Framed: America's Patsy Tradition
Camelot: From the Bay of Pigs to Dallas, Texas
DURING THE AFTERNOON, SNOW BEGAN TO FALL. It had that windblown, leaden look of a major storm. Those who could, slipped out of their offices early to beat the traffic. Few cities in the world suffer more in snowstorms than Washington. The view from the big windows in the office of the Secretary of Defense, out over the Tidal Basin and the Potomac, was wintry and beautiful. A heavy curtain was falling on the end of an era. Men who had been in Washington since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt were planning to leave, or at least to retire from the daily commitment to government.
In 1960 Washington had become a rather shabby city. The massive government buildings stood stark and cold. The many parks and monuments had been neglected by the aged tenants, who had grown too accustomed to their appearance. No one noticed any longer how drab the whole city had become. They never remembered it any other way. It was evident everywhere that this was the end of an era. An era of depression and recovery; of major war, victory and hopeful peace; of the atom bomb and of worldwide, instant communications. An era of great depths and an era that had the promise of great heights. But all of its leaders were now old and spiritless. Their great moment, those years of preparation for the ultimate summit conference and for the crusade for peace, had come to a shattering end. Now, in the shambles of that dream, that weary generation was turning over the mantle of government, the greatest government the world has ever known, to a young man who was barely a youngster when they had first come to Washington. And as many of the old stalwarts gathered in the office of the Secretary of Defense to say their farewells to him and to the world of great power they knew so well, they looked for the last time out over the Potomac into the sweeping and deepening snow as the night, and history, closed over them.
As if to presage the change that was taking place beneath the surface of the glittering events, the streets of Washington had been plowed, shoveled, and swept clear of all snow for the inaugural parade, not by the municipal equipment other cities would have used, but by the U.S. Army and its heavy equipment. The Kennedy Administration owed its very inaugural festivities to the might of the U.S. Army, to its stealthy appearance by night into the streets of the city -- a United States city. And this was part of the new era, too. Subtle changes, which had been under way, began to burst forth into the open with the inauguration.
From the first, changes were visible. The Kennedy team had been together through a tough and long battle. Their operational procedures were honed and ready. There was a Kennedy way and there was the other way. They changed Washington a lot with the Kennedy way. Eisenhower had been precise in his administrative practices. He had made great use of the National Security Council and of the implementing support of the Operations Coordinating Board. His decisions were the product of open and free discussion in the NSC chambers; and then having been made, those decisions were followed up by the OCB to assure their proper accomplishment within the Government. But Kennedy saw no real need for the NSC method. In the beginning he did not recognize and understand its usefulness and significance. When he wanted something done, he called upon one of his close friends, even upon one of his relatives, and after a brief discussion, they would go out and do what he had directed. This system can work in an operation such as the campaign had been, where the campaign team is the whole organization. However, in any organization as large and as immobile as the ponderous U.S. Government, this system is quite ineffective and leaves much undone and uncontrolled. It tends to leave tens of thousands of lesser bureaucrats on their own and to their own devices. It encourages the stagnation of the bureaucrat, and the catastrophe of the irresponsible in action.
Almost immediately following the inauguration, the ST saw that the door was wide open. With practically no NSC meetings, and therefore no Council to effectively control the CIA, there was no application of those crucial parts of the National Security Act of 1947 that require the NSC to direct the Agency. Without such direction and control, the CIA was practically free to act on its own.
Few men in the new Government had any idea of what was being put into shape for the Cuban invasion. Those who did knew only bits and pieces of the whole plan. These men were not accustomed to the double-talk and undercover language and actions of the Agency. They heard briefings, but they did not know what they really meant. On the other hand, a large number of the new Kennedy team were old CIA hands. They did know exactly what was going on, and they used their special knowledge and experience to further isolate those who did not.
There is a peculiar and dangerous characteristic that derives from the continuing application of secrecy. In an open government such as this country has been accustomed to having, it is only natural to believe that if a man is a fire-fighter, then his job has to do with putting out fires; and if he is a soldier, then his job is being prepared for war. In a simpler sense, Government workers are trained to expect that if the men in the next office are working on the Military Aid Program for Pakistan, then those men are doing that work. Customarily, if they meet those occupants of that next-door office in the snack bar or at the dining hall, they might be expected to ask them how things are going on in "Pakistan".
Now if the men who are supposed to be working on the Pakistan aid program are not working on that program at all, but are actually working on a special support program for the border police of India, and the Pakistan aid program is simply a cover story, then whatever they tell their office neighbors is part of their cover story too. In other words, it is false -- more plainly, a lie. However, they justify that lie as being permissible, in fact necessary, because they have been told that the "border police project" is highly classified and that they cannot tell anyone about it. So if you are on a classified project, it is all right, in fact it is essential, for you to lie. So you lie, the other man lies, everyone lies. But it is all supposed to be for the good of the cause.
Over a period of time this can develop many strange situations too involved to mention here; but one or two examples may be useful. In the Pentagon there are many offices established to do one thing. They really do not do that thing at all, but something entirely different. As a result, there are hundreds and even thousands of men who either cannot say what they are doing; or if they are forced to say something, they must lie. The polite thing is to say that they are "following their cover story".
This can lead to further complications. Even within the cover Story scheme there will be factions. Some men may be working on a certain project with a cover story, and others may be working on exactly the same project under another cover story; and neither group will know about the other. Later, when the Secretary or some other high official wants to be briefed, he may meet with one group and not the other -- simply because the first group did not know of the other's existence. And he will not hear the whole story; he will hear only the first group's version of the activity. So it is not that the new Kennedy team was not properly briefed about anti-Castro activities as it was a matter of the inability of any one briefing officer to give all the facts at one time. There may have been no way to have rounded up all the facts and present them; so much of what was going on was decentralized. In spite of this, each briefing officer may have thought that he knew all the facts and that he was telling the whole truth, as happened when Tracy Barnes was sent to give Adlai Stevenson his briefing at the United Nations.
Other complications crept in. Under the cover of the Bay of Pigs operation, much bigger moves were being made. All over the world the MAP training program was picking up volume and momentum. Thousands of foreigners from all forty countries converged upon the United States for training and indoctrination. The new curriculum was either the one at Fort Bragg or like it. The Army interest in political-social-economic programs, under the general concept of "nation building", was gaining momentum. For every class of foreigners who were trained and indoctrinated with these ideas, there were American instructors and American soldiers who were being brainwashed by the very fact that they were being trained to teach this new doctrine. These instructors did not know otherwise. To them this new nonmilitary political, social, and economic theme was the true doctrine of the U.S. Army. A whole generation of the American Army has grown up with this and now believes, to one degree or another, that the natural role of an army lies in this political field. Also they believe that an army mixes some medical and educational ingredients into this nation building. They believe the army is the chosen instrument in nation building, whether the subject be political -- social, economic or military. In many cases, due to the great emphasis the CIA placed on training the police forces of certain foreign countries, a large number of American servicemen who were used for such training became active in what was really police work and not the scope of regular military work.
It was the CIA, with help from a few other agencies, that put together the Inter-American Police Academy during the early Kennedy years, which played such an important part in emphasizing national police power in the nations of Latin America. The CIA brought in police instructors from all over the United States and from the military for this school. The success of this school, operating covertly from an Army base in the Canal of Panama, led to other schools in the United States that have carried on this type of work for police forces in this country. Part of the impetus behind the great buildup in the strength of police force all over the country dates back to this CIA police academy work and to the other schools it spawned. This police work not only involved training but it integrated new weapons, new procedures, and new techniques into American police work, some of which has been good and much of which has been quite ominous.
Anyone who doubts that this nation building and police activity has not become real and very effective right here in the United States need only visit the area around Fort Bragg to find one of these early paramilitary CIA-oriented specialists, General Tolson, sending his American soldiers out into the countryside with nation-building programs for the citizens of the United States. If such tactics continue, it is possible that an enlargement of such a program could lead to a pacification program of areas of the United States, such as the CIA and the U.S. Army have carried out in Indochina.
At the same time this training program was under way, larger and larger civic action teams and other benevolently named organizations spread throughout the world. MAAG units were no longer small logistics and training organizations. They had grown to large size and were frequently and almost augmented by large units on temporary duty in the host country. This Army accounting device of "temporary duty" is always interesting because of the way the Army uses it. The Army may tell an unwitting Congressman or reporter that there are 50 men in the MAAG of a given country, although there may be many more men there. The Army will justify this lie about the total number by claiming that the extra men, sometimes many more than the regular staff, are there on temporary duty. And of course there may even be 100 or 150 more men there, but since they are on the CIA cover payroll, the Army won't report them either even though they are there on Army cover. In that case there will be another justifiable lie to protect the existence of the CIA.
All of this is a game. The secrecy can't mean a thing to the host country, they know exactly how many men are there and it makes no difference to them whether they are Army, Army temporary duty, or Army cover. By the same token, the Soviet embassy, and all other embassies, will know exactly how many Army men are there. And to them, the fine distinction makes no difference. The only people these devices fool are American. American reporters, American Congressmen, American government specialists, and of course the American public. There was almost no way in which anyone in the United States Government could unravel the whole clandestine business. But at least a beginning was made as a result of a most unexpected series of events and as a result of some very shrewd and clever work by Bobby Kennedy and his closest associates.
