Tag Archives: CIA

Vietnam VII: Dien Bien Phu

Vietnam VII: Dien Bien Phu
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 2:32:04
 
1X

Finally we’re here, at the end of the French War, at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

Some cool show news: we’re registered for the People’s Choice Podcast Awards. Which means I filled out a form at podcastawards.com. For that process to get any further, you folks need to head to podcastawards.com and nominate Safe for Democracy. We’re always looking for ways to get this show in front of a few more earballs, and this would be an excellent way to do that, even if SFD doesn’t end up winning anything.

So along with all the rating, reviewing, subscribing, tweeting, and sharing I know you’ve already been doing, add “going to podcastawards.com and nominating SFD in the News and Politics category, because they don’t have history,” to that list.

Maps first of all (and remember that you can click any of this to make them bigger, and you’ll need to do that):

Here’s Dien Bien Phu in geographical context.

Then we’ve got the French and the Vietnamese lines of supply to the valley.

Then we’ve got the layout of the battle itself:

Let’s take a look at some photos.

Here it’s Vo Nguyen Giap, still the C-in-C of the DRVN and still leading his army to victory.

Next we’ve got his opponent-of-the-moment, General Henri Navarre, the French C-in-C in Indochina.

Navarre’s commander-in-the-north, Rene Cogny, on the right-hand side here in this photo, showing off his well-over-six-foot height:

Cogny’s man in Dien Bien Phu, Colonel Christian de Castries:

And then all three together, during 1953:

Then we’ve got de Castries’ best man in the valley, Pierre Langlais, head of the GAP 2, the Second Airborne Group, a man who will come to great prominence:

Under him, and the last in this list, Major Marcel Bigeard, whose name is pronounced Bee-zhard, and which I’ve been saying, until this episode, Big-eer’d. He’s the head of the 6th BPC, the Sixth Colonial Parachute Battalion, and will likewise become very important in the next show, here wearing more medals than he can fit on his uniform:

Then, like the last few times, we’ve got the audio credits, in video form:

 

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Duncan, David Douglass. “The Year of the Snake: A time of fear and worry comes over warring Indochina.” LIFE, August, 1953.

Editorial. “Indochina, France and the U.S.” LIFE, August, 1953.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Last Reflections on a War. New York: Schocken Books, 1972.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fall, Bernard. The Two Viet Nams: A Political and Military Analysis. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Logevall, Frederick. Embers of WarThe Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2012.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Mus, Paul and McAlister, John T. The Vietnamese and Their Revolution. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

Vietnam III: The World at War

Vietnam III: The World at War
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 2:13:38
 
1X

Well, we’re making time now, and I hope that keeps up. I’ve got some interesting stuff to show you today. First is the cover image for the show. That’s Ho Chi Minh on the left and Vo Nguyen Giap on the right along with their American OSS Deer Team advisors, who we’ll hear a fair bit about this show.

Here’s another one of Giap and ‘OSS Agent 19’ along with their American advisors.

The OSS teams supplied and trained Giap’s burgeoning Viet Minh guerrilla forces and served as political liaisons between Ho and the US regional military headquarters in Kunming in China. They followed the Vietnamese freedom fighters all the way into Hanoi after the Japanese ousted the French and then surrendered in 1945.

Here we’ve got the OSS walking as part of the procession towards Ba Dinh Square on September 2, 1945, shortly before Ho declared Vietnamese independence.

This below is a closer shot of Ho making that announcement, or it purports to be. Either the framing makes it look like Ho is in a studio, versus on a stage in Ba Dinh, or Ho’s actually in a studio and this photo has nothing to do with the announcement in Hanoi that day. Either way, the old revolutionary’s announcing something.

Then we’ve got Giap and his fighters participating in a reception at the American villa in Hanoi after the independence day celebrations:

I cannot imagine what guys like Westmoreland must have thought when the Pentagon Papers came out, along with photos like this, of American officers and Vietnamese guerrillas saluting the US flag and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” together.

