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Drug War: Covert Money, Power & Policy: Assassination

During the war the Office of Naval Intelligence had to use Mafia chief Lucky Luciano to secure New York's docks. Too much information was getting through to the deadly U-boats. The U.S. and its allies lost 120 merchant ships to German U-boats off the American coast in the first three months after Pearl Harbor. Freight specifics and sailing routes were insecure on the New York docks.

The docks weren't run by Luciano, but by Luciano's amici. The capo mafioso wasn't really capo di tutti capi because 'organized crime' wasn't really that organized. It wasn't a corporation with a rigid hierarchy. Luciano could defend his turf where he could, and others could do the same. Many of those others weren't Italian and many chose to remain quite anonymous. But many were Italian or Sicilian, and the old Sicilian structure, the Mafia, provided methods whereby an underground economy could be managed. The mafiosi, for all their bloody reputation, were actually quite good at cooperating with one another, and few could touch them for guts, street smarts and organization. There was no way Cmdr. Charles Haffenden's naval intelligence unit was going to penetrate the docks without the bosses.

Haffenden went to Tom Dewey's experts, D.A. Frank Hogan and his top aide, Murray Gurfein. They knew enough to contact Socks Lanza, head of Local 16975 of the United Seafood Workers - he who ran the Fulton Fish Market with an iron hand. Lanza, after trying to go it alone for a while, admitted that the only one with juice enough was Luciano, then languishing upstate, thanks to Dewey, in frigid Dannemora on the Canadian border. Luciano's lawyer, Moe Polakoff, told the Feds that the only person who could successfully broach this subject with Luciano was Meyer Lansky. Lansky, who hated the Nazis guts, was glad to help. He was assigned his own code number as a naval intelligence contact, as was Luciano, who got transferred downstate to the more pleasant confines of Comstock.

The Mafia was needed not just for protection and intelligence on the docks, but to organize Sicily behind Patton. With street-level Mafia cooperation, recent Sicilian immigrants, many professional fishermen, were funneled into the New York office of Naval Intelligence. They not only helped to refine very accurate maps of the Sicilian coast, but were able to provide regular communication with the Mafia powers behind German lines in Western Sicily.

Don Calogero Vizzini, left, and Don Giuseppe Genco Russo, right, although flexible enough to survive, had been badly weakened by Mussolini's serious attempt to replace their coercive power structures with his own. Knowing that the Americans were unstoppable anyway, they provided a ready-made guerrilla army to roll out the red carpet for the invaders.

When Lt. Paul Alfieri landed on Licata Beach, his Sicilian contacts were able to give him safe passage to the secret HQ of the Italian Naval Command. Inside, Alfieri found maps of the disposition of all German and Italian naval forces in the Mediterranean. The Mafia put out the word that Italian troops who resisted the Americans would be marked for reprisal, but those that deserted would be given civilian clothes and protection. Italian troops deserted by the truckload. These Sicilians were directly responsible for saving thousands of American lives during the 1943 invasion.

Unfortunately, this was turned into a political tragedy for Sicily. Sicily's economy was almost entirely agricultural. But, until the Land Reform Act of 1950, land wasn't generally passed on in small family plots, but in large latifundia, plantations. Small plots were rented out for shares. The great Dons were landlords who violently opposed the efforts of the sharecroppers at land reform.

The Allied Military Government made Don Calogero Vizzini, his successor, Genco Russo, and many other mafiosi, mayors of important towns. Coordinating the AMGOT effort was the former lieutenant governor of New York, Col. Charles Poletti, whom Luciano described as "one of our good friends," that is, a made mafioso.

Col. Poletti, military governor of Sicily, made New York's most powerful expatriate Mafia capo, Vito Genovese, his official interpreter, thus putting New York organized crime at the very heart of Allied intelligence in Italy. By 1944, under AMGOT auspices, Genovese's hoods controlled major Italian ports, most of the black market in diverted American and Sicilian goods, and numerous "anti-communist" goon squads on call for U.S. military intelligence. Not only the black market, but much of the legal and political structure fell into their hands as well.

Politically active peasants had their crops burned and their cattle slaughtered. When, in 1944, their leaders, Michele Pantaleone and Girolamo Li Causi, challenged Don Caló in his home town of Villalba by holding a political rally there, 19 demonstators were left wounded.  On May 1st, 1947, hundreds of peasants drove their gaily painted donkey carts to Portella delle Genestre to celebrate Labor Day. As the speeches began, submachine guns opened up on the crowd from the surrounding hills. Eleven people were left dead and 56 wounded.

Because they insisted on breaking up Sicily's plantations, the Socialists and Communists were so popular that the Mafia found it necessary to assassinate 500 of them from 1944 to 1949. This gave the Mafia, and their Christian Democrat allies, absolute control of the island. The Land Reform Act of 1950, which prohibited estates of larger than 500 acres, was largely vitiated by Mafia control of the Land Reform Boards.

Although Sicilian socialists were just poor farmers, they were identified by AMGOT as 'potential Soviet agents.' The very first major operation of the newly-formed CIA was the fixing of the 1948 Italian elections in favor of the Christian Democrats, the Mafia's ally throughout Sicily and Italy. James Angleton, running the Strategic Services Unit in Rome, had no problem with Mafia control of Palermo's port. He engineered it by allowing Mafia control of AMGOT's Palermo structure. The only altenative was leftist control of the port.

Angleton worked with Harry Anslinger's top international agents, George White and Charles Siragusa. Their rationale, the one they were willing to talk about, at least, had something to do with the Russians, but they gave the Sicily-based mafiosi a protected worldwide reach.  Luciano himself was deported to Sicily in 1946, there to better manage his end of the vast Turkey or Indochina to Lebanon to Sicily to Marseille to Cuba to U.S. heroin run. He was joined by Joe Adonis, Sam Carolla, Sal Vitale and at least a hundred others.

In 1948, another deported Sicilian, Joe Pici, got caught sending 35# of pure heroin to his boys in Kansas City. In 1950, a Sicilian reporter snuck into the Hotel Sole in the center of old Palermo, then the residence of Don Caló Vizzini - and Lucky Luciano. He caught a picture of Luciano schmoozing with Don Caló's bodyguards. This so infuriated Luciano that the reporter was flogged to within an inch of his life.

Luciano and Don Caló, the previous year, had set up a candy factory in Palermo, which exported its produce throughout Europe and the USA. In 1952, Luciano's close childhood friend, Frank Coppola, had twelve pounds of heroin seized by Italian police on its way from Coppola in Anzio to a well-known smuggler in Alcamo. Below, Luciano roughing it in Naples, 1949.

In 1956, Joe Profaci, in Brooklyn, was recorded talking about the export of Sicilian oranges with Nino Cottone, in Sicily. Cottone lost his life that year in the battle for Palermo with rival mafiosi, but Profaci's oranges kept on coming. The Brooklyn number rung by Cottone was the same number rung by Luciano from Naples and Coppola from Anzio. All were recorded by the Palermo Questura talking ecstatically about high grade Sicilian oranges. In 1959, Customs intercepted one of those orange crates. Hollow wax oranges, 90 to a crate, were filled with heroin until they weighed as much as real oranges. Each crate carried 110 pounds of pure heroin.

At all points, in exchange for their "anti-communist" political violence, the hoods had the protection of the local military intelligence, though, as the busts indicate, not always of the local police. But enough support was provided so that the mafiosi were enabled, for years, to feed their network of heroin labs in Italy and Marseille with morphine base supplied by a Lebanese network run by the chief of the antisubversive section of the Lebanese police.

The CIA used the Mafia's allies, the Union Corse, to take Marseille away from the independent and communist unions, leaving the Corsican hoods in control of the most important port in France. The geopolitical rationale for this, from both the French and the American perspective, wasn't only the threat the leftists posed to control of France, but to the Indochina war. The Vietminh had considerable support among French leftists in 1947.

In an attempt to force the French government to negotiate with the Vietminh, the communist dock worker unions, which were full of former Maquis fighters, refused to load American arms destined for Vietnam. The only outfits with enough muscle to challenge the communist unions for control of the docks were the union-busting Corsican hoods and their puppet-union goon squads. The 1947 street war for control of Marseille's docks, financed and coordinated by American military intelligence, was nasty, brutish and short.

The French secret services, also financed by American military intelligence, had been using Corsican opium dealers throughout Indochina to finance their operation against the Vietminh. Thus they had a system in place for the collection and distribution of opium and morphine base from all over the Golden Triangle of Laos, Burma and Thailand.

Morphine base is easily manufactured in makeshift jungle labs. Opium's major alklaoid is precipitated out of the raw sap by boiling it in water with lime. The white morphine floats to the top. That is drawn off and boiled with ammonia, filtered, boiled again, and then sun-dried. The resultant clay-like brown paste is morphine base.

That's where the Corsicans came in. Heroin is diacetylmorphine, morphine in combination with acetic acid, the naturally-occurring acid found in citrus fruits and vinegar. Heroin is preferred by addicts because the acetic acid renders it highly soluble in blood, therefore quicker acting and more potent than unrefined morphine.

