Book Review: Bevins, Vincent, Jakarta Method. Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World. Public Affairs, New York, 2020
If one reads a little bit of news from abroad, or if one watches a few movies made somewhere else, one probably already knows that the United States government has participated in extermination programs. One doesn’t get an idea of the extent.
Appendix 5, pages 266-7, gives some of the numbers. If one adds them up, it amounts to 1,927,850 murders. Author Bevins explains on page 238, “As we have seen, in the years 1945-1990, a loose network of US-backed anticommunist extermination programs emerged around the world, and they carried out mass murder in at least twenty-two countries (see Appendix Five).
The numbers given do not include deaths from military engagements or even “collateral damage” deaths. These were murders. The body count doesn’t even include the people who were tortured, maimed, raped, or held in concentration camps. One of the Indonesians interviewed is quoted on page 246, “They needed to kill the communists so that foreign investors could bring their capital here.”
People who are still alive in America can remember when we used to read the words “non-aligned nations” in the official news. Activists talked about “the third world” and “new left.” These were ways of identifying with much of the world’s population that was neither in the First World American rich-people’s camp nor the socialist Soviet camp. They were trying to maneuver in between.
It was these “non-aligned nations” who experienced the Jakarta method. Jakarta was the capital of Indonesia, the fourth largest nation in the world and a major leader of the non-aligned movement. After three million unarmed suspected leftists were persecuted, and after a million of them were murdered, Indonesia aligned. They aligned with the United States, and so did almost all the others.
The actual method in the Jakarta method was to “disappear” dissidents. Suspects were rounded up, usually at night, tortured for the names of more suspects, and then murdered. A General Domingo in Brazil explains the process on page 215, “First we will kill all subversives, then we will kill all of their collaborators, then those who sympathize with subversives, then we will kill those that remain indifferent, and finally we kill the timid.”
As far as I know, Ronald Reagan did not personally strangle any of the victims. American armed forces were not called out, and America’s intelligence services contributed only a minimum of direct participation. America did these murders with sly propaganda, skillful political maneuvering, bullying, and, most of all, with money. America did not conduct these mass murders personally, they paid someone else to do it.
This book has the first comprehensive listing of those American atrocities I have ever seen. It is not easy to read because the truth is not always easy to take. By bringing together the horrors, and by showing how they interrelate, Vincent Bevins makes a great contribution to our understanding of where we are and how we got there. I don’t think it’s perfect, or even complete. For example, I don’t see Angola on the map in Appendix 5, but I can remember when Jonas Savimbi toured the United States to raise money for his terror campaign there.
It only covers part of the post-war period. I shudder to think what might be revealed from a longer view of history, and I shudder even more to think that, twenty years hence, we will be finding out what American “intelligence services” are doing in our names this very day.
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