The Jakarta Method

Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World


By Vincent Bevins

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The hidden story of the wanton slaughter — in Indonesia, Latin America, and around the world — backed by the United States.
In 1965, the U.S. government helped the Indonesian military kill approximately one million innocent civilians. This was one of the most important turning points of the twentieth century, eliminating the largest communist party outside China and the Soviet Union and inspiring copycat terror programs in faraway countries like Brazil and Chile. But these events remain widely overlooked, precisely because the CIA's secret interventions were so successful.

In this bold and comprehensive new history, Vincent Bevins builds on his incisive reporting for the Washington Post, using recently declassified documents, archival research and eye-witness testimony collected across twelve countries to reveal a shocking legacy that spans the globe. For decades, it's been believed that parts of the developing world passed peacefully into the U.S.-led capitalist system. The Jakarta Method demonstrates that the brutal extermination of unarmed leftists was a fundamental part of Washington's final triumph in the Cold War.



IN MAY 1962, A YOUNG girl named Ing Giok Tan got on a rusty old boat in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her country, one of the largest in the world, had been pulled into the global battle between capitalism and communism, and her parents decided to flee the terrible consequences that conflict had wrought for families like hers. They set sail for Brazil, having heard from other Indonesians who had already made the journey that this place offered freedom, opportunity, and respite from conflict. But they knew almost nothing about it. Brazil was just an idea for them, and it was very far away. Suffering through anxiety and seasickness for forty-five days, they made their way past Singapore, across the Indian Ocean to Mauritius, down past Mozambique, around South Africa, and then all the way across the Atlantic to São Paulo, the largest city in South America.

If they thought they could escape the violence of the Cold War, they were tragically mistaken. Two years after they arrived, the military overthrew Brazil’s young democracy and established a violent dictatorship. After that, the new Indonesian immigrants in Brazil received messages from home describing the most shocking scenes imaginable, an explosion of violence so terrifying that even discussing what happened would make people break down, questioning their own sanity. But the reports were all true. In the wake of that apocalyptic slaughter in Indonesia, a young nation littered with mutilated bodies emerged as one of Washington’s most reliable allies, and then largely disappeared from history.

What happened in Brazil in 1964 and Indonesia in 1965 may have been the most important victories of the Cold War for the side that ultimately won—that is, the United States and the global economic system now in operation. As such, they are among the most important events in a process that has fundamentally shaped life for almost everyone. Both countries had been independent, standing somewhere in between the world’s capitalist and communist superpowers, but fell decisively into the US camp in the middle of the 1960s.

Officials in Washington and journalists in New York certainly understood how significant these events were at the time. They knew that Indonesia, now the world’s fourth most-populous country, was a far more important prize than Vietnam ever could have been.1 In just a few months, the US foreign policy establishment achieved there what it failed to get done in ten bloody years of war in Indochina.

And the dictatorship in Brazil, currently the world’s fifth most-populous country, played a crucial role in pushing the rest of South America into the pro-Washington, anticommunist group of nations. In both countries, the Soviet Union was barely involved.

Most shockingly, and most importantly for this book, the two events led to the creation of a monstrous international network of extermination—that is, the systematic mass murder of civilians—across many more countries, which played a fundamental role in building the world we all live in today.

Unless you are Indonesian, or a specialist on the topic, most people know very little about Indonesia, and almost nothing about what happened in 1965–66 in that archipelago nation. Indonesia remains a huge gap in our collective general knowledge, even among people who do know a little about the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the Korean War, or Pol Pot, or can easily rattle off some basic facts about the world’s most-populous country (China), the second most-populous (India), or even numbers six and seven (Pakistan and Nigeria). Even among international journalists, few people know that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, let alone that in 1965, it was home to the world’s largest Communist Party outside the Soviet Union and China.

The truth of the violence of 1965–66 remained hidden for decades. The dictatorship established in its wake told the world a lie, and survivors were imprisoned or too terrified to speak out. It is only as a result of the efforts of heroic Indonesian activists and dedicated scholars around the world that we can now tell the story. Documents recently declassified in Washington have been a huge help, though some of what happened still remains shrouded in mystery.

Indonesia likely fell off the proverbial map because the events of 1965–1966 were such a complete success for Washington. No US soldiers died, and no one at home was ever in danger. Although Indonesian leaders in the 1950s and 1960s had played a huge international role, after 1966 the country stopped rocking the boat entirely. I know from thirteen years of working as a foreign correspondent and journalist that faraway countries that are stable and reliably pro-American do not make headlines. And personally, after going through the documentation and spending a lot of time with the people who lived through these events, I came to form another, deeply unsettling theory as to why these episodes have been forgotten. I fear that the truth of what happened contradicts so forcefully our idea of what the Cold War was, of what it means to be an American, or how globalization has taken place, that it has simply been easier to ignore it.

This book is for those who have no special knowledge of Indonesia, or Brazil, or Chile or Guatemala or the Cold War, though I hope that my interviews, archival research, and global approach may have delivered some discoveries that may be interesting for the experts too. Most of all I hope this story can get to people who want to know how violence and the war against communism intimately shaped our lives today—whether you are sitting in Rio de Janeiro, Bali, New York, or Lagos.

Two events in my own life convinced me that the events of the mid-1960s are very much still with us. That their ghosts still haunt the world, so to speak.

In 2016, I was working my sixth and final year as Brazil correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, and I was walking the halls of Congress in Brasília. Lawmakers in the world’s third-largest democracy were preparing to vote on whether they would impeach President Dilma Rousseff, a former left-wing guerrilla and the country’s first female president. Down the corridor, I recognized an unimportant but reliably outspoken far-right congressman by the name of Jair Bolsonaro, so I approached him for a quick interview. It was widely known by that point that political rivals were trying to bring President Rousseff down on a technicality, and that those organizing her ouster were guilty of far more corruption than she was.2 Because I was a foreign journalist, I asked Bolsonaro if he worried the international community might doubt the legitimacy of the more conservative government that was set to replace her, given the questionable proceedings that day. The answers he gave me seemed so far outside the mainstream, such a complete resurrection of Cold War phantoms, that I didn’t even use the interview. He said, “The world will celebrate what we do today, because we are stopping Brazil from turning into another North Korea.”

This was absurd. Rousseff was a center-left leader whose government had been, if anything, too friendly with huge corporations.

A few moments later, Bolsonaro walked up to the microphone in the congressional chambers and made a declaration that shook the country. He dedicated his impeachment vote to Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the man who oversaw Rousseff’s own torture as a colonel during Brazil’s dictatorship. It was an outrageous provocation, an attempt to rehabilitate the country’s anticommunist military regime and to become the national symbol of far-right opposition to everything.3

When I interviewed Rousseff a few weeks later, as she waited for the final vote that would remove her from office, our conversation invariably turned to the role of the United States in Brazil’s affairs. Considering the many times and ways Washington had intervened to overthrow governments in South America, many of her supporters wondered if the CIA was behind this one, too. She denied it: it was the result of Brazil’s internal dynamics.4 But that is, in its own way, even worse: Brazil’s dictatorship had transitioned to the type of democracy that could safely remove anyone—like Rousseff or Lula—whom the economic or political elites deemed a threat to their interests, and they could summon Cold War demons to go to battle for them when they pleased.

We now know the extent to which Bolsonaro’s gambit succeeded. When he was elected president two years later, I was in Rio. Fights immediately erupted in the streets. Big burly men started yelling at tattooed women who wore stickers supporting the rival candidate, screaming, “Communists! Get out! Communists! Get out!”

