Review of Pisces Moon: The Dark Arts of Empire
Doug Valentine’s new book “Pisces Moon: The Dark Arts of Empire” takes the reader on a voyage into the dark and hidden history of the world. It forces the reader to confront the horrors unleashed by the American Empire. A memoir that reads like a great novel, you won’t be able to put it down till you’ve finished it. Then you’ll have to read it again to take detailed notes on the intricate history of the CIA in South East Asia. Doug Valentine is the greatest living CIA expert. He is well known to the tiny audience of connoisseurs with interest in topics as CIA dirty wars, psychological warfare, state-sponsored drug smuggling, deep politics and political assassinations.
He managed to con his way into the trust of CIA men, Special Forces veterans and the DEA. Then he wrote shocking exposes that were completely marginalized and ignored by the mainstream media and academia. His book The Phoenix Program is the definitive book on the topic, work on which was even facilitated by former director, William Colby. It must be read by anyone who wants to understand the blueprint of terror the American empire has used the same blueprint repeatedly with refinement from Latin America, to Iraq, Afghanistan and today in Ukraine. This counter-insurgency blueprint lies primarily in the coordination of military, police, and intelligence operations. Massive campaigns of kidnapping, torture and assassination are then implemented through a comprehensive bureaucratic system involving all the “security” forces.
He followed that up with The Strength of the Wolf and the Strength of the Pack, a history of America’s phony war on drugs told by many of its most original warriors. More recently, he wrote The CIA as Organized Crime, a digest of Valentine’s research on a wide range of topics including the partnership of the CIA and the mainstream media, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, and the origins of current CIA operations in Ukraine.
Doug Valentine is also a poet and novelist who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for years helping fellow authors and researchers to cut through the jungle of lies and find the trails leading to the truth. Pisces Moon, his newest book, is great because it works equally well as either an introduction or as an epilogue to his works. New readers will get a crash course in the secret history of the world. Long time fans will enjoy getting to peek behind the curtain of how he got the information for his books. This book is one of his most personal. The reader will get to know Doug Valentine, the man. Even the most experienced researcher will find many new gems.
No country in history has ever possessed such a sophisticated propaganda apparatus as the United States: a system that not only indoctrinates its own citizens but much of the world. Those within the propaganda bubble live in the eternal present with no history, no understanding, jumping from one distraction to the next. They are eternal children and the perfect consumers. They believe in the benevolence of the American Empire and have already forgotten that country after country has been destroyed in the name of freedom and democracy. During the so-called Cold War after 1945, they never noticed that much of the “Free world” was a collection of fascist police states waging dirty wars on their own people. They seldom question why a country founded on genocide and slavery can be the embodiment of freedom and democracy. Why the “freest country” practices total surveillance and has the world’s largest prison population. To break out of this propaganda bubble can take years of study and questioning. Pisces Moon is a book written to burst the propaganda bubble, to awaken the reader to understanding, reviving the reader’s humanity and compassion. It is a timely book about fascism at home and America’s unabashed provocations against Russia and China—as if atomic war were “winnable”.
Pisces Moon is a travel memoir taking the author from the U.S. to Britain and then to Vietnam and Thailand. The story starts in1992 just after the end of that so-called “Cold War” or as I prefer to call it World War 3, and the start of what I call World War 4 (also known as the war on drugs, the war on terror and now Cold War 2.0) The US is leading an international coalition to wage war on Iraq—a war that continues to this day. The President George H. W. Bush is a former CIA director. Valentine has been working on a book with the President’s former Iran/Contra co-conspirator Richard Secord. Valentine had been recommended to Secord by the infamous CIA officer Theodore Shackley.
Shackley ran the Miami CIA station, waging a terror campaign on Cuba after the Bay of Pigs, serving as CIA station chief in the drug fueled war on Laos, then as CIA station chief in Saigon after the Tet offensive. He was in charge of the Latin America division when Allende was overthrown in Chile and replaced by the fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet. Shackley was also suspected of masterminding the Iran/Contra affair. This enigmatic career officer makes only a brief cameo in the book but his career demonstrates,like so many biographies in the book, the dark secrets one learns by studying the lives of CIA officers.
At the start of the book Valentine meets with fellow members of the “research underground” like author Jim Hougan who wrote the excellent “Spooks” and documentary film maker Alan Frankovich who made the film adaptation of Philip Agee’s CIA Diary (On Company Business) as well as a documentary about the infamous Gladio stay behind networks started after 1945, ostensibly to counter potential Red Army invasion but in fact to support the policy of “tension” with terror actions to discredit the Left and move European domestic politics to the right. He meets with John Pilger’sfilm making partner David Munro, who is attempting to prove that the British Special forces have been training the infamous Khemer Rouge in Cambodia.
Valentine had been offered the role of an adviser to a BBC documentary on the CIA’s Phoenix Program. Ignoring the warnings of his friends Valentine accepts and even agrees to illegally smuggle $10,000 into Vietnam for the BBC. In exchange they agreed to cover his travel expenses.
The war in Vietnam had supposedly ended 17 years before. Yet the vengeful American empire was waging a proxy war with Vietnam in Cambodia, had gotten China to invade Vietnam and was strangling the country with sanctions. When Valentine arrives President Bush is busy bragging that America has finally beaten the “Vietnam Syndrome” which is what American politicians called the public’s reluctance to invade and occupy foreign countries after the American defeat in Vietnam. Ironically the Gulf War seemed at the time to be a short decisive victory. Years of sanctions would follow (and periodic bombings) that would transform Iraq into a poverty stricken hellhole and leave a million Iraqis dead. CIA coup plots would fail to topple Saddam Hussein and in the wake of 9/11 (carried out by CIA backed terrorists) the U.S. would invade and occupy Iraq. Despite a supposed drawback in 2011, it would never actually leave the country it had so brutally invaded. 2011 was the year Osama Bin Laden was allegedly assassinated. By then the U.S. was openly supporting “al Qaeda” in Libya and Syria. This is the sort of fact that should shock people. However within the propaganda bubble shocks are absorbed and facts rarely penetrate. In the propaganda version peddled by the mainstream media “al Qaeda” had turned on the U.S. during the Gulf War. In reality the U.S. had used created and trained these forces to destabilize Yugoslavia, Chechnya and the Central Asian former Soviet republics—wherever there was a significant Muslim population. During the 1990s and even after 9/11 they were used to spark a sectarian civil war in Iraq during the occupation.
Three years later the U.S. (annoyed by Russian interference- i.e. Russia’slegal assistance to long-standing ally based on treaties of friendship and commerce dating from the Soviet Union—in their attempt to overthrow the Syrian Government and expel the Russians from their Latakia naval base) would use Ukrainian Nazis to topple the elected government. This igniteda Ukrainian civil war/NATO proxy war with Russia. The CIA had been working with Ukrainian Nazis since it was created in 1947. This proxy war in Ukraine would provoke Russian recognition of secessionist Russian-speaking regions and subsequent Russian military operations to defend those regions 8 years later. We are told again and again that all those actions were unprovoked. For 8 years Ukraine shelled the breakaway Russian speaking regions Donetsk and Lugansk in violation of the so-called Minsk agreement between the Russian Federation, the Russian-speaking regions and the Ukrainian government in Kiev. The American media claimed that they were shelling themselves. By the end of 2022 leaders of the guarantor states, like Germany’s Angela Merkel, were on record saying that neither the guarantors nor the Kiev government had any intention of complying with the Minsk conditions. However those facts too are ignored.
Forgive the tangent. Doug Valentine’s book focuses mostly on Asia. However Vietnam and Iraq are linked in my mind because Vietnam is what shocked many out of their propaganda bubbles launching the generation of researchers Valentine meets with at the start of his tale. For my generation born post Vietnam and Watergate it was 9/11 and the Iraq warthat rattled us. Now I have lived long enough that for a 20-something of today 9/11 and the Iraq war are all ancient history. The “Cold War” seems as distant to them as World War 2 seemed to me as a child. Those outside the propaganda bubble are forced to suffer tremendous alienation. The more they learn the less the public surrounding them seems to grasp. New generations are born with new Hollywood war myths to replace the World War II myths in the films their parents watched—films in which the US single handedly defeated the Axis and the Soviet Union’s Red Army are completely invisible. The role of this trashy pop culture in propagandizing for the American empire is a major theme of Valentine’s book. How is one to explain the Ukraine war to someone who doesn’t know anything about World War 2 or the so-called Cold War and its successor the so-called Global War on Terror—for which the US military even issues campaign ribbons. Within the propaganda bubble history is irrelevant. Bad things happen in foreign countries because Asians, Africans, Muslims, Russians, or whoever else are the current targets are backwards savages who naturally do bad things while Americans are naturally good because they have freedom and democracy. Thus as the perennial victims, North Americans must wage endless wars of self-defense to stop these evil foreigners from “taking their freedom”. One day we will successfully bring them freedom and democracy (like they did by overthrowing the Ukrainian government or invading Iraq) and the barbaric foreigners will become happy and good like us. If things don’t work out it can only be their own fault. Valentine’s book attributes the origins of this American exceptionalism to white supremacy and Christian fundamentalism. This spirit was inherited or learned from British imperial mentors. Valentine also places British and French crimes in this historical context.
