How the US Spent Billions to Change the Outcome of Elections Around the World: A Review

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The U.S. military state overthrows democratically-elected governments that it deems to be a threat to corporate interests.

“There is plenty of evidence that the United States is the most depraved and dangerous “meddler” in the affairs of other nations that history has ever known.”

Dan Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer, but most of all he is an anti-imperialist and an author of three books. Kovalik’s first two books tackled the specific US war drives against Russia and Iran. His third installment, The Plot to Control the World: How the US Spent Billions to Change the Outcome of Elections Around the World, addresses the broad scope of US election meddling abroad. The book provides much needed political and ideological life support to an anti-war movement in the U.S that has been rendered nearly invisible to the naked eye.

The Plot to Control the World is as detailed in its critique of U.S. imperialism as it is concise. In just over 160 pages, Kovalik manages to analyze the various ways that the U.S. political and military apparatus interferes in the affairs of nations abroad to achieve global hegemony. He wastes no time in exposing the devastating lie that is American exceptionalism, beginning appropriately with the U.S. imperialist occupations of Haiti and the Philippines at the end of the 19thcentury and beginning of the 20th. The U.S. would murder millions of Filipinos and send both nations into a spiral of violence, instability, and poverty that continues to this day. As Kovalik explains regarding Haiti, “While the specific, claimed justifications for [U.S.] intervention changed over time- e.g., opposing the end of slavery, enforcing the Monroe Doctrine, fighting Communism, fighting drugs, restoring law and order — the fact is that the interventions never stopped and the results for the Haitian people have been invariably disastrous.”

“Kovalik wastes no time in exposing the devastating lie that is American exceptionalism.”

US expansionism has relied upon the ideology of American exceptionalism to silence criticism and weaken anti-war forces in the United States. American exceptionalism claims that the U.S. is a force for good in the world and completely justified in its wars of conquest draped in the cover of spreading “democracy and freedom” around the world. Kovalik challenges American exceptionalism by showing readers just how much damage that US expansionism and militarism has caused for nations and peoples in every region of the planet.Russia, Honduras, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Vietnam and many other nations have seen their societies devastated by U.S. “election meddling.” In Honduras, for example, a U.S.-backed coup of left-wing President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 made the nation one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, indigenous person, or trade-union/environmental activist. Thousands of Hondurans have been displaced, disappeared, or assassinated since the coup.

Another important aspect of The Plot to Control the World is its exposure of U.S hypocrisy surrounding the subject of “election meddling.” Since the end of the 2016 Presidential elections, the U.S. military, political, and media branches of the imperialist state have accused Russia of virtually implanting Donald Trump into the Oval office. The U.S. public has been fed a steady dose of anti-Russia talking points in an apparent effort on the part of the elites to beat the drums of war with the nuclear-armed state. No evidence has been presented to prove the conspiracy, as a recent National Public Radio (NPR) analysis states plainly. However, there is plenty of evidence that the United States is the most depraved and dangerous “meddler” in the affairs of other nations that history has ever known.

“The author shows readers just how much damage that US expansionism and militarism has caused for nations and peoples in every region of the planet.”

Just ask the much-vaunted Russians. Kovalik devotes an entire chapter to the 1996 Presidential election in Russia that re-elected the wildly unpopular Boris Yeltsin. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 began an era of “shock therapy” in the newly erected Russian Federation, a euphemism for the wholesale theft and transfer of socialized wealth into the hands of oligarchs and multinational corporations. Millions would perish in Russia from an early death due to the sudden loss of healthcare, housing, jobs, and other basic services. In 1996, President Bill Clinton ensured that Yeltsin maintained his near total grip on state power in Russia by providing the Russian President with a team of U.S. political consultants and over a billion dollars’ worth of IMF monies directly to the campaign. U.S. political and monetary support allowed Yeltsin to rig the election in his favor despite his dwindling popularity. Kovalik shows that if anyone should worry about election meddling, it should be the people of Russia and not the US elites that control Washington.

The Plot to Control the World takes readers into the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the CIA’s coup of revolutionary Patrice Lumumba continues to haunt the resource rich nation in the form of endless US-backed genocide. It travels to Guatemala, where the CIA overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz led to a U.S.-backed slaughter of a quarter million Guatemalans under the auspices of several military dictatorships. Kovalik shows us that the election of the fascistic Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil was no aberration, as the U.S. was primarily responsible for the rise in fascism in Brazilthrough its direct role in placing the nation under the control of a military dictatorship in 1964. The military dictatorship predated the CIA’s ouster of Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1973, which handed the once socialist state to Augusto Pinochet’s murderous and repressive leadership.

“The mission is always the same: to destabilize independent nations that refuses to bow down to the dictates of U.S. imperialism.”

The entire skeleton of the U.S. military state is on full display in The Plot to Control the World. The U.S. military state utilizes an array of tools to overthrow democratically-elected governments that it deems to be a threat to corporate interests. These tools include the U.S. intelligence agencies, so-called Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the National Endowment for Democracy, and the various branches of the military itself, to name a few. Regardless of the tools employed, the mission is always the same: to destabilize independent nations that refuses to bow down to the dictates of U.S. imperialism.Thus, while Nicaragua, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Vietnam may possess unique histories, their economic and political development has been shaped by the destructive interference of the United States.

Dan Kovalik is not likely to be reviewed in the New York Timesor other corporate outlets. That’s because Kovalik unapologetically speaks out against U.S. empire and all that upholds it. In doing so, Kovalik’s The Plot to Control the World walks in the footsteps of anti-imperialists such as Michael Parenti and William Blum. Blum, a former State Department employee, spent his post-State Department life providing humanity with knowledge about how US imperialism operates on the global stage. The New York Timeswasted no time in slandering Blum in their obituary . This showed the great lengths that the ruling elites will go to discredit, defame, and condemn critics of the military industrial complex and how important it is for those who oppose war let go of any expectation that the corporate media will cover Kovalik’s work or anyone else who speaks out against war.

“White supremacy is the biggest lie of all and is completely embedded in the ideology of American exceptionalism.”

With that said, one of the reasons that the left in the U.S. is so weak is because it has been numerically and politically isolated by the lies of the Empire. White supremacy is the biggest lie of all and is completely embedded in the ideology of American exceptionalism. Despite the ruthlessness of the austerity and incarceration regimes, many Americans continue to be convinced that the U.S. is the most exceptional nation in the world and do not balk when its military wages wars abroad at the expense of U.S. tax dollars and civilian lives. U.S. imperialism has made sure that Americans feel that they are special colonizers who see the victims of the U.S. military state as savages worthy of slaughter. The Plot to Control the World is based on a different premise: internationalism. The book links the struggle against US imperialism to the needs of the oppressed and working class living in the heart of empire, making it an essential read for those who are sick and tired of the prevailing narrative of American exceptionalism and want to be armed with knowledge that is essential toward changing it.

By Danny Haiphong/BAR

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Dick Cheney: Restart enhanced interrogation programs

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney said the U.S. should restart its enhanced interrogation techniques — often considered torture — after the issue was thrust to the forefront during Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to become CIA director.

“If it were my call, I would not discontinue those programs,” he said in an interview that aired Thursday morning on Fox Business. “I’d have them active and ready to go, and I’d go back and study them and learn.”

 Cheney has long defended the post-9/11 tactics even as the national climate shifted over the years. Congress has since banned them.

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The CIA’s 60-Year History of Fake News: How the Deep State Corrupted Many American Writers “They drank the Kool-Aid and thought they were saving freedom.”

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Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” explores how the CIA influenced acclaimed writers and publications during the Cold War to produce subtly anti-communist material. During the interview, Scheer and Whitney discuss these manipulations and how the CIA controlled major news agencies and respected literary publications (such as the Paris Review).


Their talk comes at a particularly tense time in American politics, as accusations of fake news and Russian propaganda fly from both sides of the aisle. But the history detailed in Whitney’s book presents a valuable lesson for writers hoping to avoid similar manipulations today.

Scheer opens the discussion with the question: “Were they really tricked?”

“It could have been ‘paid,’ it could have been ‘subsidized,’ it could have been ‘used,’ it could have been ‘collaborated with,’ ” Whitney responds. “So yeah, it might have been any other verb there besides ‘tricked.’”

The two then delve into the tactics used by the CIA to influence writers. Whitney notes that the fearful political atmosphere at the time led to “secrecy being used to preside over and rule over the free press — which we’re supposed to be the champions of.”

“They drank the Kool-Aid and thought they were saving freedom,” Scheer agrees.

The discussion underscores the need for analysis of Cold War-era media as a way to avoid propagandized journalism today. Scheer says, “I look at the current situation, where we don’t even have a good communist enemy, so we’re inventing Russia as a reborn communist power enemy.”

“I call it superpolitics,” Whitney concludes, “where essentially there’s something that’s so evil and so frightening that we have to change how our democratic institutions work.”

Listen to the full interview below. Don’t have time to stream the full interview? Download it and listen on the go by clicking on the “arrow” button. You can also read a full transcript of the conversation below.


Robert Scheer: Greetings. This is another edition of Scheer Intelligence. I’m Robert Scheer, but the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case it’s Joel Whitney, who’s just written a really terrific book called “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” And actually, my only disagreement with the book is a little bit with the title. So let me just begin there, and you can lay out the thesis. But it’s the story, of course, about how the CIA secretly funded the Congress [for] Cultural Freedom and lots of other organizations, and got involved right after World War II and continued right through the Cold War, basically manipulating publications and movies, everything else, to so-called “win the battle of ideas” with the Soviets, and ended up in the process adopting some of their more nefarious means. But when you say the CIA tricked the world’s best writers, you’re talking about a pretty sharp group of people, like [George] Plimpton and [William] Styron and all that. Were they really tricked?

