Blowback of the gods: the U.S. government's covert use of religion as a tool of foreign policy in the Cold War
Wallace, James C.
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This dissertation examines the U.S. government’s covert use of religion during the Cold War. The research investigates, “How and why did the U.S. government instrumentalize and operationalize religion in the Cold War as a part of its covert intelligence operations?” The inquiry utilizes an historical methodology interweaving the academic disciplines of history, religious studies, and international relations. Archival research from sixteen government, national security, university, religious and private archives, as well as personal interviews, provides the foundation for the narrative. Prior to this dissertation, no published work has attempted to present a comprehensive examination of covert operations and religion during the Cold War. Snippets and stories appear in the literature of the Cold War, as well as the memoirs of intelligence operatives. Studies on religion and missionary activity during the Cold War era reveal the involvement of religious leaders in clandestine activities. However, no previous work has attempted to consolidate the historical fragments into a comprehensive story. This dissertation begins with an overview of religion and spying leading up to World War II and the creation of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), where the US government first employed religion as a covert tool. At war’s end, former OSS agents entered the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), bringing with them the expertise and networks necessary to operationalize religion in clandestine activities. CIA officials like Allen Dulles, Kermit Roosevelt, Miles Copeland, William Eddy and James Jesus Angleton did not hesitate to use religion as a transactional tool. In addition, American clergymen, missionaries, and evangelist Billy Graham covertly collaborated with the CIA. U.S. presidents, the National Security Council, the CIA and other intelligence agencies were actively involved in formulating policies that weaponized religion. The term “blowback” refers to the “unintended consequences” of covert operations. The term was first used by the CIA in its official history of Operation TPAJAX – the 1953 Iran coup d’état overthrowing Mossadegh – where religion was used by the CIA. During the Cold War, religion in covert operations produced for the US government and religious institutions both intended and unexpected consequences.