The Cold Cold Warriors
excerpted from the book
The Secret Government
by Bill Moyers
Seven Locks Press, 1988
by Henry Steele Commager
... John Stuart Mill said, "With little men no great things
can ever truly be accomplished."
Great things were accomplished by the
generation that won independence and wrote the Constitution. Great
things were accomplished by the generation that saved the Union
and rid it of slavery; by the generation that introduced the New
Freedom at home and then went abroad to "save democracy";
and, finally, by a new generation that embraced "general
welfare', as essential to "a more perfect union." It
was this generation -the generation of Franklin Roosevelt and
George Marshall and Averell Harriman-that, when World War II was
over, set up the United Nations and the World Court. But, alas,
the pendulum had already begun to swing. The shift from Roosevelt
to Reagan has some claim to being the most threatening in our
The rationalization of the Vietnam War
(if that concept is not an oxymoron) and the limitless military
buildup that accompanied and succeeded it were natural products
of assumptions based on irrelevant premises, not on experience
or reality. No better illustration of this than President Nixon's
contention that the United States would be a "helpless, crippled
giant" if it dared not invade and conquer Cambodia! President
Reagan returned to that assumption of American impotence twenty
years later when he conjured up the vision of a victorious Nicaragua,
backed by that "Empire of Evil, " the Soviet Union,
confronting the United States along the Rio Grande. This is the
kind of rhetoric characterized succinctly by Sen. William Fulbright
as one "which robs a nation's policymakers of objectivity
and drives them into irresponsible behavior."
There was never any likelihood that Cambodia
could defy us; that Vietnam would be able to spread her victory
throughout Asia; or, as Secretary Rusk warned us, that China would
enter the war and "a million Chinese might land on the shores
California." But then neither was
there much likelihood that the Soviet Union, which suffered some
twenty-five million casualties in World War II and whose principal
threat has always been China, would somehow launch a military
assault upon the United States. Quite aside from any considerations
of logic or common sense, the American stockpile of atomic weapons
should assuage the fears of both the president and the Pentagon.
What communism, specifically Soviet communism, has done is provide
us for the first time with the gratification of a national enemy-something
that, except by fits and starts, we never really had before in
our history. Providence, to be sure, provided us with the Indians,
and much of our early folklore dealt with Indian atrocities and
American heroism, but the Indian nations never quite assumed the
guise of a national enemy. Of course there was England. Tom Paine
depicted George III as a despot, but no one could take that seriously.
We fought for our independence, and we fought again in 1812, but
Andrew Jackson at New Orleans made that war glorious and within
a few years England again was "Our Old Home, " and visits
to Stratford-on-Avon and Westminster Abbey obligatory. We fought
what we called a "quasi-war" with France, but France
had been our ally and then Napoleon practically gave us Louisiana-and
there was French food and French fashions to admire. We fought
wars with Mexico and with Spain, and took what we wanted -Texas,
California, Puerto Rico and the Philippines-but our enmity was
short-lived. We fought two wars with Germany and then, although
her crimes were "unforgivable, " rebuilt her both times
and made her our ally. We dropped atomic bombs on Japan, but made
her our ally, too, and our protégé until she became
our economic rival. We never went to war with Russia. Indeed,
she had supported the American War for Independence and sided
with the Union during the Civil War and practically gave us Alaska;
and how much longer might World War II have lasted if it were
not for the Soviet Union siding with the Allied powers? But then
it was not the Soviet Union alone that became our national enemy,
but rather communism-an enemy easy to conjure up and to hate.
Fear of communism, hatred of the national enemy, united all parties,
all religions, and above all, I all interests. And so the cold
war deepened and spread from Europe to Asia to Cuba and Nicaragua,
but the identification of the national enemy changed from a communism
in general to be combatted globally, to the Soviet Union in particular.
We do not fight communists in Cuba or in Nicaragua but agents
of the Soviet Union! We do not declare war on those countries,
but we send mercenaries against them because we are warring somewhat
inconclusively on the Soviet Union.
Corruption of language is a special form of deception that recent
administrations and the Pentagon have brought to a high degree
of perfection. Bombing is "protective reaction"; precision
bombing is "surgical strikes"; guerrilla insurgents
are "freedom fighters." What would we have thought had
Britain designated the Confederates of 1861 as "freedom fighters"?
Even Orwell's 1984 does not imagine a doublethink as deceptive
as that which now emanates from Washington.
Along with the corruption of language
goes, of course, the corruption of truth. If there were lies during
the Vietnam years -and lies there were-nothing can compare with
the corruption of truth of the Reagan administration.(As Mr. Moyers
writes, "The administration pursued a policy of secrecy shrouded
in lies, and of passion cloaked in fiction." Indeed, where
totalitarian regimes invented the Big Lie, it has remained for
the Reagan administration to develop a more effective device:
that of lies so innumerable, and so preposterous, that no one
could keep up with them, so insolent that they confounded even
those who invented them, and so shameless that they benumbed the
moral sensibilities of their sponsors.
