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#6: PHILIP AGEE
Former CIA Case Officer
This talk was given in 1991 following the first Gulf war in Iraq.
"Well, we all know don’t we, the reasons why the U.S.
intervened in the Gulf the way that we did. In the end, killing between
100,000 and 200,000 Iraq’s as opposed to 303, I think, Americans
killed either in combat or combat related accidents. And we certainly
have restored to power the legitimate authority in Kuwait. In fact,
we’ve done it applying that age old all-American political
principle of one man, one vote. In this case one man, the emir, one
We heard Bush back in August didn’t we, at the very beginning
saying that our way of life was at stake, that we had to do something
about that invasion of Kuwait. We also heard didn’t we, besides
our way of life being at stake we had to intervene to protect the
access to the energy resources of the Persian Gulf? Another
one was that we had to stop naked aggression.
What we did not get are alternative interpretations of the events
that occurred. And that’s what I want to speak about here tonight.
It’s my opinion that the United States needed an international
crisis, an international threat to replace the crisis in Europe that
largely disappeared with the collapse of the communism and the chaos
in the Soviet Union. Why? In order to keep the permanent war economy
going to justify continuing the situation where well more than 50%
of the federal budget goes to military purposes. Well, this means
that the military expenditures in the United States are the motor
of the U.S. economy and they have been that since about 1950.
It’s worth reviewing this history because that’s where
this crisis I think, comes from, this sought for needed crisis. In
early 1950 there was extreme worry at the highest levels of the Truman
administration that the U.S. was likely to return to the conditions
of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. And so early in 1950
the decision was taken that this domestic economic problem was going
to be solved through militarism, that is, through rearmament in the
United States and through U.S. financing of the rearmament of Western
Europe, particularly Western Germany.
The document which provides the analysis of the world at that time
and the U.S. place in the world and the internal situation in the
United States was top secret for 25 years. In 1975 it was accidentally
or through error released and published. It was known as NSC68, NSC
standing for National Security Council. It was written by Paul Nitze.
And it is a very detailed document. The main operative conclusion
though was this. This is a quote from the document “The United
States and other free nations will within a period of a few years
at most, experience a decline in economic activity of serious proportions
unless more positive governmental programs are developed.” Well,
the solution adopted to those more positive governmental programs
was expansion of the military.
But Truman could not get this program through congress at first.
There was opposition there and public opposition to the enormous
new taxes that this program would require. He went on national radio,
declared a state of national emergency and said what Bush’s
remarks about our way of life being at stake reminded me of. He mustered
all the hype and emotion he could and Truman said, among other things,
he said “Our homes, our nation, all the things that we believe
in are in great danger. This danger has been created by the rulers
of the Soviet Union.” In his speech he also called for massive
increases in military spending for U.S. and European forces quite
apart from the needs in Korea.
Well, there was no threat from the Soviet Union. They were still
rebuilding from the rubble of World War II in which they had lost
20 million people. They were no threat but they were manufactured
from 1950 on, from the time of Korea on, as a grave threat to the
United States. And that became the justification for this program
which Truman, through manipulation of the Korean War, had been able
finally to get through Congress. The result was that in the first
two years, that is the two years between 1950 and 1952, the U.S.
military budget more then tripled from 13 billion dollars in 1950
to 44 billion dollars in 1952. And during the same two year period
U.S. military forces doubled to 3.6 million people under arms.
This was the beginning of the permanent war economy in the United
States. The Korean War, by the way, went on for 3 more years after
it could have ended. In the end 34,000 U.S. were dead, more or less,
more than 100,000 wounded and the total casualty count was in the
millions. It is worth recalling that because from 1950 on the Soviet
threat was the justification for the permanent war economy and the
justification for these enormous military expenditures.
What does that mean as far as the U.S. is concerned? Well it means
that we have not addressed or begun to solve the many domestic crises
that we all know exists. There is no need to go through this litany
of the worst educational system in the developed world;
one in three in this country illiterate either totally or to the
degree that they can not function in a society based on the written
word. Healthcare, not just the cost but the fact that 40 million
people in this country have no health insurance. The only developed
country in the world with no national health plan. And on and on.
The fact that only about 60%, about two-thirds of the eligible voters
register to vote and of those who register, only about 80% actually
vote. So only in the end 50% of the eligible voters vote in national
elections in this country and that means that a president is elected
with around 24% - 25% of the potential vote.
The litany goes on. The environment, the infrastructure, finding
a prevention and cure for aids, the violence we see everywhere and
in every form in the United States.
