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.