Joel Whitney: Well, that’s a great first question. I did an event in Berkeley last week, and actually had a Paris Review magazine veteran come by and ask me essentially that same question. And his reservation was the word “finks” and the word “tricked.” More “finks,” though, which he thought was derogatory as someone who had been at the Paris Review. He, you know, he may have felt that there was some, whether well-intentioned or misinformed, idea of patriotism. And “finks,” of course, as you know when you finish the book, comes from one of my characters. “Tricked” was the word I settled on, “how the CIA tricked the world’s best writers;” it could have been “paid,” it could have been “subsidized,” it could have been “used,” it could have been “collaborated with.” And I actually envisioned at one point–I couldn’t sell this to my editor–a cover where in sort of lighter shadow behind the word “tricked” would be all those other words going up and down the front of the book. Yeah, I think a lot of the writers had different motives. And actually, some of them, throughout the book, you’ll see–you’ll remember they changed their minds. So some of them were more in favor in the early fifties; by the time the Vietnam War hits, and the CIA’s reputation is a little more tarnished, some of them were less enthralled with the agency and other kinds of anti-communist institutions. So, yeah, it might have been any other verb there besides “tricked.”

RS: What I found, and knowing some of these people, they’re a pretty sharp bunch. I mean, this really goes to, I think, more David Halberstam’s idea in “The Best and the Brightest,” his classic work on what happened in Vietnam. That these were the best products of the meritocracy; this was the creme de la creme of Harvard and Yale, and the Yale Review, and all that sort of thing; the brightest minds, the most talented people. And for whatever reason, sometimes for greed but also, you know, they bought into it–what they bought into was basically a stupefyingly simplistic and wrong-headed notion of what was going on in the world. That’s the overwhelming thought I came away with from your book, which is great in detail, great storytelling; you know, whether it’s about Pasternak or whether it’s about Sontag or anybody–I mean, they’re all in there, there’s a lot of really rich detail. But the overwhelming sense that I got from this book was how once again, using Halberstam’s idea of “The Best and the Brightest,” how did this group of people–who certainly were literate and well-traveled and tested well and got great grades at the best schools and studied under the best people–get it so wrong?

JW: Yeah, I think the idea of the oversimplification that you described in your question, I think that’s accurate. And I think the sharper ones were further, were more removed from that simplification. And then what you see are several groups in the anti-communist movements, several actual organizations that were sort of recruiting people that were representing the CIA’s slush funds, who are luring people in who have standing internationally, people who can do some soft power work but might, if they know exactly what’s going on, they might be a little too critical of it. So if you start, for instance, in Berlin after World War II, you have a group of people who were familiar with Stalinist methods to the degree that perhaps they were traumatized by them. So those people were sincere, but they weren’t necessarily nuanced in their understanding of maybe how to fight totalitarianism. They thought essentially that the best method was to fight fire with fire. So in a way, these were guys who had a conspiracy theory. Their conspiracy theory went like this: Soviet Russia is penetrating organizations around the world; they had some evidence, Comintern and other organizations. But they had no sense of scale, and I think by the time you have McCarthy discredited in the middle fifties, some of these guys were probably willing to dial back some of their initial fears. But by then, they’d set this great movement in motion where it was just huge amounts of money that the CIA could offer. And so what I look at, as you remember in the book, is just I look at these little intellectual magazines that were initially recruited to do two things: one, to push back against anti-Americanism. So they wanted to tout and brag about our high culture, because in Western Europe, which was the key battleground, we were known for our pop and low culture; we were known for martial funds, we were known for our tanks. So one can sort of appreciate that. But then it comes with another idea, which is to discredit the Soviet Union as often as can be. And when you see that, how it plays out, you start to see disinformation beginning to spread. And what you see presiding over both sides of that idea is a regime of secrecy, which is problematic when you’re talking about magazines, because you’re talking about secrecy being used to preside over and rule over the free press that we’re supposed to be the champions of.

RS: The reason your book is compelling, and I think people should read it–and let me just be clear right up front, I read it straight through, [laughs], I think I had one breakfast break. But I enjoyed it enormously, because it really makes these characters come alive. And they’re not cardboard characters, whether you’re talking about Irving Kristol, or you’re talking about, you know, Irving Howe or George Plimpton or anybody–there’s whole bunches of them run through the book, and you really are introduced to the cultural life of Paris and London and New York and so forth. But again, I keep getting back to this one question, you know; there’s a thing in the newspaper business, I remember one editor telling me “too good to check.” And maybe when somebody’s writing you an actual check, and you’re getting money and you’re getting first-class airfare, and they’re funding your wonderful magazine, your little magazine, so you don’t have to go to your parents–because most of these people were super rich, and they could just go to their uncle or father or something and get some more money. But still it was now, you know, classy to get it from some secret Fleischmann’s Yeast or something [Laughs], that was a front for the CIA. You know, and so yeah, you’re involved in intrigue and all that, which I guess a lot of writers like to be involved in; but the idea that they drank the Kool-Aid and thought they were saving freedom is the part that I still don’t get.

JW: It does seem like there was a big pivot after World War II, and I think one of the organizations that normalized the idea of secrecy ruling over the media–which is eventually what you end up with in a program like this–was the OSS. A lot of the people, the founding lights of the CIA, came to see that the OSS had done some great work in, as they saw it, thwarting the Nazis during World War II. So a lot of the people who founded the CIA, they understood that if the Soviet communists were using secrecy to penetrate our organizations, instead of thinking of how do we stop the penetration, it seems like it turned into a system of let’s preemptively penetrate our own organizations, just to make sure we can watch them and keep them on the up-and-up. And of course one of the ways that they keep people in line, as you say, was through the money. So in terms of the official magazines that the CIA created and presided over, the British spy who overthrew Mosaddegh, he would have been, in June of 1953–his name was Christopher Montague Woodhouse–he would have been working on the CIA magazine for London, Encounter. He would have empowered the two editors, one American, one Brit, Stephen Spender on the British side, Irving Kristol on the American side, both working out of London; one paid through secrecy of the British state, one paid indirectly through the CIA. The spy overseeing this, Woodhouse, he would have then turned in the late summer towards overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh. And then later, he’s also feeling so good about this system of, what essentially you have are coups as covert ops and then long-term soft-power propaganda, also on the covert ops side of the CIA and British secret services. So he feels so good about this that he’s later on a contributor to Encounter. So magazines like Encounter, they were created in Paris, they were created in Italy, they were created all over Europe; and then they spread to the Nordic countries, they spread to the Third World. What they did was they involved people at different levels. So the people in the know would be people who were editors and regular contributors, and it would even for them be kind of an open secret. So one person I interviewed was a guy named Nelson Aldrich, and he collaborated first–well, he worked for, I should say, first with the Paris Review. The Paris Review was not one of those magazines created by the CIA, or if it was, it was sort of indirectly used. It was used as Peter Matthiessen, the writer who was one of its founders, as his cover in Paris in the early fifties. But then he says he resigned from the CIA and there was no connection. Well, later on, George Plimpton, the famous writer and man about New York, was the public face of the Paris Review through its formative years and for many decades; he found a way to get CIA money through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, its cultural propaganda front. So that’s a second tie. Later on in my research, I found a third tie through a founding managing editor. So you have such a vast network of money for culture that in one organization, one magazine that’s sort of only a tangential CIA asset or friend, you can find three big separate ties.

RS: I’m glad I got this chance to talk to you, because the book reads the way you talk. It’s not vindictive, it’s not smearing people, it’s not doing what they did, actually. What these folks did in the name of anti-communism was they were perfectly happy, thrilled, to sail out and destroy their buddies, their college classmates, to smear them, smear intellectuals that they respected. That’s really what happened. You know, you’re using your power, your clout. And there’s an analogy right now, I think, with this whole discussion of fake news. These people were actually doing fake news. They were being paid by a government agency, the CIA, cooperating, following instructions, and sometimes censoring articles, editing them and so forth, so they’re part of an official government propaganda regime that continues right up through Vietnam and everything else. And so they become a caricature of the whole, you know, democratic experiment, which is certainly not what the Founders had in mind. And they get very vindictive towards people who disagree with the narrative. And the reason I began the way I did, asking you–the irony here is the people who objected to their official narrative turned out to be, quite early on, right. So for example, you mentioned Nelson Aldrich, and you have him placed as one of those people who knew what was going on. Well, I knew Nelson Aldrich as a guy I would chat with at Elaine’s in New York for years. And by that point, of the sixties, he knew it was all bogus. He was not a supporter of the Vietnam War. And in fact he wrote a very good book about the elite and how out of touch they are, the economic elite, and so forth. And I found him quite supportive of Ramparts, you know; I couldn’t get any money from him, from his wealthy relatives, but nonetheless he seemed like a–

JW: [Laughs] Gotta try.

RS: And you mentioned another person, you know; one point where, I don’t know, I was a little unhappy with, you mentioned Frances Fitzgerald, the famous writer of “Fire In the Lake” and “Wild Blue Yonder,” great journalist; and her father was a well-known, you know, deputy head of the whole CIA, Desmond Fitzgerald. But the fact is, Frances Fitzgerald also–she’d studied with Zbigniew Brzezinski, she’d gone to the best Ivy League schools– but the fact is, very early on, she embraced an opposite view. She saw that the Vietnam War was bogus, it was a fiction, and the claims made were wrong. And she wrote a devastating book on it very early on. So it just seemed to me, the crowd you’re describing, I’m not going to minimize the damage they did, because they stifled debate; they prevented a good discussion from taking place that would have avoided Vietnam. OK? It would have avoided the confrontation with Cuba. It would have avoided the overthrow of Mossadegh, you know, and we go down the whole list. So I’m not minimizing the destructive, you know, impact that they had and the stupefying, really, the ignorance of the debate. And I’ll just give two examples of that, you know, but I want to get back to how quickly some people, at least, escaped this net, including William Styron and others. But two villains that really emerged in their world were Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. And it’s interesting, because both of those people, particularly Bertrand Russell, had impeccable anti-communist credentials. Bertrand Russell, you know, had famously attacked communism as an evil, and anti-intellectual and stifling of thought; and certainly Sartre had shown a considerable independence. But yet because they teamed up to do something called the Vietnam War Crimes Commission, and they challenged America in a very fundamental way on what it was doing, not only in Vietnam, elsewhere–this same crowd, the ones that were still influential, went out to destroy Sartre and Russell. So what I want to get across is it’s not minor what they did; your book exposes the fundamental distortion of American politics during the post-Cold War period, which is where all the stupidity came from. My only question–and it makes for a great read, and it really reveals a lot. I look at the current situation where we don’t even have a good communist enemy, because the communists that are in power are the ones we’re trading with in [China] now. So we’re inventing Russia as a reborn communist power or enemy, and we have this whole campaign now as if, you know, now Putin is the evil empire. And so there is a current echo in sort of how easy it is to manipulate people.