When you put all these things together, and drugs of course, I don’t
think anyone would argue that we have a domestic society in profound
crisis and the reason why over all these years these crises have
not been solved is, in my opinion, because those who really control
and rule the United States don’t want them solved. Imagine
what would happen if we had an informed electorate; if we didn’t
have the worst educational system; if we had a negligible perhaps
illiteracy rate here? There might be an informed electorate. We
might be debating real substantive issues in the electoral process
or in the political process in the United States. There might be
a threat in this country of real democracy if we solved the domestic
crises in this country. People might clamor to participate if there
was a real debate. There might be a threat of a third party, I mean
a second party in the United States.
There are all kinds of threats to elitists control of the U.S. if
we were to solve these domestic crises, in my opinion. And
it is for this reason that we have always needed this foreign threat
and this foreign crises in order to justify putting the money into
military expenditures instead of converting the economy, once and
for all, to human purposes.
During those 40 odd years of the Cold War the CIA has been a very
important factor or tool or instrument of the President of the United
States in waging what is continuing today. This new world order of
George Bush or new international order seems to me to be nothing
more really, then the institutionalization of the north, south dimension
of the old cold war; that is the war against the third world for
control of their natural resources, their labor and their markets.
That is where the fighting really took place, as in Vietnam. This
north, south dimension of the cold war, the war against the third
world continues today as we sit here with all its racist content.
And we and our allies that is the U.S. and its allies are just as
dependant, if not more on the resources of these countries in the
third world as they ever were. And that dependency is not going to
disappear. It’s going to keep on growing through the years.
So what I think Bush has in mind is through this Persian Gulf crisis,
to send a message to any aspiring third world leader that third world
radical nationalism will not be tolerated. It is a way; in which,
in fact, we are beginning to treat the third world or continuing
to treat the third world like we treat third world people right here
in the Unites States. They know their place, they have a role to
perform and they are expected to do it. If they don’t, if they
make trouble, they’re going to be smashed. That is what happened,
of course, with Iraq.
I believe that Bush encouraged the Hussein administration and Saddam
Hussein himself; to believe they could get away with taking over
Kuwait with impunity. And there are many signs that point in this
direction. Iraq never really formerly recognized the independence
of Kuwait. They have always claimed that Kuwait was part of Iraq
taken away by British imperialism, which is indeed the case. Last
April, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly testified before Congress
that the U.S. had no commitment to defend Kuwait. On July 25th the
U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glasspie meets with Hussein. Among
other things, the U.S. ambassador says to Hussein “Mr. President,
I have a direct instruction from Secretary of State Baker to emphasize
to you that the U.S. has” quote unquote “no opinion on
your disputes with Kuwait, particularly your boarder disputes with
Kuwait”. She also said I have instructions from President Bush
to seek better relations with Iraq. President Hussein in response
in several places says that what Kuwait is doing through it’s
over production is the equivalent to war against Iraq. They are destroying
the Iraqi economy he said and we are going to take strong action.
He as much as said they were going to war. Well, in this meeting
with those 100,000 troops on the boarder, not one word from the U.S.
Ambassador of warning to Hussein not to invade.
Well put all those things together and you have to ask yourself the
question, why did the Bush administration do nothing during that
last week between the Ambassador’s meeting with Hussein and
the invasion itself, to prevent that invasion? They knew those 100,000
troops were there. But not one word from Glasspie to Hussein about
it. My conclusion is that they wanted the invasion; that this was
the site selected for the new international crisis that would justify
continuation of the war economy in the United States. It was totally
avoidable objectively speaking, but because of the tradition in the
U.S., after all we are a warrior culture, we do still live in the
age of imperialism and the demands of this system require this crisis.
I go back to the CIA, for just a moment because its worth recalling
that the agency, from the very beginning in the 1940’s, was
used not only to collect intelligence from around the world, process
it and present it to policy makers like the president for their decisions,
to help them in their decisions, obviously that’s what an intelligence
service should do. But the CIA was used all through these years
to subvert the democratic processes of other countries. At the very
first meeting of the National Security Council which was set up in
the same law that established the CIA as the national intelligence
service. This was October of 1947, one month after Truman signed
this bill into law establishing the CIA and the National Security
Council as the highest policy making body in national security and
foreign affairs. At their very first meeting in October 1947 the
decision was taken to set aside ten million dollars for the CIA to
intervene secretly in the Italian elections coming up about six months
later. The CIA was not just used in these electoral operations,
you know the media operations were vast and I’m sure they still
are. Media operations basically means that the CIA pays a foreign
journalist to publish the CIA’s material as if it were the
There were CIA interventions of all sorts. But one area I want to
mention of special importance are what are known as liaison operations.
Liaison operations are all those activities that the CIA undertakes
with the intelligence and security services of other countries. Early
on the CIA began to set up security and intelligence services in
other countries for purposes of internal security. One of the first
places was Greece. There was a civil war you know in Greece from
1947 to 1949. The U.S. intervened on the side of the far right in
Greece and the U.S. side won. In the aftermath the CIA set up a security
service known as the KYP, KYP being the Greek initials for CIA. They
gave it the same name. This security service was used to keep the
far right in power in Greece for nearly 20 years. But when that power
was threatened with upcoming elections in 1967 the CIA and this service,
this KYP organized a military coup in Greece which was successful
leading to seven years of military dictatorship in Greece of neo-fascist
stripe. During that period torture became an institution in Greece.
Thousands of Greeks were forced into exile.
I could give you many, many examples of this. In Iran for example
in 1953 the CIA undermined the democratically elected civil government
of the day of Mohammed Mossadegh, overthrew that government, installed
the Shah as military dictator and in the aftermath set up the service
called the SAVACK. This service over the 25 years of the Shah’s
regime became famous for its torture chambers and its assassinations
of the Shah’s political opponents.
In 1954 the U.S., the CIA, intervenes in Guatemala, undermines the
civilian government, the government is overthrown and from 1954 on
Guatemala has had one succession of military rulers after another,
military dictatorship. In the aftermath of this operation in 1954
the CIA set up an internal security service and then others. But
from these services, set up and supported by the CIA all through
the years came the death squads. In other words the services established
by the CIA then spawned these death squads in Guatemala. The very
same thing in El Salvador. You can be as sure as you are of your
own name that for the last 10 or 11 years the CIA has been working
in there day and night with those Salvadorian security services and
military, collecting information, giving it to those services which
in turn are the same things as the death squads. Information on activists
in the human rights field, the student leadership, the trade unions
and so forth and those have constituted the 75,000 or so people who
have been murdered over 10 or 11 years in El Salvador. Disappeared,
many of them others tortured to death, their bodies thrown on along
the sides of the roads. Nobody knows how many have been killed in
Guatemala by the military regimes started by the CIA. Some say 100,000,
some say 125,000, some say 150,000. Who knows? Nobody will ever really
know the exact number who’ve been killed.
But you multiply this around the world, because I am only mentioning
a couple of examples of these CIA operations. There have been now
44 years of this and they have existed all around the world. And
put those operations together with the overt military interventions
and the enormous cost in human life of those such as Grenada, Panama,
Iraq, Vietnam, for example, all of those and you get the picture
of this expansionist extremely aggressive U.S. foreign policy.
While I don’t think it’s enough really to describe what
the CIA does or U.S. foreign policy in general. It’s also necessary
to ask a couple of questions. And going back to the Gulf for just
a moment, consider this analysis of what really happened in the Gulf.
You know that the U.S. has been exporting war materials for decades,
beginning right around 1950 with the document I mentioned earlier.
Tanks, guns of every sort, weapons, planes, ships and military equipment
of every sort. Well, with a national debt of 3 and a half trillion
dollars in this country, $800 billion of it owned by foreigners.
For handling of the debt, it seems that it was only a matter of time
before the U.S. armed forces were sent abroad as one more export,
because what we did in the Persian Gulf crisis was to send abroad
that enormous amount of military hardware, but this time we also
exported the people to operate it. It was armed forces sent abroad
to protect the resources and the regimes, these family dictatorships
of the sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf.
What we did in fact was what we in the United States do the best.
We made war and we were financed in this exercise by the people who
make things that people around the world want; cars, VCR’s
and so forth, financed mainly by the Japanese and the Germans. And
that puts the United States, as its going to have a permanent presence
in the Persian Gulf in a very strong position visa vie the Japanese
and the Germans, who are not there militarily and they are going
to depend to a great degree for their energy resources, at least
from that region on U.S. policy. That is why they went along with
That is an interpretation of the Gulf crisis and the other question
that I wanted to raise is why we do these things as a country? Why
we do these as a society, as a nation? Why do we do these grizzly
things abroad? I believe strongly that until we have fundamental
change in the United States domestically, in the domestic system,
until we have some kind of real democracy in this country, participatory
democracy, where people have a say and where we end the re-election
of the 95% to 97% of incumbents at every election, where there is
a real political debate, until we change the domestic system were
going to have elitist control of the United States, were going to
have these foreign adventures and the grizzly things, as I mentioned,
that the CIA does abroad. So the real problem is here at home in
changing the domestic system, in bringing about a conversion of the
economy to human purposes, solving the domestic crisis and getting
the people out of office who are in there to back a continuation
of the permanent war economy."
Philip Agee spent 13 years as a case officer in the CIA,
resigning in 1969.
His book “Inside the Company: CIA Diary” was first published
has been translated into 27 languages and was a best seller worldwide.
His autobiography “On The Run” was published in 1987.
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