Special Topics 1B, Autumn 2020 NOTES

"Cold Wars" and Contemporary History

Notes about the lectures will be posted here

Sources on Indonesia, East Timor and West Papua

Previously, we discussed the extreme tensions between the US president and the US security agencies that led to the assassination of John F. Kennedy (see the notes below this section). He was trying to avoid nuclear war and the increasing escalation of the Cold War, and he was trying to deal with the danger posed by the growing financial interests of the military-industrial complex--a problem that has continued to grow into the 21st century and still threatens to cause another world war.

The most studied battlegrounds of Kennedy's time were concerned with policy toward East Germany (Berlin), Cuba, nuclear weapons testing and control of the nuclear arsenal, Laos and Vietnam. A much ignored area is Indonesia, which is peculiar because it is a nation of 200 million people located in very strategically important shipping lanes. It has a wealth of natural resources that exceeds that of Indochina. In fact, the enormous oil reserves and gold mines of West Papua were discovered in the 1930s and kept secret throughout WWII and the following two decades. Allen Dulles, head of the CIA in the 1950s, was deeply involved in this secret even before the CIA was founded. In fact, the CIA was established by people tied to large corporations and corporate law firms in New York City. This is why the US government has come to be ruled by corporate interests rather than those of the general population.

After massive reserves of gold and oil were discovered in West Papua in the 1930s, Allen Dulles worked patiently over the next three decades to make sure of two things:

1. Communism would be suppressed in Indonesia and the nation's resources would be exploited by American, Japanese and European corporations. In 1963, Kennedy was ready to give support to President Sukarno, who was relying on support of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). The CIA saw this as a danger and wanted to support a military coup to overthrow Sukarno and crush the PKI. After Kennedy was killed, support for Sukarno decreased, and the coup eventually happened in September 1965. It was followed by a genocide against communist party members. Total deaths were estimated at about one million. It was not a civil war against an armed communist movement. It was an organized killing of unarmed political opponents.

2. The CIA wanted to be sure that non-communist Indonesia would gain control of West Papua. The people of West Papua are racially and culturally different from Indonesians, so The Netherlands had a plan to de-colonize West Papua in a way that would keep it separate from Indonesia, but this plan was put aside by President Kennedy in the United Nation's New York agreement of August 1962. With both the communist and capitalist nations so eager to have good relations with Indonesia, with either Sukarno or Suharto leading the nation, no powerful nation at the UN wanted to stand up for West Papua's right to self-determination. The USSR, and the USA were ready to recognize Indonesia's control of West Papua. At that time, China was not a member of UN Security Council, so it had less influence. In spite of the decision made in 1962, the people of West Papua have maintained their independence struggle, and the government of Indonesia has maintained its violent suppression of this aspiration. The Indonesian government has continued to allow people from other parts of Indonesia to settle on West Papuan territory.

About West Papuan independence: Free West Papua Campaign

The viewpoint of the Indonesian government: Interview: VP Kalla Aims to Bring an End to Conflict in Papua

Noam Chomsky speaks in a short interview about the long struggle by which East Timor got its independence and how this history relates the struggles of West Papua to get its independence.

History of West Papua since 1960: John Pilger, Secret War Against Defenseless West Papua (if you prefer, see also the Japanese version 日 本語版)

Jennifer Robinson's introduction of West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda: Courage is Contagious (20 minutes)

Isolated. A film about young travelers who went to West Papua to discover great places to surf but ended up making a political film about the difficulties faced by West Papuan natives--great photography, great story, and great reporting on a political struggle that the world has ignored for decades.

The other independence struggle in Indonesia: East Timor, 1975-2000. A segment of the film Manufacturing Consent (1991) covered the way the invasion of East Timor, and subsequent genocide there, was supported the US and other powerful allies. There is also a Japanese version of the same segment of Manufacturing Consent. This film had quite a strong influence and was a factor in the eventual independence of East Timor in 1999.

Country profile, East Timor before and after independence, ongoing problems: BBC's East Timor Country Profile.

Sources on the Assassinations of the 1963-68 Period (best reviewed in reverse order: 6,5,4,3,2,1)


Watch: Aftermath: end of the 60s revolt, the reactionaries' war and other uncanny events (1968-2020 (video)

Read: Aftermath: end of the 60s revolt, the reactionaries' war and other uncanny events (1968-2020) (transcript)


Robert Kennedy (1968/06/06)

The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy--Introduction and Book Review by Ed Curtin.

