During the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton’s student protests and Moscow trip generated much controversy, but few answers. While Clinton’s government files from that era seemingly remain unavailable even today, there is at least more information available than in 1992. The public record reveals that Clinton’s social network and views on Vietnam were influenced by a pattern of contact between Communist agents and sympathizers and Clinton’s academic and political associates. This pattern is documented here through an analysis of Clinton’s antiwar activity up through the time he left Oxford in 1970. Included are quotations from a June 9, 1969 profile of Clinton by the Frederick, Maryland Post which does not seem to have been previously cited elsewhere.
As a Georgetown junior, Clinton inherited his antiwar orientation from his part-time employer, Senator J. William Fulbright. Fulbright’s views on Vietnam had in turn been influenced by scholar Bernard Fall. Fall had an academic background at institutions linked to Chinese Communist apologist Owen Lattimore. He had recently co-authored a book on Vietnam with Marcus Raskin, cofounder of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), which disseminated Marxist propaganda aimed to sway Fulbright and other decision-makers. Fulbright’s office was also in regular contact with Igor Bubnov, a KGB operative on Capitol Hill. President Johnson had ordered the FBI to monitor Fulbright and his staff for suspected Communist contact at the time Clinton went to work for Fulbright.
Clinton remained relatively quiet about his war views during his first year as a grad student at Oxford from fall 1968 to spring 1969. He took an activist turn in summer 1969 while seeking to avoid being drafted. During summer vacation, he worked with the Vietnam Moratorium Committee (VMC), a US antiwar group which was helping a Communist-dominated coalition called the New Mobe organize fall protests.
Upon Clinton’s return to Oxford that fall, he and his friend Richard Stearns helped a British VMC counterpart called Group 68 organize Americans in England for Moratorium protest events. (A supplementary background profile of Group 68 follows the body of the article, exploring the group’s links to a British antiwar network centered around Bertrand Russell and Russell’s associate Tariq Ali. Russell’s network helped the North Vietnamese and Soviets disseminate anti-US propaganda through channels such as the International War Crimes Tribunal, sponsored by the Soviet front the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam.)
Over winter vacation of 1969-1970, Clinton toured Moscow, where he had been preceded by his roommate Strobe Talbott. Talbott was then translating the memoirs of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, which had been leaked to him by Victor Louis, a KGB disinformation agent and talent spotter. Clinton and Talbott’s other roommate Frank Aller was doing similar work on the unpublished notes of Edgar Snow, an academic associate of Lattimore.
The conclusion suggests possible directions for further research, considering where additional information on Clinton’s early activity might be found in government files and other sources.
Before Oxford: Clinton, Fulbright, and the Legacy of Owen Lattimore
The story of how Bill Clinton became an antiwar activist begins when he was a Georgetown undergraduate working part-time for Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. Fulbright, who chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, was a leading critic of President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policy. Over the course of Clinton’s junior and senior years, his views on Vietnam turned antiwar under the influence of Fulbright and his staff. As Washington Post writer David Maraniss quoted Clinton:
When I went to work for [Fulbright] I was basically for the war, or at least I was not against it. As a matter of fact, I had a long debate I remember about whether I ought to drop out of school, whether even undergraduate deferments were all right, whether anybody ought to have a deferment when there was a war on. These were discussions with people who worked for Fulbright, who were on the staff. The older ones encouraged me to at least make a study of it, make up my own mind. . .And I sort of wound up turning against the war the way Fulbright did, after a thorough study of it.
Tracing the origin of Fulbright’s antiwar views reveals an intriguing ancestry for Clinton’s views. Fulbright had not initially opposed the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which was originally viewed as a measured, flexible alternative to full-scale escalation in Vietnam. But after a major increase in US ground deployment in summer 1965, and after Fulbright’s relationship with President Johnson became strained over Dominican Republic policy that September, he began questioning Johnson’s Vietnam policy. Pentagon Papers, a set of classified military documents on the Kennedy-Johnson administration’s Vietnam policy.)
Fulbright’s reading on Vietnam was guided by a mentor Lowenstein had introduced him to in fall 1965, Howard University Professor of International Relations Bernard Fall. Fall was a specialist in so-called “Asian nationalism”, which is what the antiwar movement preferred to call what less sympathetic critics might characterize as Marxist-inspired insurgencies against Western-friendly governments. Fall, along with Cornell’s Indonesian nationalism specialist George McTurnan Kahin, led a chorus of academic antiwar activists insisting that the Vietcong’s guerrilla war was motivated by nationalism, not Marxism. This argument aimed to undermine the Johnson administration’s position citing Cold War containment policy as grounds for US intervention in Vietnam.
Fall and Kahin had both emerged from a group of Asian nationalist specialists who congregated in the late 1940s and early 1950’s at Johns Hopkins University, a major Asian studies center. Johns Hopkins’ Asian studies program had been influenced by pro-Chinese Communist propaganda channeled through a Soviet-infiltrated think tank called the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR).
One influential Johns Hopkins Asian specialist linked to IPR was Chinese Communist apologist Owen Lattimore, accused by Joseph McCarthy in 1950 of being “Moscow’s top spy” and “one of the principal architects of our Far Eastern policy”. Declassified files available today indicate that while McCarthy was exaggerating by calling Lattimore Moscow’s top spy, Lattimore had been flagged by the FBI as a suspected Communist and potential security risk as early as May 1941, when he was being considered for a position as the Roosevelt administration’s political advisor to Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. Lattimore did not run any of the Soviet spy rings known to US intelligence, and there was no direct surveillance evidence of him acting as a literal spy (at least judging by a 1949 report which is heavily censored in certain key sections), but he did have a well-documented pattern of regular contact with Communist front groups, party members and agents. Soviet agents Lattimore was in contact with during the 1930s and 1940s included Comintern agent Willi Munzenberg’s lieutenant Louis Gibarti; Agnes Smedley and Chen Han-seng of the Sorge spy ring; Michael Greenberg of the Cambridge Five; Soviet agent Joseph Bernstein’s Amerasia coconspirators Philip Jaffe and T.A. Bisson; and Silvermaster Group spy ring members Lauchlin Currie and Harry Dexter White. Currie and White, who were two key agents in the Soviet campaign to undermine the Chinese Nationalists, were the ones who recommended Lattimore for his position in the Roosevelt administration, and when Lattimore got the job he worked out of a desk in Currie’s office in the State Department Building (contradicting his later Senate testimony that he never had a desk at the State Department). Whether or not Lattimore was a full-fledged spy, his views on Asia were at least viewed by agents like Currie and White as sympathetic to Soviet foreign policy goals.
