SEGMENT #6: PHILIP AGEE, Former CIA Case Officer
This talk was given in 1991 following the first Gulf war in Iraq.
"Well, we all know don’t we, the reasons why the U.S. intervened in the Gulf the way that we did. In the end, killing between 100,000 and 200,000 Iraq’s as opposed to 303, I think, Americans killed either in combat or combat related accidents. And we certainly have restored to power the legitimate authority in Kuwait. In fact, we’ve done it applying that age old all-American political principle of one man, one vote. In this case one man, the emir, one vote, his.
We heard Bush back in August didn’t we, at the very beginning saying that our way of life was at stake, that we had to do something about that invasion of Kuwait. We also heard didn’t we, besides our way of life being at stake we had to intervene to protect the access to the energy resources of the Persian Gulf? Another one was that we had to stop naked aggression.
What we did not get are alternative interpretations of the events that occurred. And that’s what I want to speak about here tonight. It’s my opinion that the United States needed an international crisis, an international threat to replace the crisis in Europe that largely disappeared with the collapse of the communism and the chaos in the Soviet Union. Why? In order to keep the permanent war economy going to justify continuing the situation where well more than 50% of the federal budget goes to military purposes. Well, this means that the military expenditures in the United States are the motor of the U.S. economy and they have been that since about 1950.
It’s worth reviewing this history because that’s where this crisis I think, comes from, this sought for needed crisis. In early 1950 there was extreme worry at the highest levels of the Truman administration that the U.S. was likely to return to the conditions of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. And so early in 1950 the decision was taken that this domestic economic problem was going to be solved through militarism, that is, through rearmament in the United States and through U.S. financing of the rearmament of Western Europe, particularly Western Germany.
The document which provides the analysis of the world at that time and the U.S. place in the world and the internal situation in the United States was top secret for 25 years. In 1975 it was accidentally or through error released and published. It was known as NSC68, NSC standing for National Security Council. It was written by Paul Nitze. And it is a very detailed document. The main operative conclusion though was this. This is a quote from the document “The United States and other free nations will within a period of a few years at most, experience a decline in economic activity of serious proportions unless more positive governmental programs are developed.” Well, the solution adopted to those more positive governmental programs was expansion of the military.
But Truman could not get this program through congress at first. There was opposition there and public opposition to the enormous new taxes that this program would require. He went on national radio, declared a state of national emergency and said what Bush’s remarks about our way of life being at stake reminded me of. He mustered all the hype and emotion he could and Truman said, among other things, he said “Our homes, our nation, all the things that we believe in are in great danger. This danger has been created by the rulers of the Soviet Union.” In his speech he also called for massive increases in military spending for U.S. and European forces quite apart from the needs in Korea.
Well, there was no threat from the Soviet Union. They were still rebuilding from the rubble of World War II in which they had lost 20 million people. They were no threat but they were manufactured from 1950 on, from the time of Korea on, as a grave threat to the United States. And that became the justification for this program which Truman, through manipulation of the Korean War, had been able finally to get through Congress. The result was that in the first two years, that is the two years between 1950 and 1952, the U.S. military budget more then tripled from 13 billion dollars in 1950 to 44 billion dollars in 1952. And during the same two year period
U.S. military forces doubled to 3.6 million people under arms.This was the beginning of the permanent war economy in the United States. The Korean War, by the way, went on for 3 more years after it could have ended. In the end 34,000 U.S. were dead, more or less, more than 100,000 wounded and the total casualty count was in the millions. It is worth recalling that because from 1950 on the Soviet threat was the justification for the permanent war economy and the justification for these enormous military expenditures.
What does that mean as far as the U.S. is concerned? Well it means that we have not addressed or begun to solve the many domestic crises that we all know exists. There is no need to go through this litany of the worst educational system in the developed world; one in three in this country illiterate either totally or to the degree that they can not function in a society based on the written word. Healthcare, not just the cost but the fact that 40 million people in this country have no health insurance. The only developed country in the world with no national health plan. And on and on. The fact that only about 60%, about two-thirds of the eligible voters register to vote and of those who register, only about 80% actually vote. So only in the end 50% of the eligible voters vote in national elections in this country and that means that a president is elected with around 24% - 25% of the potential vote.
The litany goes on. The environment, the infrastructure, finding a prevention and cure for aids, the violence we see everywhere and in every form in the United States.
