the Good Shepherd

Martha and I saw the Robert De Niro film “The Good Shepherd” last night. It’s a lengthy drama that follows one Edward Wilson through the birth of the CIA up to the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs. Turns out Wilson is a fictionalized composite of a few people, James Jesus Angleton and Richard M. Bissell, Jr. This morning I looked up the actual events at the Bay of Pigs Invasion and was saddened to learn that the film mixed fiction into a major part of the plot just to move the story. If I’d known history better I wouldn’t have been taken off guard. Anyway, without spoiling the movie if you want to see it, the Invasion failed not because of a leak in intelligence within the CIA, but because Kennedy refused a full scale invasion.

To me the most meaningful thing about the film was that by the end I got the distinct feeling that all the covert activity was not about allegiances at all, but rather just keeping the ball in play at all costs–in this case “Wilson” loses everyone he cares about. At one point he sees the Bible verse “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” recently placed on the wall at the new CIA headquarters. He asks whose idea it was and is told, “It’s classified.” That scene, taken with what’s happened to Wilson, reveals how misplaced that verse was within the CIA’s work.

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