Lattimore’s sympathies were passed on to a younger generation of scholars which included Fall and Kahin. An FBI file on Lattimore records a conversation where he mentioned that Kahin’s appointment to the John Hopkins faculty was part of a broader effort to promote comparative work on nationalism in different Asian countries, including China, Mongolia, and Kahin’s specialty, Indonesia., Another John Hopkins expert in Indonesian nationalism, Amry Vandenbosch, taught a class called Nationalism and Colonialism in Southeast Asia. Fall took Vandenbosch’s class in 1952 after moving to the US from France, where his family had relocated to escape Nazi-occupied Austria. Because of Fall’s French background, Vandenbosch encouraged him to study nationalism in Vietnam, a former French colony. Fall subsequently went to Southeast Asia in 1953 to study the Vietminh insurgency for his doctoral dissertation.
Upon his return to the US in late 1953, Fall soon stopped to visit IPR. He began contributing to IPR’s journal Pacific Affairs, and IPR commissioned him to do a study on Vietnam in 1957. He continued to travel to Southeast Asia regularly, making five more trips from 1957 to 1967 (when he was killed by a Vietcong landmine) and receiving North Vietnamese literature shipped through a Hong Kong publisher.
Fall had fought in the French Resistance during World War II, and his research received assistance from French military sources, who sometimes allowed him to see classified information. Some of Fall’s associates began to suspect he was a French agent. The FBI placed him under surveillance to evaluate these accusations and make sure he was not receiving any classified information from US sources, but apparently found nothing to substantiate Fall’s involvement in any intelligence activity (at least according to Fall’s widow’s interpretation of the portions of his file that have been declassified). Chalmers Wood of the State Department’s Vietnam Working Group saw Fall as less of a spy and more of a sympathizer: “Bernard Fall’s recommendations certainly follow very close to the neutralist, crypto-Communist line. I don’t think that he is a Communist, but his emotions have been so long wrapped up in Viet-Nam that his judgement is false.”
Fall’s work proved useful to antiwar propagandists who travelled significantly farther with Communists than Fall himself did. From 1964 to 1965 Fall collaborated on The Viet-Nam Reader with his friend Marcus Raskin, cofounder of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). IPS was a New Left think tank founded in 1962 by dissenters from the Kennedy administration who advocated nuclear disarmament enforced by a global government. Despite its professed goal of world peace, IPS travelled with terrorist groups that were being trained by Cuban and Vietcong revolutionaries, such as the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, and the Venceremos Brigade. IPS was characterized in FBI files as “a Washington-based ‘Think Factory’, which [has] helped train extremist[s] who incite violence in the United States and whose educational research serves as a cover for intrigue and political agitation”. IPS also helped disseminate propaganda critiquing US domestic and foreign policy from a Marxist perspective. An article clipped by the FBI aptly described IPS as “The perfect intellectual front for Soviet activities which would be resisted if they were to originate openly from the KGB.”
The Viet-Nam Reader was one of IPS’ earliest successful propaganda operations. According to Fall’s widow, Fall and Raskin hoped that their book would persuade sufficient numbers of readers to “see the folly of the war and demand a negotiated settlement”. The book achieved this goal, becoming a standard reference for antiwar activists after being featured by The New York Review of Books in September 1965. It was presumably high on Fulbright’s reading list in December 1965. IPS also influenced Fulbright’s Vietnam stance through channels such as Members of Congress for Peace Through Law, an IPS-spawned lobby Fulbright joined.
Meanwhile the KGB tried to influence Fulbright’s staff directly. In 1967, Soviet ambassador Igor Bubnov, an active KGB operative on Capitol Hill, initiated regular discussions with Fulbright’s chief of staff Carl Marcy. (After retiring from government service in 1973, Marcy would work for several organizations associated with Communist or IPS activity, including the Council for a Liveable World, the Center for International Policy, and the the American Committee on United States-Soviet Relations aka American Committee on East-West Accord.)
US intelligence came to suspect Communist influence on Fulbright. In February 1966, President Johnson ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to investigate whether Fulbright and other Senate critics of US policy in Vietnam were receiving information from Communists. Hoover produced a report which demonstrated a correlation between the Soviet party line and the public statements of Fulbright and Senator Wayne Morse, but without authorization for wiretaps he was unable to confirm any direct contact with Communists or foreign agents. Ordered to seek confirmation, Hoover spent the next weeks producing a 67-page review of FBI wiretap records of contacts between Soviet bloc embassies and US Senators, Representatives, and Congressional staff, covering the period from July 1965 to March 1966. Hoover continued submitting biweekly follow-up reports to Johnson through January 1968. Johnson tasked other intelligence agencies to conduct similar inquiries. In 1968 Johnson boasted that he knew within minutes what Fulbright was saying over lunch at the Soviet embassy. Secretary of State Dean Rusk conveyed this fact to Marcy, telling him, “We know every time that you or people on your staff meet with people in the Soviet bloc.”
While US intelligence was investigating Fulbright and his staff, Georgetown junior Bill Clinton joined Fulbright’s staff in summer 1966. Clinton had looked to Fulbright as a role model since high school, when he first learned that Fulbright had attended England’s Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, a career path Clinton would follow as a graduate student. He got the job with Fulbright through Jack Holt, a local politician who was supported by Clinton’s uncle Raymond. After Uncle Raymond got him on Holt’s campaign, Clinton approached Holt and expressed his interest in working for Fulbright. Holt recommended him to Fulbright’s administrative assistant Lee Williams. Williams offered Clinton a job as an assistant clerk on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Clinton continued working for Fulbright into his senior year. According to his autobiography My Life, he worked in the document room of the committee’s offices on the fourth floor of what was then called the New Senate Office Building (later renamed the Dirksen Senate Office Building), while Carl Marcy and a few committee senior staff worked in a larger room at the Capitol Building. Clinton’s primary duty was “taking memos and other materials back and forth between the Capitol and Senator Fulbright’s office, including confidential material for which I would have to receive proper government clearance. Beyond that, I would do whatever was required, from reading newspapers and clipping important articles for the staff and interested senators to answering requests for speeches and other materials, to adding names to the committee’s mailing list.” He often read “material stamped ‘confidential’ and ‘secret’ that I had to deliver from time to time”.
According to Clinton, he adopted an antiwar position while working under Fulbright. A few months after he began working for Fulbright, he had the Senator autograph a copy of his book The Arrogance of Power, which criticized US foreign policy on Vietnam and other topics. Clinton says his antiwar orientation was also influenced by members of Fulbright’s staff who encouraged him to study the issue of draft deferment.
One staff member who influenced him was Fulbright’s speechwriter Seth Tillman, who Clinton says “taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and had become a friend and mentor”. Tillman, along with Committee on Foreign Relations Latin American specialist Pat Holt, had recently helped shape Fulbright’s opposition to Johnson’s Dominican Republic policy, arguing that Dominican rebels were not Marxists and did not pose a threat similar to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. (Holt, who advocated working with Castro rather than removing him, had previously encouraged Fulbright to oppose the Bay of Pigs invasion. In retirement he would participate in seminars and publish books for the Center for International Policy, an IPS spinoff cofounded by Orlando Letelier, a Chilean Marxist linked to agents of Cuba, East Germany, and the USSR. Holt recently published an article titled, “Was Cuba ever really a threat to the United States?”)
