For almost fifty years, the world was trapped in a “Wilderness of Mirrors,” a life or death political struggle between two nuclear superpowers. The Presidents of the United States and the Premiers of The Soviet Union made the key decisions, but their secret warriors, the CIA and the KGB, decided how to carry out the orders. The KGB saw as its greatest goals expanding Communism into the Third World Countries, securing Communism in Eastern Europe, and using threat and propaganda to weaken democratic or socialist governments. The CIA saw as its greatest power the subverting and containing Communism. Neither “empire” wanted a Hot War; but both engaged in activities that brought the world close to annihilation. At the height of the Cold War, each superpower had more than 25,000 nuclear warheads and didn’t destroy the world.
CONTRARIETY (contradiction, polarity, opposites in one) is a necessary part of nature; when used to confuse and create paranoia and paradox, CONTRARIETY undermines the ability of human beings to understand and cope with situations that are unwinnable. Thus, The Cold War was a precarious time steeped in confusion, contradiction, and irony. Since 2002, a new interest in The Cold War period has arisen; perhaps we are trying to figure out the puzzle. Maybe we see a terrifying similarity between then and now.
He and the family arrived in Washington for what was to be a two-week orientation. My mother, brother, sister, and I attended classes to learn things like “Never call a citizen a “native”; always refer to him as a “national.” “Never join or attend a group that meets at night in someone’s home, unless the group is sponsored by The American Embassy.” “Observe all curfews and keep your noses clean.” We were taught about protocol and culture shock.
At the end of the two weeks, my father announced that he was required to remain in Washington for intense training. We were not told the reason for this change in schedule, but my father was to be in classes from 8:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. The classes were to be held in Alexander, Virginia, very close to Langley, Virginia (Headquarters of the CIA).
Whether or not he knew at the time the reality of his mission, I never knew. But, we did know that he was anxious, troubled, and preoccupied. My father was not a very emotional man, but we could tell he was worried about the years ahead in Guatemala. He didn’t speak much of building schools.
In Guatemala, it was a time of crisis: soldiers lining the streets, curfews, and surveillance. Many times I was followed. Sometimes guards were posted at the gates of our home. My father’s driver mysteriously spoke almost perfect English, although he was introduced to us as an uneducated campeseno (farmer/peasant). Our mandatory live-in maid disappeared after a month with us; it was rumored that she was a Communist. After about a year and a half in Guatemala, my father grew afraid for the family and tried to get an early release. His request was denied.
Years later, I discovered that my father’s mission and my experience s in Guatemala had been part of the Cold War tapestry.
Description of the CIA
Complementary Value Relationship of SECRECY & PRESUMPTION
The CIA was the vanguard in America’s war against the Soviet Empire. The Heart and Soul lay in the men of the D.O. (Directorate of Operations). SECRECY was their shield; COVERT ACTION and ESPIONAGE their weapons. Many of these tough men, the secret warriors, are emerging to tell their stories about their battles. (The quoted remarks can be found on “Interviews With the CIA,” MP3, Otrtoday.com)
During the Cold War, the Directorate of Operations marched to the orders of nine presidents. In the beginning, these secret warriors were American’s best and brightest. Yale spawned many CIA agents. The secret societies and fraternities made it possible for men to learn BROTHERHOOD and LOYALTY and ALLEGIANCE TO THE GROUP...all necessary values for their roles ahead.
NATIONAL SECURITY -- A Major VALUE
One of the most important values after WW II was NATIONAL SECURITY. It was 1948; President Truman signed the act that gave birth to the Central Intelligence Agency. Its mandate was to contain Communism. Operation officers would help the President, whoever he might be. When diplomacy was impossible or inadvisable, the President could turn to his secret warriors whose operations would be hidden, not only from their foes but also from their elected officials and the citizens. If a cover action were discovered, the President could disavow knowledge of it.
PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY -- Competing Value RelationshipThus, the value of CONTRARIETY was in action: between willingness and unwillingness, understanding and ignoring. National Security during The Cold War demanded IGNORANCE.
In 1952 President Eisenhower brought in two brothers to stop Communism cold:
John Foster Dulles, a Wall Street broker, as Secretary of State, and Allan Dulles, a Yale OSS man with an appetite for covert action, as head of the CIA.
