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Saul Landau - Great political thinker, writer, filmmaker - interview about new film on Terrorists
AMY GOODMAN: For more on the Cuban Five, we turn now to the award-winning filmmaker, author, professor Saul Landau. He has made more than 45 films and written 14 books, many about Cuba. His latest film is called Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up, about U.S. support for violent anti-Castro militants. I interviewed Saul Landau last week when he came to New York. I started by asking him why he made the film.
SAUL LANDAU: Well, I went to Cuba in 1960 when I was a student, because I was curious. I was curious to see how a guy who was so disobedient, Fidel Castro, and his other revolutionaries were going to last. I didn't think they could, and I went out toI went down to Cuba to check it out. And I met people my age who were running government ministries and sleeping three hours a night and using a lot more of their brains than I was using. And I was impressed by watching people making history. And I think, like many other people who went down there at the time, this place seemed really different, that they were going to make a different kind of a revolution, and it was going to have its impact. And I think it did have its impact on the world. But that's how I got there in the first place. And pretty soon, I was working to stop the United States from invading Cuba, like a lot of people who had gone down there.
And the firstone of the first talks I gave was in New York City at Town Hall. And as I came out, a guy tried to cut me on the back with a razor, a Cuban exile. I guess he took freedom of speech more seriously than I did. And subsequently, I made a film with Fidel Castro in 1968 for public television. It went on '69. And then the theatrical release was supposed to happen in New York in 1970 at the Fifth Avenue Cinema. And I think it would have happened if somebody hadn't put two bombs in the theater. So, that ended the opening in New York. So we were going to open it in Los Angeles, and the day before it was screened, the theater was burned down. The police determined it was arson. Nobody was caught in either case. Then Sandra Levinson, who was at that time a new director at the Center for Cuban Studies, was going to show it there. And the Center for Cuban Studies was bombed. This would have been 1973.
SAUL LANDAU: In New York City. My next encounter with the Cuban terrorists was when my two colleagues, Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt were assassinated in Washington, D.C., by Cuban exiles working for the Chilean secret police now. Soand over the years, I've hadhow should I say itmy share of credible death threats.
AMY GOODMAN: Orlando Letelier was a Chilean diplomat under Salvador Allende.
SAUL LANDAU: Yes, he had been the Chilean ambassador in Washington. That's where I first met him. And I had invited him to come to the Institute for Policy Studies, where I was working. And he did. And he wasn't even there a year, and he was blown up in his car on Sheridan Circle, three-quarters of a mile from the White Housevery audacious act of terrorism.
AMY GOODMAN: And you had been with him very close to the time he was killed.
SAUL LANDAU: I had dinner with him on Sunday night. He was killed on Tuesday morning. And on that Sunday night, we had come outmy wife and I had come out of his house, and I remember talking outside with our elbows on his car, which was parked in the driveway, not knowing, of course, there was a bomb underneath the car.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it was there at that point, Sunday night?
SAUL LANDAU: Well, according to the witnesses who later testified, they had put the car on late Saturday nightactually, early Sunday morning.
AMY GOODMAN: Had put the bomb...
SAUL LANDAU: They had placed the bomb on the car then.
AMY GOODMAN: And they hadn't used it until Tuesday.
SAUL LANDAU: Yeah, they missed him Monday somehow, and so they got him on Tuesday.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet this relates to Cuba, because the assassins...
SAUL LANDAU: The assassins came from a Cuban group in northern New Jersey, in Weehawken, called the Cuban Nationalist Movement. Sometimes they went under the name of Omega 7. And the FBI had infiltrated them and knew from early on in their investigation that they had been the actual perps who did the thing, under the auspices of the Chilean secret police, who had ordered the assassination.
AMY GOODMAN: If the FBI had infiltrated them, did they know before that Orlando Letelier was under such threat?
SAUL LANDAU: No, theywell, according to what we know from the FBI agents and from the FOIA stuff, they found out afterwards. The assassination was on a Tuesday. I think Friday or Saturday their informant called up and said that it was the Cuban Nationalist Movement who did the job, and then he named the people who did it: Guillermo Novo Sampol and his brother Ignacio and Alvin Ross and José Dionisio Suárez. They were all arrested by the FBI very quickly and held in contempt for refusing to testify. Then they were tried and convicted, three of them. And two later were caught and convicted. But then the Novos got out, because the prosecutor made a procedural error. And in the second trial, their lawyers apparently learned more than the prosecutors, and they got off. And it was at that point Guillermo Novo, in the hall, just right after the trial, looked at me and then, in Spanish, he said, "And now we're going to get the rest of those commie SOBs." And I, you know, thoughtvery modestly, I responded by holding my finger up. And he advanced toward me very threateningly, and the FBI came between us. And then, very shortly afterwards, I was told I was on his target list, that I washe had put a hit on me.