All of this has been attended and justified
by claims of moral superiority. After all, if our hearts are pure,
our intentions honorable, and our motives disinterested, what
we do-however it might look to the uninitiated-should not be judged
by the standards that history applies to the misdeeds and corruptions
of other nations. Claims of moral superiority for the United
States did not originate with Ronald Reagan's
staff. What the poet William Vaughn Moody wrote in his anguished
protest of our war against the Filipinos struggling for independence
must be said of our conduct in Vietnam and Cuba, and of our conduct
in Nicaragua today:
Lies! Lies! It cannot be! The wars we
wage Are noble, and our battles still are won By justice for us,
ere we lift the gage. We have not sold our loftiest heritage.
The proud republic hath not stooped to cheat And scramble in the
market-place of war; Her forehead weareth yet its solemn star....
Was it for this our fathers kept the law?
"So I guess in a way they are counter
revolutionary, and God bless them for being that way. And I guess
that makes them contras, and so it makes me a contra too."
The contras: Reagan has compared them to our Founding Fathers.
In reality, Ronald Reagan and CIA director William Casey were
their founding fathers. Two months after his inauguration, the
president approved the funds Casey used to create the contras.
Their ultimate goal was the violent overthrow of the Nicaraguan
government, a government the United States legally recognizes.
So the war had to be carried out covertly, as a campaign of terror.
But Americans were outraged when J CIA agents mined the Nicaraguan
harbors and blew up fuel tanks, causing thousands of Nicaraguan
citizens to flee their homes; and Congress, in protest, cut off
the contra funds. Still the president refused to give up on his
crusade, and his men went to work secretly to keep the war going.
The question now was how to evade Congress, the law and public
First, a small cabal in the White House
took charge of policy: President Reagan, CIA Director Casey, National
Security Advisers McFarlane and Poindexter, and their aide, Colonel
To raise money for the contras, the secret
team turned to rightwing governments that could do favors for
the United States and receive favors in return. The king of Saudi
Arabia doled out a million dollars a month; the sultan of Brunei
coughed up $10 million that was misplaced through a White House
error. The secret government also encouraged the fund-raising
efforts of retired Gen. John Singlaub. Relieved of his command
for insubordination in 1977, he now runs the World Anti-Communist
The Cold Cold Warriors
World War II was over. Europe lay devastated. The United States
emerged as the most powerful nation on earth. But from the I rubble
rose a strange new world: a peace that was not peace and a war
that was not war. We saw it emerging when the Soviets occupied
Winston Churchill (Fulton, Mo., March
"An iron curtain has descended across
the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient
states of Central and Eastern Europe."
The cold war had begun. The Russians had
been our ally against the Nazis, an expedient alliance for the
sake of war. Now they were our enemy. To fight them we turned
to some of the very men who had inflicted on humanity the horrors
of Hitler's madness.
We hired Nazis as American spies. We struck
a secret bargain with the devil.
Admiral Eugene Laroque, head the Center for Defense Information
"Now that National Security Act of
1947 changed dramatically the direction of this great nation.
It established the framework for a national security state...
National security was invented almost in 1947 and now it has become
the prime mover of everything we do ..."
Kenneth Love, New York Times reporter in Iran in 1953
"Khomeini is a direct consequence
, and the hostage crisis is a direct consequence, and the resurgence
of the shah is a direct consequence of the CIA's overthrow of
Mossadegh in 1953."
Colonel Philip Roettinger speaking about US puppet Col. Carlos
Armas who replaced Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala following a US-supported
Coup in 1954
"He overturned all of the reformist
activity of President Arbenz. He gave the land back to the United
Fruit Co. that had been confiscated; he took land from the peasants
and gave it back to the landowners."
What we did has caused a succession of
repressive military dictatorships in that country and has been
responsible for the death of over 100,000 of their citizens.
Success breeds success, sometimes with dreary repetition. Mario
Sandoval Alarcon began his career in the CIA's adventure in Guatemala.
Today he's known as a godfather of the death squads. In 1981,
after lobbying Reagan's advisers for military aid to Guatemala,
Sandoval danced at the inaugural ball.
A secret report prepared for the White House in 1954 by a group
of distinguished citizens headed by former president Herbert Hoover.
That report read, in part:
"It is now clear that we are facing
an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination....
There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto accepted norms of
human conduct do not apply.... If the United States is to survive,
long-standing American concepts of fair play must be reconsidered....
We must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by
more clever, more sophisticated, more effective methods than those
used against us."
Vietnam pushed the cold war morality to its extreme conclusion:
exorbitant means to accomplish limited ends. Anything goes.
Government - Moyers