(The Drug Propaganda, Vol 1: Prohibition, Chapter 9)
Prohibition artificially inflates the value of the prohibited commodity 20 to 100 fold. Only genuine agricultural ‘commodities’ are subject to such inflation. That is, the demand is an evolutionarily structural, a permanent feature of the global economy. You can pretend that it’s possible to make wine or pot unavailable, but it’s not. There is no way around the pure physics of supply and demand. ‘Demand’ is human herbalism, instinct related to eating. It cannot be ‘reduced.’ Prohibition of a commodity with which humans share their evolution simply creates a hood monopoly. The kind of power Prohibition put in Lucky Luciano’s hands left every New York shopkeeper, cop and Mayor quacking in his boots. As Luciano put it, “There wasn’t a chance for Roosevelt to get the delegates from the city without makin a deal with Tammany, and in 1932 the guys who ran Tammany was run by me and Frank Costello.” 1
During the war the Office of Naval Intelligence had to use Mafia chief Luciano to secure New York’s docks. Too much information was getting through to the deadly U-boats. The U.S. and its allies lost 120 merchant ships to German U-boats off the American coast in the first three months after Pearl Harbor. Freight specifics and sailing routes were insecure on the New York docks.
The docks weren’t run by Luciano, but by Luciano’s amici. The capo mafioso wasn’t really capo di tutti capi because ‘organized crime’ wasn’t really that organized. It wasn’t a corporation with a rigid hierarchy. Luciano could defend his turf where he could, and others could do the same. Many of those others weren’t Italian and many chose to remain quite anonymous. But many were Italian or Sicilian, and the old Sicilian structure, the Mafia, provided methods whereby an underground economy could be managed. The mafiosi, for all their bloody reputation, were actually quite good at cooperating with one another, and few could touch them for guts, street smarts and organization.
Socks Lanza ran the Fulton Fish Market with an iron hand, but his Brooklyn distribution depended on the trucks of other amici. Cockeye Dunn’s Longshormen helped run Luciano’s bookmaking on the docks and fix his smuggling. Luciano and his allies reciprocated by distributing Dunn’s hot cargoes and helping out with ‘labor problems.’ There was no way Cmdr. Charles Haffenden’s naval intelligence unit was going to penetrate the docks without these bosses.
Haffenden went to Tom Dewey’s experts, D.A. Frank Hogan and his top aide, Murray Gurfein, who went from the D.A.’s office to the OSS in 1942. They knew enough to contact Lanza, head of Local 16975 of the United Seafood Workers. Lanza, after trying to go it alone for a while, admitted that the only one with juice enough was Luciano, then languishing upstate, thanks to Dewey, in frigid Clinton Correctional in Dannemora, NY on the Canadian border. Luciano’s lawyer, Moe Polakoff, told the Feds that the only person who could successfully broach this subject with Luciano was his trusted partner Meyer Lansky. Lansky, who hated the Nazis guts, was glad to help. He was assigned his own code number as a naval intelligence contact, as was Luciano, who got transferred downstate to the more pleasant confines of Great Meadow in Comstock, NY. 2
Naval intelligence understood that the runaround, including some faux sabotage, was likely a ruse to get Luciano released, but the Mafia was needed not just for protection and intelligence on the docks, but to organize Sicily behind Patton, something only a Luciano could do. With street-level Mafia cooperation, recent Sicilian immigrants, many professional fishermen, were funneled into the New York office of Naval Intelligence. They helped to refine very accurate maps of the Sicilian coast and hinterland, providing the invasion force with tide tables and the location of docks, inlets, key roads, mountain passes and guerrilla groups. They also provided regular communication with the Mafia powers behind German lines in Sicily.
Don Calogero Vizzini and Don Giuseppe Genco Russo, although flexible enough to survive, had been badly weakened by Mussolini’s serious attempt to replace their coercive power structures with his own. Knowing that the Americans were unstoppable anyway, they provided a ready-made guerrilla army to roll out the red carpet for the invaders. Luciano had been born less than fifteen miles from Villalba, Don Calò Vizzini’s base, and had relatives who still worked for him. Villalba was only 55 miles from General Patton’s beachhead in Palermo.
Don Calogero Vizzini, left, and Don Giuseppe Genco Russo; Italy’s News Photos; Keystone
When Lt. Paul Alfieri landed on Licata Beach, his Sicilian contacts were able to give him safe passage to the secret HQ of the Italian Naval Command. Inside, Alfieri found maps of the disposition of all German and Italian naval forces in the Mediterranean. The Mafia put out the word that Italian troops who resisted the Americans would be marked for reprisal, but those that deserted would be given civilian clothes and protection. Italian troops deserted by the truckload. Mafiosi guided Patton’s Seventh Army through the labyrinthine San Vito mountains, enabling Patton to split the 400,000 fascist troops in two. These Sicilians were directly responsible for saving thousands of American lives during the 1943 invasion.
Unfortunately, this was turned into a political tragedy for Sicily. Sicily’s economy was almost entirely agricultural. But, until the Land Reform Act of 1950, land wasn’t generally passed on in small family plots, but in large latifundia, plantations. Small plots were rented out for shares. The great Dons were landlords who violently opposed the efforts of the sharecroppers at land reform.
Sicily, July, 1943
The Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT) made Don Calogero Vizzini, his lieutenant and successor, Genco Russo, and many other mafiosi, mayors of important towns. Don Calò was appointed Mayor of Villalba, Giuseppe Genco Russo became Mayor of Mussomeli, while other clan members ended up in control of much of western Sicily. Coordinating the AMGOT effort was the former lieutenant governor of New York, Col. Charles Poletti, whom Luciano described as “one of our good friends,” that is, a made mafioso. 3
AMGOT’s great ally throughout Italy was the Church, a great landowner, which had bitterly opposed land reform as ‘communist.’ The Church had been largely pro-fascist during the war, for the most part enthusiastically supporting Mussolini. Every single Nazi puppet regime during the war had been a Catholic theocracy. In 1949, Pope Pius XII excommunicated all members of the Communist party, and all Catholics who read, published, or disseminated any media advocating Communist ideology – land reform, and unions, being interpreted as ‘communist.’ CIA Counterintelligence Chief Angleton himself was a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as were William Casey, William Colby, John McCone, Bill Donovan, Prescott Bush Jr. (George H.W.’s brother), General Vernon Walters, Reagan’s National Security Adviser William P. Clark, P-2 chief Licio Gelli, Nazi founder of the West German BND Reinhard Gehlen, Safari Club founder SDECE chief Alexandre de Marenches, Ronald Reagan and Allen Dulles. Ambassador to Italy Clare Boothe Luce, 1953-1956, was a Dame of Malta. In 1955, when Pietro Nenni formally separated his Socialist party from Italy’s Communist party, Ambassador Luce argued against CIA political operations chief Bill Colby, who saw a political advantage in backing the moderate left. Luce, Angleton and Dulles insisted that the Socialists were just stalking horses for Palmiro Togliatti’s Communists, and that we should destroy the moderate left right along with the communists.
Since the Vatican was technically an independent country, Pope Pius XII, on June 27, 1942, created the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank. Since the Vatican was a sovereign state, it made the rules for the Vatican Bank. The rules were that there were no rules, and that there were no public books available to any earthly authority. Stolen Jewish money, Nazi drug money, Mafia drug money, CIA drug money – fine, all blessed by the Holy See, in the name of anticommunism. Speaking of his boss, the great Sicilian mafioso Giuseppe Genco Russo, one of his lieutenants said, “He [Russo] is constantly in contact with priests, priests go to his place, and he goes to the bank—which is always run by priests—the bank director is a priest, the bank has always been the priests’ affair.” The basic Vatican Bank technique had been to keep minimal records, which were periodically destroyed, and to channel most large deposits immediately into numbered Swiss bank accounts, communicating the number to the depositor only. No audit was possible. Vatican Bank funds became anonymous and untraceable. 4
Col. Charles Poletti, military governor of Sicily, made New York’s most powerful expatriate Mafia capo, Vito Genovese, interpreter/liaison officer in the U.S. Army headquarters in Naples, thus putting New York organized crime at the very heart of Allied intelligence in Italy. Poletti, a first-generation Italian-American who had studied at the Universities of Rome and Bologna, was dead fluent in Italian, but there were those in Naples who did need an interpreter. Poletti became, successively, military governor of Sicily, Naples, Rome, Milan and Lombardy, providing introductions and security clearances for Genovese and his allies throughout Italy. Honoring the deal made with Naval Intelligence, Luciano was freed from his long prison term and deported to Naples, arriving on February 28, 1946.
Genovese, who fled New York in 1937 to avoid indictment by Dewey for the murder of fellow hood Ferdinand Boccia, spent the war in Naples helping to finance Mussolini, with whom he was personally close. Genovese and his Corsican ally Antoine d’Agostino played the fascist side of the fence, while Luciano’s mafiosi worked the Allied side. Their operational connections with each other made them indispensable to both sides. 5
Military Governor Charles Poletti, smiling center; Portella della Genestra commemorative poster
By 1944, under AMGOT auspices, Genovese’s hoods controlled major Italian ports, most of the black market in diverted American and Sicilian goods, and numerous ‘anticommunist’ goon squads on call for U.S. military intelligence. Not only the black market, but much of the legal and political structure fell into their hands as well. On Genovese’s June, 1945 return to New York, he was arraigned for the Boccia murder. The first eyewitness against Genovese was poisoned to death in his jail cell, and the second shot to death in New Jersey. All charges against Genovese were dropped and he was released a free man.
Genovese’s 1944 NYC wanted poster; Genovese in his American uniform, Sicily, 1944
Politically active Sicilian peasants had their crops burned and their cattle slaughtered. When, in 1944, their leaders, Michele Pantaleone and Girolamo Li Causi, challenged Don Caló in his home town of Villalba by holding a political rally there, 14 demonstrators were left wounded, including Li Causi and Pantaleone. Italian ‘communists,’ partisan guerrillas who had stopped the fascists, were not Stalinists; for the most part they were democratic socialists who just wanted a fair crack at the ballot box. As Li Causi put it, “We plan no Soviet rule here.”
On May 1st, 1947, hundreds of peasants drove their gaily painted donkey carts to Portella della Genestra to celebrate Labor Day. As the speeches began, submachine guns opened up on the crowd from the surrounding hills. Eleven people were left dead and 27 wounded. Because they insisted on breaking up Sicily’s plantations, the Socialists and Communists were so popular that the Mafia, organized by the CIA, found it necessary to assassinate 500 of them from 1944 to 1949. This gave the Mafia, and their Christian Democrat allies, absolute control of the island. The Land Reform Act of 1950, which prohibited estates of larger than 500 acres, was largely vitiated by Mafia control of the Land Reform Boards. 6
Although Sicilian socialists were just poor farmers, they were identified by AMGOT as ‘potential Soviet agents.’ The very first major operation of the newly-formed CIA, personally directed by Allen Dulles and his Italy expert James Angleton, was the fixing of the 1948 Italian elections in favor of the Christian Democrats, the Mafia’s ally throughout Sicily and Italy. The U.S. had coerced the Christian Democrat PM, Alcide De Gasperi, to kick the Communist Party out of his all-party national coalition, thus needlessly alienating and radicalizing the Communists, who had been cooperating WWII allies.
Angleton, running the Strategic Services Unit in Rome, had no problem with Mafia control of Palermo’s port. He engineered it by allowing Mafia control of AMGOT’s Palermo structure. The only alternative was leftist control of the port. Angleton worked with Harry Anslinger’s top international agents, George White and Charles Siragusa. Their rationale, the one they were willing to talk about, at least, had something to do with the Russians, but they gave the Sicily-based mafiosi a protected worldwide reach. 7
Luciano himself was deported to Sicily in 1946, there to better manage his end of the vast Turkey or Indochina to Lebanon to Sicily to Marseille to Cuba to U.S. heroin run. He was joined by Sam Carolla, Sal Vitale and at least four hundred others. In 1948, another deported Sicilian, Joe Pici, got caught sending 35 pounds of pure heroin to his boys in Kansas City. In 1950, a Sicilian reporter snuck into the Hotel Sole in the center of old Palermo, then the residence of Don Caló Vizzini - and Lucky Luciano. He snapped a picture of Luciano schmoozing with Don Caló’s bodyguards. This so infuriated Luciano that he flogged the reporter to within an inch of his life.
Luciano roughing it in Naples, 1949
Luciano and Don Caló, the previous year, had set up a candy factory in Palermo, which exported its produce throughout Europe and the USA. They also shared a hospital supply company and a fruit export operation - all ideal smuggling covers. In 1952, Luciano’s close childhood friend, Frank Coppola, had twelve pounds of heroin seized by Italian police on its way from Coppola in Anzio to a well-known smuggler in Alcamo.
In 1956, Joe Profaci, in Brooklyn, was recorded talking about the export of Sicilian oranges with Nino Cottone, in Sicily. Cottone lost his life that year in the battle for Palermo with rival mafiosi, but Profaci’s oranges kept on coming. The Brooklyn number rung by Cottone was the same number rung by Luciano from Naples and Coppola from Anzio. All were recorded by the Palermo Questura talking ecstatically about high grade Sicilian oranges. In 1959, Customs intercepted one of those orange crates. Hollow wax oranges, 90 to a crate, were filled with heroin until they weighed as much as real oranges. Each crate carried 110 pounds of pure heroin. 8
At all points, in exchange for their ‘anticommunist’ political violence, the hoods had the protection of the local military intelligence, though, as the busts indicate, not always of the local police. But enough support was provided so that the mafiosi were enabled, for years, to feed their network of heroin labs in Italy and Marseille with morphine base supplied by a Lebanese network run by the chief of the antisubversive section of the Lebanese police, or by their Corsican friends in Indochina. 9
The CIA used the Mafia’s allies, the Union Corse, to take Marseille away from the independent and communist unions, leaving the Corsican hoods in control of the most important port in France. The geopolitical rationale for this, from both the French and the American perspective, wasn’t only the threat the leftists posed to control of France, but to the Indochina war. The Viet Minh had considerable support among French leftists in 1947.
