The CIA is well known for its use of Indian Universities to create students movements, psychological operations to break its enemies, rig EVMs to manipulate elections and carry out false-flag attacks for regime change. However, less known is CIA’s Religious Warfare – the manipulation of religion and use of religious beliefs like the Second Coming of Christ and Vampires, as weapons of war.
When the ClA turns to religion it is not for the purpose of uplifting humanity, but to bring on the death and destruction that is the CIA’s stock in trade. For many years the CIA’s high priest was Brigadier General Edward Lansdale, whose exploits became so well known that characters in two novels (The Ugly American and The Quiet American) were modeled after him.
In the 1950s Lansdale, then a colonel, was sent to the Philippines to advise then Defense Minister Ramon Magsaysay in the war against the Huk guerrillas. Stanley Karnow interviewed Lansdale in 1972 and reported on one of his most macabre operations, quoted in The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence by Victor Marchetti and John Marks:
One psywar operation played on the superstitious dread in the Philippine countryside of the aswang, a mythical vampire. A psywar squad entered an area, and planted rumors that an aswang lived on where the Communists were based. Two nights later, after giving the rumors time to circulate among Huk sympathizers, the psywar squad laid an ambush for the rebels. When a Huk patrol passed, the ambushers snatched the last man, punctured his neck vampire-fashion with two holes, hung his body until the blood drained out, and put the corpse back on the trail. As superstitious as any other Filipinos, the insurgents fled from the region.
Although that is probably a self-serving, overly facile account, the Huk rebellion was defeated, Magsaysay was elected president of the Philippines, and Lansdale’s star rose in the CIA. Emboldened by that success, Lansdale proposed invoking Christ to assist the CIA in its war against Cuba.
The plan, described to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by Thomas Parrott, was part of Operation MONGOOSE, a major 1962 covert action:
I’ll give you one example of Lansdale’s perspicacity. He had a wonderful plan for getting rid of Castro. This plan consisted of spreading the word that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that Christ was against Castro [who] was anti-Christ. And you would spread this word around Cuba, and then on whatever date it was, that there would be a manifestation of this thing.
And at that time this is absolutely true – and at that time just over the horizon there would be an American submarine which would surface off Cuba and send up some starshells. And this would be the manifestation of the Second Coming and Castro would be overthrown…. Well, some wag called this operation and somebody dubbed this Elimination by Illumination.
MONGOOSE was a failure, but, as Fred Landis has shown, the CIA’s psychological warfare operations in Nicaragua, Italy, Chile, and Jamaica have all involved similar, if less grandiose “illumination” patterned after the Army psywar manual’s instructions on the use of Christian symbolism.
Such cynical attempts to terrorize people by manipulating their religious beliefs probably dates to antiquity. In the United States, the predecessor to Lansdale’s operations was the World War Two experience against the Japanese in the Pacific.
The British war against the Mau Mau in Kenya involved attempts to manipulate popular beliefs in witchcraft, sorcery, and magic. When the U.S. Department of Defense learned of this, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations commissioned the Cultural Information Analysis Center to study the possible use of these techniques in the Congo. The final study, titled “Witchcraft, Sorcery,
Magic, and Other Psychological Phenomena and Their Implications on Military and Paramilitary Operations in the Congo.” was released by the Senate Foreign Relations Comrmittee in 1968.
Yet Congress has never condemned these deadly uses of religion and religious belief. In its final report, the Church Comrmittee declared:
The Committee considers religious groups like academia and the press-to be among the most important of our society’s institutions. As such, any covert relationship that might either influence them or jeopardize their reputation is extremely sensitive.
But the committee’s proposed ban (which in any case is not being observed) would have little effect since its investigation “focused exclusively on the use of U.S. religious organizations.” In fact, as most of the recent exposes have
shown, the CIA’s primary strategy was to manipulate, if not indeed to create, existing religious institutions in areas where they wished to engage in religious manipulation.
Such target areas have, reasonably enough, been those places where religion plays a central role in the lives of the masses of the people. Central America is such a region, and that is why the study of the CIA’s manipulation of religion, particularly evangelical groups, is so important to the struggles in Central America.
Read more on the historical conflict between the British, the Church, the FreeMasonic Orders and the French — in the context of which India became a victim, in the book India in Cognitive Dissonance.
By Ken Lawrence in Covert Action Information Bulletin, Winter 1983 edition.