April 07, 2014
Why We Will Never Learn

Thomas Polgar, the last CIA station chief in Vietnam, died in March at the age of 92. His obit is in today’s New York Times. And here’s Polgar himself, remembering the fall of Saigon. As well as, in this brief aside, the war criminal Henry Kissinger.

One day I had an opportunity to ask Mr. Kissinger what he thought of our intelligence. Not speaking of Vietnam, but generally. He was getting this big flow of intelligence from CIA world wide at the time. What did he think of the value of it? And he thought for a moment and then he said, “Well, when it supports my policy, it’s very useful.” And I think we are here at the heart of the problem. It is that American policy is not formulated in response to what the intelligence shows. We first formulate the policy and then we try to find the intelligence to support it.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened if Truman had decided to let the country continue to bumble along, as it had somehow since 1776, without any “intelligence” agency at all. No Shah of Iran, hence no hostage crisis and no Ronald Reagan. No U2, hence no refreezing of the Cold War. No Bay of Pigs, hence no Cuban Missile Crisis. No arming of the Taliban, to teach those Russians a lesson. No Weapons of Mass Destruction, hence no… The list goes on and on. The CIA stands in relation to the White House as the drug dealer stands to the addict.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at April 07, 2014 01:37 PM
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That is an interesting speculation. It's even more interesting to speculate what would have happened had FDR not dumped Henry Wallace from the ticket in 1944 (if Claude Pepper had just gotten to the podium a few seconds sooner that day at the '44 Democratic Convention). That would be no Truman (except as an obscure senator from Missouri), possibly no nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and no none of all those other things you mentioned. We would be living in a much different, and I suspect, much better world.

Posted by: Tim on April 8, 2014 3:42 PM
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