Allen’s ascendency brought furtive characters, such as gun-toting William Harvey and cadaverous James Jesus Angelton, into a powerful global apparatus. Cold War ideology brooked no nationalist aspirations in any country wishing to control domestic politics and natural resources. A post-colonial era was emerging. But democratically elected nationalist leaders such as Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran and Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala were conveniently portrayed as communists. In both countries, the CIA orchestrated coups ensuring protection for profitable corporate oil interests and the United Fruit Co. The agency contributed to the killing of Patrice Lumumba, the charismatic Congolese leader who only wanted self-government for his beleaguered people.
The CIA has finally admitted that it was behind the military coup that overthrew the government of Iran in 1953. Malcolm Byrne of the nonprofit National Security Archive at George Washington University tells the story in Foreign Policy.
Byrne’s tale illuminates the covert action mentality that came to dominate the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. The August 1953 coup in Iran and the June 1954 coup in Guatemala, both organized by undercover CIA officers, convinced the agency’s leaders and the White House that the US government could remove perceived enemies at a low cost and without war.
These “successes” led directly to the debacle of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, which was organized by many of the architects of the Guatemala operation.
The Bay of Pigs in turn, led indirectly or indirectly, to the intelligence failure that culminated in gunfire on November 22, 1963. That tragedy prompted former President Harry Truman to call for abolition of the CIA’s covert operations directorate.
The story also says a lot about CIA’s overclassification of JFK records today.
Byrne’s coda is apt:
“We do this in a peaceful and orderly way,” said Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee at President Obama’s inauguration. “There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection. This is a moment when millions stop and watch.”