Assassination: as American as Apple Pie (and Torture)

More than one CounterPuncher has urged me to thank Pat Robertson, along the lines of Diane Christian’s excellent piece on our site today, from the bottom of our hearts. Why? As David Nebenzahl of Oakland wrote us,

Because Robertson’s original loose-cannon remark gives us such clear insight into how things really work in this world. First of all, his proposal confirms that this precise thing has been done in the past: Allende, Mossadegh, … [insert list of assassination targets here]­ despite Don Rumsfeld’s pious denials. Secondly, he confirms our (the United States’) implicit right to petroleum resources wherever they may be found, as shown by his comment about how offing Chavez probably wouldn’t disrupt oil deliveries.

What about that list of targets of assassination bids by the CIA, acting on presidential orders that David wants us to insert? We could start with the bid on Chou en Lai’s life after the Bandung Conference in 1954; move on to the disposal in 1960 of Iraq’s Kassim by the Ba’athists helped into power by the CIA, then to the efforts, ultimately successful in 1961 to kill the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba Lumumba, in which the CIA was intimately involved; to the Kennedy years saw similar implication in the murder of the Diem brothers in Vietnam and the first of many well attested efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro; almost certainly to Omar Torrijos of Panama, downed in an air crash; to the Reagan White House’s the carefully planned effort to bomb Muammar Q’addafi to death in his encampment in 1986.

In his Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II Bill Blum has a long and interesting list starting in 1949 with Kim Koo, Korean opposition leader, going on to efforts to kill Sukarno, President of Indonesia, Kim Il Sung, Premier of North Korea, Mohammed Mossadegh, Claro M. Recto (the Philippines opposition leadr), Jawaharlal Nehru, Gamal Abdul Nasser, Norodom Sihanouk, José Figueres, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Gen. Rafael Trujillo, Charles de Gaulle, Salvador Allende, Michael Manley, Ayatollah Khomeini, the nine comandantes of the Sandinista National Directorate, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanese Shiite leader (80 people killed in the attempt), Mohamed Farah Aideed, prominent clan leader of Somalia, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein.


Hitchens’ “Smoking Gun”
After my remarks about Christopher Hitchens last week, a bunch of letters flowed in, including this interesting one from Andre De Angelis:

The latest distortion being spread by Hitchens is that he has suddenly discovered the smoking gun to prove that Sadam Hussein had a nuclear enrichment program. The story goes that Sadam Hussein had one of his nuclear scientists bury a nuclear centrifuge in his back garden. It’s amazing how so many WMD’s apparently were concealed in people’s garden. Jumping onto this possibility with boyish enthusiasm, Hitchen’s reveals he is either that he is an inept researcher or a blatant propagandist. He cites a ridiculously titled book “The Bomb in my Garden”, by Sadam’s Nuclear Mastermind, Mahdi Obeidi as being the irrefutable proof that we’ve all been waiting for.

I just took a look at the book and there is no mention of nuclear centrifuges, only the mention that 1992 or 1993 Obedi buried most of the relevant data, drawings and sample components in his backyard and turned them over to Coalition forces before emigrating to the United States. Yet Hitchens somehow invents the idea that Obedi had a whoel nuclear refinement operation operating underground.

Anyone with a knowledge of nuclear refinement knows that one solitary centrifuge is as good as useless for producing weapons grade uranium. A successful facility would need not one but over a hundred of these things to ever hope of refining U235 to the 98% purity required for a bomb. U235 is only 2-3% abundant in nature, therefore, even the faster centrifuge in the world would be unable to produce anything of military value from uranium ore, operating alone. Such a plant would require a great deal of space and huge energy resources, which would have made this operation impossible to hide from any inspectors.

What Hitchens is also unable to answer, is why if there was such proof doesn’t he Bush administration take this information and spin it for all the propaganda it’s worth ­e especially given Bush’s plummeting approval ratings and the bad news perpetuation from Iraq? After all, it’s not like Hitchens hasn’t got connections to the White House (as Alex pointed out).

Keep up the good work guys,


Andre De angelis

Talking of drunken former Trotskyist popinjays, I was prowling the other day through a box of old Communist Party literature belonging to the late George Criley, sent me by his neice, Honey Williams. Among predictable pamphlets on Lysenko, Dimitrov and other celebrities of the period I came across Fighting Words, published in 1949, being selections from 25 years of the Daily Worker.

There were many very fine pieces of reporting, from Abner Berry on a cotton plantation in Alabama; from William Allan in Michigan about 288 black workers “sold” to a canning company for $35, shipped up from Georgia to farm camps, separated from the pigs by straw bales.

On October 16, 1947 there was a proud bulletin, titled “Socko!” about the achievement of the Worker’s handicapper, Al. On his second day on the job Al picked “a phenomenal total of six winners in the seven races at Jamaica yesterday”. Readers putting $10 on each of Al’s picks would have cleared $116. Al’s feat on behalf of the toiler-punters reminds me of the services done to Party members in the UK in 1949, most of whom probably put their money on Russian Hero, who won the Grand National at Aintree that year against odds of 66 to one, the fifth-longest odds in the history of the race since it began in 1837.

Listening to the Grand National on the radio was a big feature for our family and many others. As an 8-year in the library of my grandparents’ house Myrtle Grove, in Youghal, county Cork, I remember the climactic scream of the BBC’s man calling the race as Russian Hero passed the winning post, and the grateful roars of my father who’d plonked a quid or two on the horse. In his years on the British Daily Worker some time earlier he and the rest of the staff often survived on the excellent predictions of their tipster.

Dipping further into Fighting Words I found an enthusiastic news lead on May 14, 1948, “The sun is rising on a new nation, a new state in Palestine history marches on ­ in Palestine no less than in Greece, China, or Indonesia. In Palestine, it is the Haganah and its allies; in Greece, it is the heroic guerilla movement; in China it is the mighty and victorious People’s Army, led by the Communists. In every case, the enemy is the same ­ the imperialism of London and Wall Street”

Oh well. Small wonder it was hard, even in the 80s, to get many old Lincoln Brigaders and kindred comrades, to speak up on behalf of the Palestinians.

Deeper into Fighting Words my eye was caught by the title, A Trotskyite Slumming Trip, published on November 26, 1947. It was by Samuel Sillen, and took the form of a robust attack on Edmund Wilson. Here it is.


A Trotskyite’s Slumming Trip

By Samuel Sillen

November 26, 1947.

The editors of The New Yorker, with grotesque humor, financed a sort of intellectual slumming trip by Edmund Wilson through postwar Europe. He left his Baedeker home, but not his Trotskyism. His report, published in his new book, Europe Without Baedeker, unutterably dull, is worth nothing except as a symptom of the moral decay of capitalist apologists.

Wilson felt most at home in a convent cell at the Hospital of the Blue Nuns in Rome, where he discussed with George Santayana his quaint “weakness for Mussolini.” Wilson’s militant, unabashed hatred of people naturally accompanies a hatred of the democratic upsurge in post-Hitler Europe. The author laments his departed friends Trotsky and Tukhachevsky, waxes homesick for Alexander Barmine, consoles himself that De Gaulle’s big brain, Andre Malraux, is one of “the most valuable forces still alive on this devastated continent”.

Then he scoots back to America with a dazzling proposal. He wants us to set up a Board of Breeding. We should not be so “foolish” as to allow Nazi failures to “discourage us with eugenics”. Wilson offers this bright vista: “If we can produce, from some cousin of the jackal and the wolf, the dachshund and the Great Dane, the Pekinese and the poodle, what should we not be able to do with man?”

Fortified by this dog-theory of history, Wilson finds a new key to what is “wrong” with Socialist ideas. It is that Karl Marx was a Jew, “and, being a Jew, from a family that bad included many rabbis, he identified the situation of the factory worker with the situation of the Jew.” Marx, says Wilson, mistakenly assumed that workers released from capitalism would behave in terms of “Jewish tradition”. He did not foresee that “what happens, when you let down the bars, is that a lot of gross and ignorant people who have been condemned to mean destinies before, go rushing for all they are worth after things that they can eat, drink, sleep on, ride on, preside at and amuse themselves with.”

Thus, in one stroke, the Trotskyite tourist for The New Yorker combines the Nazi view of Marxism as a peculiarly “Jewish” philosophy, the Bourbons’ contempt for the masses as wild animals, and the hoary capitalist warning that we must not ‘”let down the bars”‘ to the working class.

This leads up to the inevitability-of-war thesis. Wilson goes a step further than your run-of-the-mill warmonger. Not only can’t we get along with the Soviet leaders, but Americans “will never be able to co-operate as peoples” with the Russians. It is “ridiculous,” says Wilson, to think of the Russian people today as “civilized”.

Wilson, borrowing a cue from De Gaulle’s Malraux, evidently aspires to be a braintruster of the fascist forces. It is not only moral and intellectual rottenness that we find in his book, but the savagery of desperation.


One might have thought that Boards of Breeding of not been on Wilson’s shopping list, only two years after the defeat of Nazism, but eugenic selection ­ ardently backed by American liberals from the start ­ was big in the late 1940s. In 1949 Garrett Hardin was writing anguished nonsense about America’s declining IQ in his biology textbook. Malthus is never far away, nor the sterilizer’s toolkit, intellectual and physical.

From: “charlie ehlen” <>
Date: August 20, 2005 2:23:33 PM PDT
To: <>
Subject: Can Cindy Sheehan End the War?

Mr. Cockburn,
Excellent article sir!

I agree that MoveOn etc is not really anti-war. Just one reason not to be a member of that group. As to the Democrats (aka Democans), they can go jump off the highest cliff they can find. To hell with both the Republocrats and the Democans. A pox on both “parties”. We need a revolution right here in America.

I was lied into the Marines and then Viet Nam. Maybe because too many of my generation are still alive and recalling what we went through is a reason enlistments are down. I sure as hell hope so. Having been through a war, I can say the I think war is the most pornographic thing humankind has ever devised. I do not ever want to see any other people fighting and dying for a lie ever again. I know, that is way too utopian for this life, but I can still dream, or is that against the “Patriot” act also? I don’t give a holy shit in hell if it is illegal, I will continue to hope and dream of a peaceful world. If the criminal gang now in power in the good old US of A don’t like that, they can go screw themselves. Hey, they are doing that in Iraq right now.
War never does anything but make the rich richer and kills off many poor and working class young people. Oh, it works as population control until the war is over. Then look out, my generation proves that. The baby boomers are the end result of World War Two ending.

Sorry for being so long winded. Thank you for the article and for your time reading this humble reply.

Charlie Ehlen
Glenmora, LA




















Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.