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 Post subject: Horrible CIA history given National Book Award.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:22 pm 
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I wrote a review of this book that is terrible as it utterly fails to capture just how much of a mind-crime this fake expose is. I must admit that I didn't finish the book, because I became so angry that my pulse moved to a daka on the Black sea, where it has since been breathing oil.


If anyone else with a strong stomoch could read the book and write a truthfull review of it on Amazon I will give you a dollar.
-----------

Tim Weiner's new book provides some succinct summaries of key moments in CIA history. The style is light, very readable and often amusing. For people unfamiliar with CIA history there is much to learn here.

There are however serious problems. The book masquarades as a muckraking attack on the Agency, but, IMO, this is deceptive. Yes the book is critical of the Agency, but mostly about cats long out of the bag. The effect is to lend creedence to the authors version of some much more contested events. Because the author relies so heavily on information from CIA sources and CIA historians, this creedence is unwarranted.

Notable examples include anything to do with the Kennedy Administration. Weiner's verison of the Bay of Pigs, somehow manages to blame everything on Bissell, and omits massive amounts of detail suggesting there was an attempt by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to force Kennedy's hand and order a full scale invasion in 1961.

David Talbot, in his excellent book Brothers, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, points out that many Kennedy bashers have one thing in common: they rely heavily on the buck passing and outright lying of Richard Helms and his media-friendly minion Sam Halpern. Weiner's book is a new case in point.

Some have commented on how well document they think this book is. I find the opposite is true. Compare the documentation that Larry Hancock presents in support of Someone Would Have TalkedSomeone Would Have Talked: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Conspiracy to Mislead History. These standards are miles appart, perhaps quite litterally were we to compare odometers!

In other areas, Weiner seems too intent on puting a bungeling, keystone cop type of interpretation on the wacky antics of the Agency. Other authors might justifiably use the word terrorism, when applied to CIA interventions in places like Guatemala and Indonesia. Weiner is too quick to leave thes hell-holes once the new dictatorship is established. The result is that the reader never fully grasps the amount of deaths the US is directly responsible for. In many of these countries, the CIA's invovlvement only began with the coups. They created paramilitary networks in Guatemala and El Salvador that were centralized under the presidents. This centralization of violence was the work of the efficient CIA, not a bunch of bungeling keystone cops. In Indonesia, the CIA direcly aided in the killing of between 750,000 and 1.25 million people. If there is a more censored history of genocide, its doing great work! Weiner's book downplays these numbers, and completely avoids the issue of CIA involvement in the bloodbath.

Most historians agree that John McCone was something of a figurehead at the agency, while the real power was exerted by the the Helms-Shackley faction, without the shipbuilder knowing what was going on. Certainly there was much ado about Cuba that McCone was unaware of. None of that is in Weiners book. McCone comes accross as perhaps the most able leader in agency history. Trouble is he was in fact its most powerless, with possible competition form Stansfield Turner. This gets really bizarre when Weiner turns McCone into the hero of the Cuban Missile Crisis and makes the Kennedys seem more akin to Curtis Lemay.
Kennedy insiders like Ted Sorenson would certainly disagree:

I believe that CIA director John McCone preferred the air strike
Invasion option to the blockade/quarantine option. And it was
those two choices that we finally came down to. But he was
careful to offer policy recommendations only when requested by
the president and to keep the CIA's role primarily as one of
gathering the facts.(CNN interview, 1998)

Weiner's view of McCone as diametrically opposed to Sorenson's: McCone is presented as the savior during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sure he is entitled to disagree with most historians, but he better offer more sources than the self-serving CIA documents he uses. He is on equally shaky Langley ground when he asserts that JFK directly ordered the assassination of Castro. This question is subject to intense debate in 2007, with so much new material recently being analyzed. If Weiner wants to assert that JFK directly ordered the Castro hit, he needs a lot more backup. He also completely ignores the pressure that Kennedy was under from the JCS, and much of the corporate media, which was directly trying to undermine his Cuba policy. He does not mention Kennedy's history of using a two-track policy, of exploring military options with the CIA and JCS, while simultaneously exploring peaceful solutions via backchannels to Laos, Vietnam, and Cuba. Weiner's account of Kennedy and the CIA is vacuum packed, straight from Langley.

This brings us to another point. Weiner does very little to help us understand how the CIA works with other political and economic forces to shape our foreign policy. Close relations with defense contractors are never mentioned. Close ties with companies favoring direct intervention by the US to keep wages at starvation level are also barely metioned if at all (What no United Fruit?) What about ties to newspapers like Mr. Weiner's own New York Times. To his credit, Weiner does acknowledge these ties-- in just one paragraph! He fails to even begin to explore how these very direct ties actually affected policy. Perhaps it would be a bad career move.

Weiner's book masquerades as muckraking. It isn't. Its primary problem is that it relies far too much an Agency sources, particularly those associated with the mendacious Mr. Helms. These sources are used in precisely the most damning moment in the history of the Agency. At this point it might serve the reader to look up the meaning of the intelligence term "limited hangout".

It is worth noting that this book is so anti-Kenndey as to make even Seymour Hersh blush. Just what one would expect from his Weiner's Langley sources. ( Seriously, look at the mans notes and note just how much is from CIA papers. This does not mean that all CIA reords are false. Of course not. I am simply stating that there is a very severe imbalance here. The strategy seems to be, if the Warren Commissin no longer holds watter-- and it certaily doesn't as Columbia University history professor Alan Brinley points out in a recent review of Talbot's book-- lets switch to making it look like Kennedy deserved what's coming. One is free to argue this, but again, the sourcing has to be much more convincing; there needs to be much less reliance on an agency with a majic bullet to grind.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2007 10:38 pm 
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Not sure if I caught it in your review, but do you suggest what is a better book on the history of the CIA?

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 3:25 pm 
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Channel, with CIA books you almost have to break them down into categories.

From the point of view of the countries being "opperated on" as an introduction, a great book is Killing Hope by William Blum''

But Legacy of Ashes is in another category: that of the necessarily compromised insider. I don't mean that this category is useless. Far from it. Its just that this category involved cooperation from CIA insiders and has to be read very very carefully. On the other hand this category can be invaluable for testing ideas found in outsider accounts.

The best of the Insider General Overview accounts I have read so far is John Prados' The Secret Wars of the CIA. By the way I would also strongly recommend his bio of William Colby. Prados, doesnt go into the bloodbaths; his genre excludes this possibility. But he does his best to offer hints. For example in his coverage of Indonesia he confirms Kathy Kadane's 1990 reporting that the CIA was providing death lists to the Indonesian military during their genocide of up to 1.25 million people in 1965.

By the way for those interested in the further discrediting the now completely discredited mainstream attack on Oliver Stone's popularization of the idea that JFK was getting out of Vietnam, the Prados bio of Colby has some great stuff on the killing of Diem. This actually would make a great contrast with the CIA photo-coppy version of events peddled by Weiner, in his faux-expose. Just dont buy the book read this part in the bookstore!

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2007 9:48 pm 
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I like a bit of what I've read in Stansfield Turner's "Burn before Reading". In the book, he looks at the role of some of the past DCI's.

I like reading Ray McGovern's articles in AntiWar.

I guess I'm also looking at CIA books that aren't afraid to challenge Bush.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 2:07 pm 
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Recently found this book:

Legacy of Ashes - the History of the CIA.

By the Washington Post intelligence correspondent Tim Weiner.

The first chapter I read was on Jimmy Carter's use of the CIA. Weiner says that Carter, like so many other presidents, like to use the covert ops.

Carter supposedly wanted to use the CIA for humanitarian purposes. In particular, he wanted to undermine apartheid. That failed due to blown coverage, etc.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:33 pm 
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Nice review Nathaniel, looks like you take your CIA history seriously.

