BETWEEN TWO WORLDS – The Radicalization of a Conservative
1965: THE YEAR BEFORE 1966, which was the year the VietnamWar was going to end. American troops would be home by Christmas. Theystayed, as it turned out. The next year the Sydney Bulletin claimed the Americanshad already won the war but were keeping quiet about it so that PresidentJohnson could spring the news to guarantee re-election.
Tet ended that idea . . . if it ever existed.
In short, a lot of people were wrong about Vietnam in 1965, including my-self. I had resigned from the Department of External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs) in September of that year because I disagreed with official Vietnam andChina policies. But like my EA colleagues I was convinced the United States could win in Vietnam. It was merely a race against time. The intense U.S. killing would wipe out the revolutionary core in South Vietnam, but in theprocess the West would come to realize the immorality of its killing-that it was opposing a genuine nationalist movement to protect a corrupt regime. Everything had to be done to hasten that realization.
It was a vain hope. Western understanding of what was happening in Vietnam took far longer than I ever imagined. (I greatly over-estimated the morality of our opinion-makers and ideologues). If anything, the Vietnam protest movement might have prolonged the war since the policy-makers had an extra incentive to prove theywere right.
But in 1965 it was still early enough for EA to regard my one-man protest as something slightly eccentric rather than the inherently treasonable thing it was. As our ‘best and brightest’ saw things, only a fool would want to doubt U.S. aims in Vietnam. The closest I got to sympathy was in a farewell talk with the then head of the department’s administration. He was far enough to the left to have identified with the dozen or so EA men who had opposed Australian support for the British over Suez, but could not understand why anyone would want to resign over Vietnam. He put it tactfully: ‘Greg, some of us thought of resigning in 1956 over Suez. But surely you agree that would have been a mistake, and that wehave been far more effective working to change things from the inside.’
It was a measure of my naïveté that it took me a year to think of an answer. Suez lasted one week and never involved Australians in the killing of others;Vietnam would last years with Australians joining in some of the most barbarous killing the world has seen. The concerned Western liberal who could understand and oppose the immorality, of the Suez, intervention had not even begun to understand the far greater immorality of Vietnam. Working from the inside for the past few years had meant, for me, watching helplessly while intelligent men wallowed in the anti-China hysterias that had already led directly to Vietnam.
Paradoxically, Suez had been the chance beginning of the political education that had brought me to my 1965 decision to resign. I was a typical product of a strongly anti-communist Catholic Brisbane upbringing. From there I had gone on to the apolitical apathy of an English university in the mid-fifties. I had drifted into External Affairs – it happened to be one job a graduate in England could be interviewed for before going back to Australia. On a in ship headed for home I found myself stranded two days away from Suez when the 1956 fighting began. For the first time in my life I was forced to take a foreign affairs issue seriously, and so far as I could tell the British action was absolutely correct – even if it did mean I had to spend an extra two weeks on a ship detoured around the Cape of Good Hope.
On arriving in Canberra I became aware that there was also an articulate left wing opposition to the Suez adventure. It did not worry me too much; my Brisban eeducation had warned me about ‘those people’. But one of my first jobs was dealingwith the Suez aftermath in EA’s United Nations section. I was told to add up the guerrilla attacks on Israel which we were using to justify our anti-Arab stand. Evenin those biased days I could appreciate the illogicality of condemning the otherside’s violence after the much greater violence of one’s own side. Equally disturbing was the fact that the Egyptians seemed to he running the canal efficiently. I had always accepted that the British had had to intervene since non-Europeans could not be trusted with the running of, something so complex and vital.
But these first glimmerings of foreign affairs understanding soon languished.Training for External Affairs entrants was strongly European oriented: we studied French, and were told to read Western texts on international law, development economics and diplomatic practice. Men who became too involved with Asia or other backward areas-by learning a language, or staying on for extended postings-were regarded as slightly eccentric. Over-interest in these exotic parts of the worldwas seen as bad for one’s career. What the department wanted was broad generalists and not narrow specialists, we were told. The theory was that if you trained a man broadly he would be able to cope with anything from Asian revolutions and U.N. resolutions to embassy car-pools and diplomatic receptions.Asia was messy and mysterious. Asians were shy, bewildered people who occasionallyarrived in Canberra for training or conferences. I was probably worse than the others, thanks to my European education. Only after I began to learn Chinese was I forced to think seriously about Asia.