In 2017 I moved in the exact opposite direction that Ing Giok Tan and her family had so many years before. I relocated from São Paulo to Jakarta to cover Southeast Asia for the Washington Post. Just months after I arrived, a group of academics and activists planned to put on a low-key conference to discuss the events of 1965. But some people were spreading the accusation on social media that this was actually a meeting to resurrect communism—still illegal in the country, over fifty years later—and a mob made their way toward the event that night, not long after I had left. Groups composed largely of Islamist men, now common participants in aggressive Jakarta street demonstrations, surrounded the building and trapped everyone inside. My roommate, Niken, a young labor organizer from Central Java, was held captive there all night, as the mob pounded on the walls, chanting, “Crush the communists!” and “Burn them alive!” She sent me texts, terrified, asking for me to publicize what was happening, so I did so on Twitter. It didn’t take long for that to generate threats and accusations that I was a communist, or even a member of Indonesia’s nonexistent Communist Party. I had become used to receiving exactly these kinds of messages in South America. The similarities were no coincidence. The paranoia in both places can be traced back to a traumatic rupture in the middle of the 1960s.

But it was only after I began work on this book, speaking with experts and witnesses and survivors, that I realized the significance of the two historical events was much greater than the fact that violent anticommunism still exists in Brazil, Indonesia, and many other countries, and that the Cold War created a world of regimes that see any social reform as a threat. I came to the conclusion that the entire world, and especially the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America that Ing Giok sailed past with her family, has been reshaped by the waves emanating from Brazil and Indonesia in 1964 and 1965.

I felt a heavy moral responsibility to research that story, and tell it right. In one sense, doing so is the culmination of over a decade of work. But specifically for this book, I visited twelve countries and interviewed over one hundred people, in Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Indonesian. I pored through the archives in the same number of languages, spoke to historians around the world, and did work with research assistants in five countries. I didn’t have a lot of resources to write this book, but I gave it everything I had.

The violence that took place in Brazil, and Indonesia, and twenty other countries around the world, was not accidental, or incidental to the main events of world history. The deaths were not “cold-blooded and meaningless,” just tragic errors that didn’t change anything.5 Precisely the opposite. The violence was effective, a fundamental part of a larger process. Without a full view of the Cold War and US goals worldwide, the events are unbelievable, unintelligible, or very difficult to process.

The remarkable film The Act of Killing, by Joshua Oppenheimer, and its sequel, The Look of Silence, smashed open the black box surrounding 1965 in Indonesia, and forced people in the country and around the world to look inside. Oppenheimer’s masterful work employs an extreme close-up approach. I purposefully took the opposite approach, zooming out to the global stage, in the attempt to be complementary. I hope viewers of those films pick up this book to put them in context, and I hope readers will watch those films after they finish. I also owe Joshua a small personal debt for guiding my early research, but I owe much more to Indonesians and other historians, most of all Baskara Wardaya, Febriana Firdaus, and Bradley Simpson.

I decided that to really tell the story of these events and their repercussions—that is, the global extermination network they engendered—

I had to try to somehow tell the wider story of the Cold War. It’s very often forgotten that violent anticommunism was a global force, and that its protagonists worked across borders, learning from successes and failures elsewhere as their movement picked up steam and racked up victories. To understand what happened, we have to understand these international collaborations.

This is also the story of a few individuals, some from the US, some from Indonesia, and some from Latin America, who lived through these events, and whose lives were changed profoundly by them. My choice of focus, and the connections that I saw, were probably dictated to some extent by the people I was lucky enough to meet, and by my own background and language skills, but as far as I’m concerned, their story is just as much the story of the Cold War as any other is, certainly more so than any story of the Cold War that is focused primarily on white people in the United States and Europe.6

