Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The CIA Used Osama 'Devil' Dolls to Scare Islamic Kids Into Righteousness? Puh-leeze!

Osama bin Laden devil doll
The 12" doll developed in league with the CIA was designed to be heat sensitive and flake off to reveal a "demon" under the right conditions.

Anti-commie card, developed in early 1950s to scare American kids away from communism.

Some things never change. Past is prologue and all that. More to the point, will the national security state ever learn that some gimmicks will never work?  Back in the 1950s it was the program known as 'the children's crusade against communism' and the TOPPS 'Fight the Red Menace' cards partly funded by the security state. The cards (which competed with TOPPS' 1952-53 baseball cards for kids' attention) featured the ghoulish faces of top commie leaders - such as Mao Tse Tung (shown) and a short background profile. The intent was to scare the shit out of kids and have them looking for commies under their beds. It didn't work because to most of us the cards were foolish and we preferred flipping for the latest TOPPS baseball cards. (For perspective the 1952 set is now worth almost $50,000 while the commie cards are worth zip)

Anyway, the latest news revealed about ten days ago shows the CIA has way too much money to play around with for the purpose of supercilious nonsense that allegedly has “national security” implications. As related in the WaPo the latest Rube Goldberg scheme originated in about 2005,  when the CIA began secretly developing a custom-made Osama bin Laden action figure( according to people familiar with the project) The faces of the figures were painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off under the right temperature conditions and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings.

The goal of the short-lived project was simple: spook children and their parents, causing them to turn away from the actual bin Laden. The evidence that came in disclosed the doll didn't scare anyone and was perceived as more of a joke - not much better than the 1950s commie cards.

Believe it or not, the project actually had a code name,  “Devil Eyes,” and to manufacture them the CIA turned to one of the best minds in the toy business,  Donald Levine, the former Hasbro executive who was instrumental in the creation of the wildly popular G.I. Joe toys that generated more than $5 billion in sales after hitting the shelves in 1964. (Those familiar with the project, only spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the project publicly- and besides one never knew when a devil doll could come to life).

Levine died in May at age 86, after a lengthy battle with cancer. In response to questions about his work on the bin Laden toys, his family said in a statement to the WaPo: “Don Levine was a dedicated Patriot, and proud Korean War veteran. When called on, he was honored to assist our country.”

Seriously? He was honored to make devil dolls to scare the bejeezus out of kids?

While we know something like 100,000 know your communist cards were produced in the 1950s, there is a dispute over how many Osama Devil dolls were manufactured and how many (if any)
were ultimately delivered. 

One  person with direct knowledge of the project in China said hundreds of the toys  were made as part of a pre-production run and sent on a freighter to the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2006. Whether they got beyond Karachi is anyone's guess. It is possible the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) saw them as unfit to distribute when doing a check - and burned them all - devil eyes and all.
The CIA, while not disputing that it had commissioned the bin Laden figures, said the project was discontinued shortly after the prototypes were developed. One CIA spokesman,  Ryan Trapani, was quoted by the Post:
"To our knowledge, there were only three individual action figures ever created, and these were merely to show what a final product might look like.  After being presented with these examples, the CIA declined to pursue this idea and did not produce or distribute any of these action figures. Furthermore, CIA has no knowledge of these action figures being produced or distributed by others.

So, the take was that these dolls were a waste of time (to make) and money and likely wouldn't even scare a school girl - any more than a large spider. Still, if GI Joe maker Don Levine was behind production, it was likely thousands that were created on assembly lines. I don't see him getting involved as a "patriot" to manufacture a few of them or even "hundreds" . It sounds like the usual form of disinformation for which  the CIA is famous.

Regardless of how  many “Devil Eyes” dolls were made and how far the dopey project proceeded, it appears to have borne all the hallmarks of what are known as influence operations in intelligence parlance. As part of its covert action programs, the agency has for decades tried to win the hearts and minds of local populations or turn them against a particular ideology.  (Again, see the anti-commie cards of the 1950s).
The problem with this "influence"  line of thinking is it treats humans like programmable robots. There is no appreciation of psychological nuance, or the fact that these sort of operations may actually have the opposite effect- in arousing curiosity. As a kid I might never have given two shits about Soviet Communism, but after seeing several TOPPS anti-commie cards I became curious of what all the fuss was about. Why make these cards to frighten kids? What was so terrible about communism? I had to find out, so by the age of 15 was writing to the Soviet Embassy in D.C. to inquire - and then received my first issues of 'Soviet Life'.
(Before anyone thinks or believes magazines or programs like those which produced 'Soviet Life' were unique to the Russians, think again, During the Cold War, for instance, the CIA secretly published both Western and Russian literature for distribution behind the Iron Curtain.)
Three years later, at Loyola, I learned more about the Soviet communist system from my Russian language prof, Gregory Stam.  (I learned more than the propaganda from 'Soviet Life' but also that the "evils" attributed to the Russians were largely based on American hysteria.) It was also Prof. Stam who recommended 'Das Kapital' to read, as well as 'The Communist Manifesto' by Marx and Frederich Engels.
Did I turn into a commie? No, but I did evolve to a Socialist, though most of that was not from acquaintance with Soviet doctrines or propaganda, but retrospectively learning much more about Frank Zeidler, Milwaukee’s last socialist Mayor (1948-1960), and all the good he brought to bear in that city - from health care services, to city parks, to summer edification programs for kids.  Milwaukee has indeed gone downhill since, but because right wing morons - like Scott Walker- had been put into power there, not from any socialist influence.
Back to the Osama Devil dolls.  The CIA bin Laden influence operation began in 2005 as a plan to give its allies in the Afghanistan region material that could be handed out to children to build goodwill. The handouts included toys, school supplies such as pencils, and notebooks. It probably never occurred to the spooks that if they just handed out the supplies, as well as built a few more schools, that would do much more than distributing some asinine doll that converts to a demon. But Jeebus, this is also the bunch of clowns that tried to develop toxic cigars to kill Castro (as part of its ZR/Rifle program). 
But one does have to give them some credit in being able to devise a number of operations (and poisons) that cleanly took out a number of Warren Commission material witnesses - and making the deaths (such as David Ferrie's) look like accidents or suicides.   It's only been via the dedicated efforts of researchers like Richard Charnin that this perfidy has been exposed.
After this recent waste of money, one hopes the CIA will in future invest more time in sponsoring  edifying programs that help the unemployed youth across much of the undeveloped world - as opposed to infernal gimmicks and resort to "influence operations". Figure out instead a way for the skills of the dispossessed and alienated youth to be put to constructive use and be remunerated for that  - as opposed to putting whatever skills to destructive use as a terrorist.

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