Interview Lydman

Lydman: But one thing you do expect is that you're aware, particularly if you're the ambassador or his deputy, that you're aware of all the reporting that's going out of that embassy, because you're in charge of that embassy.

Kadane: That's right. That's exactly right.

Kadane: I've had some long and very fruitful talks with Bob Martens [the embassy official who complied the names] as well as others. (Lydman: Yes. Yes. Bob was very good.) He was the PKI [Partai Komunis Indonesia, the Indonesia Communist Party] expert par excellence it seems to me (Lydman: Right) of anyone maybe who ever lived. (Lydman: Yes.) One of the things he told me he did was fill up many many many gaps in the biographic reporting of who was who in the PKI.

Lydman: Yes, I think he did.

Kadane: And apparently, according to him --but also according to other people in the embassy, quite a number of people -- it was a really major job.

Lydman: Oh, yes indeed.

Kadane: And it appears also that Joe Lazarsky [deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta at the time] and others have said that on occasion CIA added some of their information.

Lydman: Yes.

Kadane: It was sort of a pooled effort.

Lydman: Yes. Yeah.

Kadane: And the names had been sent back to Washington.

Lydman: Right.

Kadane: Because there had not really been a clear idea of who were the active members of the party.

Lydman: I think this was true and also that you know, as this scene developed in Indonesia and undeveloped after the coup itself, a lot of fresh information, new information about personalities came up.

Kadane: Oh, I see.

Lydman: That we probably hadn't been aware of before, because a lot of these PKI people at regional level may in fact have been new names.

Kadane: Yes, that's what Bob said.

Lydman: That we hadn't really followed or tracked before.

Kadane: That's right.

Lydman: And Bob did a major job in identifying these people.

Kadane: Some have gone so far as to say that he had identified the infrastructure -- was the intelligence term used -- of the PKI. That is to say the committees --

Lydman: I think he was pretty good at that, yes.

Kadane: Going down to the lower levels.

Lydman: He probably did more to clarify that than anybody, there is no question about it. No question about that. He did.

Kadane: He has said that the lists that he was able to put together of these people, different organizational units, were probably better than anything anybody else had anywhere, including the other western intelligence agencies?

Lydman: Oh, I think it might very well be true. (K: You think that's true?) Oh, god. I think that he was a unique asset -- (K: That's what other people in the embassy have said, too) -- a unique asset, there's no question about that.

Kadane: He said that there were thousands of names that were involved, (Lydman: Oh yes.) there were literally, over time he had developed thousands of names --

Lydman: Oh, yes.

Kadane: Going down to the regional and city organizations, SOBSI [the PKI's national labor federation], Gerwani [the PKI's women's organization] --

Lydman: Oh, yes, absolutely. Well, you must remember that there were three and a half members -- million members -- of PKI and its affiliated institutions. That's a lot of people.

Kadane: That is a lot of people.

Lydman: And then you put on top of that things like SOBSI and BAPERKI [a leftist political party] and all of these sort of extended outreach programs of theirs. You end up with about 20 million people.

Kadane: It's huge.

Lydman: It's a lot.

Kadane: It was huge. It's amazing the job that Bob and the people he worked with did. Absolutely remarkable.

Lydman: Yes, fantastic job. I don't know of any officer in a time of crisis who performed more brilliantly than Bob Martens.

Kadane: Well, it turned out to be useful, it seems, because one of the things he told me was that these names were disseminated to Kim Adhyatman [a former aide to Indonesia politician Adam Malik].

Lydman: Yes.

Kadane: Who then gave them to Malik and [then Indonesian Army leader] Suharto's people, so that they had some way of identifying who these people were.

Lydman: I am sure that we helped a great deal in this, that Bob Martens, with his analytical mind, probably provided a great service. I'm sure he did, yes.

Kadane: In addition to that, others have told me that names came back from Suharto -- from Murtopo, who was gathering --

Lydman: Well, Ali [Murtopo] of course was the intelligence chief.

Kadane: He was the chief of intelligence.

Lydman: Well, I don't know the -- I know of course that there were relations and networking going on on that, but I can't remember exactly how this one -- how it came out. I don't know, for example, who was the principal contact with Ali -- whether it was Will Ethel [the defense attache] or whether it was somebody else.

Kadane: Joe Lazarsky [the deputy CIA station chief] said he met with him quite a bit.

Lydman: I think Joe maybe did, yes, and I think maybe Bob [Martens] did, maybe Bob maybe too had direct relations with him, it's quite possible. I just can't remember it.

Kadane: Well, Ali was the guy who was in charge of gathering up in Suharto's headquarters the names of people who had been caught or killed.

Lydman: Yes.

Kadane: And that those names were then given back (Lydman: Yeah) to the embassy, and Bob's -- they were able to check off those names against Bob's list.

Lydman: I don't remember that exact sort of sequence, but it's plausible, it's plausible.

Kadane: You don't remember that there was reporting on who they had caught and who they had killed --

Lydman: No, I don't remember that (Kadane: in the PKI?) No, I don't remember that. No. I don't remember that. Ah -- and I mean, that's just perhaps my faulty memory. (Kadane: Uh-hunh) But I don't remember that.

Kadane: Because evidently that was the major activity at the embassy for several months.

Lydman: I think it probably was, but it was the sort of, it was the sort of nitty-gritty -- what I call real "bio" reporting. That, ah, first of all, uh, I was interested in it only in function, I mean, what it was about. But the separate and distinct names, and how many there were a day, and what was said about them --

Kadane: Right. You didn't focus on that?

Lydman: No, I did not focus on that. I was not an expert on these persons at all. And had no intention of trying to become one.

Kadane: It was very complex.

