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L. Neil Smith's
Number 503, January 25, 2009

When will enough be enough?
When will people stop obeying?

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Legacy of Ashes: A Review
by Jim Davidson
planetaryjim -+at+-

Special to the Libertarian Enterprise

Tim Weiner wrote a book in 2007 about the Central Intelligence Agency. He took for his title a comment by Dwight D. Eisenhower. On leaving the White House in 1961, Eisenhower said that he feared, because of the foreign policy mess created largely by an out of control CIA and military industrial complex, he was leaving to his successor a "legacy of ashes."

Weiner's book Legacy of Ashes is very well written and thoroughly researched. About a third of the 700 pages are devoted to extensive end notes detailing far more, especially about the scandals that have been declassified. The entire book from one end to the other, including notes, reads as a history of incompetence, foul ups, idiocy, corruption, abuse of power, and genocidal massacres.

The book, although written by an author sympathetic to the concept of overseas aggression and evidently convinced of the need not only for an extensive intelligence service to learn about other countries, but also an extensive covert operations program independent of the military to subvert and attack other countries, is an indictment of the CIA, NSA, FBI, and other espionage agencies. It is, in short, a detailed indictment for high treason of every director of central intelligence, every director of covert operations, and many specific agents and analysts.

What have these people done?

Since the founding of the CIA in 1948, the men and women who believe their role is to run the world have feathered their nests; destroyed lives; massacred children; committed or supported genocide on every continent except Antarctica; prevented the development of property regimes in space, in the deep sea beds, in Antarctica; spied upon Americans at home and abroad; and overthrown governments all over the world, including most likely our own. In pursuit of these goals, the CIA has blown the cover of hundreds of agents, sent thousands of Americans and American-trained foreigners to their deaths on missions compromised from the start, failed to engage in effective counter-espionage, knowingly over-estimated the strength of foreign regimes, and either failed utterly to correctly assess Soviet nuclear capabilities, or deliberately lied about them. In other words, it has been charlie foxtrot all the way.

Perfect Storm
Weiner gives plenty of examples of many of these various and sundry atrocities. The "perfect storm" of corruption and abuse of power was certainly in the Vietnam era. Few presidents have been more willing to lie, cheat, steal, and massacre than LBJ. Few people in the history of the world have been more corrupt, more conniving, more eager to abuse power for the sake of feeling powerful.

On page 239 Weiner writes, "The war was authorized by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, rammed through Congress after what the president and the Pentagon proclaimed was an unprovoked attack by North Vietnam on American ships in international waters on August 4. The National Security Agency, which compiled and controlled the intelligence on the attack, insisted the evidence was ironclad. Robert McNamara swore to it. ... But the full truth did not come out until November 2005, in a highly detailed confession released by the National Security Agency."

As for Lyndon Baines Johnson, he summed up what really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin four years after the 1964 incident. "'Hell,' said the president, 'those damn stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish.'" And so he escalated a war which ended up killing over 58,000 Americans, millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, Hmong, and Cambodians, and causing untold misery throughout the region. Because, at heart, LBJ was a corrupt maniac war monger. His personal fortune was made from the sale of military gear through his involvement in various defense contractors, it seems.

"Richard Helms ran the CIA.... He had three major covert-action campaigns to fight that year. Each one had been started by President Eisenhower, then strengthened by President Kennedy, and now was central to LBJ's quest to win the war in Southeast Asia. In Laos, the CIA fought to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In Thailand, it set out to fix the elections. In Indonesia, it provided secret support for leaders who massacred countless communists (p. 252)." No doubt the lessons learned by the CIA in subverting the government and election process in Thailand proved useful in other countries, including our own.

The massacres in Indonesia involved at least hundreds of thousands of people, and were by no means limited to communists. Nor were they the only massacres—the government of Guatemala massacred hundreds of thousands, also with the full support and enthusiastic encouragement of the CIA. Pinochet in Chile would do much the same with support from Nixon and Kissinger—so much support that Kissinger is an internationally wanted criminal suspect.

