Is It All True?

Is It All True?

Did the CIA commit genocide in the Amazon? According to the authors
of Thy Will Be Done the answer is yes and this is just one of the many startling
revelations of the book. Is Thy Will Be Done too far-fetched or too conspiratorial
to be believed? Whether or not you believe all of the information presented, it is well
argued and meticulously researched.
By Book Review/Essay

Is It All True?
Did the CIA commit genocide in the Amazon? According to the authors
of Thy Will Be Done the answer is yes and this is just one of the many startling
revelations of the book. Is Thy Will Be Done too far-fetched or too conspiratorial
to be believed? Whether or not you believe all of the information presented, it is
argued and meticulously researched.

Kathleen de Azevedo

The majority of books published today disappear into an information jungle, never to
return. The shallow and the hastily-researched should remain forgotten in this wilderness.
For one book however, Thy Will Be Done. The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller
and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, its disappearance marks an uneasy trend where
excellent, yet controversial books are allowed to slip into oblivion. The book was
published in 1995 and received praise from Harvard professors to leaders of human rights
organizations. Brazzil published an excerpt in its September 1995 issue. When I
heard of the book this year on National Public Radio’s Forum, a program that
features guests from the world of politics and art, Thy Will Be Done’s authors
Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett were pleading for the book’s survival.

Colby’s and Dennett’s 18 years of monumental research has brought to light the
corruption of U.S. corporate interests in South America and its culpability in the
destruction of the Amazon. Yet, the book’s distribution history is a struggle and a story
all its own. After the first hardback printing, HarperCollins spent a pittance for
publicity save an ad in the New York Times and in a few smaller publications. The
authors were only given $2,000 and told to set up a nationwide book tour themselves. They
drove out to the Midwest to start their tour, stopping occasionally when the stress of
travel sent their car to the shop. The experience was, as Dennett said in a phone
interview, pure "anguish and anxiety." Nevertheless, the book sold out a second
printing in 1996 in spite of no advertising budget. Successful appearances on nationwide
talk shows sent listeners to the HarperCollins phone lines, only to be told the book is
"out of stock" with no print date in sight. This was bad news for a book
striving to tell us what we needed to know but didn’t want to hear. The fact is, foreign
policy is not given much play in the American press, save a few tidbits of Clinton’s
sightseeing forays. U.S. corruption overseas is given even less play; perhaps to keep the
public ignorant. However, ignorance is not bliss. Latin America, especially Brazil, is a
key player in our global future. And in order to understand this future, it is important
to know the past.

Thy Will Be Done opens with the mass slaughter of the Amazon’s Cintas Largas
Indians who had the misfortune of living on mineral-rich land. In this massacre, a
"visit to the dentist" was to be shot with a pistol down the throat. The
Indians’ curare-tipped arrows could not fight off the Brazilian troops trained by the
International Police Academy, part of the Agency for International Development run by the
CIA. William Cameron Townsend, head of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) a U.S.
evangelical organization, denied the slaughter. In fact, SIL’s missionary activities which
included "pacifying" the Indians and keeping records of "fierce"
tribes, paved the way for Nelson Rockefeller to expand U.S. holdings into South America,
particularly in Brazil. However, expansion, which he called his "shining dream",
came with a price.

Nelson Rockefeller was introduced to native culture at the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico
while attending a Pueblo Indian song and dance festival which was staged, it so happened,
by the Bureau of Indian Affairs with funds from Rockefeller’s own Colorado Fuel and Iron
Company. As Nelson stood among the earthen dwellings that rose out of the red clay, he
felt as if he might take a different path than that of his father, John D. Rockefeller Jr.
But the Rockefeller tradition was entrenched. John D. owned oil derricks and mining
operations on U.S. Indian reservation lands and his money supported Indian missionary
schools. These notorious boarding schools pulled children away from their community and
forbade them to practice their language and culture, and so demoralizing and splintering
tribes. These schools cleared the way for Rockefeller’s land development projects. His
son, Nelson Rockefeller, followed the same path down to the Southern Hemisphere.

