We got Osama bin Laden -- and now, for millions of Americans, we’ll get him again onscreen as Zero Dark Thirty hits your neighborhood multiplex. Lauded and criticized, the film’s the talk of the town. But it’s hardly the only real-life CIA film that needed to be made. Here, for the record, are five prospective films, all potentially suspenseful, all involving CIA daring-do, and all with plenty of opportunities for blood and torture, that are unlikely to make it into those same multiplexes in your lifetime. Let’s start with the CIA’s 1953 coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, whose democratically elected government had nationalized the country’s oil industry. What a story! It couldn’t be oilier, involving BP in an earlier incarnation, the CIA, British intelligence, bribery, secretly funded street demonstrations, and (lest you think there’d be no torture in the film) the installation of an autocratic regime that would create a fearsome secret police and torture opponents for decades to come. All of this was done in the name of what used to be called “the Free World.” That “successful” coup was the point of origin for just about every disaster and bit of “blowback” -- a term first used in the CIA’s secret history of the coup -- in U.S.-Iranian relations to this day. Many of the documents have been released and whatta story it turned out to be! Hollywood, where are you?
Or here’s another superb candidate: the CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam. Boy, if you want a little torture porn, try that baby. Meant to wipe out the Vietcong’s political infrastructure, it managed to knock off an estimated 20,000 Vietnamese, remarkably few of whom were classified as “senior NLF cadres.” (Reportedly, the program was regularly used by locals to settle grudges.) It was knee -- maybe waist -- deep in blood, torture, assassination, and death. It’s the Agency we’ve come to know and love. But hold your breath waiting for Good Evening, Vietnam.
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