JW: Yeah. Well, just on the first point you made about the meanness or the lack of meanness in the book, that was something I wanted to be very conscientious about when I went through edits with my editor. There’s a great scholar and writer at UC Berkeley who said something that I saw quoted recently: “Be tough on the institutions, and be soft on the people.” And that was reinforced again and again when I saw some of the collaborators with these cultural fronts of the CIA changing their minds, learning from things like Vietnam. And seeing them change their minds actually gave me a lot of hope, because you know, you can be on the payroll; you can be someone who’s an operator; you can be someone who thinks of the world as a good side and a bad side, and therefore whatever we do represents the good side. And then you can wake up from that. You mentioned Sartre; he was absolutely attacked by one of the CIA’s magazines, and his magazine was seen as a threat, and the French magazine Preuves, based out of Paris, was in some ways an answer to Sartre’s magazine and his attempts to deal, to treat the United States the way it should be treated. When it was going against its values, he would call them out on that. Neruda, Pablo Neruda, the poet, was another one who suffered severe reputational damage by this cultural front of the CIA, the Congress for Cultural Freedom. When they found out, some of these operators found out that he was up for the Nobel in ‘63, they wrote a quiet, sort of secret white paper about him, and they made some links to Stalinism through his Stalin [Peace] Prize. And it was, of course, the year that Stalin had died that he took it. And they also made up some stuff that I think was, you know, viciously untrue, that he was in on the attempt to murder Trotsky. So this is reputational damage that then is doubled later by the CIA’s actual overthrow of his friend in Chile, Salvador Allende. So what I see is if someone’s being physically harmed by the CIA, that’s one thing that we’ve accounted for in a lot of historical books and political books; if someone’s being reputationally damaged by CIA propaganda, you see that in some of the academic books that look at the so-called cultural Cold War. But I wanted to remove the wall between those two areas and show that both of those things happened in a context where a lot of people were just made terrified by the fact that you had evil on one side and a fighting-fire-with-fire mentality on so-called, quote unquote, our side.

RS: [omission] We’re back with Joel Whitney, and the book is called “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.” So, Joel, let me ask you a question that I was about to ask when we took our break. I’m going to talk a little bit about the CIA, because the [sub]title of your book is “how the CIA tricked the world’s best writers.” And there we get into a pretty sinister cast of characters. And I just want to bring up one who shows up a lot, because I know something about him from my own Freedom of Information files, because I was the editor of Ramparts and I was involved in some of this stuff. And that’s James Jesus Angleton. And I am the proud possessor of a record in which J. Edgar Hoover, at one point after all the Ramparts stuff, exonerated me and said he’s going to close the Scheer case–I was the last, well, not the last, but I was the editor of Ramparts at a critical moment. And he had investigated me at the behest of the CIA and, largely, James Jesus Angleton. And he said, there’s no there there; this guy likes to have a good time, he wants to meet women, he wants to have good meals [Laughter], but the fact is we’ve been investigating him for, I don’t know what it was, five years around the clock and there’s no there there. OK. And James Jesus Angleton, and others in the CIA, denounced him! And said, you can’t do this. You know, and so forth; I wasn’t the only one they wanted to go after. But you know, these guys were playing hardball. And they wouldn’t mind, when you traveled to another country–because I found myself getting harassed in different countries. I was in jail briefly in Mexico and I was in jail briefly in Lithuania, you know, and other places, Algeria and so forth; I didn’t want to get paranoid about it, but they had a reach worldwide where they could make your life really rough, or end it, for that matter. So what about James Jesus Angleton? What have you learned about this guy?

JW: Well, he was part of this post-OSS group that understood how important spying and covert ops had been in World War II. And from there, he makes all kinds of terrible mistakes. He and his group believed essentially that they needed to do better propaganda than the Soviets did, and one of the ways that they thought they could do it better was to do it subtly and, you could say, secretly. So when this program is threatened with exposure in ‘64, ‘65, ‘66 and ‘67 through various sources like Ramparts and The New York Times, this privilege of secrecy that they enjoyed was not something that they were willing to give up. So you have something that is described as relatively benign, this funding of culture through the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a funding of student movements through the National Student Association, the funding of labor unions that would be less communist-influenced than the communist-dominated ones that they presumed were out there. These were seen as benign answers. They were reactions to Soviet penetration. So secrecy is a key to making them work. So even if you want to make the argument that, for instance, the Congress for Cultural Freedom never censored its magazines–which I think has been severely disproved; they did censor. Even if you wanted to say that they published all sorts of great writers–which clearly they did; that was part of the subtlety of it and part of the brilliance of it, and part of the soft-power charm of it. Even if you wanted to say all that, when the secrecy is exposed by honest accounting in the media, the fourth estate, the adversarial media of American bragging around the world, they are so attached to their secrecy, and so upset, the CIA group led by people like Angleton, that they commit something that is about as anti-American as anything in our system. Which is: more secrecy, more media penetration to the point of penetrating, first, the anti-Vietnam War press; second, the student, the college student newspapers and press; the alternative, so-called, press. Which essentially is a license to do what they did later. So that first thing I described, where Ramparts was penetrated, leads to Operation CHAOS, presumably; that leads to Operation Mockingbird in the seventies. By the time we have Carl Bernstein reporting on Operation Mockingbird, and John Crewdson reporting on its international equivalent in the New York Times–Bernstein in Rolling Stone–you essentially see the CIA trying to have at least one agent at every major news and media organization it can do in the world. And Crewdson reporting in the Times at the end of 1977 essentially says that they had one agent or contract agent at a newspaper in every world capital on Earth. That’s astonishing. They could get stories killed or get stories to run that portrayed the CIA’s views in a favorable way, or kill them if they did not.

RS: Let me point out–yeah, go ahead–

JW: And so Angleton is behind a lot of this, just to sort of circle back to your question, but go ahead.

RS: No, well, but I want to get at–there’s an interesting contradiction here. Because this is not benign. But what happens is, you create an atmosphere in which–and you could have it in a contemporary moment; oh, let’s get rid of Assad in Syria, for example. That sounds like a good liberal thing to do. And yes, there are great human rights violations by this dictator; yes, he kills innocent people. So did Stalin. Yes, yes. So did Khrushchev. OK. We get that. And then you build that up into an argument of, that there’s war going on between obvious good and obvious evil, and any discussion about any gray area is some kind of moral equivalency; it means you’re insensitive, it means you’re saying the same. And the irony here is that–and Angleton was the product of an elite education; actually, he was half Mexican, so maybe that gave him a burden in those circles. But the fact is, he could drink cocktails with the best of them. And what came out of this was an arrogance. That because you were on the side of the angels, the best and the brightest of Halberstam, it was OK–Robert McNamara famously, you know, one of the Ford company geniuses and so forth–it was OK to kill three and a half million Indochinese, including and in addition to almost 59,000 Americans. Because you had figured this out, you know, and you knew who were the good guys and bad guys. Now, looking back on it, it’s just of course absurd, you know. That you’re in this country that had no way of inflicting damage on us, and that had a thousand years of hostility towards China, and had no real interest in Russia, and it didn’t fit the model at all. And you know, in terms of the specific incidents that you have a chapter on, this Michigan State project, where Stanley Sheinbaum, who you describe as a whistleblower, which he was–you know, I wrote about that before there was a Ramparts. I wrote about it in a report to Robert Hutchins’ Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Henry Luce was on the board, it was very respectable. But, because Stanley Sheinbaum, one of the few individuals that I interviewed to do that story, he had seen the horror of it and he was willing to speak out. None of the others were. By the time I got to Stanley, I had gone through almost every professor, everyone had worked for either the CIA–that I knew about–or had worked on this Michigan State project, which was foul from the beginning. You take a guy, Ngo Dinh Diem, who didn’t even share the religion of 90 percent of the people there; you find him in a Catholic monastery in New York and you decide he’s going to be the George Washington of Vietnam [Laughter], and you get into this crazy intervention, right? And then 10 years after you do that, prevent the Geneva accords and everything, in the early sixties–the only reason I knew about that story, I went to the stacks at Berkeley, I wanted to know, what’s this place Vietnam about. And one of the guys involved in this thing had died, and his widow had donated his papers. It was totally accidental. I blew the dust off the papers and I found the evidence of their engineering torture and everything else to keep this guy Diem in power, and fortunately Stanley Sheinbaum was willing to say it. The depressing thing about that, and about why we don’t have more Edward Snowdens and so forth, is none of the other folks talked about it. They all stonewalled me. And they didn’t come clean.

JW: Yeah. It feels very lonely to be a whistleblower.

RS: Well, and what’s interesting about your book is there’s denial–even, you know, Peter Matthiessen – I mean, Matthiessen’s a very good author, very interesting guy and everything. But at the end, he’s still putting down a documentary filmmaker who he had actually told his story to. And they don’t really come clean, as you point out in your book. That’s why your book is so important. Because the story is not well known.

JW: The story is not well known. It gets buried, it gets buried under other things. I mean, the beginning of your question and your comment, I see it now–in my own notes, I call it superpolitics. Where essentially there’s something that’s so evil and so frightening that we have to change how our democratic institutions work, and whether they remain democratic. And so on the first part of your question, yeah, there was this notion that since we’re on the side of the angels we can do a lot of things that we wouldn’t normally do to fight Lucifer. And what you end up with–I think anyone who uses the moral equivalency argument, you know, you can’t compare American crimes to Stalinist crimes–it starts off as true, and the more you use it, the more it’s a shield to make us more Stalin-like. I mean, I don’t compare American history or American foreign policy to anything that Stalin did, except when I do in detail. And people who talk about Vietnam, if you count all of Southeast Asia, some of them like Viet Nguyen, the current Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction for his book The Sympathizer, he talks about it in terms of six million lives lost. Which is getting up into monumental numbers.

RS: The book is “[Finks:] How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” by Joel Whitney. And the more I talk about the book, the more I think, yes, they were tricked. Because they–well, it’s not a bad title, because–

JW: [Laughs] I used a soft sell over you, let you talk yourself into it.