The whitewashed version of history taught in the classroom is so(intentionally?) boring that few have any desire to learn more about it. The topic of American foreign policy post 1945 is mysteriously absent not only in high schools but in universities. The millions of people killed by the U.S. empire in Greece, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Congo, Angola, Mozambique, Somalia Iraq, Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria, Yemen etc. are not considered worthy of study or remembrance. As Valentine’s book shows, universities do not merely cover up the crimes of America and Western Europe they are actively involved in committing them. The men of the CIA who carried out so many crimes were mostly highly educated and cultured. They weaponized cultural understanding using ethnic and sectarian tensions to rip apart societies. They applied their knowledge of religion to manipulate and terrorize people. CIA atrocities played on people’s superstitions. Bodies were mutilated to play on fears that the victims would be denied entrance into the afterlife.
A major theme of Valentine’s book is the recruitment of missionaries by intelligence agencies. Christian missionaries became CIA warlords. Once again the same blue print would be used for recruiting Islamic fundamentalists to destabilize the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia as well as Russia (Chechnya) and China (Xinjiang).
In Vietnam the reader will get a vivid picture of life in a country that is being strangled by U.S. sanctions today. U.S. sanctions—a form of warfare—are applied to much of the world, unknown to American citizens. Valentine decided to take his BBC funded trip to Vietnam just as the CIA was ramping up a campaign behind the scenes to destroy his career. Thus he suffers a series of misadventures as the BBC decides to disavow him.Valentine nearly ends up in prison as a suspected spy. One gets to look behind the scenes as the BBC documentary on the Phoenix Program shifts from a hard hitting expose based on Valentine’s book to a pro-CIA limited hangout when the producers hire a pro-CIA historian and recruit CIA advisers for interviews.
Next Valentine heads for Thailand to interview a few former CIA men about the CIA’s role in the global drug traffic. He arrives in the middle of a coup and is coincidentally staying at the same hotel where the deposed Prime Minister Chatichai is being held by the military. He discusses the rampant sexual exploitation of the local (often under-aged) population by wealthy foreigners. He discusses the out of control sex lives of CIA officers in South East Asia. He meets with the infamous Tony Poshpenny, the inspiration for Marlon Brando’s character in Apocalypse Now. He then hears horrifying details of the brutality and mass murder that was standard policy in America’s wars in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. He meets with William Young part of the infamous Young family of Baptist missionaries who were worshipped by their converts as living gods and decided to go to work for the OSS and then the CIA turning their converts into an anti-communist paramilitary force. By way of exposition Valentine lays out the entire history of OSS/CIA operations in China, Japan, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. He explains the intricate history of the CIA role in the drug traffic in South East Asia. He details origins and structure of the Phoenix Program. He explains the dirty wars in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. He explains the role of cults and secret societies. He goes into the world of international art theft and smuggling, the vandalism of the world’s cultural heritage and how it ends up in the hands of wealthy Americans. Even those well versed in the works of Alfred McCoy or Peter Dale Scott are bound to learn something new. To do it all justice I would have to reread it a couple times, take a hundred pages of notes and spend a month trying to summarize it in a very long article. Yet I am sure I would still fail to do it justice since his account interweaves the careers of CIA officers with the histories of the countries he discusses. There is a reason Valentine is a legend in the field of deep politics (the intersection of intelligence, organized crime, politics, and corporate business.) He has been working on this for nearly 40 years. So just buy his book, drop whatever your researching and read it immediately and perhaps get a copy for a friend or family member that you hope may be capable of escaping the propaganda bubble.
You can order Pisces Moon here
Doug Valentine’s website
More on the Phoenix Program
A Doug Valentine interview on the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Doug Valentine on the CIA Drugs and Media
Doug Valentine on the CIA as Organized Crime
Doug Valentine interviews the CIA on the Phoenix program
My article based on Doug Valentine’s book “The Phoenix Program”