This introductory chapter provides some insights into the violence of 1965–66 against members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and builds on the rich body of existing work by Indonesian scholars. From here, the chapter suggests a new approach that addresses many of the issues surrounding genocide—and accounts for the variations and particularities of the Indonesian case—while also making possible its comparison to other instances of mass killing and detention. That approach entails three broad claims. The first is that the violence of 1965 cannot be properly understood without recognizing the pivotal role of the army leadership in provoking, facilitating, and organizing it. The second principal claim is that the actions of powerful foreign states—especially the United States and the United Kingdom—together with aspects of the international context were instrumental in facilitating and encouraging the army's campaign of mass violence in 1965–66. Lastly, the chapter highlights the role of historical conditions and antecedents in understanding the dynamics of the mass violence of 1965–66.
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