RS: Well, no, but the fact of the matter is these were–again I get back to Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”–they were smart people. And yes, I’ve known them; I’ve known them personally, many of them. And they weren’t, you know, they didn’t want terrible things to happen, and a good number of them denounced the previous stuff. And so I guess “tricked” works. But the problem is, it’s not a game in which there are not victims. You know, you claim you’re going to make it a safer world and you make it a far more dangerous world, and you end up with a situation that Martin Luther King in his famous Riverside Church [speech] described, he said, you know, we’re talking about violence; he said my government today is “the [greatest] purveyor of violence in the world” today. And we got to that through a pattern of to stop being critical of our government, to stop thinking about it. And so I’m really happy that we have this book, [Finks:] How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” Joel Whitney, available–you get it from OR [Books]/Counterpoint. So thank you.

JW: Thank you.

By Robert Scheer / Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

JFK files: Trump teases release as deadline arrives

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Trump plans to release classified JFK documents

Washington (CNN)More than 50 years after President John F. Kennedy was killed, Americans on Thursday may finally get the US government’s full accounting of his assassination.

That’s if President Donald Trump doesn’t do anything.
The White House has yet to signal whether Trump would allow the full release of the government’s classified documents on the assassination or instead elect to keep some files secret.
 As the deadline nears, the White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment asking whether Trump planned to invoke his waiver privilege to keep some of the documents secret, as some members of the US intelligence community have privately requested. A decision to withhold even a sliver of the documents could give conspiracy theorists more fodder to propel their claims.
J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!
3:56 PM – Oct 25, 2017
Trump could block the release of certain documents if he finds “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement or conduct of foreign relations” and if “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure,” according to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.
The deadline comes 25 years after the enactment of that law, which mandated the release of all government documents related to the Kennedy assassination in an attempt to quell conspiracy theories that have long swirled around the assassination.
Historians who have closely studied the Kennedy assassination have said they do not expect the documents to reveal any bombshells or to contradict the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for killing Kennedy. Still, the files will give Americans a fuller picture of how the 35th US president was killed and the ensuing investigation into his assassination.
“There’s going to be no smoking gun in there,” Gerald Posner, the author of “Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK,” told CNN’s Michael Smerconish on Saturday. “Anybody who thinks this is going to turn the case on its head and suddenly show that there were three or four shooters at Dealey Plaza — it’s not the case.”
“Oswald did it alone,” Posner continued. “But what the files are doing and why they’re important to come out is they fill in the history of the case and show us how the FBI and CIA repeatedly hid the evidence.”
The CIA and FBI documents could also shed new light on Oswald’s mysterious trip to Mexico City weeks before the assassination. The files could also reveal new details about US involvement in attempts to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro, notably the CIA’s alleged ties to the mob as part of that effort.
Trump has been encouraged allow the full release of the files by several Republican figures in the lead-up to the document dump deadline.
Grassley ✔ @ChuckGrassley
25 yrs ago Cong said all gov records abt JFK assassination shld b released this month unless Pres blocks No reason 2 keep hidden anymore 1/3
6:46 PM – Oct 4, 2017
“No reason 2 keep hidden anymore,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tweeted earlier this month. “Time 2 let American ppl + historians draw own conclusions.”
The President’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone, an avid JFK assassination conspiracy theorist, also privately urged Trump to allow the full release of the documents.
By Jeremy Diamond/CNN
Posted by The NON-Conformist

JFK, CIA, Mafia and Fidel Castro – Trump can finally allow the truth to emerge from the shadows

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Top secret files are due to be declassified this month in a move that could bring closure to one of the most traumatic events in US history – the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

A law was signed by former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 mandating the release of all documents related to Kennedy’s assassination within 25 years. Under the JFK Records Act of 1992, the National Archives has until 26 October of this year to disclose the remaining files relating to the assassination, unless President Trump determines that doing so would be harmful to national security. There are about 3,100 files still sealed by the National Archives.

Most right-thinking people would like to see the files released, to put an end to the constant speculation about the death of one of history’s most iconic politicians.

There is a smaller group, who enjoy vast, outlandish, unproven mysteries that would like to see the files remain locked up. This would allow the morbid supposition to continue.

Was there a conspiracy to kill the US President in 1963? No verifiable proof has been produced to contradict the official version of what happened on 22 November 1963, that lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, who was in an open top limousine, from a window of the Dallas Book Depository building. Oswald was a US Marines trained marksman, but still, it was some deadly shooting with a $21 mail-order rifle.

On 24 November, live on TV, police led Oswald through the basement of the Dallas Police Station. A large man with a fedora steps forward and shoots a single bullet into Oswald, and we hear the dying man shout in pain.

Of course, it is possible Jack Ruby was a madman who was overtaken by patriotic vengefulness. The fact that Ruby, a nightclub owner, had mob connections and police contacts shot an assassin so publicly immediately raised incredulity.

The Warren Commission was set up in the wake of the Dallas events by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate. Wanting to quickly calm a nation that was entering a period of unprecedented upheaval the commission promptly decided to ratify the lone gunman theory.

However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978 concluded in a preliminary report that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime. The findings of both investigations have been contested.

It would require a vast conspiracy to cover-up the involvement of other parties.

The Kennedys were at the center of a web of bizarre and extra-legal alliances in the early sixties. The Cold War was in its fifteenth year by the time John Kennedy was elected President in 1960. Morbid fear of imminent nuclear war and congressional star chambers driven by the alcoholic Joe McCarthy (a close family friend of the Kennedys) had pushed the US establishment to a deep paranoia.

John Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic to be elected to the high office, and he ran his administration like any good Irish boy should – it was a family business. Brother Bobby was installed at the Justice Department. The two glamorous Democratic poster boys were, in fact, hardnosed Cold War warriors and rabid anti-Communists. Communist leader Fidel Castro had, in 1959, installed his regime in Cuba, 90 miles off Florida and the Kennedys immediately set about removing him, by any means necessary.

The plotting began with the Dwight Eisenhower government almost immediately after the 1959 revolution. In 1961, Cuban exiles, with the backing of Kennedy and the US government, tried to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs debacle. The plan was to assassinate Fidel and Raúl Castro along with Che Guevara. On the day President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, an agent was sent on a mission to kill Castro.

Yet the plotting against Castro was carried out under four US presidents, and only Kennedy was murdered.

Previously released CIA files show the Agency was, incredibly, in league with the Mafia in plotting some of the 600 attempts on Castro’s life.

One file even indicates Robert Kennedy saying he was “angry” when he found out. But he didn’t call a halt to this unholy alliance.

Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana, who was later shot dead, was one of those gangsters involved in the Cuba plots. There were alleged connections between the Kennedy brothers’ father Joseph P Kennedy and mobsters including the notorious psychopath Giancana. Giancana also sharing mistress, Judith Exner, with JFK. Giancana and JFK shared a friendship with the legendary singer Frank Sinatra. I could go on, but I am already digressing significantly.

And that is the point, when you start on the Kennedys and all the dark enemies and glamorous friends and work through in the long, ghastly history of the CIA’s foreign conspiracies you will never get to an end. It is an endlessly fascinating cocktail of sex, death, politics, show business and Cold War espionage. Such narratives sold books and movies.

Yet another question that has been asked by historians is was there a cover-up?

And some things have emerged over the last couple of years that are extraordinary.

These facts are verifiable, and they heighten the anticipation of the potential 26 October file declassification. The usually secretive Central Intelligence Agency has, incredibly, conceded that there is a problem.

In 2013, the CIA’s in-house historian concluded that the spy agency had conducted a cover-up during the Warren Commission’s investigation in 1963 and 1964. The CIA hoped to keep the commission focused on “what the Agency believed was the ‘best truth’ — that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.

The secret report was written in 2013 and quietly declassified in 2014. The spy agency’s historian acknowledges what others were already convinced of: that the former CIA Director John McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission when it began its post-JFK assassination investigation.

According to the report by CIA historian David Robarge, McCone, who died in 1991, was at the heart of a “benign cover-up” at the spy agency, intended to keep the commission focused on the lone gunman theory.

Specifically, McCone withheld from the commission the existence of the CIA and Mafia plots to assassinate Castro. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

And in August of this year, a further tranche of previously classified documents was released under the 1992 Bush law. And they too were tantalizing.

The files released by the National Archives show that, within a few years of Kennedy’s assassination, some in the CIA began to worry internally that the official story was wrong.

Key CIA officials were concerned by the mid-1970s that the Agency, the FBI, the Secret Service and the commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren had not followed up on important clues about Oswald’s contact with foreign agents, including diplomats and spies for the Communist governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union, who might have been aware of his plans to kill Kennedy and even encouraged the plot.

There is no credible evidence cited in the documents released so far that Castro or other foreign leaders had any personal role in ordering Kennedy’s death.

But if the CIA is saying it believes there was a cover-up, and it thought this as early as the 1970s then those expecting something explosive to emerge this month could be right.

Of course, as always, politics are at play.

Republican President Donald Trump is being asked to open up a file on the murder of a dead Democratic President. And not just any President, but John Kennedy, the young, tragic, handsome leader whose family became the royalty of US politics.

Republicans may believe the Kennedys’ swimming in murky waters will come to taint their legacy.

I believe the American public needs to know the truth,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is leading a congressional effort to declassify thousands of documents and recordings compiled by the CIA and FBI.

It’s still hard for me to believe it was one man, but at the same time I have no proof that it wasn’t,” said Jones.

Trump, if the argument is compelling enough from the CIA and FBI, may still keep the files secret. But many of us want it to end, one way or another.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The US Empire, the CIA, and the NGOs An interview with F. William Engdahl

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The Ancient Greeks knew: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” No less a figure than the late Zbigniew Brzezinski and the CIA made use of this saying by recruiting the Muslim Brotherhood to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which led to the withdrawal of the Soviets from the Hindu Kush. Since then, the CIA used the mercenaries to fight more proxy wars in the Balkans, Chechnya, and Azerbaijan. Due to the wars of aggression against Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen the US and its vassal states created sectarian violence that led to civil wars. Right now, the CIA and the Muslim Brotherhood are present in the form of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

No one has studied this triad more intensively than F. William Engdahl who is a renowned geopolitical analyst, risk consultant, author, and lecturer. Engdahl was born in Minneapolis/MN, and grew up in Texas. After earning a degree in politics from Princeton University, and graduate study in comparative economics at Stockholm University, he worked as an economist and investigative journalist in the US and Europe. He was named Visiting Professor at Beijing University of Chemical Technology and delivers talks and private seminars around the world on different aspects of economics and politics with the focus on geopolitical events. For the last 30 years, Engdahl has been living in Germany.

