February 26, 2004

Useful Idiots

It wasn't until I read David Horowitz' Radical Son several years ago, that I finally got my mind wrapped around the fact that the forces of the Left that were organizing, funding and promoting antiwar demonstrations in America in the 60's and 70's were the very same forces that were organizing and funding the Viet Cong troops we were fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. As a high school and college student during those years, I wasn't anything close to politically engaged, but even then I wasn't unaware of the ideological connection. Still that book and others I read around the same time in the 90's really brought home to me the extent to which Soviet money and propaganda had directly driven the U.S. anti-Vietnam war movement. That the CPUSA took both money and marching orders from Moscow is no longer seriously questioned, and since much of the leadership of the radical Left in America was sympathetic to Soviet-style communism, there was no shortage of willing footsoldiers here at home to spread the word.

I was reminded of the connection today reading this Ion Mihai Pacepa article in which he describes the extent to which Moscow literally wrote the script for the American antiwar movement. Pacepa was the chief of Romania's intelligence service during that period, in short a KGB operative, and is the highest ranking Soviet intelligence official to defect to the West. He focuses on some of the words spoken by a young John Kerry on his return from Vietnam, because they sounded strikingly familiar:

On April 12, 1971, Kerry told the U.S. Congress that American soldiers claimed to him that they had, "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned on the power, cut off limbs, blew up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

The exact sources of that assertion should be tracked down. Kerry also ought to be asked who, exactly, told him any such thing, and what it was, exactly, that they said they did in Vietnam. Statutes of limitation now protect these individuals from prosecution for any such admissions. Or did Senator Kerry merely hear allegations of that sort as hearsay bandied about by members of antiwar groups (much of which has since been discredited)? To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and "news reports" about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.

As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe. KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, "our most significant success."

Pacepa goes on to explain the KGB's creation of two innocuous sounding organizations set up to undermine the United States:

...the KGB-financed World Peace Council, created the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam as a permanent international organization to aid or to conduct operations to help Americans dodge the draft or defect, to demoralize its army with anti-American propaganda, to conduct protests, demonstrations, and boycotts, and to sanction anyone connected with the war. It was staffed by Soviet-bloc undercover intelligence officers and received about $15 million annually from the Communist Party's international department — on top of the WPC's $50 million a year, all delivered in laundered cash dollars. Both groups had Soviet-style secretariats to manage their general activities, Soviet-style working committees to conduct their day-to-day operations, and Soviet-style bureaucratic paperwork. The quote from Senator Kerry is unmistakable Soviet-style sloganeering from this period. I believe it is very like a direct quote from one of these organizations' propaganda sheets.

None of this is meant to suggest that there wasn't a truly indigenous anti-Vietnam war movement, or that one would not have grown in the absence of Soviet propaganda. But we shouldn't underestimate the impact that these lies had on the level of disgust and disenchantment among American citizens for what they heard our military was doing in Vietnam.

Posted by dan at February 26, 2004 9:46 AM