After helping build the coalition within the Republican Party that got Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980, William Casey returned to the intelligence sector where he had served during World War II by becoming head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). While all conservative and many mainstream liberal media outlets claim that this was the decade where “Reagan won the Cold War,” in reality it was a terror campaign waged on behalf of American business interests across the Global South that including the unleashing of the crack epidemic and an ongoing War on the Poor domestically.
Dating back to the Gerald Ford administration, the right wing of the Republican Party had been opposed to Henry Kissinger’s détente with the Soviet Union. A special CIA intelligence analysis project called Team B, composed of hawkish neoconservatives and backed by major business interests through a network of think tanks and foundations, had begun to create a full-scale domestic propaganda offensive against Americans that claimed the Soviet Union, which in reality was in the midst of economic stagnation, was dwarfing American as a geopolitical force fomenting Communist revolution globally.
Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone write in their Untold History of the United States: CIA analysts had long prided themselves on professionalism and distance from the operations side of the Agency. That would not fly with the Reagan team. The assault that began via [George H.W.] Bush’s Team B reached fruition under Casey. Administration hard-liners wanted intelligence that supported their view of a dangerous, hostile, and expansion-minded Soviet Union regardless of how far such a perception departed from reality. Casey, a multimillionaire Wall Street lawyer and devout Irish Catholic, had come to the CIA, according to his deputy Robert Gates, “to wage war against the Soviet Union.” According to Gates, “the Reaganites saw their arrival as a hostile takeover.”
Bob Woodward’s Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987 opens with a vignette featuring Casey’s predecessor, Adm. Stansfield Turner, being disdained at the news of Casey’s appointment. “He thought that was irrelevant, like getting some old World War II admiral to head the Fleet. The OSS was the old-hand, old-boy network as far as Turner was concerned. OSS remnants and OSS attitudes still endured at the agency and had created major troubles for Turner… They were both a strength and a weakness in the CIA.”
Casey had read Claire Sterling’s The Terror Network and was convinced that the Soviet Union was the fount of all international terrorism. According to Melvin Goodman, head of the CIA’s office for Soviet analysis, “Several of us met with Casey to try to tell the director that much of Sterling’s so-called evidence was in fact CIA ‘black propaganda,’ anticommunist allegations planted in the European press.” But, he added, “Casey contemptuously noted . . . that he ‘learned more from Sterling than from’ ” all of them. CIA experts, however, knew that the Soviets, for all their faults, actually discouraged terrorism.
Sterling interviewed for television, acknowledging Reagan administration saw her as anything but a fabulist crank!
Casey speaking in August 1986 about completely insane nonsense that a third-rate movie studio wouldn’t dare try releasing on the public.
In essence, Casey created an echo chamber, filled it with paranoid and antiquated Cold War canards about a Russian menace that did not actually exist, and used this multimedia propaganda construct to justify one of the most vicious and genocidal campaigns of terror this hemisphere had seen in decades. “…He brought in some of the top public relations firms in the nation to advise him on how to sell his two pet projects, the Contras and the Afghani mujahedin, to a dubious American public. Casey called this work ‘perception management,’ but it was really a domestic propaganda campaign, a psy-ops for the home folks,” write Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair in Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press.
The war on Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, who were given somewhat mild backing and foreign aid by Cuba and the Soviets, was used as justification to unleash an international crime operation that reaped chaos not only for Daniel Ortega’s Junta of National Reconstruction but also in El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, and Panama, where Manuel Noriega served as a key player in the cocaine trafficking operation that found its way into American urban centers as crack. By the end of the decade, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, and Hezbollah were also in the mix through the illegal Iran-Contra scandal. Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel Movement in Granada was likewise destroyed owing to claims of espionage on the part of Fidel Castro and the Kremlin. Simultaneously, the fascist white-minority governments in Southern Africa were hailed as the vanguard of liberty while the African National Congress was designated a dangerous terrorist organization owing to their socialist bloc supporters!
What actually happened in the Eighties was something much more diversified ideologically and culturally. After a halting start during the period immediately following World War II, the process of decolonization began to gain speed. Countries across the Global South were beginning to develop the economic and political means by which they might foster a viable social welfare system for the citizenry and international blocs of commerce and economic sustainability. While the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries did express interest in supporting the decolonization process, both for geostrategic as well as ideological purposes, there was no unified Communist threat like the Reagan administration claimed. Instead, the force that actually unified all these countries was Global Northern capital and imperialism, which refused to sacrifice profits for the poor. The propaganda campaign necessary was elaborate.
Remember, at this point the Soviets couldn’t afford a pot to piss in. And yet they were expected to invade…Colorado?!
Particularly astonishing, however, was how completely the allegedly-liberal media industries bought the lies. Many of the popular American films of the period included some variation on the international Communist-terrorist axis of evil, regardless of whether the screenwriters and directors were Republicans or Democrats! It was only the outlier pictures, like Oliver Stone’s Salvador, that pushed back against Casey’s deadly delusions.
Produced by liberal Steven Spielberg and directed by Robert Zemeckis, Back to the Future was dabbling in plainly racist bullshit here.
Does anyone even remember what in the name of God this movie was supposed to be about?
Here is late spy novelist Tom Clancy speaking to the NSA in 1986. What he says in this segment is a pitch-perfect rendition of the propaganda line that filled the media in the 1980s and which was complete fiction.
Of course the irony was, at the end of all things, the neocons who had chomped at the bit for decades over their fanciful Commie menace were caught asleep at the wheel when the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc began to implode owing entirely to the bungled implementation of glasnost and perestroika policies by Mikhail Gorbachev. Domestic Russian corruption, caused by a black market that absorbed whole factories and supply nodes, was to provide the terminal blow to the centrally planned economic system, not Claire Sterling-style propaganda.
[Melvin] Goodman, who served as a senior CIA Soviet analyst from 1966 to 1986, observed, “The CIA caricature of a Soviet military octopus whose tentacles reached the world over supported the administration’s view of the ‘Evil Empire.’ ” Goodman blamed “the fact that the CIA missed the most important historical development in its history—the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union itself”—largely on “the culture and process that [Robert] Gates established in his directorate.”
Today Washington is abuzz again with another fanciful story of Russian espionage reaching into the most ridiculous realms of paranoid hysteria. Despite the fact that we know the entire Russiagate narrative was formulated by the Clinton campaign in the hours immediately following their surprise loss in November 2016 (see Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Allen and Parnes for more info), liberals and a good number of progressives have lost complete grasp on reality and sanity while being cheerleaders for the FBI and CIA!
American political discourse has been re-framed and re-oriented by a combination of external political interests and one of the major parties working in tandem to foment a narrative at complete odds with reality and sanity.
As a result, this Casey-styled strategy has successfully prevented a serious housecleaning of the elements within the Democratic Party that lost the 2016 election to a game show host. This also successfully deflects attention and criticism from bipartisan imperial policy that is still seeking to pillage the Global South.
Like the shade of Hamlet’s father, many of our contemporary headlines about foreign and domestic affairs, from mass incarceration to Latin American migration to geopolitical wrangling with Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Havana, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Hanoi, and Caracas, can be traced back to the dark deeds of William Casey over three decades ago, with Elliot Abrams making merely a small cameo in a wider canvas of carnage.