No matter how many deranged, megalomaniacal psychopaths there are in our governing bodies, political shenanigans are usually less about flamethrower robots and more about balding men in suits lying about fiscal policy. But occasionally the government will put forth a plot so insane that even the most hardened Bond villain would ask them if everything is all right at home and tell them to tone it down a little.
#5. The CIA's Legion of Spy Ravens
Ominous entities from Odin to Saruman know it: No matter how powerful you are or how sizable your operation is, you ain't got no game until you have your own posse of ravens to spy on your adversaries. So it's no surprise that during the late 1960s the CIA stumbled across some old Viking legends and thought, "Hey, that's what we've been missing all these years -- theatrics!"
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This was the same reason they pumped millions into improved banana phone technology.
The agency turned to Bob Bailey, a pioneering animal behaviorist who had already overseen a number of hilarious projects, such as the Acoustic Kitty (a cat with a listening device) and the World War II-era pigeon missile (an actual missile full of actual pigeons that guided it by pecking a map). At this point, it's probably good to remember that there was quite a lot of LSD floating around Langley at the time.
Bailey planned to train his birds to carry listening devices that they would deposit on window ledges and rooftops. He also designed a tiny camera that the raven would activate by pushing it against a window. Because the world is apparently a cartoon, Bailey's plan was a roaring success, and the CIA happily shelled out the cash to build spy-raven training facilities. The next steps: motorcycle-riding mice and martial arts-practicing turtles.
"If we can't train them, we can feed them to the ravens."
Sadly, the spy-raven program was terminated in the 1970s. However, Bailey strongly insinuates that the ravens were successfully used in the field a number of times. He even jokingly hints that there might be CIA-trained "rogue" raven agents out there today. And that goddamn well better be the plot of the next Bourne movie.
#4. Japan's Army of Plague-Fleas
It was the summer of 1945, and things weren't going well for the Japanese. Their only remaining chance of victory was to deliver a truly devastating knockout blow to the Allies. Such an important last-resort move could not be trusted to just anyone, so naturally the Japanese military turned to a bona fide mad scientist.
While we're sure he wouldn't have described himself as "mad" (so few evil scientists show that level of self-awareness), the evidence disagrees: Shiro Ishii served as the head of Unit 731, a covert biological warfare research team, and there really is no positive way to spin that kind of thing, is there? There was no "covert biological warfare research team" whose primary goal was to produce the fluffiest bunnies the world had ever seen so all the troops would stop fighting and start snuggling.
"We tried that with the Lennie Project. It failed."
No, mysterious biowarfare units generally pull crazy supervillain-level stunts like breeding millions of fleas infected with the plague to release them on their unsuspecting enemies. Which is exactly what Ishii planned on doing, incidentally.
One of Japan's fancy new aircraft-carrying submarines was supposed to surface off the coast of San Diego one night and launch three planes. The aircraft would release special ceramic bombs that shattered as they fell, unleashing hordes of Ishii's plague-minions over the city and devastating the area. Out of other, saner options, Japanese higher-ups gave their blessings and dubbed it Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night. Hey, in wartime, you have to create beauty whenever you can -- if only to balance out the horror (of plague-infected flea bombs, for example).
Operation Itchy Dog Ass didn't inspire as much pride.
This was not some far-fetched scheme that didn't make it past the drawing board: They actually built the bombs and set up the aircraft, but at the last second they called off the attack. Japan was worried that the U.S. had their own superweapons in the works, and they didn't want to start a war of escalation. They shelved their own sinister megaweapons in the hopes that the U.S. would do the same. It didn't exactly shake out that way.
It's not often that the guys funding the army of plague fleas come out looking like the sane ones, is it?
#3. The U.S. Tries to Win Vietnam With Weather Manipulation
Most people, thanks largely to their crazy uncle's rambling Facebook posts, are familiar with chemtrails, the chemical-laced aircraft contrails that the secret government uses to cause cancer, obesity, and Muslims. Cloud seeding is the same deal, but the other way around: Although the technique does involve introducing chemicals into the sky, it's meant to manipulate the weather, instead of autism or impotence or whatever the chemtrail folks are on about these days. Also unlike chemtrails, cloud seeding is real: The American military and CIA first started using the technique in Vietnam in 1963, for the hilariously petty purpose of trying to summon rain on Buddhist protest marches.
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Try immolating yourselves now, monks!
But they didn't stop with literally raining on some parades: The sheer scale of the cloud-seeding operation against the Ho Chi Minh Trail was above and beyond any weather control attempt the U.S. had ever made before. Codenamed Operation Popeye, the plan was to fly modified cargo planes along the trail, releasing silver and lead iodine flares into the sky over Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. This was supposed to heavily increase rainfall and lengthen the monsoon period, which would have messed up communications and supply runs for the Viet Cong.
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And ruined their already limited cookout days.
Between the operation's start in 1967 and its termination in 1972, cargo planes flew a monumental 2,606 missions, dropping over 47,000 cloud-seeding charges all over the trail, until the whole area was eventually reclaimed by the angry sea.
Or ... nothing. Nothing actually happened. At least not in the intended region, at the intended time.
That's something they never tell you about playing God: Even if you get past the moral quandaries, it's just really, really hard to pull off.