What had grown quietly, secretly, and almost totally unobserved within the infrastructure of the U.S. Government was by 1961 so large that it was time to bring it to life and give it some reason for existence. While Jack Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy were seriously pondering what had gone wrong with the Bay of Pigs operation, this new doctrine and new organization was emerging. It remained necessary, then, for the Kennedys to find the master key to all of this activity. It took the Bay of Pigs Board of Inquiry to perform this feat. The day-by-day litany of the Board was designed to indoctrinate Bobby Kennedy and to win him over to this new doctrine of counterinsurgency, flexible response, civic action, nation building, and the rest -- and through him, to win over the President. While the Board was meeting day after day in the back room in the Pentagon, something more important than the fate of the Bay of Pigs was being discussed and elaborated upon. As witness after witness filed through the Board's chambers Bobby Kennedy sat there saying absolutely nothing, just soaking up the hearings and searching for cracks in the story. At the same time, Allen Dulles and Maxwell Taylor paraded a hand-picked group of disciples into the room for interviews and questioning. These men were selected to preach the doctrine of the new covert intervention. Their interviews were designed to train, indoctrinate, and to use an overworked term, even to brainwash Bobby Kennedy. What he heard each day was the Maxwell Taylor new-military-plan-for-flexible-response theme, blended with the White House Committee report material, and topped off by Allen Dulles's own theme of secret operations. This was a most heady mixture, and it was effective. Some of the men who were called to talk about the tactics of the Bay of Pigs had not been connected with it at all, but were Special Forces men from the Army Staff or directly from Fort Bragg. Bobby Kennedy emerged from the incessant catechism of the "truths" ready to soak up the doctrine of counterinsurgency. This was to be the new watchword. The Kennedy Administration became hooked on counterinsurgency, and the indoctrination occurred to a good measure right there in the Board of Inquiry process.
Thus the inner Kennedy clan came out of the Bay of Pigs disaster with two strong convictions. Closely held and deeply felt was the conviction that the CIA had somehow done them in and that they had better be extremely wary of anything it did in the future. This was a very deep feeling and only seldom revealed in any official actions. In fact, Jack Kennedy developed a cover story of his own by giving the appearance as much as possible in public that he could go along with the CIA, when private actions and discussions tended to support otherwise.
The second conviction was that the world was being divided sharply into two strong camps in the battle between the "world of choice" and the "world of coercion". It was President Kennedy who said to Chairman Krushchev, "The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free." The Dulles contribution to this philosophy was the reiteration of the Krushchev challenge to support all wars of national liberation; and the Maxwell Taylor contribution was the simple reflex of the counterpuncher, the plan of flexible response. Defined in terms of the infantryman, this meant counterinsurgency.
One of the better definitions of counterinsurgency as practiced in the Kennedy era was that written by a general who worked for the Secretary of Defense: " . . . the technique of using, in appropriate combination, all elements of National Power in support of a friendly government which is in danger of being overthrown by an active Communist campaign designed to organize, mobilize and direct discontented elements of the local population against the government." Although counterinsurgency has been generally regarded as a military activity, careful analysis will reveal that it is really more a civilian-controlled action in the paramilitary area of operation. This is a most important consideration as we observe the country moving from the "Roosevelt-Eisenhower" era into the "Kennedy-Johnson" era, which includes the Vietnam episode. Note also how the definition of counterinsurgency, above, written by an Army General closely allied with the CIA and with the authors of the President's Committee report, almost precisely paraphrases sections of that report. In other words, the actions of this Government, which were called counterinsurgency, were not very different from the actions that were attributed to the Communists and called subversive insurgency. As a matter of fact, they seemed to be identical.
This may seem to be a fine point, but it is the key to much that has happened since then and particularly in Vietnam. Note that the same material written by the spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense continues as follows: "A successful counterinsurgency strategy requires, therefore, the integration of all U.S. Government activities in the country concerned, under the central leadership of the Ambassador or [if the local situation had deteriorated to the point where U.S. Armed Forces are actively involved] the military area commander. In the final analysis, the defeat of a Communist-led insurgency hinges largely on the effectiveness of the Country Team. This depends in great measure upon the willing cooperation of the government departments and agencies in Washington."
When one realizes that this was written by a man who was for years the executive assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and in his own right an acknowledged leader in the new Army doctrine, he begins to see that this is another part of the pattern that was changing this country's entire traditional idea of military action. We have a new doctrine at the Special Forces school, we have worldwide MAP training in the political-social-economic spheres, we have the new creed dramatically spelled out by the President's Committee report and then, to tie this all together, we have the definition of counterinsurgency. We find the official version of counterinsurgency is not to be confused with the more or less public idea of counterinsurgency, which assumes that it is a form of anti-guerrilla fighting against Communist-inspired rebels. The official doctrine of counterinsurgency states clearly that it is carried out "under the central leadership of the ambassador". This means that counterinsurgency is intended to be civilian directed, even though it appears to be a military program, and that the senior man is to be the ambassador. He is placed in charge, not actually to be the country-team commander in chief, but to make it possible for him to delegate his authority to the CIA station chief rather than to some senior military officer.
This has shaped the total efforts of the United States in Vietnam for the past decade and more. All of U.S. history prior to the past decade, more or less followed the general principles of warfare which state that in time of peace the Army trains for war, and during this time the affairs of the nations are carried out by diplomats. When diplomacy fails, then the military men take over and accomplish by military means what the politicians had been unable to accomplish. It has always been clear that when war was the only remaining means of accomplishing national objectives, the ambassador and his staff would leave the scene and the generals would take over. Now here was the highest echelon of military power in the United States stating publicly the new doctrine of the Kennedy era to the effect that counterinsurgency (a form of war) would be "under the central leadership of the ambassador".