The Rockefeller fortune is enormous. In Brazil alone, at one time or another, the
family had over 40 holdings, from real estate, to farming operations, to banks. In
addition, the Rockefeller family controlled Standard Oil and Chase Manhattan Bank which
funded the Rockefeller real estate interests. Nelson set up the American International
Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) and the International Basic Economy
Corporation (IBEC) which funded Brazilian and American venture capitalists who wanted to
set up shop in the Amazon. However, money was not enough. Developers needed safer working
conditions and native tribes stood in their way.

Evangelist William Cameron Townsend, the founder of the Summer Institute of Linguistics
(SIL), funded in part by Rockefeller, believed it was God’s will to "civilize"
the Indians. The organization under the name of Wycliffe Bible Translators, trained
missionaries to translate the Bible into Indian languages using "four pillars of
linguistics, education, health reform and economics." The first SIL teams were
invited by another world-acclaimed agency, the Service for the Protection of the Indian
(SPI) to begin field operations in Brazil, presumably to protect the Indians. However,
SPI’s bloody legacy had "cleared people like trees", slaughtering entire
villages, sometimes using dynamite and "germ warfare"—the deliberate
distribution of smallpox and tuberculosis into tribes with no antibodies toward the
diseases. The genocide under SPI was enormous. In 1957, the Indian population was
estimated to be between 100,000 to 200,000. By 1968, the population was half that size.

Disgusted with the SPI’s brutality, Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro preferred
Townsend’s Summer Institute. Ribeiro was compiling a survey of over 186 indigenous
languages and thought he found an ally when SIL offered to assist him. Ribeiro saw
missionaries as protectors of indigenous tribes and was not aware of SIL’s right wing
connections, nor the fact that SIL was working closely with the ruthless SPI. In fact, the
SIL was not your starving, all-sacrificing missionaries. For many years they had been
clearing wooded lands and building hidden evangelistic empires. In SIL’s Peruvian
Yarinacocha jungle base alone, there was a school, a church, administrative buildings, a
library, a post office and even an auditorium. Another important part of the jungle bases:
hidden airplane runways to accommodate the twin engine Helio Courier planes used not only
by missionaries, but by the CIA.

In the beginning of World War II, Germany and U.S. both courted South America for
support. The "Open Door policy" of the U.S. won out in its development and
support of Latin American trade. Getúlio Vargas also threw his support to the U.S. as he
was interested in developing the Amazon. There was one catch: Vargas wanted Brazil to
control their own oil reserves and he set up the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro
(Brazilian Labor Party) as part of his plan to nationalize oil. The U.S. retaliated by
supporting the military coup lead by Gen. Eurico Gaspar Dutra that drove Vargas out of
office. Dutra made friends with Rockefeller after Rockefeller’s loans helped to bolster
the Brazilian armed forces. When Vargas came back to power in 1951, he established
Petrobrás on the theme "O petróleo é nosso." (The oil is ours.) The
U.S. again retaliated, suspending credits and cutting their imports of Brazilian coffee.
This financially broke the back of the Vargas regime and left him open to the eventual
coup that threw him out of office. In his suicide note, Vargas wrote:

"Once again, anti-national forces and interests, coordinated, have become
infuriated with me… After decades of domination and exploitation by internal
economic-financial groups, I made myself the chief of a revolution and I won… My
sacrifice will maintain you united and my blood shall be your banner of struggle."

Vargas would not be the only leader to struggle against U.S. corporate interests.
Whereas Juscelino Kubitschek was pro-U.S. seeking U.S. loans to fund Amazon projects
including the new capital Brasília and the miles of new roads cutting through the Amazon,
President Goulart wanted to nationalize Brazilian businesses, and set up land reform laws.
His insistence that U.S. "channel requests through the [Brazilian] federal
government" caused the U.S. to cancel aid and demand loan payment. Because these
funds were no longer available, Goulart was forced to devalue the cruzeiro which
caused mega-inflation. The fallen economy proved disastrous to Brazil’s entrepreneurs who,
along with the military, set out to overthrow Goulart.

