President Kennedy and his wife shared a passion for Ian Fleming’s fiction, and they passed it on to CIA director Allen Dulles when Jacqueline gave a copy of From Russia With Love to Dulles in 1957.[i] About the same time Fleming paid a visit to Senator Kennedy at his Georgetown home. During a conversation with Fleming and CIA agent John Bross, Kennedy asked Fleming what M would do to get rid of Castro. Fleming thought the Americans were making too much out of Castro and proposed ways of humiliating Castro through what really mattered to Cubans: money, religion, and sex.
Fleming spoke of scattering money from planes over Havana accompanied with leaflets showing it came from the United States; using planes to draw a religious symbol in the sky (like a cross), and dropping Soviet-marked pamphlets that would warn the Cubans of dangerous American-made radioactivity from A-bomb tests. The radioactivity would be blamed as a lethal substance that stayed the longest in the body in a man’s beard. This fear would force Cuban men to shave their beards and cut a key symbolic link to Castro.
These fantastic, typically Fleming, schemes surely raised a smile in Kennedy’s house. However, in 1975 Senator Church’s Committee released a report claiming that General Edward Lansdale staged similar schemes during anti-Castro operations named Operation Mongoose.
It has been suggested that Kennedy’s affair with Judith Exner Campbell may have inspired Fleming. Campbell was the alleged liaison of Chicago mafia boss Sam Giancana and Kennedy. Campbell claims she passed Castro assassination plans to Giancana. Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service involves Bond falling in love with the daughter (Tracy di Vicenzo) whose father (Draco) is the head of the French mafia. Bond, with the assistance of Tracy, attempts to kill the leader of an international terrorist organization (Blofeld of SPECTRE). In the surprise ending to the novel, Tracy and Bond are married only to see Tracy murdered by SPECTRE. The year for the novel was 1963, the same year Kennedy was assassinated.[ii]
The Terrorist of the Future
Fleming foresaw the dawn of the sovereignty-free antagonist in the form of a person or organization. Unlike super governments similar to the National Socialists of Nazi Germany of the forties, or the cold war Soviet Communists, the Fleming adversary is unique to the reader during the fifties, sixties, and seventies. This new enemy of the free world uses organized crime, arms trade, and terrorism to gain its objectives. [iii]
Fleming introduced to much of the world the real Russian spy organization SMERSH within his novel From Russia With Love. Fleming wrote an author’s note to the 1956 novel where he stated that “a great deal of the background to this story is accurate. SMERSH, a contraction of Smiert Spio nam – Death to Spies – exists and remains today the most secret department of the Soviet government.” SMERSH was created in 1943 and lasted until 1946. The term “death to spies” has been attributed to Stalin. SMERSH personnel uncovered spies, saboteurs, interviewed liberated Soviet POWs, and examined Hitler’s bunker and the corpses found there.
In 1961 Fleming wrote “I have always liked the Russians as a people, and I enjoyed myself when I worked in Moscow . . . I couldn’t see any point in going on digging at them, especially when the co-existence thing seemed to be bearing some fruit.” [iv] Thus Fleming dropped SMERSH and created SPECTRE. Bond is set against SPECTRE, whose very name defines its unique evil: Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terror, Revenge and Extortion. SPECTRE threatens entire nations with extortion – its main objective is to let the super powers focus on each other while SPECTRE creeps between the cracks and demands money through the execution of diabolical operations.
Fleming recognized a new form of politics for the post-war and post-cold war world. Super power struggles were only one part of the world politic; evil individuals free of moral and social ethics could fund their own war on any government no matter how large. Contemporary terrorists like Muslim fanatic Osama bin Laden,[v] Columbian drug kingpins like the “narco-terrorist” Pablo Escobar and terror group the Extraditables,[vi] Christian cult leaders like Jim Jones and David Karish, and rogue bombers like Americans Kaczynski and McVeigh as well as Al Qaeda[vii] and Palestinian suicide bombers (Al Aqsa Martyrs) are all armed with highly technical weapons that mirror Fleming’s villains.
Fleming’s world of fantasy evil has become more real than any of his early readers could imagine. Though Bond has become “a relic of the Cold War” (as M calls him in the 1995 film Goldeneye), the villains, once amusing in their implausibility, have become more like the cold-hearted terrorists of today. Fleming told us in his novels what we see today: states are more effective at protecting their citizens from violence from other states than from the new terrorists – the “sovereignty-free actors.” [viii]
[i] In the investigation of Kennedy’s assassination the Warren Commission found that Oswald had checked out from a Dallas library From Russia with Love among other Fleming books the summer of 1963. From Russia with Love features a British psychopath who works for the Soviets as a cold-blooded assassin. Oswald also checked out Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage that summer as well as two books on communism.
[ii] Gus Russo, Live by the Sword, Bancroft Press, Baltimore, 1998, pp. 45-6. Also see Pearson, John. The Life of Ian Fleming, McGraw Hill, 1966, New York.
[iii] Earnest, David C. and Rosenau, James N. “The Spy Who Loved Globalization,” Foreign Policy, Sept. 2000, p. 88.
[iv] Gant, Richard. Ian Fleming: The Man with the Golden Pen. London, 1966, p. 148.
[v] Aka, Usama bin Muhammed bin Awad Bin Laden.
[vi] The Extraditables are the terror group acting on behalf of Columbian drug cartel. Established in the 1980’s, they protect the cartel’s business interests with assassination and bombings of trucks and airlines.
[vii] Al Qaeda (The Base). Established by Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden in the beginning of the 1990s. Members were recruited from Arabian fighters of the Afghanistan/Soviet war in the 1980s. Believed to be responsible for bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Africa; Dares Salaam, Tanzania, and the U.S.S. Cole as well as the attack on the World Trade Center of New York City and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The “Base” has been described by one jihadi leader as defined as a group without a single structure. Its original name in Arabic, Majmuat al-Qaeda, referred to a grouping of bases. “It was always a loose network of like-minded people.”
[viii] Earnest, David C. and Rosenau, James N. “The Spy Who Loved Globalization,” Foreign Policy, Sept. 2000, p. 88.