‘The CIA Did It’: Conspiracy Theories in the Service of the ‘Common Good’
August 30, 2009 - 12:05 am
Perhaps the most stomach-turning recurrence of Yuri Andropov’s anti-American narrative is Osama bin Laden’s 2007 taped speech, in which the leader of al-Qaeda recycled Vietnam-era leftist legends, applying them to Iraq:
In the Vietnam War, the leaders of the White House claimed at the time that it was a necessary and crucial war, and during it, Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers. And when Kennedy took over the presidency and deviated from the general line of policy drawn up for the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefiting from its continuation. And so Kennedy was killed, and al-Qaeda wasn’t present at that time, but rather, those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing.
Compare this to a statement by Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s leftist president, with regards to Honduras: “If the oligarchies break the rules of the game as they have done, the people have the right to resistance and combat, and we are with them.” True to the established template, Chavez rejects the possibility of common people resisting a leftist takeover, so the culprit must be some mysterious unidentified “oligarchies.” Painting by numbers, he predictably ends up with a picture of a CIA conspiracy.
Only this time, given President Obama’s ideological affinity with the ousted would-be dictator, Chavez’s caricature of defenders of liberty as CIA puppets isn’t working.
An expert in the region, J. Michael Waller, explains that the CIA indeed has been involved in Latin American politics with varying degrees of success:
One of its state-of-the-art operations occurred in the early 1950s when President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to overthrow the elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, who was subverting Guatemala’s fragile democratic institutions to set up a leftist regime. The U.S. correctly joined many Guatemalans in fearing that Arbenz would bring his country into the Soviet camp. This was early in the Cold War, and it pre-dated Fidel Castro’s revolution.
But that successful operation also happened to be the last of its kind:
Had President Kennedy not gotten cold feet and aborted the CIA-run attempt to overthrow Castro in 1961, abandoning Cuban resistance fighters at the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro never would have consolidated his power and subverted the hemisphere and other parts of the world, and we never would have had a Cuban Missile Crisis.
Most of the other CIA political operations in Latin America were aimed at defeating the pro-Soviet left; interestingly, the CIA covertly funded the center-left, including socialists, to keep them from falling into the Soviet camp. The CIA almost never covertly supported right-wing forces; those forces were perfectly capable of operating on their own, and many were clumsy and even unnecessarily brutal in crushing the extreme left.
When the Marxists took power in Nicaragua in 1979, with the help of Jimmy Carter, it was the poor rural peasants who led the counter-revolutionary revolt. Campesinos from the countryside took up arms to fight the socialist revolution, because the Sandinistas began taking away their land, forcing them to work on collective farms, and conscripted them into a gigantic revolutionary army with Soviet weapons and Soviet-bloc trainers. The peasant resistance was supported by elements of the old Somoza regime who were the only ones at the time with military leadership experience, but the rank-and-file combatants were overwhelmingly poor peasants. Many of the fighters were former Sandinistas who had grown disillusioned with the socialist ideal.
Waller does not hide his sympathies:
I know this firsthand because I was with the Nicaraguan “contra” fighters at the time, between 1983 and 1989. They got started on their own and, without any foreign assistance, formed Latin America’s largest peasant guerrilla army since the Mexican Revolution. The “contras” had a functioning army two or three years before receiving American military support, authorized by Congress and administered through the CIA. They succeeded in preventing the Marxists from establishing a socialist dictatorship.
Today the CIA operates more tightly than ever under strict laws and bureaucratic guidelines, and the oversight committees in Congress are informed of every significant covert operation. Every such operation requires a presidential “finding.” The CIA cannot operate on its own. So if the CIA was involved in ousting former Honduran President Zelaya, as Hugo Chavez is claiming, then it was with the personal authorization of President Barack Obama and with the knowledge of the Democrat leadership in both houses of Congress.
The lunatic left like Hugo Chavez need the CIA boogeyman to justify their own extremism. We don’t hear such anti-CIA accusations coming from the more mature, “responsible” left as in the leaders of countries like Chile and Brazil. Not even the newly elected president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes of the Marxist FMLN party, is accusing the CIA of being involved in the Honduran events.
So if the CIA was behind the ouster of Hugo Chavez’s Honduran ally, it would be because Barack Obama personally authorized it. The idea is an absurdity on its face.
Sticking with the tradition, Chavez’s friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also blaming Iran’s turmoil on the CIA. Factual or not, the propagandistic value of this charge is obvious. The CIA conspiracy card never failed to mesmerize the left-leaning Western intellectuals, especially those involved in producing the most powerful propaganda vehicles of all: Hollywood movies.
