Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and
the Manchurian Candidate
by Maureen Farrell
"I am writing this from Frederick, Maryland.
I've just been filming, for Channel 4, a press conference in which the son of a CIA officer who died in suspicious circumstances
presented his evidence that vice-president Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld were, in 1975, when part of the
Gerald Ford administration, involved in a cover-up of the events surrounding his father's death. The press conference was
due to have been two weeks ago, but when the son, Eric Olson, called the New York Times to invite them, they said,
"Whoa! Do you really want to release such complex information to a bunch of journalists who'll probably screw it up? Let us
do it properly instead."
I must try this ruse sometime. It worked
on Olson. He postponed the press conference. The New York Times finally called him and said, "We missed Watergate because
we thought it was just a small, unimportant break-in." What they seemed to mean was they believed his evidence but they couldn't
decide if it was a huge, government-toppling White House cover-up of a murder, or a small, unimportant White House cover-up
of a murder, the kind of stuff that doesn't mean much.. . "
-- Jon Ronson, The Guardian, August 17, 2002
In the summer of 2003 (back when President
Bush was renouncing the use of torture [New Yorker]) author Douglas Valentine reminded us why blind trust in any government official or agency has historically been a bad
idea. "The war on terror, and its homeland security counterpart are flip sides of the same coin," he wrote. "They are the
same ideology applied to foreign and domestic policy. But like CIA agent Alden Pyle in The Quiet American, their evil
intention is wrapped in a complex matrix of transparent lies." [CounterPunch.org]
Drawing uncomfortable conclusions about
the Bush administrations secret agenda, Valentine also pointed to Miramax's Vietnam-era love story which had been put on hold
following Sept. 11 due to its "anti-American" content -- a content that wasnt so much anti-American as anti-CIA. "Horrendous
acts were, for propaganda purposes, often made to look as if they had been committed by the enemy," Valentine wrote, of the
CIAs brutal underhanded activities that both the Quiet American and history underscore.
More than 40 years ago, another film
spawned similar qualms. United Artists was nervous about releasing The Manchurian Candidate because, as screen writer
George Axelrod put it, "They didn't want to make it because they thought that it was un-American."
A wildly imaginative political thriller
which sprang from Richard Condons 1959 best-selling novel, The Manchurian Candidate is the story of a brainwashed military
veteran who unwittingly becomes a programmed assassin to further the political ambitions of his cold and manipulative mother.
"Ironically," the Washington Post revealed, "it was a phone call from President Kennedy -- made at [Frank] Sinatra's
request -- that persuaded Arthur Krim, then head of United Artists and also the national finance chairman of the Democratic
Party, to change his mind and start production.
(An additional irony, which may be more
curious than telling but is entirely in keeping with the tone of the film, is that it was [director John] Frankenheimer who
drove Robert Kennedy to the hotel in California the night he was assassinated.)" [Washington Post]
First released in 1962, using the Cold
War as a backdrop (and then taken out of release for decades following JFKs 1963 assassination), the film has been remade
under the direction of Jonathan Demme and will hit theaters on July 30. Now set during the first Gulf War era, the new version
stars Denzel Washington as Capt./Maj. Bennett Marco (Sinatras role in the original) and Liev Schreiber as SSgt. Raymond Shaw
(this time as a Gulf War veteran instead of the Korean war hero original cast member Laurence Harvey played). Meryl Streep,
cast as Mrs. Iselinin (the role that Angela Lansbury made unforgettable), has disclosed that to prepare for her role as Raymond's
evil dragon mother, she watched a string of political talk shows. "Anything with Peggy Noonan [or] Karen Hughes," Streep told
Entertainment Weekly. "Its hard to get more hyperbolic than that."
When you peek beneath the Manchurian
Candidates fascinating plotline, however, you learn that it is not "just a movie," but is based upon actual cases of government-sponsored
brainwashing, torture, Nazi collaboration, bizarre interrogation tactics, biological warfare and cover-ups. And though such
an assessment sounds like paranoid lunacy, a quick study of CIA operations like MK-ULTRA (mind control), Operation ARTICHOKE
(extreme interrogation) and Operation Paperclip (the Nazis role in exporting both), along with their connection to the murder
of Dr. Frank Olson, reveals otherwise.
In 1950, the U.S. government established
the first program to develop human mind control techniques. Known under a variety of codenames (most notably MK-ULTRA) throughout
its 23 year history, this program was designed to exert such control, according to declassified documents, that an individual
would do another's bidding, "against his will and even against such fundamental laws of nature such as self-preservation."
25 years later, the Rockefeller Commission uncovered CIA plans for "programmed assassins" and said that MK-ULTRA led to American
citizens being drugged, kidnapped and tortured on American soil. [lisatrust.bogie.nl]
In 1975, as this information was exposed,
the government paid $750,000 restitution to Army biochemist Dr. Frank Olson's family, after admitting the CIA slipped Dr.
Olson LSD days before his 1953 fall from a New York City building. When the Ford administration finally came clean, they promised
they'd revealed everything. Yet key officials, including White House aides Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, pushed to continue
to conceal information. "The family has learned that the Ford administration was keeping information from the family," the
Baltimore Sun reported in 2002. "Among those who advocated keeping quiet were Dick Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld, now
the vice president and defense secretary, the Olsons learned from memos and other papers received last year from the Gerald
R. Ford Library." [FrankOlsonProject.org]
Operation ARTICHOKE, a CIA program that
preceded MK-ULTRA, involved the development of "special and extreme methods of interrogation," according to declassified documents
given to the family by the late CIA Director William Colby. The chief architects of the program were also "very concerned
with the problem of disposing of blown agents and with finding a way to produce amnesia in operatives who had seen too much
and could no longer be relied upon." By the time Dr. Olsons family uncovered the truth about Olsons death, the role Operation
ARTICHOKE played became clear. "In these documents the overall context for Frank Olsons death is related not to the infamous
MK-ULTRA program for mind and behavior control, as is generally assumed," the family reported. "The Colby documents locate
Olsons death in the context of a CIA operation called ARTICHOKE." [FrankOlsonProject.org]
Both MK-ULTRA and ARTICHOKE grew out
of "Operation Paperclip," in which Nazi scientists were smuggled into the U.S. to provide the government with information
on everything from rocket science to germ warfare to torture and interrogation techniques. This "assimilation of Nazis into
the U.S. government," the National Catholic Reporter explained, also spawned the now common practice of labeling people
of conscience "enemies of the state." [Findarticles.com]
A German documentary on Operation ARTICHOKE
put it succinctly: "The search for the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of Dr. Frank Olson begins in 1945, with
the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, Germany." [FrankOlsonProject.org]
In his book, The Search for the Manchurian
Candidate, author John Marks devoted an entire chapter to Dr. Frank Olson, describing how Olson felt the CIA was "out
to get him." [DrugLibrary.org] And so, from Nov. 28, 1953 (the night Olson plummeted from a 13th floor window at New Yorks Hotel Pennsylvania) to 1975
(when the family was paid restitution for Dr. Olsons guinea pig role in the CIAs mind control/LSD experiments) to 1994 (when
Olsons body was exhumed), the family was haunted by questions. Finally, in 2002, when forensic and other evidence came to
light, the Olson murder was solved. "I feel satisfied," Olsons eldest son Eric told the Baltimore Sun. "We're where
we want to be - we know what happened."
