Sunday, January 7, 2018

CIA Fly Boy

“American Made,” film directed by Doug Limon, written by Gary Spinelli, 2017

You might have forgotten the American-sponsored wars in Central America in the 1980s, but this film will bring them back to you.  This unlikely vehicle stars Tom Cruise, who barrels through this film like a high-flying drunk immune to disaster.   Until he’s not.  He plays a real person, former TWA pilot Barry Seal, who said of himself: “I’m the guy who always delivers.’

The Real Barry Seal
In this film Seal delivers photos, drugs, guns and trainees for the CIA, Manuel Noriega, the Medellin cartel, the Contras and the White House.  He’s like the ‘Waldo’ or ”Forest Gump” or zelig of the Iran/contra scandal, the beginnings of the drug war and the bloodthirsty U.S. campaign against the left in Central America. 

During the film, Seal agrees with the rationale of his confident but idiotic CIA handler, one “Monty Schafer,’ that he is to fight ‘communism’ in Central America by flying a spy plane low over Sandinista military camps in Nicaragua.  He graduates to flying bags of cocaine for Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar by dropping them into the swamps of Louisiana .  The CIA doesn’t mind and moves him to a large hidden airport in Mena, Arkansas, where they set up a contra-training camp and a gun smuggling operation as part of the supply chain. 

For drug smuggling and helping the CIA, Seal is paid millions in bags of bundled cash, which gradually accumulate in his home, barn, yard and all the banks in Mena, Arkansas.  This cash flow ultimately draws the attention of the FBI, who visit Mena and through the stupidity of his wife’s cousin, arrest Seal.  The CIA burn everything related to Seal after they find out what is coming, as the DEA and FBI are not in on the scam.

Instead of long term jail, he is taken to the White House where he meets with Ollie North, who has a plan to incriminate the Sandinistas by getting pictures of them ‘drug trafficking.’  The plan works with one lower official in a picture, but Seal and some Medellin members are also in the pictures due to North’s failure to redact their images.  Seal’s betrayal of the cartel proves fatal.

That is the nuts and bolts of the story.  Seal was actually a long-time CIA asset starting with them during the Vietnam war, so the happy-go-lucky portrayal by Cruise is just Hollywood.  The real Seal might even have had an association with the Kennedy assassination.  But he did have an independent and greedy streak in real life.

For anti-capitalists, what is interesting are some facts from the film.  Arkansas governor Bill Clinton is the one who calls the local DA and gets Seal off from any serious charges.   For his crimes, Seal got 1000 hours of community service!  The contra training camp loses almost half of those who are shipped there, as they run off into the Arkansas woods. They are mostly incompetent ‘cabrons.’   Half of the smuggled guns end up in Columbian cartel hands, not contra camps in Costa Rica.  The CIA is shown to be inept, corrupt and loaded with cash. Your tax money.  Nancy Reagan makes her televised ‘just say no’ speech about drugs and Seal grimaces. The contras run boats of Columbian cocaine to Florida to earn funds.  Manuel Noriega, who the U.S. overthrew in an invasion later over ‘drug trafficking,’ was a CIA asset who traded intelligence on U.S. enemies for CIA money.  The fiction that the CIA does not work in the U.S. is revealed as a lie - again.  And too much cash money, even digital money, is actually a burden for a nice suburban family.  But the wife goes along with it all when bundles of cash start to show up.  As Seals says, ‘Is America a great fuckin’ country or what?”

No matter what you think of preening narcissists like Tom Cruise, this film is a big funny ‘fuck you’ to the Reagan administration, the CIA and anti-communism.  See it!

Prior reviews on books about Latin America or drugs: "Drug War Capitalism," "Kill the Messenger," Galeano's "The Open Veins of Latin America," Scahill's "Dirty Wars," Diamond's "Guns, Germs & Steel," "Building the Commune," "An Anthology of the Writings of Jose Carlos Mariategui," "The Dream of the Celt," "Secret History of the American Empire," "Blood Lake," and "The Damnificados."  Use blog search box, upper left."

And I saw it at the Riverview Theater
Red Frog
January 7, 2018  

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