Review of documentary:
Carl Colby, “The Man Nobody Knew.” Netflix. 2011. On Amazon Prime at https://www.amazon.com/Man-Nobody-Knew-Carl-Colby/dp/B017UOITGA
I was surprised to see a biographical documentary of William Colby, CIA spymaster, on Amazon Prime streaming service. Colby was an extremely secretive man. Possibly the only person who could have put together remembrances of him is his son, Carl. Carl remembers him as being capable of more cruelty than anyone he had ever known.
The documentary tries to be favorable. A lot of the favorable testimony comes from his ex-wife, mother of his four children, whom he dumped soon after leaving the CIA in 1975. Others who were important in the State Department in the 1970s, give their kind reminiscences. The facts, however, are too strong to be overcome by good intentions.
Colby joined the intelligence service during World War II. In the aftermath, he was the man with the suitcases of money and connections with the Pope that “saved” Italy from its popular communists. Colby ran the CIA’s involvement in imperialism’s attempt to keep Vietnam from independence. He personally created and directed the Phoenix Program that used mercenaries to torture and murder progressives. He directed the CIA during most of the horrors documented in the book, “Jakarta Program” (reviewed in this blog). A million Indonesians were murdered by imperialism, then the pattern was used to murder progressives in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and other countries.
The documentary alleges that Colby did not agree with imperialism’s heavy-handed military aggression in Vietnam. He thought they could have won with big-money subversion. He may have been right, because imperialism certainly succeeded time and again in overthrowing progressives in Latin America, and it’s doing a jim-dandy job for imperialism in Ukraine today without direct military intervention.
A lot of the documentary is taken up with Colby’s testimony to Congress after Watergate. That’s where the most video was available. Colby admitted to some of the CIA’s atrocities during that period, and the documentary credits him personally for doing it. However, those of us who lived through the period remember that the Watergate period was followed by a series of exposures of horrors by the FBI, CIA, and other mechanisms of imperialism. They didn’t admit to anything that hadn’t already been exposed, and the “reforms” didn’t even last a decade before the so-called “intelligence” people went back to spying on citizens and worldwide murder and torture.
Colby was a cold-eyed monster. After he drowned in a river, his son speculates that he may have been despondent over his career and just “gave up.” I certainly hope so.
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