Nor was the move to learn Chinese a sign of some sudden enlightenment.Trainees in External Affairs spent their first year rotating through the various sections before being allocated to a section where they worked until their first overseas posting. The second year found me in the overseas aid section. It was a good opportunity to learn at first-hand something of the waste and paternalism that passes for foreign aid. But it was also a place where people tended to stay for long periods before being moved on. By the end of the year my one hope of a Moscow posting was still as far away as ever. (At the beginning of the year I had enrolled for a course in Russian. A long holiday in Yugoslavia earlier had given me an interest in Slav culture. I also reckoned it would be one way to guarantee a Moscow posting if and when our Embassy, closed after the Petrov incident, reopened. No one else at my level knew Russian.)
In December 1958, a circular landed on my desk calling for volunteers to learn Chinese I had little interest in either China or its language, but I saw it as on.way to get out of Canberra so I put my name down to keep open the option.The decision was made for me. No one else was interested and a month later I was on my way to the bleak Point Cook language school outside Melbourne
To learn Chinese is to suffer a revolution of the soul There is the sheer difficulty of the language and the feeling of childish helplessness as you grope for ways to express yourself. There is the discovery of new values and the extent to which ou rown values are the biased products of our Western society. In my case it was enough to collapse an already crumbling Catholicism. You are forced to realize that a large slice of the human race manages and has managed its affairs perfectly well without the help of Western genius. You even begin to doubt that genius as you realize there is probably not a single Westerner who can handle Chinese to the standard we expect thousands of Chinese to handle English.
Chinese was also the means for me to note the bias in so much of what passes for intelligent foreign affairs comment in the West. I remember well my first newspaper translation from Chinese – a Peoples Daily article on the border dispnte with Burma, with China repeating the important concessions it was prepared to offer. At the time we were being told, that big China was trying to bully little Burma into concessions. Presumably the commentators had read the article in translationand had dismissed it as cunning propaganda. Somehow it is much harder to do this when you read in the original; when you are forced to realize that the writer is another human being and that he may be trying to communicate with sincerity. In this, as in many subsequent cases; I was to find that the Chinese did mean what they were saying. Burma got its concessions.
ONE YEAR AT POINT COOK led to two years in Hong Kong, where I was to have a similar experience with the spoken language. Divorced from ‘direct contact with Chinese, the non-Chinese-speaking China-watchers could indulge happily in their various anti-China fantasies. It is a lot different when you have to sit face-to-face with a refugee from China and he/she tells you that China in 1949 had no choice but to turn to communism. Or you meet a teenage girl who has come to Hong Kong from Tientsin to join her family and she says frankly that she preferred life inChina. Or you discover an illiterate woman who left six children behind in Shanghai in 1949 and who finds they have all gone through university or technical college.
True, some of the Chinese I came to know in Hong Kong were upset by what was happening in China under communism. I understand now what they meant.But you could not ignore the genuine attempts by the Chinese to create a better society, at least before the Great Leap Forward. Nor could you ignore the alternative at the time-the grinding inequality and corruption of Taiwan and Hong Kong.In any case it was not up to me to decide what was best for the Chinese. They had done that earlier by a truly remarkable revolution.
Working in External Affairs’ small Hong Kong office produced my first direct clash with the official line. One genius, on hearing Peking’s standard claim that 90 per cent of the population supported communism, drew Canberra’s attention to the fact that even the communists admitted there were sixty million potential anti-communist revolutionaries inside China. After occasional trips to Taiwan I would report on what I had seen of the repression of Taiwanese nationalists. This caused a few mutterings from the pro-Taiwan camp. But no one objected to my saying what I thought. Stephen FitzGerald, who followed me to Hong Kong, was to be declared virtually persona non grata by Taiwan for doing the same thing, a move that Canberra never protested about as it should have.