Captured Viet rebels, 1907
In an attempt to force the French government to negotiate with the Viet Minh, the socialist dock worker unions, the Communist-Socialist labor coalition known as the Confédération générale du travail, which were full of former Maquis fighters, refused to load American arms destined for the French in Vietnam. They saw the attempted French reconquest of Vietnam as racist and fascist, and as a betrayal of a respected WWII ally. The only outfits with enough muscle to challenge the socialist longshoreman unions for control of the docks, and the Marseille city council, were the union-busting Corsican hoods and their puppet-union goon squads. The puppet unions were put together by the FBN’s Charles Siragusa, who knew all the Corsican hoods, and Counterintelligence Chief Angleton, working with the AFL-CIO’s Irving Brown, who specialized in creating “compatible left” union fronts. The deal with the Corsican hoods, in exchange for stopping the French longshoremen, was protected license to deal drugs. That was the model for the deal Lucien Conein and Ed Lansdale made with the Corsicans during the Vietnam War years. The 1947-48 street war for control of Marseille’s docks, financed and coordinated by American military intelligence, was nasty, brutish and short. 10
The French secret services, also financed by American military intelligence, had been using Corsican opium dealers throughout Indochina, tied to Saigon’s Binh Xuyen mafia, to finance their operation against the Viet Minh. Thus they had a system in place for the collection and distribution of opium sap and morphine base from all over the Golden Triangle of Laos, Burma and Thailand.
Morphine base is easily manufactured in makeshift jungle labs, pictured below. Opium’s major alkaloid is precipitated out of the raw sap by boiling it in water with lime. The white morphine floats to the top. That is drawn off and boiled with ammonia, filtered, boiled again, and then sun-dried. The resultant clay-like brown paste is morphine base.
That’s where the Corsicans came in. Heroin is diacetylmorphine, morphine in combination with acetic acid, the naturally-occurring acid found in vinegar. Heroin is preferred by users because the acetic acid renders it highly soluble in blood, therefore quicker acting and more potent than unrefined morphine. The combination process requires, firstly, the skillful use of acetic anhydride, chloroform, sodium carbonate and alcohol. Then the last step, purification in the fourth stage, requires heating with ether and hydrochloric acid. Since the volatile ether has a habit of exploding, the Union Corse had to advertise for a few good chemists.
With huge protected surpluses of morphine base available, the Corsicans built a network of labs to refine not only the Indochinese, but also the Persian and Turkish product, shipping the finished snow white #4 heroin out of a Marseille they now controlled. The Union Corse heroin was often shipped on the order of their Mafia partners, who controlled the great American retail market.
With that much leverage, the Corsican hoods became major CIA ‘assets’ throughout the fifties. Anslinger’s star international agents in the 50s, Charles Siragusa, George White and Sal Vizzini, actually brag in their memoirs about their operational CIA/Deuxieme Bureau connections. (The Deuxieme Bureau, the Second Bureau, was formerly the military intelligence branch of the French Expeditionary Corps, disbanded in 1940. Deuxieme Bureau is now used as a general term for French military intelligence.) That is, as they themselves obliquely admit, Anslinger’s FBN mission was essentially political, with the occasional cosmetic bust thrown in for credibility, or to destroy a competing ‘asset.’ White is the man who pretended that Burmese-KMT heroin came from the Reds. Siragusa, engineer of the Marseilles dock war, is the man who caught Luciano in Sicily with a half-ton of heroin being readied for shipment to Trafficante in Havana, and, pursuant to Anslinger’s orders, just let him go. 11
As our anti-Japanese guerrilla army, the U.S. had initially supported the Viet Minh in Vietnam. Then, under the influence of the Dulles brothers and their ilk, the U.S. shifted its support to the attempted French reconquest, who proceeded to lose anyway, despite the Dulles brothers’ heavy financing of the French Indochina War. In 1954, as the French were collapsing, President Eisenhower exploded with more anger than anyone there had ever seen before when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Arthur Radford, and Air Force Chief of Staff Nathan Twining, suggested in the National Security Council that we send American troops in to save the French: “The key to winning this war is to get the Vietnamese to fight! There is just no sense in even talking about United States forces replacing the French in Indochina. If we did so, the Vietnamese could be expected to transfer their hatred of the French to us! I cannot tell you how bitterly opposed I am to such a course of action. This war in Indochina would absorb our troops by divisions!” That prescience from the organizer of D-Day. This was the almost unanimous technical military opinion of the U.S. military high command in 1954, including Army Chief of Staff Matthew Ridgway and Marine Corps Commandant Lemuel Shepherd. 12
But Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had been enraged by the Viet Minh victory, and American politics, thanks largely to the Dulles brothers, had degenerated into an hysterical competition in apocalyptic inquisitorial red baiting. “For us there are two sorts of people in the world,” explained Secretary Dulles, “there are those who are Christians and support free enterprise, and there are the others,” including, apparently, all those nettlesome Buddhists.
As the French were collapsing at Dien Bien Phu, Secretary of State Dulles, who was mad as a hatter, actually offered French foreign minister Georges Bidault two atomic bombs to resolve the situation. Bidault, who was not a genocidal maniac, recoiled in horror, pointing out that our side would suffer every bit as much as the enemy. In 1953, when the Eisenhower administration had just taken office, Secretary of State Dulles seriously proposed in the National Security Council ending the Korean War with nuclear weapons. Dulles also seriously proposed solving the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis with China the same way, even after he was told that the ‘precision’ A-bombing of relevant Chinese targets would kill at least ten million civilians. The militarily sophisticated Eisenhower simply outfought the Chinese MiGs over the Taiwan Strait with Nationalist-piloted F-86 Sabrejets armed with our new Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, for which the Chinese had no answer. Just a few PRC pilots were killed. That same year Secretary Dulles actually pushed Eisenhower to resolve the confrontation over Berlin with nuclear weapons, which, obviously, would have started WWIII. Shooting down PRC MiGs, of course, virtually guaranteed the heavy logistical support of the People’s Republic of China for the Viet Minh. 13
Although opposed to full-scale war with the Viet Minh, Eisenhower agreed with the Dulles brothers that it was essential, both politically and militarily, that the Republicans not be seen to have ‘lost Vietnam,’ as the Democrats had ‘lost China.’ Thus he approved Allen Dulles’ device of sending the Saigon Military Mission (SMM), led by the CIA’s most dangerous covert operative, Col. Edward Lansdale, to engineer the ‘bloodless’ takeover of Vietnam. The model for this operation was the CIA’s recent operations in Iran and Guatemala, both of which had been relatively bloodless, as Eisenhower defined it, and relatively cost-free, as Eisenhower’s myopic team defined that. Having purged all the old China hands from the State Department during the recent McCarthyite hysteria, there was almost no one left in State to make the counter argument.
Lansdale had just finished stomping the Philippine campesinos into submission. In the process, he installed our chosen commercial puppet, Ramón Magsaysay, thus securing pro-American corporate governance in the Philippines. As in Guatemala, the Huks were simply peasant farmers demanding an end to their abuse, caricatured as radical Stalinists by the Dulles brothers. The acronym Hukbalahap is short for Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon, People's Army against the Japanese. They were sharecroppers in Central Luzon who banded together to deny the area to the Nazi Japanese. They felt they had earned an equal place in Philippine society. They used their WWII military structure to resist the forced landlord conversion of their sharecrop family farmsteads to monocrop corporate farms, leaving them, literally, with no place to live and no food to eat. Most were illiterate sweat-equity subsistence farmers who didn’t even know what Stalinism was. They were put under attack for insisting on renegotiating their slave-labor tenancies. Philippine and American corporate interests found Filipino control of Filipino land threatening to their bottom line. Sharecroppers were expendable, land wasn’t.
Lansdale caricatured the Huks with the Philippine version of Chiquita banana anticommunism, wildly exaggerating the threat with staged incidents which were splashed all over the media. Then Ramon Magsaysay, Lansdale’s well-chosen figurehead, rode to the rescue, in the media, with massive, ruthless, covert American military help, including artillery and napalm bombing of Huk villages. Lansdale also turned the Philippine army into more effective fighters, and instituted better command and control of the Philippine Constabulary, which cut down on the more flagrant police abuses, like gang rape. After Lansdale’s artillery barrages the shell-shocked Huks surrendered.
Magsaysay was a genuine WWII anti-Japanese guerrilla hero and was indeed a parliamentary democrat, as well as a U.S. commercial puppet, obediently signing the 1955 Laurel-Langley Agreement, a nationalistic update of the 1946 Bell Trade Act, which tied the Philippines to U.S. commercial interests somewhat more equitably. Given what followed, it’s fair to say that the Philippine operation was Lansdale’s most successful, largely because of Magsaysay’s stable character, genuine Filipino nationalism and political popularity. Magsaysay closely followed the Dulles brothers’ anticommunist political and economic line internationally, leading the 1954 foundation of SEATO, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization.
Lansdale, a former advertising executive, was the lead unconventional warfare officer attached to the Saigon Military Mission (SMM), ostensibly part of the Military Assistance and Advisery Group (MAAG), in place since 1950. Lansdale’s 12-man team was in place by June-July 1954, less than 2 months after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. Lansdale operated in Vietnam with complete autonomy, reporting only to CIA Director Dulles, whose orders to Lansdale were simply “Find another Magsaysay.”
The Saigon Military Mission found that the well-organized Binh Xuyen street gang, which was in effect an arm of the Deuxieme Bureau, directly controlled Saigon’s police force. Lansdale used the mountain of American money and matériel at his disposal to buy the defeated French Vietnamese army, the VNA, renamed the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam). When it was ready, in late April of 1955, the ARVN, in a savage 6-day battle that left 500 combatants and 1000 civilians dead, took Saigon back from the Binh Xuyen. 14
Diem confers with Binh Xuyen leader Le Van Vien, aka Bay Vien, in 1954; Battle of Saigon, 1955
Lansdale worked in tandem with Lucien Conein, who, during the war, fought with the French and Corsicans as a Jedburgh in southern France, and then led OSS paramilitary operations in North Vietnam, fighting in the Tonkin jungle with French and Corsican guerrillas. He was instrumental in rescuing the French population in Hanoi from Viet Minh retribution on their 1945 takeover. Having worked with the French throughout their Indochina war, Conein knew North Vietnam well enough to operate there for Lansdale in 1954. His intimate knowledge of French forces, and his skillful use of troops, helped Lansdale take Saigon in 1955. 15
After all that effort, of course, it would have been a shame to lose ‘South Vietnam,’ an American fiction, to Ho Chi Minh in the 1956 all-Vietnam elections guaranteed by the Geneva Accords of 1954. The Accords had simply divided Vietnam into French or Viet Minh controlled electoral districts. But France lost control of its district. ‘South Vietnam,’ with its American-controlled ARVN, refused to participate in the guaranteed elections, despite French insistence that the Accords, although not formally recognized by the U.S., were internationally binding. The Accords were signed on July 21, 1954 by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, France, the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Laos and Cambodia. The U.S. gave only verbal assent to the Accords, and promised not to use force to reverse them. John Foster Dulles would not even talk to the Viet Minh or the Chinese, and stormed out of the Geneva conference days before it ended. He preferred to launch Ed Lansdale’s Saigon Military Mission, starting a war to permanently divide Vietnam, the exact opposite of what was called for in the 1954 Geneva Accords and what the U.S. had promised.
Immediately on arrival in Vietnam, June-July 1954, Lansdale’s team declared, June 16, 1954, that Ngo Dinh Diem, still waiting in Paris, was now Prime Minister under the somnambulant French and Japanese puppet Emperor Bao Dai. All Bao Dai demanded of Lansdale in exchange for the appointment of Diem was a CIA pension so he could support himself in style on the French Riviera. Diem was flown into the country by the CIA on June 25, 1954 and anointed Prime Minister on July 7. To preempt the 1956 election, which all knew would elect Ho, Lansdale rigged a fake election, installing Diem as President of the previously nonexistent South Vietnam in October of 1955, with 98.2% of the vote.