He has written numerous best-selling books on oil and geopolitics: The Lost Hegemon: Whom The Gods Would DestroyFull Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, and not to forget: Target China to name only a few. His books are translated into 14 foreign languages.

His latest book on the role of the NGOs focuses on their involvement in US regime change operations and in steering up fabricated mass protests to facilitate the efforts of the US Empire and the CIA to replace resilient national oriented governments by obedient ones that will execute the Washington agenda. All this happens under the pretext of democracy à la US-American style.
Ludwig Watzal:  I guess we could agree upon the fact that the CIA is the world’s worst terror organization. After WW II, hardly any coup d’état or organized uprising happened without the helping hand of the CIA. As I understood your book, in the last 25 years, the CIA got quite a few so-called little helpers in the form of NGOs. Please, could you elaborate on that?

William Engdahl: During the Reagan Presidency very damaging scandals were becoming public about CIA dirty operations around the world. Chile, Iran, Guatemala, the top secret MK-Ultra project, the student movement during the Vietnam War to name just a few. To take the spotlight away from them, CIA Director Bill Casey proposed to Reagan creating a “private” NGO, a kind of cut-out that would pose as private, but in reality, as one of its founders the late Allen Weinstein said in a later interview to the Washington Post, “doing what the CIA did, but privately.” This was the creation of the NGO named National Endowment for Democracy in 1983. Soon other Washington-steered NGOs were added like the Freedom House or the Soros Open Society Foundations, the United States Institute of Peace and so forth.

The money was often channeled via USAID of the State Department to hide its origin. Every major regime attack by the US Government since then including the Solidarnosc in Poland, the Yeltsin CIA-backed Russia coup, the 2004 Ukraine Orange Revolution, the 2008 Tibet riots, the Arab Spring of 2011 to today—all have been done by this group of very select “democracy” NGOs. Little wonder that countries like Russia and China or Hungary act to ban them as “undesirable NGOs.”   

LW: You quote Allen Weinstein, co-author of the founding act of the NGO National Endowment for Democracy (NED), saying; “Much of what we do today was done 25 years ago by the CIA.” Are the US NGOs such as NED, CIPE, USAID, NDI, not to speak of the Soros network, the fifth column of the CIA?

WE: As I indicated above, I would say so in my opinion. Invariably their NGO agenda fits the given agenda of Washington foreign policy. Coincidence? I don’t believe so.

LW: Your critic focused mainly on a few US NGOs or would you include all non-governmental organizations in general? Aren’t all these NGOs driven by a good mind and noble deeds to spread democracy and freedom around the world?

WE: This is the devil in the concept of Bill Casey. Hiding very black dirty anti-democratic CIA operations behind private political NGOs waving the banner of “Human Rights” has been very effective for Washington’s global agenda of toppling un-cooperative regimes around the world. In effect the CIA has weaponized human rights. Curiously useful regimes for Washington such as Saudi Arabia go unbothered by calls for democracy. Their oil billions finance Washington’s global terrorism agenda.

Take the recent case of the fake democracy White Helmets NGO in Syria doing propaganda in intimate cooperation with ISIS, to justify the US-led war against the duly elected Assad regime. White Helmets get money reportedly from Soros Foundations, from the US and UK governments and were created by a former British Army Intelligence officer James Le Mesurier. Their atrocity videos have repeatedly been exposed as fake, staged by actors. Their alleged Sarin gas video showing unprotected White Helmets “first responders” handling alleged Sarin gas victims with no protective HAZMAT protection is a joke, a fake as was exposed widely after by a number of HAZMAT Sarin gas experts.

The Washington–or EU in some cases—political NGOs are effective because they can attract many innocent good-willed people. I recently received a very touching personal letter from a European Medical Doctor who had been 18 months working with the best humanitarian intention with Doctors without Borders in South Sudan before their US-backed independence. She was so grateful after reading my NGO book as she could understand all the seeming irrational directions their American Doctors Without Borders leader gave the staff. She quit because of burnout and now said she understands why. Honest doctors were being used by Washington for secret political agendas. South Sudan was target because China was receiving a major share of her oil from there via Khartoum.

Of course, not all NGOs are doing the work of the CIA. I focus on the ones with a hidden political agenda, who, as I describe in the book, have weaponized human rights and the word democracy for devious ends.

LW: In 1984, the hedge fund-Billionaire George Soros, established in Budapest the Soros Foundation. His first target was Poland. Pope John Paul II and US President Ronald Reagan met in 1982 at the Vatican to discuss the destabilization of the Communist Bloc. In this endeavor, has there also been an involvement of the Soros Foundation?

WE: The Soros Foundation established the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw in 1988 to train activists to ultimately topple the Communist regime. They played a major role “building democracy” and immediately after the collapse in Poland of the government of General Czesław Kiszczak in August, 1989. Soros brought Harvard University “Shock Therapy” economist Jeffrey Sachs into Poland to push privatization of state enterprises, create a hyperinflation and open choice Polish state assets for auction to western investors like friends of Soros for pennies or then, for pfennig.

LW:  The two chapters on the plundering of the former Soviet Union by the CIA, Soros and his Harvard Boys in cooperation with the Yeltsin clan and former KGB official is quite shocking. Please, elaborate on this Mafia-like undertaking.

WE: I have to refer readers to the book as the treatment has been cross-checked and is exhaustive. In brief, the CIA under the direction of then-President George H.W. Bush managed to corrupt several very high-ranking KGB generals who recruited a network of young Komsomol or Communist Union of Youth proteges such as Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky to become their hand-picked “oligarchs” to plunder the State assets for pennies compared to their true worth. This was the infamous “voucher” scandal that valued the entire state assets including oil and gas, machine-making companies, high-tech, all at a little under $16 billion. They literally raped Russia for personal gain. And the CIA and its network of Western banks such as Riggs Bank in Washington allowed them to launder the money out of Russia. Even I was shocked to verify the details. It was criminal. Yeltsin was their boy. Some said so long as his supply of good Vodka was guaranteed he would do anything Soros and his Harvard economists demanded.

The interesting point to note is that President G.H.W. Bush, former director of the CIA, ordered three simultaneous NGO destabilizations in the same year, 1989.  The three were Russia, China in Tiananmen Square and Yugoslavia. The book documents this in great detail.

LW:  After Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin as Russia’s President, he immediately stopped the robbing of Russia. Do you think that could be one cause why the political class in Washington hates and demonizes him to such an extent, which is irrational?

WE: Putin came from a Russian nationalist faction (as opposed to what were called cosmopolitan or internationalist faction) of the KGB and its successor. They knew they had to act with stealth until their grip was secure in 2000 when Yeltsin was forced to quietly “retire” or face revelations and Yeltsin was convinced to name Putin acting President.

There has been an undeclared war against a stable nation-state in Russia since well before 1917. The founder of Stratfor, George Friedman, one of the better informed American analysts of geopolitics and former consultant to the Pentagon and CIA among others, recently gave an interview after the CIA Ukraine “coup d’ etat” which Friedman called “the most blatant coup in US history.” That if you recall was the one where Viktoria Nuland as US Assistant Secretary of State went to Kiev and handed out candy bars to the protesters in Maidan Square and telephoned her contempt for the EU to the US Ambassador in Kiev.

Friedman noted what I have documented in my various other books such as Mit der Ölwaffe zur Weltmacht, that the foreign policy of the United States of America for at least the past century as the USA emerged on the decline of the British Empire, the US foreign policy priority has been to prevent at all costs the merging of economic interests and cooperation between especially Germany and Russia. The world has undergone two world wars because of this unfortunate geopolitical dogma of US foreign policy, a dogma taken over from the British and from the father of British geopolitics, Sir Halford Mackinder.

Washington hates and demonizes Putin for the reason he has moved deliberately to stabilize Russia as a great nation, which it truly is as I can attest from almost 25 years of personal experience. And as a result of Washington’s demonization, Putin’s influence in the world seems only to grow stronger—first with China, then Eurasia nations, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, even the Philippines and Latin America. The world is becoming fed up with the endless agenda of overt and covert USA wars everywhere. We need to look closely behind the Trump words and very soon we find the same old, degenerate oligarchs and their so-called deep-state of unelected bureaucrats at work.  

LW:  The dismantling of Yugoslavia was a catastrophe. The Germans under the chancellorship of Gerhard Schroeder and his infamous foreign minister Joschka Fischer joined forces with Clinton to overthrow the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. In this coup-like operation, were there also NGOs involved? And what was their strategy?

WE: Yes. Follow the subsequent career of Mr. Fischer. A street thug from the 1968 Frankfurt protests becomes crowned by the USA and its mainstream media as a statesman, apparently the reward for delivering the Green Party vote for bombing Yugoslavia in 1999. After office, Fischer got an honorary teaching post at my Alma Mater, Princeton. Later George Soros invites Mr Fischer on to his new European council on Foreign Relations think tank.

In terms of the toppling of Slobodan Milosevic, the US government and its select NGOs including NED and Soros foundations, organized, financed, and trained key student leaders and others in a successful coup, under the name Otpor! (Resistance!), with the now -ubiquitous logo of the threatening clenched fist. Serbian translations of Gene Sharp’s writings on nonviolent action were used and the key leaders were personally trained by Sharp’s associate US Army colonel Robert Helvey in secret meeting places to avoid police. Otpor! got by some estimates as much as $30 million from U.S. government-linked organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI), and US Agency for International Development (USAID). The destruction of Yugoslavia was orchestrated since the 1980’s by Washington, first Bush Sr. then Clinton. The aim was to create a war in Europe to justify the continued presence of a NATO whose raison d’être after the collapse of the Soviet Union was hard to justify to American taxpayers or to the Europeans who were planning an independent European Defense Pillar apart from NATO. For Washington and the influential US military industrial complex such independence was tabu!. The second aim was to establish a huge US military presence later in Kosovo called Camp Bond Steel.

LW:  When the Arab masses went into the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli, the Western media, and political class were thrilled. Finally, democracy, freedom, and human rights found their way into the Arab world. Were these uprisings spontaneous or were they organized and orchestrated from outside forces?

