by Ron Jacobs
The CIA’s Phoenix assassination program slaughtered 50,000 Vietnamese, and was considered a new benchmark in international state terror. Today, the U.S. conducts a globalized kind of Phoenix Program, using high- and low-tech methods of covert and overt mass murder. Douglas Valentine’s second book on the CIA traces the growth of the world superpower’s Murder Inc.
The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World
“Old death squad warriors don’t just go away, they are given more power.”
There is no democracy in the United States. Nor does the United States bring democracy to other countries. In fact, the United States does not even really want democracy in other countries. The only ideology supported by the ruling elites in the US is the ideology of monopoly capitalism. One can call it the free market or one can call it neoliberalism; one can call it the American Way. What it is is this: a brutal, bloody, destructive and immoral attempt to rule the planet, no matter what the cost in lives and environmental destruction. The marriage to the amoral system of profiteering known as capitalism has created an immensely immoral number of men and women willing to carry out the brutality and bloodshed necessary to reap that profit.
As the paragraph above implies, in order to maintain such a system there must be humans willing to do the dirty work that maintenance entails. Of course, those humans must be organized and, of course they are. Security forces, both public and private, form the front lines of the system’s defenders. Military corps are also part of that line. Legislators serve their role too, making laws that benefit the wealthy elites and providing the money for their domination. Then there are the organizations that do the dirtiest and therefore, the least known work. This is where the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), and other secret police agencies come in. This is where the common brutality of the military and police transforms into a violence that makes Hollywood’s blood and gore cartoonish in contrast. While these deeds are not new to the current time, the events known as 9-11 have allowed those who champion them to make their actions public. The events that transpire in CIA black sites around the world are often too gruesome to be believed.
There was a program known as the Phoenix Program that was established by the CIA during the Vietnam War. The point of this program was to eliminate popular support for the revolutionary forces in Vietnam. The means utilized by those running the program included bribery, torture, murder of suspected revolutionaries, their supporters and their families. Despite the pervasiveness of the program it failed. Nonetheless, many of its architects have lived to fight another day, using it as a model for US imperial adventures subsequent to Vietnam in Central America, Asia and even in the United States.
Indeed, it is its replication in the United States that is the ultimate argument of author Douglas Valentine’s latest book examining the skullduggery, murder and deceit the Phoenix Program was synonymous with. This book, titled The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, is a collection of previous articles, supplementary texts and completely new material that examines the connections between the implementation of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam and its ongoing utilization as a model for subsequent counterinsurgency operations by the CIA and other agencies. As Valentine makes clear, some of those connections are merely philosophical while others are as pinpoint as some of the same individuals who built their early careers on Phoenix are now operating inside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other top-secret US agencies—many of them enhanced in the wake of the events of 9-11.
“The program included bribery, torture, murder of suspected revolutionaries, their supporters and their families.”
There is no better investigator to write this book. Valentine’s best known title is the consummate text on the Phoenix Program, The Phoenix Program: America’s Use of Terror in Vietnam. Not only does this mean that his understanding of the complexities and subterfuges of Phoenix is fairly sophisticated, it also means he knows many of the personalities. This knowledge helps him draw what can only be considered a menacing number of connections from the development of the counterinsurgency template of the Phoenix Program to the creation and development of the US national security apparatus now in place around the globe. His discussion of the hierarchy of units leading all the way to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia from hamlets in Vietnam and their replication in so-called fusion centers set up around the United States by the Department of Homeland Security since its inception is but one instance of the insidiousness of the Phoenix template. His naming of various individuals—like DHS commandant Bruce Lawlor—is proof that old death squad warriors don’t just go away, they are given more power. While Valentine reveals the dark side of US power, he also uncloaks the venality of many of those involved in these endeavors. In addition, his investigation leads this writer to believe that this is not the deep state so many conspiracists talk about; this is the state itself.
Douglas Valentine writes books that rip the bloody veil off the criminal enterprise known as the US government. When he does this, he combines incredibly in-depth research, interviews and an inviting style of prose that exposes the dark truth about the US nation and its national security state. The CIA as Organized Crime continues that tradition and is an important and crucial text. Its publication would be timely at any moment in recent history, yet its publication in late 2016 seems even more so given the recent campaign season and the accompanying destruction of any semblance of a fair electoral process in the United States.