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Jim DIEugenio at VMI on 9/2
From April 2007:

The Guardian has long been the CIA's most important pipeline to the British left; and Godfrey Hodgson, first as The Observer's correspondent in the US, then as the foreign editor of The Independent, a dutiful British hack regurgitator of US establishment pap. Put them together on the subject of the recently deceased David Halberstam and there could be only one outcome lucid, confident, CIA-serving tosh.

A reliable indicator of the accuracy of the Hodgsonian obit in yesterday morning's edition of the paper (p.31) is to be found in the photograph and caption which accompanied. It is the front cover of a reissue of Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest" foreword by noted truth-seeker Senator John McCain, no less under which lies the following caption: "Halberstam, on the cover of his 1972 book about flawed US foreign policy, was scrupulously fair in his reporting." In fact, the figure in the photograph is obviously, unmistakably, Robert Strange McNamara.

Halberstam's grotesquely inflated reputation rests on two aspects of his career: His work as a correspondent for the New York Times, Langley's paper of anti-record, in Vietnam, 1962-64; and the subsequent books and journalism derived from that period. An honest examination of both compel a very different accounting and conclusion to those furnished by the sycophantic Hodgson.

In the establishment parallel universe occupied by such as Hodgson, American journalism of the Cold War era existed in a CIA-/Mockingbird-free zone: There was no Agency recruitment in US universities; plum foreign assignments were offered purely on merit; and reporters didn't spy, or act as mouthpieces, for CIA foreign (and domestic) policies. Thus Halberstam could not conceivably have been talent spotted by the Agency at Harvard, sheep-dipped in the south as a remarkably well-informed cub reporter of civil rights activism, then sent to Congo to cash in this credibility as a hard-right CIA mouthpiece. No, such an interpretation is paranoid nonsense and without foundation. Or is it? In the case of his Congo posting, the contemporaneous example of the Scripps-Howard group suggests otherwise.

In mid-1960, S-H's correspondent in the Congo, D'Lynn Waldron, was acting as a courier for the increasingly besieged Lumumba, ferrying his defiant, pitiful entreaties for assistance and understanding over the border for transmission to Washington. She was recalled. In her stead, Richard Starnes, not long resigned as the managing editor of the group's one-time bellwether, the New York World-Telegram & Sun, was offered the post at meeting with the S-H executive, and former OSS-er, Oland Russell, and a CIA officer. Starnes declined. In his place went Henry Taylor, Jr., ex-ONI, who was to be killed in fighting shortly after his arrival in early September 1960. In short, then, the CIA had an intense and active involvement in which journalists went to the Congo in the period. And the CIA had a policy for the Congo, one which ran utterly counter to everything Kennedy had argued for, first as a presidential candidate; and subsequently, in turn, as President-elect, then President.

In the Congo, Halberstam produced precisely the kind of journalism exterminatory US neo-colonialism required in its quest for uranium tri-oxide and the like. In the NYT's in-house paper, Times Talk, we find such classic contributions as "It's Chaos for a Correspondent in the Congo" (October-November 1961) and "Congo Boondocks: Land of Cannibals and Diamonds" (William Prochnau. Once Upon a Distant War: Reporting from Vietnam (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1996, p.509). Africans, the less than subtle subtext had it, just couldn't be trusted to run a country, particularly one full of strategic, or merely desirable, minerals. On the same assignment, according to serial flatterer Prochnau, Halberstam "played mostly by the old rules. He checked in regularly with the CIA men, and, in the accepted fashion of the day, thought nothing of doing a little routine information trading" (Ibid., p.150). Did this closeness cease upon Halberstam's move to Saigon? Hardly.

On his second day there, Prochnau earlier disclosed, Halberstam went to lunch with "the CIA's Saigon station chief, John Richardson" who gave him "an unexpectedly good lead" (Ibid., p.133). A little further on, we learn: "By now his CIA contacts from the Congo had begun to flock to the hot new action in Southeast Asia like bees to honey. Vietnam was a spook's dream…" (Ibid., p.169). Interestingly, the Times of Vietnam, in its detailed expose of the abortive CIA-orchestrated coup planned for August 28/29, 1963, had this to say: "Beginning in January of this year, it is reported American secret agency "experts" who successfully engineered the coup d'etats in Turkey, Guatemala, Korea, and failed in Iran and Cuba, began arriving in Vietnam, taking up duties mostly in the U.S. Embassy, U.S.O.M., M.A.A.G., and various official and unofficial installations here" ("CIA Financing Planned Coup D'Etat: Planned for Aug. 28; Falls Flat, Stillborn," Monday, 2 September 1963, pp.1). Had those Agency coup experts also served in the Congo, to thwart Kennedy's backing for the UN?

Whatever the truth of that conjecture, there can be little doubt that Halberstam's closeness to, and affinity for, the Agency endured. His first book derived from his posting in Vietnam, Making of a Quagmire (NY: Random House, 1965), is littered with testimony to the relationship:

pp.221-225: extended defence of CIA's role in Saigon.

p.222: "…many CIA agents in Saigon were my friends, and I considered them among the ablest Americans I had seen overseas or at home."

p.241: "That night I had drinks with two friends in the CIA. They were exceptionally bitter…"

p.262: "Our basic information, coming from several sources close to the CIA…"

p.263: "…more than a year later, another CIA friend claimed that…"

In later years, Halberstam sought to distance himself from the charge of acting as a CIA mouthpiece in Vietnam, telling Prochnau that fellow reporter, UPI man Neil Sheehan "had better CIA sources. I had better military because I could travel more…" (Once Upon a Distant War, p.277). Any sense of reassurance was somewhat undercut by the earlier admission that his acknowledged lead source, Colonel John Paul Vann, was "a blunt, essentially conservative, at time almost reactionary man…much of our information came from men like Vann" (Making of a Quagmire, p.164). In any case, Vann was recalled from South Vietnam in early April 1963.

Sheehan, like Halberstam, formed part of a journalistic clique that worked assiduously for the overthrow of a Diem government engaged in protracted peace negotiations with Hanoi; and its replacement by a military junta that would prosecute the war with more vigour. That the clique worked hand in glove with the Agency was never more clearly demonstrated than in the aftermath of the publication of Richard Starnes' Arrogant' CIA Disobeys Orders in Vietnam on 2 October 1963. Two members of the clique, Halberstam and AP's Malcolm Browne, were at the forefront of the CIA's defenders in the pages of the NYT. Halberstam's contribution to whitewashing the Agency's open revolt ran as follows:

Quote:New York Times, Friday, 4 October 1963, pp.1 & 4

Lodge And C.I.A. Differ on Policy

Ambassador and Agency's Chief in Saigon Clash on Conduct of the War

Saigon, South Vietnam, Oct. 3 Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and the head of Central Intelligence Agency operations in Saigon do not agree on United States policy for Vietnam.

The Ambassador would be happier with a new C.I.A. chief. [The present C.I.A. chief in Saigon is believed to be John Richardson.]This is not a problem of personalities. What is involved is in part the traditional relationship, sometimes of rivalry, between the State Department and the C.I.A. In part it involves the problem of whether the C.I.A. should be primarily a straight intelligence network, or have operative functions; whether there should be separate chiefs for intelligence and operations.

It is believed here that Mr. Lodge feels that when a man is assigned to an important and, in this case, difficult operative function, the requirements of that post conflict with the objectivity and disinterest required of an intelligence chief.

There is no evidence that the C.I.A. chief has directly countermanded any orders by the Ambassador. Assertions that he has are denied in all quarters here.

Rather, even amid the current controversy, it is acknowledged that the C.I.A. chief, for more than a year, has carried out the extremely difficult and taxing job of working closely with Ngo Dinh Nhu. In this aspect of his duties he has done a superior job, say the other members of the mission. It is the basic contradiction between this role and that of an intelligence chief that is at stake.

Informants here say Mr. Lodge has told Washington he wants a new chief, and that the C.I.A. is fighting back hard. The matter is believed now resting with the White House.

It is believed here that Mr. Lodge and the C.I.A. chief see this war effort in somewhat different lights. Likewise, they see the proper function of a C.I.A. chief in different lights.

It is also true that in recent weeks in Saigon, as a major re-evaluation of United States policy has been taking place, the American mission here has tended to become the theater, on a small scale, of the traditional conflict in Washington of the Pentagon, the State Department and the C.I.A.

Part of the present struggle over the C.I.A. chief is believed to have a parallel in a struggle by Mr. Lodge against Maj. General Paul D. Harkins to establish himself as the real as well as the nominal head of the American mission here.

At the moment, some sources say, there is a growing effort to make the C.I.A. the scapegoat for the unhappy events of the last six weeks. When Government forces raided Buddhist pagodas on Aug. 21 the C.I.A. seemed confused about what was going on. There followed the demand by Washington that Ngo Dinh Nhu and his wife be pushed out of the Government, defiance of that demand by Ngo Dinh Diem, and Washington's decision to go along with the regime.

Some persistent enemies of the intelligence agency are accused of using recent events as an opportunity to voice their bitterness against the agency.

Many persons in Saigon contend that in general intelligence operatives here are at the highest caliber, and say they have played vital roles in some of the most successful programs of the complicated counter-insurgency machinery.

The piece is fascinating not least for the extent to which it confirmed the justice of the charge made in Frank Coniff's New York Journal American column of 26 August 1963 that Halberstam had "resurrected from oblivion good old reliable sources,' and idiomatic usage that was, alack, fast disappearing from the reporter's arsenal. We stopped counting in Saturday's Times after 11 hits by good old reliable sources' or his less sturdy brother, plain old sources.' Mr. Halberstam has done us all a favor by restoring new vigor to a rapidly fading journalistic cliché" ("New York J. A. Takes Issue With New York Times," Times of Vietnam, 3 September 1963, p.1). In his 4 October defence of the Agency, Halberstam ran the gamut of euphemisms for the CIA: "all quarters here"; "some sources"; "Many persons in Saigon"; "other members of the mission"; and "Informants here."

First in his 4 October 1963 riposte to Starnes, then in his 1965 book, Making of a Quagmire, Halberstam was unwilling to concede that Richardson, at the time of his recall by Kennedy, was a firm advocate of Diem's overthrow. That concession was to be slipped in to his 1972 magnum opus, The Best and the Brightest (NY: Random House, 1972 edition): "Even the CIA chief, John Richardson, who until recently had been so close to Nhu, was a surprising advocate of a coup, and a prophet that the coup would come and come quickly" (p.264). It was this book that provoked Warren Hinckle, editor of Ramparts, to one of the great book reviews of the 1970s:

Quote:"What critical reporting there was about Vietnam dealt with questions of the efficiency or practicality of the means of American policy but did not question its ends. It is a measure of the level of press criticism of America's great Vietnam misadventure that David Halberstam was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for calling Madame Nhu a bitch. Halberstam, long the war's most celebrated critic, chastised the corrupt Nhu family and poked the wind machines of the General's public relations machinery while still accepting the basic ideological tenets of American policy. In an Esquire interview in 1964 Halberstam worried that this pretty little country will be lost.' In his earlier book, The Making of a Quagmire, said Halberstam the war critic: The lesson to be learned from Vietnam is that we must get in earlier, be shrewder and force the other side to practice the self-deception.'

I would not nitpick Halberstam were it not for his recent and nauseating criticisms of those liberal Establishment types who made America's Vietnam policy that they were the victims of some weepy, ill-defined hubris that kept them from seeing the fatal flaw in the whole undertaking that the formulates in his trendy best seller, The Best and the Brightest, which must rank as one of the great bullxxxx books of all time. Halberstam adroitly skips over the fact that the American press establishment had its own best and brightest in Vietnam (not the least of them Halberstam) during those years of folly a decade of electronic, plugged-in and satellited reporting that exhibited the same arrogance or, if we must, hubris of the ideology of the men whom Halberstam now so artfully brushes with the vanishing cream of tragedy."

Warren Hinckle. If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade: An Essential Memoir of a Lunatic Decade (NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1974), pp.162-163.

Real history is in Hinckle. For the CIA fairy tale, see The Guardian and the equally appalling Hodgson.
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
What follows are glorified notes made nearly a decade ago:

Roots of Revolt: The CIA in Vietnam, 1955-1963

The CIA, led on the ground by Edward Lansdale, installed Ngo Dinh Diem as President of South Vietnam in June 1955. It did so in direct defiance of President Eisenhower and his emissary General Lawton Collins. Eisenhower had sought, in the wake of the Korean War, US disengagement from the region. From this perspective, establishing another Syngman Rhee, this time in Vietnam, was merely storing up trouble. In retrospect, it is clear the Agency saw Diem as a mere stop-gap - its preferred protégés were youthful military men, the so-called "Young Turks," in South-east Asia as elsewhere and just over two years later, in August 1957, that faithful Agency conduit, Time, was voicing disapproval of the neutralist tendencies of both Diem and Nhu, his brother-in-law, and chief adviser: "Put simply, Diem is still taking US money…but less and less US advice. One example of this was a decision not to use the phrase anti-Communism' in any speeches" during a recent visit to Thailand." A right-wing American academic who visited Saigon in 1958 later recalled a "Senior Foreign Officer who went to great lengths to discredit the Diem regime, magnify its shortcomings, ridicule Diem's religion and his family, and to urge for a change in U.S policy."

The Agency was unquestionably active on the assassination front in the region: In February 1959, Cambodia police broke up the Dap Chhuon plot and fingered Victor Matsui, a CIA officer working under light diplomatic cover at the Phnom Penh embassy , as the co-ordinating agent. In late August of the same year, a bomb blast at the royal palace in Phnom Penh killed the protocol minister. The following month, Diem reached a modus vivendi with Sihanouk, despite the attempts of Viet-Nam Presse, the official Saigon news bulletin, to sabotage the deal.

Coup and assassination attempts had already commenced against Diem. In late February 1957, an "armored car regiment stationed at Go Vap, six miles from Saigon stood paused to roll on the capital, when the plot was disclosed by a sergeant." Two days later, that perennial spook favourite, an angry "young student," shot at Diem in the village of Ban Me Thuot. It is probable that these attempts were organised outside the aegis of the Agency's Saigon station, most likely by the Agency-within-an-Agency that was the counter-intelligence (and much else besides) section of James Angleton. According to two veteran, and notably well-informed China Lobby propagandists, writing in 1965 in response to the CIA's failure to strike north from Vietnam, successive Saigon station chiefs remained close and loyal to Diem and his brother until 1960. Interestingly, 1959 was the year William Colby moved from deputy chief of Saigon station to the top job. Colby had been a staunch supporter of the CIA's campaign to out Souvanna and reinstate Phoumi Nosavan in Vientiane in 1959. Later in the same year, General Williams, the head of the US military contingent in Saigon, and "one of the staunch protectors of the Diem regime," was also recalled.

Stripped of spook and military protectors, and within days of Kennedy's election as 35th President, CIA-orchestrated a parachutists' revolt in Saigon. The South Vietnamese government first disseminated , then, under intense pressure, retracted, charges of US responsibility, with assistance from British and French spooks and military attaches . In early July 1963, in secret session at the trial of the captured Vietnamese political leadership of the attempted coup, Saigon named the two senior CIA men in charge: George Carver and Howard Elting. The former served under the light cover of an employee of the United States Operations Mission (USOM), while Elting was the deputy chief of the American mission.

The failure of the November putsch saw recourse by the CIA to the tried and trusted strategy of the pseudo-gang. The CIA already had a massive programme in motion it was to become known as the National Liberation Front. It had debuted in March 1960 with a broadcast, ostensibly on a clandestine Viet Cong radio station operating in South Vietnam, of the Proclamation of Former Resistance Fighters. In fact the radio station was a CIA "black radio" op, and the Former Resistance Fighters, the Agency. Hanoi radio immediately denounced it as a trap, but later felt obliged to intervene in an attempt to bring the position in the south under some form of political control and direction. This strategy was to issue in the formation of the National Liberation Front. At the time of Diem's murder, "a probable majority of the NLF's adherents were members" of two bitterly anti-communist sects, "the Cao Dai and the Hoa Hao," both of which were simultaneously harried and bought up by the CIA in the initial campaign to install Diem in 1955. As one America observer commented: "The Cao Dai were subdued more by negotiation and intrigue than by military force."

The Agency had forged a similar alliance of left and right in Burma in the early 1950s. The Hanoi leadership combined with Diem to hunt down this CIA "third force": In May 1962, Hoa Hao battalion 104 "was caught in a simultaneous drive by the ARVN and Viet Minh battalion 510." Ho's strategy was consistent with Khrushchev's peaceful coexistence doctrine, and was predicated upon an astute and prescient analysis of domestic conditions encapsulated in his "Descending Spiral Theory." Ho believed that a resumption of guerilla warfare in the South would inevitably issue in a full-scale US invasion. He therefore did everything he could to avoid its recrudescence. The public consistency of Ho's position in favour of a negotiated settlement in 1962 was reflected in three interviews he gave in March, July, and December to, respectively, a British Daily Express journalist, Bernard Fall, and Jules Roy. As Fall wrote: "It was obvious to all three observers that the DRVN had backed off from outright conquest of South Viet Nam and was veering toward a negotiated solution embodying the existence of a neutral South Vietnamese state that would not be reunited with the North for a long time to come."

The mechanics of the resurrection of the Hoa Hao and Cao Dai is a theme notably glossed over by US commentators and historians. In 1959, an American commentator noted that Hoa Hao "insurgent groups" had taken refuge in Cambodia, from where the Cao Dai Pope also continued to exercise influence across the border. In April 1965, the CIA's George A. Carver, Jr., was content to note that both sects "have emerged from nearly a decade of political insignificance to play influential roles, particularly in the provinces where their adherents are concentrated." The CIA's abandonment of not merely Diem and family, but the entire concept of a lone political strong-man ruler in Vietnam, was formally announced by Edward Lansdale, also in the pages of Foreign Affairs, in October 1964. America's repeated attempts at "engineering a great patriotic cause led by some universally loved Vietnamese of American selection," a process in which no US official had been more central than Landsdale himself, were now dismissed as a "puerile romance" which "should not be attempted in real life." The CIA terminated both Diem and concept for a very good reason. There was to be no future civilian-political figure in the South with whom the North could cut a peace deal. Lansdale was effectively advocating the use of pure terror. There is every reason to believe he had been guilty of a great more than mere advocacy during the Kennedy years. According to John Pilger, the creation and use of "Force X," which "infiltrated" the Viet Cong and then undertook "atrocities that would then be blamed on the insurgency" was "pioneered by…Colonel Edward Lansdale."

A series of mass releases of Viet Cong prisoners was organised. In late April 1961, Joseph Alsop, a long-time Agency journalistic mouthpiece, devoted no less than three columns to extolling the virtues of "turned" Viet Cong fighters in the service of US anti-guerilla operations. It was a propaganda line quickly picked up and amplified by other US print media, and at least one British correspondent in Vietnam working for a paper with a long history as an MI6 front. The public raison d'etre of these pseudo-gangs was to hunt down the Viet Cong. In reality, they were used to destroy the Diemist military infrastructure in order to vindicate the CIA claim that Diem was a martial incompetent whose continued leadership of the South would inevitably issue in defeat. A rare public manifestation of this strategy occurred in January 1963, when a Special Forces-trained pseudo-gang over-ran the Diemist garrison at Plei Mrong and committed gross atrocities against the defenders. It was almost certainly an enlarged CIA pseudo-gang that fought the ARVN at the stage-managed "battle" of Ap Bac. In March 1963, a Canadian journalist described a snap-shot of these activities: "US Special Force commandos the hush-hush branch of the Army are in isolated villages and deep in rebel-dominated territory. They are taking a page from Communist tactics and organizing resistance movements and spreading propaganda and terrorism. These young specialists are linguists, politically indoctrinated, and are armed with funds for bribing support. They are prepared to kill and terrorize on their own to defeat the enemy."

At the same time as the pseudo-gangs were unleashed, summer 1961 found Agency-funded Vietnamese opponents of Diem touring the US seeking to dissuade key figures within the American Friends of Vietnam organisation from continuing their backing of Diem , while Irving Brown, the AFL-CIO's roving ambassador (and James Angleton's man), visited Vietnam in October and urged a change of course in his November report. Henceforth, he argued, America should be backing the "liberal" South Vietnamese opposition. By "liberal" Meany meant, of course, right-wing, obedient and entirely in the pocket of the CIA. Throughout 1961 and 1962 a steady stream of articles, chiefly in nominally "liberal" weeklies The Nation and The New Republic, pushed the Agency's line that Diem had to give way to more "civilised" forces who would nevertheless kill more of their fellow-countrymen with greater zeal.

The next major public attempt to assassinate Diem took place on 27 February 1962. Two South Vietnamese air force fighter planes dive-bombed the Presidential palace. The escape was narrow: Madame Nhu fell a full three stories, while Diem himself received a thick coating of dust from his crumbling private apartment. One of the pilots was shot down, while the other, Nguyen Van Cu, took the by now well-worn path back to the Agency bosom in Phnom Penh. (The two Vietnamese parachute officers who fronted the November 1960 coup had fled there, arriving in a US Dakota.) A plainclothes US landing party awaited Cu, but for once the Cambodian authorities intervened . Air support was to prove decisive in Diem's eventual overthrow. The planes, nominally belonging to the South Vietnamese air force, were flown by US pilots. Two months later, Allen Dulles arrived in Saigon as part of a shadowy Pentagon "study" group under the pretext of checking morale.

In April 1963, Kennedy was "making soundings either directly or through British, French, Indian and other channels - for the kind of diplomatic formula" under which withdrawal could be negotiated. The favoured solution was inevitably based on the Laotian model. Confirmation that it was Kennedy who set the negotiations in motion was to come from Madam Nhu herself. As ever, the Agency was ahead of the presidential game. Three months before, in January, Agency specialists in the art of the coup d'etat began arriving in Saigon where they assumed a variety of covers USOM, MAAG, the Embassy itself, to name but three and set to work "with student and religious groups." A number of the CIA reinforcements came from the Congo, where they had successfully organised the murder of Patrice Lumumba , and led the fight against the United Nations.

The extent of the progress of the negotiations between North and South in late 1963 was considerable. In late October, a matter of days from Diem's overthrow and murder, readers of the New York World-Telegram & Sun were informed, in a report originating in London, that the truce under discussion had "possible wider ramifications." In the early 1970s, as the US establishment called time on the cost of the Vietnam imbroglio, a select group of journalists and academics suddenly remembered these negotiations and their progress. They were united only in omitting reference to Kennedy's backing for them.

In May the US Ambassador, Frederick Nolting, was conveniently recalled and the Agency mice set to play. It was at this juncture that the CIA unleashed its great propaganda triumph of the Vietnam War, the Buddhist "uprising" which did so much, as intended, to thwart the White House's hopes for a Laotian-style deal and withdrawal.

The notion of the protesting Buddhists as apolitical religious martyrs went largely unchallenged by the mainstream US media of the time. This was a trifle odd as Western intelligence use of Buddhists and Buddhism, replicating that of Muslim and Christian organisations, against leftists and nationalists during the Cold War, was neither new nor particularly hidden. MI6, from Bangkok, had financed pro-Western candidates in the rigged 1954 Laos elections, almost certainly with the financial support of the CIA. It undertook the same activities in Vietnam. The Agency funded books and training courses for Buddhists, with "many bonzes sent for advanced… training to India and Burma; some of them at United States expense and others at the expense of an American private foundation. When they returned to Laos, some of them were found to have acquired a solid foundation of Marxism…" There is every reason to assume the same applied to their Vietnamese counterparts. The titular head of the Buddhist revolt in Vietnam in 1963 was based at Yale, the academic and social home of the CIA, at its outbreak. And as David Halberstam, "with his excellent sources in the Central Intelligence Agency," reported in the pages of the New York Times, the CIA openly despatched its agents into the pagodas, and maintained daily contact with the Buddhist priests.

