5 real-world covert operations in FX's "Archer"
If FX’s Archer is known for anything, it’s historical accuracy while inventing daring, slightly racist new bar drinks. Between Charles Fredric Andrus references and round after round of Green Russians, the top spy at the International Secret Intelligence Service (no, not that ISIS), Malory Archer, and her employees drop casual references to her covert operations in days gone by, revealing just how much experience she has in the world of international intrigue.
1. Operation Ajax – Reinstalling the Shah of Iran
In season 1, episode 2, a young Archer receives news from Woodhouse that a message from “Mommy and Uncle Kermit” said Ajax was successful and “Tehran is ours.”
In 1953, the elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, attempted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, at that time, dominated by what is today BP Oil. The Shah dismissed Mossadegh but soon fled Iran after the popular politician’s supporters flooded the streets. The CIA, led by Kermit Roosevelt, organized a fake Communist revolution, which galvanized the Iranians (instigated by the CIA and CIA-controlled elements in the Iranian Army) to beating back the Communists. Mossadegh turned himself in to the government while a former Iranian General assumed the Prime Minister’s office. The Shah returned with more absolute power than ever before until he was deposed by the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
2. Operation Paperclip – Recruiting the best of Nazi Germany
In season 2, episode 9, Cyril discovers Dr. Krieger grew up a German-speaking boy in Brazil. When confronted, Cyril corners Krieger in the bathroom and finds out his father was a Nazi scientist, even though Krieger attempted to cover his past. But you can’t hide who you really are.
When Cyril rats Krieger out to Malory, she informs him of all the things Nazi scientists invented after WWII: Microwaves, Rockets, and Tang. She also informed Krueger he might be a clone of Hitler, describing a scenario from the film The Boys from Brazil, which hints at Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele being Kreiger’s father.
Operation Paperclip was an initiative of the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA, where 1,500 former Nazi scientists were brought to the U.S. after WWII to work the U.S. and deny Nazi research and expertise to the Soviet Union.
3. Operation Gladio – Preparing for the Soviet Invasion of Europe
In season 3, episode 8, Malory enlists ISIS’ help to hide the body of the Italian Prime Minister after he is killed during kinky sex, tied to a chair.The PM was a target because he was a NATO “stay behind” agent she met during Operation Gladio.
Gladio was supposed to prevent a Communist take over of Western Europe after WWII, though it wasn’t revealed in Italy until 1990. The project covered arms caches, paramilitary organizations, secret bases, and shadow governments in fifteen European countries.
4. Operation PBSUCCESS – Ousting Guatemalan democracy
In season 4, episode 6, Archer is bitten by Caspian Cobra while on a mission to Turkmenistan. During the venom hallucination a cut-rate James Mason takes Archer back to his sixth birthday, waiting for his mom to come back because “Guatemala’s democratically elected government wasn’t gonna overthrow itself.”
In 1954, the CIA ousted the government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz and installed a U.S.-friendly dictatorship under Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a long line. Árbenz was elected in 1950 and continued land and social reforms enacted by his predecessor, which the U.S. government saw as Communist redistribution. A CIA-funded force invaded Guatemala, backed by U.S. propaganda and the threat of a U.S. invasion. The Guatemalan Army refused to fight the 480 CIA trained troops which led to the Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted from 1960 to 1996, and the death of democracy in the country.
5. Iran-Contra Affair – Guns for cash, cash for rebels, maybe hostages
In season 5, the crew dumps the international espionage work and attempts to sell cocaine to restart their business and/or retire forever. Throughout the season the gang tries and fails to sell cocaine, eventually stumbling onto a CIA operation. In a plot to increase its own yearly budget, the CIA paid mercenaries from Honduras to fight San Marcos’ legitimate government to force its President to trade cocaine for arms the CIA purchased from Iran, implying the Archers were in on it from day one. Sounds crazy and overly complex, right?
This is the same kind of deal members of the Reagan Administration made with Iran and rebel groups in Nicaragua in 1985 (with Archer selling cocaine added in). The Boland Amendment, passed by Congress in 1984 limited the support the U.S. government could give Nicaraguan contras. To circumvent the law, the CIA sold arms to Iran via Israel. (This was during the Iran-Iraq War, and the Middle East picture was slightly different then.) The CIA would use this money to fund the Nicaraguan contras. In exchange for the weapons sales, the Iranians would pressure Lebanese militants to release American hostages held there. President Reagan had no knowledge of the operation but 14 members of his administration were indicted for their actions, eleven were convicted.