Starring: Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, Irene Papas, Rod Steiger, Raf Vallone, John Gielgud.
Omar Mukhtar (Arabic: عمر المختار Omar Al-Mukhtār) (20 August 1858 – 16 September 1931), of the Mnifa, was born in the small village of Janzour, near Tobruk in eastern Barqa (Cyrenaica) in Libya. Beginning in 1912, he organized and, for nearly twenty years, led native resistance to Italian colonization of Libya. Italian armed forces captured and hanged him in 1931.
In October 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War, an Italian naval contingent under the command of Admiral Luigi Faravelli reached the shores of Libya, then a territory subject to Ottoman Turkish control. The admiral demanded that the Turkish administration and garrison surrender their territory to the Italians or incur the immediate destruction of the city of Tripoli and Benghazi. The Turks and their Libyan allies withdrew to the countryside instead of surrendering, and the Italians bombarded the cities for three days, then proclaimed the Tripolitanians to be “committed and strongly bound to Italy.” This marked the beginning of a series of battles between the Italian colonial forces and the Libyan armed opposition in the East of Libya (Cyrenaica) under Omar Mukhtar for 22 years
A teacher of the Qur’an by profession, Mukhtar was also skilled in the strategies and tactics of desert warfare. He knew local geography well and used that knowledge to advantage in battles against the Italians, who were unaccustomed to desert warfare. Mukhtar repeatedly led his small, highly alert groups in successful attacks against the Italians, after which they would fade back into the desert terrain. Mukhtar’s men skillfully attacked outposts, ambushed troops, and cut lines of supply and communication. The Italian army was left astonished and embarrassed by his guerrilla tactics.
In the mountainous region of Ghebel Akhdar (“Green Mountain”) in 1924, Italian Governor Ernesto Bombelli created a counter-guerrilla force that inflicted a severe setback to rebel forces in April 1925. Mukhtar then quickly modified his own tactics and was able to count on continued help from Egypt. In March, 1927, despite occupation of Giarabub from February 1926 and increasingly stringent rule under Governor Attilio Teruzzi, Mukhtar surprised Italian troops at Raheiba. Between 1927 and 1928, Mukhtar reorganized the Senusite forces, who were being hunted constantly by the Italians. Even General Teruzzi recognized Omar’s qualities of “exceptional perseverance and strong will power.”
Pietro Badoglio, governor of Libya from January 1929, after extensive negotiations concluded a compromise with Mukhtar (described by the Italians as his complete submission) similar to previous Italo-Senusite accords. At the end of October, 1929, Mukhtar denounced the compromise and re-established a unity of action among Libyan forces, preparing himself for the ultimate confrontation with General Rodolfo Graziani, the Italian military commander from March 1930. A massive offensive in June against Mukhtar’s forces having failed, Graziani, in full accord with Badoglio, Emilio De Bono (minister of the colonies), and Benito Mussolini, initiated a plan to break the Cyrenian resistance: the 100,000 population of Gebel would be relocated to concentration camps on the coast, and the Libyan-Egyptian border from the coast at Giarabub would be closed, preventing any foreign help to the fighters and depriving them of support from the native population. These measures, which Graziani initiated early in 1931, took their toll on the Senusite resistance. The rebels were deprived of help and reinforcements, spied upon, hit by Italian aircraft, and pursued on the ground by the Italian forces aided by local informers and collaborators. Mukhtar continued to struggle despite increased hardships and risks, but on 11 September 1931, he was ambushed near Slonta.
Mukhtar’s final adversary, Italian General Rodolfo Graziani, has given a description of the Senusite leader that is not lacking in respect: “Of medium height, stout, with white hair, beard and mustache. Omar was endowed with a quick and lively intelligence; was knowledgeable in religious matters, and revealed an energetic and impetuous character, unselfish and uncompromising; ultimately, he remained very religious and poor, even though he had been one of the most important Senusist figures.”