Speaking of the Pentagon Papers, another topic we’ll touch on this show is Ho’s numerous attempts to reach out officially to the highest levels of US government. The OSS officers in touch with him, I think, had an impression that he was trying to negotiate primarily through them, but Ho had a much savvier view of who really held the American cards. Here’s a page from the now declassified Pentagon study:

Another page I found pretty interesting (and while I wish I could, there is no way I can make any kind of thorough reading of the Papers. The volume that covers just the period of this show is 245 pages, and the total study has nearly fifty volumes. They’re all available through the National Archives’ site, and they are interesting on every single page.

McNamara had them prepared as an internal Pentagon investigation into how the war had gotten started and how it was going. He was well into his guilty phase by that point, when he’d personally figured out that it was a horrorshow from the beginning, and the study that became the Pentagon Papers was a kind of first step towards atonement, although he wanted them to come out after thirty years or so, not when Dan Ellsberg chose to leak them.

The first page of the first volume, which concerns the period we’re looking at in this show struck me particularly, because the guys writing it were using some of the very same sources that I am.

The thing I don’t like here is that, well, they dump all over Fall, but the argument that they eventually make is the same one that Fall makes both in Last Reflections and, in part, in The Two Viet Nams. Either way,  in my mind, pretty cool.

And last but never, ever least:

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Last Reflections on a War. New York: Schocken Books, 1972.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fall, Bernard. The Two Viet Nams: A Political and Military Analysis. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Logevall, Frederick. Embers of WarThe Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2012.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Mus, Paul and McAlister, John T. The Vietnamese and Their Revolution. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

Audio Credits:

America Prepares for World War 2 | America’s Call to Arms | WW2 Newsreel | 1941. The Best Film Archives. YouTube.

D-Day Normandy Invasion: “Gateway to Victory” 1944 United News Newsreel. Jeff Quitney. YouTube.

Flying Tiger Newsreels. Bomberguy. YouTube.

France Surrenders / Terms of Surrender (World War II).  FasttrackHistory. YouTube.

Frances Wall Of Steel Aka France’s Wall Of Steel – Maginot Line (1938).  British Pathé. YouTube.

German Propaganda Films (1941). British Pathé. YouTube.

JAPANESE ATROCITIES / WAR CRIMES vs. CHINA / NANKING MASSACRE WAR BOND 77854. PeriscopeFilm. YouTube.

Original Pearl Harbor News Footage. The Atlantic. YouTube.

PEARL HARBOR NEWSREEL DECEMBER 7TH 1941 JAPS BOMB USA. PeriscopeFilm. YouTube.

Radio reports on the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (April 12, 1945). TheDaveMaybe. YouTube.

Review Of The Year (1938). British Pathé. YouTube.

US Celebrates Japanese Surrender (1945). British Pathé. YouTube.

World Faces Crisis As Japan And China Clash In Far East (1930-1939). British Pathé. YouTube.

World News In Review (1945). British Pathé. YouTube.

Iran VII: The Revolution in Power

Iran VII: The Revolution in Power
Iran

 
 
00:00 / 1:18:02
 
1X

Hey Folks,

This one’s number twelve, and while we’re not done with Iran yet, number thirteen, Iran VIII and the very last Iran show, come hell or high water, is gonna be here in three weeks or less.

I get into it a bit in the show, but time’s going to be tight over the next ten months or so, and how much I spend with which thing I do is going to depend in part on what I’m getting paid to do each. That sounds pretty mercenary, and it is, but that’s the way things are shaking out right now—law school’s a lock for next August and it looks like I’m going to be taking on a part-time writing job, on top of this thing and the freelancing.

In any case, if you’re on Patreon, I can’t ask you to do more. And if you haven’t got a spare $5 a month, I’m in that boat too, and I get it. But Patreon grows when the audience grows, and everybody but everybody can help out with that. Twitter. Facebook. Tumblr (I don’t really use Tumblr). Rate the show: iTunes, Pocket Casts, Stitcher.