Why would a ranking U.S. Army general on a special assignment to the White House define the new training program for mutual security, and another ranking U.S. Army general on assignment to the Office of the Secretary of Defense define the new method of warfare designed to counter the Communist support of "wars of national liberation", and both in terms of civilian direction of the military operations of U.S. forces? To anyone trained in the profession of arms, this is heretical. The answer is simple, although it has lain buried under the long years of the horrible disaster in Vietnam. Both of these men were closely affiliated with and had served with the CIA, and both were the type of men who make up the ST. Even though they wear the uniform of the U.S. Army, their primary allegiance has been with the STICIA new method of operations in peacetime. They saw that the time had come for the ST to make its big move and for it to sweep out beyond the DOD and the CIA to form a massive paramilitary international power under para-civilian leadership and a monstrous cloak of security. Their words were so simple and so Boy-Scout sounding; yet they have changed the entire world during the past decade.
They went on to say, "The United States therefore has made the decision to enter the lists early, to throw its national power into the counterinsurgency campaign on the side of our allies, the local authorities. The problem of counterinsurgency now is receiving the personal attention of the President and his senior advisors. A major effort is being made throughout the government, and particularly within the DOD to develop sound doctrine for the conduct of this unorthodox form of warfare. The JCS, for example, have recently established within the Joint Staff a special staff section dealing exclusively with the problem of counterinsurgency. . . counterinsurgency is not susceptible to a purely military solution. . . it requires the closest possible coordination of political, economic, psychological, and military actions." By the end of 1962 this nation had gone so far down the line following the Agency, the new Special Forces doctrine, the MAP, and the new U.S. philosophy as outlined in the President's Committee report, that it was saying openly it was well on its way to carrying out as top national policy a major clandestine operation so big in fact that the entire government would be involved. Obviously, it could not be really clandestine in the sense that it would be kept secret from our enemies; on the contrary, it was a new kind of "clandestine", so it would be kept secret from all Americans.
When such men stated that the war would be waged under civilian leadership, and then named the ambassador as the commanding and senior officer, they simply were carrying out their usual cover-story double-talk. Any such counterinsurgency would be initiated and directed by the CIA. Of course the generals involved would be real generals; but they would be working inside of and for the CIA -- or in some cases not exactly inside of the CIA, but certainly under its direction. Has it ever been properly explained why this country has retained an ambassador in Saigon since the first one was selected by the CIA to go to that new piece of real estate, a new nation called South Vietnam, back in 1954? Why should the longest war in which this country has ever been involved, and the second costliest and second most destructive, have been waged through all these futile years under the direction of an ambassador? Is it because of the above doctrine? Is it because we entered this conflict to support what were, at first, minor CIA operations? Then when these actions grew and grew, there never was a time when the "war" transitioned from the clandestine operators to the military operators. During all of these years the ambassador has remained as a sort of minor commander in chief, one step down from the Commander-in-chief role of the President. And this has been done so that he could serve as a referee between the CIA and the military, the end result being that neither one of them has been really in complete control since 1964, when the first Marines arrived in Vietnam. Before that, the CIA was in control of operations, while the military played a logistics role and perfunctorily acted the part of a military organization.
At that time, 1963-1964, the ambassador could have been withdrawn in favor of the military commander as the escalation went into effect. Then the CIA chief should have been relegated to the Fourth Force role he should have in a wartime situation. As late as the end of 1963, every U.S. Army combat soldier in Vietnam (excepting a few assigned to such offices as the legitimate MAAG section -- as differentiated from the oversized cover MAAG section) was under the operational control and direction of the CIA. It was only after the beginning of real escalation that the Army soldiers under Army generals began to take over certain roles and missions and areas in Vietnam. They never did take over full responsibility for what was called a "war". One reason for this was that there never was a real honest to God military objective of this war. There never has been in Vietnam that objective, which when achieved by military force, would have spelled victory. There never has been that battle which, if won, would assure victory. Of course, the counterinsurgency supporters have said, "That's the nature of this type of warfare. You can't beat insurgents that way." That is nonsense. When a nation is ready to demand from its people fifty-five thousand lives and more than $200 billion of its wealth as a contribution to some foreign action, it should at least have an objective that can be achieved in a tangible manner so that one can tell when it has been reached or when such attainment is beyond reach. What has happened in Vietnam is that the CIA got in over its head, and the Army was sent in to attempt to bring some order out of the chaos that existed there after the assassination of President Diem. Only then, when the Marines and the Army arrived, were troops serving under the actual command and direction of their generals.
One of the real reasons the Army got in there in the first place was because when the Marines came in they refused to take the field under the CIA. By that time, General Krulak, formerly the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities on the Joint Staff, and then commanding general of Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific, knew too much about the CIA and its activities to permit his Marines to hit the beaches of Indochina under any command other than Marine and the U.S. Military Command, Vietnam.
