That Fake African Interpreter and the CIA

Aside from the fact that the prank was disrespectful to Nelson Mandela’s memory, the notion that a mentally ill person with a documented history of violence (and who claimed to be hallucinating at the time) could get himself placed next to President Obama, putatively the most powerful person in the world, and then flash “gibberish” sign-language to the audience, is hilarious.

Granted, as funny as it was, the whole thing could have ended badly. This mentally ill man could have pulled a dagger from his waistband and plunged it into President Obama’s neck, turning the memorial event into a macabre horror show and creating chaos in the U.S. (and by “chaos” I mean causing the stock market to drop precipitously). Yet, because nothing bad happened, we can all laugh about it.

But consider the other scenario. Mr. Jantije (the “interpreter”) stabs Obama in the neck, fatally wounding him, and is instantly mowed down by gun fire from South African security and U.S. Secret Service agents. Jantije lies dead on the stage, his body riddled with bullets. Security men hunker down, anticipating another attack. Pandemonium ensues.

The next day the media report the facts as they know them. Jantije was a 34-year old schizophrenic, once wanted for murder, who had somehow finagled his way onto the stage, pretending to be an “interpreter.” No one can adequately explain how it happened. Obviously, egregious vetting errors had been made. Blame is assigned. Excuses are made. It becomes a jurisdictional shit-storm.

Except no one believes that story. With Jantije dead, conspiracy buffs are free to smirk at the preposterous notion that one guy, a mental patient no less, acted alone. Their version is far more sinister. Jantije was a CIA assassin, equipped with a phony medical record to deflect suspicion. Then, after the vile deed, instead of being whisked off stage as planned, Jantije is killed, Jack Ruby-style, guaranteeing he won’t talk.

As to why the CIA would want the president dead, pick your poison. Obama wanted to leave Afghanistan, which the military-industrial complex couldn’t abide. He wanted to reach out to Iran, which Israel couldn’t abide. He wanted to curtail electronic spying, which the NSA couldn’t abide. He wanted to limit the use of drones, which the military couldn’t abide. When it comes to CIA mischief, there’s never any shortage of theories.

Which is not to say the CIA hasn’t been guilty of reprehensible acts in the past. Among other things, they helped assassinate Salvador Allende and Che Guevara; they replaced Mossadegh with the Shah in 1953; they torpedoed Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954; and, by all accounts, rogue agents used Air America to fly opium out of Vietnam. A disgraceful record.

But one can argue that the CIA’s glamorous, high-octane image is largely a Hollywood creation. Hollywood movies have made American spy-craft look infinitely smarter and more efficient than it actually is. One could go so far as to say that the depiction of the CIA is no more “accurate” than the depiction of Old West cowboys, courtroom lawyers or medical doctors.

Consider: the CIA never saw the 1979 Iranian revolution coming. They failed to predict the imminent dissolution of the USSR and end of the Cold War. In 20 years following the Bay of Pigs, not only couldn’t they assassinate Castro (a top priority), they were unable to put a single spy close to him. According to Tim Weiner in “Legacy of Ashes,” every single Cuban spy they recruited became a double-agent. Every one of them! That’s more Keystone Cops than world-class intel agency.

How brilliant is the CIA? They couldn’t figure out that fellow agent Aldrich Ames was a well-paid Soviet spy, even when he showed up driving a Lamborghini. They accepted the lame story that his wife had bought it for him. CIA inefficiency goes all the way back to the 1940s, when they assured President Truman that the USSR was 3-5 years away from producing a nuclear weapon. Six months later the Russians had the atom bomb.

If the Jantije episode “proves” anything, it’s that bizarre stuff happens in this world, and that we don’t need insidious plots to explain them. Of course, not everyone will accept that. Indeed, Oliver Stone is rumored to be re-making a Western classic. It will be called, “The Men Who Killed Liberty Valance.”

David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography