Posted tagged ‘CIA’

Those JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theories May Not Be So Crazy After All

October 19, 2009

On November 22, 1963, something happened in Dallas that would haunt the American psyche for generations to come.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was gunned down in a motorcade in the heart of Dallas, Texas by an assassin’s bullet. He was later pronounced dead and was immediately replaced by then Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine and apparent defector, was charged with Kennedy’s murder. He was later gunned down by Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner who had shady connections with the Italian mafia. The Warren Commission, a federal investigation panel appointed by President Johnson to look into the assassination, deemed Oswald to be a “lone nut” who acted alone in slaying Kennedy.

These are the established “official” facts. Anything beyond this depends on your predisposition to believe any of the conspiracy theories that have been circulated over the years.

The New York Times recently reported that the CIA is still resistant to releasing documents from the early 1960s that could possibly shed some light on the assassination. If you believe the Warren Commission, Oswald was a “lone nut” who acted alone under no orders. If you believe Oliver Stone, an Oscar winning filmmaker whose controversial 1991 film “JFK” brought almost every major conspiracy theory into the public light, Oswald was anything but a lone wolf out to put his name in the history books.

The JFK assassination has been discussed many times before in the nearly 66 years that have passed since it happened. The image of John Kennedy Jr. saluting his dead father as his body was carried past him will forever be ingrained in our collective memories. It is not hard to view these conspiracy nuts as insensitive paranoid jerks that refuse to bury the past.

However, “conspiracy buffs” will argue that it is the rest of us who need to wake up. If we are so naïve to believe that it is impossible for our own president to be killed by means of conspiracy and deception, then we need to get out more. America may be the most free and democratic nation in the world, but we in no way immune to government/military corruption.

We all know that politicians sell their souls to special interest groups, corporations, and religious organizations in order to get their votes. We all know the military will cover up any scandal if it puts them in a bad light (My Lai massacre, anyone?). We should all be aware that during the Cold War, the CIA was doing things so secret even they probably had no idea what they were doing. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone.

It has been reported that shortly after 9/11, the CIA secretly authorized for top secret assassination teams to travel around the world killing al Qaeda leaders in retaliation for the attacks. This should sound familiar to anyone who knows about the “Wrath of God” operation set up by Mossad to kill Palestinians linked to the Black September terrorist group after the murders of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Though the CIA supposedly cancelled the al Qaeda assassination plan before it could begin, it is not a stretch to imagine that this practice is nothing new.

So what does this all mean? That the CIA really did kill Kennedy? And for what reason? Because he refused to support the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which sought to remove Fidel Castro from power? Or perhaps it’s because he was soft on the Soviets after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and allowed them to swallow up more nations to Communism. Or maybe because he didn’t want to play ball in Vietnam. All of these theories have been spread around.

To be completely serious and objective, we can never know for sure until all these secretive documents have been released to the public. The government claims they contain top secret information that could jeopardize our national security if they are leaked. Even though the Cold War is long over, apparently our new enemies in the Middle East can catch on and learn something valuable if they got their hands on them.

What we do know for sure is that all options should be put on the table. It’s not unpatriotic to believe that our own government would kill our own Commander in Chief. The 1960s were a rough time in U.S. history. The paranoia of the Cold War during the 1950s had us seeing Communism everywhere, even in our own backyard. We just came off an apocalyptic nuclear showdown with the Soviets that brought us to the brink of mutual assured destruction. And of course, there was the Domino Theory (which some scholars believe to be a fabrication), which believed that if South Vietnam fell to Communism, all of East Asia would soon follow.

We lived in times that were unparalleled before in our nation’s history. The intelligence and military communities actually believed our way of life was being threatened by the Soviet Union and their umbrella states. Kennedy was accused within many circles (mostly unfairly) of being “soft on Communism” and letting the Soviets have their way. This “appeasement” argument believed that it was the lack of resolve against fascism in the 1930s that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Imperial Japan.

All of this can possibly lead to many people concluding that Kennedy was killed because either he was too soft on Nikita Khrushchev, or Fidel Castro, or Ho Chi Minh, or all three of them. Whether he was or not is beside the point. What does matter is that many people believed he was not doing enough, and some of those voices came from within the Pentagon, CIA, and the White House.

This should lead any one of us to rethink our view of America and see that we are no different from any other country in the world. We may be bigger and richer than most others, but that does not mean we cannot do some terrible things in our own right. Critiquing our country is not the same as hating it. In fact, criticism means you love your country because you want it to improve and be better.

And we should all want it to be better. This is why it is essential that we learn about the activities of government, corporations, and other organizations/people that make important decisions in our country. This is why the media are so important. We need to keep the powers that be in check. If we do not, who is to say our current president or future presidents could not fall victim to assassination?

Thus, does this mean the CIA must be hiding something incriminating because they refuse to release so many documents? Possibly. Does this mean our country is continuing to be run by secret fascists who want nothing more than U.S. hegemony at all costs? I will not go that far, though there are plenty of people out there who would.