Lydman: Yeah.

Lydman: Oh, yes.

Kadane: Well, Ed Masters [the embassy's third-ranking official at the time] has said that there was coordination at that top of the embassy, though, in focusing on this, or supervising the whole activity [checking off the names of victims.]

Lydman: Oh, yes.

Kadane: And that you all had discussed -- these names were given out with the agreement --

Lydman: Oh yes.

Kadane: Of the top people of the embassy.

Lydman: Oh yes --

Kadane: And that included you.

Lydman: Oh absolutely. Oh, yes.

Kadane: Can you remember what went on in those discussions a little bit -- can you tell me what happened, and what triggered them?

Lydman: One of the real functions of that embassy, was we had an absolutely daily staff meeting, it's the first thing that we had in the morning was a staff meeting, where everything that had been collected or was going to be reported, was reported to this group. And there were inputs from anywhere who could make an input, to add to what was being reported, or who had some conflicting statement, or some conflicting information, that was all brought up at the staff meeting.

Kadane: This was not the country team meeting? This was a staff meeting?

Lydman: This was a staff meeting. Almost anybody could -- for example, all the section chiefs were country team -- in other words, were there, but they could bring anybody they wanted. So if Masters wanted to bring five of his officers along, and have each one of these report on what he was doing, it was perfectly acceptable.

Kadane: And you had these every morning?

Lydman: Every single morning.

Kadane: After the coup?

Lydman: Yes.

Kadane: But not before the coup?

Lydman: Well, I wasn't there before the coup -- I am only reporting my own experience. I had no reason to believe it wasn't followed by Frank [Galbraith], my predecessor. Oh, yes, I mean, that's the way an embassy operates. I mean, even in placid Kuala Lumpur [where Lydman was later ambassador], I did the same thing. I had a staff meeting every morning. (Kadane: (laughter) I see what you mean.)

Kadane: (laughter) It must have seemed really placid after Jakarta.

Lydman: (inaudible) with coffee, if you know what I mean (laughter). (Interruption in tape as it reverses on "auto-reverse." Kadane recalls asking him if the "checking off" process was discussed in detail at the morning staff meetings.)

Lydman: I don't recall that -- it could have happened. But I don't recall that as being a major feature of any meetings.

Kadane: Ok, so -- I just wanted to hear from you about the coordination of that.

Lydman: Yeah, well, there was coordination, there was good coordination. The coordination of course was at my level, and at the ambassador's level, was simply identifying a) what we were doing on any day, and what the objective of it was, and what the implications of it were for policy, or for representation. The whole point of reporting is to identify areas that impact on policy and could give a signal to what we should be doing representationally.

Kadane: So the bottom line is this, it seems to be. Bob Martens and his group in the political section (Lydman: Yeah) and maybe some of the CIA people were able to -- as a result of the names going out (Lydman: Yeah) and the names coming back in, were able to report that the organization of the PKI was being dismantled, over time. Was that right? Do you recall that?

Lydman: Well, I don't recall it, but I think it's perfectly plausible that that was certainly -- uh, yes.

Kadane: Uh-hunh. And that would have an impact for "policy."

Lydman: Of course, we knew that we -- we knew that we -- due to Bob's work, and a lot of other inputs that were coming, and things that we were learning from the Indonesians constantly, we had an idea where the cracks were, and we knew where the fall-outs were, in the PKI. We knew for example, when the PKI really almost collapsed in East Java. We knew when it collapsed in Central Java.

Kadane: Oh, I see. That's fantastic.

Lydman: Well, after all, we knew when Aidit [chairman of the PKI] was killed, and when Njono [another high-level PKI official] was killed, and we knew all of this.

Kadane: But you're talking about the main organization, though. (Lydman: That's right.) when you say, "It almost collapsed."?

Lydman: Well, the regional structures collapsed.

Kadane: And you knew when that happened?

Lydman: Of course, you did.

Kadane: Fantastic.

Lydman: Well, you knew -- you weren't entirely sure that there weren't still some operating remnants (Kadane: I see), but you knew damn well that the main infrastructure had collapsed.

Kadane: And you knew that, because Bob had been able to identify who they were.

Lydman: Certainly.

Kadane: And before that, it was unclear (Lydman: Yeah) or maybe you had an old list, or maybe didn't have a good list --

Lydman: Now, I don't know how much Bob could follow on what one would call -- uh -- casualty figures and identifications. I think that there was a lot of that he could get from the reports that were coming in (Kadane: sure), but whether you could completely, sort of, document that process, I rather doubt that, because a lot of these -- these sort of local PKI collapses were not that precisely identified as to who the precise casualties were.

Kadane: The names of the individuals?

Lydman: That's right. I mean, these were not all that --

Kadane: You might have, such as, three Gerwani were arrested and executed but you don't know (Lydman: yes) who the Gerwani were?

Lydman: That's right.

Kadane: Is that what you mean by that?

Lydman: Well, that's possible. That's it. Certainly there were a lot of Gerwani who were eliminated and nobody really knew who they were. They just disappeared off the screen. A lot of PKI did. But the names of the well-known people I think Bob managed to track -- well, you talked to him, so he could tell you whether or not he felt that he was tracking --

Kadane: Well, he said he experienced some frustrations. (Lydman: I'm sure he did). But at the same time, others in the embassy have said that over time, they were able to calculate that the infrastructure had been destroyed.

Lydman: I think that that's true. (Kadane: It was not immediate). I think that that was true. But it took a long time. It took at least three for four months.

Kadane: Yes, that's right. That's exactly what people have said. (Lydman: They couldn't do it right away.) Well, it took them a while to get to everybody.

Lydman: That's right.