The combination process requires, firstly, the skillful use of acetic anhydride, chloroform, sodium carbonate and alcohol. Then the last step, purification in the fourth stage, requires heating with ether and hydrochloric acid. Since the volatile ether has a habit of exploding, the Union Corse had to advertise for a few good chemists.

With huge protected surpluses of morphine base available, the Corsicans built a network of labs to refine not only the Indochinese, but also the Persian and Turkish product, shipping the finished snow white #4 heroin out of a Marseille they now controlled. The Union Corse heroin was often shipped on the order of their Mafia partners, who controlled the great American retail market.

With that much leverage, the Corsican hoods became major CIA "assets" throughout the fifties. Anslinger's star international agents in the 50's, George White, Charles Siragusa and Sal Vizzini, actually brag in their memoirs about their operational CIA/Deuxieme Bureau connections. That is, as they themselves obliquely admit, their mission was essentially political, with the occassional cosmetic bust thrown in for credibility, or to destroy a competing "asset." White is the man who protended that Burmese-KMT heroin came from the Reds.

The U.S. had initially supported the Vietminh in Vietnam, and then shifted its support to the French, who proceeded to lose anyway. In 1954, as the French were collapsing, President Eisenhower addressed these remarkable words to the National Security Council: "The key to winning this war is to get the Vietnamese to fight. There is just no sense in even talking about United States forces replacing the French in Indochina. If we did so, the Vietnamese could be expected to transfer their hatred of the French to us. I cannot tell you how bitterly opposed I am to such a course of action. This war in Indochina would absorb our troops by divisions!"

The Dulles brothers ignored Eisenhower, sending their most dangerous operative, the CIA's Col. Edward Lansdale. Lansdale had just finished stomping the Filippine campesinos into submission. In the process, he replaced President Quirino with our chosen commercial puppet, Ramon Magsaysay. This was done using the old Reichstag Fire trick. The threat posed by the largely mythical HUK rebels was wildly exaggerated by staged incidents which were splashed all over the media. Then Magsaysay, the young Lone Ranger Congressman, rode to the rescue, in the media.

Lansdale, a former advertising executive, was the lead unconventional warfare officer attached to the Saigon Military Mission. His 12-man team was in place by July 1954, less than 2 months after the French defeat at Dienbienphu. They found that the well-organized Binh Xuyen street gang, which was in effect an arm of the Deuxieme Bureau, directly controlled Saigon's police force. Lansdale used the mountain of American money and matériel at his disposal to buy the defeated French Vietnamese army, the ARVN. When it was ready, in April of 1955, the ARVN, in a savage 6-day battle that left 500 dead, took Saigon back from the Binh Xuyen.

Lansdale worked in tandem with Lucien Conein, who, during the war, led OSS paramilitary operations in North Vietnam, fighting in the Tonkin jungle with French guerrillas. He was instrumental in rescuing the French population in Hanoi from Vietminh retribution on their 1945 takeover. In this effort he worked with Gen. Phillip Gallagher and Maj. Archimedes Patti, OSS liaison to the Vietminh. Having worked with the French throughout their Indochina war, Conein knew North Vietnam well enough to operate there for Landale in 1955. His intimate knowledge of French forces, and his skillful use of troops, helped Lansdale take Saigon.

After all that effort, of course, it would have been a shame to lose "South Vietnam," an American fiction, to Ho Chi Minh in the 1956 all-Vietnam elections guaranteed by the Geneva Accords of 1954. The Accords had simply divided Vietnam into French- or Vietminh-controlled electoral districts. But France lost control of its district. "South Vietnam," with its American-controlled ARVN, refused to participate, despite French insistence that the Accords, formally recognized by the U.S., were internationally binding.

Instead, Lansdale rigged a fake election, installing our puppet, the French puppet Bao Dai's former prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem, as President of the previously non-existent South Vietnam in October of 1955. There is no doubt that Ho's victory in a southern election would have been a landslide, though, unlike the North, other parties had strength. France was set to formally recognize one Vietnam under the Vietminh.

In 1950, U.S. military intelligence told Douglas MacArthur, then in charge of our troops in Korea, that 80% of the Vietnamese people supported Ho Chi Minh, and that for the overwhelming majority this support had nothing to do with Ho's politics, but his nationalism. This, of course, was not news to MacArthur. He told Kennedy in the White House in 1961 that Viet Nam's only Vietnamese-led army was synonymous with nationalism. He emphasized that the Vietminh was a genuine national liberation front so popular that, if put under attack, it could mobilize virtually the entire population, giving it a numerical superiority that would enable it to absorb high losses indefinitely and still inflict unacceptable damage on any invader.

Eisenhower knew this too, of course, and so bitterly opposed American ground troops in Vietnam. The Dulles brothers were not swayed.  The mission of the Saigon Military Mission was the destabilization of southern Vietnam. By artificially creating anarchy, banditry and guerrilla war, where none existed before, the situation was militarized. The Red Menace would then require Diem's military police state. The puppet regime would then become a reliable source of huge defense contracts. That's advertising.

The Geneva Accords had split the country into two roughly equal electoral districts at the 17th parallel. They also provided that Vietnamese were free to move from one district to another. The Saigon Military Mission used this loophole to foment hysteria among Catholics in the North. This terror was entirely the work of Lansdale's northern "psy-ops" teams, led by Conein.  It had nothing to do with, and was not the policy of the Vietminh. But when Catholic peasants are machine-gunned by people who say they are Vietminh, and who look like them, well, psyops really do work.

The departing French helped to herd the terrorized Catholic peasants into Haiphong harbor, where they were loaded onto U.S. Navy transports. The CIA's Civil Air Transport also pitched in, and many just walked across the border. By 1956, more than one million Vietnamese, mostly impoverished Catholic Tonkinese, were dropped, with no social support, among the traditional villages of the southern Cochinese in the Mekong Delta. These populations had never mixed before and despised one another. The homeless Tonkinese Catholics were outnumbered by the native Cochinese Buddhists 12:1.

Diem then did his job. He proceeded to confiscate traditional village lands and hand them to homeless northern Catholic bandit groups. Since "South Vietnam" had never existed before, it had no governmental structure - no tax system, military, police, legislature, civil service - nothing. Diem filled these slots with his pet Catholics. He then abolished all municipal elections and filled those slots with Catholics as well. Diem was creating a mirror of the French administration. His army commander, Gen. Tran Van Don, had been born and educated in France, and fought both WW II and the French Indochina War with the French.

Diem then did something truly diabolical. He destroyed the traditional Mekong Delta barter economy by expelling all ethnic French and Chinese. The rural economy - the grain and commodity markets run for centuries by the mercantile Chinese, collapsed. Commodities as basic as dry-season drinking water became unavailable as the harvests rotted for lack of buyers. Dung-soaked rice-paddy water is undrinkable. The situation did indeed militarize.

Until Lansdale and Conein's psy-ops, one of which was Diem himself, southern Vietnam had been introverted, tribal, peaceful and wealthy - and for the most part completely unaware of the Vietminh. But in the face of starvation, uncontrolled banditry by homeless northern invaders, the systematic destruction of their economy and property rights, and enslavement at gunpoint in "strategic hamlets" - most southern Vietnamese accepted the discipline of the only Vietnamese-led army in Vietnam, the Vietminh.

Since the urbane, Catholic, French-speaking Diem, below center, lacked the popular support of the Vietminh, in rural, Buddhist, Vietnamese-speaking Vietnam, he was forced to rely for his financing on his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, a world-class opium and heroin dealer tied to the Corsicans. Lansdale, below left center, pitched in with a coordinated effort to repeat the French Operation X, which organized the Hmong of highland Laos to operate against the popular Pathet Lao and Vietminh. Lucien Conein had helped the French run Operation X, and so had a relationship with Nhu's Corsicans. Since the only cash crop of the Hmong was opium, that put CAT-Air America, which tied together their disparate mountain villages, firmly in the opium-for-arms business. The proceeds were used to finance both the Hmong army, led by the former French-serving Vang Pao, and Diem's nepotistic regime.

An anti-communist holy war, such as could be organized in Vietnam, would be a windfall for the defense contractors and their CIA and oil company allies. Aside from the unprecedented military contracts they could engineer - worth hundreds of billions - they would, upon victory, come into possession of Indochina's vast natural resources, including the huge opium crop, traditionally used by Asian war lords to buy weaponry from said Christian defense contractors.  Below, Nixon's high priest, Billy Graham, 1956.

Lt. Col. L. Fletcher Prouty: "At that top echelon the Office of Special Operations [the office Col. Prouty ran] acted as the liaison between the CIA and the DOD. What most people in Defense were totally unaware of was that in the very office that was supposed to serve the military departments and shield them from promiscuous requests, there were concealed and harbored some of the most effective agents the CIA has ever had. Their approval of CIA requests was assured. The amazing fact was that their cover was so good that they could then turn right around and write orders directing the service concerned to comply with the request."

"This is a clear example of how far the Agency has gone in getting around the law and in creating its own inertial drift, which puts it into things almost by an intelligence-input-induced automation system, without the knowledge of its own leaders and certainly without the knowledge of most higher-level authorities....what secrecy there was - what real deep and deceptive secrecy existed - existed within the U.S. Government itself. More effort had been made by the Secret Team to shield, deceive, and confuse people inside Government than took place on the outside."

"This was the plan and the wisdom of the Dulles idea from the beginning. On the basis of national security he would place people in all areas of government, and then he would move them up and deeper into their cover jobs, until they began to take a very active part in the role of their own cover organizations. This is how the ST was born. Today, the role of the CIA is performed by an ad hoc organization that is much greater in size, strength, and resources than the CIA has ever been visualized to be."

Prouty's melodramatic phrase "Secret Team" lends itself to derision as another "conspiracy theory," but what this brilliant military intelligence officer is saying is that policy ceased to be driven by an empirical analysis of the strategic facts, as honestly presented to the political leadership, and instead became driven by covert centers of economic power, intentionally presenting false intelligence to the political leadership. Eisenhower, hardly a "conspiracy theorist," recognized this as operational fascism. He truly feared this loss of political control at the top.

Eisenhower had wanted to leave the Presidency as a great peacemaker. To this end he launched his Crusdade For Peace, arranging a May, 1960 Summit in Paris with Nikita Krushchev. The two old WW II allies were planning a profound deescalation of the Cold War - and the consequent diversion of national resources to the civilian sector. As part of normal preparations, Eisenhower ordered that all U.S. troops, overt and covert, were to avoid all combat. He also ordered all U-2 spy flights over Soviet territory grounded. These were unambiguous conventional orders from the Commander in Chief. Tragically, even our heavy air support of the Khamba resistance in Tibet, run by Col. Prouty, was halted.

Prouty received his orders to ground the Tibetan operation from the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Bissell, the same officer who ran the U-2 operation. It is, therefore, not possible that Bissell missed Eisenhower's order. But on May 1, Bissell ordered Capt. Francis Gary Powers to overfly the Soviet Union with his high-altitude cameras. According to Allen Dulles' own closed testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Powers' U-2 was forced to land at Sverdlovsk because of engine trouble.

The spy plane had been launched directly contrary to Eisenhower's emphatic order, and had been fixed to fail halfway through its long flight, specifically to ruin Eisenhower's Summit. Prouty says the plane can be easily fixed by draining the required amount of auxiliary hydrogen fuel. The spectacular landing of the state-of-the-art spy plane at Sverdlovsk, of course, did force cancellation of the Summit.

It was Col. Prouty, the Air Force's senior intelligence officer, that Eisenhower called to decipher the mess. It was Prouty who briefed Dulles before his Senate testimony. These tough soldiers had witnessed the CIA use its mole tactics to infiltrate all the U.S. command and control mechanisms to which it was legally responsible, concentrating on the "enemy" only as an adjunct to control of U.S. policy and power. The evolving covert government-by-defense-contractor scared the hell out of them.

This was the impetus for Eisenhower's January 17, 1961 televised speech, a speech he knew to be his most historic, his last presidential address. The old soldier solemnly warned that "The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government….In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Prohibition artificially inflates the value of the prohibited commodity 20 to 100 fold. Only genuine agricultural "commodities" are subject to such inflation. That is, the demand is an evolutionarily structural, a permanent, feature of the global economy. You can pretend that it's possible to outlaw opium, wine or pot, but it's not. Prohibition of a commodity simply creates a hood monopoly. It turns agricultural commodities into precious metal - precious metal that can be farmed. That makes them, by definition, the preferred medium of exchange for armaments. U.S. military intelligence, then, becomes a structural ally of the dope trade, since the primary function of U.S. military intelligence in the real world is the sale of U.S. arms.

Taylor's 1961 cables to Kennedy are a good example of the kind of policy-convenient bullshit he and his CIA cohorts practiced right through the Johnson years. "[South Vietnam is] not an excessively diffficult or unpleasant place to operate...comparable to parts of Korea where U.S. troops learned to live and work without too much effort...North Vietnam is extremely vulnerable to conventional bombing….There is no case for fearing a mass onslaught of Communist manpower into South Vietnam and its neighboring states, particularly if our air power is allowed a free hand against logistical targets."

Our Korean War commanders, MacArthur and Ridgway, who suffered the painful failure of air power in Korea, knew that was idiotic, dishonest. U.S. troops learned to live and work in Korea only after nearly being driven into the East China Sea by the Chinese army. The 1951 winter retreat from the Chinese-North Korea border back to the Pusan Perimeter, below Seoul, was one of the most nightmarish in U.S. history. We had a far higher casualty rate in Korea than in Vietnam - 34,000 dead, another 120,000 wounded, in three years. At that rate, we would have lost more than 100,000 dead in Vietnam.

Taylor's bullshit was good for Air Force appropriations, not the grunts at Ia Drang and Khe Sanh. At Ia Drang American troops were awestruck, and badly bloodied, by an unrelenting hail of machine gun fire, despite heavy air support. We dropped more high explosive on little Vietnam than all sides dropped in all of World War II, and we still found ourselves facing "a mass onslaught of Communist manpower." What's a logistical target in North Vietnam? A mountain range? A forest? A thatched hut? A bicycle on a jungle trail? Five million widely dispersed cadres with shovels and Chinese machine guns?

Misperceiving this manipulative liar as an old school straight talker, Kennedy installed Taylor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he moved Lemnitzer up to NATO. In so doing, he lost all hope of controlling the CIA, since the explicit National Security Action Memoranda he issued necessarily relied on the power of the Joint Chiefs for CIA oversight. Taylor fed Kennedy a steady stream of policy-convenient bullshit masquerading as military intelligence, bullshit designed by Dulles, Helms, Angleton, Lansdale, LeMay, Lodge and the other committed "counterinsurgents."

There is no way around the artificial geopolitical power that Prohibition creates. The kind of power Prohibition put in Lucky Luciano's hands left every New York cop, and Mayor, quacking in his boots. As Luciano put it, "There wasn't a chance for Roosevelt to get the delegates from the city without makin a deal with Tammany, and in 1932 the guys who ran Tammany was run by me and Frank Costello."

It was Frank Costello's muscle that helped Joe Kennedy run his imported Irish rum in the 20's. Joe Kennedy was also close to Owney Madden, a New York powerhouse during Prohibition. After repeal, Costello's Alliance Distributors, with its House of Lords Scotch and King's Ransom, competed with Kennedy's Somerset Liquors, which owned the Haig and Haig, Dewar's and Gordon's Gin franchises.

Joe Kennedy, a brilliant corporate predator, had the deep respect of many Syndicate leaders. As the owner of Chicago's huge Merchandise Mart, he himself was a Chicago power. He used his connections to deliver the awesome Chicago mob in 1960, despite the objections of Jimmy Hoffa.

Sam "Momo" Giancana, left, who shot his way to the chairmanship of the Chicago Commission, convinced his fellow commissioners, Anthony Accardo, center, Paul Ricca and Frank Ferraro, that Joe Kennedy's deal was worth taking. The hoods used their powerful labor fixer, Murray "the Camel" Humphreys, right, to deliver hundreds of key unions and Teamster locals in primary fights throughout the country. When it came time to deliver Illinois for Kennedy in the general election, it was the murderous Momo who helped Mayor Daley deliver Chicago. Kennedy won Illinois by about 9,000 votes, and without such mob strongholds as Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Texas and New Jersey, Nixon would have won in 1960. The popular vote was almost a dead heat - Kennedy had a 112,000-vote margin. It was the closest election since 1884.

Giancana, of course, was expecting the fix he paid for. The younger Kennedys had laid a lot of heat on the mob during the McClellan hearings, and old Joe's deal was that the heat was off. The Syndicate took JFK's continuing war on them as a mortal betrayal - as a fear-stricken Joe Kennedy, who still played golf with Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli, repeatedly warned his reckless sons.

Once Prohibition makes marijuana, coca and opium worth as much as tin, silver and gold, either you deal with the dealers or you get your brains blown out on the street. In 1960 Giancana's Chicago outfit was said to gross $2 billion a year - that's something like $12 billion in today's money. Marcello's 1963 Southeastern U.S. operations were estimated by the conservative New Orleans Crime Commission at $1.2 billion a year. Others estimated $1.6 billion. By 1966 the figure was $2 billion. Marcello's dope, gambling, prostitution, extortion and theft empire was the largest conglomerate in Louisiana. As the beleaguered Crime Commission repeatedly complained, Marcello owned Louisiana - its police, judges, mayors, state senators and governors. And who Marcello couldn't buy, he killed.

Marcello was one of the key distributors of Luciano's Sicilian and Rosselli's Guatemalan dope. Through the Guatemalan prime minister, his lawyer, Marcello was a financier of the CIA's heroic effort to reclaim Cuba for Batista. The Bay of Pigs operation took off from Guatemala on April 17, 1961, within the first 90 days of Kennedy's presidency.

The Cuba invasion was presented to JFK, both as a candidate and as the President-elect, as an urgent necessity to avoid the impending introduction of Soviet MIGs, after which no small-scale invasion could hope to succeed. But no one at the Cuba desk in the State Department was asked to comment on the plan, or even knew of its existence, so that only those who devised the invasion judged its chances for success. Was Castro really so unpopular that a pinprick invasion would set off a general uprising? Was there really an intact underground ready to strike? Did a 1500-man force have a snowball's chance in hell on the beach? Or was Kennedy being maneuvered into a situation that would force him to use American troops?

The Taylor Study Group, Kennedy's executive post-mortem, was chaired by Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Eisenhower's former army chief of staff. It included Bobby Kennedy, Allen Dulles and Adm. Arleigh Burke. They found that Castro's remaining three jet fighters, T-33 trainers, were powerful enough to destroy any chance the Brigade had to set up a perimeter and take the local airstrip. Those T-33's knocked out 16 of the Brigade's lumbering B-26's, raked the beach with heavy machine gun fire, and sank the supply ships. As the Brigade started to lose, it was Adm. Burke who strongly advocated a direct U.S. naval attack. Burke's seemingly extemporaneous plan was vetoed, for policy reasons, by Kennedy.

Burke wanted the post-mortem to focus on the operational failure of the political leadership, Kennedy's supposed cancellation of the second airstrike. Dulles, in the memo to McCone, strongly agreed with Burke. But the Taylor "report," actually a less formal "letter," didn't say Kennedy cancelled the airstrike - it said: "At about 9:30 p.m. on April 16, Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President, telephoned General C.P. Cabell of CIA to inform him that the dawn air strikes the following morning should not be launched until they could be conducted from a strip within the beachhead."

Allen Dulles, the architect of the invasion, contrary to all established procedure,  was vacationing in Puerto Rico on D-Day. The invasion was managed by Deputy Director Gen. Charles Cabell and Richard Bissell, the Deputy Director for Plans. McGeorge Bundy, the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, who actually called off the D-Day air strike, was their chief White House operative. And Bundy was in a position to intercept appeals to the President.

Bundy later claimed to have "a very wrong estimate of the consequences" of that decision. That is, he admitted that the decision was his. DDCI Cabell, who could not possibly have misunderstood the consequences, did nothing to reverse them. He didn't even bother to take the issue to the President, despite the fact that the entire operation hung in the balance - and despite the fact that the President's own order of 1:45 the previous afternoon had approved the airstrike.

Since the CIA knew that no internal Cuban resistance could succeed against the wildy popular Fidel, it engineered an immediate U.S. invasion by crippling the invasion from the start. A successful invasion would have seen a vast outpouring of volunteers for Fidel - it would have revelaed Fidel's political strength. Dulles' uncharacteristic poor planning, and the rejection of key support and back-up plans, were intentional, as, obviously, was his D-Day absence.

After cancelling the air strike from Puerto Cabezas, Bundy could plausibly tell Kennedy that they had to consider that the American contract pilots flying the second strike might end up in shackles, or coffins, on Cuban television - prima facie proof of direct U.S. aggression. Rather than risk the consequent confrontation with the Soviet Union, Bundy cancelled the second air strike. Kennedy, rather than publicly admit his own lack of operational control, chose to take responsibility for Bundy's action.

Kennedy was maneuvered into a situation that would force him to order a U.S. invasion of Cuba. But he refused. The CIA's own internal Survey concluded Kennedy had been buffaloed behind "poor planning." So Kennedy fired the planners - the DCI, Allen Dulles, his top aide, the Deputy Director Gen. Charles Cabell, and the next ranker, Richard Bissell, the Deputy Director for Plans. But, since Kennedy had taken public responsibility for cancelling the predawn airstrike, the CIA could plausibly insist that its leadership were being used as scapegoats for Kennedy's own operational incompetence. Kennedy's real failure, of course, was simply not to have followed the script.

Like his pet hawks, Kennedy thought to reverse the political damage suffered at the Bay of Pigs by actually taking Cuba. He asked Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward Lansdale, the CIA point man who had just handed the Binh Xuyen to Diem, to devise the attack. Lansdale simply amplified on the CIA's Operation Pluto, the original Cuba invasion plan.  An organic part of the original plan was the attempt to assassinate Castro. Those CIA assassination teams were run by Kennedy's mortal hood enemies.

In October of 1960 at the Miami Fontainebleau, Johnny Rosselli, Santos Trafficante, Sam Giancana, Jim O'Connell and Robert Maheu had their first operational meeting to plan Castro's death. Maheu was a former FBI intelligence expert who transferred to the CIA. He worked under the man who ran Lee Harvey Oswald, Guy Bannister, in the FBI's Chicago office during WW II. Explained Jim O'Connell, CIA security operations chief, to Senator Church's 1975 Committee, Maheu handled "several sensitive covert operations in which he didn't want to have an agency or government person get caught."

When Columbia University lecturer Jesús de Galindez, who had worked for Rafael Trujillo, started documenting Trujillo's CIA/Syndicate contacts and political murders in the Spring of 1956, it was a Robert A. Maheu associate, specifically New Jersey mob boss Joe Zicarelli, who traded arms for dope with Trujillo, who handled the assassination. Thirteen days after he started talking, Galindez disappeared.

Aside from the CIA and the Syndicate, Robert A. Maheu Associates represented Howard Hughes, the Teamsters and the Senate Banking and Currency Committee. Rosselli had refused to accept the Castro contract from Maheu until he met face-to-face with the CIA's Jim O'Connell, in Maheu's presence. Within a week of that meeting, O'Connell's superior, Col. Sheffield Edwards, met with his superior, Richard Bissell, as well as Deputy CIA Director Charles Cabell and Director Allen Dulles, at which time, Bissell recalled, in sworn testimony, "the plan would be put into effect."

"The plan" was to be executed by the "Executive Action" unit, code-named ZR/RIFLE. Just before he handed the helm to Helms, in late 1961, Bissell ordered the "application of ZR/RIFLE program to Cuba." Helms told Senator Church's 1975 Senate Intelligence Committee that he had approved the mob assassination operation without the knowledge or approval of Kennedy or his CIA director McCone. Despite the pro-forma "deniability" for the superiors, Helms admitted, in sworn testimony, organizing the CIA/hood assassination teams.

Mongoose was run out of Miami's CIA station JM/WAVE, with covert funding in the hundreds of millions. Under the command of Ted Shackley, it became the largest in the world, with 600 agents, at least 4,000 operatives, and enough matériel to conquer most small countries. Diversified hit and run, sabotage, surveillance, propaganda and assassination teams were systematically thrown at Cuban targets, to "build gradually toward an internal revolt," as Lansdale put it.

The fact that these actions, executed by Batistianos, left Castro stronger and more popular than ever did not go unnoticed at the CIA. Complained Samuel Halpern, the executive officer of Task Force W, the CIA's coordination component with Mongoose, "The Kennedys were sold a bill of goods by Lansdale. We would refer to Lansdale on the telephone as the FM - for field marshal."

1962 saw many National Security Action Memoranda flow from the same font, many aimed at Vietnam. The Vietnam strategy was the reverse of the Cuban, in that military violence was being used to prop up a hated regime. That Diem became weaker with every assassination we engineered only forced the strategic geniuses of counterinsurgency to conclude that more violence was called for.

Kennedy's last National Security Action Memorandum, NSAM 263, October 11, 1963, is very terse, and doesn't necessarily commit the U.S. to unconditional withdrawal, only withdrawal "without impairment of the war effort." It orders "an increase in the military tempo," so as to enable "the Vietnamese" to assume the "essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel" by the end of 1965. "It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time....the Defense Department should....withdraw 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. This action should be explained in low key as an initial step in a long-term program to replace U.S. personnel with trained Vietnamese without impairment of the war effort."

The report went on to explain that "any significant slowing in the rate of progress [of the war effort] would surely have a serious effect on U.S. popular support for the U.S. effort." But it insisted that "No further reductions should be made until the requirements of the 1964 [military] campaign become firm."

NSAM 263 still aimed at military victory, but it was to be the victory of surrogates - if they could pull it off. The CIA knew they could not. Kennedy, of course, realized that too, but nonetheless laid out the specific plan by which American troops were to be extricated from Vietnam. He did this before their numbers reached 20,000.

Right in the middle of that intense series of meetings with the Joint Chiefs in which he actually hammered out this policy, on September 2, 1963, Kennedy told Walter Cronkite, on the air, "In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the Communists."

Kennedy based his withdrawal order on the Agency's own absurdly rosy projections of a "manageable" situation evolving within the next year - Taylor's bullshit. He always talked the Agency's language, which, of course, gave him a shot at actually taking control of Agency policy. It wasn't just the policy specifics in NSAM 263 that enraged the hawks, although that rage was expressed mostly in policy terms. It was the immediate threat of real executive policy control. Stars and Stripes ran the headline "U.S TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY '65." That was the looming disaster. There were hundreds of billions in military contracts, tens of thousands of jobs at stake. The Vietnam War was mandatory.

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