Others Clinton mentions he worked with on the Committee on Foreign Relations staff were Carl Marcy, who Clinton says worked over in the Capitol Building, and who presumably received the documents Clinton delivered from the New Senate Office Building to the Capitol; Lee Williams, who talked Clinton out of quitting school to join the military; documents clerk Buddy Kendrick, who was Clinton’s supervisor; Kendrick’s part-time assistant Bertie Bowman; and Phil Dozier and Charlie Parks, two of Clinton’s student counterparts.
By Clinton’s senior year, his academic papers were expressing antiwar views. However, Clinton was not yet an activist. Clinton’s pro-war roommate Christopher “Kit” Ashby recalled that among their roommates, “Bill was the most against the war, but not in a hysterical way. . .Bill was not out demonstrating on the streets.”
Clinton’s antiwar views would begin to take a more activist turn after he won a Rhodes Scholarship his senior year. Following in Fulbright’s footsteps, he left for England to attend Oxford in fall 1968.
March 1969: Bill Clinton Attends His First British Antiwar Protest
When Clinton arrived at Oxford he initially kept his antiwar views relatively quiet. His Oxford friend Cliff Jackson, later to become a critic, recalled his impression that Clinton was not vocally antiwar his first year at Oxford. As related by Maraniss:
It was during that first year at Oxford that Clinton met the fellow Arkansan, Cliff Jackson, who became his bete noire this year by releasing letters indicating that Clinton had not told the complete story of how he avoided the draft. . .Jackson contends that Clinton was not overtly anti-war that year--that in fact, several more radical American students considered Clinton “spineless and a fake” for not being more vocal--and that his activism did not become evident until his body was on the line.
Jackson got the impression that Clinton did not become vocally antiwar until after he began facing the strong possibility of being drafted in April 1969.
By this time Clinton had absorbed the antiwar atmosphere circulating at Oxford. In March 1969, he accepted former Miss Arkansas Sharon Evan’s invitation to attend his first British antiwar protest. A detailed profile of Clinton’s Oxford days by Times reporters Nick Rufford and David Leppard recorded:
Whatever his delight at being at Oxford, Clinton could never escape the war. At the Union debating society, Clinton's eyes were opened to the depth of feeling provoked by Vietnam. “The atmosphere in Oxford was decidedly anti-American,” recalled [Rhodes Scholar Alan] Bersin.
It began to play on Clinton. He had worked during the previous summer for Senator William Fulbright, an outspoken critic of the Vietnam war, and was proud of a set of books inscribed by Fulbright which set out the senator's objections to war. This, and the climate of student unrest, aroused the first stirrings of militancy in Clinton.
In March 1969, he went to his first anti-war demonstration in Britain, accompanied by Sharon Evans, a former Miss Arkansas. Evans said she persuaded Clinton to attend. “We were down at Trafalgar Square for a Sunday afternoon. I said: ‘Y'all, I want to go, I've never been to a demonstration.’ So Bill said ‘Gosh, I'll go too’.”
According to another article that ran in London’s Times on October 25, 1992, former Eugene McCarthy campaign organizer Richard Stearns introduced Clinton to the British peace movement. The time when this occurred is not specified, but from the available information it may be inferred that it took place either in spring 1969, or in early October 1969 when Clinton stayed with Stearns while helping him organize protests. (Clinton later considered Stearns for a possible nomination as FBI Director.)
Over spring break that April, Clinton toured Bavaria with his Georgetown girlfriend Ann Markusen, a former McCarthy campaign volunteer; Stearns; and Rudy Lowe, who came from Bamberg on the East German border. Clinton had met Lowe in November 1967 at Georgetown’s Conference on the Atlantic Community (CONTAC), a series of seminars and lectures attended by student delegates from the US, Canada, and Europe.
June 1969: A New Star in Oxford’s Antiwar Community Attracts Attention
Clinton spent the early part of June 1969 touring Paris. His tour guide was Alice Chamberlain, whom he had met through mutual friends in London.
By this time, Clinton’s antiwar views were attracting attention. On June 9, 1969, the Frederick, Maryland Post ran an article by Tom Cullen on antiwar sentiment among the 29 American Rhodes Scholars attending Oxford. The star of the article was Bill Clinton. The article includes a picture of Clinton relaxing with two unnamed fellow Rhodes Scholars. It quotes Clinton describing his views on the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement:
. . .The latest U.S. casualty figures from Vietnam are just as real whether you read them in the New York Times or the London Times.
”And that's the way it should be,” says William J. Clinton, 22, of Hot Springs, Ark., who is one of the current crop of Rhodes Scholars. “There would be something wrong with us if we could put the war out of our minds when our friends are being shot up in Vietnam.”
. . . Clinton, who is fairly typical of the present American Rhodesmen at Oxford, is returning to Arkansas to be drafted in July, although his scholarship still has another year to run. For brown-eyed, curly-headed Clinton it has been an agonizing decision to make, for he is opposed to the war. . .
Politically he describes himself as a moderate.
”'I was never one of the militants at Georgetown,” he explains, “and I have always been opposed to violence. Nevertheless, I find myself in sympathy with some of the aims of the Students for a Democratic Society. The same goes with the other Rhodes Scholars here at Oxford. . .”. . .
Clinton, whose views are echoed by other Rhodes Scholars, blames both student extremists and university authorities. “The authorities made the great mistake of allowing what should have been a limited war to escalate. As for the Students for a Democratic Society, they are bad Marxists who are muddled in their thinking, for the most part, and purely negative in their approach.
”Instead of arguing about whether to add a course in Negro history to the university curriculum, the authorities and students, black and white, should be engaged in a meaningful dialogue about the real problems that threaten us. They should be worrying about how to manage in the computer age, how to save the lives of our cities, how the American people can lead happier, fuller lives."
Summer 1969: Clinton and the Vietnam Moratorium Committee
Over summer vacation that year, Clinton returned to the US, dividing his time between taking steps to avoid the draft and organizing antiwar activity. Maraniss summarizes:
That summer Clinton's efforts to avoid the draft and protest the war merged. He spent half his time in Arkansas feverishly working the system so that he could get accepted into the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas Law School--which he would never attend--and thus delay induction. The rest of the time he was in Washington, working as a low-level organizer in the anti-war movement.
Clinton’s Oxford associate Cliff Jackson contended that at this time, Clinton’s future roommate Strobe Talbott was advising him how to avoid the draft. In a rebuttal to a TIME column by Talbott that Managing Editor Henry Muller refused to print, Jackson wrote:
I know that Strobe was one of the chief architects of Bill Clinton's scheme to void his draft notice, avoid reporting on his scheduled (postponed) July 28 induction date and to secure a 1-D deferment, yet nowhere in his personal testimony does Strobe mention his involvement. . .I have a crystal clear recollection of Strobe and Bill standing in my office door at Republican State headquarters in the summer of 1969 and discussing the plan, devised by Bill with the able assistance of friends, to kill his draft notice and secure a deferment.
Clinton effectively confirmed Talbott’s advisory role in his autobiography but put a somewhat different spin on it, writing:
Just before I left Arkansas for Martha’s Vineyard, I wrote a letter to Bill Armstrong, chairman of my local draft board, telling him I didn’t really want to do the ROTC program and asking him to withdraw my 1- D deferment and put me back in the draft. Strobe Talbott came to Arkansas to visit and we discussed whether I should mail it. I didn’t.
Meanwhile, Clinton began working for the Vietnam Moratorium Committee (VMC), the core of an antiwar coalition then planning major demonstrations scheduled for that fall. Clinton wrote to University of Arkansas ROTC head Colonel Eugene Holmes that winter:
I have written and spoken and marched against the war. One of the national organizers of the Vietnam Moratorium is a close friend of mine. After I left Arkansas last summer, I went to Washington to work in the national headquarters of the Moratorium, then to England to organize the Americans here for demonstrations October 15 and November 16.
The VMC had been conceived in April 1969 by Massachusetts antiwar activist Jerome Grossman, who proposed the idea of a committee to coordinate a nation-wide, grassroots-generated series of demonstrations against the Vietnam War. To help him organize these demonstrations, Grossman recruited the help of 1968 antiwar Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy and former McCarthy campaign organizers Sam Brown, David Hawk, David Mixner, and Marge Sklencar.
Through Brown, the Moratorium’s national director and principal organizer, the VMC joined forces with the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, or “New Mobe”, a national coordinating group for antiwar protests. The New Mobe coordinated its actions with the Soviet Union and North Vietnam through the KGB-linked World Peace Council (WPC) in Stockholm. A 1970 Congressional report found that the New Mobe was under “communist domination” by the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party, a rival Trotskyist group linked to Cuba.
The New Mobe, which organized national gatherings in Washington, DC, worked in cooperation with the VMC, which organized protests and political activism on a local level. The VMC was represented on the New Mobe’s steering committee from the New Mobe’s first meeting. Sam Brown organized for the New Mobe while he directed the VMC. The New Mobe formally endorsed a major protest the VMC scheduled for October 15, 1969, and the VMC in turn supported a major New Mobe protest scheduled for November 15, 1969. The New Mobe shared its headquarters with the VMC at 1029 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington, DC, which would presumably be the building where Clinton says he worked when he “went to Washington to work in the national headquarters of the Moratorium”.
Clinton met VMC leaders Brown and Mixner at a gathering of former McCarthy campaign organizers held at Martha’s Vineyard in 1969. Clinton’s attendance was publicized by the Bush campaign during the 1992 election. Clinton confirmed his attendance in interviews with TV host Phil Donahue and with the Boston Globe but emphasized it was a reunion for McCarthy organizers rather than a VMC meeting. Bush campaign statements described the event as occurring in early 1969, but a U.S. News & World Report article by Steven Roberts and Matthew Cooper placed it a few days after a September 9 letter Clinton wrote to Richard Stearns, and Clinton’s autobiography places it near the end of September. Accounts also varied as to whether the meeting was a political organizing or social event, with Brown denying that the event involved any antiwar planning, and Clinton campaign staff chief Eli Segal telling Boston Globe reporter Curtis Wilkie, “We spent most of our time water skiing and eating frankfurters. . .To call this a cabal of the left is so preposterous.” However Clinton in his 2004 autobiography seemingly conceded that he “made what little contribution I could to their deliberations” about that fall’s protests:
Near the end of September, while working my way back to Oxford, I flew to Martha’s Vineyard for a reunion of anti-war activists who had worked for Gene McCarthy. Of course, I hadn’t done so. Rick Stearns invited me, I think because he knew I wanted to come and they wanted another southerner. The only other one there was Taylor Branch, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, who had just been in Georgia registering blacks to vote. . .Besides Rick and Taylor, there were four other men at the reunion whom I kept up with over the years: Sam Brown, one of the most prominent leaders of the student anti-war movement, later got involved in Colorado politics and, when I was President, served the United States with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; David Mixner, who had begun organizing fellow migrant workers at fourteen, visited me several times in England and later moved to California, where he became active in the struggle against AIDS and for gay rights, and supported me in 1992; Mike Driver became one of my most cherished friends over the next thirty years; and Eli Segal, whom I met in the McGovern campaign, became chief of staff of the Clinton-Gore campaign. . .The group was planning the next large protest, known as the Vietnam Moratorium, and I made what little contribution I could to their deliberations.
Brown, Mixner, and other eyewitnesses, including Strobe Talbott, have also described the event.
Fall 1969: Clinton Organizes London Antiwar Protests
That October, when Clinton returned to Oxford, he temporarily moved in with Richard Stearns for a couple weeks. He helped Stearns organize Americans in England for protests to be held there in solidarity with October 15 and November 15 protests the VMC and New Mobe were planning in America and other countries. An October 1992 Boston Globe article by Curtis Wilkie summarized Clinton’s recollections of his activity that fall:
In an interview with The Boston Globe last April, he said he had taken part in two demonstrations and a teach-in while a student in England.
”I remember once we did a teach-in that I was asked to participate in. . .at the London School of Economics, the University of London, one of those schools in London,” he said. “And I remember once I demonstrated around the US Embassy. I remember whatever we did around the embassy in Grosvenor Square, I remember Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward came.”
He said he later went with a group from Oxford to an antiwar demonstration in London “that I wasn't part of putting together.”
Maraniss’ article gave a similar account:
He took part in two anti-war demonstrations, helping to organize a teach-in at the University of London and serving as a marshal at a peaceful vigil outside the U.S. Embassy. . .
”The protest was relatively small and orderly and rather self-conscious as well,” said [Clinton’s roommate Douglas] Eakeley, now a lawyer in New Jersey. “Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were there, and a few hundred people. It did not require months of organizing; it was not a full-time protest movement.”
Rufford and Leppard’s Times article provided additional details:
Stepping up his campaigning against the war, Clinton joined meetings with Group 68, Americans backed by the pro-Soviet British Peace Council. Tariq Ali, the former radical student leader, described Group 68 as being on the soft wing of his hardline coalition.
In the autumn, Clinton helped organise demonstrations outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square. In the evening, protesters held a candlelit vigil attended by Jessica Mitford, the writer, and Paul Jones, the pop singer.