WE: The entire Arab Spring was secretly planned and financed by Washington and US-financed NGOs. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a key figure along with her bizarre Muslim Brotherhood assistant Huma Abedin. The RAND Corporation, which is a Pentagon think tank responsible for developing the technique of mob “swarming” like bees, as a way using facebook and social media to steer protests, played a key role.

The protest student groups in Egypt were US-trained, again using translations of Gene Sharp, they were brought to Europe to be secretly trained by the leaders of Otpor!.

In the case of Libya’s Qaddafi, a more urgent regime change was deemed necessary as the now-famous DCLeaks and Wikileaks emails of Hillary to her private adviser Sidney Blumenthal reveal. Qaddafi, who contrary to his demonized image had built up Libya with the highest living standard in all Africa, was about to unveil creation of an alliance of Muslim central banks and introduction of a Gold Dinar currency for oil sales not US dollars. He was doing so together with Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. As Hillary wrote to Blumenthal, that had to be blocked by whatever means. The means to “block” were the illegal bombing of Libya and the assassination of Qaddafi and turning Libya into a field of rubble. The original Pentagon-CIA-State Department plan called for the immediate toppling of another thorn in Washington’s side immediately after Qaddafi, that was Bashar al Assad in Syria. That has not worked out well for the Washington planners and a great human tragedy unnecessarily has grown out of 6 years of what essentially is a US-led war there.

LW:  In the old days, the conquerors brought in its wake the missionaries. Today, the Western neo-colonial powers come with hundreds of NGOs who teach the indigenous population how Western democracy is supposed to function. Do you think the NGOs serve the interest of these people? What about the German NGOs who especially carry a lot of ideological ballast, for example, in the form of gender mainstreaming with them? What do you make of that?

WE: I think your analogy with the “Christian” missionaries of the past and the “Human Rights” or “democracy” NGOs today is very fitting. I am not competent to comment on the activities of various German NGOs. My main focus is Washington, the hegemonic power today and source of so much that is destructive, unfortunately.

LW: At the beginning and at the end of your book you refer to George Orwell’s double think that means “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” Do we live in times where the original meanings of words become different contents? Do the US Empire and its vassal states wage war in the name of democracy and destroy the nation states with the same democratic rhetoric?

WE: This is why I found the Orwell quote so appropriate. His book 1984 in many ways is a description of what has been allowed to happen to our western democracies, especially in Britain and the USA.

LW: If you could give the NGOs a piece of advice, what would you tell them?

WE: For the honest persons who may have got caught up in nice rhetoric about values, human rights and such, I would suggest looking more closely at the money trail feeding your given NGO. For the NED or Soros foundations I would suggest they would all do mankind a favor by shutting their doors permanently. That you allow nations and individuals to decide their own sovereign future without your unwanted meddling. I would say, to paraphrase Cromwell to the British Long Parliament, ”You human rights NGOs, Go! You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

LW: Mr. Engdahl, thanks for the interview.

WE: Thank you for your interest and excellent questions.

by Ludwig Watzal/Dissidentvoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers

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Joel Whitney talks about his book Finks, which exposes the agency’s corruption of American culture during the Cold War.

It would be hard to bring this point home more saliently now than Joel Whitney does in Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers. Whitney’s topic is “the instrumentalization of writing,” as he put it at one point in our long exchange—“the weaponization of publishing,” as he said at another. In a broader, simpler phrase, he means the corruption of American culture, discourse, and public space in the name of ideology. Tell me, is there a better time to read of such things as they have unfolded in the past? A better time to hold up history’s mirror so we may look at ourselves as we are? When he finished writing last year, Whitney had no intention of using the shameful record he recounts as an instrument to deploy in the age of Donald Trump. “No, I was expecting to explain my book in the age of Hillary,” he said. “I still don’t have a vocabulary for Trump.” But there is no escaping the timeliness of Whitney’s book, which came out a couple of weeks before Trump’s inauguration. When OR Books sent a notice about it last autumn, I instantly called its Los Angeles office to mooch a set of galleys. I called Whitney to suggest this exchange a couple of days later.

Whitney’s stylish narrative explores the CIA’s covert Cold War program, through which it created dozens of magazines and corrupted many others already publishing. The star of the show is The Paris Review, and some of the names Whitney names caused my jaw to hit the edge of my desk. The cultural Cold War, as the phenom is known, has begotten a small subgenre by now. Whitney’s contribution lies in his focus on literature and, by extension, journalism. “I was after telling the story of the cultural Cold War not in its typical little academic bin, which completely separates it from history and the political Cold War, the so-called real Cold War,” he said, “and to restore the idea that they were both happening at the same time.”

Whitney, who is 44, took an MFA in writing at Columbia in 2000 and wasted little time afterward. In 2004 he co-founded Guernica, a well-considered online magazine where he is now an editor-at-large. Its name is nicely to the point: Like Picasso’s celebrated painting depicting the celebrated Spanish town, Guernica sits at the ever-interesting intersection of art and politics. This is, indeed, where Whitney makes his intellectual home and the hardly implicit theme of Finks. “Culture and politics are siblings,” Whitney said. “It’s not a separate niche category.”

I met Whitney in a quiet corner off a hotel lobby in midtown Manhattan, where we spoke for more than two hours. Satire, sarcasm, parody, irony, snark: There is little trace of these rhetorics in Whitney’s conversation. I found him, instead, courteously measured and considered in his responses. What follows is the first of two parts. There are ellipses galore: I had to cut considerably for the sake of length, but no important point Whitney made during our exchange was lost.

I again thank Michael Conway Garofalo for producing the transcript. I asked Michael when he was finished if he found the conversation interesting, as I always do. “Fascinating,” he replied. “The breadth and depth of what Whitney details is staggering.” It was my thought, too.

You’ve written a very good book and you’ve published at a very propitious moment. We’ll get to our current circumstances in a while. I’m eager to hear what the author of Finks has to say about what one has to consider crises in our politics and our media—which are inseparable, of course. But let’s begin with what drew you to your topic. “The cultural Cold War” is a very specific interest of mine. How did you find your way to it?

I came into this topic through the subsection of the cultural Cold War that is magazine publishing. Having launched a magazine online, having been a poet at Columbia just before launching that magazine, I saw magazine editing, at first, as a way to engage with creative writers I liked. One of my professors at Columbia was the poetry editor of The Paris Review, Richard Howard. He was one of my mentors. He’s a translator, too, and an interesting essayist and critic as well…. Some friends who had also done MFAs wanted to launch various magazines, and it always seemed like The Paris Review was the gold standard. By the time we launched what became Guernica, we were well into the [George W.] Bush years and facing a second, unfortunate term, and we wanted to engage with politics and poetry, fictions and essays, and direct criticism, not just of books, but of the state of things. I was maybe the only one who wanted to sell the budding magazine to people by describing it as “The Paris Review meets The Nation.” I was just trying to figure out how to get the sensibility we were going for into people’s minds. A certain generation, often white boomers of a certain socioeconomic class, would often say, “No, The Paris Review is The Paris Review, and that’s a literary magazine, and literary magazines are not political by definition.”

That thought must’ve landed with a thud.

Yes, I thought that was a strange notion. There’s a generation of lit mags that thought of themselves as apolitical. The Paris Review is one, maybe The Kenyon Review is another. They were influenced by the New Critics—less engagement with history and more engagement with the text. Anyway, flash-forward to maybe 2010, I think; I belatedly saw a New York Times story about Immy Humes’s film Doc, and there were those blurbs about The Paris Review’s alleged CIA ties, or Peter Matthiessen’s alleged CIA ties, and I thought, I’m interested in this. [Harold “Doc” Humes was a Paris Review co-founder, Immy Humes his daughter. Doc was released in 2008.] Why would an apolitical magazine interest the CIA? Would it have been just for his [Matthiessen’s] cover, as I later found out he said? Or would it have been of interest for its own doings? And that’s when I discovered the story, told through people like Frances Stonor Saunders [The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, 1999] and Hugh Wilford [America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, 2013]. I got interested then, and it became an obsession.

This question of the apolitical magazine. If you go back to the years when the events you’re writing about took place, it was a dreadful charge to be told one is “being political.” That was prima facie to be condemned. This all comes under the heading of The End of Ideology, to quote the title of Daniel Bell’s book. There is nothing so monumentally political as that which declares itself apolitical.

Yes, that’s correct.

So here you are at Columbia, a student of a very honorable poet, and The Paris Review is on your mind. And then you find out that it is shot through with spooks. Did it distress you?

I don’t think I initially thought it was shot through. I thought it was all about Peter Matthiessen.… I didn’t find out until 2010 that I had missed this story of the ties through Matthiessen, and I instantly began looking for a way to talk about this decades-old story and what would make it fresh. My sense was that since that book [Stonor Saunders’] came out in 1999 in London, and 2000 here, there was a certain group that had missed it, maybe Generation X, certainly the millennials, and maybe people of different ages who came onto the web and the web debates after that.… My sense was that these web debates wouldn’t have happened, and I was very much in the web publishing sensibility by then….

I was told one story about Barney Rosset having a run-in with these guys and being told that he should publish more non–Communist Left Latin Americans, and that when he said “fuck off” or whatever he was supposed to have said, Matthiessen, Plimpton, and Styron—who are gentlemen if nothing else; I couldn’t picture them doing this—left him on a jungle road while at a writers’ conference [in Puerto Rico] after spending half an hour driving around looking for a bar. I was getting put in contact with Rosset that very week, and he died. So I waited what I thought was a respectful two weeks or a month before bothering his widow, Astrid Meyers Rosset, and she graciously gave me an early chapter from his memoir that was still being edited [Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship, 2017], but we couldn’t find in the manuscript anything resembling the incident where Rosset was kicked out of the car. It sounded apocryphal. There was one chapter where she said he talks about this writers’ conference in Puerto Rico. Anyway, it was a dead end.…

So I went to the Morgan [Library in New York]. And there was a whole folder called “The Congress for Cultural Freedom.” I thought, This could be a eureka moment. I started reading it and there were, sort of delineated in these wonderfully written letters between New York and Paris, the story of The Paris Review’s attempt to add relevance by “being political” in the responsible way, as it was seen at the time.… Later you would hear, exactly to your point, how Matthiessen would describe Baldwin as a polemical writer, and he didn’t mean it as a compliment.…

Parenthetically, Peter Matthiessen couldn’t change Jimmy Baldwin’s typewriter ribbon, as we used to say, but we’ll leave that. I think we need to stop and define a couple of terms. Let’s define the cultural Cold War and what we mean. And let’s explain the role, maybe the essential role, of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CCF.