Capture and Execution:
Mukhtar’s struggle of nearly twenty years came to an end on 11 September 1931, when he was wounded in battle near Slonta, then captured by the Italian army. The Italians treated the native leader hero as a prize catch. His resilience had an impact on his jailers, who later remarked upon his steadfastness. His interrogators stated that Mukhtar recited verses of peace from the Qur’an.
In three days, Mukhtar was tried, convicted, and, on 14 September 1931, sentenced to be hanged publicly (historians and scholars have questioned whether his trial was fair or impartial). When asked if he wished to say any last words, Mukhtar replied with a Qur’anic phrase: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” (“To God we belong and to Him we shall return.”). On 16 September 1931, on the orders of the Italian court and with Italian hopes that Libyan resistance would die with him, Mukhtar was hanged before his followers in the POW camp of Suluq at the age of 73 years.
[Info via: Wikipedia]
When Osama Bin Laden Was The Good Guy, Because He Fought America’s Enemies.
When “Mujahideen” and “Jihad” Were Kosher, Because They Were Used Against America’s Enemies.
When It Was Fine To Fight In Other Countries, As Long As It Was Against America’s Enemies
When Today’s “Terrorists” Were YesterYear Known As “Guerrilla’s”.
Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace: The Saudi businessman who recruited mujahedin now uses them for large-scale building projects in Sudan.
OSAMA Bin Laden sat in his gold- fringed robe, guarded by the loyal Arab Mujahideen who fought alongside him in Afghanistan. Bearded, taciturn figures – unarmed, but never more than a few yards from the man who recruited them, trained them and then dispatched them to destroy the Soviet army – they watched unsmiling as the Sudanese villagers of Almatig lined up to thank the Saudi businessman who is about to complete the highway linking their homes to Khartoum for the first time in history.
Mr Bin Laden looks every inch the mountain warrior of mujahedin legend. Chadored children danced in front of him, preachers acknowledged his wisdom. ‘We have been waiting for this road through all the revolutions in Sudan,’ a sheikh said. ‘We waited until we had given up on everybody – and then Osama Bin Laden came along.’
And ‘this job’ is certainly an ambitious one: a brand-new highway stretching all the way from Khartoum to Port Sudan, a distance of 1,200km (745 miles) on the old road, now shortened to 800 km by the new Bin Laden route that will turn the coastal run from the capital into a mere day’s journey. Mr Bin Laden has brought the very construction equipment that he used only five years ago to build the guerrilla trails of Afghanistan.
He is a shy man. Maintaining a home in Khartoum and only a small apartment in his home city of Jeddah, he is married – with four wives – but wary of the press. His interview with the Independent was the first he has ever given to a Western journalist, and he initially refused to talk about Afghanistan, sitting silently on a chair at the back of a makeshift tent, brushing his teeth in the Arab fashion with a stick of miswak wood.
But talk he eventually did about a war which he helped to win for the Afghan Mujahedeen:
‘What I lived in two years there, I could not have lived in a hundred years elsewhere,’ he said.
When the history of the Afghan resistance movement is written, Mr Bin Laden’s own contribution to the mujahedin – and the indirect result of his training and assistance – may turn out to be a turning- point… he tries to minimise his role.
‘When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once – I arrived within days, before the end of 1979,’ he said. ‘Yes, I fought there, but my fellow Muslims did much more than I. Many of them died and I am still alive.’
Within months, however, Mr Bin Laden was sending Arab fighters – Egyptians, Algerians, Lebanese, Kuwaitis, Turks and Tunisians – into Afghanistan; ‘not hundreds but thousands,’ he said. He supported them with weapons and his own construction equipment. Along with his Iraqi engineer, Mohamed Saad – who is now building the Port Sudan road – Mr Bin Laden blasted massive tunnels into the Zazi mountains of Bakhtiar province for guerrilla hospitals and arms dumps, then cut a mujahedin trail across the country to within 15 miles of Kabul.
