Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954

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9780804733113: Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954

In 1992, the Central Intelligence Agency hired the young historian Nick Cullather to write a history (classified “secret” and for internal distribution only) of the Agency’s Operation PBSUCCESS, which overthrew the lawful government of Guatemala in 1954. Given full access to the Agency’s archives, he produced a vivid insider’s account, intended as a training manual for covert operators, detailing how the C.I.A. chose targets, planned strategies, and organized the mechanics of waging a secret war. In 1997, during a brief period of open disclosure, the C.I.A. declassified the history with remarkably few substantive deletions. The New York Times called it “an astonishingly frank account . . . which may be a high-water mark in the agency’s openness.” Here is that account, with new notes by the author which clarify points in the history and add newly available information.

In the Cold War atmosphere of 1954, the U.S. State Department (under John Foster Dulles) and the C.I.A. (under his brother Allen Dulles) regarded Guatemala’s democratically elected leftist government as a Soviet beachhead in the Western Hemisphere. At the C.I.A.’s direction, the government was overthrown and replaced by a military dictatorship installed by the Agency. This book tells, for the first time, how a disaster-prone operation—marked by bad planning, poor security, and incompetent execution—was raised to legendary status by its almost accidental triumph.

This early C.I.A. covert operation delighted both President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers, and Allen Dulles concluded that the apparent success in Guatemala, despite a long series of blunders, made the venture a sound model for future operations. This book reveals how the legend of PBSUCCESS grew, and why attempts to imitate it failed so disastrously at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and in the Contra war in the 1980’s. The Afterword traces the effects of the coup of 1954 on the subsequent unstable politics and often violent history of Guatemala.

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About the Author:

Nick Cullather is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University. He is the author of Illusions of Influence: The Political Economy of United States-Philipines Relations, 1942-1966 (Stanford, 1994).

Review:

"Cullather provides a realistic and nuanced view of an otherwise well-covered operation, seen through the eyes of the agency that led PBSUCCESS ....By providing the insider's view of the operations Cullather has offered invaluable detail and insight previously unavailable. For students of Latin America and U.S. national security policymaking in the region, Cullather has done a great service."—Mark Montesclaros, H-Net Reviews

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Nick Cullather
Editorial: Stanford University Press (1999)
ISBN 10: 0804733112 ISBN 13: 9780804733113
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Cullather, Nick
Editorial: Stanford University Press (1999)
ISBN 10: 0804733112 ISBN 13: 9780804733113
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Editorial: Stanford University Press
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