GEORGE W. Bush has vetoed the bill, proposed by the Democrats, that would have outlawed the use of torture by the CIA. He is not the first US President to explicitly endorse the CIA’s use of torture.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tim Weiner, in his history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes, draws upon recently declassified material to throw some much needed light on this brutal, covert organisation.

The CIA was formed in September 1947. Weiner demonstrates how this was closely connected to US economic expansion. The $13.7 billion Marshall Plan for “rebuilding Europe” contained hundreds of millions to be spent on the new intelligence agency. President Truman was looking for ways to head off left-wing movements in Europe, particularly militants in Greece, in a burgeoning Cold War context.

Under Eisenhower’s presidency the CIA’s operations were to become truly global. Any government or leader that did not do the bidding of the US or its allies would be a potential target for CIA attack.

When Iranian president Muhammed Mossadeq appeared ready to nationalise the oil industry, the CIA orchestrated a coup. They armed and directed the Shah’s imperial guard and paid organisations to stage phoney, violent “Communist” protests to create a sense of political crisis.

For the CIA and its masters in the White House the coup was a revelation. They felt they could now manufacture historical outcomes anywhere.

In the mid-1950s the CIA turned its sights on Latin America. In 1954 their “Operation Success” backed a military junta, using CIA planes to bomb the civilian population, leading to the overthrow of the democratically elected President of Guatemala, Jacabo Arbenz.

Two decades later the CIA again allied themselves with Latin American generals to carry out a coup. Targeting the elected, reformist Allende government in Chile, Kissinger said, “I don’t see why we have to let a country go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible”. In October 1970 he sent the following cable to the CIA station in Santiago: “Contact the military and let them know USG (US government) wants a military solution and that we will support them now and later


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