The CIA sprung into action with a litany of underhanded dealings. They infiltrated
labor movements and trained troops to mobilize against Goulart. The growing youth movement
against the dictatorship became a threat not only to the Brazilian establishment, but to
capitalist interests as well. The CIA infiltrated the group that killed activist Carlos
Marighella; this assassination ultimately destroyed the spirit of the Left. When the dust
of the coup had settled, Rockefeller reasoned that "democracy is difficult and not
always attainable in the light of history. Authoritarianism is an entrenched position,
especially in areas not used to democracy."

Colby and Dennett take us further through a maze of CIA manipulations worthy of a plot
from a James Bond movie, as the exposé shifts from army tanks to jungle laboratories. The
CIA believed American GIs had been brainwashed during the Korean War and wanted to find
their own mind-altering drugs. The CIA project MKULTRA, set up laboratories in the Amazon
and ran tests on natural hallucinogens, trying to find their own brainwashing drugs,
perhaps one that could be given to a potential assassin to kill on command. The SIL handed
over information on medicinal plants that they had gathered from the Indians, thus aiding
in the MKULTRA research. By now it was clear that the SIL had not only sold their own soul
in exchange for a powerful evangelical empire, but they had sold the soul of the Indian as

Eventually, the decimation of the Indians became public. In 1971, at the World Council
of Churches convention at Barbados, a large number of anthropologists and ethnologists met
to discuss their role in studying indigenous cultures. At the convention, Indians
testified as to the devastation caused by the uneasy mix of evangelism and Amazon
development. SIL was mentioned as being the first missionary contact and therefore part of
the destruction. The SIL’s meddling with native ways, was tantamount to cultural genocide.
Anthropologists, government agents and social scientists were also held responsible for
weakening the tribes. As a result, the Declaration of Barbados, a portion of which called
for the expulsion of all missionaries, was ratified. One of the many people to sign the
declaration was Darcy Ribeiro.

Thy Will Be Done—950 pages in all, is not meant for an afternoon at the
beach. At times the intrigue is heavily laden with events and nefarious characters. The
charts which show the connections from corporation to corporation (both U.S. and
Brazilian) looks like a hydra whose dangerous heads have multiplied beyond control.
However, it is a book worth reading and is definitely a must for anyone interested in
South America beyond Carnaval and beaches. Many could argue that the CIA’s role as claimed
in Thy Will Be Done is too incredible, too conspiratorial to be believed. But in
the light of what we do know about CIA involvement in Vietnam, El Salvador and Nicaragua
and in the personal lives of controversial U.S. citizens, the CIA cannot claim
credibility. But whether or not you believe all of the information presented, it is well
argued and meticulously researched. Moreover, in the wake of NAFTA and the burgeoning
globalization of wealth, this book provides us a cautionary tale. 

To most, the Amazon seems romantic, its destruction sad yet faraway, its size and
impact hard to fathom. The burning of the rainforest is routinely attributed to farmers
clearing the land, but the biggest fireball has formed in the wake of our economic
development. There is a price to pay for a healthy economy. Rampant consumerism at the
expense of others threatens the world’s ecological and economic balance. A nation is
ultimately considered great, not by its conquests, but what they have contributed to
humanity. The U.S. has produced the Constitution, a model for many liberation movements.
The fact that Colby and Dennett wrote this book and are not in prison, is a testament to
our freedom. The struggle of this book to be heard, and the growing corporate sabotage of
controversial works, make our freedom seem as fragile as the Amazon itself.

You can get in touch with Kathleen de Azevedo, the author of this
article,  by e-mail at

Additional information:

HarperPerennial (a subsidiary of HarperCollins) is not reprinting the book at this
time. However, you may purchase the book through an independent distributor.
Make a $25 check to J. L. Temple at:
Institute of Awareness
P.O. Box 1234
San Carlos, CA 94070

You can also get new and used copies of the book on line at Powells

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