AMY GOODMAN: Award-winning filmmaker, author Saul Landau. His latest film is called Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up. We'll come back to the conversation in 30 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to Saul Landau, director of the new film Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up, which has been praised by, among others, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff of Secretary of State General Colin Powell. I asked Saul Landau to talk about relations between the United States and Cuba.
SAUL LANDAU: Well, I think that Cuba, in a sense, belongs in The Guiness Book of Records for disobedience, becauselet me go back to a little story. There was ain 2006, I was in Cuba with Gore Vidal and John Burton, who was the president of the California Senate, had just retired. He was termed out of office, actually. And we were meeting with a person from the United States interest section in Cuba, which is the equivalent of an embassy, but it isn't an embassy because we don't have formal relations with Cuba. And Burton asked the man from the interest section, the U.S. diplomat, "So, like, what did Cuba do to us, again?" And the man says, "Well, they violate human rights." And Burton says, "Aw, come on." He says, "The Chinese killed thousands of Americans in Korea. The Vietnamese killed thousands of Americans in Vietnam. They've both got single-party commie governments with stinking human rights records. So what did Cuba do to us, again?" And the man went on and on about Cuba violating human rights. Burton stormed out of the house.
But there it is. What did Cuba do to us? Well, the answer, I think, is that they were disobedient, in our hemisphere. And they did not ask permission to take away property. They took it away. They nationalized property. And the United States, on the one hand, has never forgiven them. And on the other hand, it has hosted a strange kind of lobby. Maybe after 1981, we had an anti-Castro lobby in this country, that was formed in part through the intervention of AIPAC, the American Israel Political Action Committee, who sort of taught them how to do it. And this is another
AMY GOODMAN: Why did AIPAC care? In fact, Israel has relations with Cuba.
SAUL LANDAU: Well, they don't havethey have economic relations with Cuba. Israeli investment is obvious in Cuba, especially in citrus. They don't have diplomatic relations. But I think in thethe Reagan White House asked the AIPAC people to help the Cubans do this. I don't think it was their own initiative.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet it's fascinating that it was anti-Castro Cubans who attempted to assassinate President Reagan, as you show in your film.
SAUL LANDAU: Yes. They have used violence consistently over 50 years, even though it hasn't worked. I mean, if anything, the violence has helped consolidate Fidel Castro's rule and then the subsequent government. But they continue to use it. And if you ask them why they use it, they really can't tell you. I mean, if you ask Orlando Bosch why he was violent, he says in the movie, well, he's crazy. Another guy, Basulto, takes credit for all kinds of things. And Luis Posada Carriles simply denies that he did anything.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain who these men are.
AMY GOODMAN: José Basulto.
SAUL LANDAU: José Basulto formedwell, he had been a CIA agent infrom 1959 on. He was recruited by a fellow named David Atlee Phillips, who recruited quite a few people in that time. He also recruited Antonio Veciana. Veciana was the CIA's top pick to kill Castro over the years.
AMY GOODMAN: Who you feature in the film, as well.
SAUL LANDAU: He's in the film, as well. Anyway, Basulto, also working for the CIA and sometimes working for himself, fired some cannon at a hotel in 1962, so that he could prove there were Russians in Cuba, because the Russians then complained that their people had been fired at. José Basulto then formed an organization called Brothers to the Rescue, which was originally to save the lives of rafters who were leaving Cuba after the Soviet Union disappeared. He would radiohe and his pilots would radio their positions to nearby ships. But when the U.S. and Cuba signed a migration accord, he lost his mission, because there were no more rafters. They were being picked up by the Coast Guard and returned to Cuba. So he took a new mission. He was overflying Cuba.
The Cubans got word that he was going to fire a weapon or drop a weapon on them. And they notified the United States that future overflights would meet the gravest of consequences, meaning they would get shot down. And Basulto was told by the U.S. government that future flights would be very dangerous. In fact, the U.S. government sent a note to the Federal Aviation Agency saying, "Take their licenses away." And the head of the FAA sent a note to the FAA chief in Miami, saying, "Take their licenses away. Don't let them fly." But the FAA chief in Miami did not follow orders. And they flew, February 24th, 1996, and two of theirof the three planes were shot down, pilots and co-pilots killed. And this brought about
AMY GOODMAN: Basulto escaped and flew back to Florida.
SAUL LANDAU: Basulto miraculously escaped. Clinton responded by signing the Helms-Burton bill, which drastically tightened the embargo and also codified it. That is, he transferred power from the executive to Congress, something that was very rarely done in the 20th century.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was José Basulto.
AMY GOODMAN: And then you mentioned Luis Posada Carriles.
