The Unsavories

excerpted from the book

Rogue State

A Guide to the World's Only Superpower

by William Blum

Common Courage Press, 2000


During the 1980s, there were a number of disclosures of past and present CIA involvement with torturers, death-squaders, drug traffickers and other types not fit for American schoolbooks. At some unrecorded moment, a government spinhead came up with the term "unsavory persons", implying that the government was as repulsed by these types as much as any decent American citizen ought to be.

The media obediently picked up on it. With each new revelation of the ClA's connection to human rights violations in the company of some despicable people abroad, who were on the Agency payroll, we were told-and told officially-that the CIA had no choice but to associate with "unsavory" persons if it wished to obtain certain important information in foreign countries; information, of course, vital to our "national security". A new whitewash cliché had been born, still very much alive.

Even when the media is critical of the CIA for working with unsavories, there's no indication that the relationship was ever anything more than paying for information while holding one's nose.

But it should be clearly understood that these unsavories have not been simply informants.

To the CIA and the US military these men are America's allies on the same side of a civil conflict.

US propaganda insists that the side these men are fighting on is the side of freedom and democracy.

We champion their cause, for it is our cause as well.

We select certain of them to attend American military schools and we bestow graduation certificates upon them.

We wine and dine them in the US, we give them gifts, we set them up with prostitutes.

We train them and give them their weapons and uniforms.

We teach them methods of bomb-making, methods of assassination and methods of interrogation (read torture).

We provide them with information about individuals from the CIA's mammoth international databases. Some of these individuals then wind up tortured and/or murdered.

We cover up their atrocities.

We facilitate and cover up their drug trafficking.

We socialize with them. They are our friends. They have often betrayed their own country for us.

The money paid to unsavories is of course available to them to finance their vile purposes. When someone like Qaddafi of Libya does this, it's called "supporting terrorism".

CIA payments and other support to these unsavories necessarily bring more than information-they bring influence and control. When one looks at the anti-democratic and cruelty levels of the recipients, one has to wonder what the CIA's influence was. And at the same time one has to ask the following question: If the United States must take sides in a foreign civil war, why must it repeatedly be on the same side as the unsavories?

Other unsavory skeletons in Washington's closet

In the post-World War II period, US foreign policy embraced many other unsavories-"former" Nazis (including war criminals like Klaus Barbie), Italian fascists, Japanese enemy armed forces, Japanese scientists who had carried out terrible experiments on prisoners, including Americans, and many thousands of others who had collaborated with these individuals during the war. In many parts of Europe and Asia, collaborators with the enemy were publicly disgraced, imprisoned, and/or executed by the post-war governments or citizens' groups. But in China, Italy, Greece, the Philippines, Korea, Albania, West Germany, Iran, Soviet Union, Vietnam and elsewhere, many of the fascists and collaborators who eluded punishment became American allies in setting up new governments, trying to overthrow governments, fighting civil wars, suppressing the left, gathering intelligence and in manipulating electoral politics; indeed, many of them eluded punishment because they became American allies.

As late as 1988, there were a number of genuine pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic types from Eastern and Central Europe in the Republican Party's National Republican Heritage Groups Council. Several of these worthies were leaders of the George Bush presidential campaign's ethnic outreach arm, the Coalition of American Nationalities, despite the fact that their checkered past was not a big secret. One of them, Laszlo Pasztor (or Pastor) had served in the pro-Nazi Hungarian government's embassy in Berlin during the war. This had been revealed in a 1971 page-one story in the Washington post. When this past was again brought up in September 1988, the Republicans were obliged to dump Pasztor and four others of his ilk from Bush's campaign.

When Iying down with unsavories has such a long heritage, for Washington to pretend that it's no more than a temporary marriage of convenience to an (unfortunately) unattractive bride, is an exercise that fails to rise above simplistic propaganda. What has attracted the two sides to each other over the years has been a shared class consciousness, manifesting itself in an abhorrence of progressive movements, or something called "communism" or most anything or anyone seen as a threat to a mutually-desired status quo. The lowly, crude Guatemalan lieutenant relishes hanging around the American stage door more than gazing upon his country's Indian peasants. His Yankee drinking buddy is convinced it's an act of duty to help him kill them.

Index of Website

Home Page