Tuesday, January 25, 2005
More than two years ago, we wrote here of a secret Pentagon plan to foment terrorism: sending covert agents to infiltrate terrorist groups and goad them into action – i.e., committing acts of murder and destruction. The purpose was two-fold: first, to bring the terrorist groups into the open, where they could be counterattacked; and second, to justify U.S. military attacks on the countries where the terrorists were operating – attacks which, in the Pentagon's words, would put those nations' "sovereignty at risk." It was a plan that countenanced – indeed, encouraged – the deliberate murder of innocent people and the imposition of U.S. military rule anywhere in the world that American leaders desired.
This plan is now being activated.
In fact, it's being expanded, as the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh revealed last week. Not only will U.S.-directed agents infiltrate existing terrorist groups and provoke them into action; the Pentagon itself will create its own terrorist groups and "death squads." After establishing their terrorist "credentials" through various atrocities and crimes, these American-run groups will then be able to ally with – and ultimately undermine – existing terrorist groups.
Top-level officials in the Pentagon, the U.S. intelligence services and the Bush administration confirmed to Hersh that the plan is going forward, under the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – just as we noted here in November 2002. Through a series of secret executive orders, George W. Bush has given Rumsfeld the authority to turn the entire world into "a global free-fire zone," a top Pentagon adviser says. These secret operations will be carried out with virtually no oversight; in many cases, even the top military commanders in the affected regions will not be told about them. The American people, of course, will never know what's being done in their name.
The covert units – including the Pentagon-funded terrorist groups and hit squads – will be operating outside all constraints of law and morality. "We're going to be riding with the bad boys," one insider told Hersh. Another likened it to the palmy days of the Reagan-Bush years: "Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador? We founded them and we financed them. The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren't going to tell Congress about it." Indeed, we reported here last summer that Bush has already budgeted $500 million to fund local paramilitaries and guerrilla groups in the most volatile areas of the world, a measure guaranteed to produce needless bloodshed, destruction and suffering for innocent people already ravaged by conflict.
Incredibly, as Hersh notes, the Bushists are now openly citing a sinister role model for their campaign: Britain's brutal repression of the Mau Mau in Kenya during the 1950s, when British forces set up concentration camps, created their own terrorist groups and killed thousands of innocent civilians in putting down an "insurgency" against their colonial rule. And in fact, Rumsfeld and other Bush officials increasingly talk of combating not just terrorism but a "global insurgency" – as if the whole world is now an American colony, filled with recalcitrant "natives" rising up against their rightful masters.
The activation of the Pentagon terrorist operation is part of Bush's second-term expansion of the "war on terror." Despite some obfuscating rhetoric about "diplomacy," the Bush regime is pressing ahead with a hard-line strategy aimed at opening new military fronts in the "global free-fire zone." Any dissenting voices within the government are being ruthlessly purged. The Pentagon's secret forces are set for operations in at least 10 countries, and Bush insiders "repeatedly" told Hersh that "Iran is the next strategic target."
Iran has long been a focus of the small clique of "global dominationists" – led by Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and their acolytes – who engineered the invasion of Iraq. This group is determined to "whack Iran," as one insider put it, and they're not at all discouraged by the debacle in Iraq; indeed, to them it's a rousing success. Their first objective – openly stated years ago, before Bush took office – was the overthrow of Saddam's regime and the planting of a U.S. "military footprint" in Iraq. This has now been done. The fact that it has plunged the Iraqi people into a hell of violence, chaos, terror and extremism is of no real concern to the clique. Their lofty rhetoric about "freedom" and "liberation" is meaningless sham, shuck and jive for the rubes. By the admission of the clique's own publications, they seek strategic control over the world's energy resources in order to preserve and expand American geopolitical and economic hegemony in the new century. Everything else – including the security of the American people, put at increasing risk by the clique's reckless policies – is of secondary importance.
U.S. forces are already conducting military reconnaissance inside Iran in preparation for strikes on alleged nuclear weapons facilities, Hersh reports. The Pentagon is feverishly updating war plans for a "maximum ground and air invasion of Iran," incorporating the new staging areas now available in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, while employing an Iranian terrorist group, MEK, to launch covert ops and terrorist acts against Tehran. MEK was once given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein, who used the group as a brutal enforcer against Kurd and Shiite insurgents. Now Bush, "riding with the bad boys," has embraced the MEK murderers as his own.
