This article is the second in a series on the influence of the "secret team" on American foreign policy. The antics of this organization have recently come to public view as a result of the Iran-Contra affair. It explains the events leading to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, which set the stage for drug trade-financed terrorist adventures in Southeast Asia, Australia, Chile, and Nicaragua.
The origins of the Secret Team that organized the Iran-Contra affair lie in the invisible government structure created by the U.S. National Security Council in 1947. This legislation injected into the body of American constitutional politics a secret, paranoid, repressive apparatus similar to those of fascist states and Stalin's despotism. Like the wartime Manhattan Project, the secret agencies operating under the National Security Act had no accountability to Congress or to the American public. They were only answerable to the President. An enormous mandate for mischief was given the new Central Intelligence Agency by a highly ambiguous phrase, buried in sub-section 102 of the Act. This gave the CIA authority to "perform such other powers and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council may from time to time direct." At the first meeting of the National Security Council in December 1947, the original CIA covert operation was authorized. It was to be a massive program of interference with the Italian elections of April, 1948. Along with statements to Italian voters from Hollywood movie stars and funding of the Christian Democratic Party, this covert electoral campaign had a more sinister hue: collaboration with the Mafia. Mafia gunmen actually assassinated Communist Party leaders in Sicily, firing into the midst of the party's rallies. The CIA's other European cold war antics had similar high- and low-brow directions. While funding was given to the prestigious British intellectual journal, Encounter, Mafia henchmen were also used to break a strike of the Communist-controlled Marseilles dockworkers' unions.
For every Communist-led front group, the CIA marshalled its own "free world" equivalent. To rival the Communist-dominated International Union of Students and World Federation of Youth, the CIA created its own World Assembly of Youth. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions was launched by the CIA to counter the Communist-dominated World Trade Union Federation. Rival groups were also formed among journalists, lawyers and intellectuals.
Dulles Purges Communist Parties Of Moderates
CIA intrigue tended to divide opinion in the world into pro-American or pro-Soviet camps. Despite the universalist claims of the ideologies of both blocs, both tended to view each other as dominant in their respective spheres of influence. The CIA's Allen Dulles even used his Eastern bloc contacts to purge Eastern European communist parties of their moderate, nationalistic minded leadership. Under "Operation Splinter Factor" Dulles' double agent in the Polish secret police, Josef Swiatlo, named prominent liberal Communists as CIA agents, based on their cooperation with U.S. intelligence during World War Two in the struggle against Nazi Germany.
By 1951 some 169,000 Czech Communists were arrested-- ten percent of the entire membership. Thousands more were arrested in Poland, East Germany and Bulgaria, with hundreds being executed. Dulles, intending to discredit communism in the West, actually preferred oppressive regimes in Eastern Europe to ones that tolerated pluralism. Similarly, rather than trying to inflame the West to revolt, Soviets moved to strengthen the status quo. At the height of the bitterly contested Italian elections, the USSR encouraged a desertion of the Communists by demanding that Italy speed up its reparation payments and by taking Yugoslavia's side in a dispute over Trieste.
In the early years, the American covert operations had little impact. They were directed against Communist groups in the West that were already restrained by the Soviet leaders whose commands they followed.
The Eisenhower administration, however, chose to use the CIA on tougher targets than the Communist dissidents of the Western bloc. The CIA was now turned, with devastating force, on the non-Communist democratic governments of Iran and Guatemala, giving these countries a poisoned legacy of continuous domination by terrorist-minded elites.
Iran: Religious Fanatics And Paid Rioters
The Iranian government of Mohammed Mossadegh had enraged Britain by nationalizing that country's oil monopoly in Iran. While the Americans under Truman initially supported the staunchly anti-Communist Mossadegh, this soon changed after the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, offered the Americans a share in Iran's oil. To destabilize Iran, the Americans cooperated in a boycott led by oil multinationals. They cut off all foreign aid and froze the foreign assets of its banks. This forced Mossadegh to reduce the military budget, curb feudal dues and luxury imports and reduce the Shah's income, all of which encouraged upper class Iranians to collaborate with the CIA. The CIA's principal collaborator, and future Prime Minister, General Zahedi, had been interned by the British in World War Two for pro-Nazi activities. The initial bumbling efforts of the Shah on American advice to dismiss Mossadegh for Zahedi led to the Shah's exile and widespread rioting by Communists. Fearing a leftist coup, Mossadegh was vulnerable to a CIA action involving the use of paid rioters to overthrow his government. U.S. money paid bus and taxi drivers to convey the rioters. They were headed by CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Teddy. After the rioters overturned Mossadegh, the Shah and Zahedi returned.