The student honeymoon with China quickly ended when I returned to Canberra early in 1962 to work on the China desk. As desk officer one collects information and prepares the first draft of departmental submissions–those holy documents which pass up through the bureaucracy for chop and change. My first experience was disastrous. Asked to draft a brief for an ANZUS conference I thought I could suggest that if China really was as dangerous as we were claiming, then we shouldwelcome a peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the mainland since this wouldhelp to soften Chinese attitudes. That sort of argument lasted all of five minutes.
Then there was a brief moment of hope when Keith Wailer arrived from Moscow to take over our division. Wailer had spoken openly of how his stay as ambassador in Moscow had convinced him we should be more understanding of the reasons Soviet leaders gave for their policies. He let it be known that he would approach China in the same way. His resolution lasted all of one week. Either he decidedChina really was the aggressive monster that the others claimed, or else he decidedit would be politically unwise to bother too much about these things. I suspect the latter, though he was to emerge as a seemingly complete hard-liner on Vietnam and China during his later spell as ambassador in Washington.
But my real blooding did not come until late in 1962. The first clashes on theSino-Indian border had begun; one did not need to do much homework to realizethat the Indians were mainly responsible. They had rejected a very generous compromise offer from Peking (branded by Taiwan as a betrayal of Chinese interests). They were pushing troops into areas the Chinese were trying to de-militarize. When they foolishly tried to advance into Dhola strip, north even of the line they claimed as the border, they obviously were inviting Chinese retaliation.They got it.
All this excitement set Canberra into immediate denunciations of Chinese ‘aggression’. But the government also had to decide just how and when it would send arms to India., as Menzies had promised. This gave me a chance to prepare a detailed submission on the dispute, pointing out that India was not completely blameless andthat if we had to give weapons then we should try to impose a condition that India negotiate seriously with China for a border settlement. Otherwise we would beinvolved in a never-ending conflict with China. Fortunately I had some CIA material to confirm my points about Indian misbehaviour along the disputedborder. This, rather than my persuasiveness, helped to get the submission through to branch head level. But it got no further: it was killed by the then head of South Asia branch who was later our ambassador in Saigon. His powerful argument for rejecting the submission? ‘I fail to see that it is not in the Western interest to see the Chinese and the Indians at each others’ throats,’ he wrote.
No, 1962 was not a good year. But the time was not wasted. I had come to know some Chinese in Canberra and for the first time was able to use the language in living situations, something that had been difficult in Hong Kong where Europeans and Chinese are separated by the subtle colonial barrier. Discovering the ease of learning the language through daily use was an experience that stayed with me for a long time. Also I was told that I would gain the posting to Moscow I had wanted three years earlier. My China-watching had been frustrated by the impossibility of going to China and finding out directly how people lived andthought under communism. In Moscow I would be able to find out these things at first hand.
At this point the reader will have noted a major contradiction in my narrative .If I was so rebellious on China policy why would External Affairs be willing tosend me to a sensitive post like Moscow? True, I was still too junior, and my radicalism too slight, for anyone to bother too much. More important, though, was the EA tradition of tolerating dissent so long as it remained in the club, which was where I belonged at the time. And it could be a fairly wide tolerance. I had access to the highly secret information we used to receive regularly from the Americans. I was sent to Melbourne to brief and be briefed by the then highly secret ASIS. Toward the end of the Moscow posting my promotion to first secretary came through on time. From Moscow I was supposed to go to a quite senior position with our UN delegation in New York.
Nor was it just myself who was tolerated. Nothing was done to discriminate against the small group which had protested against our Suez policy. Indonesian policy and the West Irian question were also to throw up a few dissenters whonever seemed to suffer for their views. Conversely, ideologues on the cold-war right never seemed to be particularly favoured. If there was an ideological main-stream in External Affairs it was progressive, liberal, anti-communist, to strain -afew terms. The anti-Stalinist debates of the late 1940s had pushed many of themore intelligent to an intellectual rejection of communism and its works. This wasstrengthened by the allegedly bad days of the Evatt régime in the department. Thenthere were those who had been involved on the spot in the Asian pro-communist/anti-communist conflicts. Like the ‘Kennedy liberals’ over Vietnam, their intel-lectualism and humanity was wide enough to let them identify strongly with theanti-communist side without projecting far enough to understand the motives forthe pro-communist side in these conflicts. James Plimsoll, who had been at Seoulduring the Korean war, was a good example.(*See Meanjin Quarterly 2/1973: ‘The End of the Ice Age? A letter to Russel Ward’, by Dr John W. Burton, one-time Secretary of External Affairs Dept.)