In their ignorance and arrogance, the Bushists will almost certainly strike at Iran – despite the fact that even Iranian dissidents support the effort to make their nation a nuclear power and would join the mullahs in retaliation. The result will be a conflict far surpassing the horror and magnitude of the Iraq disaster.
In our original report on the Pentagon's terror scheme, we wrote: "Bush and his cohorts are plunging the world into an abyss, an endless night of murder and terror – wholesale, retail, state-sponsored, privatized; of fear and degradation, servility, chaos, and the perversion of all that's best in us." Now the night has come. Now the United States stands openly – even proudly – for terrorism, torture and the Hitlerian principle of aggressive war. America has fallen into the pit – and the hopes of the world go with it.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
"This age: layers of lime harden in the sick son's blood…
There's nowhere to run from the tyrant-epoch…
Who else will you kill? Who else glorify?
What other lies will you invent?"
— Osip Mandelshtam, "1 January 1924"
This column stands foursquare with the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, when he warns that there will be more terrorist attacks against the American people and civilization at large. We know, as does the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, that this statement is an incontrovertible fact, a matter of scientific certainty. And how can we and the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, be so sure that there will be more terrorist attacks against the American people and civilization at large?
Because these attacks will be instigated at the order of the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense.
This astonishing admission was buried deep in a story which was itself submerged by mounds of gray newsprint and glossy underwear ads in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times. There – in an article by military analyst William Arkin, detailing the vast expansion of the secret armies being massed by the former Nixon bureaucrat now lording it over the Pentagon – came the revelation of Rumsfeld's plan to create "a super-Intelligence Support Activity" that will "bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception." According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board, the new organization – the "Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)" – will carry out secret missions designed to "stimulate reactions" among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to "counterattack" by U.S. forces.
In other words – and let's say this plainly, clearly and soberly, so that no one can mistake the intention of Rumsfeld's plan – the United States government is planning to use "cover and deception" and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let's say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people – your family, your friends, your lovers, you – in order to further their geopolitical ambitions.
For P2OG is not designed solely to flush out terrorists and bring them to justice – a laudable goal in itself, although the Rumsfeld way of combating terrorism by causing it is pure moral lunacy. (Or should we use the Regime's own preferred terminology and just call it "evil"?) No, it seems the Pee-Twos have bigger fish to fry. Once they have sparked terrorists into action – by killing their family members? luring them with loot? fueling them with drugs? plying them with jihad propaganda? messing with their mamas? or with agents provocateurs, perhaps, who infiltrate groups then plan and direct the attacks themselves? – they can then take measures against the "states/sub-state actors accountable" for "harboring" the Rumsfeld-roused gangs. What kind of measures exactly? Well, the classified Pentagon program puts it this way: "Their sovereignty will be at risk."
The Pee-Twos will thus come in handy whenever the Regime hankers to add a little oil-laden real estate or a new military base to the Empire's burgeoning portfolio. Just find a nest of violent malcontents, stir 'em with a stick, and presto: instant "justification" for whatever level of intervention/conquest/rapine you might desire. And what if the territory you fancy doesn't actually harbor any convenient marauders to use for fun and profit? Well, surely a God-like "super-Intelligence Support Activity" is capable of creation ex nihilo, yes?
The Rumsfeld-Bush plan to employ murder and terrorism for political, financial and ideological gain does have historical roots (besides al Qaeda, the Stern Gang, the SA, the SS, the KGB, the IRA, the UDF, Eta, Hamas, Shining Path and countless other upholders of Bushian morality, decency and freedom). We refer of course to Operation Northwoods, oft mentioned in these pages: the plan that America's top military brass presented to President John Kennedy in 1963, calling for a phony terrorist campaign – complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans – to provide "justification" for an invasion of Cuba, the Mafia/Corporate fiefdom which had recently been lost to Castro.
Kennedy rejected the plan, and was killed a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but on a far grander scale, with resources at his disposal undreamed of by those brass of yore, with no counterbalancing global rival to restrain him – and with an ignorant, corrupt president who has shown himself all too eager to embrace any means whatsoever that will augment the wealth and power of his own narrow, undemocratic, elitist clique.
There is genuine transgression here, a stepping-over – deliberately, with open eyes, with forethought, planning, and conscious will – of lines that should never be crossed. Acting in deadly symbiosis with their supposed enemies, the terrorist mafias, Bush and his cohorts are plunging the world into an abyss, an endless night of black ops, retribution, blowback, deceit, of murder and terror – wholesale, retail, state-sponsored, privatized; of fear and degradation, servility, chaos: the perversion of all that's best in us, of all that we've won from the bestiality of our primal nature, all that we've raised above the mindless ravening urges and impulses still boiling in the mud of our monkey brains.
It's not a fight for freedom; it's a retreat into darkness.
And the day will be a long time coming.
Part One: The Past is Prologue
There is a thread running through modern American history, a thin red cord that weaves in and out of the shifting facades of reason and respectability that mask the brutal machinery of power. At certain rare moments the thread flashes into sight, emerging from the chaotic jumble of unbearable truth and life-giving illusion that makes up human reality. It appears, bears witness, then vanishes again, forgotten behind the next facade.
It's a thread that runs from horrified young intelligence operatives stumbling into the death camps of Nazi Germany to hardened agents running assassination programs in the jungles of Vietnam to august men of state building a shadow government with secret decrees authorizing tyranny, murder, torture and deceit. It's a thread of moral corruption, corruption by an idea, a temptation, a perversion of reason, the whisper of evil that says: "The end justifies the means."
That thread fetched up briefly again earlier this month, then was buried, literally, in a Maryland grave. The family of Frank Olson laid his exhumed remains to rest, closing the book on their half-century of struggle to find out why he died so violently at the hands of the government he had served – and whose deepest secrets he had guarded.
Frank's son, Eric, believes he knows the answer now: his father was murdered to keep the thread from sight, to "protect" the American people from the knowledge that their own government had taken up and extended Nazi experiments on mind control, psychological torture and chemical warfare – and that it was conducting these experiments as the Nazis did, on unwilling subjects, on captives and "expendables," even to the point of "termination."
Frank Olson was a CIA scientist at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the Army's biological weapons research center. Ostensibly he was a civilian employee of the Army; his family didn't know his true employer. Olson worked on methods of spreading anthrax and other toxins; some of his colleagues were involved in mind control drugs and torture techniques. But his life within the charmed circle of the American intelligence elite would unravel with dizzying speed in just a few months in 1953.
It began in the summer of that year, when Olson made several trips to Europe, to investigate secret American-British research centers in Germany. There he found the CIA was testing "truth serums" and other torture drugs on "expendables," including captured Russian agents. He told a British colleague that he had witnessed "horrors" there – horrors which called into starkest question his own work on biochemical weapons. He came home a changed man, troubled, morose. He told his wife he wanted to leave government service.
But it was too late: the brutal machinery was already grinding. His British colleague told his own superiors about Olson's concerns; they in turn informed the CIA that Olson was now a "security risk." Not long after his return, Olson given LSD by one of his colleagues – slipped into his drink as part of a covert "field experiment." A few days later, he was flown to New York, ostensibly for psychiatric treatment at the hands of a CIA doctor – who prescribed whiskey and pills. Then he was taken to a CIA magician – yes, a magician – who apparently tried to hypnotize him for interrogation.
Finally he checked into a cheap hotel – with a CIA handler, Robert Lashbrook, in tow. Olson called his wife, told her he was feeling better and would be home the next day. But that night, he was found dead on the street, 10 floors below. The handler said that Olson had apparently thrown himself through the closed window in a suicidal fit. The government told the family it was simply a tragic suicide. They didn't mention the LSD – or the fact that Olson worked for the CIA.
It would take Eric Olson 49 years to piece together as much of the truth as we are ever likely to know about what happened that night. But first would come a false dawn, a cruel trick played on the family by cynical operators in Ford Administration, who used a screen of half-truth and deliberate falsehood to divert the Olsons – and the nation – from the darkest tangles of the thread. Two of those operators would would work the thread – play upon it, thrive on it, hold hard to its damp crimson stain – to rise from the obscurity of White House functionaries to positions of colossal, world-shaking power:
Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
Part Two: Keeping the Faith
Washington, 1975. It was a long hot summer of discontent in the White House. The unelected president, Gerald Ford – who'd taken office after the resignation of Richard Nixon – was raging. Every day seemed to bring fresh horrors from the Congressional committees investigating America's intelligence agencies. Assassination plots, terrorist acts, coups, secret armies, subversion of allied governments, Mafia connections, torture, press manipulation, domestic surveillance – the revelations were endless, a bottomless pit of corruption and criminality being dredged up by the House and Senate panels.
Where was their sense of duty, the code of omerta that had for so long protected those who toil in the shadows, who do the dirty work to keep America fat and safe and happy? What right did these mere senators and representatives have to tell the people – the big dumb dazed mobocracy out there – the truth about what their leaders were doing in their name? They were like children, they could never understand the higher wisdom that guided the elites. Oh, it was a far cry from the old days, back on the Warren Commission, when a good soldier like Jerry Ford knew just what to do: you accepted whatever the agencies told you, and you steered investigations away from anything that might break the code and pierce the shadows.
So Ford seethed. What the hell is wrong over there at the CIA, he complained to his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld. Why couldn't Bill Colby, the director, keep a lid on things? Colby had even come clean about Operation Phoenix, for Christ's sake. More than 20,000 Vietnamese murdered in the CIA-run program – did Joe Lunchbucket really need to know about that?
What next? Are they going to find about Reinhard Gehlen, too: the Nazi spy who joined the CIA and recruited thousands of Hitler's best and brightest – including Klaus Barbie and a cadre of SS veterans – to work for the Agency? Sure, it would look bad, but come on: Gehlen was championed by Allen Dulles himself – the founding father of the CIA, the hotshot lawyer who kept Prescott Bush's name out of the papers when Pres was caught trading with the Nazis in 1942. Dulles and those Yale boys knew what was best – but try explaining that to some poor schmuck whose father got killed at Normandy or Auschwitz or some other godforsaken hole, eh?
As it happened, the "Gehlen Organization" would stay secret for another 26 years. But in July 1975, Ford had still more worries. A top White House aide, Dick Cheney, sent a memo to Rumsfeld, warning him about an upcoming lawsuit. The family of Frank Olson had found out – through the Congressional investigations – that he had been secretly drugged by the CIA not long before he took that fall from the hotel window. Now they were suing the government for damages.
The lawsuit could be bad business, Cheney told Rumsfeld. "It might be necessary to disclose highly classified national security information" during the trial, Cheney wrote. That would include the truth about Olson: the CIA connection, biochemical weapons, the mind-control and torture experiments based on Nazi death-camp "research," and the Agency fingerprints all over Olson's last days in New York City. The case might even reveal the existence of special "CIA Assassination Manuals," like the one issued in the year of Olson's death, 1953, stating: "The most efficient accident, in simple assassinations, is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface. Elevator shafts, stairwells, unscreened windows and bridges will serve. [In some cases], it will usually be necessary to stun or drug the subject before dropping him."
Such revelations had to be avoided at all costs. Rumsfeld and Cheney urged Ford to make a settlement before the trial started. To avoid the courts entirely, they would arrange a private bill in Congress to give the family some cash. The deal would be sweetened by private audiences with both Ford and Colby, apologizing for the CIA's past "mistakes," and promising "full disclosure" of all the facts, so the family could at last find peace.
And so it was done. And it was all a lie – beyond the bare fact, already unearthed by Congress, that Olson had been drugged by the CIA. The family got 17 minutes in the Oval Office with Ford – who apologized for the government's indirect involvement in Olson's death: the LSD test gone awry. Rogue elements, you know; unauthorized activity. Shouldn't have happened; never happen again. This was followed by a meeting with Colby, who handed over a thick file: the CIA's "complete" investigation of the Olson affair – so complete that it forgot to mention that Olson was a CIA official. Or that his colleagues considered him a "security risk." Little things like that.
Thus began the second cover-up. It took Eric Olson another 27 years to piece together the story, from obscure archives, through lucky accidents, and strained meetings with old CIA hands, who let fall dribs and drabs of the truth. He was even forced to exhume his father's body: a gruesome process that revealed the original 1953 post-mortem had also been a lie.