Kennedy undoubtedly saw the beginnings of this serious problem after the Bay of Pigs investigation. At that time he wrote two very powerful National Security Action Memoranda, NSAM 55 and NSAM 57. Both were issued from the White House in June 1961. NSAM 55 was a brief memorandum of greatest significance, which was addressed directly to the Chairman of the JCS and was signed personally by the President. In essence it said that Jack Kennedy would hold the chairman (Lemnitzer) responsible for all action of a military nature during peacetime in the same manner as he would hold him responsible for such action in time of war. In other words, the President was saying that he wanted any and all peacetime operations (military type-clandestine, covert, paramilitary, etc.) to be under the control, or at least under the close scrutiny, of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. One way to interpret this in light of the then current events would be, "No more Bay of Pigs." This was a powerful memorandum, which set forth Kennedy's views without equivocation. It was in fact more positive as an action against the non-addressees than it was for the addressee, the JCS.
General Lemnitzer, a fine soldier of the old and traditional school and one of the best administrators to serve after World War II, did not take advantage of this memo. He knew exactly what it meant, and he did not intend to abuse it. The best way he knew to have no more Bay of Pigs disasters was to have no more Bay of Pigs. He noted the memo, had the Joint Chiefs of Staff "Red Stripe" (formally approve it), then filed it for future use, if needed. As far as that old soldier was concerned, that memo meant there would be no more clandestine military operations in peacetime and that such things as Indonesia, Laos, Tibet, and the Bay of Pigs were a thing of the past.
I was the officer responsible for briefing this paper to General Lemnitzer and to the other Chiefs of Staff, and that NSAM rested in my files. There need be no misunderstanding about what the memo meant, what the President meant, what Lemnitzer understood and did, and what the other Chiefs of Staff understood.
This was an unusual memorandum because Kennedy sent it directly to the chairman and sent information copies only to McNamara, Rusk, and Allen Dulles. It should also be noted that Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, and Allen Dulles knew that NSAM well and understood its full meaning and intent; and they knew exactly what President Kennedy meant by it. In other words, President Kennedy by the explicit publication of this brief memo was letting the entire top echelon superstructure above the ST, wherever it existed, know that from that time on there were to be no more such ill-conceived, inadequately planned, and inherently dangerous clandestine operations. If this directive had been followed explicitly and if Kennedy had lived to assure that it was followed as he intended it to be, there is a very good chance that United States involvement in Indochina would never have been escalated beyond the military-adviser level. He had learned his grim lesson at the Bay of Pigs, and as his directive made clear, he was not going to become involved in that type of operation again. If evidence of this is needed, consider how he handled the missile crisis in Cuba a year later. Once he had been convinced of the gravity of the situation, he directed the mobilization of sufficient troops overtly, and challenged the Cubans and the Soviets to comply with his demands. He respected the proper employment of military power and had seen how undercover military power fails.
The second memorandum, NSAM 57, though issued at the same time, was signed, as most NSAMs were, by a member of the NSC staff for the President. Coming as it did paired with NSAM 55 there could have been no misunderstanding that it carried the same thrust as NSAM 55, and that it fully expressed the views of President Kennedy. This memorandum was much longer, and it gave much more detail.
Following the policy of the National Security Act of 1947 and of such other directives as NSCID 10/2 and later NSCID 5412/2, it recognized that there might be requirements for clandestine activity from time to time. Then it went further than those earlier directives and became much more explicit. It said that any small and truly covert type of operation "may be assigned" to the CIA and that any which were larger would be the subject of special study and planning and then "may be assigned" to the military, that part of the military which would be sufficient only to carry out that one operation on a one time basis. It directed that large covert operations would not be assigned to the CIA.
This attempt at clarification provided the opportunity for the CIA and its fellow travelers with a chance to blow up the balloon. They counterattacked with a long and drawn out argument about what was a "small" operation and what was a "large" one. They then proceeded to argue about what happens if the Agency goes into some country with a small operation, and then it expands. At what point will the CIA operation be transitioned from the CIA control to the military solely on the basis of size, since it might be assumed that it might or might not have remained covert. The CIA argued that if it remained covert, regardless of size, no such transition of direction could take place. The whole point of the CIA argument was to invalidate the President's controlling mechanism, which depended upon a scale of size.
This started some very long and heated arguments, and as often happens, since the real career military such as Lemnitzer had very little interest in this subject anyhow, the well drilled opposition made quite a bit of headway. After all the dust had settled, it began to appear that except for NSAM 55 which Lemnitzer had let remain in the file (his being of the it-can't-happen-here school), Kennedy's directive had been turned into an encouragement to the CIA to go out and start small fires and count on the military to bail them out. This may seem an odd conclusion -- almost funny -- but it is exactly how we got into Vietnam in spite of the directives from the White House. The ST is perfectly capable of turning a No into a Yes by its gift of irrepressible argument.
I have quoted the ranking U.S. Army officer who worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense, with reference to his definition of the term "counterinsurgency". Now I shall add a few lines written almost exactly one year after the NSAM 57 arguments about how big and when to transition to the military, and which take on a special meaning in this relationship. In this one critical year here is exactly how the fight came out: "A successful counterinsurgency strategy requires, therefore, the integration of all U.S. Government activities in the country concerned, under the central leadership of the ambassador . . . or, if the local situation had deteriorated to the point where the U.S. armed forces are actively involved, the military area commander." In this special sense, read "deteriorated" to mean "expanded beyond the ability or desire of the CIA to continue to be involved". This is exactly what was happening in Laos at about this same time. The CIA had become overextended, and things were going very badly. The CIA wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, asking relief or suggesting the abandonment of the Meo tribesmen whom they had been supporting.