President Diem then promptly declared the ‘Republic of Vietnam,’ banned all political parties and declared martial law with rule by presidential decree. Had the French administered the vote, as was called for by the Accords, there is no doubt that Ho’s victory in a southern election would have been a landslide, though, unlike the North, other parties had strength. France was set to formally recognize one Vietnam under the Viet Minh. President Eisenhower wrote in 1954, “I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly eighty percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bao Dai. Indeed, the lack of leadership and drive on the part of Bao Dai was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for.” 16
Saigon Military Mission, 1955. Lansdale doffing his hat, Diem lower right
Well, now they had a world-class dope peddler to fight for. Diem was a French-trained lawyer with the psychology of his mandarin ancestors. Diem served as Interior Minister at Bao Dai’s Imperial Court in Hue in 1933, but resigned when Bai Dai refused to be anything “but an instrument in the hands of the French.” He spent most of WWII trying to convince the Japanese to declare Vietnamense independence, under his leadership. The French refused to protect Diem from his Viet Minh death sentence, since he had opposed the French as well as the Viet Minh. Diem had tried to establish a third, Catholic force in Vietnam. He spent most of the French Indochina War living rent free in Catholic institutions in the U.S., lobbying the American right and advertising himself, after the French collapse, as the one who could ‘save the South.’ In 1953 he was introduced to the American power elite by New York’s Francis Cardinal Spellman, a powerful prince of the Imperial Church and a supporter of political fascism worldwide. Pierre Mendes-France, the French Prime Minister, warned Secretary of State Dulles at the 1954 Geneva conference that Diem’s Catholic fascism would be an obstacle in Buddhist Vietnam, but to no avail. Vietnam was 86% Buddhist, actually a native combination of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, and, thanks to French rule, 7% Catholic. 17
Saigon CIA Deputy Chief of Station William Colby observed in 1959, “Diem’s style was that of the traditional mandarin, assuming the legitimacy of his position to be beyond challenge and manipulating the currents of the distant imperial court (now in Washington) to ensure the continued support necessary to his mission.” But the mission of the Saigon Military Mission was the destabilization, perhaps Catholicization is a better word, of southern Vietnam. By artificially creating anarchy, banditry and guerrilla war, where none existed before, the situation was militarized. The Red Menace would then require Diem’s Catholic police state. The puppet regime would then become a reliable source of raw materials, huge defense contracts, and the global heroin trade necessary to pay for those defense contracts. That’s advertising. As Colby put it, “The task in South Vietnam required strong leadership, and Diem’s messianic dedication seemed more appropriate for it than did the confusion and indecision that could come from overly precise application of the American doctrine of the separation of powers.” By June 1960, Colby was Saigon Chief of Station. 18
The Geneva Accords had split the country into two roughly equal electoral districts at the 17th parallel. They also provided that Vietnamese were free to move from one district to another. The option to move from the Northern district to the Southern district expired in May of 1955. The Saigon Military Mission used this loophole to foment hysteria among Catholics in the North. This terror, in support of Diem’s call for northern Catholics to emigrate south, was largely, though not entirely, the work of Lansdale’s northern ‘psy-ops’ teams, led by Conein, a member of the Saigon Military Mission. While Lansdale operated out of Saigon, Conein established his paramilitary teams from Hanoi.
The Viet Minh did regard the pro-French Catholic paramilitary groups as traitors, and in the wake of the bitter French war there were executions of Catholic guerrillas, too many, but there was no mass murder, and Catholic retention became the official Viet Minh policy. Vo Nguyen Giap, in the fall of 1956, in a public statement to his colleagues, attempting to control the political damage, admitted that the Viet Minh had gotten carried away with the red hot warfare: “We made too many deviations and executed too many honest people. We attacked on too large a front and, seeing enemies everywhere, resorted to terror, which became far too widespread.” This hysterical anti-Catholic policy was reversed on the spot by the Viet Minh leadership, and the Viet Minh, demonstrating its usual policy discipline, ultimately earned considerable nationalist Catholic support.
That kind of public self-criticism, in real time, was an ingrained part of the Viet Minh’s culture. It was standard Viet Minh and NLF procedure, after an action, for both individuals and units to review their performance, unsparing public self-criticism being regarded as an heroic virtue. Commanders, like Giap, were expected to lead the way. The lessons learned were continually incorporated into future operations. If specific tactics were insufficiently understood, different units were tasked to perform tactical experiments and promulgate the results. Likewise American patterns of attack were studied, or mimicked, for ambush or booby trap opportunities. This tactical flexibility turned the NLF into the least predictable and most formidable guerrilla army in the world.
But most of the northern Catholic hysteria was the work of Lansdale’s psy-ops teams. As Lansdale himself put it in his Team Report to the Pentagon, “a refresher course in combat psywar was constructed and Vietnamese Army personnel were rushed through it…The first rumor campaign was to be a carefully planted story of a Chinese Communist regiment in Tonkin taking reprisals against a Vietminh village whose girls the Chinese had raped [playing on Vietnamese WW II experience]….On 1 July, Major Lucien Conein arrived, as the second member of the team. He is a paramilitary specialist, well-known to the French for his help with French-operated maquis in Tonkin against the Japanese in 1945, the one American guerrilla fighter who had not been a member of the Patti Mission….”
“On 21 July, the Geneva Agreement was signed. Tonkin was given to the Communists. Anti-Communists turned to SMM for help in establishing a resistance movement and several tentative initial arrangements were made. Earlier in the month they had engineered a black psywar strike in Hanoi: leaflets signed by the Vietminh instructing Tonkinese on how to behave for the Vietminh takeover of the Hanoi region in early October, including items about property, money reform, and a three-day holiday of workers upon takeover. The day following the distribution of these leaflets, refugee registration tripled. Two days later Vietminh currency was worth half the value prior to the leaflets. The Vietminh took to the radio to denounce the leaflets; the leaflets were so authentic in appearance that even most of the rank and file Vietminh were sure that the radio denunciations were a French trick….Hanoi was evacuated on 9 October.”
“The northern SMM team left with the last French troops, disturbed by what they had seen of the grim efficiency of the Vietminh in their takeover…The northern team had spent the last days of Hanoi in contaminating the oil supply of the bus company for a gradual wreckage of engines in the buses, in taking the first actions for delayed sabotage of the railroad…and in writing detailed notes of potential targets for future paramilitary operations (U.S. adherence to the Geneva Agreement prevented SMM from carrying out the active sabotage it desired to do against the power plant, water facilities, harbor, and bridge)…. The Vietminh long ago had adopted the Chinese Communist thought that the people are the water and the army is the fish. Vietminh relations with the mass of the population during the fighting had been exemplary…” 20
Lansdale dropped tens of thousands of leaflets with slogans like “Christ has gone south” and “the Virgin Mary has departed from the North.” Conein arranged with the Bishops to have these flyers distributed in the churches. Soothsayers were bribed to prophesy doom for Catholics in the North, and Conein arranged to have these dark prophesies confirmed in the popular astrological almanac. Boy Scout-handsome CIA agent Navy doctor Tom Dooley, supposedly a humanitarian, insisted that Ho had celebrated his takeover of Hanoi “by disemboweling more than 1,000 native women in Hanoi.” This was Lansdale’s scripted nonsense, but it worked. CIA agent Chester Cooper, who was there, said “the vast movement of Catholics to South Vietnam was not spontaneous.” The departing French helped to herd the terrorized Catholic peasants into Haiphong harbor, where they were loaded onto French and U.S. Navy transports. The CIA’s Civil Air Transport also pitched in, and many just walked across the border. The CIA spent about $100 million on Operation Passage to Freedom. 19
Haiphong Harbor, August, 1954
By 1955, almost a million Vietnamese, mostly impoverished Catholic Tonkinese, were dropped, with no social support, among the traditional villages of the southern Cochinese in the Mekong Delta. These populations had never mixed before and despised one another. The homeless Tonkinese Catholics were outnumbered by the native Cochinese Buddhists 12:1. By 1955, 55% of South Vietnam’s 1.1 million Catholics, a ready-made Diem constituency, were refugees from the North. Unfortunately for Diem, these Catholic refugees included about 15,000 Viet Minh sleeper agents.
Diem votes for himself in Lansdale’s October 1955 election; Ike and Dulles greet Diem at Washington National Airport, 5/8/1957; Diem plans
Conein became Diem’s CIA case officer, and together, working with Lansdale, they rigged the 1956 National Assembly elections, which gave Diem supporters 112 of the 123 seats. No opposition candidates were allowed to stand. Diem then proceeded to confiscate traditional village or hill tribe lands and hand them to homeless northern Catholics or absentee northern landlords who still expected the old colonialist rents. Since ‘South Vietnam’ had never existed before, it had no governmental structure - no tax system, military, police, legislature, civil service - nothing. Diem filled these slots with his pet Catholics. He then abolished all municipal elections and filled those slots with Catholics as well. As Lansdale himself complained, “A French colonial administrative system, super-imposed upon the odd Vietnamese imperial system was still the model for government administration.” A discouraged Lansdale complained that Diem was creating “a fascist state.”
The CIA’s official history puts it quite well: “the [Viet Minh] movement’s anticolonialist legacy, its land reform policy, its egalitarian style and offer of opportunities for the ambitious among the rural poor, together with the assiduous personal attention devoted to even low-level candidates for recruitment, stood in stark contrast to Diem’s mandarism, which had ‘dried the grass’ of peasant resentment into incendiary opposition.” That opposition was confronted by Diem’s army commander, Gen. Tran Van Don, who had been born and educated in France, and fought both WW II and the French Indochina War with the French. 21
Diem then did something truly diabolical. He destroyed the traditional Mekong Delta barter economy by expelling all ethnic French and Chinese. The rural economy - the grain and commodity markets run for centuries by the mercantile Chinese, collapsed. Commodities as basic as dry-season drinking water became unavailable as the harvests rotted for lack of buyers. Dung-soaked rice-paddy water is undrinkable. The situation did indeed militarize.
Until Lansdale and Conein’s psy-ops, one of which was Diem himself, southern Vietnam had been introverted, tribal, peaceful and wealthy - and for the most part completely unaware of the Viet Minh. But in the face of starvation, uncontrolled banditry by homeless northern invaders, the systematic destruction of their economy and property rights, and enslavement at gunpoint in “strategic hamlets” - most southern Vietnamese accepted the discipline of the only Vietnamese-led army in Vietnam, the Viet Minh. As senior CIA agent Chester Cooper, who was part of Secretary Dulles’ 1954 Geneva team, put it, “innumerable crimes and absolutely senseless acts of suppression against both real and suspected Communists and sympathizing villagers. . . . Efficiency took the form of brutality and a total disregard for the difference between determined foes and potential friends.” That was the racist Dulles doctrine in action, no different in Vietnam than in Guatemala.
As the Pentagon Papers put it, “It can be established that there was endemic insurgency in South Vietnam throughout the period 1954-1960. It can also be established - but less surely - that the Diem regime alienated itself from one after another of those elements within Vietnam which might have offered it political support, and was grievously at fault in its rural programs. That these conditions engendered animosity toward the GVN seems almost certain, and they could have underwritten a major resistance movement even without North Vietnamese help….As far as attitudes toward Diem were concerned, the prevalence of his picture throughout Vietnam virtually assured his being accepted as the sponsor of the frequently corrupt and cruel local officials of the GVN, and the perpetrator of unpopular GVN programs, especially the population relocation schemes, and the ‘Communist Denunciation Campaign.’ Altogether, Diem promised the farmers much, delivered little, and raised not only their expectations, but their fears…. his ‘political reeducation centers’ were in fact little more than concentration camps for potential foes of the government…” 22
That’s the Pentagon’s own analysts speaking. In 1958, Hanoi once again asked the Diem government to help organize all-Vietnam nationwide elections. Until the rigged parliamentary elections of 8/30/1959, the Viet Minh government in the North, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam run by Ho’s Lao Dong, the Workers Party, urged the many anticolonialist factions in the South to concentrate on political organization and participation, not violence. The day after the rigged elections, Ngo Dinh Nhu thanked Cambodia’s neutralist Prince Norodom Sihanouk for his peacemaking efforts by sending him the gift of an explosive-laden suitcase, blowing Sihahouk’s chief of protocol, Prince Vakrivan, to kingdom come. Only when it became clear that Diem and Nhu were bent on a return to colonialist-style totalitarian fascism did the Viet Minh support military action in the South, founding the National Liberation Front (NLF) in 1960. In 1961, U.S. military intelligence declared that 80-90% of the NLF in the South were of southern origin. There was no ‘invasion’ from the North, according to our own military intelligence. In 1962, the ‘Strategic Hamlet’ program of forced relocation was formally initiated. A strategic hamlet was a barbed-wire enclosed prison camp.
Since the urbane, Catholic, French-speaking Diem lacked the popular support of the Viet Minh, in rural, Buddhist, Vietnamese-speaking Vietnam, he was forced to rely for his financing on his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, a world-class opium and heroin dealer tied to the Corsicans. Lansdale and Conein pitched in with a coordinated effort to repeat the French Operation X, which organized the Hmong of highland Laos to operate against the popular Pathet Lao and Viet Minh. 23 24
The original French Operation X was run by paratroop Major Roger Trinquier, below, who traded massive amounts of Laotian Hmong and Thai KMT opium with the Binh Xuyen-Corsican mafia to finance his vast army of 40,000 tribal mercenaries operating in northern Vietnam. This was the original ‘French Connection.’ Trinquier’s Mixed Airborne Commando Group (MACG), using the French Air Force, supplied the Saigon-based Corsicans with morphine base. The Corsicans shipped that base to their brethren in Marseille and Vientiane for conversion into their famous snow-white #4 heroin. Note Dien Bien Phu on the map. That famous base on the Laotian border, where the French made their last stand, was built in defense of Trinquier ‘s Operation X.
Lucien Conein had helped the French run Operation X, and had been a Corsican operative since his WWII days in southern France and the Tonkin jungle, bordering the Hmong in Laos. Since the major Hmong crop, opium, was made valuable enough to trade for arms by our Prohibition, CAT-Air America, which tied together the disparate Hmong mountain villages, went into the opium-for-arms business. Small mountaintop bases were serviced by their Helio-Courier STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft, which look like Piper Cubs. They could take off on a 100 yard runway and float down on a mountaintop at 35 miles an hour. The proceeds were used to finance both the Hmong army, led by the former French-serving Vang Pao, and Diem’s nepotistic regime.
All of Diem’s five surviving brothers had important government functions. Ngo Dinh Nhu’s weird Personalist Labor Revolutionary Party (shortened, in Vietnamese, to Can Lao), composed mostly of former French-serving Vietnamese Catholics, staffed the bureaucracy, while Nhu supervised the CIA-trained secret police. Nhu’s man at the head of the secret police, Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen, managed the large-scale dope dealing, feeding the profits to the family patriarch, oldest brother Ngo Dinh Thuc, the Archbishop of Hué, who managed the family’s expanding financial empire.
Ngo Dinh Nhu; Ngo Dinh Thuc; Ngo Dinh Can; Tran Kim Tuyen
One of Tran Kim Tuyen’s most trusted senior deputies was Pham Xuan An, who had joined the Viet Minh in 1944 at 16, then gotten his journalistic credentials in the U.S. after the French war. He returned to Vietnam in 1960 as an accredited Reuters and Time correspondent, working with all the well-known journalists of the day, ostensibly serving the Diem government as a propagandist. He was actually a colonel in the NLF. He was declared a “People's Army Force Hero” by the Vietnamese government on 1/15/1976 and given the rank of general.
After the Viet Minh victory, Pham Xuan An publicly disagreed with the government over its policy of centralized economic planning, pointing out that an economy cannot be managed like an army, and needed to institutionalize market forces to succeed. Although this cost An some minor political trouble, he and others like him were heeded by the pragmatic Viet Minh, most of whom themselves came from a mercantile tradition, and all of whom respected honest self-criticism, their very successful battlefield tactic. The prestigious accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers declared, in February 2017, that Vietnam may be the fastest-growing economy in the world, with an annual GDP growth of 5.1%, which would make it the 20th-largest in the world by 2050. Ho made it perfectly clear to Col. Archimedes Patti, his OSS liaison, that was his strategic direction in 1945, when he offered the U.S. lucrative government to industry partnerships.
Pham with California Governor Pat Brown, 1959; Pham with Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, 1976
Diem’s government had been completely penetrated by the DRV from its inception. Nu’s chief of the Strategic Hamlet Program, the Catholic Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao, was, in fact, an NLF agent, a Viet Minh hero of the French Indochina War. He used his Catholicism to lend credibility to his renunciation of communism, enabling him to get close to Archbishop Thuc. Thao made sure to place the Strategic Hamlets in areas where they would be most vulnerable to NLF attack. On the event of Diem’s assassination, Bill Colby, President Kennedy’s Special Envoy and the CIA's Far East Division chief, went first to Col. Thao, who was the Diem government’s counterinsurgency chief. In 1965, he was killed after attempting to overthrow General Khanh’s regime. The victorious Viet Minh awarded him the posthumous rank of one-star general.
Another brother, Ngo Dinh Luyen, was ambassador to Great Britain. Government contracts were invariably let to the Ngo Dinh’s army of relatives. Ngo Dinh Can controlled central Vietnam as a traditional warlord. There was no government spending on rural infrastructure, schools, housing or medical care. Rural spending was confined to the forced resettlement of the peasants into “strategic hamlets.” The peasants placed their hopes with the Viet Minh, which had always been wise enough to strengthen their rural economy. For the Viet Minh, a healthy, traditional village, militarily strong enough to defend itself was a “strategic hamlet.” Such hamlets were incinerated with napalm, bombed, or strafed by high-speed gatling guns. Between 1956 and 1963, Diem and his American allies killed about 100,000 Vietnamese men, women and children. 25
Kennedy’s Commandant of Marines, Gen. David Shoup: “in every case...every senior officer that I knew...said we should never send ground combat forces into Southeast Asia.” Kennedy, who talked constantly of “communist aggression” and “assault from the inside,” answered Shoup’s critique by subscribing wholeheartedly to the “limited counterinsurgency” doctrine espoused by military adviser Gen. Maxwell Taylor in his 1960 book The Uncertain Trumpet. Taylor had been Eisenhower’s Army Chief of Staff from 1955-59, and so had worked closely with the Dulles brothers. Taylor was simply the next generation of military technician, understanding that “flexible response” with smaller, deployable units, was far more realistic than the unusable “massive retaliation” of the Eisenhower years. But of course Eisenhower was just using the simplistic sophistry of “massive retaliation” to keep us out of small imperialistic wars of conquest, like Vietnam. Eisenhower knew full well that small wars, like Vietnam, often turned into gigantic quagmires, as Vietnam had for the French. For Maxwell Taylor, warfare was much more user-friendly than ‘nuclear war or nothing.’ Kennedy made Taylor Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in October of 1962. Taylor, like Kennedy, saw Vietnam as the place to “stop the hungry Chinese” from dropping “the Bamboo Curtain.” That U.S imperialism was the only thing Vietnam and China agreed on never seems to have occurred to them. So all Taylor, an enthusiastic advocate of non-nuclear military funding, had to do was feed Kennedy enough strategic BS to make escalating military involvement in Vietnam seem plausible. 26
Eisenhower, Shoup, Lemnitzer, MacArthur, Mountbatten, Ridgway, Bradley, Gavin, Prouty and many others were horrified. They saw us heading for a repeat of the Korean nightmare. They predicted, before it ever happened, 60,000 American dead and a loss. They did not regard that as an option.
Taylor’s 1961 cables to Kennedy are a good example of the kind of policy-convenient lies he and his CIA cohorts practiced right through the Johnson years. “[South Vietnam is] not an excessively difficult or unpleasant place to operate...comparable to parts of Korea where U.S. troops learned to live and work without too much effort...North Vietnam is extremely vulnerable to conventional bombing….There is no case for fearing a mass onslaught of Communist manpower into South Vietnam and its neighboring states, particularly if our air power is allowed a free hand against logistical targets.” 27
Our Korean War commanders, MacArthur and Ridgway, who suffered the painful failure of air power in Korea, knew that was idiotic, dishonest. U.S. troops learned to live and work in Korea only after nearly being driven into the East China Sea by the Chinese army. The 1951 winter retreat from the China-North Korea border back to the Pusan Perimeter, below Seoul, was one of the most nightmarish in U.S. history. We had a far higher casualty rate in Korea than in Vietnam - 34,000 dead, another 120,000 wounded, in three years. At that rate, we would have lost more than 100,000 dead in Vietnam.
Taylor’s BS was good for ground forces appropriations, not the grunts at Ia Drang and Khe Sanh. At Ia Drang, November 14-16, 1965, American troops were awestruck, and badly bloodied, by an unrelenting hail of machine gun fire from North Vietnamese regulars, despite heavy air support. Both sides were left very badly bloodied. Joe Galloway, the courageous front-line reporter who lived through the battle with Hal Moore, the talented and courageous 7th Cavalry Regiment 1st Battalion commander, described Ia Drang as “the battle that convinced Ho Chi Minh he could win.” We dropped more high explosive on little Vietnam than all sides dropped in all of World War II, and we still found ourselves facing “a mass onslaught of Communist manpower.” What’s a logistical target in Vietnam? A mountain range? A forest? A thatched hut? A bicycle on a jungle trail? Five million widely dispersed cadres with shovels and Chinese machine guns?
Bicycle transport down the Ho Chi Minh Trail; A strategic hamlet in Long An Province, 1963; U.S. Air Force B–57 destroyed by NLF mortar attack on Bien Hoa Air Base, 1965
Misperceiving this manipulative liar as an old school straight talker, Kennedy installed Taylor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he moved Lemnitzer up to NATO. In so doing, he lost all hope of controlling the CIA, since the explicit National Security Action Memoranda he issued necessarily relied on the power of the Joint Chiefs for CIA oversight. Taylor fed Kennedy a steady stream of policy-convenient lies masquerading as military intelligence, lies designed by Dulles, Helms, Angleton, Lansdale, LeMay, Lodge and the other committed “counterinsurgents.”
Col. Fletcher Prouty served as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Kennedy. As an Air Transport Command VIP pilot during WW II, he flew the Chinese delegation to the November 1943 Cairo and Tehran Conferences. He also flew deep penetration missions through the Urals to the Russians, and into Japan, before the surrender, to set it up. He was the Chief Intelligence Officer of the U.S. Air Force from 1956 to 1963, and CIA Focal Point Officer of the Joint Chiefs under both Lemnitzer and Taylor until 1963.
In 1956 he set up the Air Force’s Office of Special Operations to coordinate Air Force work for the CIA, working closely with CIA Director Allen Dulles. As founding Chief of the OSO he literally wrote the Air Force manual for this work, and set up its worldwide system of offices and communications. Prouty’s unique interservice coordinating office was moved from the Air Force to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and then, during the Kennedy years, to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As the CIA Focal Point Officer, working for the Joint Chiefs, it was to Prouty that the CIA presented their matériel requests for the Bay of Pigs operation. The Joint Chiefs replied to the CIA matériel requests through Prouty – he was the Focal Point for all Joint Chiefs relations with the CIA, one of the highest ranking and most trusted intelligence officers in the U.S. military.
Prouty reported on a 1961 Joint Chiefs briefing: “Finally, the briefings on atomic energy matters, missiles and space, and other highly classified matters took place. Then the Chiefs began to hear some of the more closely held intelligence matters. The last item was the one that pertained to the CIA operational information. As I was ushered into the room I noted that everyone was leaving [for security reasons] except the chairman and the commandant of the Marine Corps. The chairman was General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, and the commandant was General David M. Shoup.”
“When the primary subject of the briefing had ended General Lemnitzer asked me about the army cover unit that was involved in the operation. I explained what its role was and more or less added that this was a rather routine matter. Then he said, ‘Prouty, if this is routine, yet General Shoup and I have never heard of it before, can you tell me how many Army units there are that exist as “cover” for the CIA?’ I replied that to my knowledge at that time there were about 605 such units, some real, some mixed, and some that were simply telephone drops. When he heard that he turned to General Shoup and said, ‘You know, I realized that we provided cover for the Agency from time to time, but I never knew that we had anywhere near so many permanent cover units and that they existed all over the world.’” 28
That started an informal conversation between the three men that revealed to them the depth of penetration the CIA had achieved in an Army they thought they controlled. With control of strategic requisitions and contracting units, air bases, naval bases and customs units, using Army, Air Force, Navy or Marine resources, the CIA was able, without funding, to mount truly covert and unauthorized operations anywhere in the world. With CIA control of the oversight apparatus, oversight ceased to exist. Ex post facto approval was always granted. With the ability to move hundreds of millions covertly, the CIA was able to build Air America into the largest contract carrier in the world.
Arthur Schlesinger: “It had almost as many people under official cover overseas as State; in a number of embassies CIA officers outnumbered those from State in the political sections. Often the CIA station chief had been in the country longer than the ambassador, had more money at his disposal and exerted more influence. The CIA had its own political desks and military staffs; it had in effect its own foreign service, its own air force, even, on occasion, its own combat forces. Moreover, the CIA declined to clear its clandestine intelligence operations either with the State Department in Washington or with the ambassador in the field; and while covert political operations were cleared with State, this was sometimes done, not at the start, but after the operation had almost reached the point beyond which it could not easily be recalled.” At this time, CIA’s listed budget was 50% higher than State’s. 29
Prouty: “At that top echelon the Office of Special Operations acted as the liaison between the CIA and the DOD. What most people in Defense were totally unaware of was that in the very office that was supposed to serve the military departments and shield them from promiscuous requests, there were concealed and harbored some of the most effective agents the CIA has ever had. Their approval of CIA requests was assured. The amazing fact was that their cover was so good that they could then turn right around and write orders directing the service concerned to comply with the request.”
“This is a clear example of how far the Agency has gone in getting around the law and in creating its own inertial drift, which puts it into things almost by an intelligence-input-induced automation system, without the knowledge of its own leaders and certainly without the knowledge of most higher-level authorities.... what secrecy there was - what real deep and deceptive secrecy existed - existed within the U.S. Government itself. More effort had been made by the Secret Team to shield, deceive, and confuse people inside Government than took place on the outside.” 30
Prouty’s melodramatic phrase The Secret Team, the title of one of his great books (the other is JFK), lends itself to derision as another ‘conspiracy theory,’ but what this brilliant military intelligence officer is saying is that policy ceased to be driven by an empirical analysis of the strategic facts, as honestly presented to the political leadership, and instead became driven by covert centers of economic power, per the Sullivan and Cromwell privateer model, intentionally presenting false intelligence to the political leadership. Eisenhower, hardly a ‘conspiracy theorist,’ recognized this as operational fascism. Although generally in agreement with the CIA Director from Sullivan and Cromwell, Eisenhower truly feared this loss of political control at the top.
Eisenhower had wanted to leave the presidency as a great peace maker. To this end he launched his Crusade For Peace, arranging a May 16, 1960 Summit in Paris with Nikita Khrushchev, Harold Macmillan of Britain and Charles de Gaulle of France. Khrushchev, who had been ‘destalinizing’ Russia since 1953, had been perplexed at the Dulles brothers’ summary rejection of his every peace overture. Attempting to match American military spending was bankrupting Russia. Khrushchev correctly concluded that he needed to deal directly with Ike.
In September, 1959, the two old WW II allies had very successful ice breaker meetings during Khrushchev’s 12-day goodwill tour of the U.S. This convinced Eisenhower that a profound de-escalation of the Cold War, and the consequent diversion of national resources to the civilian sector, which both leaders felt they needed, was possible. As part of normal preparations, Eisenhower ordered that all U.S. troops, overt and covert, were to avoid all combat. He also ordered all U-2 spy flights over Soviet territory grounded. These were unambiguous conventional orders from the Commander in Chief. Tragically, even our heavy air support of the Khamba resistance in Tibet, run by Col. Prouty, was halted.
Col. Prouty received his orders to ground the Tibetan operation from the CIA’s Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Bissell, the same officer who ran the U-2 operation (and the Bay of Pigs). It is, therefore, not possible that Bissell missed Eisenhower’s order. But on May 1, 1960, Russia’s May Day, Bissell ordered Capt. Francis Gary Powers to overfly the Soviet Union with his high-altitude cameras. The spectacular U-2 incident, of course, did force cancellation of the Summit. Eisenhower’s dream of much lower defense spending went a-glimmering. Bissell had been taking orders from Allen Dulles since their early days together in the OSS, and had no intention of giving Eisenhower’s orders precedence of Dulles’. 31
Here are some selected paragraphs from Prouty’s January, 1978 Gallery Magazine article, The Sabotaging Of The American Presidency: “Three or four moles in the Pentagon, doing the bidding of their masters, flashed coded signals across the world to send out a lone U-2 plane on one of the longest and most impossible missions ever attempted by a U-2 -- a 3,900-mile journey from Peshawar, Pakistan across the Soviet Union to Bodo, on the northern tip of Norway. These men’s actions neatly bypassed the entire ultra-secret system and launched a plane that had been rigged to come down in the heart of the USSR on one of its most important holidays, May Day. Thus were destroyed the summit conference and Eisenhower’s Crusade for Peace.”
