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This page is meant as a minor resource to those
researching the historical background to the 9/11 attacks. Sooner or later
I hope to present moderately detailed summaries of many books, including
all listed in the provisional bibliography below. For
now, there is only one review, of Daniel Hopsicker's "Barry and 'the Boys,'"
submitted by a man who calls himself Bookworm. I will be glad to accept
submissions from others!
June 19, 2002
Daniel Hopsicker, "Barry & 'the Boys'"
Reviewed by BOOKWORM
SO A GOOD NUMBER OF US KNOW that the CIA and the
Mafia killed Kennedy, that the serious drugs trade in the USA began with
secret operations during the Vietnam War, and that Bill Clinton and Bush
Sr. were very willing conspirators in the arms-'n-coke airport out in Mena,
Arkansas. The interested all know these individual events, though
some, the more concerned, might even try to do the discovery work necessary
to thread them all together. That, of course, is perhaps the insurmountable
task daunting all investigators: who did what to whom, and how does it
all come together? The irony is just that now, as we are losing our "inalienable
rights" indefinitely through the angry clauses of the Patriot Act, we are
probably also moving closer to seeing the whole picture than we ever have
before. The effect is as if having a series of soul-quenching revelations
while marching out to the salt mines.
Which leads us in to "Barry & 'the Boys.'" Now, through
a lot of investigation and even more pluck, one can reel a slippery catch
close enough to shore that you can see its skin. Here, we're talking about
the skin of Mr. Barry Seal, drug and weapons dealer extrordinaire, megalomanic
whistle-blower and successful assassination target. The premise of the
book lies in a kind of skewered American dream, in small part public service,
in large part merely criminal opportunism. Seal, not one of the decision
makers, of course, but an instrumental participant, moves from being a
college drop-out to one of the largest cocaine dealers in the 1980's. In
discovering how he got there, the book lends an understanding of how many
pieces of the current conspiracy puzzle could fit together. It is the story
of a rank-and-file man who worked his way up to near the top, then fell
down, permanently, after a lukewarm change of heart; and of the contacts
of this small-fry gone big, which spotlight many a tenuous connection between
events and persons one usually hears individually.
The book begins with the end of Seal, explaining the mysterious
circumstances of his death at the hands of at least one killer, who ended
his life with a MAC-10 submachine gun, just before he was going to open
his heart and let out his secrets. Then we go back to the man's beginnings,
to the tempermental, bayou-bred roots of a boy whose parents scraped by
to remain respectably lower-middle class. Rising up by his interest in
aircraft, Seal takes lessons, and by fifteen is flying solo and making
good pocket money with airborn advertizement banners. The next year, 1955,
he joins the Civil Air Patrol, a quasi-military organisation of private
pilots originally formed during the Second World War. There, he meets
David Ferrie, a man questioned by the Houston police 48 hours after the
Kennedy killing, and Lee Harvey Oswald, a man killed two days after the
assassination. According to "Barry and 'the Boys'", Seal knew Ferrie, a
man it claims had intelligence connections leading back to 1942 and who
was well networked throughout the shadowier side of Lousiana life, including
its Mafia and homosexual communities. It draws connections between Seal
and Oswald, double agent of dubious intellect and obvious stool pigeon.
Apparently, all three knew each other, and Seal, thereafter, is wrapped
up in the conspiracy to kill the president, piloting the aircraft which
carried the assassins from Houston to safety.
Next, Seal turns up in South East Asia, bumping into Mssrs.
Secord and Singlaub in Air America planes, which apparently he piloted
back to the states, when not busy working for TWA. (Howard Hughes is again
named here as a long-standing CIA asset.) Seal is put in the middle of
the heroin trade, riding bundles of smack from the Golden Triangle to newly
won addicts in the States. Afterwards, he turns up in a conspiracy
to overthrow Castro in 1972, and is arrested trying to arrange a planeload
of C-4 explosive to Mexico. Acquitted just before the Nixon removal, he
returns to the drugs trade, this time running cocaine with Southern Air
Transport out of Central America. Later, in 1980, he becomes his own agent,
beginning heavy shipments into the backwater international airport at Mena.