Clinton's role in organising that protest was a natural extension of his voluntary work for the peace movement in America. But the extent of his involvement is unclear, and not as influential as right-wing critics have alleged. “The notion that Bill was a national organiser is not accurate,” said Bersin. “He took on the chore of contacting Americans in London. He was at the edge of it.”
A month later, Clinton took part in a weekend of demonstrations near Grosvenor Square. On the first day, protesters led by Vanessa Redgrave dropped cards with the names of war victims into a black coffin. [Tom] Williamson said he and Clinton served as unpaid marshals. “We were very much part of the peaceful demonstration, rationalist approach,” he recalled.
On the second day, Clinton organised a church service to provide Americans with an alternative to more radical protests by British Marxists. He asked an American priest, Richard McSorley, to read a prayer at the service in St Mark's American church near the embassy. McSorley recalled that afterwards they paraded in front of the embassy carrying white crosses, “an indication of our desire to end the agony of Vietnam”.
Tariq Ali insists that Clinton was never prominent in the peace movement. He knew the Americans who led the marches, and after checking his records he is certain Clinton was not among them.
Two events described above can be identified as London counterparts to a pair of major demonstrations the VMC and New Mobe organized in the US and other countries that October 15 and November 15. (I have not been able to clearly identify the teach-in at the London School of Economics or University of London that Clinton and other sources refer to.) As Rufford and Leppard’s article mentions, Clinton organized these events on behalf of Group 68, a British counterpart to the VMC formed by expatriate former supporters of Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 Presidential campaign. Group 68 had emerged from the Stop It Committee, which was part of the Viet Nam Solidarity Campaign (VSC), a Trotskyist-controlled antiwar coalition financed by Bertrand Russell and led by Russell’s associates Ralph Schoenman and Tariq Ali. (For more information on Group 68 and related groups, a detailed background profile is provided below after the body of the article.)
The event Clinton remembered Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward attending took place outside the US embassy in London on October 15, 1969, the same day the VMC held its first major protest in the US, with New Mobe support. Newspaper descriptions of attendance ranged from 200 to 400, describing the crowd as mostly American. A UPI wire of the event appearing in the San Antonio Light included a photo showing Newman carrying a sign that said “Moratorium”. An Associated Press account carried by numerous papers noted that “American Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University delivered petitions to the London Embassy”. In coordination with this petition, “Forty members of the British Parliament signed a letter demanding the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam.”
The Grosvenor Square demonstration where Clinton served as a marshal was held on November 15, the day the New Mobe had scheduled the Washington, DC culmination of a multi-day event called the March Against Death, which was supported by the VMC. A UPI wire which ran in various papers the next day summarized the event:
From Tel Aviv to Manila, from London to Sydney, in Kobe, Japan, Buenos Aires and Bonn, antiwar demonstrators massed on the streets and in front of American government buildings to express their support of the second Vietnam moratorium in the United States. . .
Actress Vanessa, Redgrave and folk singers Peggy Seeger and Judy Collins were among the celebrities who joined more than 1,000 antiwar demonstrators in London in a “lie-in” in front of the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square. The group, however, was made up largely of American teen-agers and college students studying in England.
The St. Mark’s church service Rufford and Leppard refer to was another Moratorium-related ceremony held on November 16. According to Richard Stearns, as quoted by Roberts and Cooper in U.S. News & World Report, Clinton organized it “to give young Americans an alternative to a more radical event planned by British Marxists”. Clinton was spotted at the ceremony by Fr. Richard McSorley of Georgetown’s Center for Peace Studies. McSorley, who was on sabbatical visiting antiwar groups around the world, later recalled in his book Peace Eyes:
[On] Nov. 15, 1969, I participated in the British moratorium against the Vietnam War in front of the U.S. Embassy at Grosvenor Square in London. . .
That day in November about 500 Britons and Americans were meeting to express their sorrow at America's misuse of power in Vietnam. . .
The activities in London supporting the second stage of the moratorium and the March of Death in Washington, were initiated by Group 68 (Americans in Britain).This group had the support of British peace organizations, including the Committee on Nuclear Disarmament, the British Peace Council, and the International Committee for Disarmament and Peace.
The next day I joined with about 500 other people for the interdenominational service. . .As I was waiting for the ceremony to begin, Bill Clinton of Georgetown, then studying as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, came up and welcomed me. He was one of the organizers. . .
Late 1969: Clinton’s Roommates, the KGB, and the Road to Moscow
That December McSorley would again encounter Clinton in Oslo, Norway. Clinton, who had recently spent Thanksgiving vacation in Ireland with his fellow Moratorium protestor Tom Williamson, was now on his way to the Soviet Union, following in the footsteps of his new roommate Strobe Talbott.
Talbott was a Russian affairs scholar and intern journalist for TIME. He had begun visiting Moscow in 1968 and had developed contacts in the USSR. In summer 1969 he was in Moscow acting as a replacement for vacationing TIME Moscow bureau chief Jerrold Schecter. At this time he met Victor Louis (Vitali Yevgenyevich Lui), a KGB disinformation agent and talent spotter who specialized in influencing journalists and planting stories in the Western media.
For the past several years, under the control of KGB General Vyacheslav Kevorkov, Louis had been helping the KGB with damage control by acting as a sort of literary agent supervising the leaking of the memoirs of various former Soviet officials and celebrities, including Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva, former Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, and former Premier Nikita Khrushchev. In 1967, with approval from KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov, Kevorkov and Louis began seeking a publisher for Khrushchev’s memoirs. Louis first approached Jess Gorkin, editor of Parade magazine, which had run an article on an NBC documentary on Khrushchev that Louis had arranged. Parade turned down the project because it seemed too expensive. Parade chief editor Lloyd “Skip” Shearer then suggested Louis approach Talbott, his future son-in-law. Louis approached Talbott through Schecter, whom he met at a party in Moscow in August 1968. In fall 1969, Louis broached the idea of TIME publishing Khrushchev’s memoirs to Schecter. Schecter secured approval from TIME-LIFE New York news service chief of correspondents Murray Gart, then contacted Talbott to offer him the job of translating Khrushchev’s memoirs. Talbott agreed on the condition that he could enlist the help of a Russian friend from Oxford, Yasha Zaguskin, a White Russian emigre who roomed with Boris Pasternak’s sister Lydia.
Talbott then began working on the project with Louis, launching a relationship that would last until 1992. However, it was not until 1999 that Schecter met Keyorkov at a CIA conference and learned that Louis had kept the KGB informed of the Khrushchev project the whole time.
