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UC professor spearheads effort to stop book recall

By Daniela Mohor Daily Planet staff
Wednesday August 01, 2001

A UC Berkeley professor is asking the community to pressure the university not to comply with a CIA decision to take back from libraries a history book revealing the involvement of the United States in the massive killing of Indonesian communists in the 1960s. 

A few days ago, the CIA decided to recall Volume 26, one in a series of history books called “Foreign Relations of the United States.” The volume in question covers Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and was recently published by the Government Printing Office. 

Outraged at the CIA’s decision, Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat who currently teaches in UC Berkeley’s English Department, sent letters and e-mails to local newspapers and UC Berkeley employees to raise awareness around the issue. 

In a message he wrote to faculty members and administrative staff on campus, Scott blames the CIA for trying to hide historical facts from the public to protect the government’s interests. He also invites them to react.  

“I hope you will persuade the university not to collaborate in this clumsy effort at truth suppression, which mimics the ludicrous games the U.S.S.R. played with the Soviet Encyclopedia in the 1930s,” he wrote. 

The book, Scott added, exposes the U.S. involvement in a 1965 Indonesian Army’s anti-Communist campaign, that led to the killing of an estimated 1 million people. 

Neither Associate University Librarian Alan Ritch of the Doe Library on the UC Berkeley campus nor spokespersons in the university’s Public Information Office were able to say Tuesday whether the volume had actually been received and if it was available to the public.  

A public information representative, who asked that her name not be used, said the librarian who would have known if the book had been received was ill and unavailable on Tuesday. She added that she was unaware of any instructions for the removal of the book. 

According to Scott, the CIA’s decision is directly linked to the Bush administration’s new policy toward Indonesia. 

“Very soon we’re going to see the Bush administration resume aid to the Indonesian Army and to a group called Kopassus,” said Scott in a telephone interview. Kopassus, he said is the Indonesian Army’s Special Force and the main architect of the 1965 massacres. “What worries them is that it’s a volume that details that aid to Kopassus in 1965.” 

Others across the nation have reacted to the CIA’s effort to recall the book. Friday, the George Washington University’s National Security Archive protested by posting the volume on its Web Site. 

“There are no lawful grounds to withhold the book,” said Tom Blanton, director of the Archive. “They can’t prevent us from posting it on the web.” The document, Blanton said, was declassified more than a year ago and should therefore be available to the public in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. 

The posted volume – at – talks about, among other things, a December 1965 telegram from Ambassador Marshall Green to the State Department, talking about his intention to donate the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars to the movement leading the anti-Communist repression. 

“The chances of detection or subsequent revelation of our support in this instance are as minimal as any black bag operation can be,” the telegram says. The volume also suggests that the U.S government was aware that the killing of communists was massive. 

By trying to hide the truth, Blanton said, the CIA is obtaining exactly the opposite.  

“They’re trying to put toothpaste back in the tube and that’s a very difficult thing to do,” he said. “What they’re really doing is calling attention to the book and have more people reading it.”