[Santo Trafficante Jr. (1914-1987)]
AG.. I(‘ve) sort of concluded research on my own obsession with dope police state, with dope police, in about 1971. I presented a paper at the Institute For Policy Research [Institute For Policy Studies] in Washington DC, which is published in a book called Allen Verbatim, with myriad footnotes and references and it was a climax of my obsessional preoccupation with that subject, and I sort of got out of it since then, having laid it all on paper. But it forms a basis for a number of references in songs and poems that I published as poems rather than as prose, and I’d rather not go on and on more with it now. I just sort of started going into it and found myself going back into the same compulsive rap, going back to 1918, in which you have to finally pull all the different parts of your knowledge and all the historical references together, and it can go on for days and days and days, and anyone of you who’ve been involved with somebody obsessed with the Assassination Committees, or whether (Robert) Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan or whether John F Kennedy was killed by (Lee Harvey) Oswald, or (Jack) Ruby, or Santo Trafficante.. (You’ve heard it all, I guess, haven’t you?)
So I’ll read a poem on that subject next, in which, finally, I try to get it all together, but in a poetic form. So the whole point of Investigative Poetics, I guess, is, how do you take all that material (like (Ezra) Pound‘s obsessive accumulation of data on Roman banking systems and long boring accounts of Chinese production and equity and Renaissance banks), how do you find a way of putting it concisely on the page so that people don’t get bored and stop thinking? You’re walking around with an albatross of this idea around your neck. I think Sanders’ phrase is, how do you present “data-clusters”? How do you deal with.. How do you dress up or present data-clusters in a way that the information that you think is crucial will get across to the intellectual reader but also to the general public, and, at the same time, be pretty? – (and) at the same time last for a thousand years, so it’s not boring, so it’s not boring, so it’s still got some kind of poetry in it? How do you make poetry out of all these facts? And, as the world gets bigger and more complicated and bureaucratized, (and socialized or communized or capitalized or CIA-ized), to the extent that the poet does deal with history, it gets more important, as time goes on, to actually be master of (the) facts and to be involved in such matters. But, at the same time, it becomes more and more unimportant (because it becomes more and more boring, more and more detailed, and routine, and obsessional – and anyone can do it – and it’s the daily newspaper, and if you get really into it, you’re cutting up all the daily newspapers and keeping clippings services that refer to everything and interconnect. And you know it can be done better by IBM [computers – this is 1977 (sic)], but who’s going to program the IBM to take care of it and find the results that you’re looking for? – which is that the CIA killed Kennedy because they were connected to the Cuban heroin pushers. who are now living in Tampa and were also dealing dope out of Saigon. Well, you have to get a computer-programmer who will search out all the files and get it, get all that data together.
Well, anyway, I’ll start with this poem called “Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox”, dealing with (the issue of) what do you do with data-clusters? – “May 30, 1975, 3 a.m” – I was up late at night, worried about this whole problem – 1975 – [Allen begins reading “Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox” – “Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox/ Hadda be flashing like the Daily Double/Hadda be playing on Tee Vee/Hadda be loudmouthed on the Comedy Hour/Hadda be announced over Loud Speakers/CIA & Mafia are in cahoots/Hadda be said in old ladies’ language/Hadda be said in American Headlines”]
– I guess that started that way because I had an old lady friend, eighty years old, that I visited down around the Lower East Side (of New York) who’s a family friend, living by herself, and she was an old radical, red, Communist, from the (19)20’s and (19)30’s, she knew my mother. And I went to her, to show her how smart I was, and said, “Well, you know, that dope isn’t so bad”. And she said, “Well, all these young people, always smoking marijuana, they should be having revolutions”. And I said, “Well, dope isn’t so bad, (it’s) at least, a revolution – and, besides, don’t you realize that the CIA and the FBI, and blah-blah-blah, are all against the dope-smoking, they think the dope-smokers are all Communists?!”