Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Today in History


Oct 1, 1965: Suharto crushes Indonesian coup

A communist coup against Indonesian President Sukarno is crushed by General Mohammed Suharto, the Indonesian army chief of staff. In the aftermath, Suharto moved to replace Sukarno and launched a purge of Indonesian communists that resulted in thousands of deaths. In 1967, Suharto assumed full executive authority and in 1968 was elected president. Reelected every five years until his resignation in 1998, Suharto stabilized his nation and oversaw significant economic progress. However, he was criticized for his repressive rule and for Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor, which left an estimated 100,000 Timorese dead from famine, disease, and warfare.

Our bloody coup in Indonesia

Britain colluded in one of the worst massacres of the century

As Megawati Sukarnoputri struggles to hang on to control of Indonesia in the latest round of political upheaval, news has been published of how the British government covered up one of the worst massacres of the 20th century. The slaughter in 1965 - of up to a million alleged communist sympathisers - was carried out by General Suharto, who ousted Megawati's father, President Sukarno, to become Indonesia's military dictator. What is still less well known is that the British and American governments did not just cover up the massacre: they had a direct hand in bringing it about.

In the era of decolonisation and the cold war, ex-colonial powers were intent on preserving their economic interests in former colonies while setting up nominally independent governments. But the natives, inconveniently, did not always see their interests as consonant with those of their former colonial masters. Patrice Lumumba in the former Belgian Congo, Su-karno in Indonesia - both argued for economic as well as political self-determination.

Lumumba was assassinated with the connivance of Belgium, the US and the United Nations. In Indonesia, the British and American governments succeeded not only in engineering the result they wanted (the replacement of Sukarno with General Suharto), but in selling a false version of events that persists to this day.

Roland Challis, a former BBC south Asia correspondent, has described how British diplomats planted misleading stories in British newspapers at the time. But there is also evidence that the British and US responsibility for the fall of Sukarno goes back to the event that triggered it - an alleged left-wing coup attempt in 1965. The British were keen to get rid of Sukarno because he was pursuing a policy of confrontation with Malaysia. The US was convinced that Sukarno would drift towards communism - a far bigger potential headache for US interests than Vietnam.

Sukarno was hugely popular and an assassination would have unpredictable consequences: at worst, it might benefit the Indonesian Communist party, the PKI. The army was divided on the merits of a move against him. There was one man, though, who was willing to help - the commander of the strategic reserve, General Suharto. The challenge was to engineer Sukarno's downfall and, simultaneously, the elimination of the PKI.

In October 1965, a group of what are still described as "progressive army officers" kidnapped and brutally murdered six army generals,...


Iran and United States on collision course over nuclear plant


Tension grows ahead of Geneva talks after secret uranium plant is revealed and Obama considers tougher sanctions

The US and Iran raised the stakes yesterday ahead of this week's nuclear showdown in Geneva, with threats of global strife if no resolution is found.

The sharpened rhetoric followed Friday's revelation that Iran had been building a secret uranium enrichment plant under a mountain near Qom, and it points towards a new wave of sanctions that go far beyond the targeted financial measures imposed on Iran so far.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Barack Obama declared: "Iran is on notice that when we meet with them on 1 October they are going to have to come clean, and they will have to make a choice." The alternative to sticking to international rules on Iran's nuclear development, he said, would be "a path that is going to lead to confrontation".

At the meeting the US will demand access to the plant within the next few days and to all other sites within three months, the New York Times said last night. It will tell Tehran to open all notebooks and computers to inspection and answer questions about its suspected efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

But the Iranian government showed no signs yesterday of being prepared to compromise. Instead, the chief of staff to the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, appeared to relish the prospect of confrontation. "This new plant, God willing, will soon become operational and will make the enemies blind," said Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani, according to the semi-official news agency, Fars. He described the newly revealed enrichment plant as a sign that Iran was at the "summit of power".

The remarks reflected the degree to which the Tehran regime has made the nuclear programme a matter of pride and national identity. It insists that the programme, the existence of which was revealed in 2002, is for generating electricity and medical research and is entirely within Iran's sovereign rights.

Iran's nuclear chief said yesterday the UN nuclear agency would be allowed to inspect the facility at Qom. But Ali Akbar Salehi did not specify when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could visit the site.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dodged a question at the UN over whether Iran had succeeded in enriching enough uranium to make a bomb, but said nuclear weapons "are inhumane". Anyone who pursued such goals was "retarded politically".

Raising tensions further,...

U.S. overshadows G20 summit with Iran nuclear hype

Tension grows ahead of Geneva talks after secret uranium plant is revealed and Obama considers tougher sanctions

Pittsburgh: Iran’s decision to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency about a new pilot fuel enrichment plant it is building has been seized upon by the United States and its allies as proof of the danger posed to the world by the Iranian nuclear programme.

