Tag Archives: Operation Phoenix

The Phoenix Template, Part Two, by Robert Gore

The Phoenix comes home to roost.

Click for Part One

Intelligence agency is a misnomer, whether one defines intelligence as an ability to gather and analyze information, or as an ability to determine the salient and what it portends. Foreign CIA outposts are often stocked with so-called experts who don’t know the native language. They read translated documents and media reports, but the outposts are insular and agents miss on-the-ground intelligence and sentiment they would pick up talking with natives at a neighborhood bar. The locals they do talk to are often English-speaking collaborators with CIA-approved agendas, funded by US government and US-backed nongovernmental organizations. They tell the agency what it wants to hear. The CIA sees itself as a master manipulator, but it is often more manipulated than manipulating.

Intelligence whiffs are legendary. Individual members of the intelligence community and military undoubtedly realized that most Vietnamese saw the US as the latest in a long string of hated imperial powers, but that truism was never officially embraced. If it had been, history might have been dramatically different. In 1956, US puppet Ngo Dinh Diem reneged on a promise to conduct elections that would have reunified Vietnam. He almost certainly would have lost to national hero Ho Chi Minh. From that point on, the US was seen as just another subjugating power. That single fact doomed the US effort from the beginning, but it was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the voluminous intelligence and military reports, even ones that talked about winning “hearts and minds.” (A bizarre tenet of US government groupthink: foreigners have no memories. Thus, what was done in 1956 was supposedly forgotten by 1957. See also the history of Iran since 1953. The intelligence community never saw the 1979 revolution coming.)




The biggest whiff was the dissolution of the USSR, which caught the military and the intelligence community by surprise. Some of this was denial rooted in self-interest. The end of the USSR meant the end of a threat responsible for billions in funding and thousands of well-paying jobs. It was also rooted in ideology. Although the US has a private sector, the government calls the shots and military and intelligence play significant, usually decisive, roles, just as they did in the USSR. The death of the Soviet Union’s command-and-control rule by the elite was a shot across the bow of its US counterpart. Finally, much of the military and intelligence community’s morally reprehensible tactics and actions had been justified as a response to Soviet depredations, always asserted to be even worse. Now another specious justification for evil had to be found.

And so it was, on September 11, 2001. Never underestimate the power of the government’s propagandists and their partners in the media. With the endlessly repeated videos of the twin towers collapsing, a few thousand Islamic extremists living in Afghanistan’s caves were transmuted into a threat on par with the old Soviet Union and “global communism.” The Afghanistan and Iraq invasions clearly confirmed, for anyone paying attention, what had been the reality of intelligence since Phoenix. Official intelligence had less to do with the gathering, analysis, and interpretation of information than the continued accretion of money and power to the intelligence agencies, military, and their contractors—the complex.

That intelligence whiffed completely on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was irrelevant. What was important was expansion of the complex and its global domination. By jingoistic “Yay! Yay! USA!” markers of success—instituting democracy and self-rule, protecting innocent civilians, squelching terrorism, and promoting peace—the US’s forays into the Middle East and Northern Africa have been abysmal failures. By the expansion and domination metrics, they have been spectacular successes. Foreign war is no longer about winning and leaving, the antiquated standards of the two world wars, but rather subjugating the locals, establishing garrisons, and installing US-compliant governments. In this light, the failure of Vietnam was not that US ally South Vietnam eventually fell to North Vietnam, but that domestic pressures forced the complex to abandon a quagmire they would have preferred to perpetuate in perpetuity.

Steps have been take to “correct” those domestic pressures. The press has never again been allowed the largely free reign it had in Vietnam; interventionist information flow is tightly controlled by the complex. The draft, a particular irritant of the antiwar crowd, has been suspended (but not abolished, it can be reinstated at any time). Most importantly, the Phoenix program as been trained on the US itself, with the same intended results: subjugation of the populace; maintenance of a front government compliant to the complex; continuing expansion of the complex’s resources and control. The US has become just another Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Serbia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Belarus, Myanmar, Moldova, Macedonia, Ukraine, or any of the nations blessed with US “democracy-promotion” and “nation-building” in the last few decades. Just as it has in so many of these foreign efforts, the domestic effort is supported by George Soros’s funding and coterie of organizations promoting his one-world, better-world vision.