Only months after taking office, the Eisenhower-Dulles covert action plan began paying dividends. The first “hot spot” of the Cold War had begun in Korea in 1959. The world was up for grabs; some parts of the world were more precious than others, however. The Middle Ease with its oil was the most valuable of all. IRAN would be the CIA’s first successful operation in the Cold War.
In 1951, Premiere Mussadegh of Iran threatened to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. Although not pro-Soviet, Mussadegh had ousted the pro-American Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi who opposed the move to nationalize. The Shah had to be brought back. The CIA hired local mobs to protest against the Mussadegh government. Mussadehg was toppled and the Shah was returned to power. For the next 25 years with CIA aid, the Shah built a secret police force SAVAK that tortured and killed thousands of Iranians. Although the CIA had accomplished its first successful coup of the Cold war, in 1979, BLOWBACK would hit the US when 53 hostages were held for 44 days in the American Embassy in Tehran.
BLOWBACK -- Conflicting Value Relationship (blowback–the unintended consequences of covert action)
Next came Guatemala. This time it was bananas, instead of oil. The problem concerned the gigantic US corporation THE UNITED FRUIT COMPANY (see poem by Neruda). A popularly elected left wing government, headed by President Jacobo Arbenz, began seizing land of the United Fruit Company and redistributing it to the campesinos. The Dulles brothers with ties to the United Fruit Company saw a Communist menace developing in Latin America. According to Phillip Roettinger, CIA officer 1954-1964, “This operation had nothing to do with Communism and everything to do with business.”
At the end of 1997, the CIA declassified 1,400 pages of reports documenting its activities in Guatemala in the ‘50's and ‘60's. Before leaving office in 1952, President Truman gave approval to a secret police in Guatemala to begin shipping arms and money to opposition forces and training mercenaries. Arbenz had to be removed. After Eisenhower was sworn into office, a massive campaign was waged in the country. The CIA disguised old American planes to look like Guatemala aircraft and faked radio reports to create the illusion of a mass revolt that led tot the overthrow of Arbenz and his government.
Philip Roettinger, head of the Guatemala operation “Operation PB Success,” explains that “dramas” created “on site” reports, not unlike Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1938. All these radio reports simulated a real invasion and were believed by both the people of Guatemala and the American Congress. Arbenz fled first to Cuba, then to Prague. OPERATION PB SUCCESS replaced Arbenz with a right-wing military junta led by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas.
For more than forty years, the CIA helped the Guatemalan military fight a savage war against its own people thought to be communists or communist sympathizers. At least 100,000 civilians were killed and 50,000 disappeared. Documents released in 1997 show that the CIA trained assassins to kill 58 people on a “disposal list.” The documents include a 22-page how-to manual on murder. The list of CIA targets was also subjected to what was called “Nerve War”: death threats, phone calls “Preferably between 2 & 5 a.m.,” and other forms of intimidation. Fewer than 1 per cent of the CIA files on the Guatemala Cold War experience has been declassified.
What is known is frightening, yet no more vicious than the tactics used by the KGB. There were no men in white hats in this war nuclear supremacy and deception. For Americans, however, the acts of The Soviet Union, the inhuman brutality, were to be expected. The godless were the enemies of God and the US. What most of us did not know is that the so-called children of God were also complicity. The subversion, proxy wars, and torture meant victory; they were necessary. The USA held up one dictator after another, using NATIONAL SECURITY as the rationale.
Any opposition was labeled subversion. Protests by Mayan students, labor unions, and clergy were squashed. The CIA created the dreaded G2 military force and provided it with listening devices, technology, weapons, and training. The Death Squads that began in Guatemala after 1954 spread throughout Latin America. For three decades, people vanished, snatched off the streets by men in white gloves who became known as “Mono Blanco,” the White Hand. (See Carolyn Forche’s poem) “The Disappeared,” those who were never seen again, were fed to a network of torture camps and body dumps. Water was poisoned, crops burned. Killing in the name of anti-Communism became Guatemalan state policy. The CIA paid Guatemalan officials who ran the Scorched-Earth Policy and listed them as employees of the US Embassy. These atrocities were another case of BLOWBACK, the unintended consequences of the Cold Warriors.