In its clandestine coup, the CIA made allegiance with reactionary mullahs whose heirs it would bargain with during the Iran/Contra arms deals. The coup laid the basis for the same clerical terror which is now being waged by the Khomeini regime. An index of banned books was drawn up. Former cabinet ministers were beaten, tortured, and killed. Unarmed students were murdered in the Teheran University. The day on which Iran's parliament voted to ratify the American-engineered split in its oil, 29 army officers loyal to Mossadegh were executed. Religious fanatics went on a campaign of terror against the Ba'hai faith, whose temple in Iran was turned into a headquarters for the military government.
THE CIA INVASION OF GUATEMALA
After using anti-Communism to seize Iranian oil, the Eisenhower administration used the same cloak to maintain the United Fruit Company's hold on banana production in Guatemala. The democratically elected Conservative government of President Jacobo Arbenz was bent on land reform, and it was United Fruit's land that was being returned to peasants. Both Standard Oil of New Jersey and United Fruit faced anti-trust actions. These were dropped under cold war pretexts of national security.
The CIA's invasion of Guatemala involved one of the most reactionary, fascist-minded members of the country's ruling elite. Colonel Castillo Armas, who earlier had tried to overthrow the government, agreed to return the expropriated United Fruit lands, destroy the railway workers' union, and establish a strong-arm dictatorship. The CIA created an army of 150 mercenaries in Nicaragua, under the friendly eye of the Somoza dictatorship. Although the U.S. used anti-Communism to justify its efforts, ex-CIA agent Phillip Agee would later reveal that the very head of the Guatemala Communist Party, Carlos Manuel Pellecer, was himself a CIA agent. Dulles fabricated an elaborate hoax that the Guatemala government was importing arms from Czechoslovakia. The CIA's secret air force then actually bombed a British ship they believed was carrying arms to Guatemala, which was only carrying cotton and coffee.
The small CIA mercenary army was able to overthrow the Guatemalan government, essentially because its generals panicked in the face of the mercenaries' air superiority. The U.S. was pleased with Castillo Armas's return of lands to the United Fruit Company, his awarding the country's oil resources to foreign interests, and his removing taxes on foreign corporations. But Allen Dulles and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, were outraged that Armas allowed dissidents to leave the country. They wanted them all to be executed.
The Bay Of Pigs: "Operation Success!"
The folly of the Bay of Pigs invasion can only be understood as a result of the over-confidence of the CIA on the heels of its past victories of covert war. In a classic case of hubris, the CIA's operation would be labelled, "Operation Success."
Like its Guatemalan and Iranian victories, the CIA attempted to topple Castro through an alliance with the most fascist minded of thenation's elite, and was aided, as in its European adventures, by an alliance with organized crime. American gangsters Meyer Lanksy and Santo Trafficante had been central in establishing Batista's dictatorship in 1952. They were quickly expelled after Castro's 1959 victory and their lucrative casinos shut down.
Many soldiers in the Bay of Pigs invasion force were recruited from Santo Trafficante's security staffers, who had been long involved in cocaine and heroin smuggling. One recruiter was Richard Cain, a former Chicago cop who became a close assistant of mobster Sam Giancana. Two leading Cuban conspirators, Felipe de Diego and Rolando Martinez, would be later involved in the Watergate burglary. Another, Orlando Bosch, would become synonymous with terrorism. After the disastrous invasion, CIA activities against Cuba were given greater manpower and expenditures. These were organized by CIA agent Theodore Shackley, who commanded a force of 300 Americans and 4-6000 Cubans carrying out hit and run actions against Cuban targets. One of its last operations was the smuggling of narcotics to the U.S., which led to the dismantling of the force.
Superficially a failure, the CIA covert war against Cuba was a success insofar as it forced Cubans to rely on an alliance with the Soviet Union which, by restricting the scope of civil liberties, diminished the appeal of the Cuban Revolution throughout Latin America. Castro's movement had been initially alienated from the Communist Party which was under orders not to rock the boat in the American sphere of influence. Rather than see the revolution go to the graveyard with the government of President Arbenz of Guatemala, Castro embraced the Soviet Union and his former Communist adversaries. Che Guevara himself had actively supported Arbenz and was determined to avoid his fate; he thanked that experience for teaching "the weakness that government was unable to overcome."
The United States was unable to impose a band of terrorists upon Cubans, as it had in Iran and Guatemala. But as long as covert warfare remained part of U.S. foreign policy, extremists could use anti-Communism as a license to terrorize and control in country after country. p
John Bacher, Ph.D.(History) is an archivist with Metro Toronto.
Two documentaries about the Secret Team were aired on CBC Radio's Sunday Morning by Stephen Wadhams and Martha Honey. Tapes are available from CBC Sunday Morning, Box 500, Station A, Toronto, M5W 1E6 at $20.00 per tape.