All of Phoenix’s bag of tricks—plus new ones that would have made Phoenix operatives envious—are being employed. There’s the complex’s attempted regime change against President Trump and the mainstream media’s role as its leading propagandist. The war on terrorism’s eradication of civil liberties for people the government deems terrorists has inched towards inclusion of US citizens deemed “domestic terrorists.” One needn’t be a wild-eyed crazy to envision FEMA’s camps as interrogation and torture centers or concentration camps. Why do federal agencies and local police forces need all that surveillance capability, weaponry and bullets? Why does the intelligence community need to hoover up every American’s, including the president’s, electronic communications? Why the breakneck development of the internet of things with its recording and monitoring capabilities? Why have cameras and facial recognition technology become ubiquitous? How long before they become ubiquitous on drones? How long before drones are weaponized? Why all the interest in banning cash? Why all the interest in universal identification, leading eventually, we can assume, to human microchipping? How long before “See Something, Say Something” becomes “Achtung! See Something, Say Something…Or Else!”? (For an abundance of SLL and guest posts on vanishing civil liberties, click here.)

The drift is obvious, the “safety” and “for our own good” rationales transparently flimsy. By “Yay! Yay! USA!” standards, the descent into totalitarianism will be an abysmal failure. What’s left of democracy and self-rule will be “temporarily” suspended; innocents will be terrorized by the world’s most bloodthirsty and ruthless terrorist—the US government—and foreign interventions and wars will grow in number and intensity. By the suicidal, Strangelovian standards of our rulers it will be a spectacular success: the destruction of the United States…and perhaps life on this planet.

An inadvertant oversight, this acknowledgement was added after the original posting. Much of the background information for the Phoenix program in both Part 1 and Part 2 came from The CIA As Organized Crime, How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, by Douglas Valentine. 





The Phoenix Template, Part One, by Robert Gore

The American police state has been a work in progress for seventy years.

Part One of two parts.

Click for Part Two

Most Americans don’t pay much attention to what the government does in foreign nations, and even less attention to what it has done in the past. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this focus on the here-and-now, but contemplation beyond the usual horizons is well-advised. Not for the usual high-minded reasons offered by multiculturalist do-gooders, but because what the government—and those who pull its strings—have done in foreign lands for the past seventy years is their template for what they plan here at home.

The group that led the US through World War II was determined to preserve, perpetuate, and extend its global dominance. With the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), centralized, coordinated intelligence had come into its own. After the war President Truman dissolved the OSS, but signed the National Security Act of 1947, which established the CIA. With a secret executive order in 1952, he also established the NSA. Although the agencies were sold to Truman as necessary instruments for gathering and analyzing foreign intelligence, rather than operational assignments, they soon were engaging in both domestic and foreign operations. In 1963, a month after President Kennedy’s assassination, former president Truman’s letter to the Washington Post deplored what the CIA had become.

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

Later, Truman told biographer Merle Miller that setting up the CIA was “a mistake.”

Truman did not mention what the CIA’s disturbing operational and policy-making roles had been, or in what “explosive areas.” The CIA had sponsored coups in Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), the Dominican Republic (1960), and attempted coups in Indonesia (1958) and Cuba (1961, the Bay of Pigs). While the phrase “regime change” didn’t seep into the popular consciousness until the US’s second Iraq invasion in 2003, it had been standard CIA policy for over five decades. To the limited extent its involvements were acknowledged in the 1950s and 1960s, they were generally characterized as necessary efforts in the struggle against global communism.