Recall how the trouble in Vietnam started. The CIA had been involved in a great number of brush fire operations there for a number of years in one way or another since the OSS days of 1945. These raged out of control, becoming a general conflagration by the end of 1963. At that time there were more than sixteen thousand American military personnel there, more or less in the ostensible role of advisory personnel; but all of these were under the actual direction of the country team, which meant that they were under the operational direction of the CIA. (Some parties may wish to deny this in an attempt to maintain the fiction of those earlier days; but the early general officers who were serving in Vietnam at that time were either serving with the CIA under the cloak of CIA or were closely affiliated with the CIA, such as the Special Forces. One more bit of operational evidence is offered by the combat intelligence available in those days. There was none of the real military kind. What was there was a form of CIA village network intelligence, which on most counts was dependent upon the native population. Even as late as the attacks on the villages in the My Lai complex, it was the Agency intelligence functionary who told the military to attack.)
On the "when to transition" concept it will be noted that even ten years later and after the escalation of military manpower had reached the staggering figure of 550,000 men -- to say nothing of gross amounts of civilian manpower -- the central leadership was never transitioned to the military as President Kennedy's NSAM 57 had ordered. If anyone ever wanted an example of how far the ST can turn things around, this is one of the best. In June 1961 the President stated one thing categorically; by 1962 the Army's spokesman (actually in Army uniform; but a CIA/ST spokesman) had totally turned this around in his counterinsurgency doctrine and definition. Then, after President Kennedy died, the ST retained control of most of the Vietnam war from its earliest birth pangs to the peak of escalation. Even to this day the combat phase of the Vietnamese war, which is called "pacification" and which in fiscal year l972 cost more than $1 billion, is totally under the direction and control of the CIA.
The key to all of this, the matter that made it so easy for the ST to wrest control of this major peacetime "covert" operation, even from the hands of the President and Commander in Chief, lay in the words of the Army general quoted above: "The JCS have recently established within the Joint Staff a special staff section dealing exclusively with the problem of counterinsurgency." This was a carefully designed move, and it emerged from a formative series of events. Almost from the time of the creation of the CIA, the Secretary of Defense had maintained on his immediate staff an Assistant to the Secretary for Special Operations. Among other things, this man was charged with the responsibility for liaison with the CIA, NSA, Department of State, and the White House. His area of interest was almost totally within the field of clandestine operations, although he was interested in routine intelligence matters and other related functions. For the five or six years prior to the Kennedy inauguration, this office was filled by an extremely able and wise figure, a retired four-star Marine general, Graves B. Erskine. He had served in that capacity longer than any man had ever served in the office of the Secretary of Defense at such a level of responsibility. His tenure had covered service under Charles Wilson, Neil McElroy, Thomas Gates, and for a brief period, Robert McNamara. As he was utilized by the secretaries prior to McNamara, he kept a close eye on all CIA operational activity that involved the military in any way, and whenever in his judgment things were going too far he would inform the Secretary, and in most instances the CIA would be asked to drop its request for military support, which generally was tantamount to halting the project. Erskine's role was one of considerable quiet power; yet he used it sparingly. Then shortly after U.S. Air Force Colonel Edward G. Lansdale came back from Saigon, where he had been working for the CIA ever since the establishment of the Diem regime and immediately before that had been in Manila during the selection and establishment of the Magsaysay regime, he was assigned to General Erskine's office at the specific request of Allen Dulles. Along with a number of other CIA agent cover "plants" in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Lansdale provided a strong counterfoil to his boss, General Erskine, within the military departments, where he was known, except to a few, only as an Air Force officer on the Secretary of Defense staff. (By 1961 the CIA, partly as a function of the vast U-2 project, was widely and deeply entrenched in the DOD.)
When McNamara became Secretary, he was advised that he really would not need an Assistant for Special Operations. He abolished that office. Then many of the old office staff were dispersed, especially in one sudden move the day after the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation. Those who were left moved to a new location in a new office, which was then headed by General (recently promoted) Lansdale. During this period, I had been assigned to the Erskine staff and was performing a rather special function, which I had been doing for about five years before in the Pentagon, but in a different staff location. Shortly after the new Lansdale office had been established I was asked by General Earle Wheeler, then the director of the Joint State, if that function would not be better applied if it were moved from OSD to the Joint Staff, so that it might he applied uniformly for all the services and for the many major military commands overseas. He discussed this further with McNamara. In a most unusual administrative maneuver, required because of the stringent limitations of the size of the Joint Staff, my office was transferred from OSD to the Joint Staff, along with the necessary manpower spaces and authorization to staff the office with representatives of all services and administrative support. This small staff was joined later by another highly classified group, which performed a somewhat related function. Then, as a progression of this first move, the Joint Staff created an office called the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA). This new office was much larger than the original office that had moved down from OSD, and it brought with it a large staff of CIA oriented personnel from all services. It had several temporary special assistants, among them General Hemtges and General Craig, before it acquired its greatest and most dynamic driving force, U.S. Marine General Victor H. Krulak.
The important thing to understand is that the much-heralded office of SACSA had very few military responsibilities. It was almost entirely CIA oriented. Most of its dealings with the services were in areas in which the CIA was most active. For example, the great proportion of its dealing with the Army was strictly limited to Special Forces activity. With the Air Force it was for the most part limited to Special Air Warfare activity, and with the Navy it was active in the Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) teams. There were other duties of course; but most of them gave the office something it could say it was doing while it performed its primary task of supporting the CIA, the ST, and of breathing life unto the massive Frankenstein called counterinsurgency.
SACSA played another very important role in the highest level policy discussions of this country. It has been said that Kennedy wanted to get out of Vietnam in 1963 but deferred it "until after his re-election", as he told Senator Mike Mansfield, because such a move would stir up a "McCarthy (Joe) wave of sentiment" and would lose him the support of the JCS.
The JCS Kennedy knew best was the voice of SACSA. The one officer he saw from the Joint Staff more than any other during those crucial days was General Krulak. (See how often Krulak's name appears in the Pentagon Papers, and then see if the name of General Dean ever appears. Technically, General Dean should have been the action man -- he was the operations director of the Joint Staff -- but General Dean was not the CIA/ST man.) This was because Allen Dulles and Maxwell Taylor (at that time the military advisor to the President) opened the door for Krulak, since Krulak's job was to "support the CIA". General Krulak's closest advisors were such men as Bill Bundy, a long-time career CIA man on McNamara's staff at that time; General Lansdale, and other key CIA agents and high officials, whose names will be omitted because some of them are still active. (Some of these highly placed officials were so deeply covered that it is possible that no one in OSD, including Krulak, knew that years ago they had been planted by the CIA. Thus, when he worked frequently with a man in the Department of Research and Engineering, from whom he had been told he could get some assistance, it is quite possible he never knew the man he saw was from Dulles's office.)
Later, when Maxwell Taylor had become the chairman of the JCS, the only JCS John Kennedy knew was even more CIA biased, since Maxwell Taylor himself was by that time more oriented toward the ST than the military, and Krulak was closer than ever to the President.
Thus it was not the real military that Kennedy would have offended if he had withdrawn from Vietnam in 1963. It was the chameleon STICIA military who made him think they would have objected, and who made him think that they represented the military. In this special sense the creation of SACSA and the appointment of Maxwell Taylor as Chairman of the JCS were most influential events. It is no wonder ST writers have made so much of the great importance to them and to the CIA, of SACSA. A careful reader of the Pentagon Papers will see how well documented all of this is, especially if he observes how many "JCS" papers were actually not bona fide JCS papers but were in reality SACSA/STICIA papers, attributed only to the JCS.
As important to the ST as SACSA was, of equal importance was the return to the government and especially to the Pentagon of Maxwell Taylor. After the Bay of Pigs, it was inevitable that Allen Dulles would leave the CIA. His chief lieutenant, Dick Bissell of U-2 fame and of Laos and Bay of Pigs infamy, left the Agency to become the head of the Institute of Defense Analysis, an organization with many interesting functions -- among them acting as a conduit for CIA activities. Dulles again showed that uncanny ability of his and of the Agency's to rise above each fiasco on to new heights. During the Bay of Pigs inquiry he ingratiated Maxwell Taylor to the Kennedys so firmly that Jack Kennedy assigned General Taylor to the position of Military Adviser to the President. This was a good cover assignment for General Taylor. For those who thought he might be interfering with the duties and prerogatives of the chairman of the JCS, this assignment caused a few raised eyebrows. Dulles and Maxwell Taylor were content to let those rumors and fantasies spread because they did much to help transfer some of the blame for the Bay of Pigs from the CIA to the military. However, everyone else in the need-to-know clan knew that Maxwell Taylor was in the White House to be the President's liaison man with the CIA. The President may not have known how closely Maxwell Taylor's aspirations and those of Allen Dulles matched each other. During the last days of the Dulles era, Maxwell Taylor served as the Focal Point man between Dulles and his Agency and the White House.
This was a perfect role of Maxwell Taylor. He had quit the Army in a dispute with the Eisenhower Administration and now he was in an ideal position to encourage with all support and haste the urgent development of the new flexible response army, attuned to the trumpet of Taylor's own choosing -- counterinsurgency. All the pieces were coming together, and during this formative period a new special group was formed. This was the Special Group (of the NSC), Counterinsurgency, better known as the Special Group CI, or CI. This group presided over the CIA, State and Defense Departments, and others, who hastily put together a host of counterinsurgency nations. It was a watch list, which varied from time to time as intelligence inputs rose and fell with the tides of international events. The Special Group CI list usually ran to about sixteen or seventeen countries, in the order of how deep they were along the path to insurgency and decay. It is worth noting that although the automatic target of CI was Communism, not a single "Communist" country, including Cuba, was on the list. It was characteristic of the new ST focus that the United States was to intervene in the affairs of its friends and not in the affairs of Russia's friends or of China's friends.