SAUL LANDAU: Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch had teamed up in 1976 in October to knock down a Cuban airliner in the air, a passenger plane, which their agents successfully did over the island of Barbados. The agents were caught, and they ratted on Posada Carriles and on Orlando Bosch. They were both arrested in Venezuela. And then there was a long, complicated judicial process in which very little really happened. And then one of them was freed and came to the United States. President Bush, the first, brought him in, despite the complaints by the FBI and the Justice Department saying, "Don't let this guy in. He's a dangerous terrorist." Bush ignored them and let him in.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of your film, Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up. And this is that moment that the Cubana Airlines, with 73 passengers on board, is hit.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Cubana 455, [inaudible].
CUBANA AIRLINES PILOT: We have had explosion. We are descending immediately. We have a fire on board.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Cubana 455, are you returning to the field?
CUBANA AIRLINES PILOT: This is Cubana 455. We are requesting immediately, immediately landing. Close the door! Close the door! It's getting worse! Crash landing into the sea!
CBS EVENING NEWS: This is the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
WALTER CRONKITE: Good evening. Nine days ago, a Cuban passenger jet en route from Barbados to Havana crashed into the sea following an onboard explosion. Seventy-three persons, 57 of them Cuban, were killed.
AMY GOODMAN: You're listening to and watching an excerpt of Saul Landau's film, Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up. So, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles blow up this airliner, and they ultimately live freely in Miami.
SAUL LANDAU: Yes, and the United States hadand we know this now from declassified documents from the CIA and the FBI, that they had nailed them, that Posada had told a CIA official there that "Orlando has all the information. We're going to get an airplane." It's there, right in theand I think we put it on the screen. And the first thing they did was try to raise money off this event. And it occurred to me that this might have been, down deep, the real motivation for all this terrorism, because it didn't reallyI mean, how is blowing up an airplane going to change the government of Cuba? Or how does even placing a few bombs in hotels? Or trying to assassinate? The real fact is that after all of these terrorist acts, these guys go door to door and saying, "Hey, you know, you heard what we did lately, huh? And you, you got a nice store here." And they raise money. So this is how they ended up making a living. Otherwise, it makes no sense doing any of the things they did.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, going on with Lawrence Wilkerson's review of your film, the man who was the chief of staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell, worked with him for years, Colonel Wilkerson. He talks about Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. He says, "Clearly shown and vividly documented was the fact that the United States sponsors terrorism. In Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch alone, there are overtones of Osama bin Laden and Aman al-Zawahiri, the nefarious leadership of al-Qa'ida. In the film, Carriles and Bosch as much as tell us this in their own words. Moreover, they seem to rejoice in it."
SAUL LANDAU: Yes. Yeah, that's who they were. That's their vocation. And they ultimately got proud of it. You know, asOsama bin Laden's objective wasn't to take power in the United States. He had another motive for bombing the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And I think these guys didn't hope to take power in Cuba. They had another motive. And that is, to make a living.
AMY GOODMAN: There were over 600 assassination attempts on Fidel Castro's life that the U.S. was involved with?
SAUL LANDAU: Well, they werethe United States governmentor, the CIA was involved in lotsI don't know how many, but according to a British filmthey had pretty good documentation from the Cubansthere were 628 attempts on Castro's life. The CIA was involved in more than half of them.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did they want Fidel Castro dead?
SAUL LANDAU: Well, I think, in the U.S. government, it was thought that as soon as Fidel was gone, the Cuban Revolution was gone, and they would get Cuba back. It would be back in their pocket as they had it before. I mean, if you look at Cuba before the revolution, it was an economic colony of the United States. And I think the U.S. government felt a sense of loss, a sense of humiliation almost. Who lost Cuba? I mean, this was a discussion way back in the 1960s. Who was it responsible for losing Cuba? And Eisenhower was blamed, and Kennedy was blamed. But the thought was, look at all those corporations that used to own the islandthe sugar companies, King Ranch and other huge American corporations who had huge assets there. And they were all expropriated. Oil companies, Texaco.
AMY GOODMAN: They all worked with Batista, the former dictator.
SAUL LANDAU: Oh, Batista was a brutal dictator. He killed, according to the Cuban figures, 20,000 people over a period of five years and practiced routine torture. And he was supported by the U.S. government until quite late in the game.
AMY GOODMAN: So how did this scrappy group of insurgentsFidel Castro, Che Guevarahow did they overthrow Batista?
SAUL LANDAU: Well, I think theyCastro and his group used a combination of guerrilla war which they fought from several mountainsthat is, the Sierra Maestra and the Sierra Cristal, the two mountain ranges in the eastern province, in Oriente, in Cuba, and then there was another group fighting from the Escambray Mountainsand they tried to coordinate their activities with an urban guerrilla or urban, if you like, revolutionary group that was also causing the repressive forces to put a lot of attention and men into them. They were creating sabotage, propaganda. And Batista, by 1958, was an extremely unpopular leader. Havingbecause he had been a sergeant and not one of the old guard army people, he really wasn't in bed with the old Cuban aristocrats and didn't owe them any loyalty. He was in bed with the mafia. He was on good terms with them, for their gambling and the prostitution and all their stuff. So he didn't feel any kinship with the upper middle class or the aristocracy, many of whose kids were being picked up by the cops and tortured or even killed. So he lost a lot of popularity. And when the revolutionaries won, they won with overwhelming popular supportthat didn't last, of course. As soon as the revolution showed that it was serious about class things and distributing wealth, the upper class moved out, and they moved to Miami. And this was pretty well completed by late 1960. The richest people in Cuba had left the island.
AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us who the Cuban Five are.
SAUL LANDAU: The Cuban Five were intelligence agents who were part of a larger web of intelligence group called Wasp. And 12 of them either got pleas or fled, and got away.
AMY GOODMAN: And they were charged with things like what?
SAUL LANDAU: They were charged with failing to register as foreign agents and false identity.
AMY GOODMAN: Has the U.S. ever done that?
SAUL LANDAU: The United States has never tried anybody for failing to register as a foreign agent, because Americans are doing that all over the world. And they don't want to get arrested. They don't want to set a precedent for that.
AMY GOODMAN: Generally, they'd deport people like that?
SAUL LANDAU: They deport people. They arrest them and say, "Go home." And they expect that to happen if Americans are caught, let's say, in a foreign country, in eastern Europe, say, having infiltrated some terrorist cell in Chechnya or wherever. This is what thethis is what this kind of intelligence is all about, and everybody understands it. False identification? Of course you have false ID, or else you're going to get known. So these aren't really serious charges. I mean, they do have, you know, legally, penalties that are associated with. But these guys were charged with heavier crimes. They were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder. And, you know, reallyand these carried heavy sentences. And the judgethe judge went overboard. I mean, she gave Gerardo two life sentences plus 15 yearsalmost unheard of. And some of the sentences, by the way, were reversed by an appeals court, which said these sentences are ridiculous, and they lessened them. They forced the judge to resentence. And one of the Cuban Five, by the way, is now on parole in South Florida, but he is not allowed to travel outside of South Florida. Anybody else would simply be deported and sent back home.
AMY GOODMAN: The other three, outside of Gerardo, how many years do they still have to serve?
SAUL LANDAU: One of them has a life sentence. One will be out in about four, five years, and another in about eight or 10.
AMY GOODMAN: So, murderers and rapists get far more lenient sentences.
SAUL LANDAU: Yes. Yeah, these guys have gotten maximumsuper-maximum sentences.
AMY GOODMAN: Saul Landau, is there any deal being made behind the scenes to free the Cuban Five in exchange forwho is Cuba holding that the U.S. would be interested in releasing?
SAUL LANDAU: Well, the Cubans caught a man named Alan Gross, who was working as a contractor for a company that was contracted with AID, the State Department. And their job, essentially, was to promote regime change in Cuba. And it says so in the legislation, and they got the money to do this. Alan's job was to set up dissidents with super-sophisticated satellite communication systems that would work through satellite phones and laptops that were untrackable and impenetrable. And I really don't think that he was trying to keep the Cubans from learning our secret matzo ball recipe. The excuse is, he's innocent; all he was trying to do was help the Jewish community get better internet access. This is total nonsense.
AMY GOODMAN: That was being alleged.
SAUL LANDAU: Yes, and they're stillI mean, Hillary Clinton is still saying this, that he's innocent. Even his wife says now he was guilty.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
SAUL LANDAU: Well, Hillary says all he was trying to do was help the Jewish community get internet access. This is nonsense.
AMY GOODMAN: Why is the wife saying he's guilty? Did he have an affair in prison?
SAUL LANDAU: No. His wife's saying he's guilty because, I think, she's changing strategy. Alan Gross's defense has been he's innocent. Then came an article in the Associated Press by Desmond Butler, mid-February of this year. Somebody leaked to him his trip reports. That is, Alan had madethis was his fifth trip to Cuba. In each one, he details how he smuggled in illicit equipment using other Jews who were going down on religious missions. He had asked them to put little pieces of the equipment in their backpacks to get it through customs in Cuba, which he then reassembled. And he bought a SIM card, which made the system untrackable. In other words, these people could communicate with each other without Cuban counterintelligence finding out where they were. That's why I said I don't think it was just to protect our matzo ball recipe. This was something deeper. Alan had done this in Iraq, and he had done it in Afghanistan. So, he had a track record. Did he know what he was doing in terms of what the ultimate goal was? Who knows? I don't know, and I don't think it's relevant. But he knew he was violating Cuban law. The Cubans got his laptop. They got his hard drive. They got his flash drive. Then they got all his equipment.