“I was the properly designated military officer in the Pentagon for a period of nine years -- including 1960 -- responsible for exactly this function of supporting the clandestine activities for the CIA. Under my direction many aircraft, many items of equipment, and many personnel were properly sterilized and ‘sheep-dipped’ prior to use in secret missions. The U-2’s were no exception. As a matter of fact, the entire U-2 program was supposed to have been made sterile from production on up. I must say I knew the CIA to be meticulous about deniability. On regular clandestine overflights to China, Tibet, Indonesia, Burma, and other places, they did their best to conform with and obey the NSC directive. The identifying evidence included in Powers’ flight violated the NSC mandate. If this was a spy mission, the violation was clearly planned to wreck the upcoming summit conference.”
“It was normal DOD-CIA practice that pilots engaged in clandestine operations don pressure suits which contained no identification of any kind prior to takeoff. In the process, the pilot was required to strip, and all identity and personal items were removed by the officials in charge of that flight.”
“Powers’ U-2 had been flown from Turkey to Peshawar, Pakistan on April 30, 1960 just a few hours before Powers took off for the USSR. He had been flown to Pakistan by transport and given only two and a half hours’ warning before the flight. He has written: ‘I did not see the plane at close range.’”
“For some unaccountable reason Powers took off on this, the longest USSR overflight ever planned, and in the seat pack of his parachute was every identification imaginable. If Powers was supposed to play the role of a spy, then in accordance with the script that has historically been passed down, he would be nameless, faceless, a man without a country. He was none of those things. Why not? And who saw to it that he was none of these things?”
“Powers had in his kit one of the old World War II silk ‘escape-and-evasion’ flags. On the margin of this flag was written, among other things, ‘I am an American. I need food, shelter. I will not harm you. You will be rewarded.’ Does a spy carry such identity? And how about the cover story that he was a military pilot who unaccountably got lost and flew over the Soviet border? If he hadn't intended to fly over a ‘hostile’ country in peacetime, then why the escape-and-evasion kit? None of the official stories made the slightest bit of sense.”
“What was even more incriminating was the fact that Powers had his DOD identification card listing him as a member of the Air Force. He had forty-eight gold coins, four expensive watches, seven gold rings, and a pocketful of paper currency of many nations, including the USA and USSR. Powers had nineteen other forms of identity, including his Social Security card, 230-30-0321, a Lodge card, his USAF medical card, a driver's license, and two copies of his instrument cards, earned by all Air Force pilots for weather-flying qualifications.”
“During the Senate hearings, Allen Dulles said: ‘He [Powers] was given the various items of equipment which the Soviets have publicized and which are normally a standard procedure and selected on the basis of wide experience gained in World War II and in Korea.’ What experience was Dulles talking about? Military? CIA? Certainly Dulles knew that true spies are nameless.”
“When work with the special modification of the J-75 engine for the U-2 began, it was realized that the U-2 would be operating in a hostile environment. At very high altitude the engine can't breathe, and it needs help. It must have some air-mass intake to support combustion. During experiments, it was discovered that a trace of hydrogen introduced into the fuel-air mixture would support combustion and would virtually assure reliable operation of the burner at very high altitudes. Only those very close to the operation knew that the U-2 engine needed and had this hydrogen capability. Thus, the U.S. Air Force had an elaborate, ultra- secret program, directed from the aeronautical center at Dayton, Ohio, which provided cryogenic (super-cold) liquified hydrogen to the U-2 program all around the world, just before each planned mission.”
“Consider the scenario. A tiny group of top-level technicians with access to this hydrogen lifeline is charged with the responsibility of getting it to the Powers U-2. However, someone has arranged for less than a full cannister to be installed in the U-2 just before takeoff. The preflight check shows ‘Hydrogen-OK’ because the preflight inspection only shows that the cannister is there, not how much hydrogen is in it. The pilot has no way of knowing that there is not sufficient hydrogen in the cannister for 3,900 miles because there is no gauge on his instrument panel. So, the 24,000-pound aircraft takes off, accelerates to 114 knots, and begins the long climb to altitude. Everything appears to be perfectly normal. The engine runs fine. All equipment functions. Then, at precisely the predetermined time, the hydrogen runs out. The plane is as high as it can fly because it must make the longest flight it has ever made. At that great height, the pilot hears a slight rumble, typical of a flame-out, and his engine goes dead. One way or another, he lands.”
“There were certain upper-echelon officials in research and development who knew about the U-2’s special characteristics and could easily have arranged for the flame-out to occur.”
“Then came the challenge to Eisenhower. Did the President, who had worked so hard and so long to prepare for the ultimate summit conference and for his Crusade for Peace, direct that U-2 to overfly the USSR on May Day -- the day of its most important celebration? The idea was absurd, and Khrushchev knew it. Later Khrushchev gave Eisenhower every opportunity to admit that others in the U.S. Government had sent out that flight to sabotage the conference, stating that such an admission would salvage the meeting.”
“The camera the Russians recovered from Powers' U-2 was a military-type, 73B, serial number 732400. With wide-angle capability, it took pictures of a 125-mile-wide strip. The film was twenty-four centimeters wide and two thousand meters long, capable of shooting four thousand paired aerial pictures.”
“That camera was not the one routinely used by the CIA spy U-2’s. This U-2 had been doctored in Japan by someone who was willing to give away the plane but unwilling to reveal the technology of the newer U-2 camera. This was skillful deception from the inside.”
“Dr. Ray S. Cline, former Deputy Director of the CIA, wrote in his book, Secrets, Spies and Scholars, ‘The invention of the U-2 high-flying aircraft and the camera capable of taking pictures from 80,000 feet, pictures that would permit analysts to recognize objects on the ground with dimensions as small as 12 inches . . . this technical miracle revolutionized intelligence collection. (The Lundahl system employed eight reflectors and exposed eight films through a single lens at the same time.)’”
“The pictures Khrushchev showed to the public and to newsmen gave away the ruse. The industrial installations and the rows of aircraft exhibited were tiny dots on regular film, and even with the best enlargement, they would never have met Dr. Cline’s criterion of twelve inches from 30,000 feet.”
“This is a crucial point. The U-2 incident was a clever and sinister deception. Its perpetrators intended for the Russians to find the U-2 and to think Powers was doing a spy’s work. Yet, these perpetrators were far enough up in Government circles to know that it was the technology of the camera which must not be given away.”
“Eventually, President Eisenhower took the blame for the whole thing, and his dream of a summit conference, trip to Moscow, and an around-the-world Crusade for Peace was shattered. Certainly he had the U-2 double-cross in mind when he delivered his famous ‘military-industrial complex’ speech at the end of his term of office.”
“During the first six months of 1960, I was the focal-point officer assigned by the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force to provide special Air Force support to certain clandestine CIA overflight operations. In April 1960, a member of the Chief’s Pentagon office staff was in Thailand overseeing a major series of long-range overflights into Tibet and far northwestern China. Later that spring, orders came down to stop those overflights. The given reason was that the President wanted nothing to interfere with the success of his forthcoming Paris summit conference. Orders were sent from my office to ground the overflights.”
“These same orders applied to the U-2 program. We all took our orders from the same authorities. The U-2’s were supposed to have been grounded along with the Tibetan overflights. So, when Allen Dulles himself wonders who was directing the ship of state, it becomes apparent that he did not know who was running the country!”
Or, with the likes of Col. Prouty looking over his shoulder, was pretending not to know. When the U-2 went down, it was Col. Prouty, the Air Force’s senior intelligence officer, that Eisenhower called to decipher the mess. It was also Prouty who briefed CIA chief Allen Dulles before his Senate U-2 testimony. Prouty told both he thought it was an internal fix of the plane’s hydrogen/oxygen fuel system. A flameout at altitude caused by an empty hydrogen canister would force a landing or a low-altitude attempt at an oxygen-only restart. At low altitude Russian missiles could reach the powered glider. All that the Russians would need was a radar fix. Unbeknownst to Powers, his full military ID had been planted in the plane. These tough soldiers had witnessed the CIA use its mole tactics to infiltrate all the U.S. command and control mechanisms to which it was legally responsible, concentrating on the ‘enemy’ only as an adjunct to control of U.S. policy and power. The evolving covert government-by-defense-contractor scared the hell out of them.
On April 16, 1953, just three months into his presidency, one month after the death of Stalin, Eisenhower revealed his better angels in his inspired ‘Cross of Iron’ speech: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Eisenhower, angry at himself, came to feel that his administration had been ruined by the Wall Street militarists he had allowed to run it for their own profit. Talbot reports, “The president told White House aides Andrew Goodpaster and Gordon Gray that he never wanted to set eyes on Dulles again.” 32
As Prouty says, Dulles’ sabotage of his Crusade for Peace was the impetus for Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 televised speech, a speech he knew to be his most historic, his Farewell Address to the nation, and an amazing bookend to his first great speech in 1953: “The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government…. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Eisenhower’s great phrase, “military-industrial complex” is now also known as the “deep state,” but I prefer Eisenhower’s more literal locution.
Eisenhower wrote that address with the key drafter of the speech, his staff assistant Ralph E. Williams, and Johns Hopkins professor of political science Malcolm Moos. Eisenhower, probably over concern for length or impact, dropped an entire section of the speech that reveals just how much Prouty, a WWII VIP pilot who, through the years, was often at his side, learned from Eisenhower. Eisenhower warns against a “permanent war-based industry….[with] flag and general officers retiring at an early age [to] take positions in the war-based industrial complex, shaping its decisions, and guiding the direction of its tremendous thrust….[we must] insure that the ‘merchants of death’ do not come to dictate national policy.” Had he used that section of the speech as well, Eisenhower would be remembered as the presidential Nostradamus, or Cassandra. 33
Eisenhower didn’t just roll over for the Dulles brothers, who were continually advocating for increased military spending to benefit their corporate clients and, believe it or not, the use of the A-bomb against both Russia and China, apparently to lock us into a permanent state of war. Eisenhower cut the military budget by 20% between 1953 and 1955, giving us a balanced budget by 1956, the year he began building the Interstate Highway System, one of the most profitable investments in American history, having nothing whatever to do with warfare. Eisenhower reduced Army manpower by 44 percent from its 1953 level. With Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Matthew Ridgway as his strong technical supporter on the Vietnam issue, Eisenhower refused to rescue the French from their venal, genocidal attempt to reconquer our WWII ally, the Viet Minh, pointing out, as did virtually all our great field generals, that, as Eisenhower put it, “they would absorb our troops by divisions!” Both Eisenhower and Ridgway insisted that the French failure to reconquer Vietnam did not represent a threat to our “vital national interests.” Having fought WWII, our field generals were accustomed to thinking of the Viet Minh as an ally.
Eisenhower also refused to support the 1956 attempt of the British, French and Israelis to conquer and occupy the Suez Canal, because, like Vietnam, it would start a widespread guerrilla insurgency throughout Egypt and north Africa which would drag America into a quagmire. An enraged Eisenhower, understanding this was an aggressive military gambit to force the U.S. into a colonialist counterinsurgency, angrily told British Prime Minister Anthony Eden that the “use of military force against Egypt under present circumstances might have consequences even more serious than causing the Arabs to support Nasser. It might cause a serious misunderstanding between our two countries.” That military threat was a direct order to the man whom Eisenhower had known as Churchill’s Foreign Secretary during the war: “Get the hell out!”
Eisenhower also rejected out of hand John Foster Dulles’ insane but serious repeated advocacy of using the A-bomb to end the Korean War, to stop the Viet Minh in 1954, and to begin wars with both Russia (over Berlin) and China (over Quemoy and Matsu). These repeated suggestions alone should have caused Eisenhower to realize what soulless fascists he was dealing with and fire both Dulles brothers. As Eisenhower put it, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, and its stupidity…. The United States never lost a soldier or a foot of ground during my administration. We kept the peace. People ask how it happened—by God, it didn’t just happen.” Had he been less passive about McCarthyism, less racist and colonialist in his approval of the Dulles brothers’ corporate motives for their covert operations in Iran, Guatemala, Congo and Vietnam, which left plenty of dead Iranians, Guatemalans, Congolese and Vietnamese, he might have achieved enough control of his administration to prevent Dulles’ covert sabotage of his Crusade for Peace.
In 1955, President Sukarno, who had wrested Indonesia from the Dutch after the war, convened an international conference in Bandung of nonaligned Asian, African, and Arab nations. Sukarno was promoting a neutralist bloc of nations that would be able to fend off superpower colonialism. This was regarded as a mortal threat by the Dulles brothers, who immediately tasked the CIA with the removal of Sukarno. In 1958, they sold Eisenhower on the Indonesian coup by exaggerating the ‘communist’ threat from Sukarno. But the privateer right-wing officers the CIA backed did not succeed in overthrowing Sukarno, at which Dulles doubled-down, suggesting an escalated communist threat. Eisenhower then asked Dulles, “Allen, are you trying to scare me into starting a war?”
The failed coup soured Sukarno’s gut. On August 17, 1964, during his Independence Day address, Sukarno declared, accurately, that the United States was the world’s prime enemy of anticolonialist nationalism. The attempted coup actually brought about the very result it purported to avoid, since, six years later, an aging, defensive, paranoid and ill Sukarno brought about his own overthrow by aligning with the communists, for the first time. The attempted American coup had convinced him that the communists were right about U.S. imperialism. Sukarno’s great genius had been to unite the left and the right in Indonesia behind the banner of “Nasakom,” nationalism, religion and communism. His swing to the left destroyed the national concensus, and made the PKI, the Communist Party of Indonesia, with its strength in minority communities, a military and Islamist target.
