Watergate: Was Nixon Set Up?

New 6-part series WATERGATE premieres Sunday on SBS | TV ...

Watergate – Chapter 1

The History Channel (2016)

Film Review

While this six-part series is rich in intriguing detail, people need to be aware it ignores extensive evidence Russ Baker compiled for his 2009 book Family of Secrets. In the later, Baker concluded Nixon was the victim, not the perpetrator, of Watergate. In other words, Watergate (like the JFK assassination) was a coup to remove a democratically elected president from power. *

Chapter 1 starts with background about Nixon’s initial escalation of the Vietnam War, via secret (and illegal) bombings of Laos and Cambodia.

It also plays excerpts of the infamous White House tapes** revealing Nixon was extremely paranoid, particularly of the CIA. With good reason. As Baker reveals in “Chapter 10 Downing Nixon” in Family of Secrets, Nixon had been at war with the CIA ever since his 1969 inauguration. This was mainly due to his demand that they provide him classified records of their role in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963 and the CIA overthrow of the elected government of the Dominican Republic in 1954. (The History Channel documentary “Watergate” reveals none of this.)

Nixon feared (with good reason) he could become a CIA target like Kennedy and strongly suspected the CIA had infiltrated both his White House staff and re-election committee. Baker provides extensive evidence Nixon’s legal counsel John Dean,*** deputy assistant to the president Alexander Butterfield and deputy director of the Committee to Re-Elect the President Jeb Magruder all helped end the Nixon presidency by orchestrating both the Watergate scandal and the coverup that ensued.

The best part of Chapter 1 is when the History Channel pays excerpts of the Nixon tapes where he expresses his belief the CIA orchestrated the Watergate break-in*** and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman asserts the FBI also believes the CIA is behind the burglary. However the filmmakers neglect to link these statements to orders Nixon later gives for the CIA (given their responsibility for the operation) to instruct the FBI to shut down their investigation. Without this context, this documentary makes it look like Nixon is guilty of obstruction of justice.

Although this episode notes that this was the second time (CIA) “plumbers” had broken into the Democratic headquarters, it passes over the distinct difference between the two events. With the first (a May 28, 1972 clandestine operation to bug the telephones), the “burglars” left no trace of their illegal entry. With the second (three weeks later), the intruders pried the door open with a crowbar, smashed windows and vandalized the office. It’s Baker’s belief they did so to make sure to generate a burglary report, which would bring the incident to court and ultimately to public view.

The film also conveniently overlooks the point Baker makes in his book: once left-wing peace candidate George McGovern became the Democratic front runner, Nixon faced an easy victory (he went on to win all but one state) and there was no rationale for his re-election committee to organize a break-in to Democratic headquarters.

This sanitized Watergate series also neglects to mention Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s**** historic links to the CIA through his work in Naval Intelligence.


*Baker cites three books (each relying on very different facts and sources) that support this assertion:  Jim Hougan’s 1984 Secret Agenda, the 1991 Silent Coup by Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin and James Rosen’s 2008 The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate.

**Baker indicates that Cold War hawks in the CIA were angry about Nixon’s efforts to improve relations with the Soviet Union and China. Ironically towards the end of his presidency, Nixon was fighting with the same special interests (independent oil barons) as JFK over the same issue (the oil depletion allowance). In 1973, Nixon’s Justice Department was investigating close friends and associates of George Bush Senior (who Baker suspects of helping to orchestrate the Watergate scandal) for antitrust violations.

***According to Baker, Nixon recognized the name of some of the so-called “burglars” owing to their involvement in the CIA-orchestrated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

****The Woodward-Bernstein series on the Watergate break-ins was essential in mobilizing public pressure for both a grand jury and a congressional investigation.

The series can be viewed free on Kanopy

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/watergate-0

Meet Allen Dulles: Fascist Spymaster

Meet Allen Dulles: Fascist Spymaster

James Corbett (2015)

Film Review

A comprehensive biography of infamous CIA director Allen Dulles, this film is a treasure trove of hidden history. Dulles ran the CIA from 1953 until Kennedy fired him (in 1961) over the disastrous CIA invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs.

Prior to watching this documentary, I was unaware of Dulles’ long time collaboration with fascists of all stripes. For example, Dulles

  • (with his brother John Foster Dulles) was a founding member of the corporate elite round table group the Council on Foreign Relations (1921).
  • collaborated with George W’s grandfather Prescott Bush and W Averell Harriman to use Union Bank Company to launder Wall Street monies that financed Hitler’s military arsenal.
  • as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (the CIA’s precursor), served as the primary architect of the program to secretly bring Nazi war criminals to the US – where they became CIA spies, military analysts and space and mind control scientists.
  • with John Foster, represented the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the United Fruit Company as partners in the powerful Wall Street law firm Cromwell and Sullivan.
  • instigated coups against Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) as a personal vendetta when their democratically elected leaders acted contrary to the financial interests of corporate clients.
  • as a Warren Commission member following the JFK assassination, demanded records destroyed relating to Oswald’s CIA employment.*

*The order was foiled by a Warren Commission staffer who secretly retained a copy.

 

Untold History of the US – JFK to the Brink

In Part 6 of Untold History of the United States, filmmaker Oliver Stone reveals that Kennedy vacillated between supporting and opposing the anti-communist Pentagon hawks who tried to control his foreign policy.

  • In 1960, JFK made the “missile gap” (ie the so-called Soviet advantage in strategic weapons) a major plank of his campaign – only to discover (on taking office) that the US was far ahead in every category.
  • Under pressure from the CIA and Joint Chiefs, he initially approved the Bay of Pigs invasion, only to refuse to authorize air support when he discovered they had lied to him about domestic Cuban support for the invasion.
  • After the bungled Bay of Pigs operation, he fired Allen Dulles and other top CIA officials and placed all overseas CIA operations under State Department control. At the same time, he also put his brother Bobby in charge of Operation Mongoose, a secret program in Louisiana to train Cuban exiles to overthrow and/or poison Castro (Joan Mellen discusses Bobby’s role at length in her 2013 book on the JFK assassination – see New Evidence in the JFK Assassination).
  • He resisted pressure from the Joint Chiefs to invade Laos.
  • Despite resisting pressure from the Pentagon to increase arms expenditures, in 1961 he warned the American people against dangerous Soviet aggression and encouraged them to build fallout shelters.
  • He approved the deployment of 16,000 advisors (in addition to CIA personnel) to engage in guerilla warfare in Vietnam. He also approved Operation Phoenix, which involved massive defoliation of the Vietnamese with cancer and birth defect-causing Agent Orange, the assassination of labor leaders and human rights advocates and the mass displacement of Vietnamese civilians into concentration camps.
  • He resisted pressure from the Joint Chiefs to launch a nuclear strike on Cuba when a U2 spy plane discovered the Soviets had supplied Castro with nuclear-tipped ICBMs.

Most of the episode focuses on the naval blockade JFK imposed on Cuba during the Cuban Missile crisis and the delicate negotiations between him and Khrushchev to prevent this event from escalating into full blown nuclear war.

It’s Stone’s view that both Kennedy and Khrushchev lost control of their militaries during this period. According to Stone, it was down to a single brave Soviet submarine commander that global nuclear annihilation was averted in 1962. He believes the near-miss in Cuba caused Kennedy to rethink US involvement in Vietnam – and issue National Security Memorandum 263 in summer 1963. The latter ordered the gradual withdrawal of all US forces from Vietnam to commence in December 1963.

Johnson would reverse this directive within weeks of the JFK assassination.

Part 6 – JFK to the Brink