AMY GOODMAN: But then they follow him all through Cuba, so that they could track all the people he was talking to, before ultimately they arrested him when he was leaving at the airport.
SAUL LANDAU: Alan was picked up after the first agent he talked to. The first Cuban he talked to was a state security agent masquerading as a religious person. And that was it. He was picked up. He was picked up. And the Jewish community that he went to once immediately calls the cops on him. So Alan was identified, and the Cubans followed him everywhere he went and got a list of all the people he visited, and now will have all of his equipment to boot. So I think that something that's possible thathow should I say itreciprocal humanitarian gestures are now possible. The Cubans could free Alan Gross, and President Obama could free the Cuban Five.
AMY GOODMAN: Saul Landau, director of the new documentary, Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up. He's made more than 45 films and written 14 books, many about Cuba.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Films and Commentary from Saul Landau
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
The CIA's Campaign
Against Salvador Allende
excerpted from the book
The Lawless State
The crimes of the U.S. Inteligence Agencies
by Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, Robert Borosage, Christine Marwick
Penguin Books, 1976

Since the early 1960s, American policy in Chile was directed at one objective-to keep-Salvador Allende from coming to power. To accomplish this, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, with the willing cooperation of the CIA, were prepared to destroy constitutional government n Chile.
Who was this man who brought down upon himself the ire of American presidents and the CIA? Allende was not a Soviet puppet, plotting to bring Soviet troops to Chile to destroy democracy. He was a committed democrat, considered a moderate by Chilean socialists, leading a coalition of Marxist parties in the election place. His program was the same each time he ran for president from 1958 onward: he pledged to reshape the Chilean economy (beginning with nationalization of major industries), to redistribute income through tax and land reform; and to begin a policy of better relationships with Cuba, the USSR, and other socialist states. Despite the warnings of his personal friend Fidel Castro, and despite the vicious campaign
orchestrated by the CIA, Allende continued to respect the democratic traditions in Chile after he was elected in 1970. The intelligence community's own assessments showed that local, student, and trade-union elections continued to be held regularly; the press remained free, and continued to attack the government; the military was not used to suppress other parties.
Allende's government also posed no strategic threats to the United States. In 1970, a high-level interdepartmental group concluded that the United States had no vital interests in Chile, and that Allende posed no likely threat to the peace of the region. Allende pursued a policy of nonalignment, entering into relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union, and demonstrating independence from the United States. United States intelligence estimates agreed that - none of this was of strategic concern.
Yet to Henry Kissinger it might as well have been 1948, with the Red Army looming just over the horizon. On September 16, 1970, he told a group of editors in a "background" briefing that an "Allende takeover" (i.e., victory in a democratic election) was not in United States interest. "There is a good chance that [Allende] will establish over a period of years some sort of Communist government," warned Kissinger, and that could pose "massive problems for us and for democratic forces and for pro-US forces in Latin America." In a stretch of his geopolitical imagination, Kissinger specified Argentina Bolivia, and Peru as countries that would be adversely influenced by an Allende victory. Moreover, Kissinger feared that the "contagious example" of Chile would "infect" NATO allies in southern Europe.
Kissinger was worried about the question of dominoes "infection," and Western stability. Chile, like Vietnam before it and Angola after, had become a test case for America's imperial will. Not surprisingly, for the man who urged the carpet-bombing of Hanoi in order to "punctuate" his negotiating position against North Vietnam, Kissinger had little interest in either the condition of the Chilean people or their fate. "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people," said Kissinger in 1970 at a supersecret meeting of the 40 Committee (the White House group chaired by Kissinger, which was supposed to approve major projects to manipulate other countries' internal affairs).
Kissinger set the CIA against Allende, not to preserve democracy or to counter a Soviet puppet in Latin America, but to prevent a charismatic socialist from providing a democratic alternative to American policy. "Henry thought that Allende might lead an anti-United States movement in Latin America more effectively than Castro, just because it was the democratic path to power," commented an ex-staff aide. In fact, it was precisely because Allende was widely regarded as a believer in democratic institutions that there was so much shock connected to his overthrow, especially in the Third World and southern Europe. What Kissinger was saying-and backing up with covert American power-was that adherence to democracy wasn't enough; that countries would not be allowed to switch over to a socialist way of running their economies even democratically. The message of Chile was: no matter how unjust or corrupt the alternative, the United States would not allow meaningful economic or social change, at least with a Marxist label, and a willingness to have good relations with Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union.