This turned into civil war and ethnic cleansing. On September 30, 1965, a group of junior army officers, organized by the CIA, assassinated six of the seven members of the Indonesian military’s high command. General Suharto took command of the armed forces. The CIA's Far East Division Chief, Bill Colby, rushed out to Indonesia to congratulate the new leaders. The CIA’s local coup engineer, Adam Malik, was installed as foreign minister. General Suharto, who ruled as absolute dictator for the next 30 years, immediately purged his widespread leftist and centrist Muslim opposition by committing what the CIA itself has called “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.” The CIA history doesn’t mention that it was William Colby, Chief of the CIA's Far East Division, who supplied Suharto with weaponry and, along with U.S. Ambassador Marshall Green, thousands of the names to be ‘liquidated.’
President Sukarno with PKI Secretary General DN Aidit at an anniversary celebration for the PKI, May 23, 1965; PKI supporters in Bali rounded up for execution
Once again, anti-communism had degenerated into pro-fascism. The fascist Dulles brothers understood democracy as contrary to the interests of their Sullivan and Cromwell industrial clients. As a worried Eisenhower said, government by military-industrial privateer had arrived. The CIA’s Abbot Smith, future chief of the agency’s Office of National Estimates, replying to Eisenhower’s complaints of the lack of reliable intelligence on the USSR at the end of 1958, wrote: “We had constructed for ourselves a picture of the USSR, and whatever happened had to be made to fit into that picture. Intelligence estimators can hardly commit a more abominable sin.” 34
From 1957 to 1960, the politicized right-wingers in the CIA, not its actual technical analysts who knew better and said so, falsely reported to Eisenhower that a ‘missile gap’ existed between us and the Soviet Union. In 1960, the Dulles operatives told Eisenhower that the Soviets would have five hundred nuclear-tipped ICBMs ready to strike by 1961, so the Strategic Air Command planned and budgeted with the missile contractors accordingly. But Moscow didn’t have five hundred nuclear-tipped ICBMs, it had four. The hysteria was another bald-faced Dulles brothers lie fed to Eisenhower and Congress to increase their clients’ missile and aircraft appropriations and to augment the national policy drift toward total militarization.
Prouty: “In the case of the FAA, the actual CIA slotted men are in places where they can assist the ST with its many requirements in the field of commercial aviation, both transport and aircraft maintenance and supply companies.” The CIA slots in FAA, granted years before by other administrations, gradually expanded until they controlled basic FAA policy. Administrations change, bureaucrats just acquire seniority. “Turnover being what it is in bureaucratic Washington, it would not be too long before everyone around that position would have forgotten that it was still there as a special slot. It would be a normal FAA-assigned job with a CIA man in it.”
“This same procedure works for slots in the Departments of State, Defense, and even in the White House.... This is intricate and long-range work but it pays off, and the ST is adept at the use of these tactics. Of course, there are many variations of the ways in which this can be done.” 35
Lt. Col. William Corson, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense and adviser to the Church Intelligence Committee, who had a doctorate in economics, pointed out that CIA and DIA operatives had so thoroughly infiltrated the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that internal criticism of CIA’s budgetary requests was all but eliminated. 36
Prouty: “Thus the CIA has been able to evolve a change in the meaning of and the use of the control word ‘direct’ and then to get its own people into key positions so that when they do present operations for approval they are often presenting these critical clandestine schemes to their own people.” 37
“This was the plan and the wisdom of the Dulles idea from the beginning. On the basis of national security he would place people in all areas of government, and then he would move them up and deeper into their cover jobs, until they began to take a very active part in the role of their own cover organizations. This is how the ST was born. Today, the role of the CIA is performed by an ad hoc organization that is much greater in size, strength, and resources than the CIA has ever been visualized to be.” 38
“Allen Dulles was able to get Maxwell Taylor into the White House as personal military adviser to President Kennedy.... Maxwell Taylor was not the White House military adviser in the regular sense; he was the CIA’s man at the White House, and he was the ‘paramilitary adviser.’ ....During the last days of the Dulles era, Maxwell Taylor served as the Focal Point man between Dulles and his Agency and the White House.” 39
Shoup on Tarawa; Maxell Taylor; Joint Chiefs 1961, L-R: Anderson, Decker, Lemnitzer, Lemay, Shoup
As Senator JFK said in 1956, “Vietnam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia, the keystone in the arch, the finger in the dike.” Kennedy told his first National Security Council meeting that “We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence, on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day.” Ultimately Kennedy came to understand that third world nationalism was anything but a “monolithic conspiracy,” but too late – he had already lain down with Dulles’ dogs.
Kennedy ignored the advice of Deer Team leader Col. Archimedes Patti, who insisted that Ho Chi Minh’s national liberation movement was anything but a puppet of the Russians or the Chinese, whom they feared as imperial threats to their sovereignty, but a unique nationalism that had already proven it could be a reliable U.S. partner. Ultimately, Kennedy’s attitude was just what Dulles wanted, Catholic, in the French imperial sense of the word. Kennedy insisted that the French-speaking Catholic Diem, Cardinal Spellman’s nominee for chief colon, if we gave him enough military help, could rule Buddhist Vietnam in America’s interest. The idea was inherently colonialist and racist.
Taylor never challenged Kennedy politically, never opposed his policy. For that matter, Kennedy never opposed Taylor’s policy. The two had no policy differences. Kennedy’s National Security Action Memorandum 52, 5/11/1961, “to prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam” authorized a “program for covert actions to be carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency which would precede and remain in force after any commitment of US forces to South Vietnam…. The U.S. will attempt to strengthen President Diem’s popular support within Viet-Nam by reappraisal and negotiation, under the direction of Ambassador Nolting. Ambassador Nolting is also requested to recommend any necessary reorganization of the Country Team for these purposes.”
Kennedy agreed when Taylor wrote into NSAM 57, 6/28/1961: “A paramilitary operation...may be undertaken in support of an existing government friendly to the United States or in support of a rebel group seeking to overthrow a government hostile to us.” Although marginally sympathetic to Vietnamese nationalism, Kennedy, heavily influenced by the Rostow brothers, Walt and Eugene, and the Bundy brothers, William and McGeorge, instinctively accepted the idea that Vietnam ought to be a Catholic-led American colony, and Taylor fully supported the “Vietnamization” idea, which left most of the fighting to the rented gooks. Kennedy made Taylor Chairman of the Joint Chiefs 10/1/1962. 40
Taylor, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, wrote to Kennedy on September 2, 1963: “Finally, progress continues with the strategic hamlet program. The latest Government of Vietnam figures indicate that 8,227 of the planned 10,592 hamlets had been completed; 76 percent, or 9,563,370 of the rural population, are now in these hamlets.” This bore no relation to reality. South Vietnam’s reporting to the Pentagon had been a sham designed to support U.S. funding, a sham supported by U.S. intelligence officers. Hamlets and villages claimed to be secure by the South Vietnamese were almost all ruled by the NLF. Almost all strategic hamlets had already been abandoned. Long An Province, 40 miles south of Saigon, was an NLF stronghold. By March, 1964 the NLF, because of their political strength, controlled almost half of South Vietnam. Taylor told Kennedy the opposite. 41
Decorated Korean War veteran Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann was sent to Vietnam in March of 1962 to improve ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) supply train and tactics. His supply train success was widely lauded. Vann was the senior American adviser to Colonel Huynh Van Cao, commander of the ARVN IV Corps, which was up against the NLF in Dinh Tuong Province, in the Mekong Delta south of Saigon.
On January 2, 1963, Vann directed the seminal battle of Ap Bac from a slow, unarmed low-flying spotter plane, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for refusing to break off under heavy enemy fire. Despite an 8 to 1 numerical advantage, 2500 to 300, and artillery, armor, and helicopter support, including half-tracks, the ARVN troops lost the battle. The small, disciplined NLF force inflicted heavy casualties, over 80 ARVN killed, plus three American ‘advisers,’ shot down five helicopters, and escaped with only light casualties, leaving only three bodies behind. Vann’s after-action report excoriated ARVN incompetence, cowardice and laziness, their gross inflation of the VC body count, and the rank corruption of Diem’s dope-dealing high command. Military Assistance Command – Vietnam (MACV) commander General Paul D. Harkins, said Vann, lazily swallowed too much Vietnamese BS. Vann also insisted that the Strategic Hamlet Program was political suicide.
Despite the fact that he was one of the Army’s premier logistical and tactical geniuses with extensive in-country battlefield experience, Maxwell Taylor would not permit Vann to brief the Joint Chiefs on his return in 1963. Vann, not a careerist prostitute, quit the Army in 1963 after doing his 20 years and proceeded to infuriate the American high command by taking his critique to David Halberstam of The New York Times and Neil Sheehan of UPI, who published it all over the world. Vann also talked to CIA analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who spent 1965 and 66 working for General Lansdale’s State Department intelligence unit in Vietnam. Ellsberg later passed the classified Pentagon Papers analysis ordered by McNamara, which he compiled, to Sheehan for publication in The New York Times and to Ben Bagdikian of The Washington Post, thereby blowing the lid off the Vietnam debate.
By blocking Vann’s critique, the politicized Taylor was selling the war, not objectively analyzing it or fighting to win it. A week after the battle of Ap Bac, Taylor sent Army Chief of Staff General Earle Wheeler with a team to investigate, and sure enough, things were just hunky dory. As Major H. R. McMaster reports in Dereliction of Duty, Johnson, McNamara, Rusk and Taylor spent an inordinate amount of time and energy fixing the ‘intelligence’ for political consumption, rather than taking it seriously. They continued to pretend that the Vietnamese ‘government’ they were ‘assisting’ was a legitimate government for which they were ‘buying time,’ rather than a rotating collection of fascist dope peddlers with no political legitimacy, support or decency.
The major internal American debate in the early days of the war was ‘gradual escalation’ vs. ‘fast escalation,’ essentially the political Kennedy, Johnson, McNamara, Bill Bundy at State and John McNaughton at Defense worrying about the 1964 election vs. the pragmatic Joint Chiefs, worrying about the military situation on the ground in Vietnam. Both options were designed, to quote the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Maxwell Taylor, to convince the “enemy that it is to his interest to desist from aiding the insurgents” and obtain “his cooperation in calling off” the insurgency in South Vietnam and Laos.
These conformist, racist fools had no idea what they were dealing with – they were literally living in their own colonialist dream world. As CIA agent Frank Snepp, who fought that war for six years, put it, “They were really distant from the reality you could document with intelligence, and they were trying to remake reality to fit their own favorite vision.” Snepp actually said that to DCIA Colby’s face during the May 1975 CIA wake for Vietnam at Langley, contradicting Colby’s insistence that we could have won, that the strategy had been realistic. The CIA’s top Vietnam expert, George W. Allen, the one who convinced Secretary of Defense McNamara to organize the Pentagon Papers review of policy, insisted that the intelligence was being fixed in favor of the Dulles brothers’ colonialist fantasies. His book, None So Blind, demonstrates how the Dulles brothers’ McCarthyism had been so successful, that dealing with the reality of the Viet Minh, as Roosevelt had so profitably done, wasn’t even considered an option among the war planners. Allen names the three top Army generals sent to South Vietnam in the 1950s and early 1960s, Joseph Collins, Samuel Williams and Paul Harkins; the ambassador to South Vietnam in 1964-1965, Maxwell Taylor; and Johnson administration heavies Walt Rostow, McGeorge and William Bundy and McNamara himself. Dealing realistically with the Viet Minh was off the table, despite the fact that the only political entity with widespread popular support in South Vietnam was the Viet Minh.
Fortunately for us, Assistant Secretary of Defense McNaughton’s assistant was Daniel Ellsberg, who revealed the real content of their deliberations in The Pentagon Papers. But, like Ike’s Secretary of State Dulles, Johnson’s Secretary of State Rusk didn’t talk to the Reds. When George Ball, Rusk’s Under Secretary of State, advised diplomacy and withdrawal he was ignored. When Vice President Hubert Humphrey, just after Johnson’s landslide 1964 electoral victory, insisted, like Ball, that we should get out of Vietnam, Humphrey was completely excluded from all further war planning sessions. LBJ, as if taking talking points from the Dulles brothers, often equated Ho Chi Minh with Hitler, despite the fact that the Viet Minh had been an important part of our anti-Nazi coalition, heavily armed by us. LBJ, Presss Conference, 7/28/1965: “Nor would surrender in Vietnam bring peace, because we learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression. The battle would be renewed …bringing with it perhaps even larger and crueler conflict, as we learned from the lessons of history.” To negotiate with the Viet Minh became the equivalent of Chamberlain at Munich. They built policy behind what they knew was BS, acting as if they really believed it. One of the most humiliating revelations in The Pentagon Papers was that they knew full well they were lying through their teeth to the American people about the war.
They gave the National Liberation Front (NLF) in the South a derogatory French name, ‘Viet Cong,’ and pretended that made them something other than Viet Minh. Well, the Viet Minh wasn’t buying it – Vietnam was one country, their country. It was Ho Chi Minh vs. Gen. Nguyen Khanh, that is, George Washington vs. Benedict Arnold. Allen Dulles protégé Gen. Maxwell Taylor, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs, Ambassador to South Vietnam 1964-65, was essentially dictating war strategy to President Johnson. Taylor thought of the war in just those terms. McMaster: “Before he arrived in Washington, Taylor sent a cable recommending that the United States ‘accept the fact’ that a stable government in South Vietnam was ‘unattainable’ and recognize that there was ‘no George Washington in sight’ to assume the leadership of the South Vietnamese people. Taylor thought that the United States should accept greater responsibility for the fight against the Viet Cong because the South Vietnamese government was so weak.”
