Tom Engelhardt: The CIA's Greatest Hits





Tom Engelhardt, cofounder of the American Empire Project and author of "The End of Victory Culture," runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com.

We got Osama bin Laden — and now we'll be getting him again on cinema screens across the nation, as "Zero Dark Thirty" hits neighborhood multiplexes. Lauded and criticized, that film's the talk of the town. Is it also the first of a new genre? If so, here are my five nominations for other CIA films.

Let's start with the CIA's 1953 coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, whose democratically elected government had nationalized the country's oil industry. It couldn't be oilier, involving BP in an earlier incarnation, the CIA, British intelligence, bribery, secretly funded street demonstrations and (lest you think there'd be no torture in the film) the installation of an autocratic regime that went on to create a fearsome secret police that tortured opponents for decades after. All of this was done in the name of what used to be called "the Free World." That "successful" coup was the point of origin for just about every disaster and bit of "blowback" — a term first used in the CIA's secret history of the coup — in U.S.-Iranian relations to this day. Many of the documents have been released, and what a story it is!...




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