excerptd from the book
The Praetorian Guard
by John Stockwell
former CIA agent
This was at the end of the 10-year war that followed a previous
decade of CIA activity in Vietnam. Two million people- had been
killed. The equivalent of one 500-pound bomb had been dropped
on the country [Vietnam] for every citizen. Ninety-thousand tons
of carcinogenic and toxic materials had been dropped on the country,
some of which would poison it for decades to come. We were returning
to the "World," to continue our lives, while leaving
our Vietnamese cohorts behind.
In the meetings of the National Security Council, busy, _
important men come together to make decisions about U.S. policy
on various problems all over the world. The Secretary of State,
Secretary of Defense, Vice-President, sometimes the President,
the CIA Director, people like that, with enormous responsibilities
and power. They are aware of their power. The etiquette is that
they do not keep each other waiting. They try not to show up 30
minutes late to those meetings, because the other people are powerful
and busy too-and they really are busy. That is one thing I noticed
about people in those positions: they do work hard, long hours,
long days, lots of meetings, keeping a lot of balls in the air.
In the first briefings on the Angola operation, the CIA Director,
William Colby, with an aide with a flip chart, literally said,
"Gentleman, this is a map of Africa. Here is Angola. Now,
there are three factions in Angola. The FNLA (National Front for
the Liberation of Angola), they are the Good Guys; we have been
working with them for fourteen years." And then he described
the FNLA, and Holden Roberto, our rebarbative ally. Then he said,
"The MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola),
they are the Bad Guys, led by the drunken psychotic poet"-that
was what we had written into the briefing material-"Augustino
Neto." And he used those words-"Good Guys" and
"Bad Guys"-so these busy men would not be confused about
the issues, and proceeded to brief them.
One day Henry Kissinger came to the meeting late, and everyone
had to wait. Now mind you, this is not a meeting of the Supreme
Court, where law prescribes where everybody sits, according to
seniority. The National Security Council, at least at that time,
met in an office in the White House, wit-in an oak table and some
drapes and some maps, but no electronic flashing boards or anything
like that. People sat around the great big table, with the staffers
sitting in an outer ring of chairs so they could lean forward
to advise their individual masters. Often staffers were not present
when sensitive decisions were being made.
The Secretary of Defense plopped down in a chair to talk to
somebody while we waited for Kissinger, and then Kissinger came
steaming in and he told the Secretary of Defense, "I am here.
We can go to work. Move down to your chair." To which the
Secretary of Defense replied, "Well, I am all spread out
here. You sit there today." And Kissinger said, "No,
I am the Secretary of State, this is my chair. You sit down there."
They proceeded to argue like five-year-olds for about five minutes.
Eventually the Secretary of Defense would not move, and Kissinger
had to go sit down at the far end of the table, but he turned
his back on the briefings and sulked. He wouldn't pay attention
to what we were saying that day because he couldn't have his chair-and
we were making decisions that were getting people killed in Angola.
I am not exaggerating that incident one bit.
When the operation was formally launched by the National Security
Council in January 1975, Angola was moving toward peaceful elections
as it gained its independence. The CIA introduced fighting forces
into the country, forcing a violent, undemocratic solution instead.
(See the Angola section of the next chapter for a summary of the
entire fiasco.) The program was stopped by the U.S. Congress in
the winter of 1975-76.
I spent six months reviewing the files and then resigned from
the agency. After publishing a letter in the Washington Post on
April 10, 1977, I testified for five days to congressional committees,
eschewing the protections of the Fifth Amendment, while I gave
them chapter and verse of what we had done in the misguided Angola
operation. I gave them the numbers, dates and texts of cables
and memoranda that proved we had broken laws and then lied about
breaking them. I gave them the combinations to the safes where
the documents were stored, and told them where in CIA headquarters
those safes could be found. I challenged them to investigate thoroughly
and do their duty.
They did nothing. The hearings had been conducted in secret,
and after the Watergate scandal, the ouster of President Nixon,
and the defeat in Vietnam, they were not willing to tackle another
big scandal that might oblige them to put Henry Kissinger and
the CIA Director in jail. I proceeded to write my first book,
In Search of Enemies, to make the public aware of what had happened
so they could judge for themselves. It remains today the only
insider's account of a major CIA operation.
A year later, when Congress had had abundant time to investigate
the secret scandal and prosecute the felons involved, In Search
of Enemies was published. Without claiming that the book revealed
any sensitive secrets, the CIA sued me and succeeded in seizing
all future earnings. They also placed me under a court order which
requires that all future writings for publication be submitted
to the CIA Publications Review Board for censorship.
Since then, I have been on the greatest human adventure imaginable,
of growth and of learning all the things about the world that
they did not teach us in college. I began to read book after book
about the United States and world security problems, and to meet
the authors of some of them and talk to them about their findings.
I travelled to countries that had been the targets of CIA destabilizations,
including Grenada, Jamaica, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras,
Panama, and Vietnam. In my travels I met people like Carl Sagan,
Admiral Gene LaRocque Admiral Gene Carroll, Jr., Director of the
Center for Defense Information, anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott,
Daniel Ortega, the martyred Grenadan leaderMaunce Bishop, and
numerous other authorities on national security and the nuclear
arms race. I was invited to lecture and have addressed over 600
audiences, learning much from them in return. I have enjoyed the
experience more than I could ever have imagined.
Much of this learning process was very personal. In March
1963 I was in Grenada for the anniversary celebration of the New
Jewel Movement's takeover. At a cocktail party in a garden overlooking
the Caribbean we received the news that President Reagan had given
a speech announcing that Grenada was a threat to U.S. national
security. The Minister of Education, Jacqueline Creft joked that
they had been caught on the eve of their attack on the United
States. She said their armies were about to take Washington and
New York (Grenada is a small island, about 8 by 16 miles, with
80,000 people, and at the time had two poorly trained and equipped
parapolice companies in its armed forces). They would sweep west
and capture Chicago by the early summer and then launch their
march on California. Everyone laughed, but I pointed out that
President Reagan's speech wasn't really funny. If, out of all
the million important things he could mention in a public address,
he focusses on a country like Grenada and asserts that it is a
threat to the "national security" it means that he is
drawing attention to it in preparation for attacking it. Creft
flared back at me, noting that I didn't need to lecture them about
U.S. policy. They had been living under the wing and talon of
the U.S. eagle for centuries; they knew its dangerous ways too
well. But she was glad I was beginning to understand.
As I learned more and more about the history and cynicism
of the CIA's so-called secret wars, I also became more concerned
about other major problems of world security, including the nuclear
arms race, drug smuggling, the abuse of the environment, and the
coming world economic crisis. Until we learn to control human
behavior at the level of covert destabilizations against countries
like Nicaragua, for example, I doubt seriously whether we shall
be safe from the planet-threatening aspects of the nuclear arms