In late 1969, after staying with Richard Stearns for a couple weeks in October, Clinton began rooming with Talbott and their friend Frank Aller. Aller, a draft dodger and China scholar, was doing academic work similar to Talbott’s, making trips to Switzerland to receive the unpublished notes of Edgar Snow, an academic advocate of the Chinese Communists who was linked to the old Institute of Pacific Relations network. (In 1971 the Chinese government would use Snow to mediate an invitation to Owen Lattimore, making sure there would be no Soviet objections if Lattimore visited China.) Clinton’s autobiography recalls how he often made Talbott and Aller breakfast while they were doing their work:
After more orthodox conservative forces removed him from power and installed Brezhnev and Kosygin, Khrushchev secretly recorded his memoirs on tape, and arranged, I think through friends in the KGB, to get them to Jerry Schecter, then Time magazine’s bureau chief in Moscow. Strobe was fluent in Russian and had worked for Time in Moscow the previous summer. He flew to Copenhagen to meet Schecter and get the tapes. When he got back to Oxford, he began the laborious process of typing Khrushchev’s words out in Russian, then translating and editing them. On many mornings, I would make breakfast for Frank and Strobe as they began their work.
Schecter similarly recalled meeting Clinton shortly after Talbott got the Khrushchev assignment:
Before leaving London, I also spent a day with Strobe at Oxford and met his long-haired, amiable housemate, Bill Clinton, who prepared omlets for our breakfast. I never asked Strobe how he told Bill about his new assignment.
Talbott was again in Moscow about the same time Clinton was there in 1970, though he insisted he did not travel there with Clinton, a Boston Herald article by Wayne Woodlief and Joe Battenfeld mentions. A dozen other Rhodes Scholars also followed up Talbott’s visit to Moscow by going there in 1969-1970, Maraniss’ article notes.
After Khrushchev’s memoirs were published, Khrushchev issued a nuanced denial of their authenticity, Soviet news agencies claimed Talbott was “a young sapling of the CIA”, and the Soviets refused to allow Talbott back in the country. Western Soviet expert Victor Zorza speculated that both the KGB and the CIA’s disinformation departments may have played tug-of-war over the memoirs.
When Clinton later nominated Talbott for Deputy Secretary of State, Talbott was questioned about his relationship with Louis. He initially claimed he met Louis in the 1970s, then under cross-examination he remembered that he had actually first met Louis in 1969.
(Talbott’s brother-in-law Derek Shearer later developed numerous Communist and IPS front associations and became one of Clinton’s closest advisors. Other Shearer family members also became part of the extended Clinton clan.)
Winter 1969-1970: Back in the USSR
Clinton’s trip to Moscow took him through Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. According to his autobiography, he left for Amsterdam with his artist friend Aimee Gautier. After some sightseeing they had a museum encounter with Rudolf Nureyev, a ballet dancer who had defected from the Soviet Union.
Clinton says he left Gautier in Amsterdam and got on the train for Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm. McSorley saw him at the train station in Oslo. McSorley, who was coming from Uppsala, Sweden, said Clinton “had been on the same train”.
At Clinton’s request, McSorley allowed him to come along on a visit to the Institute for Peace Research. They were given a tour by the Institute’s Assistant Director and met three conscientious objectors working there. They went on to visit Oslo University, where they lunched with a professor and visited a peace center founded by two actors.
Clinton then went by himself to meet Jim Durham, a friend from Arkansas who was studying in Oslo.
Leaving Norway, Clinton went on by train to Stockholm, Sweden for a couple days, then took an overnight ferry to Helsinki, Finland. There he spent about two days over Christmas with Georgetown classmate Richard Shullaw, whose father J. Harold Shullaw was deputy chief of mission of the US embassy in Finland.
Clinton then continued by train through Leningrad to Moscow. In Moscow, where he arrived on New Year’s Eve, he had booked through the Soviet travel agency Intourist to spend a week at the expensive Hotel National. His autobiography says the only person he knew in Moscow was Tom Williamson’s girlfriend Anik “Nikki” Alexis, a daughter of a French diplomat who was now studying at the Patrice Lumumba Peoples' Friendship University, a KGB training ground famed for turning out alumni such as the terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Clinton recalls, “One night I took a bus out to Lumumba University to have dinner with Nikki and some of her friends. One of them was a Haitian woman named Helene whose husband was studying in Paris.” On the bus back home Clinton says there was only one other passenger, Oleg Rakito, who “spoke better English than I did” and “asked me lots of questions and told me he worked for the government, virtually admitting he was assigned to keep an eye on me”.
Perhaps referring to Alexis and her friends, Rufford and Leppard recorded that Clinton visited “friends at Moscow University”.. Maraniss stated that he met many of the same contacts previously made by Talbott and other Oxford Rhodes Scholars. Roberts and Cooper reported that he spent most of his time visiting with members of an American delegation which was there to discuss an exchange of American prisoners of war with Soviet and North Vietnamese officials. This delegation also made contact with other nations’ embassies in Moscow. One of the delegates, Charlie Daniels, stayed at the same hotel as Clinton. He remembered that Clinton always seemed to be out of money and hungry, and was often fed by the delegation. In his autobiography Clinton elaborated on his contact with Daniels’ group:
My most interesting Moscow adventure began with a chance encounter in the hotel elevator. When I got in, there were four other men in the car. One of them was wearing a Virginia Lions Club pin. He obviously thought I was a foreigner, with my long hair and beard, rawhide boots, and British navy pea jacket. He drawled, “Where you from?” When I smiled and said, “Arkansas,” he replied, “Shoot, I thought you were from Denmark or someplace like that!” The man’s name was Charlie Daniels. He was from Norton, Virginia, hometown of Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot who had been shot down and captured in Russia in 1960. He was accompanied by Carl McAfee, a lawyer from Norton who had helped to arrange Powers’s release, and a chicken farmer from Washington State, Henry Fors, whose son had been shot down in Vietnam. They had come all the way to Moscow to see if the North Vietnamese stationed there would tell the farmer whether his son was dead or alive. The fourth man was from Paris and, like the men from Virginia, a member of the Lions Club. He had joined them because the North Vietnamese spoke French. They all just came to Moscow without any assurances that the Russians would permit them to talk with the Vietnamese or that, if they did, any information would be forthcoming. None of them spoke Russian. They asked if I knew anyone who could help them. My old friend Nikki Alexis was studying English, French, and Russian at Patrice Lumumba University. I introduced her to them and they spent a couple of days together making the rounds, checking in with the American embassy, asking the Russians to help, finally seeing the North Vietnamese, who apparently were impressed that Mr. Fors and his friends would make such an effort to learn the fate of his son and several others who were missing in action. They said they would check into it and get back to them. A few weeks later, Henry Fors learned that his son had been killed when his plane was shot down. At least he had some peace of mind.
The delegation Clinton met sounds like it may have been related to the activities of the Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam (COLIFAM), an antiwar group formed in summer 1969 which negotiated POW exchanges in return for pro-Communist propaganda statements. However this is only informed speculation that has not been verified.
Clinton stayed in Moscow about five days. Several accounts say he left via the Soviet airline Aeroflot, but Clinton says “Nikki and her Haitian friend Helene put me on the train”.
In either case, Clinton’s next stop was Prague, Czechoslovakia, where he arrived on January 6, 1970. There he looked up the family of his Oxford friend Jan Kopold. Kopold’s family was well-connected in Czech Communist circles. Clinton received a guided tour of Prague from Marie Svermova, the widow of Czech Communist Party hero Jan Sverma, who was Jan Kopold’s grandfather. In 1969 the Kopolds ostensibly held dissident political views against the ruling regime, which had grown unpopular among reformers and student activists after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia the previous year.
Clinton stayed in Czechoslovakia through January 12. According to his account, he then went on to Munich, West Germany to visit his friend Rudy Lowe and celebrate Faschingsfest, a Carnival Season festival with costumes similar to Mardis Gras or Halloween.
On January 19 Clinton arrived back at Oxford, according to a letter he wrote the Kopolds four days later. He remained at Oxford into the summer. He spent spring break in Spain with Rick Stearns in April. In late May he was accepted into Yale Law School, and he left for New York on June 26, 1970.
Conclusion: Directions for Further Research
During Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign, much of the above information was publicized, but newspaper articles and government files on the antiwar movement were not available online for cross-referencing, archives documenting Soviet disinformation campaigns and their relation to Victor Louis’ activities were not as available as they are now, and the background of Group 68 and its role in the fall 1969 Moratorium protests were not explored in depth. Today, with the benefit of online research tools, it may be possible to delve further into the matter.
One possible direction for further research is suggested by the Johnson administration’s surveillance of Senator Fulbright and his staff. Given Johnson’s relationship with the various segments of the US intelligence community at that time, it is likely that he assigned this surveillance to not only the FBI but also military intelligence and the CIA. Did the surveillance of Fulbright’s staff by the FBI or other US agencies generate any information on Clinton? Likewise, did the Soviets have any files on Fulbright which Western intelligence has since obtained?
Did US intelligence surveillance of the VMC or New Mobe generate any information on Clinton?
Did US or UK intelligence monitor Clinton’s activity in Britain? (Articles on Thomas Culver’s courtmartial, described in the appendix below, mention that Air Force intelligence officers photographed protestors at antiwar events near Lakenheath Air Force base and the US embassy there in 1971. Was Clinton also photographed at the antiwar events he participated in near the US embassy in London in 1969?)
Do Soviet archives obtained by Western intelligence, or the East German intelligence files obtained by the CIA, or the extensive Polish intelligence files publicized in 2005, include any information relevant to the relationship between Victor Louis and Strobe Talbott, and Clinton? What about Edgar Snow and Frank Aller?
Is there any information available on the antiwar movement in Oslo relevant to Clinton’s visit there?
What did Soviet and US intelligence files record about Clinton’s visit with his friends from Patrice Lumumba Peoples' Friendship University?
Were Clinton’s Czechoslovakian or German contacts mentioned in any of the East German intelligence files that German intelligence requested back from the CIA when Clinton was President?
And finally, is it coincidental or significant that three years after Bill Clinton co-organized a fall 1969 London antiwar demonstration attended by Jessica Mitford, his future wife Hillary took a job interning for Mitford’s husband Robert Treuhaft, who like Mitford was a former member of the Communist Party and still active in left-wing political activity?
As in 1992, there are still more questions than answers. But as more information becomes available, the questions keep getting more interesting.
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Appendix: Who Was Group 68?
The involvement of Group 68 in the London Moratorium protests Clinton helped organize is noteworthy and worth some background elaboration. Group 68 was cofounded by Heinz Norden, who had been dismissed from a sensitive US Army position after US intelligence discovered he had a background with Communist Party union and antiwar activity. Like Norden, Group 68 became involved with Communist activity, working closely with Marxist groups organizing antiwar activity among US soldiers.
Cofounder of Group 68: Heinz Norden
Heinz Norden had been born in Britain in 1905 to a family of German descent. After receiving his education in Germany, Norden relocated to the US in 1924 to escape Germany’s economic depression. In New York he organized a pair of tenant unions which worked in coalition with the Communist Party on both tenant and foreign policy issues. Norden’s Citywide Tenants Council (CWTC) followed the twists of the Soviet party line as World War II approached, opposing US involvement in the war while the Soviets were allied with the Nazis, then doing an about-face after Germany attacked Russia.
Swept up by newfound patriotism, Norden joined the US Army in 1941. He stayed in Germany after the war to work for Army intelligence, editing the official U.S. German-language magazine Heute. In 1947 his tenant organizing background came under scrutiny and he was dismissed from his position. While spending the next few years battling his dismissal in federal court, Norden went into editorial and advertising work that took him to Europe. In 1961 he relocated to Britain, where he came into the orbit of an antiwar network centered around academic celebrity Bertrand Russell.
Norden, Bertrand Russell, Tariq Ali, and Clinton
As an editor, Norden had worked with Albert Einstein’s estate executor Otto Nathan on the 1960 book Einstein on Peace, which featured a preface by Russell. Russell, who had been active in the antiwar movement since World War I, had recently been circulating a manifesto with the late Einstein’s name on it to promote various groups and events disseminating nuclear disarmament propaganda.
Russell soon became a leading influence on the Vietnam antiwar movement in Britain and the US. In April 1963 a letter published by Russell’s in the New York Times accusing the US of using napalm and chemical warfare in Vietnam prompted US antiwar leaders A.J. Muste and David Dellinger to publicly refer to Vietnam for the first time, during an Easter anti-nuclear demonstration. This action, which departed from the current party line of SANE and other US antiwar groups, was one of the earliest Vietnam War protests in the US. (The earliest seems to have been some protests by Young Socialist Alliance demonstrators at Berkeley in March 1962.) Russell sent a taped greeting to another early US antiwar protest, the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC) Teach-in at Berkeley in May 1965.
In 1963 Russell had also formed the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, which accused the US and its allies of war crimes in Vietnam. Russell echoed these allegations on North Vietnamese radio broadcasts to US troops in May 1966, calling for an International War Crimes Tribunal to investigate alleged US war crimes in Vietnam. The Tribunal, which began under the aegis of Russell’s Foundation and spun off into an independent entity, was sponsored by the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam (aka World Conference on Vietnam), a Soviet front group set up by World Peace Council chairman Romesh Chandra, a KGB agent. Attendees at the second session of the Tribunal included Wilfred Burchett, a journalist named as a KGB agent in sworn Senate testimony.
Russell’s Tribunal interacted with American antiwar groups. In 1969 it became the inspiration for a pair of US counterparts: the Citizens' Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes (CCI); and the Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI), organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). In June 1971 CCI and VVAW sent representatives to a gathering of Russell’s Tribunal in Oslo, with a detour through Moscow along the way.
