At a town hall forum in South Carolina a couple of days ago, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was asked by CNN whether he stood by recently surfaced comments he made about the CIA back in 1974, which I wrote about in my blog post yesterday. Back then, Sanders pointed out that the CIA was a dangerous institution that “had to go,” especially since it was accountable only to “right wing lunatics who use it to prop up fascist dictatorships.”
Unfortunately, Sanders took it back, partly. He responded that he doesn’t believe that the CIA should be abolished because “it plays a role” but at least he went on to point out a couple of the horrific regime-change operations that the CIA orchestrated. The two that Sanders mentioned were Iran and Chile.
Consider Iran. All the current U.S. problems with Iran are rooted in the CIA’s destruction of Iran’s democratic political system in 1953. As Sanders pointed out in his response at that forum, the CIA went into Iran and instigated a violent coup, one in which people were killed. The CIA’s mission was regime change, the very first of what would become many CIA-instigated regime-change operations extending even through today (think Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and Cuba).
The CIA’s mission was to oust the democratically pointed prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from office and replace him with the Shah of Iran, a loyal and subservient ally of the U.S. government.
There are two important things to note about the Shah: One, he was an unelected dictator and, two, he brutalized the Iranian people for 25 years with some of the worst tyranny imaginable, with the full support of the CIA.
The excuse? That Mossadegh might be a communist and, therefore, a threat to U.S. “national security.” Another possible excuse: Mossadegh had nationalized British oil interests and so the British government had asked the CIA to help them get them back. That might have been one of the things Sanders was referring to when he said that the CIA was accountable to “right wing lunatics who use it to prop up fascist dictatorships.”
In 1979, the Iranian people revolted against the CIA-installed and CIA-supported tyranny in their country. In their anger over the CIA’s destruction of their democratic system in favor of a pro-U.S. brural 25-year tyranny, the Iranian people took American diplomats hostage. They figured that the CIA would try to do it again by reinstalling the Shah into power, and so they used the hostages to ensure that that didn’t happen again.
Through it all, U.S. officials played the innocent. The U.S. government had done nothing to deserve this mistreatment, U.S. officials maintained with straight faces. We’re just babes in the woods, dedicated to making the world safe for democracy.
Unfortunately, after the Iranian revolution, things did not return to where they were before the CIA coup. Instead, the Shah was replaced by another dictatorship, the dictatorship of the ayatollahs. And it’s been hostility with the United States ever since.
So, here is a classic instance of where the CIA’s policies produce an official enemy and then that official enemy is used to ramp up crises in which the national-security establishment adopts emergency totalitarian powers to keep Americans safe (from the enemies the CIA has produced).
Moreover, to protect America from this new official enemy (which the CIA has produced), ever-growing budgets are supposedly necessary for the national security establishment (so it can keep us safe from the enemies it has produced).
Show me a better racket than that.
It was even worse in Chile, the other example that Sanders pointed out. There, the CIA orchestrated the ouster of a president who had been democratically elected by the people of Chile, Salvador Allende.
What was the CIA’s beef with Allende? That he was a communist/socialist and, even worse, a democratically elected one. Therefore, he obviously constituted a grave threat to U.S. “national security.”
In the process of this regime-change operation, the CIA engaged in bribery, kidnapping (which resulted in the assassination of the head of Chile’s Armed Forces, who was opposing the CIA coup), and the intentional destruction of Chile’s economy (so that Chileans would welcome the coup). Perhaps I should mention that when Congress asked the director of the CIA, Richard Helms, about the CIA’s role leading up to the coup, he intentionally lied to them, to the cheers of his compatriots back at the agency.
The man they installed into power was a military general, a man for whom “law and order” was extremely important — Gen. Augusto Pinochet. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he turned out to be one of history’s most brutal dictators. He had his goons round up, torture, rape, and incarcerate some 60,000 innocent people — no trials, no indictments. Just torture and incarceration, just like Gitmo for the past 15 years. Pinochet ended up killing around 3,000 of his victims.
And it was all done with the full support of the CIA and the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment. In fact, the CIA even became a partner in Operation Condor, a super-secret international assassination ring run out of Chile, a ring that ended up assassinating thousands of innocent people, including a former Allende official named Orlando Letelier on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Americans still don’t know the full extent of the CIA’s involvement in Operation Condor because the CIA won’t permit them to know — national security. For that matter, Americans still don’t know the precise role that the CIA played in the execution of two young American men, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, during the Chilean coup. We do know that a State Department memo ultimately surfaced concluding that U.S. intelligence played a role in their murders and that called for a complete investigation. Not surprisingly, no such investigation was ever held.
Of course, those two regime-change operations are only the tip of the iceberg. There was MKULTRA, the top-secret medical experimentation program that bore many similarities to that of the Nazis. In fact, MKULTRA might well have been the reason that the CIA secretly hired Nazi war criminals after World War II. There were also the many other regime-change operations, including through assassination, in Cuba (Castro), Congo (Lamumba), Guatemala (Arbenz), and many others. And let’s not forget Operation Mockingbird, by which the CIA maintained assets in the mainstream press to ensure pro-CIA articles and op-eds.
It goes without saying that Hillary Clinton is remaining silent on the entire matter. If there is any candidate who would never take on at a fundamental level any part of the national-security establishment, especially the CIA, it’s Hillary Clinton.
The real shame of it is that Sanders has backtracked on his call for the abolition of the CIA. Why would he do that when he knows that nothing fundamental has changed and that everything is much worse than it was in 1974? Certainly Sanders knows that a society can never be free and prosperous as long as it has this type of totalitarian apparatus grafted onto its governmental system.
Realistically, I can think of only two reasons why Sanders is now backtracking:
One, he might think that people won’t vote for him if he comes out in favor of abolishing this Cold-War-era agency that has done so much damage to the America and the world.
Or, two, he’s afraid of what this Cold-War-era agency will do to him if he is still determined to abolish it. (See: Regime Change: The Kennedy Assassination by Jacob Hornberger; The Kennedy Autopsy by Jacob Hornberger; and JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne.