The Poisoned Well
"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not
- William Faulkner**
*Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based
defense analyst and a frequent contributor to the Blaster. This
essay also appeared in today's edition of Counterpunch, see
**Requiem for a Nun
The Misuses of History
Since the attacks of 11 September 2001,
the American public has endured an astounding avalanche of official
lies, half truths, pseudo-events  and sheer balderdash that
will surely enter the Guinness Book of Records. Among the most
persistent and infuriating lies of government, to those who
have imbibed their knowledge of the past from the crystalline
springs of Gibbon and von Ranke, is the misleading historical
analogy. Its purpose is twofold: to relativize whatever current
disaster the governing class has waltzed the hapless populace
into; and to kill any usable past. The technique also has the
added benefit of making government placemen sound learned -
at least in the estimation of an audience which gains its knowledge
of the world through Fox News and other State media.
Iraq is a fruitful field for detecting such
historical fables. It was during the summer of 2003, as it first
became evident that the natives of Mesopotamia were less than
entirely enthusiastic about their liberation, that the American
apparat swung into action with historical comparisons between
Iraq and the occupation of Germany.
Then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice took to the hustings to tell the Veterans of Foreign Wars,
in her characteristic school-marmish fashion, that occupied
Iraq was no more of a problem than occupied Nazi Germany - and
look what a rousing success that turned out to be: "There is
an understandable tendency to look back on America's experience
in postwar Germany and see only the successes, but as some of
you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very
difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period.
Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers-called
'werewolves'-engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition
forces and those locals cooperating with them-much like today's
Baathist and Fedayeen remnants." 
Whereupon the irrepressible Secretary Rumsfeld
immediately chimed in with his own historical tour d'horizon:
"One group of those dead-enders was known as 'werewolves.' They
and other Nazi regime remnants targeted Allied soldiers, and
they targeted Germans who cooperated with the Allied forces.
Mayors were assassinated including the American-appointed mayor
of Aachen, the first major German city to be liberated. Children
as young as 10 were used as snipers, radio broadcasts, and leaflets
warned Germans not to collaborate with the Allies. They plotted
sabotage of factories, power plants, rail lines. They blew up
police stations and government buildings, and they destroyed
stocks of art and antiques that were stored by the Berlin Museum.
Does this sound familiar?" 
Frankfurt Was Not Fallujah
One wonders which community college-educated
speech writer activated the larynxes of our senior government
officials. As history, this was bunk, although it sounded plausible
to the half-educated mind. American forces took Aachen in October
1944 - well before the largest battle ever fought by the U.S.
Army, the Battle of the Bulge, and fully six months before the
8 May 1945 "end of major conflict" in the European Theater.
The assassination of Aachen's mayor and the capers of the Werewolves
were distinctly small beer, because they occurred in the midst
of the bloodiest land battles in world history. The Werewolves,
Rumsfeld's proto-Baathists, only existed as a viable force as
an adjunct to a still-functioning German government holding
territory between the Rhine and the Oder-Neisse; a government
that could put, even at that late date, 8 million men into the
field. As explained in an earlier report, 4th Generation Warfare
operations were at the time distinctly subsidiary to conventional
military campaigns. 
Once hostilities ended, the situation was
otherwise than described by Professor Doktor Rice and Kriegsminister
Rumsfeld. Compared to the 1477 dead and 10,470 wounded in Iraq,
the few post-VE Day GI homicides principally occurred from black
market deals gone wrong or quarrels over a Fräulein. The dynamic
of post-war Western Germany, where the population was uniformly
terrified of a vengeful Red Army and accordingly seeking protection
of the Amis, is a dynamic absent from present-day Iraq.
There are, however, profound lessons to
be derived from the occupation of Germany and its integration
into the post-World War II American world system. Principal
among the institutions which America absorbed into its national
security state was German Intelligence, specifically the Gehlen
A Viper Enters the Nest
The story of General Reinhard Gehlen has
been endlessly rehashed in books, articles, History Channel
reprises, and Gehlen's own self-serving memoirs, so we do not
intend to recapitulate the full historical record. But this
precis will suffice for our purposes:
During mid- and late World War II, Gehlen
was head of Foreign Armies East, a Wehrmacht organization tasked
with gaining order-of-battle estimations of the Red Army. As
the self-flattering retrospectives would have it, Foreign Armies
East's estimations were more accurate than those of the ever-optimistic
Hitler and his sycophantic retinue. Consequently, Gehlen's favor
fell as the Russian steamroller inexorably crunched towards
By early 1945, Gehlen and his associates
saw the inevitable, and, having no desire to join their Führer
on a Wagnerian funeral pyre, resolved to make a deal with the
Western allies. They microfilmed choice extracts from their
files and buried them in containers somewhere in the Alps.
