Tuesday, February 06, 2007

February 6

Edward Geary Lansdale was born 99 years ago. During his long career with the Office of Strategic Services and its successor, the CIA, Lansdale is best known for his role as an adviser to the South Vietnamese government from 1954 to 1957. A specialist in “psychological warfare,” he led the Saigon Military Mission, a classified group of about a dozen United States soldiers and intelligence agents who spread rumors, counterfeited documents, and organized a campaign of sabotage intended to disrupt a vote on the reunification of Vietnam, as required by the 1954 Geneva Accords. As the northern regions of Vietnam were transitioning from French colonial rule to a communist-dominated government, Lansdale’s efforts sought to flood the South with anti-communist refugees who could bolster the government being created and supported by the US. Lansdale’s efforts bore fruit, as more than a million people fled the north.

During that time, Lansdale also helped develop an army that would -- so the United States hoped -- be capable of defending itself without the need for direct American intervention. Over the course of the American war in Vietnam, millions more refugees would be flee Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

After his years in Saigon, Lansdale took a position in the Department of Defense, where among other things he was responsible for efforts to topple Fidel Castro. During the 1975 Church Committee hearings, which exposed intelligence abuses over the previous several decades, a colleague of Lansdale’s, Thomas Parrot, described one of the battier schemes put forward by Lansdale’s office.
He had a wonderful plan for getting rid of Castro. This plan consisted of spreading the word that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that Christ was against Castro [who] was anti-Christ. And you would spread this word around Cuba, and then on whatever date it was, there would be a manifestation of this thing. And at that time -- this is absolutely true -- and at that time just over the horizon there would be an American submarine which would surface off of Cuba and send up some star shells. And this would be the manifestation of the Second Coming and Castro would be overthrown . . . Well, some wag called this operation -- and somebody dubbed this -- Elimination by Illumination.
Lansdale was eliminated by natural causes in February 1987. Fidel Castro has managed, albeit barely, to hang on for another two decades.

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