Recent research suggests how the bizarre and untimely death of Catholic author, mystic and outspoken anti-Vietnam War activist may in fact have been carried out by the CIA and at the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, whose Executive Branch tenure saw the political assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While there is a wealth of historical research on the deaths of the Kennedys and King, we are just beginning to understand how and why Merton had likewise become an enemy of the warfare state.
Music: Gregorian Chant: Easter Sunday – Alleluia – Pascha nostrum Benedictine Monks of the Abbey Münsterschwarzach and Pater Godehard Joppich.
Recent research on the 50th anniversary of world renowned Catholic mystic, author, and antiwar activist Thomas Merton’s untimely death suggests that it may well be categorized alongside the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. *
Additional information and research on the suspicious death of Fr. Thomas Merton are available at
*The video report notes that no autopsy was conducted on Merton’s body because of counsel by the US Embassy in Thailand. To be clear, this was according to a single claim made by a Merton colleague. The records and testimony surrounding the death are profuse and often at odds. They suggest, however, that even some church members and those in the company of Merton at the time were potentially complicit in a coverup.
Among the first major CIA clandestine operators and propagandists functioning abroad was OSS veteran and US Air Force Colonel Edward Lansdale. An early confidante of Allen and John Foster Dulles, Lansdale was an advertising executive-turned-spy and counterinsurgency expert, all the while projecting “a squeaky-clean, Boy Scout Image, behind which he masked his own perverse delight in atrocity,” writes historian Douglas Valentine.
In the prelude to America’s full-scale involvement in Southeast Asia Landsdale fulfilled a special role in the formation of the CIA’s infamous counterterror assassination program dubbed Phoenix, having successfully organized an anti-Communist movement in the Philippines. Acting in the 1950s as the Dulles’ emissary in Vietnam, Landsdale played an important role as US advisor to the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. And the slogan-savvy Lansdale coined the term “Vietcong”, forever denigrating Vietminh patriots in the Western mind.
Lansdale’s activities in the Philippines earned him the nickname the “Ugly American.” He brought those tactics to Saigon along with a team of dedicated Filipino anti-Communists who, in the words of one veteran CIA officer, ‘would slit their grandmother’s throat for a dollar eighty-five.’”
In one psychological warfare operation Landsdale sought to motivate Vietnamese government troops to vacate a village and engage Communist guerrilla fighters on the outskirts. The problem was that village’s leaders feared assassination by the same guerrillas if the troops left. As ad exec Landsdale recalls,
“A combat psywar [psychological warfare] team was brought in. It planted stories among town residents of a vampire living on the hill where the Huks were based. Two nights later, after giving the stories time to circulate among Huk sympathizers in the town and make their way up the hill to the camp, the psywar squad set up an ambush along a trail used by the Huks. When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night. They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the vampire had got him and that one of them would be next if they remained on the hill. When daylight came the whole Huk squadron moved out of the vicinity.”
Lansdale deemed the operation “’low humor’ and ‘ an appropriate response … to the glum and deadly practices of communists and other authoritarians,'” notes Valentine. “And by doing so, former advertising executive Lansdale–the merry prankster whom author Graham Greene dubbed the Quiet America–came to represent the hypocrisy of American policy in South Vietnam.
Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990, 25-26.
“We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Langley Virginia, 1988.
Steven Spielberg’s tribute to Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and modern American journalism is a major Hollywood endeavor marshaling the industry’s premier talent. A s of this writing The Post has been nominated for dozens of awards throughout the film community. The movie itself, however, comprises a sort of tortured historical confirmation on exactly how the news media would like to view themselves and their industry. It does so by mixing verifiable truths alongside careful omissions to reinforce a deeper set of myths concerning notions of American press freedom and the Vietnam War era.
On a more immediate level, The Post was produced in under six months, and was at least partly motivated by the political allegiances of its creators, who seek to analogize the Richard Nixon administration’s pursuit of a court injunction against the US press’ publication of the Pentagon Papers to President Donald Trump’s bellicose attitude toward a corporate news media that has arguably become an increasingly partisan political force following Trump’s defeat of his Democratic Party rival.
Spielberg renders Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) as a somewhat awkward and isolated widow and among the first female publishers in the predominantly male-dominated business of newspaper publishing. Left unmentioned is the fact that Graham was the daughter of Eugene Meyer, one of the country’s most powerful bankers, who bought the Washington Post in 1933 while serving as head of the Federal Reserve.
“The Feast of Carrion” a chapter from Daniel Berrigan’s book,
The Nightmare of God
Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest and outspoken opponent of US wars, has died at the age of 94. Berrigan was jailed numerous times–initially in the 1960s when he broke into a draft board office in Cantonsville, Maryland, and later on in the 1970s and 80s for his anti-nuclear activism.