Russell’s American allies also included Americans in Britain. In 1967 a group of antiwar Americans in Britain organized the Stop It Committee: Americans in Britain for United States Withdrawal from Vietnam. (The choice of name apparently reflected planning for the Stop the Draft Week demonstration at the Pentagon in October 1967, which also spawned a Stop the Draft Week Committee.) The committee formed part of a Trotskyist-controlled coalition called the Viet Nam Solidarity Campaign (VSC), which was financed by Russell and directed by Russell’s secretary Ralph Schoenman. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1967 the VSC organized “the Battle of Grosvenor Square”, a violent attack on the US embassy in London.
The VSC’s most vocal spokesman was former Oxford Union debate club president Tariq Ali, who also represented Russell at events sponsored by his Tribunal. In 1968 Ali joined the International Marxist Group (IMG), the British section of the international Trotskyist group the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI). He would later head the Transnational Institute (TNI), the European affiliate of IPS. He was a leading figure in the antiwar movement in Britain at the time Clinton arrived there.
Rufford and Leppard’s Times article noted that it was at Oxford’s “Union debating society”, which Ali had presided over, where “Clinton's eyes were opened to the depth of feeling provoked by Vietnam”. Rufford and Leppard quoted Ali describing Group 68 as “being on the soft wing of his hardline coalition”. Ali insisted that Clinton was not a major figure in his coalition and that he could not find any records mentioning Clinton as one of the Americans leading marches.
The American Antiwar Network in Britain, Group 68, and Clinton
During the 1968 US Presidential campaign, the American antiwar community in Britain formed Americans Abroad for McCarthy, a committee to support antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy. McCarthy’s campaign did not survive the Democratic National Convention, and Americans Abroad for McCarthy was renamed Group 68: Americans in Britain for United States Withdrawal from Southeast Asia (preserving a modified version of the full name of the Stop It Committee). Norden cofounded Group 68 and chaired the organization from 1968 to 1973.
Group 68 survived McCarthy’s unsuccessful campaign by diversifying into other activities, such as organizing protests, disseminating propaganda, and supporting draft resisters and antiwar GI’s.
In these efforts Group 68 worked with a coalition of British antiwar groups that included the British Peace Council, a UK affiliate of the WPC. As McSorley notes, the British Peace Council supported the November 1969 antiwar ceremony where he saw Clinton acting as an organizer. McSorley also refers to the “Committee on Nuclear Disarmament”, possibly referring to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), an anti-nuclear group Russell cofounded.
Clinton’s fellow Rhodes Scholar Alan Bersin specified that Clinton’s organizational function was “contacting Americans in London”. This fits with Group’s 68’s roots in the Stop It Committee and Americans Abroad for McCarthy, which served the function of coordinating American antiwar activity in Britain.
Group 68 After Clinton: 1970-1978
The character and connections of Group 68 are further illuminated by consideration of the group’s activity after Clinton left Oxford for Yale in 1970.
In 1971 Group 68 joined Berrigan brothers lawyer Paul O’Dwyer in championing the cause of Captain Thomas S. Culver, a US Air Force JAG legal officer facing courtmartial. Culver had come from a pacifist family and had been opposed to the Vietnam War before enlisting, but he had not seen his legal duties as contributing to the war effort. He was court-martialed after he participated in antiwar activity near Lakenheath Royal Air Force base during a May 31, 1971 assembly attended by several hundred US Air Force personnel.
Many of the demonstrators belonged to the GI antiwar group PEACE (People Emerging Against Corrupt Establishment), which had branches at eight US Air Force bases in Britain. PEACE had been founded at a June 1970 antiwar meeting organized by actress Vanessa Redgrave, a member of the Trotskyist group the Workers’ Revolutionary Party. It was mentioned above that Redgrave participated in the November 1969 Moratorium demonstrations Clinton attended. Redgrave financed PEACE, and she participated in the May 1971 event that occasioned Culver’s court-martial.
Culver was providing legal counsel to PEACE members participating in the event. He and his fellow protestors attempted to create a precedent establishing a loophole in laws against soldiers demonstrating in uniform. They did not wear their uniforms, and they attempted to claim they were not actually “demonstrating” but only “petitioning”. They stayed on the fringes of the crowd and avoided banners and speeches, and instead went silently to the US embassy in separate small groups to turn in an antiwar petition.
Culver lost his case, and he was convicted of participating in the demonstration and of inciting others to do the same. He was sentenced leniently to a $1,000 fine, avoiding the maximum possible sentence of four years hard labor and a dishonorable discharge. At the time of his sentencing he planned to leave the Air Force to become a lawyer for servicemen in the UK. Following announcement of his sentence, PEACE held an August 1 demonstration protesting the Air Force’s policy.
Heinz Norden’s papers on Group 68 include a folder on the World Assembly for the Peace and Independence of the Peoples of Indochina, a WPC-sponsored conference held in Paris in February 1972. The assembly was attended by representatives of the US Communist Party and its antiwar coalition, the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice (PCPJ), including representatives of VVAW. Following this event, Group 68 joined l50 other groups in organizing the Vietnam Vigil to End the War, a year-long daily protest in front of the US Embassy in London.
In 1973 Group 68 took up the cause of Captain Michael J. Heck, a US Air Force pilot facing courtmartial. Like Culver, Heck came from a pacifist family and had been opposed to the Vietnam War prior to his enlistment. Facing the prospect of being drafted, he joined officer’s candidate school in the hopes of avoiding combat, but to his dismay he ended up getting assigned to B-52 bombing missions. He grudgingly flew 175 bombing missions, but after Christmas 1972, Heck informed his superiors that he refused to fly any more. In February 1973, shortly after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement in Paris, the Air Force accepted the resignations of Heck and another pilot who had recently refused a bombing mission, Dwight J. Evans, Jr. Following his resignation, Heck told reporters that he was discharged under undisclosed “other than honorable conditions” and planned to appeal with help from his ACLU counsel, Marvin Karpatkin.
With the Vietnam War ending, Group 68 changed its name in 1974 to Concerned Americans Abroad (CAA). CAA remained active until 1978, working with other leftover antiwar groups, such as the VVAW offshoot Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization (VVAW/WSO). CAA also partnered with antiwar elements of the US Democratic Party, which organized voters in Britain as Democrats Abroad (UK) and sent a representative to the 1976 Democratic National Convention. CAA and its allies campaigned for a range of causes which included the release of political prisoners, amnesty for draft dodgers, the impeachment of President Nixon, the abolition of the CIA, and the defense of renegade CIA agent Philip Agee and his journalist colleague Marc Hosenball (now with Newsweek), who were facing deportation proceedings for disclosing classified information about UK signals intelligence operations. Recent disclosures have confirmed that at this time Agee was cooperating with Soviet and Cuban intelligence to expose CIA operations.
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