Diem had every right to be suspicious of the political use and role of Buddhist monks in the war waged against neutralism by the CIA. Mid-morning on the 25 September 1959, the Ceylonese Prime Minister, Bandaranaike, an "advocate of neutralism and socialism," was shot by an assassin "with a shaven head wearing the yellow robes of a Buddhist monk." Another monk was later brought before the Chief Magistrate. According to the Inspector-General of police, the gunman was "a Buddhist monk who…was teaching at a college of indigenous medicine in Colombo."

Roots of Revolt: CIA in Southeast Asia, 1945-1963

The CIA picked up were the OSS left off. In 1945, "M. Preston Goodfellow, the senior U.S. intelligence operative…personally brought Syngman Rhee back in Korea against the wishes of the State Department." On Formosa and outlying islands, Presidential authority, by this time Eisenhower's, fared no better, as Andrew Tully noted in 1962: "Both State's Dulles and President Eisenhower later would complain that the build-up of Chiang's guerillas on Queymoy and Matsu was foolish…in 1953 and 1954 there is no doubt that both the CIA and the Pentagon…not only encouraged but assisted the build-up that was to cause the United States considerable uneasiness."

The picture was no different in Burma, where two successive US Ambassadors first David McK. Key (July 1952) , then William Sebald (July 1954) - resigned in protest at continuing CIA support for Kuomintang forces, in direct defiance of White House policy and State Department denials. The Agency stepped up its support for the KMT forces in 1959, and Kennedy duly inherited the problem. Like his predecessor, Kennedy promised the Burmese government to pressure Formosa into withdrawing its forces, only to find the Agency ignoring his policy. In early March 1962, the Burmese military, backed by the CIA , overthrew Prime Minister U Nu and his government.

The CIA used the KMT units in Burma as a source of (drug) revenue, and, more importantly to begin with, a tool of provocation: Peking was to be lured across the border in pursuit of the KMT raiders, thus reviving and broadening the Korean War. KMT units were also present across the similarly ill-defined border in northern Laos, performing the same functions. It was here, from 1960 to 1962, that the clash between successive US Ambassadors and the Agency was to receive more extensive exposure.

Whatever the rhetoric emanating from Foster Dulles, the Eisenhower Administration and the State Department consistently sought to work with neutralist leaders. The policy was anathema to the Agency and the Pentagon, and was predictably defied and subverted. In Laos, the CIA's strategy was necessarily more machiavellian than in less sensitive regions, for here the Eisenhower line enjoyed considerable support from political and diplomatic though not from intelligence and military - elites in Paris and London determined to prevent a repetition of their costly and counter-productive involvements in Korea.

The Agency's solution to the stalemate that resulted from State's support for the neutralist Souvanna, which effectively negated its own for Phoumi, was Kong Le. In early August 1960, Le, a classic "Young Turk" protege of the Agency, fronted a coup ostensibly in the name of patriotic nationalism. He spent the eve of the coup in the classic left-wing manner - working through "a special tactical problem" with "American and French advisers: How to hold and defend a major city." Another well-informed source placed Kong Le, on the eve of the coup, in the company of his CIA case officer. (The versions are not, of course, mutually incompatible.) "Each of his soldiers" from the 2nd Laos Parachute Battalion "carried medallion-fashion around his neck a small transistor radio set" from which came instructions courtesy of the previously seized Radio Vientiane. The radios supplier? The American tax-payer.

The August coup was the first of a series of choreographed moves by the Agency. In December, the CIA's overt puppet, General Phoumi, recaptured Vientiane at much the same time as the paratroopers' revolt began in Saigon. He did so "after an artillery battle more notable for sheer noise than for martial skill or courage," and promptly allowed, doubtless under guidance from his Agency advisers, Kong Le's men to escape. Kong Le's actions achieved the three key Agency objectives: the remilitarization of Laotian politics; the diplomatic intervention of the Soviet Union (for which Kong Le campaigned strenuously); and the sabotage of the strategy of the State Department, which had sought to effect an alliance between the right and the genuine neutralists. By April 1963, Kong Le was overtly back in the US fold, his mission accomplished.

As in Burma, so in Laos: successive US Ambassadors found themselves, and the White House policies they sought to implement, thwarted at every turn. Horace H. Smith, an old Foreign Service hand with extensive experience in the Far East, found that his "job wasn't being made any easier by the fact that during most of his tour in Laos he was being crossed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives nesting in his own embassy." Smith's embassy found itself embroiled in a "running feud" with the CIA, a battle in which the latter had "an invaluable ally in another American agency": the PEO (Programs Evaluation Office), "a body of sixty odd retired' American Army officers." PEO was "simply a device to get around the Geneva agreements." Like many an American Ambassador in the post-war era, Smith wondered who was running US foreign policy, and just how many men the CIA had at large undercutting him. The CIA's revolt in Laos could not have been more blatant, as a New York Times editorial of October 1960 observed: "t is now widely accepted that General Phoumi Nosavan was persuaded to spurn his post in the [Laotian] government and rebel against it by agents of the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States military officers stationed in Laos to run the Laotian Army."

Smith's successor in Vientiane, Winthrop Brown, found his attempts to convene a meeting between the warring Laotian elite were negated when the CIA intervened to direct Boun Oum and Phoumi to revoke their agreement with him. Both the Agency and Military Assistance Advisory Group personnel in Laos "scarcely hid their disapproval," and worked actively to "subvert it." The opposition became so naked in mid-November 1961 that Brigadier Andrew Boyle, commander of the US military "adviser" contingent in Laos, was obliged to threaten "that any enlisted man or officer who violated" his order to desist from public dissent to the Kennedy White House policy "would be returned immediately to the United States with an official reprimand and might face further disciplinary action." A New York Times editorial at the end of the month lamented that "American policy in Laos has often suffered from conflicting action by agents of different branches of the United States Government. In Vientiane the embassy has at times pursued one program, Pentagon men and Central Intelligence operatives still another."