The story I tell here is based on declassified information, the consensus formed by the most knowledgeable historians, and overwhelming first-person testimony. I rely extensively on my own interviews with survivors, and of course I was not able to check every single one of the claims regarding their own lives, such as what things felt like, what they were wearing, or what date they were arrested. But none of the details I include contradict the established facts or the larger story that historians have already uncovered. To tell it as accurately as possible, to be faithful to the evidence and respectful to those who lived through it, I found it had to be done a certain way. First, the story is truly global; every life on Earth is treated as equally important, and no nations or actors are viewed, a priori, as the good or bad guys. Secondly, we’ve all heard the maxim that “history is written by the victors.” This is usually, unfortunately, true. But this story by necessity pushes back against that tendency—many of the people at its center were some of the biggest losers of the twentieth century—and we cannot be afraid to let the facts of their lives contradict accepted popular understandings of the Cold War in the English-speaking world, even if those contradictions may be very uncomfortable for the winners. And finally, I avoid speculation entirely, resisting any urge to try to tackle the many unsolved mysteries by myself. We have to accept there’s a lot we still don’t know.

So this book does not rely on guessing. In the moments when my colleagues and I stumbled onto what seemed like big coincidences—seemingly too big, perhaps—or connections we couldn’t explain, we stopped there and discussed them; we didn’t just pick our own theory as to what caused them.

And we certainly did stumble onto some connections.


A New American Age

THE UNITED STATES, A WESTERN European settler colony in North America, emerged from World War II as by far the most powerful state on Earth. This was a surprise to most Americans, and to most of the world.

It was a young country. It was only about a hundred years previously that the government set up in former British colonies finished incorporating former French and Spanish territories into the new country, giving its leaders dominion over the middle strip of the continent. In comparison, their cousins back in Europe had been conquering the globe for almost five centuries. They had sailed around the planet, carving it up for themselves.

To say that the United States is a settler colony means that the land was overtaken by white Europeans over the course of several centuries in a way that differed from the way that most countries in Africa and Asia were conquered. The white settlers came to stay, and the native population was excluded, by definition, from the nation they built. In order for the new white and Christian country to take form, the indigenous population had to get out of the way.

As every American boy and girl learns, there was a strong element of religious fanaticism involved in the founding of the United States. The Puritans, a group of committed English Christians, did not travel across the Atlantic to make money for England. They sought a place for a purer, more disciplined version of the Calvinist society they wanted to build. One way to put this is that they wanted religious freedom. Another is that they wanted a society that was even more homogeneous, fundamentalist, and theocratic than the one that existed in seventeenth-century Europe.1

In the late 1700s, the leaders of the British colonies expelled the monarchy in a revolutionary war and created a remarkably effective system of self-governance that exists in slightly modified form today. Internationally, the country came to represent and champion revolutionary, democratic ideals. But internally, things were much more complicated. The United States remained a brutally white supremacist society. The consequence of the a priori dismissal of the native population was genocide.

Throughout the Americas, from Canada down to Argentina, European colonization killed between fifty million and seventy million indigenous people, around 90 percent of the native American population. Scientists recently concluded that the annihilation of these peoples was so large that it changed the temperature of the planet.2 In the new United States of America, the destruction of the local peoples continued long after the declaration of independence from British rule. US citizens continued to buy, sell, whip, torture, and own persons of African descent until the middle of the nineteenth century. Women were only given the right to vote nationwide in 1920. They could actually do so, however, while the theoretical voting rights granted to black Americans were beaten back by racist terror campaigns and laws that were meant to exclude them from real citizenship. When the United States entered World War II, it was what we would now consider an apartheid society.3

In that war, however, the better angels of American nature came to the fore. It wasn’t always clear that would be the case. In the 1930s, some Americans even sympathized with the Nazis, a hyper-militaristic, genocidal, and proudly racist authoritarian party governing Germany. In 1941, a senator from Missouri named Harry S. Truman said, “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.”4 But when the US did join World War II, in an alliance with the British, French, and Russians against the Germans and Japanese, its troops fought to liberate prisoners from death camps and save Western Europe’s limited democracies from tyranny. Apart from five hundred thousand who tragically lost their lives, a generation of American boys came back from that war rightfully proud of what they had done—they had looked an entirely evil system in the face, stood up for the values their country was built on, and they had won.