Fidel Castro, on the other hand, received another message from American subversion of the Allende regime. He saw Allende's mistake as having allowed too much democracy. Castro told American interviewers in July 1974:
Allende respected all these rights. The opposition press conspired. There were newspapers conspiring for a coup d'etat every day, and they finally delivered the coup. Everyone had the right to conspire, and the results were that they overthrew the Allende government and set up a fascist regime.
Castro believed-and Kissinger seemed to be confirming-that there could be no socialism in Latin America with democratic freedoms and without armed power to back it up. In the end, the very specter that Kissinger raised for Chile if Allende stayed in power-abolition of basic freedoms-was the final result of the secret American foreign-policy goal of destablizing Chile.
The ClA's attempts to dislodge Allende from power in Chile were the culmination of a long agency campaign against Allende. Twice before-in 1958 and in 1964- Allende had run for the presidency, and on both occasions the CIA worked clandestinely to block him. To influence the outcome of the 1964 elections, the agency spent $3 million. As part of this effort, the CIA organized a media "scare campaign" (campana de terror) and secretly paid over half the costs of the victorious Christian Democratic campaign.
Philip Agee, who was a CIA operative in Uruguay in 1964, has described how some of this money was funneled into Chile through the Montevideo branch of the First National City Bank, with the help of the assistant manager, John M. Hennessy. Five years later, Hennessy was the assistant secretary of the treasury for international affairs and in that post helped to coordinate the economic aspect of the Nixon administration's anti-Allende campaign.
Hennessy's dual role vividly illustrates the interlocking, overlapping nature of American corporate and government involvement in Chile-and, indeed, in all Latin America. United States corporations dominated the key sectors of Chile's economy-including the vital copper industry. By 1970, loans by financial institutions controlled or dominated by the United States-AID, the Export-lmport Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank-had given Chile the highest per-capita foreign debt in the world. With the knowledge and encouragement of the United States government, companies including Anaconda Copper and ITT contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-Allende candidates.
The Senate intelligence report indicates that in 1970 the CIA approached ITT for contributions to an Allende foe Shortly thereafter, in the summer of 1970, a member of the ITT board of directors, John McCone, contacted the CIA in Washington to offer $1 million in ITT corporate funds for the anti-Allende effort. The CIA ostensibly rejected the offer but provided ITT with information on two "secure" funding channels that could be used to slip money to the National party and its candidate, Jorge Alessandri.
John McCone wore several hats in this affair. In addition to being a director of ITT, he was the former head of the CIA itself, and was still secretly on the agency rolls as a "consultant." With his past CIA experience, McCone was fully aware that the CIA had "penetrated" virtually every sector of Chilean society. In intelligence parlance the CIA for years had been steadily "building its assets" -placing and recruiting agents in key jobs all over Chile. In cooperation with-and often under cover supplied by- the AFL-CIO, the CIA had infiltrated the labor movement. It recruited Chileans in the media and among the country's most important politicians. CIA operators maintained regular "liaison" with the Chilean military and police services. In fact, according to a CIA source with direct personal knowledge, agency men in Chile were actively working as early as 1969 to "politicize" the armed forces and police in hopes of provoking a coup before the 1970 elections.
The "asset-building" operations were part of the workaday routine for the dozen or so full-time ClA operatives assigned to the American embassy in Santiago and for the other CIA men in Chile disguised as students or businessmen. This permanent intervention in local politics had become a fact of life in Chile, as it had throughout Latin America. Presidential elections brought out spurts of CIA spending, but the "routine" level of covert action was not insignificant. Between 1964 and 1969, the agency spent close to $2 million on programs to train "anti-Communist organizers" working among Chilean peasants and slum-dwellers. It subsidized or owned wire services, magazines, and newspapers. It directed projects to combat the left on Chile's campuses; supported a politically active women's organization; and tried to win influence in cultural and intellectual circles. The CIA even sponsored a group that specialized in putting up wall posters and heckling at public meetings.'
As the 1970 elections approached, the CIA and the United States ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry, again sought additional funds from the 40 Committee. In March of that year, the 40 Committee decided not to back any single candidate but to wage a "spoiling" campaign against Allende. (This policy was apparently circumvented by the CIA when it advised ITT on how to use agency funding conduits in feeding money to the National party candidate.) In all, the CIA spent close to $1 million to influence the 1970 elections. Some of the money went for "political action" and "black" (false) propaganda to break up the leftist coalition that had formed around Allende. The lion's share, however, went into another shrill media scare campaign. An Allende victory was equated with violence and Stalinist repression, and the message was sent out, the Senate Committee reports, by an editorial support group that provided political features, editorials, and news articles for radio and press placement; and three different news services.... Sign-painting teams had instructions to paint the slogan 'su paredon" (your wall) on 2000 walls, evoking an image of communist firing squads.... Other assets, all employees of El Mercurio, enabled the Station to generate more than one editorial per day based on CIA guidance. Access to El Mercurio had a multiplier effect, since its editorials were read throughout the country on various national radio networks.
Despite the ClA's efforts, Allende won a narrow plurality in elections on September 4, 1970. But since he did not win a majority, formal selection of a president was left to the Chilean Congress, which was to meet on October 24. Chilean tradition dictated that, Allende, the candidate receiving the most votes, would be elected by the Congress.
The Nixon administration entertained other hopes, as the Senate Select Committee noted:
The reaction in Washington to Allende's plurality victory was immediate. The 40 Committee ma on September 8 and 14 to discuss what action should be taken-prior to the October 24 congressional vote. On September 15, President Nixon informed CIA Director Richard Helms that an Allende regime in Chile would not be acceptable to the United States and instructed the CIA to play a direct role in organizing a military coup d'etat in Chile to prevent Allende's accession to the Presidency.
The Nixon administration policy to keep Allende out of power proceeded on two tracks. Under Track I, which had 40 Committee approval, the CIA used a variety of covert political, economic, and propaganda tactics to manipulate the Chilean political scene. One scheme to which the 40 Committee gave its assent was an allocation of S25,000 to bribe members of the Chilean Congress. This money was apparently never spent, but other CIA funds flowed into the ever more shrill propaganda campaign. According to the Senate report:
Themes developed during the campaign were exploited even more intensely during the weeks following September 4, in an effort to cause enough financial and political panic and political instability to goad President Frei or the Chilean-military into action.
The CIA moved quickly to create chaos on the Chilean scene. Agency Director Helms left the September 15 meeting with President Nixon with the following scribble among his notes: "Make the economy scream.'' An interagency committee was set up (with representatives from the CIA, State, Treasury, and the White House) to coordinate the attack on Chile's economy. American multinationals, including ITT, were approached to take such actions as cutting off credit to Chile, stopping the shipment of spare parts, and causing runs on financial institutions. "A major financial panic ensued," noted the Senate Select Committee.
Track II involved direct efforts to foment a- military coup. Neither the State Department nor the 40 Committee was informed about these activities. The chain of command ran directly from Nixon to Kissinger to Helms at the CIA. Helms was told that $10 million or more would be available to do the job. President Nixon was so adamant that Allende be stopped that Helms noted later about his orders: "If I ever carried a marshal's baton in my knapsack out of the Oval Office, it was that day."
The CIA proceeded to make twenty-one contacts in two weeks with key Chilean military personnel to assure them that the United States would support a coup. At the time the primary obstacle within the military to such a move was Chief of Staff General Rene Schneider, a strong supporter of the Chilean military's tradition of non-involvement in politics. The ClA's reaction was to propose removing Schneider. American officials supported the coup plans, which included kidnapping-General Schneider as a first step. After two unsuccessful attempts by the plotters, the CIA passed three submachine guns and ammunition to Chilean officers still planning to kidnap Schneider. The Senate committee found:
In the third kidnap attempt on October 22, apparently conducted by Chileans other than those to whom weapons had been supplied, General Schneider was shot and subsequently die The guns used in the abortive kidnapping were, in all probability, not those supplied by the CIA to the conspirators. The Chilean military court . . . determined that Schneider had been murdered by handguns, although one machine gun was at the scene of the killing.
Schneider was murdered, his fatal error being a firm belief in democracy and an apolitical military. His death was a shocking event in Chile, which had almost no past experience with political violence, but the armed forces still did not move, despite CIA urging. On October 24, 1970, Salvador Allende was confirmed as president of Chile.
After Allende's inauguration, the CIA funneled over $6 million into its attempts to subvert his government.
... The CIA concentrated its efforts in four key areas: Adding to its previous subsidies, the CIA spent another $1.5 million in support of El Mercurio. Under the agency's guidance, the paper was transformed from a publication resembling the Wall Street Journal to one in the style of the New York Daily News, complete with screaming headlines and pictures of Soviet tanks on the front page. The CIA justified this heavy expenditure on El Mercurio to the 40 Committee on the grounds that the Allende government was trying to close the paper and, in general, threatening the free press in Chile. On the contrary, according to the Senate report, "the press remained free," and even the CIA's own intelligence estimates stated that El Mercurio had been able to maintain its independence. The supposed threat to the press was the most important theme the CIA used in an international propaganda campaign aimed against Allende. With the fabricated charge, the CIA was able to convince newspapers around the world-including most of the American media-that Allende posed such a threat. Additionally the CIA circulated its propaganda throughout Chile by means of a complex assortment of captive newspapers, magazines, and radio and television outlets.