They pretended South Vietnam was a real country, even though they knew it wasn’t. They were conquering southern Vietnam in opposition to the indigenous population, whom they pretended were invaders from the North, and they knew they were pretending. Taylor, a real field general with plenty of battlefield experience, began to see the U.S. as caught in a whirlpool of its own making. He cabled Secretary of State Rusk, worrying about American “vulnerability to communist propaganda and third world criticism as we appear to assume the old French role of alien colonizer and conqueror.” In an odd reversal of roles, Taylor began to worry about promiscuous American escalation trapping us in a ghastly quagmire, as of course it was doing. Taylor saw “the possibility of a kind of Dien Bien Phu,” as the long, drawn-out American collapse most certainly was.
In a November 7, 1964 memo, Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton acknowledged that their recommended post-U.S. election option of gradual escalation had “some chance of coming out very badly.” Still believing it was possible to coerce the Viet Minh regarding ownership of their own country, Taylor, despite his realistic fear of quagmire, shared the administration’s muddled view that “an early willingness to negotiate would appear to the North Vietnamese as a sign of weakness,” and so continued to support gradual escalation.
They were defending a fantasy, a duplicitous cover story about an independent South Vietnam. The McCarthyite, the Dullesite parameters of the strategic dialogue had been established in the corridors of power, so the best evolved strategic thinking of the American military was marginalized and ignored. In 1965, while President Johnson was playing politics with military tactics, which is exactly the wrong thing to do with military tactics, General Harold Johnson, Army Chief of Staff, formally concluded that it would take five years and five hundred thousand men to defeat the insurgency in the South. A simultaneous Marine Corps technical study ordered by the JCS estimated that we would need seven hundred thousand men. As the Director of Naval Intelligence, Vice Admiral Rufus Taylor, put it in January of 1965, the United States “should be prepared at an early date to either commit U.S. forces in sufficient strength to ensure victory for our side or get out before it is too late.”
DCIA John McCone told President Johnson to expect tit for tat from the North Vietnamese in response to his ‘gradual escalation.’ DCIA William Raborn, who replaced McCone in April of 1965, wrote President Johnson on May 8 that “we will find ourselves pinned down, with little choice left among possible subsequent courses of action: i.e. disengagement at very high cost or broadening the conflict in quantum jumps.” President Johnson consulted Clark Clifford, Democratic heavyweight since he was Truman’s White House Counsel. Clifford told Johnson to keep troop numbers “to a minimum consistent with the protection of our installations and property in that country….this could be a quagmire. It could turn into an open end commitment on our part that would take more and more ground troops, without a realistic hope of ultimate victory.” Clifford, and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, told Johnson to pursue negotiations.
But somehow Johnson, McNamara, Rusk, Taylor & Co. thought that it was necessary for “America’s honor” to start heavy B-52 bombing of North Vietnam, napalm and B-52 bombing of NLF communities in the South, and the insertion of American ground combat units. Otherwise, U.S. credibility, which, as Secretary Rusk put it, “is the pillar of peace throughout the world,” would be damaged. Maintaining their lies reduced these racist, conformist cowards to fascist doublespeak. I was 20 in 1965. As us young hippies used to say, “alienation is when your country is in a war and you want it to lose.” We also used to say, “As soon as the Viet Cong hit the Bronx I’ll join up.” The profit motive, not common sense, was driving their policy. They were engineering a war that would be profitable only to U.S. defense contractors and the protected global hard drug trade that was financing our military puppets and client armies. The colonialist strategic goal was possession of Vietnam’s considerable natural resources, including oil, natural gas and coal, but, absent the achievement of that ultimate goal, the war was vastly profitable to our defense contractors nonetheless.
South Vietnam’s most notorious heroin dealer, Air Force chief Nguyen Cao Ky, took the government by coup d’etat on June 19, 1965. Ky, one of Diem’s Catholic assassins, had been running the CIA’s heroin operation since 1961. The American military was told, by its own high command, that the strategic goal of the war was ad hoc defense of the Saigon government, whose only constituency was the American and Corsican mafia. There was almost nothing else in the country that supported the U.S. effort, which had become, literally, an exact repeat of the French attempt at conquest. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Earle Wheeler said that we were maintaining South Vietnamese “freedom and independence” - by killing the people of South Vietnam. At the June 11, 1965 NSC meeting, General Taylor reassured the high command that “the present VC campaign will be terminated without serious losses.” Assuming, that is, that you don’t count 60,000 American dead as a serious loss. 42
Douglas MacArthur himself, a military genius and a savage anticommunist, had warned Kennedy in the White House in 1961 that a Vietnam war was strategic suicide, predicting in detail everything that happened after Kennedy’s death. This meeting was recounted by Kennedy aide Schlesinger, who was in the room. MacArthur, who nearly lost his entire army to the Chinese in Korea, pointed out that China was still allied with neighboring Vietnam. As he went for the kill against the North Koreans on China’s border, the Yalu River, MacArthur was suddenly overwhelmed by a tidal wave of Chinese troops. 43
When Gen. Creighton Abrams, Patton’s superb European point brigade commander, inevitably asked President Johnson for permission to take Hanoi, the High Command had to refuse. It knew Abrams could do it, but it also knew that would force China into the war. And you can’t actually use nuclear weapons. MacArthur laid this all out before it ever happened. He knew that any American commander would face protracted guerrilla war in Vietnam against overwhelming numbers without the possibility of military victory.
Gen. Matthew Ridgway, who replaced MacArthur in Korea, also bitterly opposed American troops on the ground in Vietnam, and used all his influence to prevent it. Gen. Omar Bradley did the same. Eisenhower’s Chief of Plans for the Army, Gen. James Gavin, was also horrified at the thought of an Asian land war. Noted the prescient Gavin, “What appears to be intense interservice rivalry [in favor of intervention] in most cases...is fundamentally industrial rivalry.”
MacArthur in battle; with Kennedy in the White House
MacArthur, Eisenhower, Lemnitzer, Shoup and Prouty understood the meaning of that all too well. In 1959, Gen. J. Lawton Collins, Army Chief of Staff during the Korean War, insisted that he did not “know of a single senior commander that was in favor of fighting on the land mass of Asia.” In 1952, Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett told NATO Commander Eisenhower that the Joint Chiefs were “unanimously opposed to the commitment of any troops” in Vietnam. In 1950, U.S. military intelligence told Douglas MacArthur, then in charge of our troops in Korea, that 80% of the Vietnamese people, North and South, supported Ho Chi Minh, and the remaining 20% were almost all neutral. MacArthur’s briefers stressed that for the overwhelming majority of Vietnamese this support had nothing to do with Ho’s politics, but his nationalism. 44
This, of course, was not news to MacArthur. He told Kennedy that Vietnam’s only Vietnamese-led army was synonymous with nationalism. He emphasized that the Viet Minh was a genuine national liberation front so popular that, if put under attack, it could mobilize virtually the entire population, giving it a numerical superiority that would enable it to absorb high losses indefinitely and still inflict unacceptable damage on any invader.
Ho Chi Minh, then known as Nguyen Ai Quoc, addresses the French Socialist congress in 1920. This remarkable man was fluent in Vietnamese, French, English, Russian, Mandarin, and Cantonese. The refusal of the powers at Versailles to hear him 2 years earlier led him to begin organizing armed rebellion. The only military support he could find was in Moscow; Black Star
MacArthur talked at length to Kennedy about Dien Bien Phu. In 1954 the French had placed 16,000 men at Dien Bien Phu on the North Vietnam-Laos border. This large “hedgehog” garrison had been airlifted into supposedly inaccessible mountain terrain to serve as a base for offensive operations to protect French assets, including their Hmong opium army in Laos. 80,000 Viet Minh porters, augmented by another 150,000 from the local hill tribes, then proceeded to do what the French high command had assumed was impossible. They hauled 200 heavy cannon and ample ammunition, disassembled piece by piece, through the vast rugged mountain range and up the heavily forested peaks surrounding the French garrison - and flattened it. General Giap had the tactical patience to spend months deliberately stockpiling ammunition and emplacing heavy artillery and antiaircraft guns on the slopes surrounding “the bottom of the teacup.” His sapper scouts pinpointed every protected artillery piece in the base. When Giap finally opened up, he was shooting at specific targets from higher ground, and had anticipated the aerial resupply effort. The French air force and the CIA’s contract airline CAT were able to fly only 28 heavy guns through the flak to the French pancakes, suffering heavy aircraft losses. The French lost the entire garrison. On May 8, the Viet Minh counted 11,721 prisoners, of whom 4,436 were wounded. The Viet Minh flag flying over Dien Bien Phu, became the symbol of Vietnamese independence worldwide. 45
On the 1954 French collapse, the Viet Minh, which had been heavily armed by the U.S. in 1945, inherited all the U.S. weaponry the French had to leave behind. Mass produced Viet Minh land mines turned jungle roads into death traps. Even neighboring China feared the Viet Minh. No Western invader, said MacArthur, could match Viet Minh manpower in Vietnam. This was, of course, the same thing that Earl Mountbatten, the Allied commander in Indochina, and Vo Nguyen Giap, the OSS’ man at the head of the anti-Japanese guerrilla army known as the Viet Minh, had to say. MacArthur was talking about the army that he and Mountbatten helped to build.
The Fall of Dien Bien Phu, May 7, 1954; Less than half the 8000 ‘able bodied’ French prisoners survived the 500-mile march to prison camp
Complained OSS Indochina intelligence chief Paul Helliwell in 1943, “The French were infinitely more concerned with keeping the Americans out of Indochina than they were in defeating the Japanese or in doing anything to bring the war to a successful conclusion in that area.” Most of France’s colonial forces collaborated with the Japanese, managing Vietnam for their war machine. French forces were riddled with Japanese agents, so that the minority that wanted to resist failed. Poor French intelligence repeatedly got OSS sabotage teams bushwhacked. The only reliable help we had in northern Vietnam came from the Viet Minh. By 1944 the Viet Minh had taken complete control of the northern Tonkin provinces. They were a military reality. They were feeding the OSS South China command at Kunming genuine intelligence, supporting its raiding parties and rescuing its fliers. So we sent them rifles, machine guns, mortars, bazookas and grenades as they took Vietnam from the Japanese. And the Viet Minh made no secret of their intention to challenge the French and British positions everywhere in Vietnam once the war ended. 46
OSS Deer Team 1945, left to right, rear, unknown, Rene Defourneaux, Ho Chi Minh, Team leader Major Allison Thomas, Vo Nguyen Giap, Henry Prunier, 2 unknowns, Paul Hoagland; front, Lawrence Vogt, Aaron Squires, unknown; photo Rene Defourneaux
Roosevelt, at the Cairo and Teheran conferences of 1943, got Stalin and Chiang to agree that Vietnam should be completely independent. Roosevelt’s plan had been to put French and Dutch possessions under U.N. trusteeship, and then organize U.N. supervised elections. Churchill, protesting his ancestral love of colonialism, squelched the deal, to the great relief of the Gaullists. As a consequence, the Allies agreed by default that France was the rightful owner of Vietnam, thus starting the French Indochina War.
The Potsdam conference of July, 1945 had divided Vietnam into British and American-controlled zones at the 16th parallel. Thus it was Major General Douglas Gracey’s 20th Indian Division, reinforced by extra battalions of Gurkhas, under Churchill’s orders relayed through Mountbatten, that took actual control of Saigon for the South East Asia Command in August of 1945. When the British arrived they reacted with gratuitous hostility to the Viet Minh Provisional Executive Committee for South Vietnam which had taken control of Saigon in the absence of the Japanese, the French and the British. The Viet Minh ‘August Revolution’ was managing the city without violence or reprisals – the electricity was on, food was plentiful and the French were safe. Under orders to put the French in charge, Gracey wrote, “I was welcomed on arrival by the Vietminh, and I promptly kicked them out.” 44
With condescending, racist brutality, Gracey declared martial law, thus criminalizing the very Viet Minh in Saigon who had just defeated the Nazi Japanese and who welcomed the Allies with open arms. Gracey then freed the racist French colons imprisoned by the Japanese, armed them, and put them under de Gaulle’s command through ‘Governor’ Col. Jean Cedille, Sept. 22-23, 1945. Using these French colonialist troops, as well as his own, Gracey then executed a coup d’ etat that violently evicted the Viet Minh from Saigon Town Hall, running up the French Tricolor. Until that moment, cooperation with the Allies had been the official Viet Minh policy. The Viet Minh, once again, found themselves facing the racist French colons, the hostile Brits and Gurkhas, and even rearmed Japanese troops, in the streets of a Saigon they had just liberated. The fighting then extended throughout the British zone in southern Vietnam. By 1947 Gracey turned southern Vietnam over to General LeClerc’s French forces. Churchill and de Gaulle had started the French Indochina War.
The OSS Deer Team trains the Viet Minh, Tonkin, 1944
Ho based the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, September 2, 1945, co-written by his OSS liaison, Col. Archimedes Patti, on the American. It begins, “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.” Ho was flanked by his American military mission when he read those words to the vast crowd in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square, which was named after the 1886 rebellion against French colonialist enslavement. The American military plane that flew overhead was wildly cheered.
Ho declares Vietnamese independence; Viet Minh, Patti Collection
That was the same day that Japan formally surrendered to the U.S. At this time Ho repeatedly sent formal offers to the American government, through the OSS team attached to him, inviting massive American investment and lucrative government-to-industry partnerships. The War Department responded by sending half of the unused Japan-invasion stockpile on Okinawa to Vo Nguyen Giap in Hanoi - enough weaponry, according to Prouty, including heavy artillery, for 150,000 troops. 47
Ho with Col. Patti; Vo and Ho with Patti
America could have had anything it wanted from Ho Chi Minh in 1945. Virtually all our intelligence officers who interacted with the Viet Minh, 1943-46, insisted on their common sense, legitimacy, and grass-roots support. These officers recognized that Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett’s reporting from the Mekong Delta in the early 1960s was accurate.
Burchett was one of the nerviest frontline correspondents to come out of World War II. Seven days after we incinerated Hiroshima, Burchett, unaccompanied, rode a Japanese train, loaded with angry Japanese troops, to ground zero. As the first Allied journalist on site, his graphic reports mesmerized the world.
On the eve of the final battle for Dien Bien Phu, Burchett shared meals with Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap, listening to them explain their strategy. Because he loved these freedom fighters, his accurate reporting was dismissed as “communist propaganda.” Only too late did the French realize that Burchett hadn’t exaggerated Viet Minh popularity, or the effectiveness of their tactics, at all.
So too the Americans. The intrepid Burchett spent the better part of 1960-1964 living with the National Liberation Front (NLF), under attack, in the Mekong Delta. Burchett insisted that the NLF, so far from being an artificially created unit of the North Vietnamese Army, was an organic, broad coalition of Vietnamese political parties from the South, and as such had enormous local political support. But his dispatches were dismissed as propaganda by those for whom they were inconvenient. The CIA, by this time, had degenerated to the point where it was quoting its own political line as if that were military intelligence.
An early-60s CIA directive flatly asserted that there was no need to count the population at large as part of the “Viet Cong” because their support had been coerced. Burchett pointed out that mothers don’t have to be coerced into supporting their sons. Captured enemy documents, since they revealed the incredible depth of the Viet Minh ‘liberation associations’ in rural South Vietnam, were actually systematically ignored in the CIA’s reports to policy makers.
Burchett and his wife Vessa with Pham van Dong and Ho Chi Minh
When an astute CIA analyst, Sam Adams (great name – a family descendant), who naively thought his job was to objectively analyze the intelligence, insisted that NLF numbers were so overwhelming that we needed to reconsider our basic strategy, his information was intentionally withheld from policy makers. Adams concluded, from his in-country research into captured enemy documents and other sources, that the “previous estimates had undercounted the communists by hundreds of thousands. The implications were astounding.” Adams insisted, in his revision of the CIA’s Order of Battle for the Viet Cong, that MACV’s low NLF numbers were the result of political interference with the data. MACV wasn’t counting extended family and was relying on corrupt ARVN numbers. The result was an undercounting of NLF numbers by orders of magnitude. MACV asserted it was up against 270,000 VC, but Adams demonstrated that the number was closer to 600,000, with 20,000 VC double agents enrolled in the ARVN, not the 300 that the 1968 Saigon Station Chief Shackley claimed.
Adams’ work was rejected in 1967, but officially accepted after the January 1968 Tet Offensive. Louis G. Sarris, an analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, had reached the same conclusions in 1963. He was reassigned. Upon his return from his Vietnam fact-finding trip, Paul Kattenburg, chairman of Kennedy’s Vietnam Interdepartmental Working Group, suggested to a National Security Council meeting on August 31, 1963 that the Vietnam War was an unwinnable quagmire from which we should extricate ourselves ASAP. Kattenburg, who first learned to evaluate jungle warfare as one of Merrill’s Marauders, was transferred to a diplomatic post in Guyana. Winning armies don’t do that to their best battlefield analysts.
General Westmoreland was all over the media giving his never ending ‘Victory is Just Around the Corner’ speech, first given to Congress on April 28, 1967. Westmoreland saluted smartly as Congress gave him a standing ovation. Then, in celebration of the Vietnamese New Year, the Viet Minh stuck a bayonet right up Westy’s patriotic bubble. The simultaneous siege of Khe Sanh had been a ferocious feint. But Louis Sarris at State and Robert Layton at the CIA both predicted the January 30, 1968 Tet Offensive months before it happened. Westmoreland simply ignored our craftiest thinkers, all of whom insisted that successful counterinsurgency was essentially political. As the crafty Lansdale put it, “Find out what the people want and give it to them.”
John Paul Vann, William Corson, Frank Scotton, Ev Bumgardner, Rufe Phillips, Daniel Ellsberg, Chester Cooper – all possessed of high rank and influence, understood that the social justice issue, the visceral need not to be a slave, was the motivating factor in the success of the Viet Minh. As Helms put it, it was necessary to have “a motivated population, not merely an administered one.” But to act on that thinking would be to break with Dulles brothers Republican orthodoxy. Westmoreland and his ilk, running the military, displayed only the infantile historical imagination Daddy Dulles allowed, the imagination of a kid watching Cowboys and Indians at the movies. As Westmoreland put it, “We found that in our frontier days we couldn’t plant the corn outside the stockade if the Indians were still around. Well, that’s what we’ve been trying to do in Viet Nam. We planted a lot of corn with the Indians still around. . . . As security becomes greater . . . pacification will move along much better…. eliminate the enemy and all the rest falls into place…”
In other words, this guy, leading our troops, was a racist asshole. It never occurred to Westy that it was the Indians who invented the corn. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” just the way Sullivan and Cromwell wrote it. Generals Thieu and Ky, the fascist dope peddlers we put in charge of the Vietnamese government, thought Westmoreland had it exactly right. Throughout the country, ARVN troops ruled by fiat. Their corps commanders were also their political chiefs. Their troops consistently behaved among the people like the Mexican warlord’s drunken troops in The Magnificent Seven. This made the NLF, who had serious political discipline, look like heroes. Provincial and district chief ARVN appointments were for sale to the highest bidder. It was the ARVN Province Chief who distributed all that American largesse for local projects.
General Tran Thien Khiem, Interior Minister and then, under General Thieu, Prime Minister, oversaw this kickback system. Khiem’s wife and brother-in-law ran the family’s huge heroin business, making cheap, high quality heroin available to American GIs and much of the rest of the world, via Air America. Reformist General Nguyen Duc Thang, the South Vietnamese Minister of Reconstruction under Thieu and Ky, told Lansdale’s team that the ARVN were hopelessly corrupt dope-dealing extortionists and would never be anything else.
In 1969, President Thieu’s top security adviser, Huynh Van Trong, was arrested by the CIA and Vietnam’s Special Branch as a Viet Minh agent. The next year legendary CIA analyst Sam Adams pointed out that the entire Thieu regime, the officer corps and the civil bureaucracy, was infiltrated by thousands of Viet Minh agents. William Colby, George Carver, and John Hart, our 1968 Vietnam CIA team, concluded, in their memo two days after Tet, which they entitled “Operation Shock,” that “Tet demonstrated that the Thieu-Ky regime clearly lacked the attributes of a national government [able to] defend its frontiers.” The CIA team recommended negotiations with the Viet Minh. An angry Dwight Eisenhower, foreseeing exactly this defeat, had said much the same thing in the National Security Council in 1954. After pointlessly sending tens of thousands of young Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, to their deaths, the Paris Peace Talks began on 5/13/1968.
Colby and Vann tried to make the CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support) program work, arming and financing villages directly. There was significant progress in weaning hamlets sick of endless war from the war-oriented NLF. The methodology was mostly civil, providing tractors, roads, electricity, wells, medical care and commercial market access. But the high command refused to coordinate with Colby.
‘Operation Speedy Express,’ December 1968 to May 11, 1969, using battalion and division level sweeps and free-fire zones, literally attacked the very villages and hamlets CORDS had just befriended. Army Chief of Staff Westmoreland and MACV commander General Creighton Abrams let loose Maj. Gen. Julian Ewell, commander of the Ninth Infantry Division, “The Butcher of the Delta.” His nighttime hunter-killer operations wracked up huge body counts, mostly innocent civilians who made the natural mistake of running. His helicopter gunships pulverized anything that moved with their night-vision and body heat sensors triggering high-speed gatling guns. General Ewell was making the NLF’s point for them. The NLF knew that they were being tracked by movement and exertion, so they just remained stationary. Since Ewell’s units had a body count quota, without which they couldn’t return to base, these idiots killed about 7,000 civilians, leaving the disciplined NLF virtually untouched. The MACV CORDS program was switched to its most lethal component, the Phoenix mass assassination program. U.S. troops in Vietnam numbered 542,000. 48
J. Edgar Hoover responded to the anti-war opposition, which could see the real military intelligence every night on their TV screens, with COINTELPRO ‘New Left.’ In 1969, Admiral Rufus Taylor, DDCIA, wrote a letter to his second most famous analyst, Sam Adams, advising him to “submit his resignation” if he wouldn’t be a “helpful member of the intelligence team at CIA.” Walt Rostow, Johnson’s Special Assistant for National Security, told Adams, “I’m sorry you won’t support your president.” Adams, offended to the depths of his soul by being ordered to distort the intelligence, resigned the CIA in 1973 and went public, first in Harper’s magazine, May, 1975, then, in January, 1982, as a consultant for a CBS News documentary, The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception.
General William Westmoreland, demonstrating the unreflective stupidity for which he had become famous, sued CBS for $120 million for libel when it accused him of deliberately undercounting Viet Minh numbers, naming CIA analyst Sam Adams as a co-defendant, along with Mike Wallace and producer George Crile. Then Westmoreland realized that he had just made Adams’ CIA work product, which had been duly presented to Westmoreland through channels, admissible as evidence. Westmoreland withdrew his suit before the case went to the jury, but the cat had been let out of the bag.
The Institute of Defense Analysis, a Pentagon think tank, corroborated Adams’ work product and added the “most categorical rejection of bombing as a tool of our policy in Southeast Asia to be made by an official or semiofficial group.” A group of retired CIA officers, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, gives the Sam Adams Award annually to an intelligence professional who has stubbornly told truth to power. 49 50
Most of those few Vietnamese who didn’t actively support the Viet Minh were neutral. Our side had the active support, at most, of 2% of the population. We were the externally-supported minority trying to shoot our way into power, as Daniel Ellsberg began to say publicly. That meant that we were sending our boys into a meat grinder.
It might have been convenient for imperialists to blur it, but the Vietnamese sense of nationhood was intense. “Nam Viet” first became a nation in 939 CE, after a millenium as a political entity under Chinese domination. The first time anyone ever heard of ‘South Vietnam’ was in 1955. Ngo Dinh Diem knew that. Ho Chi Minh means “He Who Liberates.” The “Viet Minh” was the Vi?t Nam Ð?c L?p Ð?ng Minh H?i, the “Vietnam Independence League.” It was a jungle tiger.
Burchett’s 1965 paperback Vietnam: Inside Story of the Guerilla War, became the bible of the anti-war movement. The proof that it accurately depicted the political situation is that it accurately predicted the military outcome. I no longer have the copy I read then, but, as I recall, the last words in the book were something like “They can be killed, but they can’t be conquered.”
Kennedy chose to attempt both, as he encouraged Taylor’s ‘counterinsurgency’ doublespeak. He had, after all, just nosed out Nixon in an election that was, to a great extent, a competition in red-baiting. Both Kennedy and Taylor talked of the Viet Minh as if they came from Mars, or China. The U.S., Taylor told an approving Kennedy, was “protecting” Vietnamese peasants from the Viet Minh. This was done by destroying their villages and herding the survivors at gunpoint into barbed-wire-enclosed “strategic hamlets,” where they were “free” to “choose” “democracy.” This fascist doublespeak was necessitated, of course, by the obvious facts, as outlined by American military intelligence itself throughout the fifties. The CIA’s Taylor moved from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to Ambasador to South Vietnam in July of 1964, where he made a point of deleting negative field intelligence before forwarding it to the White House. The result was CIA, that is Dulles brothers, policy-conformity from the field, and strategic suicide in the war.
Marine Commandant David Shoup, who spearheaded the Marine assault on the Japanese at Tarawa, a Congressional Medal of Honor winning veteran of an awful lot of combat, refused to play this defense-contractor boondoggle game. He was livid at the venality that drove this Nazi-like corruption of our military intelligence. He did not forgive the reckless waste of his troopers,’ or Vietnamese, lives. He told a 1966 convocation, “I believe that if we... would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for... and not the American style, which they don't want. Not one crammed down their throats by the Americans.” 52
Ambassador Lodge did not share these hippie sentiments. In a classified October 1963 communication to President Kennedy, he complained that “[South] Viet-Nam is not a thoroughly strong police state...because, unlike Hitler’s Germany, it is not efficient.” This is the man who called Jacobo Árbenz a communist in the United Nations as Árbenz protested the American invasion of Guatemala. Lodge also complained of the pragmatic willingness of Diem, in the face of military defeat, to talk truce with the Viet Minh. Again, so disappointingly unlike Adolf. Kennedy agreed with Lodge. If Diem wouldn’t “focus on winning the war,” then we would find someone who would.
On August 29, 1963, new Saigon ambassador Lodge cabled Washington: “We are launched on a course from which there is no turning back: the overthrow of the Diem government.” Conein recruited Diem’s senior military adviser, the charismatic General Duong Van Minh, ‘Big Minh,’ who was as unhappy with the Ngo Dinh brothers as Lodge. As Conein later told a 1975 Senate hearing of the assassination of Diem, “I was part and parcel of the whole conspiracy.” Diem and Nhu were assassinated on Nov. 2, 1963. 53 54
Like MacArthur, General de Gaulle had also warned Kennedy that Vietnam was “a bottomless military and political swamp.” Kennedy’s trusted Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield, told him the same thing after his late 1962 fact-finding trip. The powerful and respected Senator Fulbright was also protesting that we were “bogged down” in a hopeless morass. After nearly three years of frustration, the pugnacious Kennedy was finally ready to accept this wisdom. He ordered Col. Fletcher Prouty to organize the high profile, high-level Vietnam intelligence-gathering trip on which Kennedy’s National Security Action Memorandum 263, his last, was based. 55