Anyway:

We’re talking this time about the revolution in earnest, the revolution in power, the period of jostling and consolidation that would see the debate over and the formation of the new Iranian state.

Continue reading Iran VII: The Revolution in Power

Iran I: Take Up the Burden

Iran I: Take Up the Burden
Iran

 
 
00:00 / 1:14:14
 
1X

Hey everybody, we’re back from hiatus.

I spent the fall studying for the LSAT and applying to law schools and scrounging enough cash to stay alive, so the show kind of fell by the wayside. That’s over with now, though, and this next series is set to come out pretty regular.

We’re turning to Iran to look at the coup against Mohammad Mossadegh and all the ways that Operation AJAX have affected Iran and our relationship with it right through to the present day.

This first episode gets all of our key characters onto the main stage and the next one will bring us up through that night in July 1953. We heard about this coup and how it shaped Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers’ perspective on clandestine interventions way back in the first show and now we get to see it play out.

We’re diving way back in history to get the context for what happens in the fifties, so here are some maps for context.

This is pretty much every political entity that you would call or which included Persia for all of recorded history. Neat.

Here we’ve got something much more specific to our episode. These are losses of both territory and sovereignty Iran goes through during the 19th century, from the Treaty of Gulestan up through the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention.

And this is the Caucasus region we’ll be referring to a lot. You might not typically think of Russia as being part of the Middle East, but you’d be wrong. The reason Russia’s constantly meddling in Afghanistan and Syria in the present day is that a finger of Russian territory pushes down between the Black and Caspian seas to touch the little republics between it and Turkey and Iran. And at varying points in Russian Imperial history, to touch them directly. The borders on the map are again related to the treaties of Gulestan and Turkmenchay.

Now how about some characters.

The man in the center of that photograph is the Lord Curzon of Kedleston, later the Earl Curzon of Kedelston, Viceroy of India and later Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Cuzon was the face of British imperialism in its last great grasping gasp and he had his eyes on Iran before, during, and after the First World War.

Curzon, in some senses metaphorically and in other ones totally literally turned over the torch of British imperial ambitions over to Winston Churchill.

I don’t know that most of us have ever heard of a time when Churchill was young, but he comes onto the scene in Iran almost immediately after his military service in the Raj and South Africa.

By the time he’s First Lord of the Admiralty at the outset of WWI, he’ll be taking an interest in Iranian affairs.

And once he’s almost literally become too old to be alive, he’ll be Prime Minister for the second time and destroying Iranian democracy with American help in an effort to hold onto the last imperial jewel still in Her Majesty’s crown.

On the Iranian side, this early on, we’ve got the Qajar Shahs, exemplified in pretty much every way by this guy:

Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar

And their throne was usurped (more or less rightfully), by this guy, the first Pahlavi Shah:

Reza Shah Pahlavi, formerly Reza Khan

Who will brutally modernize and organize Iran, in time to turn it over to his dilettante son:

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Who the UK and the US will vocally, economically, and finally clandestinely and militarily support, and who will work out for the Iranians about as well as Bashar al-Assad did for his people.

And as always:

 

The Cambridge History of Iran: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly and Charles Melville. Vol. VII. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Abrahamian, Ervand. The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations New Press, 2013.

Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran: Between Two Revolutions.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Byrne, Malcolm. “The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup.” The National Security Archive, last modified 29 November 2000, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/.

Fatemi, N. S. 1985. “The Anglo Persian Agreement of 1919.” Encyclopaedia Iranica Vol II: 59.

Katouzian, Homa. The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1981.

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Wiley, 2003.

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Audio Acknowledgements

Doctor Turtle. “Thought Soup”

Metastaz. “The Prince of Persia”

More News Pictures from Iran. 1941. British Pathé. (YouTube).

Persian Folk Music. Traditional Music Channel. (YouTube).

 

 

Aftermath Part I

Aftermath Part I
Guatemala

 
 
00:00 / 1:00:39
 
1X

Page Break

Hey everybody, welcome to Safe for Democracy and our second episode.

