“In the early hours of October 1, 1965, a group of junior officers in the Indonesian military assassinated six generals and threw their bodies down a well. Their coup attempt was crushed by nightfall, but the murders became the opening scene in the founding of present-day Indonesia. The senior surviving officer, General Suharto, accused Indonesia’s Communist Party of being behind the killings, and, in the words of historian John Roosa, an authority on these events, “orchestrated an extermination of persons affiliated with the party.” This was the height of the Cold War, and Indonesia had the largest communist party outside of a communist country, with affiliates ranging from labor unions to intellectuals to peasant farmers. In the name of saving Indonesia from the threat of Marxism, the army and its affiliated militias carried out one of the largest mass killings of the 20th century, executing 1.5 million suspected communists in less than a year.”
This piece on The Act of Killing by Michael Meyer also includes this bit: “What’s more, The Act of Killing contains little in the way of historical context. It doesn’t attempt to explain which portion of guilt should go to the Indonesian military that masterminded the killings, or to the Western governments that gave them direct aide to do so, or to the thugs like Congo who did the garroting and stabbing. The film’s lack of moral handholding makes many people deeply uncomfortable, but this ambiguity is the key to its power … “
I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know, but I guess it’s best to go back to the words of John Roosa (and Joseph Nevins) to put into context some of that ambiguity:
This collaboration between the U.S. and the top army brass in 1965 was rooted in Washington’s longstanding wish to have privileged and enhanced access to Southeast Asia’s resource wealth. Many in Washington saw Indonesia as the region’s centerpiece. Richard Nixon characterized the country as “containing the region’s richest hoard of natural resources” and “by far the greatest prize in the South-East Asian area.”  Two years earlier, in a 1965 speech in Asia, Nixon had argued in favor of bombing North Vietnam to protect Indonesia’s “immense mineral potential.”  But obstacles to the realization of Washington’s geopolitical-economic vision arose when the Sukarno government emerged upon independence in Indonesia. Sukarno’s domestic and foreign policy was nationalist, nonaligned, and explicitly anti-imperialist. Moreover, his government had a working relationship with the powerful PKI, which Washington feared would eventually win national elections.
Eisenhower’s administration attempted to break up Indonesia and sabotage Sukarno’s presidency by supporting secessionist revolts in 1958. When that criminal escapade of the Dulles brothers failed, the strategists in Washington reversed course and began backing the army officers of the central government. The new strategy was to cultivate anti-communist officers who could gradually build up the army as a shadow government capable of replacing President Sukarno and eliminating the PKI at some future date. The top army generals in Jakarta bided their time and waited for the opportune moment for what U.S. strategists called a final “showdown” with the PKI.  That moment came on October 1, 1965.
The destruction of the PKI and Sukarno’s ouster resulted in a dramatic shift in the regional power equation, leading Time magazine to hail Suharto’s bloody takeover as “The West’s best news for years in Asia.”  Several years later, the U.S. Navy League’s publication gushed over Indonesia’s new role in Southeast Asia as “that strategic area’s unaggressive, but stern, monitor,” while characterizing the country as “one of Asia’s most highly developed nations and endowed by chance with what is probably the most strategically authoritative geographic location on earth.”  Among other things, the euphoria reflected just how lucrative the changing of the guard in Indonesia would prove to be for Western business interests.
Suharto’s clique of army officers took power with a long-term economic strategy in mind. They expected the legitimacy of their new regime would derive from economic growth and that growth would derive from bringing in Western investment, exporting natural resources to Western markets, and begging for Western aid. Suharto’s vision for the army was not in terms of defending the nation against foreign aggression but defending foreign capital against Indonesians. He personally intervened in a meeting of cabinet ministers in December 1965 that was discussing the nationalization of the oil companies Caltex and Stanvac. Soon after the meeting began, he suddenly arrived by helicopter, entered the chamber, and declared, as the gleeful U.S. embassy account has it, that the military “would not stand for precipitous moves against oil companies.” Faced with such a threat, the cabinet indefinitely postponed the discussion.  At the same time, Suharto’s army was jailing and killing union leaders at the facilities of U.S. oil companies and rubber plantations. 
Once Suharto decisively sidelined Sukarno in March 1966, the floodgates of foreign aid opened up. The U.S. shipped large quantities of rice and cloth for the explicit political purpose of shoring up his regime. Falling prices were meant to convince Indonesians that Suharto’s rule was an improvement over Sukarno’s. The regime’s ability over the following years to sustain economic growth via integration with Western capital provided whatever legitimacy it had. Once that pattern of growth ended with the capital flight of the 1997 Asian economic crisis, the regime’s legitimacy quickly vanished. Middle class university students, the fruits of economic growth, played a particularly important role in forcing Suharto from office. The Suharto regime lived by foreign capital and died by foreign capital.
Meyer’s question about moral handholding and assigning “portions of guilt” seems to me really fucked-up at its core, like imperialism is just a fun ride in a really fast car, you can get on or off if you want, so you can evaluate “which portion of guilt should go to the Indonesian military that masterminded the killings, or to the Western governments that gave them direct aide to do so, or to the thugs like Congo who did the garroting and stabbing” as if these things don’t all operate within the very same same system.