai merceneries are being organised and paid by the U.S. to carry on the fight for the ‘Free World’. At the other end, the Philippines continues to provide a classic example of the American stranglehold working to perfection.