Who Killed Robert Kennedy (video), Al Jazeera World.

Ed Curtin, "The CIA Takeover of America in the 1960s is the Story of Our Times--A Quasi-Review of A Lie Too Big To Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by Lisa Pease," Dissident Voice, April 2, 2019.


Martin Luther King Jr. (1968/04/04)

Introduction to the civil trial brought by the King family in 1999.

Interview with William Pepper, author of The Plot to Kill King.


Jim Douglass on the Age of Assassinations, 1963-68

Malcolm X: More than a marginal entry in the history of the 1960s


Why the Political Killings of the 1960s Still Matter: An Introduction to the Assassination of JFK and a Discussion of Oliver Stone's film JFK (55 minutes)

Transcript of the lecture above.

There are 180 students registered to follow this lecture series, so it would be difficult for me to respond to emails if every student sent questions and comments every week. Nonetheless, please don't hesitate to send an email to riches@seijo.ac.jp. I will try to respond to as many messages as I can and have some discussion of these lectures.

To follow up on this lecture about the JFK assassination, you could go to your local video rental shop and get a DVD of the film JFK. You could also find alternative sources of information to compare with what I presented. Many journalists and writers still support the official explanation that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. You can consider all the evidence presented in my lecture and decide for yourself.

If you wish to do some reading in Japanese, I recommend James Douglass's book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters. A Japanese translation is available with this title:

ジェイムズ W ダグラス, ジョン・F・ケネディはなぜ死んだのか 語り得ないものとの闘い

However, I strongly do not recommend the book by Bill O'Reilly because of its fictional account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. The book has been dismissed by historians, but it sold well because of the author's fame as a television news program host. For an unexplained reason the book was considered worthy of being translated into Japanese. Otherwise, there are many other books about JFK published in Japanese, some of them translations of popular books published in English.

The next lesson will cover the life and death of Malcolm X.


Comprehension and Discussion Questions for…

VIDEO: 1960-1966: Cold War Crucible and Crucial Era for Understanding the Late 20th Century

TRANSCRIPT: 1960-1966: Cold War Crucible and Crucial Era for Understanding the Late 20th Century

1.      According to the lecture, what is the ultimate cause of the wars of the 20th century?

2.      What was the Bay of Pigs attack in April 1961, and what effect did it have on JFK’s presidency?

3.      According to Castro, why did he decide to put Soviet nuclear weapons on his territory in August of 1962?

4.      During the Cuban Missile Crisis, why was the US government’s case weak in terms of international law?

5.      How did JFK change after the Cuban Missile Crisis?

6.      In general terms, what are the three explanations of why and how JFK was killed?

7.      Discuss some of the contradictory statements made by JFK that created controversies among historians?

8.      The interviews conducted by Jean Daniel in 1963 indicate that JFK and Fidel Castro might have found a way for the two countries to co-exist peacefully, but they also indicate some persistent differences that would have made a peaceful relationship difficult. What are they?

9.      West Papua had been a Dutch colony, but it did not immediately become a part of Indonesia. Why not?

10.   What was the secret about West Papua that was kept until the late 1960s?

11.   Describe the process by which West Papua became part of Indonesia.

12.   After an unsuccessful fight against communism in Cuba, what was JFK’s approach to Southeast Asia?

13.   There is a lot of evidence that JFK supported the elimination of Fidel Castro and the communist government in Cuba, even though some say it was the military and the CIA who were acting against JFK’s wishes. What was JFK’s policy toward Sukarno in Indonesia?

14.   Describe the strategy, supported by the CIA, that eliminated the power of Sukarno and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

15.   The PKI was a political party, not an army waging civil war on Indonesia. How many of its members were murdered during the 1965-66 genocide?

16.   What was the weakness of JFK’s Alliance for Progress, according to its critics?

17.   Describe Allen Dulles’ career and what happened to it during the JFK presidency. What is ironic about Allen Dulles’ role in the US government after 1963?

18.   If JFK was not really very radical and had not “gone soft” on communism, what reason could there be for his murder by elements within the US government’s military and security agencies?

19.   If one concludes that JFK was a typical US politician—anti-communist, rich, pro-capitalist, willing to wage war to advance American interests—why should people still be outraged that he was killed by a conspiracy within American government institutions? Why is it still a profoundly significant event?