It was to take the intervention of Averill Harriman, by far the most experienced and ruthless of Kennedy's small group of foreign policy point men, to forge agreement on Laos at Geneva in May 1962 and initiate a serious fightback against the Agency in Laos. To achieve and then defend the Geneva Agreements, Harriman was obliged to effect the removal of at least three CIA personnel: John Steeves from the Geneva delegation in July 1961 ; Jack Hazzy, the Agency's controller of Phoumi Nosavan, in February 1962 ; and the Agency's station chief in Vientiane, Gordon L. Jorgensen, in the summer of the same year.

Ambassador Allison later recalled a "fruitless" 1957 encounter with the "head of the Far Eastern Section of the CIA," who was utterly convinced of the "imminent Communist danger" throughout the region. Upon Allison's return to Washington he learned that the CIA man had "reported that Sukarno was beyond redemption and that the American Ambassador seemed confused and was inclined to be soft on communism." Allison's successor similarly opposed the Agency's policy of arming and financing revolts across Indonesia.

In Indonesia in mid-1963, an American academic found President Sukarno "still much concerned about the CIA's hostility toward him…Sukarno regarded Ambassador Allison and his successor, Howard P. Jones, as separate from the CIA and acting autonomously from it. I then had the sense that Sukarno was no more clear than I whether State Department and CIA policies that impinged on Indonesia emanated from the same or different sources."

Cambodia's Prince Sihanouk was similarly perplexed at much the same time: "I was officially informed by President Kennedy that on his honour' his country had played no role in the affairs of the Khmer Serei. I considered President Kennedy…an honourable man but, in that case, who really represented the American government? Almost at the same time as I received this assurance, traitors like Preap In were openly asserting that the CIA completely controlled the Khmer Serei of which Preach In was a leading cadre…I was not the only one to ask who, and what is, the American government?" By November 1963, after a long series of coup and assassination attempts, Sihanouk had had enough. He unilaterally terminated US economic aid, just as he had previously called a halt to US military assistance. The decision was made on the eminently practical ground that US economic aid "was being used to finance CIA-directed activities inside the country." Sihanouk's move prompted the third of Ricahrd Starnes' assaults on the Agency in the months of October and November 1963. Both Kennedy and Johnson, "seeking accommodations with the Prince, directed the Agency to cease all such support" for the Khmer Serei and other groups opposed to Sihanouk's neutralist rule.

"Once again," Richard Starnes observed for the Scripps-Howard group, "the Central Intelligence Agency is credited with playing a role in a calamitous undoing of American aims." He mocked the State Department's by-now ritual denial of CIA malfeasance: "There is a rich and growing literature showing that too often the State Department doesn't know what the patient plotters of the CIA are doing…Cambodia's Prince Norodom Sihanouk, vain and bombastic as he is, is not stupid. He is no more likely to eviscerate Santa Claus than any other money-hungry Oriental despot is unless he has what seems to be a compelling reason. The State Department may not believe the CIA was conspiring" in his overthrow, "but the prince thought so."

Even dismissing Sihanouk's explanations for his decision "as the paranoiac ravings of an uneasy tyrant," the CIA still failed to pass muster: "The fact remains that the United States secret, wholly unaccountable spy bureaucracy had carte blanche in Cambodia, had unlimited resources, and failed. It not only failed to keep Cambodia out of the Communist orbit, it provided Sihanouk with an excuse to cast out the last vestiges of American influence." He concluded with an implicit defence of criticism of the Agency, and a side-swipe at its blue-blooded invincibility: "All this, in the Orwellian language of Washington's CIA stiffs, will be cited as more evidence of the sad truth that the spook get the lumps…but never get credit…The CIA remains above the battles of agencies which have to account for themselves. Only from time to time (and at times like this), its well-bred murmur is heard in the expense clubs in the nation's capital, explaining why it cannot be held accountable to democratic processes, as all our other great organs of government, secret and overt, are."

The following morning, John F. Kennedy made the short trip from Fort Worth to Dallas.
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
Thanks Paul.

Will use and credit you as researcher, unless you do not wish that.
Paul Rigby Wrote:From April 2007:

On his second day there, Prochnau earlier disclosed, Halberstam went to lunch with "the CIA's Saigon station chief, John Richardson" who gave him "an unexpectedly good lead" (Ibid., p.133). A little further on, we learn: "By now his CIA contacts from the Congo had begun to flock to the hot new action in Southeast Asia like bees to honey. Vietnam was a spook's dream…" (Ibid., p.169). Interestingly, the Times of Vietnam, in its detailed expose of the abortive CIA-orchestrated coup planned for August 28/29, 1963, had this to say: "Beginning in January of this year, it is reported American secret agency "experts" who successfully engineered the coup d'etats in Turkey, Guatemala, Korea, and failed in Iran and Cuba, began arriving in Vietnam, taking up duties mostly in the U.S. Embassy, U.S.O.M., M.A.A.G., and various official and unofficial installations here" ("CIA Financing Planned Coup D'Etat: Planned for Aug. 28; Falls Flat, Stillborn," Monday, 2 September 1963, pp.1). Had those Agency coup experts also served in the Congo, to thwart Kennedy's backing for the UN?

A couple of things to note. What follows isn't the original report, which named Richardson, the CIA station chief in Saigon, as the leader of the coup; the length and scope of CIA preparations for this attempt; and the timing of the coup (on the eve of Lodge's arrival in Saigon). It really deserves to be much better known and understood:

Quote:The Times of Vietnam, Monday, 2 September 1963, pp.1&6

CIA Financing Planned Coup D'Etat

Planned for Aug. 28; Falls Flat, Stillborn

Saigon (TVN) The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was financing a planned coup d'etat scheduled for last Wednesday, reliable foreign sources said yesterday.

For some weeks as the Xa Loi anti-government campaign grew, the rumours of coup d'etats became more frequent and abundant. It was well known that the Communists were exploiting the Xa Loi campaign in an effort to topple the Vietnamese Government, and there were constant rumours that C.I.A. was also supporting it.

Now as the story comes out, it is revealed that C.I.A. agents in the political section of the U.S. Embassy, the Public Safety Division of U.S.O.M. and the G2 section of M.A.A.G., with the assistance of well-paid military attaches from three other embassies, had prepared a detailed plan for the overthrow of the Vietnamese Government. The C.I.A. plan, it is said, had the blessing of high officials in the "distressed" State Department.

It is also said Vietnamese authorities seem to be well aware of C.I.A. efforts to help build the political agitation of the "Buddhist Affair" to a point of popular confusion and hysteria which would be fertile ground for the planned coup d'etat of the unofficially official American organization.

Beginning in January of this year, it is reported American secret agency "experts" who successfully engineered the coup d'etats in Turkey, Guatemala, Korea, and failed in Iran and Cuba, began arriving in Vietnam, taking up duties mostly in the U.S. Embassy, U.S.O.M., M.A.A.G., and various official and unofficial installations here. The Vietnamese Government, though seemingly well aware of all this, apparently could not believe such action was possible from allies and at a time with victory so near.

Rumours of their activities with student and religious and other private groups and clubs have long flown around the city. During the period in which U.S. Ambassador Nolting was on leave from May to July, the operators became more openly active, showing themselves in person at Xa Loi Pagoda to confer with agitators there.

But, certain foreign sources say, the young agent provocateurs showed their hands too brazenly in the attempt to prepare the military coup d'etat and revealed the plot. Naively believing the subjects of their bribes were anti-government, they poured money into the pockets of many, the sources say. The money is now spent from a budget which the U.S. Congress has no authority to audit, an affair which may bring much trouble and shame when the U.S. Congress takes a close look. The sources estimate the sum of money spent to overthrow the Vietnamese Government was between 10 and 21 million dollars.

The money was in three banks, it is reported: Bank of America, Hong-Kong-Shanghai Banking Corp., and Bank of Tokyo.

U.S. banknotes under 50 dollar denominations were difficult to change on the black market on Saturday, and black market dealers who accepted small notes gives as much as 4 ps. per dollar less than the going rate of 1065 VN for bills of 50 and 100 dollar denominations.

By Sunday afternoon some black market currency dealers were refusing to buy dollars but were selling them at 1058 VN to the dollar.

The macabre outline of the plot in seven steps bears a sinister resemblance to the Communist tactics:

1) Create unrest and discontent among the masses, provoking "religious"-inspired anti-government sentiment; sow discord among the population.
2) Mobilize youth groups (a function of the C.I.A. agents in U.S.I.S. and U.S.O.M.) particularly the following groups: Boy Scout, Girl Scouts, Buddhist Youth, Buddhist student groups.
3) Buy police, army, labor, and civil servants with three months advance salary and a bonus.
4) Assure government officials that they will be allowed to stay in their present posts if they agree to resign when given the signal.
5) While agitating in the different groups, provoke the government at the same time to commit mistakes such as killing innocent civilians or imprisoning large numbers of particular interest groups such as the youth.
6) When confusion has reached its peak, make sure "representatives" of so-called "representative groups" e.g., civil servants, army, etc; - present an ultimatum to the President to (a) resign or (b) to send his family into exile.
7) If President resigns, a puppet government must be ready to take over or a "military junta" prepared to take the reigns of government until elections can be held.

The 24 million dollar "budget" was earmarked, according to the same sources, as follows:

1) Advance salaries for the army, police and civil servants
2) Bonus for the same
3) Further gratifications for the same if necessary
4) Financing of the "Buddhist" organizations
5) Financing of youth movements such as the "Voluntary Youths" (whose financing to date is reported to have come from "American sources".
6) Propaganda including payment for "articles" by foreign correspondents in Vietnam
7) Relief assumed to mean a contingency fund for miscellaneous or unforeseen expenditures

The plan, it is said, was to install a puppet military junta before elections (formerly scheduled for the 31st of August but postponed after martial law was declared). The various and sundry politicians in exile were to be returned to Vietnam to form several political parties and prepare for elections. Nguyen Ton Hoan, at a press conference in New York last week, announced he had a government ready to bring to Vietnam. He is reported to have presented the list to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Pham Huy Co of November 11 fame is reported also to be in the U.S. ready to cash in a change of governments.

But, Nguyen Ton Hoan's list according to several persons on the list contains (end of page 1) the names of persons who have never even been consulted to give approval for their inscription on the list.

Some weeks ago the Radio Catinat rumor indicated the coup was to come between the 15th and 28th of this month. The Government and Army took action on August 21, but this plan continued, the sources say. The date scheduled for the coup was actually August 28, they report.

On August 29 a military intelligence source was quoted in a foreign wire service dispatch as reporting that President Diem would be stopping in Manila on that day the 29th en route to exile in a friendly country. Manila journalists were alerted to be at International Airport to see him on the stopover. Meanwhile President Ngo Dinh Diem was visiting marines on the Saigon River. Apparently the source was not alerted to the actual turn of events, or he leaked the "news" prematurely.

U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge had been due to arrive on August 26. There were unconfirmed reports that the date was postponed to August 29. But, immediately after the August 21 action of President Ngo Dinh Diem and the Army, Lodge received orders to come immediately, arriving in Saigon on August 22.

Certain diplomatic sources in Saigon report that essentially the whole diplomatic corps was aware of the plan in general, if not in detail. All were alerted for the hour of 11pm on August 28, they report. But, at the last moment, it was postponed because the Vietnamese knew about it and were organised to face it and to resist to the end even if it meant fighting in the streets of Saigon.

A number of foreign embassy representatives have expressed great concern, the foreign sources say, because they knew a coup attempt would result in bloody chaos in Saigon.

President De Gaulle was reported to have been indignant, because he knew the Vietnamese would never give in to such a coup easily and it could only create a situation which would profit the Communists.

But it seemed it was only when the CIA agents saw for themselves that the Tu Vu Thanh (Self-Defense Corps of the capital) of the Cong Hoa Youth street combat specialists were really organized to face the coup of the day, that they finally postponed their "coup". They were well aware, whether they reported it to Washington or not, that in the elections of 57 strategic quarters of the capital, the Republican Youth had victories in 54 of the 57 quarters.

The new Ambassador has made no public declarations since his arrival, but has conferred with President Ngo Dinh Diem and with Counsellor Ngo Dinh Nhu. The Ambassador is faced with a most explosive and delicate situation, which some observers believe may turn out to have been as big a debacle as the Cuban affair. The State Department, they judge, has cut the rug from under Lodge's feet by speaking so precipitously to "deplore" the Vietnamese Government for action which has proven to have been an extremely wise move. If State Dept. had maintained silence until Lodge had time to send away the agent provocateurs among his personnel here and "fix things up" with the Vietnamese Government before the State Department took an open public position on the actions of August 21, it could have saved much face for itself.

But apparently the CIA operators had so greatly misjudged the popularity and strength of the Ngo Dinh Diem Government that Washington was convinced there was going to be a change of government here.

In the meantime, the U.S. public through foreign press reports based on U.S. "intelligence" assessments, was readied to accept the planned term of events. Ambassador Nolting's and General Harkins' statements of optimism and support have for some months been discredited and toned down by the U.S. press here, often with quotes from junior officers who disagreed with their chiefs.

The CIA crowd has obviously prepared well to undercut any sound Lodge policy which develop as they undercut that of Nolting.

Since the monstrous flub realising at last that they do not have the Vietnamese people with them the agitation and plotting continues all the same, both foreign and Vietnamese sources say.

In an effort to revive the "religious" character of the crisis, there is now a reported plan underfoot to murder the Thich Thien Hoa newly appointed head of the Buddhist group; Cao Hoal Sang of the Cao Dai sect; and several leaders of the Hoa Hao sects. Next step would be the assassination of Monsigneur Ngo Dinh Thuc himself which the plotters would term a "reprisal" of non-Catholic patriots.

The Archbishop is indeed feared for his well-known fearlessness and dynamism.

As for Counsellor and Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the plotters want only exile for them for the time being, because they know well that if they were murdered it would provoke a bloodbath of reprisals.

A threatening side-issue in the pumped-up "religious" affair is reported to be a campaign to encourage the Highlanders trained by U.S. Special Forces to desert the national cause. "Intelligence" sources have for some time been telling the press that "Who controls the Highlands, controls Vietnam."

The CIA group which is reported to have complete control of U.S.I.S., is said to have gone "underground" and to be clandestinely calling on the Armed Forces of the Republic to demonstrate and to provoke the several-times postponed coup d'etat.

As late as Saturday evening, AFRS radio station was broadcasting 30 second spot lectures on such subjects as "majority rule" and explaining in a sarcastic tone that majority rule meant "respect" for the activities of "minorities".

On Sunday, one agent said angrily "Nhu won the first round. But just wait for the second round."

Said one Vietnamese government official "The U.S. press summaries get to Xa Lol two days earlier than I could get them. I can only think of one source for their information."

As things appear, the plotters momentarily seem to have abandoned the idea of a coup d'etat, but still cling to the purpose of creating unrest under whatever label they can ????, counting on diplomatic immunity to go on untouched in their activities to topple the Government.

The State Department, now faced with an embarrassing dilemma created by gross errors of assessment of the situation here, has the choice of doing an about face or losing plenty of face and maybe both.

The millions of Americans who believe in the freedom and national integrity their government preaches are in for a big disillusionment if their government does not soon denounce the sinister cynics who almost turned Vietnam over to the Communists. And some observers on the scene are wondering whether the whole fiasco is a desperate effort of those who helped to lose Cuba for the Free World to try to recoup their loss of face by taking control of Vietnam in time to proclaim her victory as their own.

But this is not the American way, as American citizens have been brought up to understand it. And, once revealed, the American people will without any doubt turn their wrath for this fiasco on those who have betrayed their ideals.

The U.S. Congress watchdog of the American dream is still there. And they are not likely to accept lightly the betrayals of all the ideals of which they are the guardians among the most precious of which is self-determination of peoples in freedom.

There is one more factor in Vietnam's favor. U.S. Congressmen are also political realists, and it won't take long for most of them to see the realities of the situation in Vietnam once the facts are placed before them.
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
Jim DiEugenio Wrote:Thanks Paul.

Will use and credit you as researcher, unless you do not wish that.

If you need any sources/citations, let me know, as there are tons of endnotes, none of which would copy and paste with the main body of the text.
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
An eminently sane man on the question of working with his Communist fellow-countrymen (at 4 mins 54 seconds):

"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
Paul, I have not been able to find any information that Sheehan was in Congo prior to going to Vietnam.

Its not in Prochanau. Do you have another source?
Jim DiEugenio Wrote:Paul, I have not been able to find any information that Sheehan was in Congo prior to going to Vietnam.

Its not in Prochanau. Do you have another source?

Sheehan wasn't in Congo, Jim, but instead morphed from a UPI "stringer" in Japan into the bureau chief in Saigon with instant connections to the key CIA mouthpieces in the country, one of the more remarkable journalistic transformations of the period.

By the way, the Galbraith piece on WhoWhatWhy is very welcome, but might usefully have mentioned 1) JFK's back channel emissaries in Vietnam in the spring of 1963; and 2) the interviews given by Ho Chi Minh to western journalists in 1962 in which he repeatedly stressed Hanoi's willingness to settle for a neutral South Vietnam.

Good luck with part 2, but remember to give yourself the occasional well-earned rest.
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
My error Paul.

My review of Part 2 of this dreadful series will be up tomorrow.

Wish I could rest Paul, but there is too much BS out there.

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