The end of World War II was the beginning of a new global order. Europe was weakened, and the planet was broken into pieces.

Three Worlds

The second most-powerful country in the world in 1945, the Soviet Union, also emerged as a victor in that war. The Soviets were intensely proud too, but their population had been devastated. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party, despised their left-wing ideology and led a brutal invasion into their territory. Before the Soviets finally pushed them back—at Stalingrad in 1943, probably the turning point in the war, a year before the Americans landed in Europe—they had already suffered catastrophic losses. By the time the Red Army reached Berlin in 1945, occupying much of Central and Eastern Europe in the process, at least twenty-seven million Soviet citizens had died.5

The Soviet Union was an even younger country than the United States. It was founded in 1917 by a small group of radical intellectuals inspired by German philosopher Karl Marx, after a revolution overthrew a decrepit Russian monarchy ruling over an empire that largely consisted of impoverished peasants, and that was considered backward compared to the advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe, where Marx—and Vladimir Lenin, the first Soviet leader—actually thought the world socialist revolution was supposed to start.

These revolutionaries faced a civil war from 1918 to 1920, and employed what the Bolsheviks themselves called “terror” to defeat the White forces, a loose coalition of conservatives, Russian nationalists, and anticommunists, who were also engaging in mass murder. After Lenin died in 1924, his ruthless successor, Joseph Stalin, forcefully collectivized agricultural production, built a centrally planned economy, and used mass imprisonment and execution to deal with his real and perceived enemies. Millions died as a result in the 1930s, including some of the original architects of the revolution, and Stalin shifted the official ideology of the international Communist movement back and forth to suit his own political needs. But much of the worst of this remained secret. Instead, the Soviet Union’s rapid industrialization and subsequent defeat of the Nazis—as well as the fact that it was communists who often resisted both fascism and colonialism earliest and most forcefully around the world—gave it significant global prestige in 1945.6

The Soviets became the world’s second “superpower,” but they were far weaker than the United States in every way that counts. By the late 1940s, the US produced a full half of the world’s manufactured goods. By 1950, the US economy was probably as big as all of Europe and the Soviet Union combined.7 As for military strength, the Soviet population had been decimated, and this was especially true for those who could be called on to fight in any war. Even though hundreds of thousands of Soviet women bravely fought the Nazis, the gender imbalance in 1945 drives home the devastation. By 1945, there were only seven men for every ten women between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine.8 The US had superior military power, and demonstrated the apocalyptic damage it could unfurl from the air when it dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

That is what we are talking about when we discuss the “First World” and the “Second World” in the years after 1945. The First World consisted of the rich countries in North America, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan, all of which had gotten wealthy while engaging in colonialism. Their leading power, the United States, was late to that game, at least outside North America, but it certainly played. The young United States took control of the Louisiana territories, Florida, Texas, and the Southwest by waging war or threatening to attack.9 Then, Washington took over Hawaii after a group of businessmen overthrew Queen Liliuokalani in 1893, and gained control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The Philippines, the second-largest country in Southeast Asia, remained a formal colony until 1945, while Cuba moved into the informal US sphere of influence in Central America and the Caribbean—where US Marines intervened a dizzying twenty times, at least, by 1920—and Puerto Rico remains in imperial limbo to this day.10

The “Second World” was the Soviet Union and the European territories where the Red Army had set up camp. Since its founding, the USSR had publicly aligned itself with the global anticolonial struggle and had not engaged in overseas imperialism, but the world was watching how Moscow would exert influence over the occupied nations of Central and Eastern Europe.

And then there was the “Third World”—everyone else, the vast majority of the world’s population. That term was coined in the early 1950s, and originally, all of its connotations were positive. When the leaders of these new nation-states took up the term, they spoke it with pride; it contained a dream of a better future in which the world’s downtrodden and enslaved masses would take control of their own destiny. The term was used in the sense of the “Third Estate” during the French Revolution, the revolutionary common people who would overthrow the First and Second Estates of the monarchy and the clergy. “Third” did not mean third-rate, but something more like the third and final act: the first group of rich white countries had their crack at creating the world, as did the second, and this was the new movement, full of energy and potential, just waiting to be unleashed. For much of the planet, the Third World was not just a category; it was a movement.11

In 1950, more than two-thirds of the world’s population lived in the Third World, and with few exceptions, these peoples had lived under the control of European colonialism.12 Some of these countries had managed to break free of imperial rule in the nineteenth century; some earned their independence when fascist forces retreated at the end of World War II; some attempted to do so in 1945, only to be re-invaded by First World armies; and for many others, the war had changed little, and they were still unfree. All of them inherited economies that were far, far poorer than those in the First World. Centuries of slavery and brutal exploitation had left them to fend for themselves, and decide how they would try to forge a path to independence and prosperity.

The simple version of the next part of this story is that newly independent countries in the Third World had to fight off imperial counterattacks, and then choose if they would follow the capitalist model favored by the United States and Western Europe or attempt to build socialism and follow in the footsteps of the Soviet Union, hopefully moving from poverty to a position of global importance just as quickly as the Russians had. But it was more complicated than that. In 1945, it was still possible to believe they could be friendly with both Washington and Moscow.

A Vietnamese man named Ho Chi Minh, who had previously worked as a photo retoucher in Paris and as a baker in the United States, embraced revolutionary Marxism after he blamed the Western capitalist powers for refusing to acknowledge Vietnamese sovereignty at the Versailles Peace Conference following World War I.13 He became an agent for the Communist International before he led the Viet Minh resistance movement against the Japanese occupation in the 1940s. But when he arrived at the Ba Đình flower garden in downtown Hanoi after the two nuclear strikes on Japan by the US to declare independence on August 17, 1945, he opened with the following words: “‘All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.”14

