A hidden history of CIA activities in Indonesia and Latin America—no less violent or consequential than other, prominent Cold War disasters, but widely overlooked for one important reason: here the CIA was successful.
During the Cold War, the U.S. effort to contain communism resulted in several disgraceful and disastrous conflicts: Vietnam, Cuba, Korea. But other conflicts in Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, and other Latin American countries have arguably had a bigger hand in shaping today’s world, yet the very nature of U.S. participation in them has been shrouded for decades. Until now.
In 1965, nearly one million civilians were killed in Indonesia with U.S. assistance. The strategy went as follows: act early, play up the threat of a communist revolution, find the natural anti-communist elements in society, fund them, overthrow the sitting government, give the full backing of Washington to the new authoritarian state, and finally, turn a blind eye to the body count that mounts in its wake. It was a brutally efficient playbook that the CIA then emulated in Latin America in the decade that followed.
In this bold and comprehensive new history, Washington Post reporter Vincent Bevins uses newly unveiled CIA documents and countless hours of interviews to reconstruct this chillingly overlooked chapter in U.S. history and reveal a hidden legacy that spans the globe. For decades, these conflicts have been minimized as a non-violent, “cold” war. But those who suffered its consequences have long known differently.