This is when he goes big, the bucks rolling in for everyone involved.
Seal's greed and ambition get the better of him; he refuses
to tow the line or take a fall for the card-callers. Eventually, he becomes
lord of an international smuggling outfit encompassing two continents and
some two hundred foot soldiers. Loud and brash, he places himself too wide
into the open, perhaps from vanity, perhaps hoping the shady limelight
might save him, if his taskmasters decide to end his employment.
In the mid-eighties, at least one attempt is made on his life, and Seal
starts to leave the drugs trade -- and the company, it is implied -- ready
to tell his story to investigators and to Hollywood. Then he's killed,
The book moves energetically over a timline spanning six
decades, moving backwards and forewards from the Second World War to Whitewater
to show Barry Seal's activities within the framework of both conventional
and sinister covert activities. Here is the interesting element of the
book, the timeline weaving the deeds of a fellow traveller with the momentous,
if secretive, decisions of more significant others. If only all of it would
be so easy to explain. Much of the theory in the book is supported by other
sources, including the books "The Secret Team" and "Silent Coup." Some
is public record, corraborated by standard information which can be retrieved
from common libraries and national newspapers. But, tantilizing as
it is, much of the information in "Barry and 'the Boys'" comes from second-
and third-hand sources, the he-said, she-said routine, and from a Rolodex
of unnamed confidants who fill in the gaps with innuendos wherever the
more solid information ends.
Much of the information is obviously true. Yet the lack
of immediate and namable sources casts doubt on some of the thinner sections
of the book, which take on the feel of a whodunnit instead of being clinically
critical. Then there is the matter of the writing style -- normally not
a matter for consideration, each author writing as he or she can -- but
here the pages are full of truncated paragraphs, colloquial turns of phrase
and just-short-of-swearing exclamations, though all of it smacking oddly
of professionalism. The effect is as if serious muckracking had been taken
over by the National Enquirer. Obviously, this tack is effective if the
Fox television crowd is to be spoken to. But if one is to believe in more
than aliens, ghosts, and the Loch Ness monster, a bit more professionalism
might have a better effect. After all, the book wants to place Seal in
Houston on that November day in '63, to tie connections between Watergate
and his plastic explosives arrest in '72, and to imply Lt. Col. Oliver
North's involvement in the hit that eventually took his life in '86.
This is serious stuff, more than just a thing for yellow journalism. And
yet just when these questions are raised, the information it delivers is
more hear-say than up-front, and the writing degenerates to the Murdoch
"Barry and 'the Boys'" is still an important work of investigative
journalism. It provides a fascinating character examination of Barry
Seal. It offers plausible, if oft-repeated, conspiracy theories, revolving
around the same tired cast of characters who sadly star in each sequel.
That it offers a timeline of events elaborating Seal's nefarious activities
in the USA and abroad and tying these to various political and economic
outrages (Bay of Pigs, Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra,
Savings and Loan, Whitewater) is pretty ambitious stuff, and again, no
doubt much of it is correct. The best would be to hope that anyone tackling
the subject again could fill in all the blanks, eloquently.
A Useful Bibliography
If you read only one book cover-to-cover this year,
make it this one:
On Afghanistan, Islamism, Taliban, Binladin, Qaeda and
the United States, I put my trust in the authors who published at least
once before the avalanche of post-9/11 instant books:
Dan Russell. DRUG WAR. Covert Money, Power &
Policy. Kalyx.com, Camden, NY, 1999. See also
www.drugwar.com and www.kalyx.com
The plan for the Central Asian war?
Richard Labeviere. DOLLARS FOR TERROR. The United
States and Islamism. Translated from the French by Martin DeMers. Algora
Publishing, New York, 2000.
John K. Cooley. UNHOLY WARS. Afghanistan, America and
International Terrorism. 2nd ed. Pluto Press, London, 1999.
Ahmed Rashid. TALIBAN. Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism
in Central Asia. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2000.
Michael Griffin. REAPING THE WHIRLWIND. The Taliban Movement
in Afghanistan. Pluto Press, London, 2001.
Yossef Bodansky. BIN LADEN. The Man Who Declared War on
America. Prima Publishing, Roseville, CA, 2001.
Simon Reeve. THE NEW JACKALS. Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin
Laden and the Future of Terrorism. Northeastern University Press, Boston,
The book that revealed "Operation Northwoods," the Pentagon's
1962 plan for faking domestic terror to gain a pretext to invade Cuba:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, THE GRAND CHESSBOARD. American
Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books, New York, 1997.
(By one of the three most influential intellectual mercenaries in the U.S.
foreign policy establishment alongside Huntington and Kissinger: a look
into the geostrategic mindset, with Central Asia as the key square of the
"chessboard" and the remark that the American people sadly are reluctant
to wage the wars Brzezinski says they need to wage without a new Pearl
On Drug War, CIA drug dealing, and the drug economy:
James Bamford, BODY OF SECRETS. Anatomy of the
Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. From The Cold War Through the Dawn
of a New Century. Doubleday, New York, 2001.
On history of U.S. foreign policy, wars, CIA, covert operations
and the spook world:
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. WHITEOUT.
The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso, London, 1998. (Most comprehensive
treatment other than "Drug War.")
Gary Webb, DARK ALLIANCE. The CIA, the Contras, and the
Crack Cocaine Explosion. Foreword by U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Seven Stories Press, New York, 1998.
Alfred W. McCoy. THE POLITICS OF HEROIN. CIA Complicity
in the Global Drug Trade. Lawrence Hill Books, Brooklyn, NY, 1991.
Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain. ACID DREAMS. The Complete
Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond. With an Introduction
by Andrei Codrescu. Grove Press, New York, 1985, 1992.
Daniel Hopsicker, BARRY AND THE BOYS. The CIA, The Mob
and America's Secret History. MadCow Press, Noti, OR, 2001.
On the Bush (Reagan) administrations, wars in Central
America, Iran-Contra, family business and spook operations (very incomplete):
William Blum. KILLING HOPE. U.S. Military and
CIA Interventions Since World War II. Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME,
Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks. THE CIA AND THE CULT
OF INTELLIGENCE. Dell, New York, 1980 (1973).
Jonathan Kwitny. ENDLESS ENEMIES. The Making of an Unfriendly
World. Penguin, New York, 1986 ed.
L. Fletcher Prouty. THE SECRET TEAM. Out of print. Full
text available online at http://www.ratical.org.
Jeffrey T. Richelson. THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY.
4th Ed. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 1999.
Frances Stonor Saunders. THE CULTURAL COLD WAR. The CIA
and the World of Arts and Letters. The New Press, New York, 2000.
Andreas von Bülow. IM NAMEN DES STAATES. CIA, BND
und die kriminellen Machenschaften der Geheimdienste. Piper Verlag, Munich,
James Bamford, THE PUZZLE PALACE. Inside the National
Security Agency, America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization. Penguin
Books USA, New York, 1983.
Edward Boorstein. ALLENDE'S CHILE. An Inside View. International
Publishers, New York, 1977.
Peter Dale Scott, DEEP POLITICS AND THE DEATH OF JFK.
University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993.
William Blum. ROGUE STATE. A Guide to the World's Only
Superpower. Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME, 2000. New foreword of Sept.
On collaboration with Nazis, from the 1920s to the 1980s:
Gary Sick. OCTOBER SURPRISE. America's Hostages
in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. Times Books, Random House, New
Pete Brewton. THE MAFIA, CIA & GEORGE BUSH. The Untold
Story of America's Greatest Financial Debacle. S.P.I. Books, New York,
1992. Out of print.
Russell S. Bowen. THE IMMACULATE DECEPTION. The Bush Crime
Family Exposed. America West Publishers, Carson City, NV, 1992.