As High Commissioner in Delhi in 1964 he had taken it on himself to recruit the Indian government as an ally in Vietnam-a stupid – and fruitless task if ever there were one. But even as External Affairs permanent head shortly after, he instituted no witch-hunt.
The one qualification was that the dissent remained in the family. Like its UKparent, External Affairs saw itself as something superior to other branches of the public service. And once you admitted your diplomats might succumb to the ideological enemy, how could you draw the superiority line? Students of the Burgess, McLean and Philby affairs will know what I mean. But it was very different if a man felt he should translate his dissenting views into something more specific. That was letting the side down. Bill Morrison was never really forgiven for daring to join the ALP. For twenty years External Affairs refused a posting or political work to Ric Throssell, a sincere humanist whose leftwing viewand contacts were mentioned in the Petrov case.
Only after I left External Affairs did I begin to realize how deeply this ‘club’ feeling is implanted. For a long time I had the feeling there was something illicit about discussing foreign affairs with outsiders. I still found it easier to relate to myold EA mates than to the people I was supposed to be involved with in the anti-Vietnam war movement. Few in External Affairs were upset when I began to criticize publicly government policy on China and Vietnam. But when I criticizedthe department itself the knives began to come out. – – –
One incident in particular hurt me deeply. When I left EA I turned to theAustralian National University as a haven to begin a new career. I had decidedto move out of the China/communism/politics field and into Japan /economics-_two areas where I thought it possible to work without having to depend on visasfrom capricious governments or the blessing of capricious professors. And in anycase I had had a gutful of arguing communist-anti-communist politics. Later I decided to join the Vietnam debate, only to be badly depressed by the hopelessness of trying to come to grips with opinion in Australia. If you argued the case against the South Vietnam régime the interventionists would present details of NorthVietnamese ‘aggression’. If you argued the Geneva agreements they came back with the China threat. If you argued China they replied with the insurance policy argument (a brilliant piece of logic that overlooked the simple fact that interventionagainst possible threats would help to create real threats, particularly when the force used in the intervention was as immoral as in Vietnam). And dominating all arguments was the ‘communist terrorism’ charge which managed to overlook the obvious fact that if governments use the power of the state to suppress political movements (i.e., state terrorism) then the people suppressed have the right to resort to violence against the state.
But ultimately the arguments returned to the belief that somehow the government must know best, that it had the advice of experts and the secret information to make the right decisions. Needless to say, it was an argument that did not impress me. But the only way to counter it was to point out that the so-called experts were really not so expert. Nor was this the ad-horninen attack it might seem. My ex-perience with Chinese and Russian had convinced me that learning languages was almost the only way people could be forced to project their understanding far enough to see the various sides of foreign affairs problems. At the time, External Affairs was making its decisions on Vietnam without having anyone qualified in any Indochinese language.
Early in 1967 I had been asked to prepare a paper for a Canberra conference, so I decided to focus it on this language question. I asked External Affairs formally for data on diplomats drawing Asian language bounties. I knew this would give a flattering picture since I had qualified for the top A-grade interpretership bounties in Chinese and Russian with a less than fluent knowledge of either language. Evens o, External Affairs figures showed an appalling picture-a handful of middle grade Indonesian and Japanese speakers and that was all. The press took up the issue and went back to External Affairs for confirmation. Plimsoll as department head blandly produced another list showing External Affairs had dozens of Asian language speakers. He did not mention that this list was compiled from self-assessments and included a good eighty per cent who would admit freely they knew no more than a smattering picked up from servants in a two-year Asian posting. External Affairs was out for blood now and they got it.
But I am ahead of my story. The Moscow posting came through on schedule, and Russia in the spring of 1963 was an interesting place. After a severe winter the countryside was breaking into a beauty I had never known before. It was the peak of the Khrushchev liberalization. Contacts with Russians were not difficult.There was a tingling feeling of a new world to discover.
