Douglas Valentine, Ukraine (2022)

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Douglas Valentine, Ukraine (2022)

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Our Hidden History Interview We speak with Douglas Valentine about the history of the CIA and the agency's involvement in Ukraine. We discuss the Vietnam-era precedents for highly motivated and indoctrinated paramilitary units like the Azov Battalion which the CIA has created in Ukraine.

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⚠ Unreviewed transcript ⚠

OHH All right. We're here with author and journalist Douglas Valentine. He's the author of great many important books and articles on us intelligence agencies, most especially the CIA. He's the author of The CIA As Organized Crime, which is an incredibly important read if you want to understand the CIA as it operates in the post-911 world and today. He's written two very important books on the history of the war on drugs, The Strength Of The Wolf and The Strength Of The Pack, and many other books, poetry. You could go to his website at and you can see all his work, many links to articles, so very important to visit. We're going to speak today about events in Ukraine, which is obviously front and center in the news, but where the media seems to feel that US involvement began with Russian troops entering the country in the end of February, the fact is that manipulating events in Ukraine is one of the CIA's oldest programs. We seem to have sort of come full circle. Thank you, Doug, for speaking with us today.

DV Hi, it's my pleasure. We've known each other for a while. So-

OHH Yes, we did a great interview on... when the Vietnam War, the Ken Burns documentary came out, so I suggest people listen to that. (

DV Yeah. Well, Ken burns is a great example of the power of propaganda and how the entire Burns... I'll get into Ukraine in a minute, but Burns was a great example of somebody with prestige who is acknowledged by the establishment as an authority, being able to say that the Vietnam war was a noble cause, and then, boom, for the rest of history Vietnam is a noble cause, I mean, and all other discussion about it vanishes and is marginalized. But that's the same thing as what's happening in Ukraine today. From the very beginning Biden and his minions talked about this war, used the word "unprovoked", I mean the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine. And that's pretty much like Ken Burns saying the Vietnam was a noble cause. It absolves the United States, in like an advertising slogan way, in just one or two or three words, noble cause, unprovoked, it defines the entire situation in a way that's to the advantage of the United States establishment.

Whether it's true or false is something else entirely, and absolutely it's not true. Vietnam was not a noble cause, and the war in Ukraine was not unprovoked. And one could say that it's, like you said, coming full circle. Then its origins go back. I mean, you could... Noam Chomsky said it goes back to 1917, the Bolshevik revolution and how the communist revolution in Russia was a way of organizing, reorganizing society entirely. It was a new ideology. It was a new way of organizing society. And organization becomes... it will be very important in this particular conversation because after the communist revolution, then fascism starts to emerge in Europe, and fascism is a way of organizing society in a very ideological way. And it's a projection of that battle.

What we're seeing in Ukraine today is projection of that battle from a hundred years ago between Russia, which had reorganized itself to create the communist revolution, international revolution, and fascism, I mean, and see it playing out every day, although we have... since, a lot of other things have evolved, obviously. Technology has evolved. The power of secret intelligence organizations has evolved since World War Two, the creation of the CIA and the new emphasis on counterinsurgency and covert action, as opposed to in the old days it was just spy versus spy. There's a whole new way of fighting wars and all that. This whole new way of fighting wars and this idea of information warfare is becoming preeminent in a world where everybody's speaking at the same time now.

That's the current situation is that every speaker is on and there's noise coming from every direction. And it's only the people that absolutely control the information and the sources of information, CNN, Fox News here in the United States, that... Ken Burns and the establishment documentary business, part of the same establishment. They're the only ones... They're the ones now that are defining reality, and reality has become really an illusion, and it contradicts the reality of what's going on. And in order to navigate through this mess nowadays, you have to know from my point... in my opinion, and which is what I've dedicated my research to as much by accident or as intention to how this all got organized and how the history evolved, especially in terms of the role of secret intelligence agencies and covert action and this... and psychological warfare, which is all playing out right now as if it was preordained 100 years ago in Ukraine. So if you got a question for me about it, I'll stop my little sort of historical introduction to it?

OHH No. I think that's exactly what we want to get at. I mean, it does seem to be ignored, everything that's led up to this. And like you said, it goes all the way back to 1917, but especially it goes back to the United States getting in bed with Reinhard Gehlen, the Germans' Eastern front intelligence agency, and kind of taking that on. Can you talk to us about that kind of anti-communist warfare school in Germany at the time? And then how-

DV Absolutely.

OHH [inaudible 00:06:59] is today?

DV Yeah, for the last 35 years or 40 years I've been focusing on the CIA, and that's when the CIA evolved. It was born in World War Two, and I'll just try in 30 seconds to explain why. But in the 1930s, people were still getting to Europe by ocean liner. It was a different world. People weren't taking planes and technology hadn't really evolved. And at that particular... and the United States had been pursuing an isolationist policy. The United States was letting Europe destroy itself. And Europe has been at its... at each other, all the different nation states, for centuries trying to create a map that sort of looks like what it looks like today. And the United States had this isolationist policy where it just stood back and let France fight Germany and England fight everybody.

And of course it was first the French, and then the Germans were trying to invade Russia to get its natural resources. And the United States was sitting back and watching them. But it got sucked in World War Two with Pearl Harbor, which made it... the United States had to enter. And at that particular time, there was no coordination between the United States Army and the United States Navy and the FBI and the State Department and Franklin Roosevelt created an organization called the Coordinator of Information under a guy named William Donovan. And the idea... this was the first organizational step toward creating a CIA was to have an organization, [inaudible 00:08:49] information that could bring together for FDR as the United States began to enter World War Two. Coordinate Army intelligence, Navy intelligence, the State Department, and the FBI, internal security here in the United States, and it gave this guy Donovan immense power.

And once the United States had entered the war, that organization, the Coordinator of Information, was split in two parts, which becomes very important. One part was the OSS, which was designed to wage... to create organizations behind enemy lines, to wage sabotage and subversion against the enemy in the enemy's territory, and to secretly establish an American military presence so that in those occupied territories, the United States Army could eventually enter and start having... fighting an actual war. That was the purpose of the OSS. And that very much is still the purpose of the CIA, as you see unfolding in Ukraine, which is a totally CIA war against Russia. And the other organization that split off was called the Office of War Information. And that became the root of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, and its job was to send agents into occupied territories to broadcast with radios and to promote the American line and to convince people in foreign countries that the United States was a force of good and that they should support it.

But this Office of War Information also created [inaudible 00:10:41] and was another espionage organization operating separately. And it evolved into what after the war was called the United States Information Service as part of the State Department. And a guy that you and I have talked about, Frank Scott, belonged to that United States Information Service which is... always has been sort of a covert action branch of the US State Department. Okay? The State Department... just like the military did not give up conducting intelligence operations because of the creation of the CIA, the State Department did not give up conducting intelligence operations either. I mean they're bureaucracies and they want their own... they don't want to rely on anybody else. So the United States Information Service, which is really... was the main propaganda outfit of the United States. And often it under operated under cover of the United States Agency for International Development and stuff like that.

So those two things became the main ways of fighting after world war II. The OSS had proven effective as had this Office of War information. And at the end of World War Two, the fascists were utterly defeated and had gone away except in Spain, Italy, and Germany, and England and elsewhere around the world where their remnants were incorporated into the CIA and used to... and the people who were there, they simply recycled these guys, and Reinhard Gehlen was one of them. And not only were they recycled, they became the Vanguard of CIA operations into Eastern Europe. This guy Reinhard Gehlen who you mentioned had been in charge of the German military's intelligence operations in Eastern Europe and into Russia. And at the end of the war, his intelligence network was still place, and the CIA wanted that intelligence network.

And it was all Nazis. And these guys were perfectly willing to take off their SS uniforms and their gestapo uniforms and become members of the German... West German Intelligence Service or the Italian Intelligence Service and, under CIA direction, start spying on the Soviet Union, and not only spying on the Soviet Union, but spying on agents of the Soviet Union in Germany, in Italy, in France. And it became the whole apparatus that we now have operating under the guise of NATO. I mean, this was the Genesis in 1949 of what became NATO, which was a joint operation between the United States... originally between the United States, Great Britain and Canada. And rest of Europe at that point, 1949 was still recovering from the war and had really kind of a sympathy for communists because the communists were the only people in France and in Italy and in other places around Europe that had actually fought the Nazis. Everybody else had collaborated.

So it was very hard in a lot of European nations to do what the United States, Canada, and Great Britain wanted them to do, which was utterly rollback communism. And the forces, the main vanguard in those forces were the CIA, which basically... and the United States military and State Department, which controlled NATO. NATO was its creation. And in order to get into NATO, European nations had to submit to both letting the CIA organize their security services. In order to become a member of NATO, you had to say, "Okay, the CIA is going to come in and start advising your security services, and the American military is going to... along with the Canadians and the Brits is going to advise your military." And that's NATO. And that's how all that begins.

And at the same time all this is going on the CIA is infiltrating into all these security services, and not just the security services, but all the civil institutions, and you know how that works. Anybody who's read Frances Stonor Saunders' book about the cultural wall of wars knows that the CIA was not just operating in liaison with security services, but it was actively, and I've talked about this elsewhere, courting what was called the compatible left. It was, through its political officers, setting up foundations, organizations, the chamber... Everybody had to have a junior chamber of commerce. Union organizers from the United States were being sent to help organize unions in France and in Italy and all across Western Europe that expel communists and became what was called social democratic. And this is all part of this great scheme of the CIA as originated by CIA officer [inaudible 00:16:27] Meyers to court the compatible left.

And that was the main political and psychological operation that was going on at the same time that the CIA was running the security services of all the member nations of NATO and the military was running the militaries in every US military, with the Brits and the Canadians running the militaries in all the organizations, I mean, pretty much within limits. But in order to become a member of NATO, you had to submit and Finland and Sweden, I think, still aren't... haven't actually submitted, although they're on the verge now. So all this goes on until 1991, the information war through the United States Information Service and the NATO war through the CIA and the US military of fighting the communists, and then the USSR dissolves. It's kind of like a whole new ballgame. What are you going to do if you haven't got the communist menace to fight anymore? Thank God for Russia.... or China.

I mean, and so there's still a communist menace and demagogues like Trump can still campaign against socialism. I should say up front that there is nothing but a compatible left in America. The whole idea of a compatible left only applied to Europe where there actually were... or in Asia, and where there still are communist parties. There's nothing like that in the United States. The left is nothing but compatible with capitalism and neoliberalism and imperialism. Otherwise, if you think of some kind of socialist or communist agenda in the United States, you're living in some kind of libertarian fantasy. It just is not happening, and if you look at the media you can see it. It's just like Santa Claus or some phony thing that gets made up and it doesn't exist, but it does exist elsewhere around the world, which is why the CIA is still preeminent. Plus, which there are nations like Russia which do not want to submit to US hegemony.

And so all this starts culminating in 1991, especially in Ukraine. And I should say that there's a really strong fascist ideology that's driving this whole thing which also becomes apparent in Ukraine. And not only was it embedded in the CIA with the incorporation of all these former fascists into the CIA as actually the Vanguard of CIA operations in Europe. These guys fit right in. But when you understand that Henry Ford and people like that were funding the fascists, I mean, we might have fought them in World War II, but it wasn't really ideological. But that fascist ideology really underpins, to a great extent America, and what its ideological foundation. And the whole scheme of how to like organize the CIA and the special forces actually had its origin within the German military and intelligence services. The formation of the SS, for example, a military... paramilitary branch that was designed specifically for political and psychological warfare.

Well, that becomes, that becomes the basis, the SS where it was actually organized in this place called Bad Tolz near Austria, Southern Germany. After the war, the United States actually constructed... took over the Bad Tolz base and it incorporated within this new... the CIA, as it was a virgin. And at that point, the United States military created a psychological warfare division which was very secret, had an office of secret... of special operations within the military, started incorporating this Nazi Germany idea of creating an SS. And the military was actively involved in Ukraine. You just don't know about it, but through its psychological warfare branch, and then it has as many advisors in Ukraine as the CIA does, it's just not American troops there yet. But the whole idea of the US Army Special Forces originates in the military's psychological warfare division.

And it emerges in 1950. And it emerges in Bad Tolz where the Nazis created the SS and the gestapo, and decided that the way to wage this kind of political and psychological warfare that the SS is famous for, creating... going after partisans in France, going after partisans in Italy, rounding up civilians who were considered to be sympathizers and opponents, and then just slaughtering civilians. And, of course, sending Jews to the concentration camps, I mean, that was part of the ideology. All that originated in Germany with this idea of creating an SS, a special unit within the military that not only engaged in political and psychological... this kind of political and psychological warfare against civilians, but also had its own police force, a gestapo, which liaised and created... and conducted intelligence operations against the infrastructure of the resistance in France and in Italy and all those kind of places.

And that becomes basically the model for CIA, which when it was originally created, Congresspeople were saying, "But this is just like the gestapo. You can't have a CIA, it's no different." It's waging secret political and psychological warfare around the world. It's conducting covert operations that the Congress knows nothing about and didn't know anything about until 1974. And this was this whole type of new warfare that we're seeing play out. Well, it's not new type of warfare, but it's evolved to its climatic point in the Ukraine where the fascists are fighting the Russians in this sort of Armageddon war that's going to determine the course of human history, really. And, I mean, if, if the United States wins, then the Russians have no choice but to resort to nuclear weapons.

So what is the point of all this? Why is Zelensky sacrificing so many Ukrainians when he could have just followed the Minsk agreement? What is really going on and who is really running this war? And if you look at it from that point of view, it's obvious it's the CIA. And it's using fascists in Ukraine, even though it says... the media makes... not only is the war unprovoked, but when the Russians say they're fighting, neo-Nazis, it's absolutely untrue. And if there are neo-Nazis, which Zelensky admits every once in a while, hey, what can you do about it? It's who they are. It's just the way they are, and they're fighting the Russians so it's okay.

So, again, it's this huge illusion of misinformation that if you look at it historically and organizationally, in that sort of very brief and incoherent way that I'm trying to present to you, can see where the arc started, how it progressed, and where it's going, and where it is. And in that sense, you can see the reality of the whole thing, which directly contradicts the information warfare illusion that Biden and the United States establishment and NATO would have you believe.

OHH I think that's exactly what the point of what we're seeing there is. When the CIA took those organizations over, it was always these highly ideologically motivated units, whether it was the SS or whether in Italy it was those black shirt legions. Or in Hungary and Romania they had these highly motivated units that were kind of the spearhead of the killing and the politics. Talking about the Azov Battalion, a lot of people in the media or wherever else would like to say that, "Well, this is a small group of people. They may be ideologically motivated and not good guys, but ultimately it's small." But when we look at what you've written about the Phoenix Program, we see that these small, ideologically motivated units become the most important part of the warfare in this kind of modern paramilitary warfare that we see. In your book The Phoenix Program, you talk about Frank Scott and the revolutionary development of these highly motivated paramilitary units. I wonder if you could compare, or just talk about that? And as you do, we can think about the importance of special units in the Ukrainian military that the CIA has supported since the end of World War Two.

DV Sure. I mean, let me just start with one little factoid. 4.5 million Ukrainians have left the country. You know, 4.5 million people? I don't know how many people live in here. They said, "We don't want any part of it. I'm out of here." And that's representative of what happens in any kind of civil war, which they're kind of framing it as in Ukraine, or a territorial war. The basic ways is that only small percentages of the population actually engage and fight in the war. It's not like you have 50% of... all of the Ukrainians with guns rushing over to Donbas and joining the artillery barrage against Donbas. Most people don't want anything to do with the war, and Zelensky himself had run on a servant of the people party that he was going to follow the Minsk Agreement, which was an agreement between Russia and Ukraine that Donbas, the republics, two or three republics there in Crimea, would not come under Ukrainian administration.

That was part of Zelensky's political platform. Well, that's what most Ukrainians wanted. That's why they elected him. And then all of a sudden he started following what appeared to be US policy, not Ukraine policy. He outlawed... Imposing all these really dictatorial and contradictory edicts in Ukraine that eventually pushed Russia to the point of saying, "Something here has changed." And it appeared that Zelensky was following US policy, not Ukraine policy, certainly not its own stated policies, although you won't hear about that on the American media. But in order to fight that kind of war that's unpopular with most Ukrainians, you're only going to find a small percentage anyway, and they're only going to be the most highly ideologically and motivated people. And that's... Again, we're talking about people who absolutely hate ethnic Russians, and that's the fascists who have been fighting the Russians for a hundred years.

And so it's only natural that would be that Azov Battalion, which is a CIA creation, by the way. And the CIA is very used to working with Nazis, as we know. I mean they've been doing it for 75 years. It's a natural fit that that would be the very small population, percentage of the population that would be fighting this war. It's that easily explained. But in South Vietnam it was, to some extent, the same situation. And what they needed to do in South Vietnam was to find a way to persuade people who are not ideological zealots to join in the war and fight against the National Liberation Front and the Liberation Army, which most people supported. And in order to do that, the CIA and the United States Information Service evolved new methods of organization and psychological warfare.

But in order to find this new way of evolving civilians who don't really want to be in the war and fighting the war, how are you going to get them to join your... the ideological vanguard? And as this guy, Frank Scotton said to me... And Frank Scotton, by the way, if I could just backtrack a moment, was a member of the United States Information Service who graduated from American University in like 1960. And his father had been killed in World War Two and he was like a real patriotic kind of gung ho kind of guy, a murderous man. There's no other way to put it, and ideologically like could have been... By nature, he was just a perfect fit for this job that he got. And he joined the United States Information Service after graduating American University, and he went to what was called the East West Center in Hawaii, which was a stop off place for US Information Service people going to Southeast Asia, to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam, where they were taught how to create agent nets.

If you remember on the Office of War Information and United States Information Service were intelligence agents, and he got that kind of training. And he also got paramilitary training. And when he arrived in South Vietnam in like 1961, I think it was, he was sent to the hinterlands and told to recruit mountain hill tribes on the border of Laos over to the South Vietnamese cause. And he had to develop a way to try to convince these people who like didn't even know they were South Vietnamese. They thought, oh, I belong to the [inaudible 00:31:41] tribe and we've lived up here in the mountains for 500 years. And they worshiped mythical beasts that wandered around the jungle. I mean, they didn't know they were South Vietnamese, and Scotton's job was to convince them to fight for the South Vietnamese government.

And the first thing he had to do... And he talked about this in another book. [inaudible 00:32:03] was to prove himself to these tribes people by actually murdering six people who they thought were communists, waiting on side of a trail with a machete and chopping them up, boom, boom, boom. And he did that, and he got their... was inducted into their tribes and won their confidence, and spent the next five years in South Vietnam trying to figure out a method to get people, civilians who didn't really want anything to do with the war and really didn't identify with the government, to come over and to support the government. And he developed... Eventually he stopped working with the hill tribes and he started working with South Vietnamese, and he developed a program called motivational indoctrinating, which became the root for all kind of indoctrination courses that the CIA and the US Special Forces, Delta Force and the Navy SEALs and the United States Information Service have incorporated into their... what's the word for... syllabus, of how to conduct political and psychological warfare, and it became the basis for how to do it.

And he said to me, "The whole idea was to find people that could go into these kind of special units", which at the time, he was calling armed propaganda, to go into enemy areas and promote the government line and who were willing to die. And they had to find some way to trick these people, who really in their heart of hearts just wanted to be neutral, into being willing to risk for lives for cause they didn't believe in, which is pretty much the story. Americans will support any war. I mean, if you tell them it's fighting socialism or Saddam Hussein or something, great. I'll send my boy off to die because it's a good cause. And really, it's not as difficult indoctrinating and motivating Americans where there is no left of no opposition as it is in a lot of foreign countries.

But in a country like Ukraine... Oh, and like you said, Scott's program, the armed propaganda program, which is equipping small groups of people with guns and a little propaganda speech that they'll give to people who are on the other side or in the enemy camp or don't know which way to go, and if they don't want to join the cause, resorting to what was called selective terrorism, which is cutting off a few heads and sticking them on poles when you leave the village and telling them, "If you don't join the cause we're going to come back kill the rest of you." And that happens all the time. And that became part of this whole idea of incorporating terrorism into political and psychological warfare, and that became a main element. And that's why in Ukraine right now, you see the Azov Battalion and you see the security service, the SUV.

It's militias tying people to land posts, painting their faces blue, all these really types of terror warfare against people who are either in the middle or thought to be collaborating, as a way to say to the rest of the population in Ukraine, "If you're not with us, this is what's going to happen to you." And they actually film this on their cell phones and they put it on Ukraine and American media. And they say, "If you're not with us, this is what's going to happen to you." Well, all that goes back through Frank Scotton and motivational indoctrination and the incorporation of terror as an essential ingredient in political and psychological warfare, and the creation of these SS kind of units that fight a partisan war and are highly organized and highly ideological and disciplined. And that aspect of the Vietnam war, which was incorporated into the Phoenix Program along with the gestapo, which the CIA created in South Vietnam and which it has created in Ukraine, the security service there, this is how political and psychological warfare is waged nowadays.

And you can see it playing out in the Ukraine. You just won't hear it explained in this organizational and historical way. Nobody who shows you any of these pictures that are often banned on Twitter and Facebook and stuff like that, but are broadcast over Ukraine, you don't understand the origin and the meaning and the purpose of them. But it all goes back this type of warfare that was developed in South Vietnam, incorporated, used in central America, and has been used and perfected everywhere, and is now playing out in Ukraine.

OHH Let me ask one thing. I mean, isn't this sort of indoctrination being done to all of us now with the internet? And what's the effect of having a whole society this ideologically motivated, do you think?

DV Well, that is the end result of decades of military propaganda in the United States. And it goes back to the Iliad where the rulers of society who own the property and the means of production hire people like Homer to tell their story. And in their story, they only focus on the heroic soldier who goes off and fights in a foreign war and becomes a hero. It's the myth of the hero. And the hero myth is that you can only become a true hero if you go fight and die for your country overseas in the service of, supposedly, your country. But it's actually in the service of General Electric and Morgan Stanley and pharmaceutical companies and the big corporations that own the country. It has nothing to do with 90% of the population that really do not want to get involved in any wars and really don't want to see their sons and daughters go off and die. But there's enough people that buy this myth of the hero, and this is all you see in movies.

And it's why Ken Burns gets away with calling the Vietnam War a noble cause, because otherwise he was saying all the guys that went there and fought and died did so for nothing, and you can't have that in America. You can't be an imperial power if there isn't a steady conveyor belt of cannon fodder. And that's the purpose of military propaganda, which is based on this idea of the myth of the hero, which is ingrained in Western literature. And, I mean, after the Vietnam War there was one or two anti-Vietnam War films, and then Rambo came along and Deer Hunter came along, which could have as well been called Gook Hunter. You know, I mean, where the Vietnamese were just like characterized as evil, horrible people and the only victims where American soldiers.

And that's the way the war has been portrayed ever since, and the only way you ever hear about it is that American soldiers were victims of the Vietnam War. You never hear about the landmines that are still scattered all over the place, or that people are dying from agent orange, or I mean the sanctions that strangled that country up until 1991. I mean, you never hear about the suffering of the enemy. You only hear about suffering of American soldiers because they're the heroes. And that's the nature of military propaganda, and it's become more and more ideological. It's become more and more fascist and ingrained. And that's why, I mean, there's a lot of people that really believe this myth and the whole purpose of their life is to join the military and go fight in a foreign war, and if they can't do that, to become a mercenary and do it. I mean our whole society is violence and the glorification of violence in the defense of the country. And pacifists just like in Ukraine, are vilified.

You can't be a pacifist in Ukraine nowadays. I think Zelensky has basically outlawed pacifism. So this is the situation that has been evolving for decades and it's now playing out on the Ukraine Russian border. And a lot of it has to do with the mythology of the war hero and the fascist military industrial state that communism was organized to overcome, but obviously got off track somewhere along way a long time ago. But it's really hard to fight it and the fascists have just gotten... The world is getting smaller and only the strong survive. And the fascists have always made a virtue, just like the Nazis, of strength and commitment to ideology, and commitment to the ideology of strength and violence and no mercy for your enemy. And that's what we see playing out now. And that's why Americans get behind it. I mean, they've been trained to believe that that's the way it is and that's way it has to be.

OHH This is Our Hidden History.

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