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America’s Bargain with the Devil

Bargain with the Devil

As many Americans know, the National Archives ended up releasing only about 5 percent of the CIA’s JFK-assassination-related records, notwithstanding the fact that the JFK Records Act, which is the law, required the release of all of them.

The CIA claims that the release of remaining JFK assassination records would threaten “national security,” but that claim is patently ridiculous, especially when we consider that these records are more than 50 years old. There is another reason for secrecy, the same reason that existed for secrecy back in 1963: the remaining records, especially those relating to Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City, include additional pieces of circumstantial evidence implicating the CIA in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The few records that were recently released include a conspiracy that started out as a theory and ended up as fact: the CIA’s assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, the communist leader of Cuba.  There is now no question but that the CIA conspired with the Mafia, the premier private-sector assassination organization in the world, to assassinate Castro.

As it turns out, however, Castro wasn’t the only Cuban the CIA conspired to murder. While Americans have long known about the CIA-Mafia conspiracy to assassinate Castro, the newly released records have revealed something new: Operation Bounty, which offered financial payments for “killing or delivering alive known [Cuban] Communists.”

To get a good sense of how the mainstream media reacts to such things, consider how the Washington Post reported on the discovery of Operation Bounty: “But the truly novel revelation are fairly minor. One such example is Operation BOUNTY, which targeted Cuban communists.”

Minor? How can it possibly be minor when innocent people are being murdered by the U.S. government? Because that is precisely what assassination is: murder. In fact, even Lyndon Johnson, who wasn’t exactly the paragon or moral values, pointedly noted that the CIA was running a “damned Murder, Inc.” in the Caribbean.

Moreover, it probably didn’t even occur to the Post‘s reporter to wonder whether the CIA secretly paid a generous sum of money to the Bolivian official who killed communist Che Guevara after he had been taken prisoner? At least, no such speculation appears in his article. Maybe he’s scared to be called a conspiracy theorist.

But hey, it’s just commies, right?What’s the big deal about killing them, right? And Castro was friendly to the Russians, right? And the communists were coming to get us, right? This was war, a war to the finish, right? Isn’t killing Reds what the U.S. government prides itself on with its interventions into the Korean and Vietnam Wars?

Yet, under what authority, legal or moral, is it ever permissible to kill a person simply because of his beliefs? Okay, Castro was a communist. Okay, he believed that the central purpose of government was to take care of people, which is why he believed in such things as government-provided retirement pay for seniors (i.e., Social Security), government-provided healthcare (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid), and public (i.e., government) schooling. Okay, he befriended Russia and the rest of the communist world.

But why should a foreign leader’s political and economic beliefs and another country’s foreign policy subject a foreign leader to being murdered by the CIA?

When the CIA was established in 1947, the idea was that it would wield the authority to do whatever it deemed was necessary to protect “national security.” Most everyone knew that that meant the commission of what would ordinarily be considered unsavory or immoral actions. That included assassination, which was really nothing more than a fancy word for murder. Not surprisingly, the CIA began specializing in assassination  and cover-up practically from the get-go, as reflected by its 1953 top-secret assassination manual, which was called “A Study of Assassination.” The manual was prepared as part of the CIA’s secret regime-change operation in Guatemala, which targeted Guatemalan officials, presumably including the country’s democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, for assassination, even though they had never initiated violence against the United States.

Buying into the Cold War anti-communist mindset, most Americans in the 1950s and 1960s went along with all this, but with one big condition to the bargain: that the CIA would keep what it was doing secret from the American people so that they would not have to be concerned with the moral implications of the CIA’s actions. “We know you will have to do some unsavory things to protect us from the communists and to protect national security,” Americans said, “but just don’t tell us what you’re doing because we don’t want to know.”

The CIA loved the bargain. CIA officials were authorized to do whatever they wanted to protect “national security” and could even keep it secret. That’s undoubtedly  why they felt safe in conspiring with the Mafia to kill Castro and other Cuban communists.

There is something important to note here: Like Arbenz in Guatemala (and, later, Allende in Chile) neither Castro nor any other Cuban communist official ever initiated any act of violence against the United States. It was always the CIA and the Pentagon who were always the initiators of violence against them, either through assassination attempts, invasion, sabotage of Cuban enterprises, or terrorism against Cuban citizens.

It was all kept secret from the American people, as part of the bargain the American people made with the devil, a bargain that resulted in the secret hiring of Nazis, drug experiments on unsuspecting Americans, assassinations of foreign leaders, coups and regime change operations against foreign regimes, and even the assassination of an American president, all ostensibly intended to protect “national security.” (See FFF’s ebook JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board, the commission charged with enforcing the JFK Records Act.”)

Is it that mindset and that bargain that prevent many Americans today from wanting to know what the CIA has done in the past (for example, the assassination of President Kennedy, who, like Arbenz and Allende, came to reject the Cold War mindset and began secretly negotiating with the Russian and Cuban communists in the attempt to establish peaceful and friendly relations between the communist world and the United States) and what it continues to do, including never-ending state-sponsored assassinations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

“Do whatever you think is necessary to protect national security. Just don’t tell us about it because we would prefer not to know.” A real bargain with the devil, one that was operative from the beginning, what that was operative in November 1963, and one that is operative today.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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