Jun 23, 2007

If That Peace Of Mind Don't Stay...

From a long essay on the Cold War in the form of a profile on U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by former NSC official Roger Morris.

The new mandate for intervention would lie with the innocuously titled "Office of Policy Coordination". After initial fumbling by men far too hesitant, it was handed over to Frank Wisner, a well-to-do southerner and fey Russophobe in the Lovett mold. He came to Washington in his bald, jowly forties by way of a Wall Street law firm, a wartime OSS liaison with Romanian royalty, and the requisite Manhattan and Georgetown society friends from whom he recruited the "old boys" who would give the early CIA much of its outer gloss and inner fatuousness.

Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, later Le Carre and others - a teeming genre - would portray the smug ignorance, incompetence, sleaze and self-ruin of spies' machinations. But the Wisner club's all-too-real version of life imitated, and improved on, art.

Funded by money skimmed from the Marshall Plan, their "operations" were grim previews - and parodies - of things to come, of a world that less than two decades later would be second nature to Gates. The code names were colorful; the realities dark. Bloodstone enlisted Nazi SS veterans, most of them war criminals, and placed them in key positions - from the founders of West German intelligence to CIA-paid advisers to tyrannical client regimes in Iraq, Egypt, Syria or Saudi Arabia, where they proved adept at organizing secret police and using Gestapo torture methods to deal with domestic democrats and Islamic devouts (wiping out the former while scarring and steeling the latter for a fierce evolution to our jihadist world).

Mockingbird employed Washington Post editor Phil Graham and other ready establishment collaborators to suborn the foreign press and American media. "By the early 1950s," wrote biographer Deborah Davis, "Wisner 'owned' respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles."

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