The Man Nobody Knew: William Colby
by Tony Medley
Run time 104
a fascinating film, a must-see for anyone interested in lots of things
that happened from 1945-mid '70s, like what actually happened in
Vietnam, and why. It's a prologue for where we are today.
has enormous verisimilitude because it is produced and directed by
William Colby's son, Carl. It's not a whitewash of his controversial
father. In fact, despite Colby's near-heroic testimony before Congress,
excerpts of which are shown, I came out of the film thinking less of
him, mainly because of the way he treated his wife and family.
straight documentary at the outset, showing how he joined the OSS in
World War II and what he did after. It diverts from his story to give
great detail about the Kennedy Administration's involvement in the coup
against President Diem of Vietnam, circa 1963. There are fascinating
taped conversations among President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert F.
Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State Averell Harriman, Secretary of
State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Colby about
whether or not to support a coup against a staunch ally. Fascinating and
damning, it pins the blame on someone other than President Kennedy. In
fact, in the tapes we hear Bobby Kennedy arguing passionately against
supporting a coup.
Hughes, former State Dept. exec., in alleging that the Kennedys were
interested in secret, covert activity, said "they had an interest in
James Bond type activity. They romanticized doing things secretly that
couldn't be done openly."
of the coup, Diem told Ambassador to Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge that he'd
do anything he wants, "we really need to get over this." The CIA people
in Saigon thought that the President had ordered the coup and only later
found out that Lodge and a clique in the State Dept. had ordered it.
Both Diem brothers were murdered that day in the coup.
Weiner, an author, tells of Colby dropping spies behind enemy lines in
North Vietnam, believing they could operate the same way they operated
in Europe in WWII. He said as a result of this misguided idea, 217 men
were killed, captured, or turned into double agents.
covers the Colby shepherding of the controversial Phoenix program in
Vietnam and shows brutal film of U.S. soldiers torturing Vietnamese who
had been captured. Unfortunately, it includes the film of a Vietnamese
general shooting a Viet Cong in the head, a still picture of which was
taken by Eddie Adams that won him a Pulitzer Prize, and which became one
of the bases for the anti-war movement. It's not identified in this
film, however. If you didn't know what you were watching you wouldn't
know this was an infamous picture. (As an aside not covered in this
film, the general who pulled the trigger, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, had been
told that the prisoner was a notorious VC operative who had just
executed one of Loan’s officers and wiped out his whole family. This
never came out until many, many years later, too late to repair the
damage the image inspired. Adams felt guilty about what happened and
apologized to Loan, saying later, "I . . . found out the guy was very
well loved by the Vietnamese, you know. He was a hero to them . . . and
it just saddens me that none of this has really come out.")
film covers so much it could substitute for an entire semester course in
recent American history. But I'll skip over most of it. That's the
reason to see the movie.
however, close my review with something that is truly telling. George
Herbert Walker Bush became President because Ronald Reagan chose him to
be his Vice-President. Bush thanked him by firing every Reaganite in the
Administration upon becoming President in 1989. This film presents
damning evidence about Bush's character and provides the basis for
understanding what happened. This film shows that when President Ford
fired Colby after his truthful Congressional testimony and gave the job
to Bush, Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward asked Ford why he
picked Bush. Ford said, "I wanted a loyalist." Woodward asked who are
the "loyalists." Ford replied, "Rumsfeld, Cheney, Kissinger, and
Greenspan." This is no compliment, but it helps to explain why Bush did
everything in his power to destroy the Reagan Revolution. He was loyal
to the old Republican power structure so loved by Ford, dominated by the
trilateral commission and David Rockefeller's Council on Foreign
Relations, that Reagan defeated, and he put it back in place when Reagan
thought it was dead and buried. What a brighter future we'd be enjoying
if only Reagan had appointed a true conservative patriot like Jack Kemp
as his Veep instead of an ambitious fifth columnist.
a movie not to be missed.