When I look back on my life, turn my thoughts to accounting for past events, beyond a week or so ago, memories fade. Each day in the past, thumbing through the calendar, each day a little less distinct, fading into what folk metaphors tell us of our memory warehouse, a kind of secret library in our mind littered with cobwebs and dark dusty corners. Banker’s boxes on shelves, file cabinets, pictures, antiques, a spiral staircase to different levels; the shiftable inner recesses, the Xanadu of the mind. Some areas of the warehouse are in front, accessible, others more discrete, or hidden, even some places with more security than others, requiring a series of keys. But the memories are only apprehended as much as we can pay attention to them. As if we traipse around the memory warehouse with a single torch – you can only see as far as the light goes, the rest fading to shades of grey and the darkness beyond.
The thing was that the facts of the Cold War are far messier than the simplicity of this heroic narrative. They are far more ambiguous than the flat surfaces, where the gaps in this heroic narrative don’t add up. In Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner tells that the CIA was not nearly the clever intelligence agency of our popular imagination. The CIA’s history is replete with intelligence failures, and in essence, failed as an agency in the Cold War due to a lack of mission. They were designed as an intelligence agency. But they did way more than espionage. They engaged in counterrevolutionary measures9781433203022, called black ops, across the world. They set about, in large part, to remake the world according to the narrative of American power, and sided with military juntas in the so-called third world in order to do this. As Weiner writes, “In World War II, the United States made common cause with communists to fight fascists. In the cold war, the CIA used fascists to combat communists” (39). This resulted in fascist coups in places like Chile, Argentina and the Congo, and lead to the assassinations of democratically elected leaders like Patrice Lumumba and Salvador Allende.