Appearing before reporters an hour ahead of the first plenary session of the G20 group of leading world economies was set to begin here, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused Tehran of defying the U.N. Security Council and directly challenging the international nonproliferation regime. They called upon Iran to provide the IAEA immediate access to the facility or face new international sanctions.

According to an IAEA spokesperson, Iran informed the agency about the facility on September 21.

Although U.S. officials say Iran had been forced to admit the existence of the new plant because it feared imminent exposure by Western intelligence agencies — an unverifiable claim that has, nevertheless, been dutifully echoed by the American media — Tehran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA obliges it only to provide design information “not later than 180 days before the introduction of nuclear material” into a new facility.

Indeed, the Iranian government insists it informed the IAEA about the plant in line with its declared intention of being more transparent with the Agency.

Preliminary stage

The facility is said to be in the preliminary stage of development, with the introduction of uranium still several months away. Any international inspection of the facility could only come after that point, not before. That is why the IAEA never considered the Natanz facility — whose existence was revealed only in 2002 — a violation of Iran’s safeguards agreement.

In 2003, Iran agreed to a modified ‘subsidiary arrangement’ requiring it to inform the IAEA as soon as a decision to construct a new facility was taken. But Tehran withdrew its adherence to the arrangement four years later, in retaliation for U.N. sanctions.


In March 2009, the IAEA’s Legal Adviser was asked by some member governments to qualify in legal terms Iran’s non-implementation of the new disclosure rules. His reply made it clear that there was considerable ambiguity and the matter was not as clear cut as the U.S. and its allies claimed it to be. While Iran could not unilaterally withdraw...




On 22 September 1979, sometime around 3:00am local time, a US Atomic Energy Detection Systemsatellite recorded a pattern of intense flashes in a remote portion of the Indian Ocean. Moments later an unusual, fast-moving ionospheric disturbance was detected by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and at about the same time a distant, muffled thud was overheard by the US Navy's undersea Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). Evidently something violent and explosive had transpired in the ocean off the southern tip of Africa.

Examination of the data gathered by satellite Vela 6911 strongly suggested that the cause of these disturbances was a nuclear device. The pattern of flashes exactly matched that of prior nuclear detections, and no other phenomenon was known to produce the same millisecond-scale signature. Unfortunately, US intelligence agencies were uncertain who was responsible for the detonation, and the US government was conspicuously reluctant to acknowledge it at all.

The United States established the Vela satellite network in the 1960s for the specific purpose of monitoring compliance with the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty. Though each satellite's intended lifespan was only eighteen months, the units continued to detect detonations for years thereafter. Prior to the mysterious event of September 1979, the orbital surveillance system had successfully recorded forty-one atomic detonations, twelve of which were spotted by satellite Vela 6911.

Though the Vela satellites were bristling with atom-bomb sensing equipment, their most effective apparatus was each unit's pair of aptly-named bhangmeters. These photodiode arrays were tuned to detect the one-millisecond burst of intense light created by a nuclear fireball, and the subsequent secondary light caused by the hydrodynamic shockwave of ionized air. The sensor's engineers had been skeptical of its potential-- hence their decision to name it after the Indian variation of cannabis called "bhang"-- but the predictable pattern of bright flashes proved to be an extremely effective method for detecting atomic explosions from orbit. In over a decade of operation, the network of unblinking electronic eyes had yet to record a single false positive with the atomic-bomb signature.

Due to the satellites' design and their distant orbit of 70,000 miles, technicians were not furnished with the exact location of nuclear events; the sensors could only narrow the area down to a...

The Vela Incident – Did Israel help the Apartheid regime conduct a nuclear test?


In 2010 a spokeswoman for Israeli President Peres responded to a Guardian article, that Shimon Peres as a defence minister offered to sell to South Africa’s Apartheid regime Jericho missile and A bombs ,and said that their claims have no basis in reality. According to her the matter was never discussed. The spokeswoman did not comment on the reliability of the South African government secret agreement documents; brought to light in the book “The secret relations between Israel and the Apartheid Regime” by an American researcher; and bearing the signature of Shimon Peres, then Defense Minister in Itzhak Rabin’s government. The world remains baffled, even after decades, by another unsolved nuclear mystery: Did “white” South Africa and Israel conduct a nuclear weapon test 35 years ago in the Indian Ocean, its double flash detected by the American intelligence satellite Vela?

The international community is still baffled by decades-old mystery: Did Israel and South Africa secretly cooperate in developing nuclear weapons, and even conducted a nuclear weapons test in the Indian Ocean 35 years ago?