"Laos started out as an intelligence war. Under accords signed by the superpowers and their allies, all foreign fighters were supposed to leave the country (Ibid.)." But, of course, the CIA fought a war there, anyway. "Station chiefs and their officers had orders to fight a war in secret, defying diplomatic niceties and the military facts on the ground (p. 253)." These "diplomatic niceties" meant repudiating a treaty to which the USA was party, something many Native American Indian nations had direct experience with in the 19th Century. And, of course, there was plenty of opium in Laos to smuggle back to the USA.

"Patriotism for profit became a $50 billion a year business ...a sum about the size of the American intelligence budget itself. ... A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge. After September 2001, the outsourcing went out of control. Green-badge bosses started openly recruiting in the CIA's cafeteria (p. 512)." Shameless.

The corruption and drug sales were illustrated repeatedly in the hearings of the Church committee during the 1970s, and the Iran Contra investigation during the 1980s. No one in the government cares about corruption and abuse of power, they just want to dip their beaks in the same trough. Ugly.

Destroyed lives
On page 265, Weiner reports, "A quarter of a million American soldiers were at war when Richard Helms took control of the CIA [in 1966]....Bob Gates, the future director of central intelligence and secretary of defense...entered a forbidding seven-story concrete slab topped with antennas. ... The CIA made Gates a 90 day wonder....From there the CIA analyst caught a chilling glimpse of the course of the war in Vietnam: The United States was running out of pilots....'We knew then,' Gates remembered, 'that we could not win the war.'"

Now, how sleazy is that? The Vietnam war cost the lives of 220,357 South Vietnamese, 1,176,000 North Vietnamese, 58,159 US soldiers, 4,960 South Korea soldiers, 1,446 PRC soldiers, 1,351 Thai soldiers, 520 Australian soldiers, 37 New Zealand soldiers—altogether 1,463,277 military lives lost, plus some 2,094,000 wounded soldiers (many of whose lives would never be the same due to their injuries), plus 5.3 million civilians killed in South Vietnam, Cambodia, North Vietnam, and Laos. So, on the close order of 8.9 million lives utterly destroyed or unimaginably altered. And these jackasses in the CIA knew in 1966 that the war could not be won. Most of those lives would have been saved, had the government of the United States simply admitted that it could not escalate the war to victory. Where was the intelligence service?

Screwing up, that's where.

Massacred children
Weiner documents numerous instances where the CIA directly funded and directly ordered the massacre of civilians. By some estimates, half a million civilians in Indonesia in the 1950s, nearly a quarter million in Guatemala, tens of thousands in Cuba, thousands in Chile, five million plus in Southeast Asia, by some estimates half a million children in Iraq during the sanctions under Clinton, as many as 600,000 civilians during the Iraq war. The CIA loves to massacre children, considering it one of their main purposes. Every CIA agent must be responsible for murdering children in order to be considered for promotion.

"For the next three weeks, he and his fellow CIA pilots hit military and civilian targets in the villages and harbors of northeastern Indonesia....Hundreds of civilians died [in April 1958], the American embassy reported (p. 151)." And that's just one incident.

Genocide committed
On page 458 Weiner documents, "In Guatemala, 200,000 civilians had died during forty years of struggle following the agency's 1954 coup against an elected president. Between 90 and 96 percent of those deaths came at the hands of the Guatemalan military. In 1994, the CIA's officers in Guatemala still went to great lengths to conceal the nature of their close relations to the military and to suppress reports that Guatemalan officers on its [the CIA's] payroll were murderers, torturers, and thieves." The only reason we happen to know some of these details is because much of the secret information on Guatemala was declassified, in part when a CIA director tried to fire a few of the scum bags responsible for the genocide in that country.

Genocide supported
In 1970, according to Weiner (pp 304-309) the CIA was involved in faulty intelligence which resulted in the carpet bombing by B-52s of six suspected communist camps that were in fact peaceful villages in Cambodia. At the same time, Nixon and Kissinger began planning to overthrow the elected government of Chile and put in place a mass murderer who was responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths, many by gruesome torture and the jailing and torture of tens of thousands more in what became known as the Caravan of Death.

