The End of "Liberation"

excerpted from the book


America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy

by Christopher Simpson

Collier / Macmillan, 1988

Many top Reagan activists have spent much of their lives promoting the liberationist cause, even when the theory fell out of fashion after the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

President Reagan himself bestowed a Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, on liberation theorist (and former OPC/CIA emigre program consultant) James Burnham in 1983. Burnham's liberation analysis "profoundly affected the way America views itself and the world," Reagan intoned at the awards ceremony. "And I owe him a personal debt," the president continued, 'because throughout the years of travelling on the mashed-potato circuit I have quoted [him] widely."

... the Reagan administration has updated liberationism to apply to 1980s crisis points like Angola and Nicaragua. The CIA, with the president's backing, is now spending in excess of $600 million per year to equip some 80,000 to 100,000 anti-Communist "freedom fighters" with arms, supplies, and even state-of-the-art Stinger antiaircraft missiles. This renewed cold war strategy, sometimes known as the Reagan Doctrine, has also become a litmus test of conservative Republican orthodoxy, writes Washington Post political analyst Sidney Blumenthal. Right-wing true believers have taken to using votes on funding for "freedom fighters" like Angolan rebel strongman Jonas Savimbi as a means of extracting concessions from Republican moderates and driving their party farther to the right. The new liberationists' goal, Blumenthal writes, "is to ensure that no Republican will be nominated for president who has not pledged fealty to their ideology."

The scars that secret emigre anti-Communist programs have left on life in the United States run considerably deeper than the contribution they may have made to the early 1950s purge of former Voice of America Director Charles Thayer or to the escape of certain Nazis from justice. The cold war itself-and, indirectly, much that has flowed from it-should be reconsidered today in the light of what is beginning to be known of clandestine activities during that period.

Many, though obviously not all, U.S. covert operations of the period involved use of Nazi collaborators, and it is that aspect of American secret warfare... The basic rationale for using Nazis in covert operations has consistently been that doing so was of practical value to the United States in international relations, that it was putting "future American interests" ahead of the "delights of revenge." In reality, however, these affairs have worked to the long-term-and frequently the short-term-detriment of the United States. The negative blowback from U.S. operations employing Nazis and collaborators may be generally grouped into six categories. The first of these, chronologically speaking, stems from the intense West-East competition over recruitment of German scientists and secret agents. The fight over these intelligence assets played a surprisingly large role in the rapid erosion of trust between the superpowers, especially in the first months after the defeat of Hitler Germany.

The mistrust engendered during this race proved to be an important factor in undermining the possibility of superpower peace as early as the Potsdam Conference of July 1945.3' Both sides at Potsdam read the clandestine campaigns of the other as the "true" policy behind the veils of diplomacy. Yet both also insisted that their own diplomatic initiatives be taken at face value. One practical result of this semiotic clash was an acceleration of the upward spiral of suspicion, hostility, and fear.

The second major type of damaging blowback has been the destructive effect that Western covert operations and political warfare-particularly programs employing Nazi collaborators-has had on provoking the cold war and later crises in East-West relations. These affairs were not only products of the cold war but also catalysts that escalated the conflict. They offer graphic proof that the United States' struggle against the USSR began considerably earlier and was carried out with far more violence than the Western | public was led to believe at the time.

Former Axis intelligence analysts enlisted by the U.S. Army and the CIA consistently reinforced the existing self-deception among U.S. national security experts concerning the USSR, particularly during the first formative years of the cold war and the emerging U.S. national security apparatus. Examples may be readily identified today in spite of the extreme security measures that still surround the internal intelligence evaluation processes of those years. These include very basic errors that range from misappraisal of the size and war readiness of the USSR's military establishment to fundamental misjudgments about Soviet political intentions in both Western and Eastern Europe...

Information and analysis that reinforced the dominant preconceptions of the day almost always received a far more sympathetic reception in Washington than news that ran counter to those beliefs. Thus General Clay's (and Gehlen's) alarms about the Red Army in early 1948 counted for more in U.S. national security circles than the reality that the USSR had significantly reduced its troop strength in Europe, in large part because Clay's war scare confirmed the American leaders' worst suspicions concerning the USSR.

Entrepreneurs such as General Gehlen, John Valentine Grombach, and their various rivals have historically been able to manipulate this situation to their own advantage, sometimes for years at a time. Gehlen, above all, proved to be the master at playing to the audience of American national security experts. By shaping the data that shaped global decisions, he played an indirect yet substantial role in world events. His support for a relentlessly hostile cold war against the USSR, together with the success he enjoyed in undermining his critics, has left a durable mark on European history.

The fourth important type of blowback is the long-term corrupting influence that financing the work of men like Alois Brunner, Klaus Barbie, Stanislaw Stankievich, and others has had on the American intelligence agencies themselves. The corrosive effect of recruiting criminals, mercenaries, and torturers as CIA contract operatives extends well beyond the impact of any single incident or operation in which such persons may become involved. The internal logic of clandestine agencies demands that the organization protect its former agents long after their usefulness has passed-or at least to "dispose" of such agents properly, as it is termed in intelligence jargon-in order to retain their loyalty to the institution as long as possible. This can produce compromising personnel problems that last for years, even for decades.

The CIA has historically dealt with its disposal problem by quietly resettling its former contract agents in South America, Canada, or Australia. It has also brought a smaller number of operators to the United States, official reports have finally admitted. (Traitors and suspected double agents present a special sort of disposal problem, of course. Congressional testimony and fragmentary CIA records now in the public domain suggest that some such persons have been murdered.)