. And she said,”Yeah, well, the Mafia and the CIA are in cahoots anyway. Everybody knows that!” – And I liked that “in cahoots”, because I realized that she had found that that was the right word in old ladies’ language (like, in American-ese). I was always saying that the Mafia and the CIA had “a working relationship”. It’s sort of like the New York Times, but, (how does it play on) the jukebox? How do you convince an old lady in Peoria? – So when she said “in cahoots”, I realized that I had the poem. There, was finally the verbal key that would unlock the rhythm. So this is related to how you deal with all this material in the right language. How do you present it on the page? – [Allen continues reading – “Hadda be announced over Loud Speakers/CIA & Mafia are in cahoots/Hadda be said in old ladies’ language/Hadda be said in American Headlines/Kennedy stretched and smiled and got double-crossed by low-life goons &/ Agents/Rich bankers with Criminal Connections/Dope pushers in CIA working with dope pushers in Cuba/working with Big Time syndicate Tampa Florida/ Hadda be said with big mouth”] – Well, I’m going to footnote here – This being 1977, March 17th, 1977 – The guy I had in mind was a guy named Santo Trafficante, who lives in Tampa, Florida, working with big time syndicates in Tampa, Florida. Trafficante was interesting to me because, in the research I did on CIA involvement in Indo-China, it turns out that Trafficante, who had been a big head of the narcotics trafficking in Cuba, had been kicked out by (Fidel) Castro with the rest of the prostitution, gambling and narcotics people, (and) was in Saigon in 1968, at the Caravelle Hotel, for a conference to divide up the opium traffic. And he was a known narcotics pusher. So how did he ever get into Saigon ((which was) under US control)? Why was he there in the biggest hotel in Saigon and at a big conference, reported publicly, and how could he get away with this unless the CIA were somehow involved and had some complicity, or there was some relationship? Because, I remember, there were lots of newspapermen who couldn’t get in to Saigon, and people were always being plucked out of Saigon who were protesting the war, so how could a big-time gangster dope pusher get into Saigon? And, actually, the information about him being in Saigon came from Colonel Lucien Conein, who was a big CIA agent in Saigon from 1961 on, and who knew all the Italian dope connections and who knew all the local dope connections, and who was part of the old French Intelligence Agency, which used to support itself by the sale of heroin. So Conein and the CIA knew that Santos Trafficante was there, so what was going on? – So it struck me,so I wrote, “Dope pushers from the CIA working with dope pushers from Cuba/working with Big Time syndicate Florida” – except that’s (written) 1975 – (and)…
[Allen reads from (a) newspaper-clipping]
“March 17th, 1977, (AP) Washington: Santos Trafficante, sole survivor of three U.S. underworld figures who plotted with the CIA against Fidel Castro, declined to answer any questions Wednesday from the House Committee on Assassinations, including whether he discussed plans to murder President John F Kennedy.”Did you ever discuss with any individual plans to assassinate Presient Kennedy prior to the assassination?” Chief Counsel Richard A Sprague asked. Trafficante, a former gambling figure in Cuba, refused to answer that and the thirteen other questions put to him, invoking Constitutional provisions, including the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Trafficante refused to say of Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald (whether he) had once visited him when he was in prison in Havana, Cuba, and refused to say if he was involved in CIA assassination plots against Castro, or whether any Federal agency had tried to keep him from testifying before the House Committee. Trafficante was one of three underworld figures involved in the CIA assassination plots against Castro. The other two, John Roselli and Sam Giancana were murdered after the Senate Intelligence Committee sought their testimony two years ago. Rosselli was assassinated after testifying and Giancana was killed right before he was scheduled to testify. Sprague also asked Trafficante if he had ever met with CIA representatives to discuss assassination of world leaders, including Fidel Castro. The Senate Intelligence Committee said two years ago that Rosselli, Giancana and Trafficante were recruited by the CIA to have Castro assassinated. It is said that Trafficante lined up an assassin in one of the plots to put poison in Castro’s food at a Havana restaurant”.
It was just interesting to get it all locked in in one figure, and get all my paranoia rolled into one character.
[Allen continues reading (from his poem)] – “Rich bankers with Criminal Connections/Dope pushers in CIA working with dope pushers in Cuba/working with Big Time syndicate Tampa Florida/ Hadda be said with big mouth/Hadda be moaned over Factory foghorns/Hadda be chattered on Car Radio News Broadcast/Hadda be screamed in the kitchen/Hadda be yelled in the basement where uncles were fighting/Hadda be Howled on the streets by Newsboys to bus conductors….” and reads the entire poem, culminating with “..Hadda be rich, hadda be powerful, hadda hire technology from/Harvard/Hadda murder Indonesia 500,000/Hadda murder Indochina 2,000,000/Hadda murder in Czechosklovakia/Hadda murder in Chile/Hadda murder in Russia/Hadda murder in America“] – Well, that was a summary of al of my research and paranoia in one sort of spurt, with the problem of getting the right language – like “hadda, hadda” – H-A-D-D-A – “Hadda be flashing like the Daily Double” – In other words, how to get through somehow the Dick Tracy comic strip, to make it (because the Dick Tracy comic strip is just the reverse, controlled by the FBI), how do you get it through in such clear language that it becomes slogan-esque and people can remember?, how do you put all the data together? (because there’s a good deal of data in there – there’s Trafficante in Tampa, Florida, or “FBI chief, J.E(dgar) Hoover and Frank Costello, syndicate mouthpiece, meeting in Central Park, New York together weekends, reported, posthumously, Time magazine” – one line!). So how do you get it pretty? How do you make it pretty? Or how do you.. “Corsican goons in Office Strategic Services pay busted 1948 dock strike in Marseilles, ‘Sixties port trans-shipment Indochina heroin”.. In other words, to get all that (my own associations in combinations together), how do you do it in a line that’s pretty enough that.. that’s not so pretty, that one. The one I liked was “gang wars across oceans, Cambodia bombed to settle score when Soviet pilots manned Egyptian fighter planes“. Now that’s actually a Surrealist’s line – pure Surrealism! – “Cambodia bombed to settle score when Soviet pilots manned Egyptian fighter planes” (I don’t know what it sounds like to anyone now, whether it makes sense, but someone reading carefully, that has some political savvy, will say, “Well, that’s an odd statement to make, I wonder what authority there is to say that?” – And the authority, actually, is (Daniel) Ellsberg quoting (Henry) Kissinger in 1970. Ellsberg said Kissinger told him that he had bombed Cambodia as a warning to (the) Russians, because the Russians had sent fighter-pilots to man their Soviet-built planes, which was against the ground rules of their turf . They had their “turf “and they were having a “rumble”, and this was, like, you go hit the man across town. “Chile’s red hot democracy bumped off with White House pots & pans, a warning to Mediterranean governments” – Kissinger said that the reason that they got in in Chile was a warning to the Italian Communist Party not to try and take part in the government. They didn’t want to have them in Europe.
Student: Is that mostly newspaper, or…
AG: These two pieces of information I got directly from Ellsberg, in conversation (his describing conversations (that) he(‘d) had with Kissinger in 1970, before he quit)
Student: The thing on Chile related to Italy?, is that what you’re talking about?
AG: Yeah, yeah. The strategy behind knocking off the Chilean government, aside from general Anti-Communism, aside from fear of Communist take-over in South America, was that.. Well, the Chileans got elected. Reds got elected in Chile, and there would be elections later in Portugal, and in Italy, and in France, and it looked like, it does look like, the Communists, sooner or later, will get elected, at least enough to take part in the government. And the crucial matter will be when they get elected with sufficient power to take part in the Security Departments (that is to say, the Secret Police, the Intelligence Departments, the nerve-center. That’s where all the crux is, actually). Are they going to… If they take part in the Government, will they get the Police or not? Because whoever gets the Police, and the Secret Police, and the Intelligence, they’ve got the ball-game (which was actually the secret of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 – that the Liberals in the Czech government had, apparently, gotten so much power that, the next day, they were going to take over the Offices of the Interior Ministry, the Secret Police, where files were that showed that the Secret Police, until that time, had been controlled by the Moscow Secret Police, and that all the killings and assassinations and jailings, from the late (19)40’s on, in Czechoslavakia were ordered from Moscow – which would have been a major scandal which would have rocked the whole Communist world if that had come out, there would have been a Watergate there) – So the tanks rolled in to prevent (it) – That information I got from a guy named Josef Skvorecky, who was a great novelist, who had to flee in (19)68, and his friends told him that that was the crucial point).
So, the crucial point in all this, in a way, is Investigative Poetics, is intelligence. It’s sort of like the poets and their intelligence versus the Secret Police and their intelligence, who’s writing a better poem..
AG: … or who’s writing the more exquisite prose, or the more interesting strategy? – “Total assault on (the) Culture”
[Audio for the above is available here, starting at approximately fifty minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-nine-and-a-half minutes in]