I will likely get into that at some point in time, right now I am studying other institutions of interest. This weeks harvest:
The End of America....a short, well written book that is enjoyable to read. Naomi Wolf calls on concerned patriots to become rebels and reclaim our nation from the tyrants currently excercising dominion. She makes dozens of ducumented comparisons to Mussolino, Hitler, and Pinochet. I had failed to realize that Mussolino (former newspaper editor) is the 20th century architect of fascism, not the 3rd Reich. She is a Rhodes Scholar and aggressive feminist.

The True Story of the Bilderberg Group....I bought this because I got banned at Political Forum US & World Politics for mentioning the book. I had aired 'qualms' about that forum previously. Have not read it.

Stone Cold by David Baldacci....I've read most of his books and love this series about a group of misfits that investigate conspiracy theories. David is a ferocious reader/writer of Washington 'machinery.' David started as a D.C. corporate attorney. He knows a lot that he is not telling including knowing enough to have 'reservations about leaving the house.' I can feel his anger pulsing underneath the printed page.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:03 am 
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Channel Zero wrote:
Recently found this book:

Legacy of Ashes - the History of the CIA.

By the Washington Post intelligence correspondent Tim Weiner.

The first chapter I read was on Jimmy Carter's use of the CIA. Weiner says that Carter, like so many other presidents, like to use the covert ops.

Carter supposedly wanted to use the CIA for humanitarian purposes. In particular, he wanted to undermine apartheid. That failed due to blown coverage, etc.


In his post, nathaniel heidenheimer wrote:
Quote:
But Legacy of Ashes is in another category: that of the necessarily compromised insider. I don't mean that this category is useless. Far from it. Its just that this category involved cooperation from CIA insiders and has to be read very very carefully. On the other hand this category can be invaluable for testing ideas found in outsider accounts.


Let us know what you think about the book, CZ. Would love to hear your opinion also.

And thank you nathaniel for your learned input here, great responses to what is floating around out there for us to read and learn, or be trapped by.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 2:05 pm 
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dori wrote:
...Let us know what you think about the book, CZ. Would love to hear your opinion also.

And thank you nathaniel for your learned input here, great responses to what is floating around out there for us to read and learn, or be trapped by.

Man is the book lengthy! But I guess if you are attempting to cover a 60 year history, then there's a lot to cover.

I wanted a non politico insight into the CIA, and Weiner who writes for the Washington Post seems to offer that.

In his intro, Weiner claims to have gone through some 15,000 different documents in covering the history. He says he didn't take anything second hand. He attempts to take a look at the failures in handling the CIA in each of the administrations.

He doesn't spare any president on their handling, giving Clinton bad marks, but giving Bush even worse marks. How bad can you knock your own intelligence operation when you claim they were "just guessing" on their intelligence in Iraq.

I started in the middle (which is a good reading technique) and now am going back to the beginning.

Weiner writes from facts and interjects his own opinions. But if you're a critical reader, you come to your own opinions as well.

In the beginning there was "Wild" Bill Donovan. It is interesting that his picture hangs in the CIA in some quarters, because he was a mess as a leader. He founded the OSS and wanted a CIA, but because of his actions was the worst person to advocate for it.

Jumping ahead. One theme that seems to re-emerge is the role of William Casey. That sucker goes back to Donvan's time. He was Reagan's director. And Casey, the CIA, and a number of presidents share in this whole "Cold War" theme.

I think the CIA is a fascinating organization. And we as a Americans need to understand its role in our government like any other governmental institution. How much should we be involved in covert or "clandestine" activities? How well funded should the CIA be? Should we budget for a bunch of operations officers or analysts? Should it report to the pentagon or the President?

I'm reading the book with that in mind.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 4:13 am 
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Tim Weiner's book, "Legacy of Ashes", evoked a thought out of me recently: Oh, how we love to use and abuse "war criminals".

Weiner documents our long history of fighting the commies. We've courted other shady characters and countries in our effort to fight the commies.

At one point, the CIA had a program to allow 100 foreigners into this country without having to go the normal naturalization route, so long as these foreigners could help with our national security. (Kind of like what Bush tried to do with Mexican immigrants not too long ago.)