Reminiscent of the untiring battle the
Sept. 11 widows have been waging to try to unearth the truth about 9/11 inconsistencies and the stand Nick Bergs family has
taken to draw attention to the Bush administration's lies regarding Nicks detention by U.S. authorities, Frank Olsons family
was courageous and tireless. Eric Olson, who earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard, became mesmerized by subjects such
as brainwashing, survivor psychology and Nazi experiments on humans, which he rightly sensed, had something to do with his
In 2002, all of the pieces fell into
place. Dr. Frank Olson, it was discovered, ran the Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick, which, in addition to dealing
with anthrax and mind control research, was involved in "assassinations materials research," "biological warfare experiments
in populated areas" and "terminal interrogations." Dr. Olson did not commit suicide due to a nervous breakdown, as the family
was originally told, nor did he commit suicide because of a reaction to LSD, as they were told in 1975. Dr. Olson, who was
posthumously outed as a CIA agent, was simply a man who knew too much. During an August 2002 press conference, the family
spelled it out:
1. "The death of Frank Olson on November
28, 1953 was a murder, not a suicide.
2. This is not an LSD drug-experiment
story, as it was represented in 1975. This is a biological warfare story. Frank Olson did not die because he was an experimental
guinea pig who experienced a "bad trip." He died because of concern that he would divulge information concerning a highly
classified CIA interrogation program called "ARTICHOKE" in the early 1950s, and concerning the use of biological weapons by
the United States in the Korean War.
3. The truth concerning the death of
Frank Olson was concealed from the Olson family as well as from the public in 1953. In 1975 a cover story regarding Frank
Olsons death was disseminated. At the same time a renewed cover-up of the truth concerning this story was being carried out
at the highest levels of government, including the White House. The new cover-up involved the participation of persons serving
in the current Administration."
"These documents show the lengths to
which the government was trying to cover up the truth,'' Eric Olson said, regarding memos that uncovered Cheney and Rumsfelds
role in perpetuating the deceit. "For 22 years there was a cover-up. And then, under the guise of revealing everything, there
was a new cover-up.'' [Mercury News]
The London Sunday Express blared
the headline: "Scientist Was Killed to Stop Him Revealing Death Secrets; So Did Cheney and Rumsfeld Cover Up a CIA Assassination?"
[FrankOlsonProject.org] while the Guardian picked up where other U.S. publications did not. "This story is clearly less fun, and a lot more
scary, than a CIA-LSD suicide, and it hasn't received nearly as much coverage," Jon Ronson wrote. "Few of the journalists
who attended yesterday's press conference are following up the evidence Olson presented. Instead they've written about Olson's
"healing process" and his "closure".
Frank Olsons legacy, for anyone willing
to study it, goes beyond the Manchurian Candidate and implicates the U.S. government in crimes that surpass mind manipulation
and run of the mill assassination. In fact, Olsons case is reportedly included in the assassination curriculum of the Israeli
Mossad as "a successful instance of disguising a murder as a suicide."
But even still, the Olson saga reveals
the underlying truth behind the fiction. In 2000, before conclusive evidence regarding Olsons murder was uncovered, G.Q.
explained the Frank Olson/CIA/ Manchurian Candidate connection this way:
"By 1950 Frank Olson had begun expressing
moral misgivings about his work [at Fort Detrick] to his wife and a few of his colleagues. Presumably, he was aware of the
divisions experiment in late 1950 to assess the efficacy of certain bacterial strains on human beings. The group released
live bacteria over San Francisco. Several people complaining of flulike symptoms rushed to Bay Area hospitals, and later a
number of delayed deaths were attributed to the test. . .
Experiments in mind control became a
special fascination in espionage circles in the early 1950s, when the term brainwashing was coined. Rumors had spread that
North Korea and the Soviet Union were developing mind-control techniques that could reprogram a person so he would betray
state secrets and carry out political assassinations-a story told in the movie "The Manchurian Candidate." In fact, the North
Koreans did perform medical, psychological and drug experiments on 900 American prisoners of war, according to documents declassified
in 1996. After the tests, the prisoners were reportedly executed.
