Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lopping History

Today was one of those maddening NPR reports where a valuable contribution to history is so chopped and defanged as to make it worthless. The book Legacy of Ashes: the History of the CIA by Tim Weiner looks like a good read. There's so much that could be talked about regarding the crimes of the CIA, and current miseries that the CIA helped bring about (the Iranian tragedy, Jihadism, Haiti) that you almost have to admire the ability of the Morning Edition crew of Ydstie and Montagne to reduce it to nonsense.

Montagne begins, "At the dawn of the Cold War Allan Dulles, Richard Bissell, and Frank Wisner were considered daring, imaginative and brilliant. Under them in the 1950s America’s spy agency launched audacious operations: it overthrew foreign governments, even attempted to assassinate foreign leaders – actions that are now recalled more with embarrassment than pride." [Who considered them daring, imaginative, brilliant? Guatemala and Iran - audacious? Embarrassment - instead of shame and disgust?]

Weiner states that, "[Wisner] was not interested in espionage which is the core mission of the CIA, he was interested in covert action...and that got the United States into a good deal of trouble." To which Ydstie responds, "And Wisner actually sacrificed hundreds of lives trying to do this during the Korean War." I was pulling my hair out at this point. I'm not sure how edited Weiner's remarks were, but it wasn't just the US that got into "trouble"; it was misery and death imposed on millions of people, the numbers are so huge that Ydstie's incredulous "actually sacrificed hundreds" seems grotesque.

Ydstie does ask "How different is the CIA now, than it was then?" And Weiner answers that "It’s the same organization…it is the President’s secret army." That's a great answer and a great place to start talking about the CIA's recent and current murders and tortures - but no such luck. The report essentially ends there.

Wouldn't it be great if NPR did some serious follow up on this piece and talked to John Stockwell former CIA-insider and critic, or William Blum former State Department official turned critic. There is so much dirty CIA history that it's a shame to see it more covered-up than covered.

1 comment:

Porter Melmoth said...

At least there are plenty of other sources to access CIA info than NPR. 'Trenchant' is a word I'd never apply to NPR. 'Waste of time' and 'low expectations' are increasingly applicable.
As for Plain John Ydstie, NPR's token Heartlander, I think I actually prefer the manic, spastic chicken antics of the Inskeeper. Shocking, I know, but there's something unsettling about Plain John's deliberations. And his sibilance really isn't appropriate for radio. Too distracting.