It seems that there were some people after World War II, some of them landed in Berlin circa 1946, and they were watching a lot of the Allied troops, a lot of young workers who had arrived, and their interest in Soviet culture. It was the transition between the US and allied military occupation of Europe and the Marshall Plan, and so workers were starting to get there. These guys would see the soldiers from the Allied section of Berlin going over to the Soviet quarter, and they were going over for culture—a movie would be screening, or a symphony orchestra. And some of these guys quickly understood that the United States wasn’t known for its high culture; it was known mostly for its Hollywood movies and maybe Cadillacs and tanks and hamburgers.

They decided that, as the occupation and the Marshall Plan were creating this weird blowback, where people felt completely beholden to the United States, there needed to be…I think some of these guys who went on to create the CCF just wanted a Ministry of Culture. They couldn’t do it in the late ’40s, and they certainly wouldn’t have felt like they could have done it openly in the McCarthy era proper. So they had this new secret budget.… Rather than have this land in some sort of known propaganda side of the US government, through the State Department or somewhere else, it ends up becoming a covert CIA program, with the caveat that it was started under the OPC—the Office of Policy Coordination, which was Frank Wisner’s little realm—which was kind of straddling between the State Department and the CIA. [Wisner served in Europe for the Office of Strategic Services during the later war years and went on to a long career in the CIA.]

That’s the back story. They wanted a Ministry of Culture. Some of them very sincerely believed that culture would influence the way the hard Cold War went, so people started calling it the cultural Cold War. I think it was actually Christopher Lasch who coined that, as early as ’67 or ’68.… He defined it as two tiers: the experts, the cultural geniuses up front and on the cover for their creative work; and then these other guys who could take a hint, and I think he meant people like Irving Kristol, who weren’t as smart, who weren’t as good, but they would be the ones on the inside doing the op-eds and pulling the strings and reporting back to headquarters.

The Congress for Cultural Freedom was within the OPC. There were a number of fronts that they wanted to beat the Soviets out of: labor, students, and culture being just three of them. Eventually they were doing stuff in refugee relief. They had penetrated the IRC [International Rescue Committee], in their way, which was another interesting story, but the Congress for Cultural Freedom’s main outlet was the almost three dozen magazines that the CIA directly created.

What was interesting to me is they also started working with other magazines that they saw as friendly, which would vastly expand their influence on intellectuals. They called a conference with these magazines to coordinate their anti-communism and American cheerleading and named the scheme “the clearinghouse of little magazines.” They had a few names for it. I refer to it as the publishing clearinghouse. They wanted to have a conference of magazine editors and they wanted to be very clear that anti-Americanism could be a deal-breaker for the cultural Cold War.…

The CCF was headed by this guy called Michael Josselson. They created magazines, they sponsored symphony orchestras and junkets. I think the first things they did were these conferences that were intended to be the West’s answer to the World Peace Council. [The WPC was founded in Paris in 1949 under Cominform influence.] It was sort of like, “Let’s rally the writers.” It’s the same impulse we have now—“Writers resist Trump!” They were “resisting” Stalin-penetrated cultural organizations and propaganda.…

Paris was very hot after the war. There’s now a considerable subgenre of writing on this topic. I came to it through the Guilbaut book [Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War, 1983], about the perverse use made of the Abstract Expressionists. As you mentioned, Frances Stonor Saunders came along with The Cultural Cold War, which is a fairly comprehensive treatment. What was your intent when you set out? What were, or are, you after in Finks? Your bent is the literary scene. You’re not doing orchestras or painters.

Correct. My cultural filter is literary publishing and its weaponization.… I thought it was becoming more relevant, first in the Bush years as the way this is happening was changing, but equally relevant under Obama—the way culture will or won’t be used, the way the media are often seen as an outlet for winning support for an intervention: The way that was changing.…

One of the things I was after was telling the story of the cultural Cold War not in its typical little academic bin, which completely separates it from history and the political Cold War, the so-called real Cold War, and to restore the idea that they were both happening at the same time. I wanted to see—having lived in a place like Central America, where so many coups had happened—what the cultural Cold War would look like next to a history of political interventions in a place like that. I wanted to see: Did the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the propaganda front, the secret Ministry of Culture for the West, actively support and defend coups and things of that nature? The answer was yes.…

But again, since it was done through a secrecy regime, through secret patronage, through a secret budget of the CIA, the second big feature of the Congress for Cultural Freedom—the first was secrecy—the thing that comes out of that secrecy is subtlety. If Soviet propaganda was often ham-fisted or too obvious—they supported writing directly; they had a writers’ union, they gave their writers houses in the suburbs of Moscow—there has to be an alternative, and that has to be made, as much as it can be, into a negative. The way to do that, I think they understood, was: “Our version of this, by definition, has to be subtle so it’s not ‘outed.’” Then it can also gesture toward the heavy-handedness of the Soviet equivalent.

Therefore, if you’re going to look for it defending some of the worst aspects of US policy, you’re going to have to look very carefully, but in the end, you do see regular defenses of NATO alliance configurations, US policy. I didn’t spend as much time looking at Encounter [the CIA–funded journal founded in London by Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol in 1953], because Stonor Saunders had done such a good job of that. I certainly quoted some of her big findings. She found structural censorship in the Congress for Cultural Freedom’s very explicit marching orders—meaning a standing order to show something to the Congress/CIA brass if it might be controversial.

I looked into Costa Rica, I looked into Africa, as much as I could, Arab magazines. I wanted to tell the story more globally. Stonor Saunders told, I think, the definitive story for Western Europe, and she gave some of the outlines of the story globally, but I wanted very explicitly to put it into a political context by looking at how the coups may or may not have been supported by the propaganda. There are these great stories of the disasters of the CIA’s coups, and when you read them you’re astonished that the CIA wasn’t shut down long ago.…

These stories keep coming up again and again. By the middle to late ’60s, when it’s exposed, the intellectuals were ashamed to be associated with the CIA. So I wanted to sort of bridge the gap—to break down the wall between the Cold War and the cultural Cold War, and to marry [the latter] with those great books, by people like Stephen Kinzer, of political assassinations and the CIA’s legacy of ashes. I wanted to marry the legacy of ashes to the legacy of letters and see if they were the same tale. I think they are.

You name a lot of names, which I found riveting from page one onward. Some were previously disclosed, some new, at least to me, and they’re now all in the same place. I was astonished as I read some of these—and they’re more or less endless. George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, James Michener, Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, William F. Buckley, of course, Robert Lowell of all people, the Asia Foundation, The Paris Review, Viking Books, William Morrow, Sol Stein and Patricia Day, Bill Styron, Richard Wright, W.E.B. Du Bois, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Isaiah Berlin, James T. Farrell. It just doesn’t stop.

Those on the list I just read are one or another degree of separation from active participation. Then we have the unwittingly used, and then those who resisted, who declined to participate—some excellent names there: Baldwin, the late John Berger—and then the targets, who, along with the resisters, I think, are the heroes of your book, figures such as Pablo Neruda and Miguel Ángel Asturias, the great novelist of Guatemala. Your sections on Latin America are very good, maybe because you lived there.

I’m astonished, in short. What did you think as your work went on and these stunning names began to accumulate in your text? Were you surprised?

Yes.… All of these people were being sought, targeted, victimized, paid, subsidized, subsidized unwittingly, by the Western powers and by their opponents in the Soviet Union, as they saw it. So in a way, it’s the inversion of influence. It’s the instrumentalization of writing.… It’s the feeling of fear dictating the rules of culture, and, of course, therefore, of journalism. So it astonished me as much as it has astonished you.…

I’m very familiar with modernization theory because I spent many years in Asia, where it was applied in fairly pure form. Modernization theory is a complicated matter to explain, but a reasonable capsule definition might be the assertion that modernization and Westernization mean the same thing, and of course they do not.

I think as a Guernica editor and a writer I’ve been battling this really insidious and racist idea that the West is the cradle of civilization that the other nations of the world need. As I went through other non-Western countries, there were different things to debunk and that became a big part of it. In the so-called Western world, Stonor Saunders had shown that these magazines censored, and therefore, that there was a sort of censorship mission there. I wanted to also show that they had this bias, and to debunk it through the stories of people like García Márquez, who found his own reasons to distrust the Soviet system, but he remained a democratic socialist and he remained friends with Fidel. His story was one that came not as late as Baldwin’s, but came late into the story, when I found this great letter of his where he spoke beautifully for himself.… In addition to calling himself a cuckold for having been sucked into one CIA magazine, he also said it was a supreme idiocy for the CIA to keep someone like him outside its borders. By some inversion of the law, he was too threatening politically to come to the United States, but they wanted to suck him into its magazines.

So telling the story of modernization theory, these countries don’t need the West if the West means military spending, manipulating culture—essentially, corruption. When you look from a bird’s-eye view at what this was, it was patronage. It’s not just kickbacks—you can’t minimize it that much—but it’s keeping people in line politically by letting them know what they’ll get paid to write.

All in the name of keeping politics out of culture.

Keeping the wrong kind of politics out of culture.

It goes to our earlier point about what describes itself as “apolitical” and Bell’s book: To declare the end of ideology is to declare the triumph of one’s ideology.… Can you talk about the extent to which the cultural Cold War was conducted more or less entirely under an umbrella of an apolitical stance?

Really it’s just a camouflage or a shield to call what you’re doing apolitical. A bizarre example came in 2010, when the Tea Party was born. I remember a friend who has worked at various magazines as a reporter and researcher tried telling me that the Tea Party was apolitical, or that they were just concerned citizens or something. You’re laughing. That should have been my response. But I was so concerned for his intellect that I started raising all these points. What we hear now about Soros [the Soros Foundation] funding all of these [overseas] protests—everything that the right does it essentially returns to the left as a projection. Sometimes that goes both ways. But this idea of the apolitical is often used as a clever shield.…

Matthiessen is singular among the people you name. He had the decency to be ashamed, you suggest later in the book, but he wouldn’t come clean, even when very old. He was ashamed in a fairly diminished fashion, fair to say—not properly ashamed. Matthiessen hid behind innocence. “This was what young people did then.… It was a great way to get to Paris for some fun and adventure.… I was just a greenhorn”—I think he used that word. What is your position on these people and how did you come to it? Do you forgive? I don’t, just to be clear, which I’ll explain later.

