You are on page 1of 7

Book Review Tim Weiner Legacy of Ashes History of the CIA Instructor: Dr.

Stephen Borg POS 364 National Security, Intelligence, and Terrorism Reviewed by Tony Magana

In Legacy of Ashes the writer Tim Weiner sets out to tell us about the role of the CIA throughout its lifespan in American History. The story of the CIA is poised to be one marked by.corruption, degradation and ineptness. This book documents the inner workings found within the Central Intelligence Agency. In his book we are given insight into a world which shows the sometimes horrible underbelly of the American political machine known as the CIA. The CIA began its reign during the Truman administration at the end of World War 2. As we read chapter after chapter we learn more and more about the constant mistakes the CIA has made over a span of 60 years. Mistakes which have cost many lives, time and a lot of money. The mistakes continue throughout the entire book. We learn about the various blunders beginning at the end of World war 2 and continuing well into the war on terror. In chapter six we learn about the first real leader of the CIA General Walter Bedell Smith, Dulles the deputy director of the CIA and Wisner chief of covert operations. When Bedell Smith saw the budget proposed by Dulles and wisner he must have nearly had a heart attack. Even in the year 2012 five hundred forty eight million dollars seems like an astronomical amount of money; in 1951 this must have seemed like an ungodly amount to spend on National Security. However this is the amount requested by Wisner and Dulles. It is even more shocking to learn that Bedell Smith was eventually given a budget of one billion dollars a year. With amounts like this it any wonder the United States is in such a state of financial crisis? Making problems even worse was the fact Bedell Smith could not trust Dulles and Wisner. Dulles and Wisner did not get along and one of the first things Bedell Smith had to do as leader of the CIA was separate them. Secondly both made it a point to hide any CIA failures from Bedell Smith. Many horrible atrocities have taken place from the beginning of the CIAs history. One such atrocity occurred the very first day the CIA Act of 1949 was passed by President Truman.

In order to ensure our National Security was upheld to the highest degree the act allowed 100 immigrants into the United States every year. It allowed them residency into the United States without any adherence to U.S. laws on the subject. This in and of itself may not seem like a bad idea. The issue occurs when the nature of the people allowed into the country comes into question. Lebed one of the many immigrants allowed to enter the United States was described by the CIA as a terrorist. In 1936 Lebed killed the Polish interior minister and was sent to prison. Lebed was lucky enough to escape after the Germans invaded his country and even more lucky then that the CIA found a way to exploit his services in missions against Moscow. In todays post 9/11 society something as horrible as letting the head of a terrorist organization into the United States would never happen but in 1949 with the threat of the Cold War it seems the terrorist Lebed was the lesser of two evils. The CIA cost many lives during the beginning of the Korean War. During the onset of the Korean War there was a general lack of volunteers for the CIAs covert operations. In Weiners book we learn about the deaths of numerous asian CIA agents. The agents were dropped into Korea never to be heard from again. The agents were sent to different parts of Korea on unfounded data in what the book refers to as shadow missions. Sometimes the agents were dropped without being given any instructions concerning where they were suppose to go and without clear-cut objectives. Given the circumstances it really shouldnt surprise anyone that there was a lack of volunteers considering that any volunteer had pretty much agreed to a suicide mission. In Weiners book we learn in Manchuria of the 212 foreign agents the CIA dropped 101 were killed 111 were captured. It just boggles the mind to think of the reason behind sending in so many people simply to die.

Moving along in history we enter into the inner mechanisms of the CIA during the Kennedy administration. Rafael Trujillo was the right-wing Generalissimo of the Dominican Republic for about thirty years before Kennedy came into office. The Generalissimo was backed by prominent businessmen and the government of the United States. However as time passed the level of corruption and horrible atrocities committed against the people of the Dominican Republic had risen to such an austere and despicable place within the eyes of the world that something had to be done. Trujillo enjoyed placing any dissenters on meathooks to die an obviously slow and painful death. However Trujillo also kept the city clean and ensured order within his country These facts aside Trujillos level of tyranny reached such a high amount that the United States decided to aid in his death. Tracy Barnes the covert action deputy gave the go-ahead to the CIA who then left 3 38. caliber pistols in an old American embassy building. Later a second shipment with four automatic machine guns were authorized as well as plenty of ammunition. Trujillo was shot two weeks later. It was never traced back to the United States. The acts involving the death of Generalissimo Trujillo committed by the CIA can be viewed objectively in at least two different ways. Trujillo may have been committing horrible atrocities against his people but President Kennedy was aware of the fact that any ties between the US and Trujillos death would not be viewed positively by the rest of the world. The United States chose to act and although the act involved the death of a political leader this is one of the instances mentioned in the book in which the cloak and dagger acts of the CIA are not entirely reprehensible. Weiner's book also covers the connection between General Noriega and President Bush Senior. Weiner lets us know that Bush and Noriega knew each other personally when bush Senior was head of the CIA. We also learned Noriega was on the CIA payroll for a time. In

February of 1988 the General was indicted in Florida. He was charged with being a kingpin trafficking cocaine. In chapter forty three we also learn from Robert Pastorino who was on staff with the National Security Council that the CIA did not want to relinquish ties with Noriega. Pastorino had spent a lot of time with Noriega during the 1980s. During the Reagan administration the White House attempted to have the CIA remove Noriega as dictator two times. President Bush Sr. also made the same request when he came into office. Each time this occurred the CIA refused or did not follow through with the orders. There were five covert operations put in place to remove Noriega in which over ten million dollars were spent. Nobody at the CIA wanted Noriega on trial speaking about their relationship. Bush Sr. became so furious he released a statement where he mentioned that CNN was proving to be more useful in learning about Noriega and Panama than the CIA. Even someone as corrupt as Dick Chaney realized the CIA was to be gleamed with a skeptical eye. Once again the agency fell short of its objective. Once Noriega was taken to trial we learned that Noriega was given at least 320,000 dollars by the CIA. The CIA viewed noriega as their main intelligence source on Fidel Castro. Noriega also housed the Shah of Iran. Once again this can be looked at objectively in at least two ways. Noriega was a corrupt dictator who murdered his own people and exported monstrous amounts of cocaine into the United States. One could argue that the people of the United States used the cocaine and that supply and demand is really the culprit but you cannot argue murdering your own people for profit, control or whatever the reason. The CIA had their own self-interest at heart and seems once again the agency is more interested in keeping its secrets than in the welfare of American ideals. Weiners book covers very complicated issues. I agree that the CIA has made a lot of mistakes. I think Tim Weiner makes valid points and covers the issues thoroughly. However the issues

facing the CIA are very complicated. The selected passages in this review illustrate the point quite well. Its hard to say if murdering one person to save the lives of others is the right thing to do on any level. In reading this book one is given the distinct impression that the CIA is playing the role of God and believes itself to be the greater good no matter what evil it creates. For example is communism worse than dictatorship? Does democracy seem like the best way to go given all the corruption within our own political machine? How do we decide whats best for us as a nation? Should other nations be left to handle their own problems? If so did we have any right to help assassinate Generalissimo Trujillo? What are the repercussions if the United States decides to stop using the CIA or to reform the agency drastically? Would it destroy the United States and cripple its ability to be a global watchdog? Do we have the right to view ourselves as a global watchdog? While I agree with the scornful eye cast by Weiner I personally feel this topic is extremely complicated and at the end of the book one is really left with more questions than answers. Its hard to know what is right or wrong when viewed from the perspective of the CIA. There are so many different cultures and each one has its own way of life and is susceptible to corruption. after reading this book one feels lost in a world gripped by evil.