At war's end, Gehlen surrendered to the
Americans and made a startling proposition. He would provide
the Americans with what they lacked: intelligence about their
erstwhile ally, the Soviet Union. To newly-minted intelligence
officers from Topeka and Paducah, this sounded like an arresting
offer. By August 1945, the Americans were sufficiently intrigued
to fly Gehlen, in the uniform of a U.S. Army general, to Washington
in General Walter Bedell Smith's transport aircraft. He met
with such "present at the creation" panjandrums as Allen Dulles
and William Donavan.
The outlines of the deal are these: Gehlen
would transfer his organization and its information into the
American intelligence network. As indubitable anticommunists,
their zeal to serve their new masters was self-evident. All
Gehlen demanded in return was the following:
Gehlen must have complete control over
his organization's activities;
He retained the right to approve U.S.
liaison officers to the Organization;
The Organization would only be used
against the USSR and its client states;
The Organization would become the official
intelligence agency of a future West German state;
The Organization would never be required
to do anything Gehlen considered against German interests.
As the reader can surely guess, the American
authorities snapped at the bait like a starving barracuda. And
the rest is history: Since the Gehlen Organization's sole claim
to legitimacy was its purported knowledge of the Soviet Union,
the Red Army perforce became 20 feet tall.
Threat Inflation: A German Import?
Elementary knowledge of human psychology
suggests that once the United States Government ceased to be
terrified by the Soviet military, the Organization would no
longer have a privileged and well-paid function; its flunkies
would accordingly be obliged to scratch a living through honest
toil. That alternative being abhorrent, the U.S. Government
received and disseminated the most baroque exaggerations of
Soviet power - only a few years after the European USSR had
been nearly leveled, with up to 27 million military and civilian
deaths. Despite the fundamental weakness of the post-war Soviet
Union (which Stalin attempted to conceal) Congress and the America
public obtained a steady diet of scare stories:
In 1948, U.S. intelligence purported
to believe the Red Army could mobilize "320 line divisions"
in 30 days. This at a time when millions of Soviets were
living in holes in the soil of Western Russia, there being
nothing better to house them.
The same year, the Secretary of the
Navy told Congress that Soviet submarine were "sighted off
our coasts" - although the Office of Naval intelligence
could offer no evidence of such sub sightings. Its own estimates
said that the Soviet Navy would be unable to mount continuing,
overseas operations until 1957.
Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington
claimed in Congressional hearings that the Soviet Air Force
was superior to that of the U.S.
The military governor of Germany in
1948, General Lucius Clay, wrote a letter that conveniently
found its way to Congress, stating that it was his "feeling"
that the Soviets were planning war. 
Where did these estimates come from? Did
the Gehlen Organization, which was essentially the executive
agent of U.S. intelligence in Eastern Europe, have anything
to do with it? The CIA's reticence, right up to February of
this year, to declassify its files regarding interaction with
Nazi personages is telling. 
The historical rehashes belabor the obvious:
not only did the Gehlen Organization have a motive to exaggerate
the Soviet threat, but the potential interest of war crimes
courts in its members made them prime candidates for KGB blackmail.
And, predictably, the Gehlen Organization was thoroughly penetrated
by Soviet intelligence, to the detriment of both American intelligence
operations and the German government - whose chancellor, Willy
Brandt, fell in a spy scandal.
So far, so bad. Conventional history has
correctly perceived the corrupted intelligence provided by the
Gehlen Organization during the cold war. But it does not answer
the question, why did the Americans tumble so readily in 1945
when they had abundant adverse information available to them
about the effectiveness of German Intelligence?
Dulles and Other Dullards
In 1945, when Walter Bedell Smith, Alan
Dulles, and their coat holders fell for Gehlen's pitch, they
were in possession of a priceless insight into the spying abilities
of their wartime foe - the Ultra secret.
