Making Heads Roll

Common Courage Press -
Political Literacy Course, November 25 1999


It has been argued that we need some form of intelligence gathering agency, and that the CIA fulfills that role. Maybe. But what the CIA also provides is a decapitation squad, well versed in killing heads of state and others. Here's a partial review of the declassified record.

1. The CIA was most likely behind the attempt to kill Chou En-Lai of China in 1955. An Air India flight that took off from Hong Kong crashed under mysterious circumstances on its way to the Bandung Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. Press reports indicated that a clockwork mechanism was found in the wreckage of the airliner, and that the cause of the crash was two time-bombs that had been planted on the airplane. John Discoe Smith, who was employed at the US Embassy in India from 1954 to 1959, later wrote about having delivered a package to a Chinese nationalist which he later discovered contained the two time-bombs.

2. The 1975 Senate Committee investigating the CIA reported that it had "received some evidence" of CIA involvement in plans to assassinate President Sukarno of Indonesia.

3. In the 1950s, the Dulles brothers misinterpreted a remark by President Eisenhower that "the Nasser problem could be eliminated," to mean that he wanted President Nasser of Egypt to be assassinated. Secretary Dulles cancelled the operation once the mistake had been discovered.

4. The CIA and the opposition forces of the Khmer Serei attempted to assassinate Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia in 1959. The assassin was spotted in a crowd minutes before he was planning to take Sihanouk's life.

5. The CIA unsuccessfully tried to kill Costa Rican President Jose Figueres twice from 1955 to 1970. Figueres boasted that he worked with the CIA very often, especially in the overthrow of Dominican Republic President Rafael Trujillo.

6. In 1975, the Senate's Church Committee went on record with the conclusion that Allen Dulles had ordered the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Congo's prime minister. In September of 1960 the CIA sent the late Dr. Sidney Gottlieb to the Congo with a virus intended for use in an assassination attempt against Lumumba. A CIA cable in November of that year revealed that the CIA had been aiding Mobutu Sese Seko's search for Lumumba, who was captured by Mobutu on December 1, 1961. Lumumba was then handed over to his bitter enemy, Moise Tshombe, in Katanga province. Lumumba was assassinated the same day.

7. As early as 1958, the then-CIA Chief of Station in the Dominican Republic, Lear Reed, along with several Dominicans, had plotted the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, which never came to fruition. The CIA armed several opponents of his regime for assassination attempts, which also were never carried out.

8. The CIA has been involved in several plots to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

9. In 1975, the Chicago Tribune ran a front page story that told of CIA involvement in a plot to kill French President Charles de Gaulle in the late 1960s after de Gaulle ousted American military bases from French soil.

10. The CIA aided Bolivian efforts to capture and kill Che Guevera, who in the late 1960s was leading a miniscule guerrilla movement there.

11. The CIA was directly involved in a failed plot to assassinate Jamaican President Michael Manley in 1976.

12. The CIA proposed a plan to assassinate Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi in 1986, which resulted in the bombing of Libya by the United States, leading to the death of 40 to 100 civilians and the destruction of the French Embassy.

13. In 1982 and 1983, the CIA was involved in the murder of General Ahmed Dlimi, a Moroccan officer who sought to overthrow the Moroccan monarchy.

14. In 1983, the Nicaraguan government accused the CIA twice of hatching a plot to kill Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto, of which the CIA aborted both attempts.

These crimes scratch the surface of the known CIA record. For the definitive work Noam Chomsky calls "Far and away the best book on the topic," consult William Blum's "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Intervention Since World War II."

Common Courage Press