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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.