"There is no doubt," the agency confessed in a statement to Congress after the cold war ended, "that some CIA contacts were actively engaged in committing and covering up serious human rights abuses (p. 316)." I believe that all CIA agents and all CIA contacts are engaged in brutal abuses of individual civil and human rights, because they enjoy it. There is not a single CIA agent anywhere in the world who is a decent human being. One of these scum bags, Manuel Contreras, assassinated in 1976 the former ambassador of Allende's government to the US, and an American aide, with a car bomb fourteen blocks from the White House. The agency and the Pinochet government "...knew and approved of that terrorist killing on American soil," and blocked the extradition of Contreras. Kissinger is being pursued by courts in Chile, Argentina, Spain, and France by survivors of the Caravan of Death—but the scum in the USA government won't send him to be tried for crimes against humanity.

The CIA also backed "...a Cambodian rebel army fighting Hanoi's forces...And it placed the CIA's allies in alignment with the butchers of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge (p. 420)." By some estimates, the Pol Pot government of the Khmer Rouge eventually massacred or starved to death as many as 3 million people. Even the CIA, which was clearly involved in supporting Pol Pot's bid for power, admits to 100,000 killed and 1.2 million starved to death (see Wikipedia History of Cambodia).

Property regimes prevented
It has been well established that the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was negotiated by Johnson's team to eliminate the possibility of private property or national sovereignty in space. The same trick had been pulled by the team negotiating the 1957 Antarctica treaty, and was the official position for the Law of the Sea Treaty in 1982 to govern deep sea beds.

Now, you have to see LBJ as a sleazy villain of the worst sort. He knew that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was "just sailors shooting at flying fish" when he lied about it and used it to excuse a massive buildup. He knew in 1966 that the war could not be won, but sent more troops to their deaths than ever before. And he sold out the concept of a private property regime anywhere in space, so more money could be spent on the Vietnam war and his socialist programs in the USA. He was a monster, and his memory should never be rehabilitated. LBJ should be castigated and damned forever, his library burned down, and his monuments destroyed. Lyndon Baines Johnson was a mass murderer, and the CIA was one of his weapons of mass murder, a willing accomplice in the deeds.

Governments overthrown
The list of half-baked attempts is long, but the successful efforts is significantly shorter. These include the replacement of the democratically elected governments of Chile, Guatemala, Panama, and Iran, among many others.

In Panama, the CIA couldn't find a communist party, so they invented one. They did so, ostensibly to get one of their agents into the Soviet Union, but they never were able to get a high level infiltration. Of course, where there is no real enemy, the CIA is eager to create one.

One of the obvious applications of their techniques of forging election results, using intimidation and abuse of power, and otherwise bringing about regime change against the will of the people involved, is to use these techniques to control their access to cash. I believe the CIA has used extortion and intimidation, among other techniques, to get more money in the CIA budget, especially its black operations budget. I believe the CIA has used its techniques to create a government in the USA favorable to a larger CIA budget, because, of course, the CIA is filled with scum who have no ethics. They want to fight wars for the sake of massacring children because they individually and severally like to see children maimed and killed.

Dangers to the Bill of Rights
The CIA has claimed, falsely, that it needs to be able to spy on everyone, everywhere, all the time. As a result of repeated lies by its agents and officials, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been approved by Congress, including a vote in favor by Barack Obama while he was a Senator. Warrantless wiretaps, opening private mail, bugging phones and computers, torturing suspects in foreign prisons, disappearing dissidents, lying to Congress and the American people, raping and torturing for the sheer pleasure of it, and murdering anyone who gets in their way are typical of the CIA, both in the USA and abroad. The CIA is a den of rogues. There are no members of the CIA at any level who are not guilty of or complicit in murder, torture, rape, theft, and violations of civil rights. Every single one of these filth are traitors to the oath they swore to uphold the constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Every single one of these treasonous scum have been making war on the United States while giving aid and comfort to its enemies. In a just world, they would each be tried for treason, found guilty, and punished accordingly.

