Or CIA—Our National Apathy Over Dirty Little Secrets
In April of 2009 this space said all it was going to say about the United States and torture during those wild and woolly years after 9/11 when, as warned by this space in the autumn of 2001; the “gloves would be coming off.” This is how it works around here. You don’t like it, wear a helmet or go back to your Instagram and Twitter. No, in the wake of this latest report on our national ugliness, I only mean to bring agonizing perspective, or, if you will, pour a bucket of ice water on your white-hot outrage.
But our been-there-done-that-attitude comes from our study of human nature (and by “study” I mean living for over a half century, most of it confronted with this miserable shit and having the forum to share it) that and if it wasn’t fixed then, it ain’t getting fixed. It’s like all this whining about this president having too much power, when the expansion of that power has been growing since Andrew Jackson in 1831.
Time to wake up and smell the steaming-hot helping of feces.
When I was a kid in the mid-’70s—1975 to be exact—there was some hubbub about the Central Intelligence Agency that at first rocked the core of our moral construct as a country and then kind of petered out, as is our wont. This was the end of innocence, as if the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy assassination, the murders of Selma, the riots on campuses, Viet Nam (yes, damn it, I am evoking Nam again—how do you write anything about the CIA without mentioned that colossal massacre?), the shootings at Kent State, the Weather Underground, Watergate, Patty Hearst, etc. had not been enough to shake us from our Pollyanna slumber.
It began with the Church Committee, named after a rakish 54-year-old liberal Democrat from Idaho, who had an unassailable hatred of the CIA and set about uncovering some of the most heinous crimes ever perpetuated around this globe by a single unit outside of the Nazi Party.
Most of what we know and openly accept today as business-as-usual for the spy unit of our federal government was a bit of a shocker for some in the ’70s. For some odd reason, there wasn’t much talked about concerning the CIA after WWII. This was the Cold War, and people, I guess, accepted the whole thing as some kind of intrigue novel meets James Bond—kind of romantic, sort of dangerous, and full of weird gadgets like shoe-phones and pens with poison tips or a gas-fog corsage. We all saw Get Smart; funny, paranoid, inside-baseball stuff.
Then the Church Committee started to peel back the layers of our stinking onion and boy was it a big deal.
For a while. We hadn’t discovered the Fonz yet and KISS had yet to break it big.
Through five administrations representing both parties, the CIA literally ran amok; unchecked and unflinching: Assassination attempts of foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, the Diem brothers of Vietnam, Gen. René Schneider of Chile and the solicitation of the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro. There was also the little nugget of the “HTLINGUAL” program, a warrant-less infiltration of the U.S. Postal Service—in other words since the early 1950s until 1973, the CIA routinely and aggressively opened the mail of American citizens, and in many cases actually stole packages and personal correspondence with no repercussions or even a blurb in the Something Examiner. Chances are if you used the USPS to communicate in any way from 1951 to the early 1970s and it went missing or you never received it, there is a very good chance it was absconded by the CIA.
Chill Alert: This was before it was legal. The 2001 Patriot Act took care of that annoying detail.
Of course, after some ooohh-ing and ahhh-ing, the backlash started, wherein many in the government and the Gerald Ford White House began shutting down the investigation due in part to executive order and “national security” concerns (the usual stuff), protecting the lives of hired murders around the globe to save face and keep the engines moving. Those who still kept JFK in the sainted category were appalled and fought back, and, well the whole Nixon thing is well-documented, so we’ll leave that abomination to the annals of history for now.
What was not known through the Church Committee, but would later be revealed through leaks and books quoting “hidden sources” was the spectacular list of actual assassinations of world leaders, bloody and bloodless coup de tats and other insane shenanigans by this tax-funded rogue enterprise.
These included, and would later come back to haunt in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan), Eastern Europe (Czech Republic, East Germany), Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua) and South America (Argentina, Guyana, Venezuela), overthrows of governments and instituted puppet regimes of despotic factions in Iran, Syria, Guatemala, Tibet, South Viet Nam, Brazil, Chili, Argentina. Some of the most hideous mass murderers in the recent history of our planet were ushered in and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America.
We are responsible for—and if by “we” I mean we are somehow attached to this as we are attached to say, something LeBron James does since you are a Cleveland Cavs fan or you wave a flag every time something goes right around here, then I guess you are somewhat culpable for this crap, but I digress—such luminaries as the Shah of Iran, Jorge Ubico, and Augusto Pinochet, among others. Do yourself a favor when you’re done reading this; look up the legacy of these gentlemen and then get worked up over torturing a couple of hundred suspected terrorists.
It will be hard to up your dander.
So what is Campion saying here? What is his angle; the usual, sure this is horrible, but we have done much worse and likely are still doing much worse? Am I siding with Dick Cheney? Do I have such contempt for this country I would just come to the conclusion that we are somewhere in the ballpark of evil and I’ll just finish writing this, throw my hands up and go have a beer and a stogie?
Well, yeah, sure. I guess.
But that is too simple. I only mean to bring up that the CIA’s mere existence is the issue (an existence that continued long after 1975 for some truly bizarre and abhorrent behavior), not its latest in a long line of “crimes.” Why do I put quotes around it? Am I trying to be cute or do I not think that defecating (how many times can I possibly use excrement as metaphor? Answer: four times) on the conventions of international war that was the legal umbrella for the Nuremberg Trials is a serious stain on our national soul?
Excuse me, I need a cigar and a beer.
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