Ongoing agent disposal programs create a strong incentive for the government to continue protecting retired Nazis or other criminals for years after their supposed usefulness to this country has expired. The CIA's present determination to protect its agent disposal system remains one of the single greatest obstacles to expulsion of known Nazi criminals hiding in the United States.

The fifth and perhaps the most damaging type of blowback from the emigre and Waffen SS utilization programs stems from the CIA's large-scale intervention in domestic American politics during the 1950s. These operations became important elements in the complex process through which U.S. intelligence agencies systematically nurtured persons viewed as useful, while attempting to suppress those deemed dangerous.

The CIA was presumably motivated by a desire to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives when it promoted the careers of Eastern European liberation activists inside the United States. Foreign affairs, after all, are the CIA's assigned sphere of operations. But the agency's liberation campaigns were never confined to overseas operations or even to immigrant communities in this country. Instead, they became a component of the agency's larger domestic political agenda. The CIA combined the émigrés' liberation efforts with other agency programs of even larger scope, such as the manipulation of mainstream U.S. media, direct propaganda broadcasting in this country through the Crusade for Freedom and other CIA-financed radio shows, surveillance and harassment of opponents, careful sculpting of academic and scholarly research programs, aggressive lobbying on Capitol Hill, and penetration of the senior leadership of trade unions, corporations, religious groups, and even student organizations.

Many details of the CIA's domestic campaigns have gradually leaked into the public domain over the last decade. The synergistic effect that this enormous effort produced on life in this country is still not adequately understood, however, and may not be for many years. The fact is that the CIA's domestic operations had a substantial and lasting impact on political debate in this country during the cold war years, most important of all on foreign policy issues. The agency played a powerful role in setting the general parameters of the foreign policy debate in the United States throughout those years and in drawing the lines that separated "respectable" opinions from those considered beyond the pale.

The final major type of blowback is the role that these clandestine operations played in the obstruction of justice. U.S. courts assert that they have no jurisdiction to try persons accused of committing Nazi war crimes or crimes against humanity, in large part because the offenses took place in foreign countries and generally did not directly involve U.S. citizens. Therefore, the present U.S. government Nazi hunters who work for the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) are limited to bringing charges against war criminals in this country for violations of U.S. immigration law-not for murder, looting, or other persecution. If the prosecution is successful, the Nazi criminal is expelled from this country.

Although the OSI is loath to admit it, the fact is that its attorneys often have difficulty with war crimes suspects who plead the "CIA defense" in response to OSI charges. Former Nazis and collaborators who once worked for U.S. intelligence agencies are arguing in court that they disclosed their war-time activities, SS membership, or other compromising evidence to their CIA or army controllers back during the cold war. In so doing, defense lawyers claim, their clients satisfied any legal requirement to acknowledge their pasts to the U.S. government during immigration. Therefore, the lawyers say, they cannot be deported today.

In the final analysis, the cold war became the means for tens of thousands of Nazi criminals to avoid responsibility for the murders they had committed. The breakdown of East-West cooperation in the prosecution of war criminals-motivated, again, in part by the short-term interests of the intelligence agencies of both sides in protecting their clandestine operations assets-provided both the means for criminals to escape to the West and the alibis for them to use once they arrived here. "Nazi criminals," as Simon Wiesenthal has commented, "were the principal beneficiaries of the Cold War."

Most of the American officials originally involved in the articulation of "liberation" during the 1950s or who played roles in Operation Bloodstone and other programs employing Nazi collaborators have long since died or retired.

And George Kennan keeps on. Now well over eighty [in 1988], he maintains a remarkably rigorous schedule of public speaking and writing, a neatly cultivated mustache, and a reputation as a senior statesman. He lectures at length on a multitude of subjects without notes, staring thoughtfully at the ceiling rather than at his audience.

He considers himself "a strange mixture of a reactionary and a liberal," as he put it recently, and favors decidedly hierarchical governments run by an enlightened few regardless of the shifting currents of mass public opinion. Democracy, he once quipped should be compared to "one of those prehistoric monsters with a body as long as this room and a brain the size of a pin." He views the political left with undisguised contempt and presents the long dictatorship of Portuguese strongman Antonio Salazar as a model governmental efficiency.

Yet Kennan is today one of the few men of his station who have had the courage to take public issue with the Reagan administration's efforts to renew the cold war in the 1980s. The present American military establishment, he wrote recently, operates on the "assumption not just of the possibility of a Soviet-American war but of its overwhelming probability and even imminence." He blames the present administration, together with the media, for creating an "image of the Soviet opponent in his most terrible, desperate and inhuman aspect: an implacable monster, incapable of impulses other than the lust for sheer destruction, and to be dealt with only in a final military struggle." What much of the U.S. government and journalistic establishment says today about the USSR is "so extreme, so subjective, so far removed from what any sober scrutiny of external reality would reveal that it is not only ineffective but dangerous as a guide to political action." He fears, he says, "the cards today are lined up for a war."

That situation may be traced in part to Kennan's own role in the CIA-sponsored anti-Communist exile programs of the 1940s and 1950s, including those that employed Nazi collaborators. True, the problems of the U.S.-Soviet confrontation are far deeper than any clandestine program. But there are moments in history when small events clarify much bigger patterns, and such is the case with the CIA's enlistment of Nazis during the 1940s and 1950s.

Here one sees the extent of the corruption of American ideals that has taken place in the name of fighting communism. No one, it seems, not even Adolf Eichmann's personal staff, was too tainted to be rejected by the CIA's recruiters, at least as long as his relationship with the U.S. government could be kept secret.

The American people deserve better from their government. There is nothing to be gained by permitting U.S. intelligence agencies to continue to conceal the true scope of their association with Nazi criminals in the wake of World War II. The files must be opened; the record must be set right.

Blowback - CSimpson

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