The Secret Wars of the CIA

Excerpts from a talk

by John Stockwell

John Stockwell is a 13-year veteran of the CIA and a former U.S. Marine Corps major. He was hired by the CIA in 1964, spent six years working for the CIA in Africa, and was later transferred to Vietnam. In 1973 he received the CIA's Medal of Merit, the Agency's second-highest award. In 1975, Stockwell was promoted to the CIA's Chief of Station and National Security Council coordinator, managing covert activities during the first years of Angola's bloody civil war. After two years he resigned, determined to reveal the truth about the agency's role in the Third World. Since that time, he has worked tirelessly to expose the criminal activities of the CIA. He is the author of In Search of Enemies, an exposť of the CIA's covert action in Angola.

Stockwell is a founding member of Peaceways and ARDIS (the Association for Responsible Dissent), an organization of former CIA and Government officials who are openly critical of the CIA's activities. His latest book is entitled The Praetorian Guard: The U.S. Role in the New World Order.

JOHN STOCKWELL: What we're going to talk about tonight are the CIA's secret wars. But the subject is much broader than merely little CIA dirty tricks and shenanigans. We're talking about a situation ..... We're living in a world which has grievous problems. Our planet is terminally ill, and it's not a long term disease. We're talking about the nuclear arms race. This is something. These 52,000, soon to be 70,000, nuclear weapons are going to be going off sooner, rather than later.

At the same time, the world is facing serious economic problems of the sort that triggered world wars in the past. Leaders of countries, leaders of banks, for purposes basically of greed, have never been able to balance their checkbooks. They always overspend. They run countries into bankruptcy.

When the world has gotten blocked up before, like a Monopoly game where everything is owned and nobody can make any progress, the way they erase the board and start over has been to have big world wars. Erase countries, bomb cities, and bomb banks, and then start from scratch again. This is not an option to us now, because of all these fifty-two thousand nuclear weapons.

The Center for Defense Information counts sixty wars that are being fought in the world today, in which they estimate that five million people will die. The U.S. is on the brink of its next war: the Central American War. In this situation of a volatile world, about as troubled as it can get, the U.S. CIA is running fifty covert actions, destabilizing further almost one third of the countries in the world today.

Now these things interrelate. The nuclear arms race, conventional wars, the world debt, CIA covert actions; they're all viewed from our point of view, they're all part of our national security. They're supervised by the National Security Council. The National Security Advisor advises the President, and we respond to them in terms of our own national security compulsions.

By the way, everything I'm sharing with you tonight is in the public record. The fifty covert actions are secret, but that [information] has been leaked to us by members of the Oversight Committee of Congress. I urge you not to take my word for anything. I'm going to stand here and tell you and give you examples of how our leaders lie. Obviously, I could be lying. The only way you can figure it out for yourselves is to educate yourselves. The French have a saying: "Them that don't do politics will be done." If you don't fill your mind eagerly with the truth, dig out the records, go and see for yourself, then your mind remains blank, and your adrenalin pumps, and you can be excited and mobilized to do things that are not in your interest to do.

Approaching this subject from my own point of view, my own experience -- my special expertise in the CIA covert actions -- let's look at Nicaragua. This is the most famous covert action of the fifty that are going on today. They say there are thirteen "major" ones. This is not the biggest one. Afghanistan is. We've spent several hundred million dollars in Afghanistan. We've spent somewhat less than that, but close, in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the most famous one, and there's a reason. Part of it is it's closer, but a big part of it is the fact that the Administration is using Nicaragua for a very special purpose, so they have made it public from the outset.

What this is is a technique of destabilization. In covert action, you call it destabilization. You have a target: a government that you don't like. You pick a country you're going to go after. The reasons are quite whimsical. We go after a country for a while, and if it doesn't work, sometimes we wind up being friends with them. They pick a government. They target them. They send the CIA in with its resources and its activists: hiring people, hiring agents to tear apart the social and economic fabric of the country. It's a technique for putting pressure on the government, hoping they can make the government come to the U.S.'s terms, or that the government will collapse altogether and they can engineer a coup d'etat, and have the thing wind up with their own choice of people in power.

Now ripping apart the economic and social fabric is fairly textbookish. What we're talking about is going in and deliberately creating conditions where the farmer can't get his produce to market; where children can't go to school; where women are terrified inside their homes as well as outside; where government administered programs grind to a complete halt; where the hospitals are treating wounded people instead of sick people; where international capital is scared away and the country goes bankrupt.

If you ask the State Department today what is their official explanation of the purpose of the Contras, they say, it is to attack economic targets, meaning, break up the economy of the country. Of course, they're attacking a lot more.

To destabilize Nicaragua, beginning in 1981, we began funding this force of Somoza's ex-National Guardsmen, calling them the Contras, the counter-revolutionaries. We created this force, which did not exist until we allocated money. We armed them. We put uniforms on their backs and boots on their feet, gave them camps in Honduras to live in, medical supplies, doctors, training, leadership, direction, as we sent them in to destabilize Nicaragua. Under our direction, they have been systematically blowing up bridges, sawmills, graneries, government offices, schools, health centers. They ambush trucks so the produce can't get to market. They raid farms and villages. The farmer has to carry a gun while he tries to plow, if he can plow at all.

If you want one example of hard proof of the CIA's involvement in this and their approach to it, dig up the "Sabotage Manual" that they were circulating throughout Nicaragua: a comic-book type of a paper, with visual explanations of what you can do to bring a society to a halt: how you can gum up typewriters; what you can pour in a gas tank to burn up engines; what you can stuff in a sewer to stop up the sewage so it won't work -- things you can do to make a society simply cease to function.

Systematically, the Contras have been assassinating religious workers, teachers, health workers, elected officials, government administrators. Remember the "Assassination Manual" that surfaced in 1984? It caused such a stir that President Reagan had to address it himself in the presidential debates with Walter Mondale. They use terror to traumatize society so that it cannot function.

I don't mean to abuse you with verbal violence, but you have to understand what your Government and its agents are doing.

They go into villages. They haul out families. With the children forced to watch, they castrate the father. They peel the skin off his face. They put a grenade in his mouth, and pull the pin. With the children forced to watch, they gang-rape the mother, and slash her breasts off. And sometimes, for variety, they make the parents watch while they do these things to the children.

This is nobody's propaganda !

There have been over a hundred thousand American "Witnesses for Peace" who've gone down there, and they have filmed and photographed and witnessed these atrocities immediately after they've happened, and documented thirteen thousand people killed this way -- mostly women and children.

These are the activites done by the Contras. The Contras are the people President Reagan called "freedom fighters." He said: "They are the moral equivalent of our founding fathers."

In 1960, we came up with a new term, a policy of trying to correct the problems of Central and Latin America -- the economic imbalances -- by addressing them directly. In President Kennedy's famous program he said: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable." However, the millions and millions of dollars that we put into this program, inevitably went to the rich, and not to the ordinary people of the countries involved. While we were doing this, or trying -- saying we were trying to correct the problems of Central and Latin America -- the CIA was doing its thing too.

The CIA was, in fact, forming the police units that are, today, the death squads in El Salvador. The leaders were on the CIA's payroll, trained by the CIA in the United States. We had the public safety program going throughout Central and Latin America for twenty-six years, in which we taught them to break up subversion by interrogating people: interrogation, including torture, the way the CIA taught it.

Dan Mitrione, the exponent of these things, spent seven years in Brazil and three in Uruguay, teaching interrogation; teaching torture. He was supposed to be the master of the business: how to apply the right amount of pain, at just the right times, in order to get the response you want from the individual. They gave them crank generators -- with "U.S.A.I.D." written on the side, so the people even knew where these things came from -- and developed a wire that was strong enough to carry the current and fine enough to fit between the teeth, so you could put one wire between the teeth, and the other in or around the genitals. You could crank, and submit the individual to the greatest amount of pain, supposedly, that the human body can register.

Now, how do you teach torture? Someone can teach you about torture, but sooner or later you have to get involved. You have to lay on your hands and try it yourself. They would pick up guinea pigs off the streets: beggars, and take them in to use in these torture training classes. Of course, the horror of that is, these people wouldn't know why they were being tortured. They couldn't give up. They couldn't say: "I'm sorry! Stop the pain! I'll tell you the names of everybody involved!" All they could do was lie there and scream!

When they would collapse, they would bring in doctors who would shoot them up with Vitamin B and rest them up for the next class. And when they would die, they would mutilate the bodies and throw them out on the streets to terrify the population, so that everybody would be afraid of the police and the Government. This is what the CIA was teaching them to do.

One of the women who was in this program for two years -- tortured in Brazil for TWO YEARS -- testified internationally when she eventually got out. She said the most horrible thing about it, in fact, was that the people doing it were not raving psychopaths. She couldn't break mental contact with them the way you could if they were psychopaths. They were very ordinary people.

She told about being tortured one day: She's on this table, naked in a room full of six men, and they're doing these incredibly painful, degrading things to her body. There's an interruption. The American is called to the telephone, and he's in the next room, and the others take a smoke break. She's lying on this table, and he's saying: "Oh, hi Honey. Yes, I can wrap it up here in another hour or so, and meet you and the kids at the Ambassador's on the way home."

There's a lesson in all this. The lesson is:

  It isn't just the Gestapo maniacs, or KGB maniacs, who do inhuman things to other people.

  It's PEOPLE who do inhuman things to other people.

And we are responsible for doing these things on a massive basis, to people of the world today. We do it in a way that gives us plausible denial to our own consciences. We create a CIA, a secret police, with a vast budget, and let them go and run these programs in our name. We pretend like we don't know what's going on, though the information is there for us to know. And we pretend like it's okay because we're fighting some vague communist threat. We're just as responsible for these ONE TO THREE MILLION PEOPLE we've slaughtered, and for all the people we've tortured and made miserable, as the Gestapo was for the people that they slaughtered and killed. Genocide is genocide !!