CIA operations were supplemented by clandestine aid from sympathetic Brazilians and the secret services of other "allied" countries. Brazilians, themselves trained by the CIA for their own 1964 coup against a leftist president, seem to have played a major part in the disruption of Chile The head of a Brazilian "think tank," Dr. Glycon de Paiva, boasted in a post-coup interview with the Washington Post: "The recipe exists and you can bake the cake any time. We saw how it worked in Brazil and now in Chile." In Chile as in Brazil, the CIA heavily subsidized right-wing think tanks, which were used to coordinate intelligence, distribute propaganda, and organize paramilitary units.
Some of the ClA's money flowed into paramilitary and terrorist groups such as the notorious Patria y Libertad an extremist private vigilante group. Other funds went through conduits, into support of strikes that plagued the Allende regime One hundred and eight leaders of the white-collar trade associations-some of which received direct CIA subsidies-received free training in the United States from the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), an AFL-CIO affiliate which, according to ex-agency operative Philip Agee, was set up under the control of the CIA. While the 40 Committee turned down specific CIA proposals for direct support to two truckers' strikes that had a devastating effect in 1972 and 1973 on Chile's economy, the CIA passed money on to private-sector groups, which in turn, with the agency's knowledge, funded the truckers.
Although the Nixon administration cut off economic aid to Allende's Chile, it continued to send in military assistance. The administration wanted to remain on good terms with the Chilean officer corps, with which there had always been considerable American contact. Starting in 1969 and continuing through 1973, the CIA established a special project to monitor coup plotting-which the CIA was encouraging at least in 1969 and 1970. The Senate Select Committee reported:
In November [1971], the Station suggested that the ultimate objective of the military penetration program was a military coup Headquarters responded by rejecting that formulation of the objective, cautioning that the CIA did not have 40 Committee approval to become involved in a coup. Headquarters acknowledged the difficulty of drawing a firm link between monitoring coup plotting and becoming involved in it. lt also realized that the U S. government's desire to be in clandestine contact with military plotters, for whatever purpose, might well imply to them United States support for their future plans.
On September 11, 1973, a group of military and policy officers-a group that the CIA had penetrated- overthrew the Allende government. The following month, CIA Director William Colby-using the surgical language of the bureaucracy-told a House committee that the CIA "had an overall appreciation" of the "deterioration" of the economic and political situation, and with the Chilean navy pushing for a coup, it had become "only a question of time before it came." Henry Kissinger testified in 1973, under oath:
The CIA had nothing to do with the coup, to the best of my knowledge, and I only put in that qualification in case some mad man appears down there, who, without instructions, talked to somebody.
If Kissinger is telling the truth about the absence of direct CIA involvement, it is at best disingenuous for him to claim that the United States-and the CIA especially- had nothing to do with the overthrow of a government it had worked for three years to destabilize. The ClA's own internal documents, quoted by the Senate Select Committee, credit the anti-Allende propaganda campaign as having played a significant role in setting the stage for the coup 29 The Chilean military had to have been influenced by the propaganda themes the CIA was spreading all over Chile-themes that promised firing squads for Allende's opponents and that falsely indicated that Cubans were taking over the Chilean intelligence services and gathering data on the Chilean high command. The CIA had directly encouraged these same Chilean officers to pull off a coup in 1970 and then stayed in intimate touch with them through 1973 while they plotted. As Clandestine Services chief Thomas Karamessines testified: "I am sure that the seeds that were laid in that effort in 1970 had their impact in 1973."
In 1974, President Ford defended the ClA's action in Chile by stating, "I think this is in the best interests of the people of Chile and certainly in our best interests." One wonders what the president had in-mind. A brutal military dictatorship has replaced a democratically elected government. All political parties have been effectively banned; the Congress has been shut down, the press censored; supporters of the last legal government have been jailed and tortured; thousands have been killed, and elections have been put off indefinitely.
And what American interests have been served? Our government has once again aligned itself with a repressive junta. Our leaders have once again been caught telling a series of lies to Congress and the American people about their actions in a foreign country. Once again the CIA has used the free press and free elections to subvert a country's regime. The lawlessness and ruthlessness of the ClA's operations have brought us opprobrium around the world. The terrorism sanctioned and encouraged by the CIA will surely only instruct others in its use.
Only American corporations seem to have profited by the ClA's intervention, and even their interests were poorly served. If corporate investment can be protected only by repressive regimes, then surely those investments are a poor risk. No country can long violate its own citizenry's sensibilities and principles simply to preserve corporate investments abroad.
The ClA's operations in Chile are not merely of historical interest. Congressman Michael Harrington, after reading secret CIA testimony on Chile, wrote: "The Agency activities in Chile were viewed as a prototype, or laboratory experiment, to test the techniques of heavy financial investment in efforts to discredit and bring down a government."
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass

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