FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Did the CIA Poison Paul Robeson?

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

Paul Robeson, the black actor, singer, andpolitical radical, may have been a victim of CIA chemist SidneyGottlieb’s MK-ULTRA program. In our last issue we noted Gottlieb’sdeath and outlined his career of infamy. In the spring of 1961,Robeson planned to visit Havana, Cuba to meet with Fidel Castroand Che Guevara. The trip never came off because Robeson fellill in Moscow, where he had gone to give several lectures andconcerts. At the time it was reported that Robeson had suffereda heart attack. But in fact Robeson had slashed his wrists ina suicide attempt after suffering hallucinations and severe depression.The symptoms came on following a suprise party thrown for himat his Moscow hotel.

Robeson’s son, Paul Robeson, Jr., has investigatedhis father’s illness for more than 30 years. He believes thathis father was slipped a synthetic hallucinogen called BZ by USintelligence operatives at the party in Moscow. The party washosted by anti-Soviet dissidents funded by the CIA.

Robeson Jr. visited his father in the hospitalthe day after the suicide attempt. Robeson told his son that hefelt extreme paranoia and thought that the walls of the room weremoving. He said he had locked himself in his bedroom and was overcomeby a powerful sense of emptiness and depression before he triedto take his own life.

Robeson left Moscow for London, where he wasadmitted to Priory Hospital. There he was turned over to psychiatristswho forced him to endure 54 electro-shock treatments. At the time,electro-shock, in combination with psycho-active drugs, was afavored technique of CIA behavior modification. It turned outthat the doctors treating Robeson in London and, later, in NewYork were CIA contractors.

The timing of Robeson’s trip to Cuba was certainlya crucial factor. Three weeks after the Moscow party, the CIAlaunched its disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. It’simpossible to overstate Robeson’s stature at the time and histhreat to the America government as a black radical. Through the1950s Robson commanded worldwide attention and esteem. He wasthe Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali of his time. He spoke morethan twenty languages, including Russian, Chinese and severalAfrican languages. Robeson was also on close terms with Nehru,Jomo Kenyatta and other Third World leaders. His embrace of Castroin Havana would have seriously undermined US efforts to overthrowthe new Cuban government.

Another pressing concern for the US governmentat the time was Robeson’s announced intentions to return to theUnited States and assume a leading role in the emerging civilrights movement. Like the family of Martin Luther King, Robesonhad been under official survelleince for decades. As early as1935, British intelligence had been looking at Robeson’s activities.In 1943, the Office of Strategic Services, World War II predecessorto the CIA, opened a file on him. In 1947, Robeson was nearlykilled in a car crash. It later turned out that the left wheelof the car had been monkey-wrenched. In the 1950s, Robeson wastargeted by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist hearings.The campaign effectively sabotaged his acting and singing careerin the states.

Robeson never recovered from the drugging andthe follow-up treatments from CIA-linked doctors and shrinks.He died in 1977. Robeson, Jr. has beem pushing the US to releaseclassified documents regarding his father. He has already unearthedsome damning stuff, including an FBI “status of health”report on Robeson created in April of 1961. “The fact thatsuch a file was opened at all is sinister in itself”, Robesonrecently told the London Sunday Times. “It indicates a degreeof prior knowledge that something was about to happen to him.”

Robeson’s case has chilling parallels to thefate of another black man who was slipped CIA-concocted hallucinogens,Sgt. James Thornwell. Thornwell was a US Army sergeant workingin a NATO office in Orleans, France, in 1961 (the same year Robesonwas drugged), when he came under suspicion of having stolen documents.Thornwell, who maintained his innocence, was interrogated, hypnotizedand harassed by US intelligence officers.

When he persisted in proclaiming his innocence,Thornwell was secretly given LSD for several days by his interrogators,during which time he was forced to undergo aggressive questioning,replete with racial slurs and threats. At one point, the CIA menthreatened “to extend the [hallucinatory] state indefinitely,even to a point of permanent insanity”. The agents apparentlyconsummated their promise. Thornwell experienced a irreversiblemental crisis. He eventually committed suicide at his Marylandhome. There was never any evidence that he had anything to dowith the missing NATO papers.

?

“What About Chile?”
We’re glad to say that both of the women who protested Henry Kissinger’sreading at Barnes & Nobles in Union Square in mid-March. areassociated with CounterPunch. JoAnn Wypijewski, CounterPunch writerand also senior Nation editor, tells us that she went along withDeborah Thomas, designer of CounterPunch and also publisher ofExtra, the excellent bulletin put out by FAIR. There were protestersoutside, JoAnn recounts, but sadly no organizer had salted therespectable throng inside with demonstrators.

Finally, as Kissinger droned on about moralityin foreign policy, JoAnn could stand it no more and shouted out,”How can you talk about morality? What about Cambodia! Whatabout Chile!” A guard quickly escorted her out. Deborah,who had been leaving, heard JoAnn’s voice and dashed back, shouting”War criminal!” She too was expelled and Kissinger resumedhis discourse. We’re told, incidentally, that Kissinger is quitecapable of talking in a reasonably smooth American accent, buthas retained the gutteral German accent for dramatic value. Someoneat a seminar on foreign policy some years ago, attended by sundryEuro-bigwigs, heard Kissinger talk and noted the difference indiction. CP

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail