August ending, summer winding down. Working on new book proposal -- travails of today's CIA -- and finding my way into the third of the Landau novels. The first, The Hedge Fund, appears to be finding its following on Amazon. Check it out -- go to Amazon Books, then Burton Hersh, then The Hedge Fund itself. Straight five stars to date from excited reviewers. The latest from the legendary historian and biographer Joan Mellen, whose incisive biography of New Orleans D.A. Garrison has helped shred what's left of The Warren Report. Joan finds The Hedge Fund "shrewd, snappingly wise-cracking and just plain fun. It's the world as it is, with no holds barred. I enjoyed particularly Burton Hersh's knowing grasp and satire on the concept of property and how property threads, often unexpectedly, through the shoals of everyday life. This is a rare summer read." At thirteen bucks, how can any of you justify not buying and luxuriating in this hot-button novel? We need some sales, and I am depending on all of you. I know who you all are, and I will be taking names and kicking butt.
Seriously, give it a try. And let me know what you think at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to expend a few paragraphs on what appears to be a massive and apparently coordinated effort to rewrite history. I've had my say about Professor Nasaw's solemn whitewash of the life and times of Joseph P. Kennedy, detailed in my book Bobby and J. Edgar. To maintain that Old Joe was innocent of mob connections is tantamount to maintaining that Casanova was a virgin. When I suggested that in newspaper reviews and blogs, the good professor called me directly to chew me out. I gave it back in kind, as you may imagine. Nasaw didn't even recognize the names of gangsters even when -- the result of staff slipups -- he ran across them in the Kennedy Library.
The folks at the Central Intelligence Agency appear to have the whitewash brush out themselves these days. The July-August issue of Foreign Affairs, affiliated technically with The Council on Foreign Relations but inevitably something of a spokesman for the State Department and its semi-cloaked kid sister, the CIA, features articles under the rubric "What Really Happened" in Iran 1953, Congo 1961, Pakistan 1971 and Chile 1973. Responsible historians have long since surfaced and laid out the details of all these operations. In every one, short-sighted Agency operatives reached into societies struggling to find some political balance and so skewed the outcomes that it would take decades before meaningful progress could resume. The people involved suffered terribly.
The treatments put forward in Foreign Affairs rewrite the settled history in ways that defy belief. In the piece on Iran, for example, Ray Takeyh seems to maintain that CIA manipulations didn't affect the outcome. He refers to Kermit Roosevelt's "self-aggrandizing 1979 book Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran." In my bookThe Old Boys (1992) I dealt at some length with the coup Roosevelt triggered when he appeared in Teheran with the trunk of his car loaded with currency and paid off power groups from military officers to bodybuilders to march on the parliament and overturn the government and reinstall the Shah, whose brutal tenure brought on the Ayatollahs. While researching The Old Boys I interviewed Roosevelt several times; by then he was very depressed at what he had done. He refused to engineer the disastrous coup in Guatemala. Even the medal President Eisenhower gave him for putting together the coup didn't help. To write Kermit off as "self-aggrandizing" is beyond cruel -- callow. Much the same applies to the ignorant treatment of our operations in the Congo. At one point a CIA man surfaced who moved Patrice Lumumba's corpse around for several days in the trunk of his car. As in Iran, the Agency was more than involved. Chile was without a doubt our most shameless performance, and subjected the helpless populace to the Pinochet regime.
Rewriting established history like this can do no good for the reputation of The Council on Foreign Relations. As a longstanding member of the affiliated Committee on Foreign Relations I am especially embarrassed.
History is history. We've got to learn to live with it.