Sunday, December 7, 2008

Arabs Who Admitted CIA Involvement in the 1963 Iraqi Coup that Brough Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to Power

The Ba'ath Party was a group of pan-Arab nationalists from many countries in 1963. Jamal Atasi was a member of the Syrian cabinet at the time and privy to Ba'ath Party discussions. Even though the Syrian branch of the party was separate from the Iraqi branch there was still much networking. Word of the Iraqi Ba'athis meetings with the CIA before the coup reached Ba’athi leaders in Damascus and arguments broke out between the Syrian Ba’ath and the Iraqi Ba’ath. Atasi related the tenor of the discussions:

When we discovered this thing we began to argue with them. They would assert that their cooperation with the CIA and the US to overthrow ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim and take over power—they would compare this to how Lenin arrived in a German train to carry out his revolution, saying they had arrived in an American train. But in reality—and even in the case of the takeover in Syria—there was a push from the West and in particular from the United States for the Ba’th to seize power and monopolize it and push away all the other elements and forces [i.e., both the communists and the Nasserists].[1]

The reference to Lenin’s train means that the Iraqis took money from the U.S. in the same way that Lenin and the communists purportedly took a train full of gold from Germany during WWI to assist them in their Bolshevik Revolution. Seven months after the coup, Jordan’s King Hussein (who took money from the CIA for 42 years) was quoted in the most prestigious newspaper in Egypt, Al-Ahram:

You tell me that American Intelligence was behind the 1957 events in Jordan. Permit me to tell you that I know for a certainty that what happened in Iraq on 8 February had the support of American Intelligence. Some of those who now rule in Baghdad do not know of this thing but I am aware of the truth. Numerous meetings were held between the Ba’th party and American Intelligence, the more important in Kuwait. Do you know that … on 8 February a secret radio beamed to Iraq was supplying the men who pulled the coup with the names and addresses of the Communist there so that they could be arrested and executed?[2]

Ali Saleh al-Sa’adi was the civilian leader of the Ba'ath Party in Iraq at the time of the coup. His arrest for his part in the plot a couple of days before the coup actually precipitated the launch of it because Iraqi leader Abdel Karim Qassem was to close to catching them. A junior member of the party at the time Hanni Fkaki admitted, “We came to power on a CIA train.”[3]

These are the Arab primary source admissions of the CIA involvement in the 1963 Iraqi Coup that I have been able to find. I would be interested to hear of any more Arab or U.S. admissions that you all can find.

[1] Interview with Jamal Atasi, Damascus 22 July 1991 in Malik Mufti, Sovereign Creations: Pan-Arabism and Political Order in Syria and Iraq (Ithaca, New York, 1996), 144.
[2] Cited from an Interview with Jordan’s King Hussein printed in al-Ahram, 27 September 1963 in Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements Of Iraq: A Study of Iraq’s Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of its Communists, Ba’thists, and Free Officers (Princeton, New Jersey, 1978), 985-986.
[3] Interview with Fkaiki in Sai K. Aburish, Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge (New York: 2000), 59 .

Friday, December 5, 2008

CIA Motivation for the Kennedy Assassination

I have been reading about the assassination of John F. Kennedy lately because I was inspired by time I spent in one of my classes with my students watching and discussing Oliver Stone's movie JFK. Though I think it is clear that Oliver Stone and Jim Garrison went way too far with their conspiracy theories (placing the roots of the plot at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top of the intelligence community and even implicating Vice President Johnson), the detective work done by Garrison as highlighted by the movie make certain aspects of the assassination indisputable.

The best I can figure so far is that there was a plot by CIA contract agents coordinated by CIA Field Officers to kill Kennedy at Dealy Plaza with a three-way crossfire. I don't believe these CIA were working for the agency, but were mounting an unofficial operation on their own because of their extreme hatred for Kennedy. The CIA and the military intelligence community had been resisting Kennedy from before his inauguration in the matter of the assassinatio of Patrice Lumumba.[1] They were acting on their own under as high a member of the CIA as David Atlee Phillips who also coordinated at least the cover-up that aimed to present the single-shooter theory of Lee Harvey Oswald to the world. Phillips could have been taking the orders of ex-CIA Director of Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles or ex-Deputy DCI General Charles Cabell.[2] Both men were fired by Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs scandal.

The CIA hatred of Kennedy developed through the years of his presidency. It really started with the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. Kennedy was briefed about the invasion approved by the previous Eisenhower Administration while he was waiting for his inauguration. He approved the attack after he became president, but steadfastly refused to commit U.S. forces to the attack, desiring only to use the Cuban exiles. The CIA knew the attack could not suceed without U.S. air support, but launched it anyway calculating that the pressure of the possibility of the invasion failing would force Kennedy to change his mind and send in air power. Under heavy pressure from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) as well as the CIA, Kennedy refused to commit U.S. air planes and the Bay of Pigs fighters were captured or killed by Castro's forces. Kennedy admitted responsibility for the disaster publically, but privately blamed the CIA for purposely allowing an attack they knew would fail and trying to manipulate him into supporting it. He fired long time CIA chief Allen Dulles and other high ranking CIA.[3] Kennedy threatened to, "splinter the Agency into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind!"[4] He made many changes including issuing three National Security Memorandums (NSAMs), aimed at limiting the Agency's covert operations, effectively putting them under the JCS.[5] These memos were never really even implemented due to "bureaucratic resistance."

More hatred of Kennedy was built after the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba, did not demand on-site inspections of the missile removal and pulled the plug on operation MONGOOSE, the CIA's covert operation to remove Castro from power. He actually sent the FBI in to close down their paramilitary training camps in Louisiana. This greatly enraged the Cuban Exile community and the radical anti-communist CIA who were working with them to this end.[6]

As the months passed their hatred only grew worse as Kennedy showed one sign after another of easing back from the Cold War. As part of the negotiations to resolve the missile crisis, Kennedy agreed to remove U.S. mid-range Jupiter nuclear missiles from Turkey. This was done in April of 1963. On August 5, of the same year his negotiators agreed to sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union. Finally it was clear that Kennedy was going to begin disentangling the U.S. from the war in Vietnam long before it ever became a quagmire. Since 1961, Kennedy refused to allow combat troops in Vietnam, but only "advisors." "On October 11, 1963, JFK issued NSAM 263, a directive tht included the withdrawal of 1,000 of the 16,000 advisers then in Vietnam by the end of the year."[7]

The conspiracy to kill the president had its roots in the remnants and resentments of the anti-communist CIA Cuban operations and their increasing dismay with Kennedy's percieved soft stance in the Cold War. In my next entry, I will show what we know about the actual plot itself, and who did what.

[1] James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case (New York: Sheridan Press, 1992), p. 254-257.
[2] Ibid, p. 235-239.
[3] Kenneth P. O'Donnell and David Powers, Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, (Boston: Little, Brown & n co., 1970), p. 267-278.
[4] New York Times, April 25, 1966, p. 20.
[5] Di Eugenio, p. 257-258.
[6] Ibid, p. 22-24.
[7] Ibid, p. 197.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

CIA or NSC Who Admitted their Involvement in the 1963 Iraqi Coup

The way the U.S. assisted the 1963 Iraqi coup by Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was financially. Writing in his memoirs of the 1963 coup, long time OSS and CIA intelligence analyst Harry Rositzke presented it as an example of one on which they had good intelligence in contrast to others that caught the agency by surprise. The Ba’ath overthrow “was forecast in exact detail by CIA agents.”

"Agents in the Ba’th Party headquarters in Baghdad had for years kept Washington au courant on the party’s personnel and organization, its secret communications and sources of funds, and its penetrations of military and civilian hierarchies in several countries…
CIA sources were in a perfect position to follow each step of Ba’th preparations for the Iraqi coup, which focused on making contacts with military and civilian leaders in Baghdad. The CIA’s major source, in an ideal catbird seat, reported the exact time of the coup and provided a list of the new cabinet members.
…To call an upcoming coup requires the CIA to have sources within the group of plotters. Yet, from a diplomatic point of view, having secret contacts with plotters implies at least unofficial complicity in the plot."

“Unofficial complicity in the plot” indeed. The CIA would have paid a lot of money for this steady supply of information, especially because American planners had determined that the Ba’ath Party would be the best for U.S. policy in Iraq going forward in 1962.[2] The First Political Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq in 1963 during the coup, Bill Lakeland, has admitted that CIA officer Ed Kane told him that the U.S. “had people who informed us about things…The CIA was kept aware of what was happening…[The CIA] had paid informants within the Ba’ath, but had no control of any operational…It was ultra secret….”[3] Ed Kane was in charge of the Iraq Desk in Washington at the time of the coup.[4]

The best direct evidence that the U.S. was complicit is the memo from NSC staff member Bob Komer to President John F. Kennedy on the night of the coup, February 8, 1963. The last paragraph reads,

"We will make informal friendly noises as soon as we can find out whom to talk with, and ought to recognize as soon as we’re sure these guys are firmly in the saddle. ________excellent reports on the plotting, but I doubt either they or UK should claim much credit for it."[5]

Eight typewritten spaces are still classified just before the word “excellent.” “CIA had,” would fit in here perfectly and is most likely in the original. This is consistent with Rositzke’s memoir that writes of the CIA having a “major source in an ideal catbird seat.” They would have had to pay money for this, but probably did not do too much more than fund the coup and this is why Komer wrote, “I doubt whether they [CIA] or UK [British Intelligence] should claim much credit for it.” They can claim some but not much credit for it. At least they helped fund it and gave assurances that the Ba’ath would be well received in Washington and as CIA analyst Harry Rositzke stated, they were "complicit in the plot."

[1] See Harry Rositzke, The CIA’s Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage, and Covert Action (Boulder, CO: 1977), 109-110.
[2] United States, Department of State, Nina J. Noring and Glenn W. LaFantasie eds. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. XVII: Near East 1961-1962, 364-365.
[3] Interview with Lakeland, June 2005.
[4] Interview with Kane, June 2005.
[5] Kennedy Library, “Secret Memorandum for the President: R. W. Komer to Kennedy,” National Security Files, Countries, Box no. 117, Iraq 1/63-2/63, originally partially published in United States, Department of State, Nina J. Noring and Glenn W. LaFantasie, ed. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. 18: Near East 1962-1963, 334n-335n.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Scholars Who Wrote about the CIA backed Iraqi Coup in 1963 that Brought Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to Power

Some of you may know me as the guy who published my master's thesis entitled, "U.S. Covert Intervention in Iraq 1958-1963: The Origins of U.S. Supported Regime Change in Modern Iraq." This is published and available in the library at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona California. I am finally getting around to posting some of my research on this, specifically focusing on the 1963 CIA backed Iraqi coup that put Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in power. I will start with detailing the previous scholars that have exposed U.S. involvment in the 1963 coup.

The first scholar to mention this in a book was Hanna Batatu who in 1978 published his classic tome, Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq. This is the earliest historical study in English that mentions the CIA involvement in the 1963 coup.[1] Batatu shames other historians who wrote before him by citing a public record that they all had access to: the September 1963 Al-Ahram (Egypt’s very popular paper) cited Jordan’s King Hussein’s assertions that the CIA met repeatedly with the Ba’ath party before the coup and supplied them with the lists of “communists” whom the Ba’ath party brutally purged after the takeover. Batatu cites this and qualifies it by informing the reader of Hussein’s CIA connections, but then adds personal knowledge of surreptitious pre-coup contact between Ba’th party members and Americans. Hanna Batatu was the first book writer to record this “in the interest of truth,” and thus he distinguished himself as a thorough scholar.

Edith and E. F. Penrose published Iraq: International Relations and National Development in 1978. They interviewed “well informed Iraqi Baathists” who stated that the CIA had collaborated with the Ba’ath in 1963. “Hashim Jawad, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told us later that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry had information of complicity between the Baath and the CIA.”[2]

In 1987, Marion and Peter Sluglett published Iraq Since 1958, updated in 2001. The Slugletts summarize the U.S. involvement in the coup, including information about the CIA collaboration gained from their own interview with a “high ranking former member of the U.S. State Department.”[3] This was probably James Akins, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and 2nd Secretary of Politics in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad at the time of the Ba’athi coup. Akins has a reputation for being helpful with information about the CIA involvement in the coup, but he recently declined to go “on the record” with me about 1963.[4]

In 1996, Malik Mufti published Sovereign Creations. Chapter nine, entitled “Renewed Unionism: 1963-1964,”[5] is most informative. Mufti summarizes information printed in Batatu’s Old Social Classes, the Penrose’s Iraq and then adds information about Ba’thist arguments between Syrian and Iraqi elements that he gained from a personal interview with Jamal Atasi, former member of the Syrian cabinet.[6] This provides further documentation of U.S. collaboration in the 1963 coup.

Said K. Aburish is perhaps the most complete writer on the topic of U.S. intervention in Iraq in 1963. His books, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, issued in 1997 and Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, published in 2000 acknowledge the research of previous writers such as Malik Mufti, Hanna Batatu, and the Slugletts but go much further. Aburish’s great contribution is that he added detailed information gained from personal experience as well as numerous interviews with key figures in the 1963 coup such as James Critchfield, CIA chief of the Middle East during 1963; Hani Fkaiki, member of the Ba’ath Party Command during 1963; and many other Americans and Iraqis both named and confidential. [7] [8]. Aburish is a Middle Eastern journalist in the 1950s and 1960s and an East-West liaison for procurement of arms and strategic materials for Iraq from 1974 to 1977 and 1981 to 1984. After this, Aburish has become a prolific writer about the Middle East and his books give valuable insight into this topic. He was very helpful to me through many email interviews and I am greatly indebted to him for helping me unravel the basic picture of what happened in Iraq in 1963.

This is just some of the scholarly evidence I have accumulated regarding the CIA's assist to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in 1963. The details of what I learned through these scholars, as well as other published memoirs, government documents, and interviews with the people who were involved with Iraq in 1963 will come later.

[1] Batatu, Old Social Classes, 985-986.
[2] Penrose, Iraq, 288.
[3] Marion and Peter Sluglett, Iraq Since 1958, 327n.
[4] Zeman correspondence with retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer James Akins, June 2005.
[5] Mufti, Sovereign Creations, 143-167.
[6] Ibid, 144.
[7] Aburish, A Brutal Friendship, 394.
[8] Aburish, Saddam Hussein, 388-390.