Given such a grave backdrop, the CIA
sought new methods of interrogation. In 149 separate mind-control experiments, researchers used hypnosis, electroshock treatments
and drugs, including marijuana, morphine, Benzedrine and mescaline. Test subjects were usually people who could not easily
object-prisoners, mental patients and members of minority groups-but the agency also performed many experiments on other people
without their knowledge or consent." [FrankOlsonProject.org]
A trip to the Frank Olson Legacy Project Web site unearths a world of pertinent information. There is an article from the New Yorker entitled "Where the Manchurian Candidate
Came From" and another from the New York Times, asking, "What did the CIA do to Eric Olsons Father?" There is information
on "terminal interrogations" and "collaboration with former Nazi scientists" as well as a 1950s-era CIA assassination manual
regarding "the contrived accident'' as "the most effective technique" of secret assassination. [FrankOlsonProject.org]
In fact, the Web site provides one-stop
shopping for anyone who wants to know the kinds of things the government doesnt want you to know. But be forewarned, after
reading through the research, you wont view the torture at Abu Ghraib, or Donald Rumselds reported role in approving unorthodox
interrogation methods in quite the same way. [New Yorker] And, relevant or not, news that Nick Berg once worked on a tower in Abu Ghraib will, at the very least, raise an eyebrow.
Moreover, youll begin to see that some
questions are not, as some would have you believe, the result of an overactive imagination. As the German documentary Code
Name ARTICHOKE explained in August 2002: "Eric [Olson] finds himself wondering about a lot of things. Was the anthrax
terrorist one of our own? Is that the reason he hasnt been caught? Because he knows something no one else should find out
about? A secret his father knew, too?"
Certainly, after studying Olsons case
its clear: What was once the province of kooky conspiracy buffs has been proven to be grounded in fact. And, in addition to
questions regarding the Oct. 2001 anthrax attacks, others surface: Why did George W. Bush and members of the White House staff
begin taking the antibiotic Cipro on Sept. 11, weeks before the anthrax attacks? [Washington Post]; How significant were Dr. David Kellys concerns that he'd be "found dead in the woods"? [BBC]; Did Dr. Don Wileys death have anything to do with other scientists who have died under mysterious circumstances? [Globe and Mail]; And why, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, is there a "deliberate effort to kill scientists," intellectuals
and human rights activists in occupied Iraq? [Christian Science Monitor]
These questions aside, once you absorb
the hidden history behind the Manchurian Candidate and compare that with todays headlines, you cant help but feel that
this is one of the weirdest moments in modern history. And, to make matters weirder, Michael Moores Fahrenheit 911
(which also hit a bump along the distribution road) promises to draw attention to everything from Iraq-related lies to Bush
and bin Laden-related oddities. [BBC]
Weve been through dark times, before,
of course, and Apocalypse Now remains the seminal cinematic record of the Vietnam era. But though that movie was based
on Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness, it too has a CIA-related twist. "Some say Tony Poe (Anthony Poshepny) was the
model for the Col. Kurtz character of the film Apocalypse Now," former UPI reporter Richard S. Ehrlich wrote in Poes
2003 obituary, before revealing the horrors, the horrors of Poes CIA career. (According to the obituary, Poe tossed human
heads from airplanes, offered ransom for human ears, and encouraged fighters to stick decapitated heads on spikes. "Poshepny
grew angry at Washington's attempts to control his activities," Ehrlich wrote. "So he sent a bag filled with human ears to
the US embassy [in Laos] to prove his guerrillas were killing communists"). For his troubles, Tony Poshepny won the Central
Intelligence Agency's highest award -- a CIA Star -- from directors Allen Dulles, in 1959, and William Colby, in 1975. [Bangkok Post]
All this subtext and secret history,
of course, is what adds to the overall movie-viewing experience. Moreover, whether talking about the Quiet American
or the Manchurian Candidate, understanding Americas seedy underside is the first step in trying to fix it.
But uncomfortable truth is not for everyone
-- and "love of country" means different things to different people. And so, for those who favor love that is both rigid and
blind [BuzzFlash], Frank Ozs remake of The Stepford Wives hits theaters next month.