No Truth and No Consequences

Kevin D Randle. Case MJ-12: The True Story Behind the Government's UFO Conspiracies. HarperTorch, 2002.You've got to hand it to him, he doesn't give up easily. Here is Kevin Randle trying to flog the dead horse of Roswell in both senses of the word. Randle's thesis is simple, because an alien spaceship crashed in Roswell, there must have been a secret oversight committee, a sort of real Project Magic. Of course this isn't the MJ-12 that all those documents were on about at the end of the eighties, because they were being hawked around by his rival in chief Stanton T. Friedman … sorry I meant to say contained all sorts of textual flaws.

But don't let that fool you, Kevin knows there was an oversight committee, not just because there had to be one, but insiders have told him so These include the now notorious Frank Kaufman, the usual anonymous sources, and characters who have access to really secret information. Except they don't. There is nothing that these characters come up with that isn't already part of the ufolore. Forgotten bits of the lore are retrieved and presented as amazing inside information.

For example General Arthur Exon regales Randle with a tale how in the 1950s, four jet fighters were lost chasing a flying saucer. Randle can't find any reference to this, so this must be something really secret, because generals don't ever lie. This story struck me as being rather familiar and on pages 215-217 and 256-257 of Donald Keyhoe's Flying Saucer Conspiracy (US Henry Holt edition), are accounts of 'mysterious' plane crashes, not actually involving UFO chases as I'd seemed to remember, but clearly presented in such a context. The latter pages deal with the crashes of no fewer than six planes over a few days. It seems likely that Exon's story was a half memory of the incidents in this book.

Then there are the tales told by Robert Sarbacher, another insider who simply repeats bits of the legend. Thus when writing to Willard Smith (himself a crank and contactee groupie) in 1950, Sarbacher simply says there is 'something' in the tales told by Frank Scully. By 1983 writing to William Steinman he adds that 'their' material was unusually light and strong (taken from the Roswell Incident by Berlitz and Moore), and that they aliens were like some insects found on earth (taken from Gerald Heard's 1950 book Riddle of the Flying Saucers).

Randle defends the idea of the coverup against the obvious objection that there is not much use in covering up what you don't control, with the argument that as 'they' haven't done anything the military can just sit pretty. But that is an argument from hindsight. In July 1947 the authorities would have had to assume that anything could happen anytime. There would have been no incentive to hind this from the Soviets for another two years (when they tested their first atom bomb), and the priority would be to release the story with the best possible spin before something dramatic happened. These decisions would have been taken not by middle ranking military officers, but by the top political leadership. President Truman would know that if he got this one wrong he might not just end up impeached, but lynched from the nearest lamppost by his own bowels. there would be no vague 'oversight committee' to deal with the situation but the drafting in (not inviting) of America's. if not the world's. leading physicists from Einstein and Bohr downwards. When you realise that the codewords for the Normandy Invasion became clues for a British national newspaper crossword because the kids who compiled them as a school punishment heard them from their sister's GI boyfriends, you get the idea of how leaky even the best secrets can be.

The almost certain truth is that are no crashed flying saucers, no oversight committees and that opinions in the US military on UFOs range from total debunking to wide eyed belief, in other words they mirror totally the spread of opinions in general society. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 81, May 2003.

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