The experiment, its existence never verified, is known as “the double flash of the Vela satellite.” The first credible source pointing to the existence of nuclear cooperation between Israel and South Africa, under the radar of the intelligence agencies of the western world, was an article in the British newspaper The Guardian. In May 2010 it revealed classified documents dating from 1975, bearing the signatures of then Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres and then South African Defense Minister Pik Botha.

The secret documents, detailing the relations between the states concerning nuclear technology and heavily guarded by the Apartheid regime’s top security personnel, were published in the book “Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa” by the American academic Sasha Polakow Suransky. According to top western intelligence officials the documents prove that Israel has nuclear weapons. Even so, a spokeswoman for Shimon Peres, now the President of Israel, responded in 2010 and said that the Guardian article has no basis in reality. According to her there were never any such relations between the countries. She did not refer to the reliability of the documents themselves, carrying Shimon Peres’ own signature.

The Guardian article revealed the following: The contacts between...


Blackwater Shooting at Nisoor Square

Event Review, Updated in 2009


On September 16, 2007, employees of military contractor Blackwater USA opened fire in a Baghdad traffic circle called Nisoor Square. They killed at least 14 Iraqi civilians and injured many more.  This bloody incident illustrates the lack of proper oversight by the government in many military contracts and the difficulties associated with holding the companies and their employees accountable when crimes or misdeeds occur. This case also involves corruption. In November 2009, reports surfaced that shortly after the shooting, Blackwater executives attempted to buy off Iraqi government officials to ensure that their license to operate in Iraq was not revoked. There have been many other allegations of abuses and illegal activities by Blackwater.  Several of these examples and links to additional information follow the description of the Nisoor Square shooting incident 


On September 16, 2007, employees of contractor Blackwater USA opened fire in a crowded Baghdad traffic circle at Nisoor Square. They killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy who was riding with his father.  Many more were injured. 

The company, which derives much of its profits from government contracts, asserts that its guards did nothing wrong that September day.  But an FBI inquiry determined that Blackwater employees engaged in the firefight unprovoked, and no witnesses have disputed that.  Furthermore, investigations revealed a pattern of lawless behavior by Blackwater and no clear process of accountability.  The contractors had immunity from Iraqi law, and it was unclear which American laws applied to their behavior.  In response to the shooting, the Iraqi government demanded an end to immunity for private contractors.

Blackwater, which changed its name to Xe (pronounced "zee"), has not been charged in the case. The company has more than $1 billion worth of federal contracts and task orders, according to a May 2008 estimate by the US Department of State.  In 2009, Xe lost its security contract at the US Embassy in Baghdad, but the company still has CIA contracts, including one to load bombs and rockets on Predator drones at secret bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A month after the shooting, the estates of three deceased victims and one survivor filed a lawsuit against the company in US federal court, under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The Plaintiffs' complaint (Complaint...

Trying to Salvage Remains of Blackwater Case


Event Review, Updated in 2014

WASHINGTON — The team of F.B.I. agents arrived in Iraqto investigate a shooting involving a private company that provided security for Americans in a war zone. It was October 2007, and the name of the company — Blackwater Worldwide — did not yet mean anything to the agents. But what they found shocked them.

Witnesses described a convoy of Blackwater contractors firing wildly into a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad the previous month, killing 17 people. One Iraqi woman watched her mother die as they rode the bus. Another died cradling the head of her mortally wounded son.

“This is the My Lai massacre of Iraq,” one agent remembers John Patarini, the team’s leader, saying as they were heading home.

Whether it concerns bankers after the crisis in 2008 or the shooting of innocent civilians by American contractors in Iraq, the prosecution does not seem to be up to the task.

That shooting in Nisour Square, along with the massacre by Marines of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha and the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, became a signature moment in the Iraq war. Five Blackwater security guards were indicted on manslaughter and weapons charges, and a sixth entered a plea deal to testify against his former colleagues.

But over the years, a case that once seemed so clear-cut has been repeatedly undermined by the government’s own mistakes.

Prosecutors are trying to hold together what is left of it. But charges against one contractor were dropped last year because of a lack of evidence. And the government suffered another self-inflicted setback in April when a federal appeals court ruled that the prosecution had missed a deadline and allowed the statute of limitations to expire against a second contractor, Nicholas A. Slatten, a former Army sniper from Tennessee who investigators believe fired the first shots in Nisour Square. A judge then dismissed the case against Mr. Slatten.

The appeals court unanimously rejected the argument that letting Mr. Slatten walk free would be a miscarriage of justice. If such an injustice occurred, the court said, it was caused by the government’s delays, which the court called “inexplicable.”

The Justice Department responded Friday by charging Mr. Slatten with first-degree murder, which has no statute of limitations but carries a much heftier burden of proof.

The trial will renew focus on an episode that inflamed anti-American sentiment abroad and...