What has never been acknowledged is what would have been—if the CIA was involved—a domestic coup, President Kennedy’s assassination. The assassination and its aftermath illustrate the psychological obstacles among the public for those attempting to uncover and expose the intelligence community’s misdeeds. Notwithstanding gaping holes in the official story, and obvious questions about the motives of Lyndon Johnson and Alan Dulles, the former director of the CIA who had been fired by Kennedy and stage-managed the Warren Commission investigation, most Americans bought the story and asked no questions. For the few that did, the CIA coined the pejorative, “conspiracy theorist.”

The CIA has a chilling catalogue of countermeasures against the US government’s enemies, most developed during the Vietnam War. The heart of the CIA effort was Operation Phoenix, begun in 1965. Phoenix was designed, coordinated, and executed by the agency jointly with the US military and its intelligence units, the South Vietnamese military and its secret police, and Australian special operations forces. Its mission was to neutralize the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong) through infiltration, capture, counter-terrorism, interrogation, and assassination.

Identification of NLF cadres was problematic. Anyone with a score to settle could misidentify enemies as Viet Cong, who would then be captured or killed by US and South Vietnamese troops. Prisoners were taken to interrogation centers, indefinitely detained, tortured, and sometimes murdered. The interrogations were supposedly done by the South Vietnamese under the supervision of the military or CIA, but the torture was an open secret and often performed by US personnel. Prisoners were converted to the South Vietnamese cause and reinserted into the local population or turned into double agents. They had to produce intelligence about the NLF: their families, friends, and hamlets were essentially hostages securing their performance. Prisoners who produced no information or false information under torture were murdered. Undoubtedly some had no “worthwhile” information to give because they weren’t NLF, but innocence was not a recognized defense.

Phoenix terrorized both the North and South Vietnamese. It was essentially a CIA and US military-imposed police state (with the South Vietnamese government as a junior partner) employing standard police-state tactics: surveillance, informants, propaganda, repression, rubber-stamp judicial supervision, indefinite detention, interrogation, torture, and murder. Like all police states, Phoenix was rife with corruption. South Vietnamese officials, CIA agents and contractors, and US military officials made fortunes from blackmail, extortion, bribery, theft, murder-for-hire, black market arms sales, money laundering, drug running, and other illicit endeavors.

During the war the CIA maintained its usual shroud of plausible deniability, helped by the captive US media, which in many cases had been infiltrated by CIA operatives under the auspices of Operation Mockingbird. Many of Phoenix’s more sordid aspects were not revealed until after the US left Vietnam, and while nobody claims Phoenix wasn’t dirty (even an anodyne Wikipedia article acknowledges the misdeeds), the extent of the dirtiness remains—as so much of what the CIA does—murky. However, a string of CIA engagements after Vietnam retroactively confirmed the nefarious nature of Phoenix—the program was the template for that later criminality.

It should have raised eyebrows when Ronald Reagan nominated a former director of the CIA, George H.W. Bush, as his vice president, but it didn’t. The evolving Deep State saw Bush, and other “vetted” members of Reagan’s administration, as checks on some of Reagan’s more “radical” impulses and initiatives. CIA operatives had been involved in Watergate. Congressional committees had revealed CIA skullduggery in Vietnam, involvement in political assassination, and illegal domestic surveillance of the war’s critics by many of the intelligence agencies and the FBI. Yet most Americans still held a generally benign view of the intelligence complex.

The Iran-Contra affair should have been a wake-up call. The scandal’s many disturbing skeins and offshoots—the CIA’s subversion of governments and sponsorship of political assassination in Latin America, involvement in the drug trade and money laundering through a shadowy network of financial institutions, and covert weapons transactions—cried out for further investigation, which would have revealed a Phoenix program gone global. Instead, Reagan’s popularity and his begrudging acceptance of responsibility, the administration’s stonewalling of investigations and refusal to release documents on national security grounds, and George W. Bush’s pardons in the final days of his presidency for Reagan administration officials still under indictment managed to shove Iran-Contra down the American memory hole. Reagan and Bush served the Deep State well.

Next: Phoenix in the United States