When you put all these things together, and drugs of course, I don’t think anyone would argue that we have a domestic society in profound crisis and the reason why over all these years these crises have not been solved is, in my opinion, because those who really control and rule the United States don’t want them solved. Imagine what would happen if we had an informed electorate; if we didn’t have the worst educational system; if we had a negligible perhaps illiteracy rate here? There might be an informed electorate. We might be debating real substantive issues in the electoral process or in the political process in the United States. There might be a threat in this country of real democracy if we solved the domestic crises in this country. People might clamor to participate if there was a real debate. There might be a threat of a third party, I mean a second party in the United States.
There are all kinds of threats to elitists control of the U.S. if we were to solve these domestic crises, in my opinion. And it is for this reason that we have always needed this foreign threat and this foreign crises in order to justify putting the money into military expenditures instead of converting the economy, once and for all, to human purposes.
During those 40 odd years of the Cold War the CIA has been a very important factor or tool or instrument of the President of the United States in waging what is continuing today. This new world order of George Bush or new international order seems to me to be nothing more really, then the institutionalization of the north, south dimension of the old cold war; that is the war against the third world for control of their natural resources, their labor and their markets. That is where the fighting really took place, as in Vietnam. This north, south dimension of the cold war, the war against the third world continues today as we sit here with all its racist content.
And we and our allies that is the U.S. and its allies are just as dependant, if not more on the resources of these countries in the third world as they ever were. And that dependency is not going to disappear. It’s going to keep on growing through the years. So what I think Bush has in mind is through this Persian Gulf crisis, to send a message to any aspiring third world leader that third world radical nationalism will not be tolerated. It is a way; in which, in fact, we are beginning to treat the third world or continuing to treat the third world like we treat third world people right here in the Unites States. They know their place, they have a role to perform and they are expected to do it. If they don’t, if they make trouble, they’re going to be smashed. That is what happened, of course, with Iraq.
I believe that Bush encouraged the Hussein administration and Saddam Hussein himself; to believe they could get away with taking over Kuwait with impunity. And there are many signs that point in this direction. Iraq never really formerly recognized the independence of Kuwait. They have always claimed that Kuwait was part of Iraq taken away by British imperialism, which is indeed the case. Last April, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly testified before Congress that the U.S. had no commitment to defend Kuwait. On July 25th the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glasspie meets with Hussein. Among other things, the U.S. ambassador says to Hussein “Mr. President, I have a direct instruction from Secretary of State Baker to emphasize to you that the U.S. has” quote unquote “no opinion on your disputes with Kuwait, particularly your boarder disputes with Kuwait”. She also said I have instructions from President Bush to seek better relations with Iraq. President Hussein in response in several places says that what Kuwait is doing through it’s over production is the equivalent to war against Iraq. They are destroying the Iraqi economy he said and we are going to take strong action. He as much as said they were going to war. Well, in this meeting with those 100,000 troops on the boarder, not one word from the U.S. Ambassador of warning to Hussein not to invade.
Well put all those things together and you have to ask yourself the question, why did the Bush administration do nothing during that last week between the Ambassador’s meeting with Hussein and the invasion itself, to prevent that invasion? They knew those 100,000 troops were there. But not one word from Glasspie to Hussein about it. My conclusion is that they wanted the invasion; that this was the site selected for the new international crisis that would justify continuation of the war economy in the United States. It was totally avoidable objectively speaking, but because of the tradition in the U.S., after all we are a warrior culture, we do still live in the age of imperialism and the demands of this system require this crisis.
I go back to the CIA, for just a moment because its worth recalling that the agency, from the very beginning in the 1940’s, was used not only to collect intelligence from around the world, process it and present it to policy makers like the president for their decisions, to help them in their decisions, obviously that’s what an intelligence service should do. But the CIA was used all through these years to subvert the democratic processes of other countries. At the very first meeting of the National Security Council which was set up in the same law that established the CIA as the national intelligence service. This was October of 1947, one month after Truman signed this bill into law establishing the CIA and the National Security Council as the highest policy making body in national security and foreign affairs. At their very first meeting in October 1947 the decision was taken to set aside ten million dollars for the CIA to intervene secretly in the Italian elections coming up about six months later. The CIA was not just used in these electoral operations, you know the media operations were vast and I’m sure they still are. Media operations basically means that the CIA pays a foreign journalist to publish the CIA’s material as if it were the journalist’s own.