Latin American counterinsurgents were trained in these techniques at the School of the Americas in For Benning, Georgia. “Established in 1946, the center has trained more than 60,000 soldiers and police, mostly from Latin America, in counterinsurgency, and combat-related skills. So widely documented is the participation of the school’s graduates in murder, torture, and repression that in 2001 the school officially changed its name to the WESTERN HEMISPHERE INSTITUTE FOR SECURITY COOPERATION” (http://www.soaw.org). Among the graduates were Manuel Noreiga, convicted drug trafficker and murderer, and Roberto D’Aubuisson, tyrannical dictator of El Salvador and organizer of the death squads that tortured and killed thousands of people, including Bishop Romero and Sister Diana Ortiz (www1.umn.edu/humanrts/cases/Guatemala31-96.htm & salt.claretainpubs.orgromero/romero.htlm).
As I look back, I realize why my activities were so closely monitored. In my temporary position as teacher in an English speaking private school, I taught young children of American government officials. My father often warned me to be careful. I now realize why.
While looking through my father’s papers, I found records of monies allotted to building schools and paying teachers “laundered” to train soldiers. When my father brought his family home, he kept loaded rifles in the house, something he had never before done. Many a night he would walk the floor.
When John F. Kennedy assumed office, he was hit by the failure of the Bay of Pigs. No Plausible Deniability was possible for him; the agency had failed to conceal its role. Soon, Allan Dulles was fired. Due to the appeal of Kennedy’s outreach to the young, the CIA recruited a new batch of young, eager men and women. They called themselves “Adult Boy Scouts” and a new romance was brought to secret warfare -- PROXY ARMIES.
PROXY ARMIES (UTILITARIAN VALUE
Using armies of another country so as to remain distanced and non-responsible. (It’s not our fault.)
Although the Bay of Pigs operation was a disaster, Kennedy was intrigued by the possibilities of covert action. Besides continuing Latin American operations, Kennedy turned his attention to a tiny country in South east Asia, Laos.
“There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long range coasts and risks of inaction. (Kennedy, 1961)”
As countries of Southeast Asia began to liberate themselves from colonial rule, the US worried that these countries would be attracted to Communism. By 1961, Communists were making inroads into Laos and her US-backed government. Kennedy sent in his secret warriors who trained tribesmen in the mountains. Tony Po, hard drinking veteran of Iwo Jima, was assigned case officer to the region. So legendary a character was Tony Po that he may have been the model for Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now.” To supply the proxy war, the CIA set up its own fleet “AIR AMERICA.”
Po referred the operation: “Missionaries flying for the Christians in Action, the CIA!” He claimed that he was involved in the “most beautiful killing operation” of his life. He wore eight pairs of ears on his belt, and once when his legend was questioned by another officer, he sent back two dozen ears in a special package (air-america.org/newspaper).
By 1965, the USA had decided to pursue a more conventional war in Southeast Asia. CIA officers in Laos were dismissed and sent elsewhere. Their operation was finished. They left behind 80,000dead Hmong, remnants of an ancient culture. But, National Security was being threatened. William Colby was assigned to Saigon in 1968 to rout out the Communists. This operation would become one of the most notorious missions in the history of the CIA.
To implement the so-called Pacification Program, Colby and his case officers handed out 500,000 weapons, not to soldiers but to the people in the villages. It was known as Operation Phoenix. Ralph McGeHee, case officer for the project, had grave doubts about the program:
“The idea was that the Communist movement consisted of guerrillas terrorizing the people when in actuality the majority of the villagers were Communists who were dedicated to fighting the Americans. We were fighting a war in Vietnam that had nothing to do with reality.”
Operation Phoenix was a nightmare. People were arrested, tortured, and assassinated. Phoenix teams were sent out to assassinate persons whose names were supplied by the CIA. To signify success, the Ace of Spades was placed in the mouths of the dead. This was the calling card of the Phoenix team. McGeHee estimates that 40,000 Vietnamese were murdered. For McGeHee, the job took a great personal toll. After considering and rejecting suicide, he left the agency and has been an outspoken critic of the CIA.
Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America were the greatest fields for the CIA proxy wars during the Cold War. Phillip Agee, case officer 1957-1969, writes that the CIA placed bombs in churches and then left Communist propaganda to incite enormous demonstrations against Communism. Agree writes of his experience while stationed in Uruguay: “Suddenly I heard a wailing coming through the wall, a screaming that grew louder. The horrible sounds made it quite clear that someone was being tortured. I realized what I was working to support” (Agee. Inside the Company: CIA DIARY).
In 1969, Philip Agee did the unthinkable; he published INSIDE THE COMPANY: CIA DIARY. It was the first expose of CIA secret operations. As the book went to press in 1974, revelations began pouring out about the US’s involvement in Chili to oust President Salvador Allende. Like Socialist Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Allend had to be removed. Nixon’s CIA orchestrated strikes, food shortages, and the coup that left Allende no other alternative but to take his life.
When the story about the involvement into the Chile situation broke in 1974 in the wake of Watergate, Congress initiated a Congressional Hearing that went after the CIA with a vengeance. A shocked nation heard about secret drug experiments that tested LSD on unwilling American soldiers to see what the effects would be should the Soviets decide to use mind control. The CIA hired narcotic agents to run the program. FBI Narcotics agent Ira “Ike” Feldman testified to the committee that he set up brothels to conduct sex and drug experiments. Agents also revealed a dozen assassination devices and schemes to kill Castro, one to infect him with botulism. Also discovered was the use of Mafia hit men. For awhile, the glory days of the CIA were over (pwl.netcom.com/~cia_info.htm).
Ronald Reagan and CIA Director William Casey, an old Cold Warrior, ushered in a new age of CIA activism and revived America’s war against Communism. They launched their first attack in Central America. Reagan warned that if we did nothing, there would be bases on our doorstep. Money and manpower went into this effort in Nicaragua; the CIA was back in business.
Assigned to the mission was hardline veteran “Dewey Clarridge. Casey told Clarridge to take a couple of months off and decide what plan to take in Central America. In 1979 the Sandinista Revolution, backed by Castro, had toppled pro-American dictator Anastasio Samoza and brought a socialist government to power. As had happened in Guatemala and Chile, the secret warriors were given the task to keep the revolution from spreading.
Clarridge: “It didn’t take rocket science or two months to figure out what outa be done down there. We should take the war to Nicaragua and we should start killing Cubans. Start making life difficult for the Cubans in Nicaragua” (A Spy for All Seasons, Duane Clarridge).
In 1981 Reagan convinced Congress to fund a very limited operation and created the force known as “The Contras.”
Clarridge: “The Contra’s were Reagan’s boys...no way he was ever going to let them down. He asked me once, ‘Do you think you can get your vandals to attack the airport?’ I laughed and told him my ‘vandals’ couldn’t get away with that. I did, however, go to the port and left the whole town on fire. Reagan wanted something to destabilize the government, and I said, ‘Mines are the way to go.’”
The mission grew more and more out of control. Mines might have seemed like a good idea, but when the news broke, Congress began to question mines against civilians. And, in 1984, Congress outlawed all aid to the Contras. In the name of NATIONAL SECURITY, William Casey had other ideas. Thus, the Iran-Contra Affair began. With Oliver North at the helm, a secret enterprise outside the agency was set up to see arms to Iran and send the cash to the Contras. Both were illegal. The agency was tarnished again.
CONTRARIETY: The mutual resistance of certain things due to their divergent ends...
The year was 1979 when the Cold War heated up. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. The roots of the war lay in the overthrow of the centrist Afghanistan government in April, 1978, by left wing military officers. Having little popular support, the new government forged close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless purges of all domestic opposition, and began extensive land and social reforms that were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and largely anti-Communist population. Muslim tribal-based insurgencies arose against the government which prompted the invasion of the country by 30,000 Soviet troops in December, 1979 (www.alternativeinsight.com/Afghan_war.htlm).
The rebellion of the Mujahedin grew in response and spread throughout the country. William Casey assigned two veteran officers to train the Mujahedin. The initial idea was to “bleed the bear”–to make the war as costly as possible for the USSR, but Casey wanted more. His words were “GO WIN!” His men put together an exotic coalition of Egyptian, Polish, and Chinese arms dealers to equip the fiercely independent Afghan guerrillas. What eventfully brought down the Soviets was the US made Stinger Missile (www.uiowa.edu/~the soviet-afghan war). Inside the Agency the officers debated the wisdom of giving Islamic Fundamentalists such a lethal weapon, but Casey was determined to beat the Communists, and his will prevailed. What a victory!! On February, 1989, the Red Army was defeated. The following December, the Berlin Wall was torn down.
