Friday, August 24, 2012

McGeorge Bundy, Des FitzGerald & Covert Diplomacy

David Halberstam “The Best and The Brightest” 
(Random House, 1969, p. 408)

“…we understood the game of dirty tricks and could play it just as well as they (Hanoi) did. (Which of course, we could not.)

“In that sense the origins of the Tonkin Gulf went back even further, to the height of the Cold War tension in the late forties, which had seen the growth and acceptance of a certain part of the Cold War mentality: the idea that force justified force. The other side did it and so we could do it; reality called for meeting dirty tricks with dirty tricks. Since covert operations were part of the game, over a period of time there was in the high levels of the bureaucracy, particularly as the CIA became more powerful, a gradual acceptance of covert operations and dirty tricks as part of normal diplomatic-political maneuvering; higher and higher government officials became co-opted (as the President’s personal assistant, McGeorge Bundy would oversee the covert operations for both Kennedy and Johnson, thus bringing, in a sense, presidential approval). It was a reflection of the frustration which the national security people, private men all, felt in matching the foreign policy of a totalitarian society, which gave so much more freedom to its officials and seemingly provided so few checks on its own leaders. To be on the inside and oppose or question covert operations was considered a sign of weakness. (In 1964 a well-bread young CIA official, wondering whether we had the right to try some of the black activities on the North, was told by Desmond FitzGerald, the number-three man in the Agency, “Don’t be so wet” – the classic old-school putdowns of someone who knows the real rules of the game to someone softer, questioning the rectitude of the rules.) It as this acceptance of covert operations by the Kennedy administration which had brought Adlai Stevenson to the lowest moment of his career during the Bay of Pigs, a special shame as he had stood and lied at the UN about things that he did not know, but which, of course, the Cubans knew. Covert operations often got ahead of the Administration itself and pulled the Administration along with them, as the Bay of Pigs had shown – since the planning and training were all done, we couldn’t tell those freedom-loving Cubans that it was all off, could we, argued Allen Dulles. He had pulled public men like the President with him into that particular disaster.”

U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright wrote Kennedy: “One further point must be made about even covert support of a Castro overthrow; it is in violation of the spirit and probably the letter as well, of treaties to which the United States is a party and of U.S. domestic legislation…To give this activity even covert support is a piece with the hypocrisy and cynicism for which the United States is constantly denouncing the Soviet Union in the United Nations and elsewhere. This point will not be lost on the rest of the world – nor on our own consciences for that matter.”

Peter Dale Scott: “Historians such as Fredrik Logevall have agreed with the assessment of former undersecretary of state George Ball that the US destroyer mission in the Tonkin Gulf, which resulted in the Tonkin Gulf incidents, ‘was primarily for provocation.[29] The planning for this provocative mission came from the J-5 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the same unit that in 1963 had reported concerning Cuba that, ‘the engineering of a series of provocations to justify military intervention is feasible. [30]

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