There were CIA interventions of all sorts. But one area I want to mention of special importance are what are known as liaison operations. Liaison operations are all those activities that the CIA undertakes with the intelligence and security services of other countries. Early on the CIA began to set up security and intelligence services in other countries for purposes of internal security. One of the first places was Greece. There was a civil war you know in Greece from 1947 to 1949. The U.S. intervened on the side of the far right in Greece and the U.S. side won. In the aftermath the CIA set up a security service known as the KYP, KYP being the Greek initials for CIA. They gave it the same name. This security service was used to keep the far right in power in Greece for nearly 20 years. But when that power was threatened with upcoming elections in 1967 the CIA and this service, this KYP organized a military coup in Greece which was successful leading to seven years of military dictatorship in Greece of neo-fascist stripe. During that period torture became an institution in Greece. Thousands of Greeks were forced into exile.
I could give you many, many examples of this. In Iran for example in 1953 the CIA undermined the democratically elected civil government of the day of Mohammed Mossadegh, overthrew that government, installed the Shah as military dictator and in the aftermath set up the service called the SAVACK. This service over the 25 years of the Shah’s regime became famous for its torture chambers and its assassinations of the Shah’s political opponents.
In 1954 the U.S., the CIA, intervenes in Guatemala, undermines the civilian government, the government is overthrown and from 1954 on Guatemala has had one succession of military rulers after another, military dictatorship. In the aftermath of this operation in 1954 the CIA set up an internal security service and then others. But from these services, set up and supported by the CIA all through the years came the death squads. In other words the services established by the CIA then spawned these death squads in Guatemala. The very same thing in El Salvador. You can be as sure as you are of your own name that for the last 10 or 11 years the CIA has been working in there day and night with those Salvadorian security services and military, collecting information, giving it to those services which in turn are the same things as the death squads. Information on activists in the human rights field, the student leadership, the trade unions and so forth and those have constituted the 75,000 or so people who have been murdered over 10 or 11 years in El Salvador. Disappeared, many of them others tortured to death, their bodies thrown on along the sides of the roads. Nobody knows how many have been killed in Guatemala by the military regimes started by the CIA. Some say 100,000, some say 125,000, some say 150,000. Who knows? Nobody will ever really know the exact number who’ve been killed.
But you multiply this around the world, because I am only mentioning a couple of examples of these CIA operations. There have been now 44 years of this and they have existed all around the world. And put those operations together with the overt military interventions and the enormous cost in human life of those such as Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Vietnam, for example, all of those and you get the picture of this expansionist extremely aggressive U.S. foreign policy.
While I don’t think it’s enough really to describe what the CIA does or U.S. foreign policy in general. It’s also necessary to ask a couple of questions. And going back to the Gulf for just a moment, consider this analysis of what really happened in the Gulf. You know that the U.S. has been exporting war materials for decades, beginning right around 1950 with the document I mentioned earlier. Tanks, guns of every sort, weapons, planes, ships and military equipment of every sort. Well, with a national debt of 3 and a half trillion dollars in this country, $800 billion of it owned by foreigners. For handling of the debt, it seems that it was only a matter of time before the U.S. armed forces were sent abroad as one more export, because what we did in the Persian Gulf crisis was to send abroad that enormous amount of military hardware, but this time we also exported the people to operate it. It was armed forces sent abroad to protect the resources and the regimes, these family dictatorships of the sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf.
What we did in fact was what we in the United States do the best. We made war and we were financed in this exercise by the people who make things that people around the world want; cars, VCR’s and so forth, financed mainly by the Japanese and the Germans. And that puts the United States, as its going to have a permanent presence in the Persian Gulf in a very strong position visa vie the Japanese and the Germans, who are not there militarily and they are going to depend to a great degree for their energy resources, at least from that region on U.S. policy. That is why they went along with the war.
That is an interpretation of the Gulf crisis and the other question that I wanted to raise is why we do these things as a country? Why we do these as a society, as a nation? Why do we do these grizzly things abroad? I believe strongly that until we have fundamental change in the United States domestically, in the domestic system, until we have some kind of real democracy in this country, participatory democracy, where people have a say and where we end the re-election of the 95% to 97% of incumbents at every election, where there is a real political debate, until we change the domestic system were going to have elitist control of the United States, were going to have these foreign adventures and the grizzly things, as I mentioned, that the CIA does abroad. So the real problem is here at home in changing the domestic system, in bringing about a conversion of the economy to human purposes, solving the domestic crisis and getting the people out of office who are in there to back a continuation of the permanent war economy."
Philip Agee spent 13 years as a case officer in the CIA, resigning in 1969.
His book “Inside the Company: CIA Diary” was first published