Monday, February 9th 2015
My Dear America:
It has been awhile since I wrote a legitimate Book Review. I felt Hillary Clinton's last book deserved a review and I wrote one. That was awhile ago and it was a relatively current review for a relatively new publication. "Legacy of Ashes" is not a book that is newly published. It was published in 2007 by Doubleday, an ancient and highly respected publishing house. The book was written by Tim Weiner, a New York Times Writer who has written two other previous books on subjects connected to the Central Intelligence Agency. The book is 516 pages long. The page print is small. The book has an additional nearly 200 pages of notes and an Index.
The primary reason that I read this book is because I saw it sitting on Rachel Maddow's Television Desk on a night that she was presenting a story about the CIA. Since I have been writing fictional books on the CIA for a few years now and reading a lot about "The Agency" in an effort to make my fiction more relevant, I decided to check and see if my local library had the book. They did. I checked it out and following two renewals I finally finished reading "Legacy of Ashes".
Although initially I had plans to write my review immediately after finishing the book, I found myself reluctant to try to write my review without some serious reflection on what I had read in Tim Weiner's history of the CIA.
Weiner has written a remarkable book that is loaded with well organized, well researched and well documented historical facts concerning the CIA. In addition to combing the archives of the CIA and the Library of Congress and Presidential Libraries, Weiner seems to have talked with nearly every living Past Director of the CIA and countless other agency professionals.
The result is a book of history that reads like a Novel gliding the reader from decade to decade in an almost seamless manner as Mr. Weiner tells his story. The story that he tells about the history of this previously secret spy agency to which he seems to have opened the door to many of its secrets, is a deeply disturbing story, indeed.
Although the United States has always spent enormous sums of money keeping this highly secret agency afloat the reader learns pretty quickly and pretty consistently throughout this history that Americans have never seemed to get enough bang for their buck from the CIA.
Although the agency has often had very bright and high minded employees working for it, the history of CIA according to Mr. Weiner seems to indicate that over the years of CIA's prominence it has had far more intelligence failures than successes and, in fact, has in its history had almost no successes at all.
CIA and it's predecessor agency, The OSS, had almost no success at all in planting spies in Soviet Countries, in Red China or in North Korea. Despite the fact that most of its thousands of potential spies dropped behind enemy lines disappeared without a trace the CIA kept dropping doomed agents seemingly without any concern for their welfare.
CIA's obsession with anti communism led to many assassinations all over the world and helped in many cases to topple legitimate governments that were thought to be pro communist. These pro communist designations were often made by the CIA with poor or little or no actual evidence and more often than not left in place of the "pro communist" assassinated government leaders, many leaders who were often times more pro communist than those assassinated and far more dangerous, brutal and repressive than the leaders who CIA brutally replaced. Some of those leaders who CIA helped to put into place were Saddam Hussein in Iraq, The Shah of Iran and Manuel Noriega in Panama, although there were many other brutal dictators who also came back to bite CIA and America in the rear end.
The spies who couldn't shoot straight, according to Tim Weiner, have seemingly maintained a continuing attitude of arrogance and disdain for controls over their agency by anyone, including Presidents or the Congress, as evidenced by the recent scandals involving brutal abuses of captured individuals from other countries, who in many cases don't even turn out to be spies. This arrogant stupidity seems to have had a long tradition in the CIA and although CIA is supposedly not as powerful today as it once was, It still seems to continue its long standing tradition of not answering to anyone.
Over the past few years I have read a lot of Non-Fiction Books about the CIA on my pursuit of knowledge about this troubled American Spy Agency. Many of these books were frightening but none of them were as frightening as "Legacy of Ashes". In this book Mr. Weiner has gathered together some well organized and well documented information about the CIA that should scare the living daylights out of all Americans who have concerns about the history of the CIA. The CIA is and always has been a dangerous, well funded and out of control agency which still does not seem to wish to have any controls put on it.
Many years ago back in the 70's I had the incredible opportunity of going to a lecture at Lehigh University in Behtlehem, PA where I listened to Author, Norman Mailer rail about the CIA and Watergate. Mailer had been researching the CIA for a Novel called Harlot's Ghost, which he eventually wrote. At a fraternity party that I attended after the lecture I got the opportunity to talk to Mailer and I asked him if he was serious about the idea he had promulgated during his lecture. That Idea was to establish a "Peoples CIA" to keep tabs on the real Central Intelligence Agency.
Mailer assured me that his research had showed him that the CIA was extremely dangerous and needed to be reined in and watched closely by individuals outside of the agency.
Tim Weiner's research and writing seems to show that Norman Mailer was absolutely right in his mistrust of the Central Intelligence Agency.