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  • "Trenchant....powerful....[Bevins] translates the findings of complex scholarly accounts into smooth and readable, if often heartbreaking, prose."
    Boston Review
  • "Excellent...anchors itself in a history most Americans never learned or would rather forget."
    Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post
  • "Bevins is not the first to note that the Cold War frequently burned hot in the Third World, but he excels at showing the human costs of that epic ideological struggle."
    The New Republic
  • "The Jakarta Method is a must-read to better understand how the U.S. intelligence apparatus became what it is today, and how it's ravaged so many other countries along the way."
  • "The Jakarta Method dismantles and re-positions the American mythos, similar to two recent Pulitzer Prize winners: Nikole Hannah-Jones's The 1619 Project and Greg Grandin's The End of the Myth.... The Jakarta Method is a devastating critique of US hypocrisy during the Cold War, and a mournful hypothetical of what the world might have looked like if Third World movements had succeeded."
    Los Angeles Review of Books
  • "Bevins gives a concise account of how US-supported carnage in Indonesia inspired other countries to unleash their own murderous suppression of left-wing movements. By focusing on Indonesia and nations not aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union, he goes beyond the typical Cold War history of arms races and intrigue....As Bevins effectively describes, we are still living in the world created by these anti-communist purges....[His] account raises necessary questions. Did the anti-communist mania of the 20th century make the world any safer? And if so, for whom?"—Foreign Policy
  • "Riveting....As a polemic, The Jakarta Method is never anything less than conscientious and persuasive, but Bevins's book truly takes flight as a work of narrative journalism, tracing the history of America's violent meddling in Southeast Asia and Latin America through the stories of those it brutalized."
  • "Exceptional...If Indonesia is counted as a 'win' for the pro-regime change crowd, the idea of promoting regime change is absolutely bankrupt and should never be employed again."—The American Conservative
  • "[The Jakarta Method] sheds a welcome light on the crimes that took place in Indonesia, a history largely forgotten in the West...but it also asks the fundamental question of why America aided such atrocities... Bevins persuasively argues for his country's blanket anticommunism as a kind of zealotry, an irrational pull with origins in the foundation of the United States."
    Times Literary Supplement
  • "One of the best, most informative and most illuminating histories yet of [the CIA] and the way it has shaped the actual, rather than the propagandistic, U.S. role in the world."
    Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
  • "The Jakarta Method recasts the Cold War battle for the Third World as a series of mass-killing events, carried out by the U.S. or its proxies — a pattern much of the world witnessed but could do little to stop. It sounds like a grim read, and it is, but it’s also a gripping one."—Talking Points Memo (Favorite Non-Fiction List)
  • "Bevins has deftly chronicled the genocide of Indonesian communists in 1965.... a brilliant history of the Cold War told through global anti-communist violence."
    New Statesman
  • "Bevins is less interested in long descriptions of torture and death and more in understanding the geopolitics that lie behind them. The great originality and insight of the book is its emphasis on the international scale...The Jakarta Method is a deft and necessary reckoning."—Baffler Magazine
  • "Bevins is well-positioned to trace the lineage of suppression across the world aided and abetted by the U.S., which provided material support and intelligence, including lists of communists and alleged communists, to client governments....Interwoven among the politics in the books are testimonies from former communists Bevins interviewed in several countries, which he relays with novelistic brio."—The Irish Times
  • "Bevins has created a powerful record of the often-muddled events in Indonesia....The Jakarta Method offers an easily digestible chronology of this bloody period of Indonesian and world history."
    South China Morning Post
  • "Essential and devastating."—Joshua Oppenheimer, director of The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence
  • "This, for my money, may be the must-read book about the Cold War. There have been quite a few, but this one is current, it's sweeping, and it's an absolute must-read, if you're only going to read one book to think about what that -maybe the most eventful period in human history - was all about....You cannot dismiss this book."
    Robert Scheer, KCRW
  • "Gripping...[Bevins]'s analysis of these events is lucid and judicious, and his narrative is driven by effective use of interview material."
    Asian Affairs
  • "An excellent book, and I don’t write that lightly. [Bevins] weaves interviews with academic sources, backroom CIA dealings with thwarted dreams of would-be revolutionaries, and delivers a well-researched and tightly written work that is at times extremely provocative, both politically and emotionally."—London School of Economics Review of Books
  • "This is an indispensable book for all those interested in the Third World during the era of the Cold War, and in the links between various operations of 'the Anti-Communist International', a subject whose importance will I think only increase. It might in effect emerge that the decisive global changes were not the ones that we currently see as such (the fall of the Berlin Wall), but rather what happened in countries like China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil."
    Branko Milanovic, Brave New Europe
  • "Well-researched, packed with information, and very well-written."
    O Estado de S. Paulo (Brazil)
  • "An exceptionally well-written narrative.... In a fascinating and disturbing journey around the world, Bevins documents the effects of Washington's virulent anticommunist crusade across several continents."