COVERUP. Behind the Iran Contra Affair. Film by Barbara
Trent, written by Eve Goldberg. Narrated by Elizabeth Montgomery.
HIDDEN WARS OF DESERT STORM. Film by Audrey Brohy and
Gerard Ungerman. Narrated by John Hurt.
Almost fifty years later, still the bible for social theory,
plus a study of the power elite that remains astonishingly contemporary:
Charles Higham. TRADING WITH THE ENEMY. An Expose
of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949. How the Allied multinationals
supplied Nazi Germany throughout World War Two. Robert Hale, London, 1983.
(The classic treatment. Out of print.)
Linda Hunt, SECRET AGENDA. The United States Government,
Nazi Scientists and Project Paper Clip, 1945 to 1990. St. Martin's, New
York, 1991. (On Operation Paperclip and other programs that recruited Nazi
war criminals into influential positions within U.S. intelligence and military
Christopher Simpson. BLOWBACK. America's Recruitment of
Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London,
John Loftus and Mark Aarons. THE SECRET WAR AGAINST THE
JEWS. How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People. St. Martin's Griffin,
New York, 1994.
Billstein, Fings, Kugler and Levis. WORKING FOR THE ENEMY.
Ford, General Motors and Forced Labor in Germany during the Second World
War. Berghahn Books, New York, 2000.
Anthony C. Sutton. WALL STREET AND THE RISE OF HITLER.
Bloomfield Books, Suffolk, England, 1976.
Mary Ellen Reese. GENERAL REINHARD GEHLEN: The CIA Connection.
George Mason University Press, Fairfax, VA, 1990. (On how the CIA after
World War II recruited Nazi spies into a network known as the Gehlen Org,
which later became the West German intelligence service BND.)
On media, PR, and related disasters of modern education:
C. Wright Mills, THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION.
Oxford University Press, New York, 1959.
C. Wright Mills, THE POWER ELITE. Oxford University Press,
New York, 1956.
On an important organization within the global elite:
George Orwell, 1984. New York, London, 1949.
MANUFACTURING CONSENT. Noam Chomsky and the Media. Ed.
Mark Achbar. Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1994.
Stuart Ewen. PR! A Social History of Spin. Basic Books,
New York, 1996.
Marshall McLuhan. UNDERSTANDING MEDIA. The Extensions
of Man. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998 (1964).
Nicholas Lemann. THE BIG TEST. The Secret History of the
American Meritocracy. Farrar Strauss Giroux, New York, 1999.
DEGRADED CAPABILITY. The Media and the Kosovo Crisis.
Ed. Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman. Pluto Press, London, 2000. Collection
with 18 reports on media coverage of Kosovo war from many countries around
As yet unread:
TRILATERALISM. The Trilateral Commission and
Elite Planning for World Management. Ed. Holly Sklar. Black Rose Books,
Two divergent views of Lockerbie:
James D. Sanders. ALTERED EVIDENCE. Flight 800:
How and Why the Justice Department Framed a Journalist and His Wife. www.altered-evidence.com.
Rodney Stich. DEFRAUDING AMERICA. Encyclopedia of Secret
Operations by the CIA, DEA and Other Covert Agencies. 3rd Ed. www.defraudingamerica.com
Jim Keith. BIOWARFARE IN AMERICA. Illuminet Press, Atlanta,
Three random picks on interesting general history, economics,
William C. Chasey. PAN AM 103. The Lockerbie
Cover-Up. Self-published, 1995.
Rodney Wallis. LOCKERBIE. The Story and the Lessons. Praeger,
Anthony Sampson. THE SEVEN SISTERS. The 100-Year
Battle for the World's Oil Supply. Bantam, New York, ed. of 1991.
Howard Zinn. A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.
Harper & Row, New York, 1980.
Noam Chomsky. YEAR 501. The Conquest Continues. Black
Rose Books, Montreal, 1993.
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