Friday, February 15, 2013

Indonesia Part II: Order 66 and GESTAPU?

If I could ask George Lucas one question, I would ask if Indonesian history influenced the development of the Star Wars saga.

In part of the "Indonesia" series, I'll explore some of the striking similarities between modern Indonesian history and the Star Wars saga. In Part II: Order 66 and GESTAPU?, I continue by comparing the purge of the Jedi with the purge of Indonesian communists.

In some ways, Order 66 was an unexpected endgame for the Jedi. Rather than killing the Jedi in concentration camps, as in the Holocaust, or through targeted assassinations, Palpatine activated hidden orders amongst the clone troopers to kill any Jedi within their vicinity. The killings were decentralized and occurred almost simultaneously, an expression of the pent-up frustration and resentment against the Jedi. What was particularly chilling is how clone troopers who only moments before fought side-by-side with the Jedi calmly turned their guns on their compatriots.

Indonesia experienced a similar bloodbath on the eve of its New Order. As discussed previously, on September 30, 1965, a group of army officers allegedly sympathetic to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) attempted to overthrow conservative elements within the military. This incident, known as GESTAPU, failed when General Suharto defeated the coup plotters. Over the following year, the military and Islamist groups throughout the country struck back at alleged communist sympathizers. While estimates vary, some 500,000 Indonesians were killed and the PKI ceased to exist as a political force.

Of course, the Clone Wars and Order 66 were manufactured crises that allowed Palpatine to justify seizing power. While the origins of the GESTAPU plot are murkier, some scholars allege that Suharto and the conservative generals manufactured GESTAPU in order to undermine the PKI. The GESTAPU plotters were suspiciously incompetent as they failed to eliminate all senior military leaders and failed to provision troops in central Jakarta, allowing Suharto to take the initiative. Moreover, the plotters were all army officers, not PKI cadres, and some believe they could not have organized the plot without the knowledge of senior army officers. 

While Order 66 was carried out by the Armed Forces of the Galactic Republic, the Indonesian anti-communist purge was carried out in a much more haphazard fashion. Indonesian soldiers are alleged to have instigated the killings, but on the ground level the killings were carried out by private citizens or militants. In particular, Islamic groups allied with the conservative military activated their own networks of supporters against the PKI. Often, mobs would hound and attack suspects, as happened with noted Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

Most Expanded Universe books and comics that cover the Dark Times show clone troopers (and later stormtroopers) carrying out the Purge against the Jedi. However, it seems entirely likely that, as the Purge continued, the Empire would have attempted to mobilize citizens against the Jedi. A major difference is that, in Indonesia, Islamists bore a natural animosity against atheist communists. By contrast, the citizens of the Galactic Republic do not seem to bear such animosity against the Jedi. In the Clone Wars TV show, it is apparent that some blame the Jedi for the Clone Wars, but we never see citizens actually attack the Jedi. The one hint we get at public resentment came in the beginning of Attack of the Clones, when a Dug airspeeder driver cursed Obi-Wan and Anakin as they sped past. However, this could just as easily been an instance of Coruscant road rage.

There is also an interesting coincidence between the Jedi Purge and anti-communist purge: the Indonesian massacres took place in 1966, while the number of the order that initiated the Jedi Purge was 66. Others have suggested that the number 66 refers to the sign of Satan:
This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Revelation, 13:18)
Of course, it is possible Lucas trimmed 666 by one digit in order to avoid making the comparison too blatant. It is also possible that the number was drawn entirely at random. However, given the other uncanny similarities between Order 66 and the 1966 massacre, Order 66 might be yet another reference to real-world history.

No comments:

Post a Comment