This game as it was then played in Washington was a most serious business. As countries were added to the list their military aid programs were hastily escalated, and literally hundreds and sometimes thousands of American military personnel of all types descended upon them. Sometimes they arrived in uniform and sometimes in civilian disguise. They went to work immediately in support of the new political-social-economic doctrine, and before long new schools were being built -- by the army; new hospitals were being built -- by the army; new farming techniques were under way -- by the army; irrigation and water purification projects were under way, -- again by the army. Underlying all of the paramilitary and sometimes real military work was the CIA, working with the host government to weed out, to identify, and to categorize all of the subversive insurgents. In countries where the word Communism had never been applied to bandits, beggars, and rebels before, all of a sudden all opposition was given the name "Communist". All the problems were attributed to Communists, and the counterinsurgency action was under way.
These rather amateurish activities were met with all kinds of receptions in the various host countries. Some were cool to this love-your-army doctrine. Some were stunned. It was pretty bitter medicine for many countries, where hatred and fear of the army had been traditional, to find the Americans coming in with a program designed to make the army into local heroes according to the Magsaysay formula of a Robin Hood game. But what were they -- the Colombians, Congolese, Laotians, Jordanians -- able to say in the face of American "goodwill" and concern? It did a lot of good for the "do-gooders" of counterinsurgency action in the U.S. Government, and if nothing else it served to quickly coalesce the ST. The next move, as SACSA and the Agency consolidated their power and influence in the White House and in the DOD, was to propose the "logical" move of General Taylor to the Pentagon to become chairman of the JCS. As soon as this was accomplished, the Army actively threw itself into the Special Forces mold and set out to win back its position of number one on the defense team.
Thus, all of these pressures and behind-the-scenes efforts piled up before Vietnam, and came to a head in Vietnam. As we have said before, the logistics equipment in huge amounts from Indonesia, Tibet, Laos, the Bay of Pigs, and many other operations all began to accumulate in Vietnam along with the ST personnel, who saw an opportunity to accomplish, almost with abandon, all of the things that they had failed to do or had been unable to do before.
While this was going on quietly and quite subtly before his eyes, President Kennedy did a lot of talking with many old hands about "what has gone wrong with the Bay of Pigs" and "what is the meaning of Vietnam". As has been ably reported by many good writers, President Kennedy was forming his own opinion of what was going on, and the evidence is that he was quite close to the facts and to a real evaluation of what was happening. One of Kennedy's closest friends, Kenny O'Donnell, reports that General MacArthur had "stunned" the President in 1961, after the Bay of Pigs, with his warnings about the folly of trying to match Asian manpower and about the absurdity of the domino theory "in a nuclear age." O'Donnell further reports, "The General implored the President to avoid a U.S. military buildup in Vietnam, or any other part of the Asian mainland. . . ." And Mary McGrory, a reporter, has said, in words more truthful and important than she knew, "President Kennedy, who at the time was caught up in the counterinsurgency mania which had swept the New Frontier, was subsequently startled by the passionate objections of Mansfield. But he told Mansfield privately, after a White House leadership meeting, that he agreed with him "on a need for a complete withdrawal from Vietnam, but I can't do it until 1965 after I get re-elected".
Kennedy had the misfortune, which he was overcoming rapidly, of being young and inexperienced in the inner ways of government, such as those employed by the ST. He could not have realized that Maxwell Taylor, for example, by the time he had returned to the Pentagon as chairman of the JCS, was actually more of a Judas goat, as far as the military was concerned, than the leader of the herd, as he had been when he left three years before. Few great armies have been so vastly demoralized and stricken by an integral campaign as has the U.S. Army since those dark days of 1964 and 1965, when Maxwell Taylor and his ST counterparts led them into Vietnam under the banner of counterinsurgency.
Vietnam is not a simple thing. There were many new forces at play there. It had always galled the Navy and the intelligence community the way General MacArthur had dominated the Pacific during World War II and then later in Korea; and in so doing, he had gained the complete upper hand over all of his adversaries in the U.S. military, especially over "Wild Bill" Donovan of the old OSS. They were violently jealous of him. Admiral Radford, who had been Commander in Chief, Pacific Forces, objected strenuously to any decision that would make Southeast Asia an Army theater of action as MacArthur had made the Korean action an Army show. Radford supported the CIA and Lansdale when they moved into Saigon from Manila. For other reasons the Navy and the CIA had the full support of Cardinal Spellman, since he strongly urged the installation of a Catholic in the President's office in Saigon, and Ngo Dinh Diem and his family were pillars of the Catholic Church in Indochina.
Businesses that had been all but knocked out of the defense contract arena by the end of the Eisenhower regime -- some by the sudden and abrupt swing to ballistic missiles and space during the late fifties -- saw new light at the end of the tunnel in the resurgence of the foot-soldier army and the ground war