prisons we choose to live insideIn September 1965,* a group of leftist Indonesian military officers kidnapped and killed six of the army's top generals (and a hapless lieutenant who happened to be inside another general's house when the gunmen showed up). The military right used the event as a pretext for a massive strike against the Indonesian communist party, the PKI, rounding up and killing as many as a million of its alleged cadre and affiliates. The murders perpetrated by the September 30 movement also gave an army officer, Major General Suharto, leverage to use against the Indonesian president, Sukarno, in a sort of slow-motion coup that brought Suharto to power.
Here's the kicker, and do take a moment to carefully read the whole perfect thing, which pays off so nicely at the end:
To the very end of the Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesian government and military officials invoked the specter of the PKI in response to any disturbance or sign of dissent. The key phrase in the regime's discourse was "the latent danger of communism." Invisible agents of Formless Organizations (Organisasi Tanpa Bentuk) were constantly lurking about, ready to sabotage economic development and political order.This is, I think, finally the perfect analogy for our own ranking subordinate who decided that an attack within the country represented a permanent exception, allowing military personnel to forever function outside and above the law in the name of ending the emergency that couldn't be ended. After September 11, it became instantly possible to invoke the specter of the terrorism in response to any disturbance or sign of dissent. And now the regime can't allow Islamist terrorism to die, because it defines itself in dialectical relation with it.
The unfinished eradication of the PKI was, in a very real sense, the raison d’être of the Suharto regime. The original legal act under which the regime ruled Indonesia for more than thirty years was Sukarno's presidential order of October 3, 1965, authorizing Suharto to "restore order." That was an emergency order. But for Suharto the emergency never ended.
The military operation established at that time, Kopkamtib (Komando Operasi Pemulihan Keamanan dan Ketertiban, Operations Command to Restore Order and Security), remained in force until the end of Suharto's regime (with a name change to Bakorstanas in 1988); it allowed military personnel to function outside and above the law in the name of ending the emergency. Suharto's takeover of power acorded with the dictum of the political theorist Carl Schmitt: "The sovereign in he who decides on the exception."
For Suharto the movement was the exception, the break in the normal legal order that required extralegal powers to suppress; it was not just "a ripple in the wide ocean of the Indonesian Revolution," as the nominal sovereign, Sukarno, claimed.
Schmitt's theory, however, needs qualification to handle those cases when the sovereign decides that "the exception" should become the rule. Suharto decided that the exception of October 1965 was permanent. His regime sustained the "latent threat of communism" and kept Indonesia in a constant state of emergency. As the anthropologist Ariel Heryanto has remarked, communism never died in Suharto's Indonesia. The regime could not allow communism to die because it defined itself in dialectical relation with it or, to put it more precisely, the simulacrum of it. --
John Roosa, Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement & Suharto's Coup d'Etat in Indonesia (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), pages 12-13. (I've broken one long paragraph into several, for ease of reading on the screen.)
Or, to put it more precisely, the simulacrum of it.
(*Really the very early morning of October 1.)