    Tribune (UK)
  • "Through this transnational perspective, Bevins finds connections between unexpected locations.... [He] takes a broader approach, situating the violence within the global context of the Cold War, but the story he tells is still grounded in deep on-the-ground investigation and extraordinary personal narratives."
    North American Congress on Latin America
  • "A thoroughly-researched and fiercely-unflinching reconstruction of the events surrounding the killings of millions of Indonesians under the US-backed dictator Suharto. Drawing from world histories, archives, and personal interviews with survivors, Bevins charts the historical trail, from Brazil to Indonesia, of coup d’etats, assassinations, tortures and massacres, which served to uphold the interests of global capitalism and created a new world order"—CNN Philippines
  • "A shocking portrait that few readers will forget....[Bevins's] research is solid and his conclusions convincing. A well-delineated excavation of yet another dark corner of American history."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Bevins has written a well-researched history of how the American campaign against Third World democracy shaped the geopolitics of our world today, with echoes still felt through Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro’s virulent anti-communism; the childhood experiences of Barack Obama’s Jakarta upbringing; and the dominating proliferation of neoliberal globalization."—Canadian Dimension
  • "The Jakarta Method is a clear and comprehensive indictment of US interventionism since 1945…but it can be poignant, too."—The Herald (Scotland)
  • "The book’s most important achievement is in explaining how Washington’s policies from more than 50 years ago shape the world we live in today."—The News Lens (Taiwan)
  • "Bevins wrote The Jakarta Method to show how this recent but largely ignored part of our history very much informs the way we live today. He concludes with current information about his sources, some still fighting to simply have the truth of what happened in their countries acknowledged, others expatriated to places that will never completely feel like home. It can be inspiring to hear from people willing to excavate mass graves and bury victims with dignity, but to this day that truth is struggling to be heard."
    Progressive Populist
  • "In The Jakarta Method, Vincent Bevins argues persuasively that during the Cold War, the U.S. approved of mass murder campaigns to roll back communism in the Third World. This is a provocative, necessary book, an essential guide to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of our imperfect world. Highly recommended."—Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker staff writer, author of Che Guevara and Inside the League
  • "Truly captivating.... Vincent Bevins offers us a compelling historical narrative, which he combines with thorough analysis and deeply personal reflections. He merges the big story of the Cold War with the stories of real individuals whose lives were profoundly affected. He masterfully connects the 1964 Brazil coup with the mass violence that took place in Indonesia in 1965, before connecting that slaughter with a series of mass murder programs in Latin America and around the world. In doing so, he offers new knowledge and insights not only into the brutal anticommunist purge in Indonesia, but into the ways that US foreign policy reshaped the world following the Second World War. Bevins is a brilliant and compassionate writer, and The Jakarta Method is eye-opening. I really hope the world pays attention to this book."
    Baskara T. Wardaya, Sanata Dharma University Indonesia, author of 1965 and Truth Will Out
  • "This fascinating book is a meticulous and shocking analysis of a little-known and horrifically bloody battle of the Cold War, but it is also something more. It places the Indonesia massacre of 1965 in its global context, showing how the United States both supported it and used it as a model for repression in other countries."—Stephen Kinzer, author of Overthrow, All the Shah's Men and Poisoner in Chief
  • "The Jakarta Method is a gripping, thoroughly original exploration into the global covert Cold War, the passions it provoked, and the corpses it left in its wake. A full tally of the body count of the transnational counterinsurgency Washington has been waging since the early 1960s is impossible. But Bevins' excellent book offers a different kind of reckoning, of moral costs and ongoing political consequences. 'Jakarta is coming' was spray-painted on the walls of Santiago Chile in 1972, just before that country's CIA-backed coup, a way for that nation's rich to let the poor know the fate that would befall them were they to continue to fight for a more just society. 'Jakarta' did come, leaving hundreds of thousands of dead throughout Latin America. And, in a way, it never left."—Greg Grandin, Yale University, author of Fordlandia and The End of the Myth
  • "Tragically, that which everyone believed we had left in the past has returned to spread throughout Latin America once more. The Jakarta Method allows us to understand the moment that Brazil is now living through, and its connection to a much larger, global scheme."—Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage

On Sale
May 19, 2020
Page Count
320 pages

Vincent Bevins

About the Author

Vincent Bevins is an award-winning journalist and correspondent. He covered Southeast Asia for the Washington Post, reporting from across the entire region and paying special attention to the legacy of the 1965 massacre in Indonesia. He previously served as the Brazil correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, also covering nearby parts of South America, and before that he worked for the Financial Times in London.
Among the other publications he has written for are the New York Times,The Atlantic, The Economist, the Guardian, Foreign Policy, the New York Review of BooksThe New Republic, and more. Vincent was born and raised in California and spent the last few years living in Jakarta.

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