That earlier examination had simply confirmed the cover story: poor sap had flung himself through the glass and splattered on the sidewalk below. No autopsy needed. Close the coffin – the body is too busted-up for the family to see – and close the case. But the second examination, decades later, carried out by forensic experts, revealed the truth. There were no marks on the well-preserved cadaver consistent with a self-propelled flight through the window: no cuts on the face or arms. There was, however, a cranial injury entirely consistent with a blow to the head – and clearly delivered before the fall.
Earlier this year, the Cheney-Rumsfeld memos came to light, confirming that the Olsons had been deliberately deceived in 1975. It helped fill in some of the remaining pieces of the scattered jigsaw puzzle that was his father's death – and had become Eric's life. And although the centerpiece of the puzzle – the fateful moments in that hotel room, before Frank Olson went through the glass – remains forever absent, the picture was as complete as it would ever be, Eric decided. And so he buried his father, again, in the dark Maryland earth.
But Ford, Rumsfeld and Cheney had kept the faith back in those dangerous days of 1975. They had honored omerta. Colby was not so lucky. For his sins – his "weakness" in allowing a few spears of sunlight into the shadows – he was summarily dismissed a few months later. He was replaced by a man who also lived by the code, who would keep the precious Agency – and all its Gehlens, its torturers, its dopers, its shooters – safe from the mobocracy, the ignorant rabble with their pathetic fairy-tale notions about democracy, justice, law and honor. He would guard the shadow world so well that one day the headquarters of the CIA would proudly bear his name:
George Herbert Walker Bush.
(Some of these links are old, and might not be active any longer.)
"What Did the CIA Do to Eric Olson's Father?"
New York Times Magazine, April 1, 2001
"The Man Who Knew Too Much,"
GQ Magazine, January 2000
"Sex, Drugs and the CIA,"
Counterpunch, June 20, 2002
"US Official Poisoner Dies,"
"Shocked Over Kerrey? It's How We Fought the War,"
Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2001
"The Olson File,"
Sunday Mail, August 23, 1998
"Family Closes Door on Mystery Death,"
Associated Press, Aug. 9, 2002
"Scientist's Death Haunts Family,"
San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 8, 2002
"Family in LSD Case Gets Ford Apology,"
New York Times, July 21, 1975
"CIA's Files on LSD Death Found to be Contradictory,"
New York Times, Jan. 11, 1976
"Declassified Files Confirm US Collaboration With Nazis,"
San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 7, 2001
"The Coldest Warrior,"
Washington Post, Dec. 12, 2001
"Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber,"
The Atlantic Monthly, June 2000
"Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft's Hellish Vision,"
Los Angeles Times, Aug. 14, 2002
"Three Reasons: What Went Wrong With American Democracy,"
Consortiumnews.com, May 1, 2001
"The Pain of One: The War on Terror and Torture,"
ABCnews.com, Aug. 13, 2002
"US Plans Hit Squads to Target Al Qaeda Worldwide,"
The Independent, Aug. 13, 2002
CIA Takes on Major Military Role: 'We're Killing People!
Boston Globe, Jan. 20, 2002
Bush's Death Squads
Ratical.org, Jan. 31, 2002
Bush Has Widened Authority of CIA to Kill TerroristsNew York Times, Dec. 15, 2002
Special Ops Get OK to Initiate Its Own Missions,
Washington Times, Jan. 8, 2003
Our Designated KillersVillage Voice, Feb. 14, 2003
A U.S. License to Kill
Village Voice, Feb. 21, 2003
"A Toxic Burden in Vietnam,"
Mother Jones, June 24, 2002
"William Colby, Head of CIA in Time of Upheaval, Dies at 76,"
New York Times, May 7, 1996
"History on the Ballot,"
Consortiumnews.com, Nov. 5, 2000
"George H.W. Bush, the CIA and a Case of State Terrorism,"
Consortiumnews.com, Sept. 23, 2000
"Heir to the Holocaust: Prescott Bush, $1.5 Million and Auschwitz,"
Clamor Magazine, May/June 2002
"The Threat to the Republic,"
New York Review of Books, May 27, 1976
"Dick Cheney, Project X, Drugs and Death Squads,"
"The Pike Committee Investigations and the CIA,"
Central Intelligence Agency, CSI Studies, Winter 1998-99
"CIA Censors Books, Bush Perfects the Cover-Up,"
Secrets: The CIA's War at Home (excerpt), University of California Press, 1997