Beginning in 1940, the British were able
to read the ciphers transmitted by what the Germans believed
to be their unbreakable Enigma code machine. Intermittently
at first, the British (with their American allies looking over
their shoulder) succeeded with increasing speed and accuracy
to crack first the sloppy Luftwaffe code, then the Army's, and
finally the Kriegsmarine's. The allies not only knew what the
Germans knew and planned, but perhaps more critically what they
did not know about allied operations.
And in fact, strategic intelligence about
the allies was a blank spot for Germany. Tactically and operationally
very proficient (perhaps the best in the world), the Germans
were amateurish in divining what B.H. Liddel Hart would have
called what was happening "on the other side of the hill." What
else would explain the fact that MI 5 turned or executed every
single agent the Germans attempted to insert into Britain? What
else would explain the Germans' falling for the elementary ruse
of the fake "Army Group Patton" in the buildup to D-Day? What
else would explain the Germans' horrendous failure at Kursk,
in contrast to the Russians' accurate divination of the Wehrmacht's
plans to attack the Kursk salient?
Given their access to this information,
why did the American authorities nevertheless assume that Reinhard
Gehlen had something valuable to offer them - at extortionate
terms? Foreign Armies East may have been more or less accurate
in providing rough order-of-battle estimates of Red Army strength,
as long as there was a copious supply of Red Army POWs, but
why did the Americans assume, against all evidence, that Gehlen
had the slightest clue about strategic matters: what Stalin
was planning, the general thrust of Soviet policy?
Ordinary human experience suggests that
the wish was father to the thought: American intelligence believed
because it wanted to believe. Far from being righteous and wise
pillars of the American Century, Allen Dulles and his comperes
were merely corrupt and incompetent scions of rich establishment
families; in Dulles's case, he elbowed his way into intelligence
work in order to provide hot tips to his investment banking
Dulles's post-World War II partiality towards
Nazi war criminals was merely a continuation of his pre-war
activities as a partner of Sullivan and Cromwell, a firm which
facilitated transnational business agreements with the German
cartels. Dulles's performance in the Bay of Pigs invasion does
not suggest a penetrating strategic mind. His primitive thinking
more likely went along the following lines: If Meyer Lansky
could replace Castro as the ruler of Cuba it would signify a
victory for private investment, just as Gehlen or Alfred Krupp
was preferable to some German Social Democrat who had spent
the war in Buchenwald.
Chalabi: Bastard Child of Gehlen?
But the U.S. Government's gullibility, and
culpability in these matters, does not end with its danse macabre
with National Socialism. From the abortive invasion of Cuba,
through Dallas, Watergate, Iran-Contra, to the present imbecility
of economic sanctions, Cuban "exiles" have distorted and debilitated
American foreign policy about the Caribbean for more than four
decades. All our knowledge of Cuba is what "exiles" comfortably
ensconced in Coral Gables want us to think, just as our appreciation
of the USSR was distorted by exiles from the Greater Germany
Project. Exiles like General Gehlen.
Does this begin to sound familiar? Why is
everything we are supposed to know about "the Greater Middle
East" funneled through a foreign power? Do Ahmed Chalabi's alarming
pronouncements about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction circa
2003 sound oddly similar to Reinhard Gehlen's estimation of
Soviet capabilities circa 1948? Will we soon hear alarming news
of Iran's nuclear capabilities from Iranian exile organizations
like the Mujahedeen e Kalq?
Gehlen's malignant ghost is laughing.
Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based
 The concept of the pseudo-event, i.e.,
a contrived incident intended to be disseminated for propaganda
purposes through the mass media, was fully delineated more than
four decades ago: The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America,
by Daniel J. Boorstin, 1961, Atheneum.
 "Condi's Phony History," by Daniel Benjamin,
Slate, 29 August 2003.
 Werther Report: 4GW and the Riddles
 The Yankee and Cowboy War, by Carl Oglesby, Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1976.
 Examples of early post-war threat inflation
are found in Harry S. Truman and the War Scare, of 1948, by
Frank Kofsky, Palgrave Macmillan, 1995.
 "Congress, CIA Resolve Dispute Over
Nazi Files," Voice of America, 9 February 2005