If you’ve listened to the first podcast, you know that we’d originally planned to do a quick one-two, one episode for the coup in 1954 and one to cover what happened afterwards. But history can balloon on you, and the material I wanted to breeze through in an hour and a half expanded to more than five hours. The script’s not done yet, but it’s over a hundred typewritten pages, and will be a good sight longer before it’s done.

Longer than my undergraduate thesis
Longer than my undergraduate thesis

So what we’ve decided to do is to break the Aftermath up into four parts, the first three being about an hour and the last one somewhat less than two. The feedback we’ve gotten on the first episode is that although everybody loves Dan Carlin, hour long shows are about as long as people want.

All of the shows of the Aftermath will have a bit more noise on them than I would’ve liked, but I recorded them in the quietest place I could get to in this Sierra, the bungalow of a fellow and still-active Peace Corps Volunteer, James Dykstra.

God, just look at him
God, just look at him

I’ve tried to strip out or avoid as much of that noise as I can, but bear with it; we’re talking a lot about campesinos in these shows, and a little bit of campesino ruckus on them can’t hurt too much.

As I release these every few weeks, I’ll have more time to get a headstart on our next topic, Operation Ajax and the coup in Iran, and I’ll have some breathing room to take care of other stuff in my life. Hope that works for you.

Now, on to the show itself.

Continue reading Aftermath Part I

The Coup

The Coup
Guatemala

 
 
00:00 / 1:44:04
 
1X

 

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Hey, welcome to the first full episode of Safe for Democracy.  We’re going to be looking at Guatemala from 1930 or so until 1954, in the lead-up to the coup against President Jacobo Arbenz in the June of that year.

What comes after we’ll tackle in the next episode, which should come out sometime next week, if all goes well.

Here below are some sources and maps for anybody who wants help with the geography I’ll be talking about, but if you don’t need or don’t want that, go ahead and listen.

By the way, the cover image up there is La Gloriosa Victoria, a mural currently residing in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Diego Rivera painted it about the events of this very episode. That’s Allen Dulles on the left shaking hands with Carlos Castillo Armas on the right, and it’s Eisenhower’s face on the bomb. The children are, of course, nameless Guatemalans.

Enjoy the show.

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Excerpted from Nick Cullather's The Secret History
Excerpted from Nick Cullather’s The Secret History

Here we’ve got the plans for Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas’s ground forces at the outset of the invasion. See how even though he only had a few groups of men, he could preoccupy a large proportion of Guatemala’s small army by spreading them out over the long, forested border.

 

Here's another much larger, much more detailed map for reference. Click to see it full size.
Here’s another much larger, much more detailed map for reference. Click to see it full size.

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And for anybody who needs it

Here’s a bibliography

“Guatemala Chief Hits Critics in U.S.”  New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 5, 1954.

“Guatemala’s ‘Plot’ Charges Denounced.”  The Washington Post (1923-1954), Jan 31, 1954.

“President Arbenz of Guatemala Quits.”  Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jun 28, 1954.

Arbenz, Jacobo. 1954. Resignation Speech. PaysDesVolcans. (Youtube).

Cullather, Nick and Piero Gleijeses. Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999

McCann, Thomas and Scammel, Henry. An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 1976.

Rivera, Diego. “La Gloriosa Victoria”. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gobiernodeguatemala/5033870374.

Roettinger, Philip C. 1986. “The Company, then and Now.” The Progressive, July, 1986, 50.

Rothenberg, Daniel, ed, Memory of Silence: The Guatemalan Truth Commission Report. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Schelsinger, Stephen and Stephen Kinzer.  Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1982.

Schneider, Ronald M. 1959. Communism in Guatemala, 1944-1954. (Pa. Univ. for Policy Research Inst. Ser. no. 7) (Praeger Publications in Russian History and World Communism no. 80).

Simons, Marlise. “Guatemala: The Coming Danger.” Foreign Policy 43 (1981) : 93-103.