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Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear

3.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0745331997
ISBN-10: 0745331998
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Editorial Reviews


A country whose population numbers nearly as high as the U.S., Indonesia is almost hidden from consciousness in the U.S. However, Vltchek turns on a powerful spotlight, using vast stores of thorough research and years of direct contact, to redress our ignorance. Chomsky's forward contextualizes the endeavor. That Vltchek's spotlight gives substance and texture to the lives of Indonesians is a wonderful contribution. That it generalizes to insights bearing on all lives around the globe makes the book that much more relevant and important. -- Michael Albert, co-founder of Z Communications and author of Parecon: Life After Capitalism (2003). Andre Vltchek provides a comprehensive account of Indonesia and its internal socio-economic and political dynamics through the eyes of lay people from the colonial era till now. He manages to portray and thoroughly analyse what has been experienced by most Indonesian people today: poverty, fear and the humiliations created by corrupt and greedy elites. His special chapter on women's rights provides an added value to this important book. -- Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, National Co-ordinator of Indonesian Legal Aid Society for Women and former MP. This book burns with indignation against injustice and untruth. Andre Vltchek is in the great tradition of investigative journalists like John Pilger, Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk. He combines omnivorous curiosity with fearless tenacity. -- Andrew Beatty, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Brunel University, and author of A Shadow Falls: In the Heart of Java (2009). Andre Vltchek is a powerfully-informed writer whose reports are based on firsthand observations. He shows how Indonesia is a nearly perfect specimen of the free market at its purest and dirtiest stage of devolution. Vltchek captures the inhumanity of a class society that operates with no human services or protections for the common people, a future toward which the moneyed classes throughout the world seek to move. -- Michael Parenti, author of The Face of Imperialism (2011).

About the Author

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker, investigative journalist and playwright. He is the author of a number of books including Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear (Pluto, 2012), Oceania (2009) and Western Terror: From Potosi to Baghdad (2006), and the co-author of Exile: Conversations with Pramoedya Ananta Toer (2006). He currently lives and works in East Africa, Indonesia and Japan.

Noam Chomsky is a world renowned linguist and one of our foremost social critics. He is Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and the author of numerous books for Pluto Press.



Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press (August 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745331998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745331997
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This book reads like a John Pilger or Naomi Klein book, written by an investigative journalist who are personal friends with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Eduardo Galeano, and who has travelled to 145 countries covering numerous wars and conflicts. Passionate, brutally honest, and bitter at times; I can't think of another way to describe Andre Vltchek rather than an "angry John Pilger."

To write this book, Vltchek seems to have spoken with all the right scholars, historians and leaders. This including the late former Indonesian president Gus Dur, several ministers and ex-ministers, the late author Pramoedya Ananta Toer and scholars from other countries such as British anthropologist Andrew Beatty from Cambridge University, not to mention the numerous Indonesian historians and frustrated journalists that seems to finally have a proper platform to express their thoughts.

The book provides the same historical background of Indonesia as a "model pupil" and the blueprint for US plunders throughout the world that are inline with what John Pilger, Naomi Klein and John Perkins wrote, but he dig much deeper and understandably paints a more detailed picture about Indonesia (as the main focus of the book) than the 3 authors. He went even further than any other books I know on the "extreme capitalism" installed in Indonesia, discussing at length the Indonesian brand of "law and justice", the state of the "independent" media, and even analysing the many hot stories happening in Indonesia for the past decades, from Edy Tansil to Lapindo mudflow to Cikeusik massacre. And all are neatly discussed under several sub-headings.

However, his portrayal of Indonesia is so negative and so one-sided (it's a messed-up place with no hope!
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Format: Paperback
The greatest progressive thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Palenti, John Pilget, have for years and decades been fascinated with the worst genocide in the post World War II period. Millions died during and after 1965 military coup, orchestrated by the West. The event paralyzed the country and then was duplicated in many other parts of the world from Chile to Russia.

However, it was Vltchek who complied the first comprehensive account of Indonesian tragedy from 1965 to this day. While most Indonesianists analyze the vast archipelago from their comfort zones of Java or Bali, for 20 years Vltchek has travelled to all conflict zones of Indonesia, from Papua to East Timor to Ambon to Aceh.

Vltchek shows the impact of savage capitalism imposed upon Indonesia by Western companies and governments. He shows unbridled corruption, spinelessness and absolute lack of ethics and compassion of local elites who are serving the foreign interests. Of culture that was destroyed and converted into lowest grade of entertainment. Of everything public being destroyed and everything humanistic oppressed.

Vltchek says that his book on Indonesia is a warning to the world. As such it should be read by all of us who care about this planet.
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This is a passionate, some might say overly gloomy, assessment of Indonesia, based in large part on numerous interviews by a journalist (AV) who has lived in-country. I should make it clear that though I'm favorably disposed to the land, people and cultures of Indonesia, I'm not an expert on the country, and have visited it only a few times. But I did find much of AV's description consistent with my own impressions of, e.g., a filthy, gridlocked, un-walkable capital with open sewers, the aggressive privatization of cultural treasures, and once-beautiful landscapes being systematically destroyed by palm plantations for the benefit of a select few who ship their money to Singapore and other overseas destinations. AV's discussion of the government's intentional undercount of the population, and of its implausible assertion, condoned by the World Bank, that an income of US$2-$4 per day qualifies as "middle class," was also quite interesting.

One of AV's theses is that the events of 1965-66 still hang as a cloud over the country. These events include the execution of several generals by factions within the Indonesian Army, the blaming of the executions on the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia), a bloodbath of suspected PKI members and sympathizers that left around 500,000 dead, the deposing of populist leader Sukarno because he was deemed to have been too "easy" on the PKI, and the installation of Suharto as dictator (with the support of the US -- a pattern that would be repeated 6 years later in Chile). Suharto would run the country for more than 30 years. Despite his downfall in 1998 after popular unrest, he's still held in high regard in many quarters.
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One of the most horrific events to occur after World War II was the military coup which ousted Indonesian President Sukarno and instigated a purposeful slaughter of millions of communist, left-wing and pro-China public officials and citizens. This book provides some background to this event and details the decades-long consequences of this CIA-induced terror. Because of the CIA's handiwork, the fourth most populist country in the world, which was once increasingly progressive and secular, has been turned into a traumatized, repressive and conservatively Moslem country that has no creative manufacturing capability nor ability to produce intellectuals of any renown. But it all has been good for American companies like Texaco and Freeport McMoran who have been extracting gold, oil and other precious commodities.
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