The latter are an especially easy target. Hollywood stars such as Redford, Stone, Clooney, Penn, Soderbergh, and many others may style themselves as unconventional rebels, but their political creativity is limited strictly to the reshuffling of worn-out propagandistic conventions. No matter how entertaining the patterns in their political kaleidoscope may appear, looking at the world though a mirror tube filled with one and the same set of colored pieces hasn’t yet helped anyone to understand the reality of existence. If you disagree, try and talk politics to a “truther.”
Those who believe that America, not the Soviet Union, was the engine behind the Cold War conflicts are not equipped to understand the current change in world dynamics.
Indeed, if the USSR was not the driving force, then its disappearance shouldn’t bring any change. And yet change is significant — but since it doesn’t fit their template, it is being axiomatically dismissed as the result of American interference.
If in the past they believed that the Soviet menace was fiction, today this logic leads them to believe that Islamic extremism, Iran, and the 9/11 attacks are merely a new fiction designed to replace the old fiction — all, of course, invented by the CIA and the military-industrial complex in order to justify their existence and perpetuate U.S. imperialism — which is the only absolute, transcendental force in the universe.
The Iranian expatriate author Amir Taheri wrote a spectacular analysis of Syriana – a geopolitical blockbuster starring George Clooney, who also produced it. Made in 2005, the film describes an imagined CIA assassination of an enlightened Arab prince, who was also a progressive reformer. He was killed only because his oil contract with China had displeased Texas oil interests that control the U.S. government.
Leaving out the obvious economic absurdity of the premise, Taheri focuses on the arrogance of the self-loathing American filmmakers who “reduce the Arabs to the level of mere objects in their history.”
The elitist Hollywood clichés, Taheri writes, even deny the Arabs “credit for their own terrorist acts as Syriana shows that it is not they but the CIA that decides who kills whom and where. This view denies Arabs not only intellect and free will, it even denies them their history. Pretending to be sympathetic to the ‘Arab victims of American Imperialism,’ the film is, in fact, an example of ethnocentrism gone wild. Its message is: the Arabs are nothing, not even self-motivated terrorists, but mere puppets manipulated by us in the omnipotent U.S.”
J. Michael Waller echoes this verdict in his analysis of the leftist perception of Latin America:
American liberals take such a patronizing, paternalistic attitude toward Latin American countries that they can’t fathom the fact that most poor Latinos are anti-socialist and anti-communist. The campesinos just want to keep what little land they have, and keep the fruits of their labor. They don’t want handouts. Nobody works harder than a Central American peasant. It is part of their character, and no foreign do-gooder or socialist is going to take that away from them.
It borders on racism for liberals to think that Latin American political leaders are incapable of defending their own countries against socialist subversion of constitutional government and rule of law, and that the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress — including former President Zelaya’s own political party — needed CIA support to oust a president who was violating the constitution.
This is the new reality of the post-Cold War world: without the threat of a Soviet-led intervention, free nations no longer require help from the CIA to resist leftist sedition. But reality is beside the point to dogmatic practitioners of the Cold War faith system, whose myths and legends have always supplied them with easy answers quickly identifiable culprits, and required the trashing of the CIA in order to improve their karmas and score points with fellow practitioners.
It doesn’t even matter that in the modern day, in the words of Taheri, the CIA has become “little more than a costly leaking device used by rival groups within the U.S. establishment to lump accusations and counter-accusations at one another.” What matters is the role assigned to the CIA by the old leftist template; no actions by the agency today can change that. For as long as the template exists, the CIA will be automatically perceived as the enemy of “progress” and suffer regular, mandatory beatings by the left — from foreign dictators to Hollywood filmmakers to mainstream media to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the left-leaning members of the U.S. Congress.
One can only imagine the cognitive dissonance in the heads of believers in leftist myths who have campaigned their way into the U.S. government and are now discovering the real world at CIA briefings.
To sum up this series, President Obama’s foreign policies reveal a clichéd vision of the world, consistent with anti-American stereotypes disseminated by the Soviet propaganda during the Cold War, which he may have absorbed in his formative years.
A radical departure from American values, this vision compels him to correct what he perceives as America’s “wrongs” by regressing to Cold War-era mythology and re-imagining the world as it might have been without America.
All the while, he stays in denial of the real changing world that longs to be rebuilt as it might have been without the Soviet Union.
Obama’s approach objectively makes the world a more dangerous place, but it also unintentionally discredits the very leftist assumptions on which it is based — above all, the insinuation that any revolt against collectivist, statist oppression is the result of a U.S.-led conspiracy.
Without this and other Cold War-era dogmas misleading the world, it should now be obvious that the desire to live as free individuals in a democratic society is universal and that people of the world are eager to pursue it, with or without American help.