But Weiner claims that we took on war criminals in the early days of the CIA. There was an attempt to remove one such foreigner, Ukrainian Mykola Lebed, but the CIA (Allen Dulles) went to bat for him because of his "inestimable value to this agency".

And so there we are, holding on to these crooks, and yet we took Saddam out, and executed him. Saddam did our dirty work as well.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 3:00 pm 
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This is a great thread. Thank you all for your input.

I wonder if we will ever know the secrets of our own country...

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 6:01 pm 
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Along these lines, I recently read Rogue State...which is about us of a.

Currently reading Killing Hope. This is a history of US C eye A and military intervention since WWII.

The author, Blum, clearly has an axe to grind and gets carried away with it. Presenting a left or right view of things may make books more interesting. However...whan all attempts at impartiality have been discarded, an independent reader can feel used.

It looks like Blums career at the State Department was nullified due to his protesting the Vietnam War. As for me, I have yet to figure out exactly how the Vietnam War could be measured in positive terms. But then I have personally known victims of Agent Orange.

I hope that all of us are trying to solve the great mystery of who is responsible for the grotesque management of world affairs:
Transnational corporations?
Illuminati?
Upper level masons?
Bilderbergers/Trilateral Commission?
Central and international bankers?
Rockefeller/Rothschild consortium?
Capitalism vs Communism at odds?
Christianity vs Islam at odds?
PNAC/neocons/Zionists?
General greed and incompetence?
CIA/KGB/Mossad/military ops?

Reading the net, one would think it is Bush and Cheney who have single handedly derailed world order. Admittedly simplistic?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 6:04 pm 
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Well, according to Weiner, some of the escapades of the late 40's were declassified as late as 2005.

You think some of our current CIA leaders were screw-ups, the leaders of the Cold War days were even more disastrous:
* Recruiting anti-Stalin eastern Europeans, who ended captured and double-crossing the US.
* Recruiting Germans with SS ties.
* 100 of agents sent to their deaths.

It's a fascinating read. I'm trying to compare it to the the mini series called The Company (on DVD, now) and see some of the truths and fiction the series. The movie glorifies some persons that Weiner portrays as being eff-ups. Angleton and Wisner were the key leaders to send CIA recruits to their deaths. Alfred Molina, who is a great actor, plays one Harvey Torriti, a fictional character most likely based on one Bill Harvey.

Weiner described Angleton as "champion alcoholic", and Michael Keaton does play that well. I can't recall what happened to Wisner in the mini series, but Weiner says that Wisner eventually went nuts.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 6:25 pm 
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Purple Tang wrote:
Along these lines, I recently read Rogue State...which is about us of a.

Currently reading Killing Hope. This is a history of US C eye A and military intervention since WWII.

The author, Blum, clearly has an axe to grind and gets carried away with it. Presenting a left or right view of things may make books more interesting. However...whan all attempts at impartiality have been discarded, an independent reader can feel used.

It looks like Blums career at the State Department was nullified due to his protesting the Vietnam War. As for me, I have yet to figure out exactly how the Vietnam War could be measured in positive terms. But then I have personally known victims of Agent Orange.

I hope that all of us are trying to solve the great mystery of who is responsible for the grotesque management of world affairs:
Transnational corporations?
Illuminati?
Upper level masons?
Bilderbergers/Trilateral Commission?
Central and international bankers?
Rockefeller/Rothschild consortium?
Capitalism vs Communism at odds?
Christianity vs Islam at odds?
PNAC/neocons/Zionists?
General greed and incompetence?
CIA/KGB/Mossad/military ops?

Reading the net, one would think it is Bush and Cheney who have single handedly derailed world order. Admittedly simplistic?



I got it. Lets blame black men and pot. Just looking at incarceration figures.......

I'm screwing around...I reserve the right to do that you know. I actually learned the 'screwing around' technique from our august body of elected officials. Thats what they did when presented with the Patriot Act and other life changing legislation.

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