Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

Recommended Reading  

The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA

by Bur­ton Hersh
1992, Charles Scribner’s Sons
ISBN 0–684-19348–5
536 pages, illus­trat­ed

From Tree Farm Books web site
The unprece­dent­ed will­ing­ness of senior deci­sion-mak­ers in the CIA to coop­er­ate with the upcom­ing tele­vi­sion series The Agency pro­vides some mea­sure of the des­per­a­tion sweep­ing Lan­g­ley these days. Under attack in edi­to­ri­als and roast­ed by mem­bers of Con­gress for short­falls rang­ing from botch­ing up polit­i­cal analy­sis in Iraq dur­ing Desert Storm to tar­get­ing the Chi­nese embassy in Bel­grade in the midst of the Koso­vo cam­paign, the CIA has again been reduced to exceed­ing­ly gin­ger­ly pub­lic rela­tions. Fall­out from the Hanssen case, reveal­ing that this born-again FBI func­tionary man­aged to sell out whichev­er of the CIA’s agents in Rus­sia the Agen­cy’s own Aldrich Ames did­n’t com­pro­mise, has deeply alarmed the sur­viv­ing intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.

Across the gov­ern­ment, out­rage is gen­er­al. Inside the CIA itself, morale is crum­bling fast. How could this hap­pen again? leg­is­la­tors on the Select Com­mit­tees of the House and Sen­ate keep demand­ing. A lev­el of scruti­ny unap­proached since the pyrotech­nic Church Com­mit­tee hear­ings of 1973 is descend­ing on Lan­g­ley. Why must they oper­ate like this? Where did it come from, this some­times bril­liant and all too often blun­der-rid­den appendage across the Potomac? Who put this tor­tured thing togeth­er?

It’s time to reis­sue The Old Boys.

The ini­tial pub­li­ca­tion of The Old Boys in 1992 raised so much dust that it has tak­en a decade for the air to clear. Sub­ti­tled The Amer­i­can Elite and the Ori­gins of the CIA, the work laid out the involve­ment of the lawyers who found­ed civil­ian intel­li­gence in the Unit­ed States — ‘Wild Bill’ Dono­van, Allen and Fos­ter Dulles, Frank Wis­ner — with sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions of reac­tionary, even Nazi-lin­ing clients. Abet­ted by coun­ter­parts from the diplo­mat­ic side of the sheets, from Bill Bul­litt to George Ken­nan and the noto­ri­ous Carmel Offie, the founders incor­po­rat­ed both prac­tices and per­son­al­i­ties long asso­ci­at­ed with the Third Reich into their anti­com­mu­nist cru­sade, and by so doing under­mined almost every­thing they attempt­ed. Patri­ot­ic and well-inten­tioned men, they played into the hands of forces that threat­ened us.

What per­mit­ted The Old Boys to sur­vive its brick­bats was the enor­mous body of research, doc­u­men­ta­tion and inter­views both, on which the argu­ment rest­ed. By 1995, when Evan Thomas’ treat­ment of sev­er­al of the sec­ondary fig­ures of the ear­ly Agency, The Very Best Men, backed up the main con­clu­sions of The Old Boys, the ClA’s own in-house pub­li­ca­tion, Stud­ies in Intel­li­gence, not­ed specif­i­cal­ly that The Old Boys had obvi­ous­ly been jus­ti­fied as to both its par­tic­u­lars and its final judg­ments. Even the vital­i­ty of the style would ulti­mate­ly be for­giv­en. Cel­e­brat­ing its fifti­eth anniver­sary in 1997, the CIA put The Old Boys at the top of the list it dis­trib­uted of accu­rate treat­ments of its inter­nal his­to­ry, not­ing that there was much to be found here ‘not avail­able else­where.’

The years since pub­li­ca­tion have made the lessons of The Old Boys more rel­e­vant than ever. Reed­it­ed, with a new pref­ace, the 2001/2002 edi­tion is intend­ed to meet the obvi­ous call for the book in a rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive and attrac­tive for­mat. The author receives calls fre­quent­ly from col­lege teach­ers eager to include The Old Boys in their upcom­ing cur­ricu­lum but unable to locate enough copies at a rea­son­able price. Librar­i­ans lodge the same com­plaint. With every appear­ance Bur­ton Hersh makes on tele­vi­sion — on the Lehrer Report, The His­to­ry Chan­nel, A&E and else­where — as well as his innu­mer­able radio inter­views, requests come in for copies of the book. Hope­ful­ly, this fresh edi­tion will meet the need.

Review by Andrew Wit­mer, Vir­ginia Quar­ter­ly Review
“Play­ing dev­il’s advo­cate to Robin Winks’s upbeat Cloak and Gown, this vol­ume argues that the wealthy, well-con­nect­ed, even intel­lec­tu­al­ly-inclined founders of the OSS and the CIA were con­sid­er­ably less than ide­al­is­tic. Accord­ing to this account, for instance, the Dulles broth­ers col­lab­o­rat­ed for large legal fees with Nazi indus­tri­al­ists and ‘inevitably,’ Hersh con­cludes, ‘rem­nants of the Third Reich qui­et­ly infil­trat­ed our intel­li­gence sys­tem.’ Such amoral­ism pre­vailed, with dev­as­tat­ing effects, right down to Iran-Con­tra, with what Hersh describes as a ‘fever for long shots,’ law­less­ness, and per­jury, as well as the reduc­tion of peo­ple to ‘assets,’ and the euphem­iz­ing of mur­der as ‘exec­u­tive action.’ For Hersh, the crit­i­cal ques­tion is whether the new CIA direc­tor Robert Gates can real­ize his wish to rein­vent the Firm and thus dis­pel its rep­u­ta­tion as a ‘hotbed of ruth­less oper­a­tors.’ ”

(Copy­right 2006 Vir­ginia Quar­ter­ly Review)

THIS BOOK IS IN PRINT. Avail­able com­mer­cial­ly. Learn more about Bur­ton Hersh.


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