‘No, I was never afraid of death. As Muslims, we believe that when we die, we go to heaven. Before a battle, God sends us seqina, tranquillity.
‘Once I was only 30 metres from the Russians and they were trying to capture me. I was under bombardment but I was so peaceful in my heart that I fell asleep. This experience has been written about in our earliest books. I saw a 120mm mortar shell land in front of me, but it did not blow up. Four more bombs were dropped from a Russian plane on our headquarters but they did not explode. We beat the Soviet Union. The Russians fled.’
But what of the Arab Mujahedeen whom he took to Afghanistan – members of a guerrilla army who were also encouraged and armed by the United States – and who were forgotten when that war was over?
‘Personally neither I nor my brothers saw evidence of American help. When my mujahedin were victorious and the Russians were driven out, differences started (between the guerrilla movements) so I returned to road construction in Taif and Abha. I brought back the equipment I had used to build tunnels and roads for the mujahedin in Afghanistan. Yes, I helped some of my comrades to come here to Sudan after the war.’
How many? Osama Bin Laden shakes his head. ‘I don’t want to say. But they are here now with me, they are working right here, building this road to Port Sudan.’ I told him that Bosnian Muslim fighters in the Bosnian town of Travnik had mentioned his name to me. ‘I feel the same about Bosnia,’ he said. ‘But the situation there does not provide the same opportunities as Afghanistan.
A small number of Mujahedeen have gone to fight in Bosnia-Herzegovina but the Croats won’t allow the Mujahedeen in through Croatia as the Pakistanis did with Afghanistan.’
Thus did Mr Bin Laden reflect upon jihad while his former fellow combatants looked on. Was it not a little bit anti-climactic for them, I asked, to fight the Russians and end up road-building in Sudan? ‘They like this work and so do I. This is a great plan which we are achieving for the people here, it helps the Muslims and improves their lives.’
His Bin Laden company – not to be confused with the larger construction business run by his cousins – is paid in Sudanese currency which is then used to purchase sesame and other products for export; profits are clearly not Mr Bin Laden’s top priority.
[By Robert Fisk]
This is the full length 90 min. version of Bill Moyer’s 1987 scathing critique of the criminal subterfuge carried out by the Executive Branch of the United States Government.
Host Bill Moyers exposes the inner workings of the secret government. Though originally broadcast in 1987, it is even more relevant today. Interviews with respected, top military, intelligence, and government insiders reveal both the history and secret objectives
“The National Security Act of ‘47 gave us the National Security Council. Never have we had a National Security Council so concerned about the nation’s security that we’re always looking for threats and looking how to orchestrate our society to oppose those threats. National Security was invented, almost, in 1947, and now it has become the prime mover of everything we do as measured against something we invented in 1947.” [ U.S. Navy Admiral Gene La Rocque in PBS Documentary “The Secret Government”]
In the revealing PBS video documentary The Secret Government available for free viewing below, host Bill Moyers exposes the inner workings of a secret government much more vast that most people would ever imagine. Though originally broadcast in 1987, it is even more relevant today. Interviews with respected top military, intelligence, and government insiders reveal both the history and secret objectives of powerful groups in the hidden shadows of our government.
Moyers: “The Secret Government is an interlocking network of official functionaries, spies, mercenaries, ex-generals, profiteers and superpatriots, who, for a variety of motives, operate outside the legitimate institutions of government. Presidents have turned to them when they can’t win the support of the Congress or the people, creating that unsupervised power so feared by the framers of our Constitution. Just imagine that William Casey’s dream came true. Suppose the enterprise grew into a super-secret, self-financing, self-perpetuating organization. Suppose they decided on their own to assassinate Gorbachev or the leader of white South Africa. Could a President control them and what if he became the enterprise’s public enemy Number One? Who would know? Who would say no?”
“World War II was over. Europe lay devastated. The United States emerged as the most powerful nation on earth. But from the rubble rose a strange new world, a peace that was not peace, and a war that was not war. We saw it emerging when the Soviets occupied Eastern Europe. The Cold War had begun.”
Winston Churchill: “An Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.”
Moyers: “The Russians had been our ally against the Nazis, an expedient alliance for the sake of war. Now they were our enemy. To fight them we turned to some of the very men who had inflicted on humanity the horrors of Hitler’s madness. We hired Nazis as American spies. We struck a secret bargain with the devil.”
Erhard Dabringhaus: “One that I know real well is Klaus Barbie. He was wanted by the French as their number one war criminal, and somehow we employed a man like that as a very secretive informant.”
Moyers: “Erhard Dabringhaus was employed in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps and assigned to work with Nazi informants spying on the Russians. One of them was Klaus Barbie, the ‘Butcher of Lyon’, who had tortured and murdered thousands of Jews and resistance fighters. The Americans did not turn Barbie over to the French when they finished with him. They helped him escape to Bolivia. Other top Nazis were smuggled into the United States to cooperate in the war against the new enemy.”
“So began the morality of the Cold War. Anything goes. The struggle required a mentality of permanent war, a perpetual state of emergency. It had met a vast new apparatus of power that radically transformed our government. Its foundations were laid when President Truman signed into law the National Security Act of 1947.”
Admiral Gene La Rocque: “Now that National Security Act of 1947 changed dramatically the direction of this great nation. It established the framework for a national security state.”
Moyers: “Admiral Gene La Rocque rose through the ranks from Ensign to become a Strategic Planner for the Pentagon and now heads the Center of Defense Information, a public interest group.”
Admiral Gene La Rocque: “The National Security Act of ‘47 gave us the National Security Council. Never have we had a National Security Council so concerned about the nation’s security that we’re always looking for threats and looking how to orchestrate our society to oppose those threats. National Security was invented, almost, in 1947, and now it has become the prime mover of everything we do as measured against something we invented in 1947. The National Security Act also gave us the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Moyers: “This is the house the Cold War built – the CIA. The core of the new secret government. Its chief legitimate duty was to gather foreign intelligence for America’s new role as a world power. Soon it was taking on covert operations, abroad and at home. As its mission expanded, the CIA recruited adventuresome young men like Notre Dame’s ‘All American,’ Ralph McGehee.”
Ralph McGehee: “I look back to the individual that I was when I joined the agency. I was a dedicated Cold Warrior who felt the agency was out there fighting for liberty, justice and democracy and religion around the world. And I believed wholeheartedly in this. I just felt proud every day that I went to work because I was out at the vanguard of the battle against the international evil empire – international Communist evil empire.”
Moyers: “Iran, 1953: the CIA mounted its first major covert operation to overthrow a foreign government. The target was the Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mosaddeq. He held power legitimately, through his country’s parliamentary process, and he was popular. Washington had once looked to him as the man to prevent a Communist takeover. But that was before Mosaddeq decided that the Iranian state, not British companies, ought to own and control the oil within Iran’s own borders. When he nationalized the British run oil fields, Washington saw red.”
“The Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles and his brother Alan, Director of the CIA, decided with Eisenhower’s approval, to overthrow Mosaddeq and reinstate the Shah of Iran. The mobs paid by the CIA, and the police and soldiers bribed by the CIA, drove Mosaddeq from office.”
Newscaster: “Crown Prince Abdullah greets the Shah as he lands at Baghdad airport after a seven-hour flight from Rome.”
Moyers: The King of Kings was back in control and more pliable than Mosaddeq. American oil companies took over almost half of Iran’s production. U.S. arms merchants moved in with $18 billion of weapons sales over the next 20 years. But there were losers.”
Kenneth Love (former New York Times reporter): “Nearly everybody in Iran of any importance has had a brother, or a mother, or a sister, or a son, or a father, tortured, jailed, deprived of property without due process. I mean an absolutely buccaneering dictatorship in our name that we supported. SAVAK was created by the CIA!”
Moyers: “SAVAK, the Shah’s Secret Police, tortured and murdered thousands of his opponents. General Richard Secord and Albert Hakim were among those who helped supply the Shah’s insatiable appetite for the technology of control. But the weapons and flattery heaped by America on the Shah blinded us to the growing opposition of his own people. They rose up in 1979 against him. “Death to the Shah!” they shouted. “Death to the American Satan.”
Kenneth Love: “Khomeni is a direct consequence, and the hostage crisis is a direct consequence, and the resurgence of the Shi’a is a direct consequence of the CIA’s overthrow of Mosaddeq in 1953.”
Moyers: “Guatemala 1954. Flushed with success America’s Secret Government decided another troublesome leader must go. This time it was Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala. Philip Roettinger was recruited from the Marines to join the CIA team.”
Colonel Philip Roettinger (Ret.) U.S. Marine Corps: “It was explained to me that it was very important for the security of the United States that we were going to prevent a Soviet beach-head in this hemisphere, which we have heard about very recently of course, and that the Guatemalan government was Communist, and we had to do something about it.”
Moyers: “President Arbenz had admired Franklin D. Roosevelt and his government voted often with the American position at the United Nations. But in trying to bring a new deal to Guatemala, Arbenz committed two sins in the eyes of the Eisenhower administration. First, when he opened the system to all political parties he recognized the Communists too.”
Roettinger: “Well, of course there was not even a hint of Communism in his government. He had no Communists in his Cabinet. He did permit the existence of a very small Communist party.”
Moyers: “Arbenz also embarked on a massive land reform program. Less than 3 per cent of the land owners held more than 70 per cent of the land. So Arbenz nationalized more than 1 ½ million acres, including land owned by his own family and turned it over to peasants. Much of that land belonged to the United Fruit Company, the giant American firm that was intent on keeping Guatemala, quite literally, a banana republic. United Fruit appealed to its close friends in Washington, including the Dulles brothers, who said that Arbenz was openly playing the Communist game. He had to go.”
Roettinger: “This was sudden death for him. There was no chance of him winning this fight because of the fact that he had done this to the United Fruit Company. Plus the fact, that he was overthrowing the hegemony of the United States over this area. And this was dangerous, it could not be tolerated. We couldn’t tolerate that.”
Moyers: “From Honduras, the same country that today is the Contra staging base, the CIA launched a small band of mercenaries against Guatemala. They were easily turned back. So with its own planes and pilots the CIA then bombed the capital. Arbenz fled and was immediately replaced by an American puppet, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas.”
Roettinger: “He overturned all of the reformist activities of President Arbenz. He gave the land back to the United Fruit Company that had been confiscated. He took land from the peasants and gave it back to the land owners.”
Moyers: “The CIA had called its covert action against Guatemala, Operation Success. Military dictators ruled the country for the next 30 years. The United States provided them with weapons and trained their officers. The Communists we saved them from would have been hard pressed to do it better. Peasants were slaughtered. Political opponents were tortured. Suspected insurgents were shot, stabbed, burned alive or strangled. There were so many deaths at one point that coroners complained they couldn’t keep up with the work load. Operation Success.”
Roettinger: “What we did has caused a succession of repressive military dictatorships in that country and has been responsible for the deaths over 100,000 of their citizens.”
Moyers: “Success breeds success, sometimes with dreary repetition. Mario Sandoval Alarcon began his career in the CIA’s adventure in Guatemala. Today he’s known as the Godfather of the Death Squads. In 1981, after lobbying Ronald Reagan’s advisors for military aid to Guatemala, Sandoval Alarcon danced at the Inaugural Ball.”
“Richard Bissell, another veteran of the Guatemalan coup, went on to become the CIA’s Chief of Covert Operations. I looked him up several years ago for a CBS documentary. He talked about a secret report prepared for the White House in 1954 by a group of distinguished citizens headed by former president Herbert Hoover.”
Report Quote: “It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto accepted norms of human conduct do not apply. If the United States is to survive, longstanding American concepts of fair play must be reconsidered. We must learn to subvert, sabotage, and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated, more effective methods than those used against us.”
Moyers: “Cuba, 1961, seven years after Operation Success in Guatemala, Bissell was planning another CIA covert operation.”
Newscaster: “The assault has begun on the dictatorship of Fidel Castro.”
Moyers: “On April 17, 1961, Cuban exiles trained by the CIA at a base in friendly Guatemala landed on the southern coast of Cuba, at the Bay of Pigs. The U.S. had promised air support, but President Kennedy cancelled it. The invaders, left defenseless, surrendered. Seven months after the disastrous invasion, Kennedy delivered a major foreign policy address.”
President John F. Kennedy: “We cannot, as a free nation, compete with our adversaries in tactics of terror, assassination, false promises, counterfeit mobs and crisis.”
Moyers: “The President was not telling the truth. Even as he spoke, his administration was planning a new covert war on Cuba. It would include some of the dirty tricks the President said we were above. The Secret Government was prepared for anything.”
Moyers interview with Richard Bissel: “At one time, the CIA organized a small department known as Executive Action, which was a permanent assassination capability.”
Bissel: “Well, it wasn’t just an assassination capability. It was a capability to discredit or get rid of people, but it could have included assassination.”
Moyers: “And it did. There were at least eight documented attempts to kill Castro. He says there were two dozen. And there was even one effort to put LSD in his cigars. To help us get rid of the Cuban leader, our Secret Government turned to the Mafia, just as we once made use of Nazis. The gangsters included the Las Vegas Mafioso, John Roselli, the Don of Chicago, Sam Giancana, and the Boss of Tampa, Santo Traficante.”
“If I read you correctly you are saying it is the involvement in the Mafia that disturbed you and not the need or decision to assassinate a foreign leader.”
Moyers: “It is a chilling thought made more chilling by the assassination of John Kennedy. The accusations linger. In some minds, the suspicions persist of a dark unsolved conspiracy behind his murder. You can dismiss them, as many of us do. But knowing now what our secret government planned for Castro, the possibility remains. Once we decide that anything goes, anything can come home to haunt us.”
Vietnam, 1968: “American soldiers are fighting and dying in the jungles of Southeast Asia. But the Vietnam War didn’t start this way. It started secretly off the books, like so many of these ventures that have ended disastrously. The CIA got there early, soon after the Vietnamese won their independence from the French in 1954. Eisenhower warned that the nations of Southeast Asia would fall like dominoes if the Communists, led by Ho Chi Min, took over all Vietnam. To hold the line, we installed in Saigon a puppet regime under Ngo Dinh Diem. American-trained commandos were used to sabotage bus and rail lines and contaminate North Vietnam’s oil supply. Vice President Nixon lent moral support to Diem, but the situation kept getting worse.”
“President Kennedy sent the Green Berets to Vietnam and turned to full scale counter-insurgency. He had once said that Vietnam was the ultimate test of our will to stem the tide of world Communism. By the time of his death, there were 15,000 Americans there. They were called “advisors.” The secret war was leading only to deeper involvement and more deception.”
President Lyndon Johnson: “It is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States, to take action and reply.”
Moyers: “This President was not telling the truth either. The action at the Gulf of Tonkin was not unprovoked. South Vietnam had been conducting secret raids in the area against the North and the American destroyer, ordered into the battle zone, had advanced warning it could be attacked. But Johnson seized the incident to stampede Congress into passing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. He then used it as a blank check for the massive buildup of American forces.”
April, 1965: “Two battalions of Marines land in South Vietnam. The first of more than 2½ million Americans to fight there with no Congressional declaration of war. The dirty little war that began in secret, is reaching full roar. Free-fire zones, defoliation, the massacre at My Lai, napalm, and the CIA’s Operation Phoenix to round up, torture and kill suspected Viet Cong.”
Ralph McGehee: “We were murdering these people, incinerating them.”
Moyers: “Ralph McGehee was there for the CIA and helped set up South Vietnam’s secret police.”
McGehee (Notre Dame “All American”): “My efforts had resulted in the deaths of many people, and I just – for me it was a period when I guess I was – I considered myself nearly insane – I just couldn’t reconcile what I had been and what I was at the time becoming.”
Moyers: “Many of the secret warriors in Southeast Asia had no such doubts or regrets. Some of the team that later joined the Iran-Contra enterprise, helped to run the secret war in Laos. As General Richard Secord later put it, ‘Laos belonged to the CIA.’ Looking back, it is stunning how easily the Cold War enticed us into surrendering popular control of government to the National Security State. We’ve never come closer to bestowing absolute authority on the president. Setting up White House groups that secretly decide to fight dirty little wars, is a direct assumption of the war powers expressly forbidden by the Constitution.”
“Not since December, 1941, has Congress declared war. Since then, we’ve had a police action in Korea, advisors in Vietnam, covert operations in Central America, peacekeeping in Lebanon and low intensity conflicts going on right now from Angola to Cambodia. We’ve turned the war powers of the United States over to, well we’re never really sure who, or what they’re doing, or what it costs, or who is paying for it. The one thing that we are sure of is that this largely secret global war carried on with less and less accountability to democratic institutions, has become a way of life. And now we are faced with a question brand new in our history. Can we have the permanent warfare state and democracy too?”
“In 1975 as the war in Vietnam came to an end, Congress took its first public look at the Secret Government. Senator Frank Church chaired the Select Committee to study government operations. The hearings opened the books on a string of lethal activities. From the use of electric pistols and poison pellets, to Mafia connections and drug experiments. And they gave us a detailed account of assassination plots against foreign leaders and the overthrowing of sovereign governments. We learned, for example, how the Nixon administration had waged a covert war against the government of Chile’s president, Salvador Allende, who was ultimately overthrown by a military coup and assassinated.”
Senator Church: “Like Caesar peering into the colonies from distant Rome, Nixon said the choice of government by the Chileans was unacceptable to the president of the United States. The attitude in the White House seemed to be – if in the wake of Vietnam, I can no longer send in the Marines, then I will send in the CIA.”
Moyers: “The powers claimed by presidents and national security have become the controlling wheel of government, driving everything else. Secrecy then makes it possible for the president to pose as the sole competent judge of what will best protect our security. Secrecy permits the White House to control what others know, and that’s power.”
“This is the ultimate weapon of the secret government – the National Security Decision Directive – the NSDD. Every president since Harry Truman has issued them. They’re not published in any government register. Ronald Reagan has signed at least 280 such directives. They cover everything from outer space to nuclear weapons to covert operations in Iran and Nicaragua. In essence, by an arbitrary and secret decree, the president can issue himself a license to do as he will, where he will. And the only ones who need to know are the secret agents who carry it out – the knights of the Oval Office.”
“This remains for me the heart of the matter. The men who wrote our Constitution, our basic book of rules, were concerned that power be held accountable. No party of government and no person in government, not even the President, was to pick or choose among the laws to be obeyed. But how does one branch of government blow the whistle on another? Or how do the people cry foul when their liberties are imperiled, if public officials can break the rules, lie to us about it, and then wave the wand of national security to silence us?”
“Can it happen again? You bet it can. The apparatus of secret power remains intact in a huge White House staff operating in the sanctuary of presidential privilege. George Bush has already told the National Security Council to take more responsibility for foreign policy, which can of course be exercised beyond public scrutiny. And a lot of people in Washington are calling for more secrecy, not less, including more covert actions. This is a system easily corrupted as the public grows indifferent again, and the press is seduced or distracted. So one day, sadly, we are likely to discover once again that while freedom does have enemies in the world, it can also be undermined here at home, in the dark, by those posing as its friends. I’m Bill Moyers. Good night.”