Andy Martin: The Cold War is back in vogue
Andy Martin says that Russian spy rings, coded messages, Mata Hari agents, lavish living and “non-official cover” herald a return to the glory days of the Cold War. “Anna Chapman” will be 33 years old by the time she hits the streets; will we trade “our” Russkie prisoners for some of theirs? Will the Reds grab someone to use as trading bait? Are “Law and Order” actors standing by to make the movie, on location in New York? Stay tuned.
Internet powerhouse Andy Martin remembers growing up during the Cold War
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Andy Martin says the arrest of a “Russian spy ring” in New York does not mean we are heading back into a new Cold War
But Andy reminisces on what a fascinating era the Cold War really was
(NEW YORK)(June 30, 2010) Going from my sophomore to my junior year in college I had a problem. How could I tell my ROTC officers I had no interest in being a pilot? One officer, Major J. D. Faulk, had been a Korean War fighter pilot. He wanted to see me in the cockpit. I was rated “1-P” for potential pilot training.
But I had grown up in a family where he clandestine operations were the rule, not the uniformed services. I had studied the day-to-day progress of the French Indochina War. I was heartbroken when Dien Bien Phu fell. At a time when a lot of my contemporaries were practicing their batting stance for Little League, I was studying the mysterious “CIA.”
When my family moved to London and then Oxford, I learned about the Hungarian Revolution, from those who had escaped.
I met my first Russian spies over forty years ago. In Vientiane, Laos. Although the CIA operated a “secret army” in Laos, the military operations were no secret to the Russkies (as we then called them). Vientiane was possibly the “Casablanca” of the Viet-Nam era. Everyone was there. And even the U. S. ambassador to Laos, William Sullivan, was a spymaster. There was even a very low key American “village” in Vientiane, Kilometer 6, where more than a few spooks kicked back at cocktail hour.
The Cold War indeed was “something else.” The fear of war, the prospect of war, the preparation for war overshadowed everything. And then there was Viet-Nam. Viet-Nam was the realization of all of our fears. And the creation of new ones. It’s hard to believe now, but over 200 Americans were dying a week during the fiercest fighting.
One of the most interesting operations of the Viet-Nam war was the effort to spy on North and South Vietnamese spies who had infiltrated the local media. How to find them? Use a pigeon.
Many of my contemporaries had focused on Europe and the threat from the “east.” They ended up in Germany.
I was fascinated by China and eventually studied Chinese. When I landed in Hong Kong I fell in love with the place. My apartment was a short walk from the Hong Kong Hilton (since demolished), where everyone on the island met at some point during the week. The “Suzie Wong” area of Hong Kong (Wanchai) was still seedy and dangerous. Today it’s another version of “restaurant row.”
The Communist Chinese (or “Chicoms”), of course, were “inscrutable,” while the Russkies were merely bullies, maybe even thugs.
During the Cold War there really were “secrets.” Spy satellites had not yet been invented. And the U-2 had not yet been shot down. People actually had to go in, mooch about and look-see. And get out alive.
I was only a second generation cold warrior. It was our World War II parents who were “present at the creation” of the Cold War. Security concerns were everywhere. My mother worked with someone who was distantly related to the “atom spy” Rosenbergs. There was no “clearance” for anyone however remotely related to the R’bergs. “Keep an eye on her.”
The way it was explained to me, spying and special operations was almost a family business. My father had been in special ops; his father had been a spy. My mother’s grandfather was a double agent. My mother had worked for an intelligence agency. After listening to stories about spies and clandestine operations, who wanted to sit in a cockpit?
Spying and intelligence operations are among the most dangerous national security activities. A solider, sailor or airman always knows when he (she) is in uniform, that uniform and a team will protect him. A CIA “case officer” is usually attached to a diplomatic mission under a title such as “State Department—agricultural research liaison” or something like that. They enjoy diplomatic immunity. Risky business, but not too risky.
And then there are the people who are “out there.” Officially, they are called working under “non-official cover” or “NOC.” In reality, if someone working NOC gets caught, they’re caught. Or worse. One of the reasons the Valerie Plame controversy became such a serious issue in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion was that Plame had worked NOC. Exposing who Plame was also exposed everyone she had ever stopped to have a cup of coffee with. When Plame was “outed,” others were automatically endangered.
And now we come to this week’s “New York Russian spy ring.” Since the nation of Russia is unofficially led by a former KGB spy, Vladimir Putin, and Putin in turn has saturated his government with a platoon of retired “spooks,” what do you expect? Once a spook, always a spook. If anyone believes in spies, Putin does. And, of course, he immediately denied that there were any Russian spies in New York. Who? Me? Spies? Who are they? “Comrade, we have no spies in America.”
The Russian spy ring (we can’t call them a “Soviet” spy ring because the Soviet Union no longer exists) is an example of both classic “burrowing” and NOC. The spies lived openly, although at least one of them apparently had a stolen identify from a deceased Canadian. At least the Russkies were smarter than the Israelis, who recently committed a murder in Dubai and used “secret” agents who were using stolen identities of living people. Not too smart.
The New York spies seem to have been burrowing. You “burrow” when you slowly blend in to the background, when you become part of your surroundings, when there is nothing to do but do nothing. Maybe watch the grass grow. And wait for the day when you are activated. Great Britain’s MI6 used to be the master of burrowing. British spies always blended into the background. 6’ers would also be NOC. MI6 spied on the Nazis, in New York, before World War II.
The bottom line: governments will always spy on each other, sometimes in the open, sometimes clandestinely. Friends spy on friends. We spy on the Israelis, and they spy on us. Sometimes we catch them. Jonathan Pollard has spent 30 years in jail because he was bribed by Israel to spy against the United States. Why would we not expect the Russians to plant a spy or two under NOC? We put spies in our embassies. And of course we put spies out on the street. Alone. NOC.
Spymasters have learned through bitter experience that when you don’t spy, you end up in a jam. The Shah of Iran did not allow the CIA to operate in Iran. Foolishly, in large part we obeyed his demand. When Iran fell, there was no clandestine operation to activate. There was nothing. We had to start from scratch.
The only good thing about the Russian spy ring in New York? The movie can be filmed on location. “Law and Order” actors are standing by. And “Anna Chapman” is a pretty attractive “Natasha.” It’s enough to make you want to be compromised. Martinis anyone?
ABOUT ANDY: Andy Martin is the legendary New York and Chicago-based muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of broadcasting background in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He is currently promoting his best-selling book, “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” and his Internet movie “Obama: The Hawai’i years.” Martin has been a leading corruption fighter in Illinois for over forty years. He is currently sponsoring http://www.AmericaisReadyforReform.com
Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” http://www.ContrarianCommentary.com. He comments on regional, national and world events with more than four decades of investigative and overseas experience. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).
Andy’s columns are also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com.
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