THE COLD WAR WAS OVER.
Years of fighting PROXY WARS in the name of justice and democracy had not led to peace, however. The invisible hand of American power had overthrown governments, created secret armies, consorted with drug lords, hired assassins: “Get the guns into the hands of the shooters and let God sort it out. To terrorize the world, you need the CIA.” The operations of the CIA helped to win the Cold War, but the victories brought Unintended Consequences: BLOWBACK. The terrorized world would not forget. When the gods have important messages to deliver, it seems they often choose rather flawed messengers. Maybe it’s their way of trying to insure that we humans won’t confuse the message with the messenger. It is the law of CONTRARIETY.
Blowback hit home in 1979 when 53 hostages in Tehran were held by anti-American supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini. For the first time, the world was hit with the surprise that a superpower could be vulnerable. The CIA had managed Iran’s mobs; now they were at the mercy of the mob. Rage against America had simmered in the streets, and now it was payback time. We didn’t understand the culture of Iran. We did not anticipate that we would be The Great Satan.
In 1983 BLOWBACK hit again. This time the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was bombed. It was the deadliest attack on a US diplomatic mission up to that time. Sixty-three people, including nine CIA employees, were killed. The attack was motivated by the American intervention into the Lebanese Civil War in 1975-76. The dreaded word HEZBOLLAH was heard for the first time. This was a new kind of enemy–difficult to locate, impossible to destroy.
After numerous attacks were determined to emanate from Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi, Reagan revamped the CIA. He formed the Counter-Terrorist Unit, and in 1987 Tripoli, Libya, was bombed. Qaddafi’s stepdaughter was killed along with many others. It was a blood debt that had to be settled. BLOWBACK came in 1988. Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbee, Scotland. Qaddafi had his revenge; 270 passengers were killed.
The world had become a hell. The “Wilderness of Mirrors” was casting shadows as well as shattered images. For the proud bearers of Mediterranean Monomythic values, The Cold War was turning into confusion: no one knew what winning meant, and the enemy seemed to be everywhere and everyone. After the highjacking of the Achille Lauro, the CIA turned to Saddam Hussein.
Reagan and Casey set up a secret deal to help Saddam in the Iron-Iraq war. The US promised intelligence to help Hussein for the assurance that Iraq would no longer harbor international terrorists. Included in the deal was the demand for Abu Abbas, PLO terrorist responsible for the Achille Lauro highjacking. Hussein never gave up Abbas; he invaded Kuwait in 1990. Although his regime is gone, the region is chaos.
The greatest irony of the Cold War was the very involvement that ended Soviet influence. The defeat of the Red Army brought the unintended consequences of the terrorist attacks on US soil. The CIA training camps in Afghanistan taught young Muslim men everything from making bombs to shooting down helicopters. Reagan had ordered the defeat of the Soviets, and his secret warriors would do it. The CIA’s job was to see which groups should get the most money and weapons. The chose the most fundamental group, the one who most hated the West. WHAT A DEVIL’S BARGAIN! Despite repeated warnings, the CIA made alliances with the most radical anti-western forces. The rationale was that the more radical, the more committed and willing to fight the Soviets. That was all that mattered. The Cold War had become the Theater of the Absurd. The CIA refused to consider the differences among the Islamic groups.
While being trained by the Americans to fight the Soviets, the Muslims were being prepared by the Clerics to destroy the United States. At the same time the Mujahedin were taking weapons and money from the CIA, they were displaying banners in the mosques showing the CIA as the invisible hand of the Great Satan (http://www.alternativeinsight.com/).
Blowback from Afghanistan brought tragedy of the US, first in 1993 and then 2001, both at the World Trade Center.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” This is the inscription in the lobby of the CIA Headquarters. The goal of espionage to uncover truth, but in the Wilderness of Mirrors, the truth can be hard to find. During the almost 50 years of the Cold War, nothing was as it seemed.
See also Chris Ohan's "Introduction
to the Cold War Cultural Matrix," written for Texas Wesleyan University