Last week's death of Israeli spymaster David Kimche and the omissions in his obituaries about his most sensitive operations, especially those regarding the United States are a reminder of how much crucial history is being lost as key figures from this era take their secrets to the grave.
The failure to debrief as many of these people as possible can be blamed significantly on U.S. mainstream journalists who in years past took the lead in collecting, vetting and presenting serious evidence of historical wrongdoing, such as the Pentagon Papers secrets about the Vietnam War and complex political scandals like Watergate.
But in recent years, newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post have ignored many national security crimes or even have gone on the offensive against journalists who tried to examine them, such as the ugly assault on investigative reporter Gary Webb over his work on the now-CIA-admitted cocaine trafficking by Ronald Reagan's Nicaraguan contra rebels.
The problem has been compounded by the timidity of Democratic leaders to conduct thorough investigations of Republican wrongdoing, such as in 1993 when Bill Clinton became President and in 2009 under Barack Obama. In both cases, new Democratic administrations thought that looking forward, not backward, would achieve some measure of bipartisanship. Not likely.
And, the American Left has offered little help, usually staying on the sidelines when there's evidence of a genuine government conspiracy (though some leftists have gotten carried away with invented conspiracies, such as the 9/11 "truth" movement's witness-less claims about "controlled demolitions" of the Twin Towers and "a missile, not a plane, hitting the Pentagon.")
This combination of disinterest in actual conspiracies and fascination with conspiracy parlor games has made the assembling of real history about the past several decades next to impossible.
Now, Kimche's death on March 8 marks another lost opportunity. Most newspaper obituaries touched on some of the known high- and low-points of his long career as a spy/diplomat who was called "the man with the suitcase" for his work with the Mossad paying off foreign officials and spreading around money that advanced Israel's national security goals.
Yet, from these obits, it's clear that much more was known about Kimche's clandestine work bribing African despots or supplying guns to right-wing militaries in Central America than his purported involvement in influencing political events in Washington, possibly because Israel and its many supporters regard the U.S. connection as still far too sensitive.
Even the better obits neglected how Kimche, in the late 1970s, shared Prime Minister Menachem Begin's contempt for President Jimmy Carter.
Though Kimche described the animosity in his 1991 book, The Last Option, this important story was left out of his obits as was the evidence of what Begin's right-wing Likud government may have done to stop Carter from gaining a second term and thus blocking Likud's plans for expanding Israeli territory beyond its pre-1967 borders.
In 1978, Carter pushed Begin into agreeing to the Camp David peace accords, which returned the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for promises of peace. Privately, Begin was furious about what he regarded as Carter's bullying tactics.
The next year, Carter failed to protect the Shah of Iran, an important Israeli regional ally who was forced from power by Islamic militants. Then, when Carter acceded to demands from the Shah's supporters to admit him to New York for cancer treatment, Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage.
In 1980, as Carter turned to his reelection campaign, Begin saw dangers and opportunities. In The Last Option, Kimche revealed the depth of the hostilities between the two leaders because of Carter's perceived favoritism for the Palestinians and Begin's fear that Israel would be forced to withdraw from the West Bank if Carter won a second term.
"Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington," Kimche wrote. "They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state."
Kimche continued, "This plan prepared behind Israel's back and without her knowledge must rank as a unique attempt in United States's diplomatic history of short-changing a friend and ally by deceit and manipulation."