Covers blown, agents to their deaths
Valerie Plame was not the first CIA agent to have her cover blown, and she very likely won't be the last. Weiner relates numerous instances of CIA agents recruited, trained, and sent to their deaths.

In the 1950s, agents and paramilitary forces were trained up and parachuted into places like Albania, China, and Ukraine. In many cases, double agents like Kim Philby did the dirty work. "Philby worked for Moscow out of a secure room in the Pentagon....For more than a year, before and after many a liquid lunch, Angleton gave Philby the precise coordinates for every agent the CIA parachuted into Albania. ... Roughly two hundred of the CIA's foreign agents died. Almost no one in the American government knew. It was a most secret thing. Angleton was promoted to chief of counterintelligence when it was over (p. 46)."

So, there you have it. Not very competent. Every few paragraphs of the entire book, which runs to over 677 pages including end notes and index, Weiner gives account of some massive stupidity, incompetence, dirty deed, corrupt act, massacre, torture, unconstitutional activity, or crime against humanity. Although one does want to cheer for the deaths of CIA agents, who clearly richly deserve violent ends, one cannot help but also feel sorry for some of these poor dumb Idaho farm boys recruited out of college, trained poorly, and sent to their deaths with absolutely no gain.

"All told, hundreds of the CIA's foreign agents were sent to their deaths in Russia, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and the Baltic States during the 1950s. Their fates were unrecorded; no accounts were kept and no penalty assessed for failure (p. 47)." Indeed, some of those responsible were actively promoted to high levels within the agency. Secrecy prevented their incompetence from being held against them.

Soviet nuclear and missile capabilities under-estimated
To give you a sense of how completely screwed up these guys were, they both underestimated and later overestimated Soviet nuclear weapons and missile capabilities. In September 1949, "...the CIA confidently declared that the Soviet Union would not produce an atomic weapon for at least another four years. Three days later, Truman told the world that Stalin had the bomb (p. 48)." Missed it by four years.

Soviet nuclear and missile capabilities over-estimated
"Since 1957, the CIA had sent Eisenhower terrifying reports that the Soviet buildup of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles was far faster and much greater than the American arsenal. In 1960, the agency projected a mortal threat to the United States; it told the president that the Soviets had five hundred ICBMs ready to strike by 1961. The Strategic Air Command used those estimates as the basis for a secret first-strike plan using more than three thousand nuclear warheads to destroy every city and every military outpost from Warsaw to Beijing. But Moscow did not have five hundred nuclear missiles pointed at the United States at the time. It had four (p. 158)."

Utter incompetence. The 1960 election included dramatic statements about a "missile gap" that was false. The CIA was utterly unable to properly estimate the Soviet nuclear missile capability. It either failed to make use of hundreds of millions of dollars in hardware and spy systems and U2 over-flights and even satellite surveillance data, as well as human intelligence, or it deliberately lied about the extent of the threat. Given that these dramatic and false over-estimates would continue until the end of the Cold War in 1991, I believe that incompetence can only explain so much. I think the CIA lied about the enemy in order to justify a larger budget for itself.

The dangers of secrecy and opaque government in a free society.
To secure the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, governments have been instituted among men and women. It is the function of government to defend those rights. Such governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.

But what does it mean, consent? If you examine contract law, consent has the following features. It must be entered willingly, knowingly, and competently. Also, there must be an exchange of value between the parties to the agreement. If any of these features is missing, there is no valid agreement.

So, what is secrecy and opacity in a free society? It is, simply, the absence of consent. If people do not know what their government is doing, they cannot be said to consent to it. Agreement without knowledge is not agreement at all. It is fraud.

And that is what the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Homeland Security department represent. They are a fraud, perpetrated on the American people, to deprive them of a government by their own consent. Without knowledge, there is no consent.

As long as the government of the USA engages in secret wars, secret contracts, corruption, intrigue, espionage, and the operation of a secret government, it cannot pretend to have the consent of the American people. A government without consent is tyranny.

Sic semper tyrannis.

Jim Davidson is the chair of the Kansas state affiliate of The Boston Tea Party. He is living in Kansas to care for his very elderly parents. He is also working on a new global media empire. You can learn more about him at

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