I think it is fair to say that we need to keep an open mind and rethink our definition of patriotism. If patriotism means loving your country no matter what decisions they make, then count me out. If patriotism means loving your country but being allowed to question your fellow countrymen with the desire to make things better, then I can get aboard with that. And all of us should, too.

It is no wonder why so many people today distrust their government. It didn’t start with Iraq, or torture allegations, or the JFK assassination, or Vietnam, or Watergate, or Monica Lewinsky, or Hurricane Katrina, or the Iran-Contra affair, it all started in 1776 when those colonists decided to form their own country free of monarchy, tyranny, and authoritarianism.

Things have been far from perfect since then, but it is the intrinsic human desire for freedom that will carry us well into the next century and beyond.

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Obama, Cheney, the CIA, and the Waterboard Scandal

May 2, 2009

President Obama is walking a tight rope when he decided to release previously secret Bush administration documents exposing the truths about torture of suspected terrorists.

As if this should come to a surprise to anyone, early during the Iraq War and the “War on Terror” the Central Intelligence Agency used the method of “waterboarding” to get information out of prisoners who might have knowledge of terrorist activity or an impending terror attack against the U.S.

Bush, but I suspect Dick Cheney more so, authorized these controversial methods in the name of national security. Information regarding secret CIA detention centers in Europe caused controversy, as well as stories of abuses at military prisons in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. These events, while shocking and appalling in their own right, are nothing new.

The reason why this story is so significant is because America gets to see straight from the CIA’s playbook the methods used to torture prisoners. This isn’t revealed through a secret leak or an anonymous source. These memos were released via executive decision. Obama thought these are dark secrets from our not-too-distant past that the people need to know. In order to start national healing and reconciliation, we must have the truth exposed. Besides, the administration received heat from a pending ACLU lawsuit that argues the memos should be released under the Freedom of Information Act. So, its time had come.

Public outcry has poured out following Obama’s decision. Some criticize him for revealing government secrets, some criticize his promises not to prosecute those responsible for drafting the torture manifesto into law, and others criticize whether this will cause strain between the White House and CIA.

Mostly, people are criticizing the methods of torture itself and the fact that Bush hired a legal team instructed to write them into law. The attorneys responsible for justifying torture are Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Steven Bradbury, who all worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. These people are responsibility for creating our laws. If these are the precedents being established in our legal system, watch out.

These developments should upset Americans everywhere. We should be a country that treats its prisoners with compassion, not like dogs. It has been said that a nation should not be judged by how they treat their law-abiding citizens, but how they treat their prisoners. How we treat our enemies tells us more about who we are than anything else. Waterboarding terror suspects, where the victim goes through a simulated drowning experience, has no place in a first world democracy like ours.

Those defending the memos argue the CIA and Justice Department were living under the fear brought about after 9/11. Their embarrassment over letting 19 Saudi terrorists come into our country and kill nearly 3,000 people explains why they would draft torture into law. Cheney argues that valuable intelligence has come out of waterboarding. He says attacks similar to 9/11 were prevented because of these methods. He says that. But is that actually true?

Regardless, in the future, we should not let fear rule our lives. We should remember that we are just as safe today as we were on September 10, 2001. We have a new president and a seemingly new outlook on U.S. foreign policy. I hope this is a lesson we can all learn from. When we let ourselves become scared of terrorists, we become terrorists. We do things that we would never have done before.

I am glad that we no longer torture our enemies. Now we just bomb them. If we want to achieve anything resembling world peace, it all starts with our laws. Just laws create just societies. If we allow torture to enter into our law books again, no one knows what sorts of tyranny will follow then. I hope I am not alive to see that.

The media and the American people need to be more watchful in the future. We need to make sure our lawmakers create laws that uphold democratic values, not pervert them. This goes for the current administration as well. The fact that President Obama is popular right now should mean nothing. We should pay attention to his policies just as much as we would if Bush were still in office. As it has been said before, vigilance is the price of freedom.

So please, be vigilant.

The Name’s Bond, James Bond: Agent 007 in the 21st Century

March 28, 2009
Daniel Craig in his second outing as the suave and sophisticated British secret agent.

Daniel Craig in his second outing as the suave and sophisticated British secret agent.

This past Tuesday the 22nd James Bond film, “Quantum of Solace,” made its way to DVD and Blu Ray. No one can deny the popularity of the Bond franchise and doubt that it will not continue to live on for years to come. Once shaken, always stirred.

But consider this: In today’s world of post-Cold War terrorism, multilateral foreign policy, anger toward the Bush administration’s neocon political agenda, and the scandals of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, there seems to be a trend in the Western world to reject the old ways of war, violence, espionage, and covert counterterrorism.

The new wave of optimism brought on by the Obama White House has many Americans thinking that the disastrous and costly “War on Terror” may finally come to an end. The reputation of America as being a country that tortures and invades oil-rich Middle Eastern countries may finally be put to rest.

So, in spite of all that, if, and I do mean if, a James Bond-type secret agent were to be working on behalf of the United States, would you approve of that?

Also consider what James Bond does in his career: he has a license to kill (meaning he can kill anyone he deems necessary to fulfill the mission), he violates nations’ sovereignty (agent 007 is a globe-trotting hero who pays little attention to other nation’s policy and law), and he often uses less than noble tactics to achieve his goals (in both “Licence to Kill” and “Quantum of Solace” Bond has his double-o status revoked, or at least something to that extent). This sounds like something I would not approve of.

I, of course, understand that James Bond is a fantasy character who does not really exist. He exists in his own world and serves the purpose of defeating evil all within the convenient confines of two hours. Bond is a fictional character, but the villains he faces are often not.

In the two newest Bond adventures, MI-6 is up against a mysterious organization called “Quantum,” an international crime syndicate who sponsors men like Le Chiffre and Dominic Greene, villains who could very well exist in the real world.

Le Chiffre is a banker who funds terrorism and goes into deep debt when he gambles his client’s money away in risky games of chance. Sound familiar? He should work for AIG. Dominic Greene is a quasi-environmentalist businessman who uses his power to control the water supply of Bolivia. Private corporations controlling the natural resources of third world countries have actually happened before. This is not the stuff of fantasy. The evils of Quantum could exist in our universe. They have people everywhere, of course.

That being said, what is the best way to rid the world of these super villains? Diplomacy? Asking the United Nations to intervene? Unilateral military action? Or perhaps covert espionage in the form of the CIA or MI-6. These are all viable options.

But consider the larger picture: if there were actually James Bond-style secret agents existing in our world, how would you respond? Would you gladly accept them as necessary to defeat the evils of the world, or would you reject them as violent, archaic relics of a bygone age? As M called Bond in “GoldenEye,” Bond is “sexist misogynist dinosaur.”

If peaceful diplomacy is the wave of the future, are secret agents a thing of the past? Have we reached such an enlightened age that reason, negotiation, and international cooperation are more useful and practical tools to solve world conflicts? This is definitely something to ponder about. Diplomacy and multinational cooperation may help prevent nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly feel that this is what we should do.

During the Bush administration, Americans rejected the Bush Doctrine of using violence to uphold and protect domestic and international interests. Blood for oil or the protection of Israel are unjustified reasons to violate a nation’s sovereignty and invade them. Americans have also rejected using torture to get information out of “terror” suspects. Jack Bauer of “24” fame would not fly by well in today’s world.

Yet, every practice of the Bush administration that Americans and people everywhere seem to hate are exactly those done by James Bond. We chastise men like Dick Cheney or Karl Rove for making America just as bad as terrorists. We responded to 9/11 by staging 9/11s of our own, everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems people believe America is better than that, that we are the defenders of justice and peace, not propagators of violence, chaos, and evil.

Consider President John F. Kennedy and his policy toward Vietnam. Kennedy, a huge James Bond fan who considered “From Russia With Love” to be one of his favorite novels of all time, authorized covert operations to exist in Vietnam before major troop escalations began. Being cautious of sending too many combat troops into Southeast Asia, President Kennedy allowed secret operations occur in South and North Vietnam to assist military advisers who were there to help train the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam).

This continued even after Kennedy’s assassination. In 1964 the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) was formed by President Lyndon Johnson to help secretly fight the Communist insurgency in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Their operations helped expand the war and gathered information that inspired the U.S. to send more troops to Southeast Asia after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Today most Americans view the Vietnam War as unnecessary, costly, and completely not worth it. Did U.S. intelligence help us in our anti-Communist crusade there? Maybe. Or maybe it helped escalate the violence and led to 58,000 U.S. servicemen losing their lives for nothing.

Speaking of faulty intelligence, don’t even talk about WMDs, Iraq, and Saddam Hussein. We all know how that turned out. In short, perhaps intelligence is overrated and only leads to more war instead of peace. Maybe there are facts that we will never know.

I have no problem with James Bond existing in the world of fantasy. He provides entertaining films and books for millions of people to enjoy. I’ve seen every movie and plan to see more in the future. However, I am not so sure if I would be comfortable with James Bond existing in the world of reality. Then again, maybe he does and we just don’t know about it. The Patriot Act could give someone the authority to do such things in the name of national security. Or possibly it doesn’t.

His name may be Bond, James Bond; and he likes his vodka martini shaken but not stirred, but his license to kill may create more problems than it solves. Should we have our own James Bond in this uncertain, fear-driven 21st century world? Or will that only further radicalize our enemies and tarnish the reputation of the United States of America?

As Bond tells a bartender in “Casino Royale,”

“Do I look like I give a damn?”