I think if these people are public figures, there’s nothing defensible about turning institutions that are essentially cultural public trusts into ones that collude with the secrecy regime, especially in the literary arts. I’ll just use this caveat: If this merely remained a Congress for Cultural Freedom that brought symphonies and painters to Paris, it might be nasty enough that it was secret, but, it seems to me, it’s far less harmful. As soon as it gets into the literary arts, by definition, it gets into journalism. These things are not distinguishable.… By creating a political test for writers, which is essentially what was happening, by letting them winkingly know and tell each other that they were being paid when they were more pro-American and anti-Communist, by letting the regime of secrecy rule over even a small corner of the Fourth Estate, it grows. It will grow. Secrecy and the transparency that’s required of journalists are not compatible. It’s just that simple.

So I don’t forgive these public figures for doing that, but I did try. I tried to honor John Powell, the great Berkeley intellectual, whose quotation is, “Be hard on institutions and soft on people.” My way of enacting that was just to give as much context as I could, so that if you were sympathetic to an anti-communist, anti-Stalinist impetus in the arts or in journalism, you would see your rationale mouthed by one of my characters.… What you see also in the book is that it’s a slippery slope. You can tell yourself, “New Criticism, The Paris Review, it’s apolitical,” but that quickly turns into the CIA protecting it, and secrecy when it’s outed in Ramparts and The New York Times.… That becomes an operation called Chaos, which shows that it quickly expands into a much more fulsome media penetration, which is terrifying. [Operation Chaos was a domestic spying program conducted covertly by the CIA, 1967–74.]

“Be hard on institutions and soft on people.” I tend to take a hard position on institutions and also a hard position on people. Look, the CCF tried to co-opt Sartre at the time of the Hungarian crisis in ’56. They would have done better to read Sartre. If they had, they would have understood: We are all individually responsible for the things we do.

I feel strongly about this, as you will notice, because of what’s going on out the window. Former colleagues, people I knew, people I knew of, are writing the most repellent stuff these days. I understand that they have bills to pay and summer houses and condos with mortgages and school fees—middle-class overheads. This is not an excuse for their conduct. If these sorts of material considerations drive you, there are other professions. Journalism brings in a paycheck, but a lot of professions bring in paychecks. Journalism has other responsibilities. You have a civic responsibility and a place in public space that others don’t. This is why I depart on this point.

I’ll read a few sentences of my summary, and I think it’s more in line with what you’re saying. “The role these organs played put them at odds with the traditional adversarial role of media, a role that, at least theoretically, checked government power and guarded against overreach and corruption. It had gone nearly absent for the prior three decades, if it had existed with any solidity before that. Indeed, these operators, despite their patriotism, put the United States at odds with its own founding vision, the insistence upon freedom of expression that the nation advocates for its international friends and adversaries.… It’s not anathema to our purposes of exposing this history to have sympathy for the young men and women who signed [secrecy oaths] under duress, pressure, or surprise, with little experience, and in some cases under illness. Many of them didn’t know what they were getting into.… The less central members, who may not have feared arrest, no doubt still feared they would be blacklisted.…”

That’s possibly the passage that prompted my remarks.

I think we’re of a similar attitude, but I tried to look at all the forces of secrecy weighing down on them—open secrecy, likeability, profitability, career-mindedness—I wanted to tell, as much as I could in an already pretty dense book, or rich-in-names book…

Rich book, not dense book. It’s quite readable.

I wanted to tell as much as I could about what the pressures were on these writers.

Let’s dolly out and look at the very large question of culture. You have poetry, novels, essays, but you also have television, radio, film, publishing, painting, architecture. A scholar at Duke did a book about how Hilton International conceived of its hotels abroad as Cold War weapons. [Annabel Jane Wharton, Building the Cold War: Hilton Hotels and Modern Architecture, 2001]. If you look at them now with this thought in mind, they were carefully composed projections of modern capitalism and its virtues. This extended across the board. No aspect of culture was left untouched. In the case of architecture, we’re talking about the politicization of space and the projection of authority in spatial landscapes.

This raises a lot of questions. Before I ask any, do you have a thought as to the larger implications of your book for culture in general?

As we just discussed, the idea that culture lives separately from politics or history—I hope anyone who hears that notion will be suspicious of it.

Succinctly put and just the point.

Some people have asked, with the caveat that we should be careful what we wish for, Isn’t there something to be nostalgic about when the state was so concerned about culture that they funded it? I’ve wanted to turn that question back on the caveat: Be careful what you ask for. To me, the broader implications in this are that anything done secretly, but certainly government funding, will corrupt.… What secret patronage essentially offers culture is a much faster, much darker sort of instrumentalization than something that’s done with public discussion surrounding it. To me, that’s one of the big takeaways for culture.

The other might just be that culture does matter, it always has mattered, and it will continue to matter. Culture is a sibling to politics. It’s not a separate niche category. And it’s not a luxury. It’s not something that only the privileged deserve and it’s not something that only the rich countries produce. I’ve always been suspicious of the idea that x country or x culture doesn’t have these traditions that we have in the West. That idea has always been automatically suspicious to me because, by definition, we don’t know what x culture has. We have to go and look and ask their experts and their indigenous groups, “What is it that you offer and can we share it with you?”

Culture as an entirely distinct category, culture with a velvet rope around it, for which one takes an afternoon off and pays an admission fee: I think that’s what you’re talking about. This is a Western construct, it’s worth noting. In the East, art and life are not separate. An exquisite piece of lacquer has a use.… Think of tea ceremony, or ceramics. Not only is culture not distinct from life—you don’t get into a taxi, off to some separate activity, after consuming culture—“consuming culture” being a strange notion in itself. Culture is life.

You walk through culture. You regard culture. You live it.

It’s the same with culture and politics, I think. Here’s my largest question about culture and the consequences of the cultural Cold War.
We are talking about the politicization of culture—of space, language, painted canvas, and so on. It was stunningly comprehensive. Given this, to what extent can we any longer speak of American culture in an authentic, let’s say, uncontaminated state? This is a very disturbing matter to me, because you also have to ask, “To what extent should we consider the thought that we are a society wherein culture has been more or less defaced, if not destroyed?” In other words, the Cold War has left us a culture without a culture, if you can live with the paradox. It’s a very odd question, I realize.

It is an odd question.… The obliteration of culture, the defacing of culture, you do see that. If it’s understood by us, by our own traditions, that, for instance, journalism and writing and creativity can all point to this Fourth Estate that is the last check on power, and if we know that that’s one of our values and that we ourselves are so concerned about some outside force, the Soviets or whoever it’s going to be, manipulating that, and we manipulate it ourselves so that we can control it, we’ve really tamed something that should be wild. We’ve limited something that should be free.…

Even to put this question on the table is, to me, horrific. It suggests that we live amid a kind of cultural blight like nothing one has ever read about in history. In any event, one final question in this line. We sent Pollock’s paintings overseas as exemplary of American individualism. We gave the world Joe Friday on Dragnet and 17 Hiltons and John Ford westerns, and I suppose we fooled a lot of people as to what and how great America is. But didn’t we fool ourselves most of all?

Here’s what I mean: Are we not captivated by our own manufactured imagery? It becomes self-reflexive. I’m thinking of Daniel Boorstin’s book The Image, which was remarkably prescient, given it came out in 1961. We substituted images of reality for reality—again, in service of the Cold War. This was Boorstin’s argument. And now, years later, we are endlessly loyal to the substituted images as we give ourselves, over and over, actual reproductions of the imagined reality. Do you see what I mean?

I do.

We’re tumbling over ourselves. No wonder we have no idea who we truly are or what we’re doing. It’s a form of stupefaction. What’s your thought, reading out of your accounts in Finks?

When you’re confronted with such a bleak takeaway, I do have this American tendency to want to say, “But those people who resisted—they’re important. They’re poking the hole in the tent. We may be looking at the other side of the tent most of the time, but maybe a little hole in the bottom of the tent.”

À propos, I knew a Japanese dancer who once said to me, “All culture is subculture, Patrick.”

Right. That’s great. With the rise of the internet there’s an answer. That is, independent publishing. It’s just not as expensive. When it was expensive to produce culture, relatively, it was easier to dominate it in the way that these groups were. But the self-reflexiveness that you describe is very much there.

The reason people have been telling me the book is important is because we have this Trump vs. CIA pissing contest. I don’t think that’s why the book is important. Trump vs. the CIA is a little bit of noise. It takes some deconstructing, but in the end they’re trying to take a book about history and instrumentalize it so that it talks about what’s happening now. Which, again, is the instrumentalization of history, which the book is implicitly, if not explicitly, against.

So read the book on its own terms. Don’t try to turn it into something about Trump is what I’ve wanted to tell some of the other interviewers. You’re getting at something much more interesting and complicated—which is, yes, the reason this needs to be told is because we didn’t know it.… When I started the book, my big fear was that someone was going to say it was a conspiracy theory, when I knew that it wasn’t. It was a true conspiracy. What the conspiracy theory was, I realized a couple of weeks ago, was when some Western institutions had been penetrated by the Soviets. Not knowing the limits of that penetration made these anti-Stalinists into conspiracy theorists, and that conspiracy theory became a projection whereby they created one of the biggest conspiracies of the 20th century. To me, that’s the story that makes this compelling.


The readers I’ve most connected with, I think, saw that this was just hinting at the bigness, in the way that you hint.… I maybe don’t have the right symbol for what this was—this patronage network, I’ve called it, network of influence, others have called it—but whatever it was, it tried to encompass everything related to culture. All of the writers. So you get that list of names that you read out before. But it is huge. I’ll take another look at Boorstin, because that sounds interesting.

I think his point, and the point of my question to you was, We seem to be not so much living as posing as living—pretending to live. I cannot help but relate this to the profound and very reckless corruption of culture during the Cold War—as you say, its instrumentalization.

By Patrick Lawrenc/TheNation

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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