59. Charles F. Gallagher – The United States and North Africa (1963)

Burroughs had a life-long interest in espionage. He applied for work in military intelligence during the war, being turned down for having neither the right attitude nor the right connections. His writing during The Job years is obsessed with CIA techniques.

That it was Bowles’ Let it Come Down that first inspired him to go to Tangier stands as testimony, to my mind, that it was the possibilities of run-ins with spies and counterspies that most excited him about interzone.

He was certainly disappointed by Rome, having just read Gore Vidal’s Judgement of Paris and expecting a world of secret missions and glamorous parties. Instead, he found it rainy and depressing, with nobody to talk to and no sign of a nightlife. He moved on to Tangier soon after.

It’s notable then, that the one run-in that we know for certain Burroughs had with a CIA agent, was one he wouldn’t become aware of until years later.

Charles Gallagher joined the Naval Reserve during WWII, having studied “Eastern Languages” at Harvard. He was recruited into the Monuments Men, travelling Japan and retrieving great works of art and culture from the hands of looters and fascists.

He was officially removed from the CIA after a lie detector test revealed him to be gay, but he continued to do work for numerous CIA front groups, including the Ford Foundation, focusing increasingly on North Africa rather than Japan.

Gallagher moved in the same circles as Burroughs in Tangier (the Bowles circle, who took a while to accept Burroughs). He told them he was doing research for the Ford Foundation. This was never questioned. The research bore fruit in 1963’s The United States and North Africa: a report that, according to Barry Miles, was first disseminated internally by the CIA as part of their North Africa briefings.

Is it of importance that Burroughs didn’t spot this spook? Not really. Like many things the CIA did – propping up abstract expressionism, funding Encounter and National Enquirer magazine, flying heroin around for Hmong freedom fighters – Gallagher’s work was hardly malicious. It was a minor working of the substructural power base of the American Empire.

The book itself is also of only limited importance. A good summary is given of the move towards independence in the Arab world. Gallagher is keen to separate the Berbers of North Africa from the Arabs of the Middle East (he in fact wrote a book on Berber-dialect Arabic). He talks of Istiqlal, the Black Crescent, and the Popular Movement – the nationalist, Islamist, and socialist wings of the Moroccan independence movement respectively.

These may come in handy when analysing Naked Lunch’s different political groupings (Islam Inc, the Liquefactionists, etc…), although I believe another academic may already have done this work.

Two, perhaps noteworthy, comments in the book refer, firstly, to the area’s importance to American interests. “Morocco offers varied promise but greater risk,” he writes. While supporting anti-imperialism will help America’s image and may lead to free trade for American business, they also want to avoid destabilising a country known for its peaceability compared to its neighbours Algeria and Tunisia.

He also makes the important comment that Berber North Africa seems immune to historical change. Phoenicians, the might of Carthage and then Rome, the Arab invasion and now two hundred years of imperialism all seem to have left the Berbers fundamentally untouched.

The Roman period “lasted nearly eight hundred years […] and might well have been considered definitive by an observer studying the scene halfway through that period”. One should remember this, Gallagher tells us, when one considers the current state of Arab nationalism, or the legacies of French rule.

Are these ruminations products of Gallaghers talks with Burroughs (who was a keen reader of Spengler) or Gysin (who had his own theories about Berber musicians and the Pipes of Pan)?

There’s no way to tell, but it is certainly noteworthy in its own small way.