Part of Senator John Kerry’s appeal to a certain segment of Americans is his Vietnam-veteran status coupled with his antiwar activism during that period. 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.”
The KGB organized a vitriolic conference in Stockholm to condemn America’s aggression, on March 8, 1965, as the first American troops arrived in south Vietnam. On Andropov’s orders, one of the KGB’s paid agents, Romesh Chandra, the chairman of 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.
The KGB campaign to assault the U.S. and Europe by means of disinformation was more than just a few Cold War dirty tricks. The whole foreign policy of the Soviet-bloc states, indeed its whole economic and military might, revolved around the larger Soviet objective of destroying America from within through the use of lies. The Soviets saw disinformation as a vital tool in the dialectical advance of world Communism.
The Stockholm conference held annual international meetings up to 1972. In its five years of existence it created thousands of “documentary” materials printed in all the major Western languages describing the “abominable crimes” committed by American soldiers against civilians in Vietnam, along with counterfeited pictures. All these materials were manufactured by the KGB’s disinformation department. I would print up these materials in hundreds of thousands of copies each.
The Romanian DIE (Ceausescu’s secret police) was tasked to distribute these KGB-concocted “incriminating documents” all over Western Europe. And ordinary people often bought it hook, line, and sinker. “Even Attila the Hun looks like an angel when compared to these Americans,” a West German businessman reprovingly told me after reading one such report.
The Italian, Greek, and Spanish Communist parties serviced by Bucharest were much affected by this material and their activists regularly distributed translations. They also handed them out to the participants at anti-American demonstrations around the world.
Many “Ban-the-Bomb” and anti-nuclear movements were KGB-funded operations, too. I can no longer look at a petition for world peace or other supposedly noble cause, particularly of the anti-American variety, without thinking to myself, “KGB.”
In 1978, when I broke with Communism, my DIE was propagating the line that Washington’s adventure in Vietnam had wasted over $200 trillion. This waste, we warned darkly, would soon generate European inflation, recession, and unemployment.
As far as I’m concerned, the KGB gave birth to the antiwar movement in America. In 1976, Andropov gave my own Romanian DIE credit for helping his KGB do so.
Leftist intellectuals in America now look to Europe–steeped for years in anti-American propaganda from the Soviet Union–for “a sane and frank European criticism of the Bush administration’s war policy.” Indeed, anti-Americanism in Europe today is almost as ferocious as it was during Vietnam. France and Germany insist we are torturing the al Qaeda prisoners held at Guantanamo Base. The Mirror, a British newspaper, is confident that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair were “killing innocents in Afghanistan.” The Paris daily Le Monde put Jean Baudrillard on its front page asserting that “the Judeo-Christian West, led by America, not only provoked the [September 11] terrorist attacks, it actually desired them.”
In June 2002, a documentary film on “U.S. war crimes” in Afghanistan was shown in the German Bundestag by the crypto-Communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). The film faithfully reincarnated the style of old Soviet-bloc “documentaries” demonizing the U.S. war in Vietnam. According to this 20-minute movie, American soldiers were involved in the torture and murder of some 3,000 Taliban prisoners in the region of Mazar-e-Sharif. One witness in the film even claimed he had seen an American soldier break the neck of one Afghan prisoner and pour acid on others.
During my last meeting with Andropov, he said, wisely, “now all we have to do is to keep the Vietnam-era anti-Americanism alive.” Andropov was a shrewd judge of human nature. He understood that in the end our original involvement would be forgotten, and our insinuations would take on a life of their own. He knew well that it was just the way human nature worked.
–Ion Mihai Pacepa was acting chief of Romania’s espionage service and national-security adviser to the country’s president. He is the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc.