excerpted from the book
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
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
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.