My main discovery-the charm and toughness of the Russian people, their general acceptance of the régime under which they lived-was not new. But finding out for oneself, directly, gave it an edge. For all its efficiency the KGBcould not stop you from visiting a student restaurant, joining one of the ‘social walks’ the Moscow Tourist Club used to organize at weekends around Moscow,or meeting young Russians at the excellent theatre then being allowed. Later the favourable impression weakened. It was hard to rationalize the KGB bastardy or the corrupt ineciency of the Soviet administration. But even during the bad period in late 1964-65 when the KGB types used to follow constantly in rotating squads there was something about the place and the people which caught theemotions. Nor could I forget that some of what I and others in Moscow had to suffer was a reaction to Western bastardy against the Russians.
Work at the Moscow embassy was dull but tolerable. We spent most of our time administering each other, probably even more than other Australian embassies overseas. Going to other embassy parties and worrying about the KGB attempts to penetrate our security were our other chores. But I was free to travel when I wanted. I could work on the areas that Interested me. Occasionally we would pull together some monumental despatch on the future of the Soviet Union. That was almost the sum total of our productive effort. Then there were the occasional opportunities to see the Soviet leaders in action, like the time the then External Affairs minister Paul Hashick arrived to recruit the Russians as allies against theChinese by warning them of Chinese territorial ambitions to take over Sinkiang.The Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko took it calmly. Then he reminded Hasluckthat Sinkiang had long been Chinese territory. Hasluck was later to make a fool of himself by trying to convince a genuinely puzzled Kosygin that the balance of power was necessary, and that Russia should join us in fighting the Chinese enemy.
I left Moscow with two main conclusions: Instead of spending a million dollars a year on an Embassy to provide a target for the KGB and agony for the 90 per cent non-Russian-speaking Australian staff, we should employ two, maybe three, qualified officials to handle our relations with the Russians, provide them with a set of rooms at a Moscow hotel, and let them fly out to the West every fortnight for rest and briefing. It would be a lot cheaper than running that bloated Embassy. The other idea was to limit so-called political reporting to verbatim conversations with Russians. If Canberra could be made to realize how much many intelligent Russians genuinely distrusted the West and defended their own system that would be worth far more than anything our learned analyses could achieve.
ONE SUCH CONVERSATION OCCURRED ON A TRAIN travelling back from the Crimea in the autumn of 1964. Usually Russians on train trips are inveterate talkers, even with foreigners. But this time the older of the two men in our compartment – a powerful man in his sixties-sat in silence for hours watching the Ukrainian wheat fields moving past outside. Later that evening, after exchanges of food and drink, he began to open up and I learned why he had not wanted to talk. As a younguniversity student he had joined the Red Army with his wife, who was also a student, to fight in the civil war and the Intervention. Together they had been sent to the front south of Murmnansk. The British raided the village where she was working in a field hospital. They handed her over to the Whites who shot her immediately. He had never remarried.
After Murmansk he had thrown himself into Party work. He had been through the collectivization, he had seen the purges of the ‘thirties, the second World War.Now he was working as an engineer in a textile factory. Yes, there had been terrible mistakes in the past. And all he could see now was the waste and nepotism of the factory management. But it had never shaken his faith in communism. If we had had a better system, why did we have to send our troops thousands of miles to his country and kill his wife to prove it?
I didn’t try to answer his question, because he had put his finger on the key to the stupidity of most of the bloodshed the world has since seen. The immorality of the Intervention set in motion a pendulum of violence which has swung remorselessly through to the cataclysm of Vietnam. Our killing then would give the Soviet leaders the justification for their ‘revolutionary’ excesses of the ‘twentiesand ‘thirties. Those excesses would feed the anti-communism that would help to generate Fascism. The memory of Nazi brutality would justify Soviet treachery in Eastern Europe. The fate of the East European democrats would trigger th eCold War, and the cruel interventions against postwar left-wing revolutionary movements-Greece, Malaya, Guatemala, Brunei . . . the list is endless. Today, communist ideologues point to those interventions to justify their own interventionsand their suppression of domestic dissent. Anti-communist ideologues use this suppression to justify their interventions. Our hawks feed their hawks, and theirs ours. The immorality committed by one side justifies the next round of immorality committed by the other.
Vietnam may have slowed the pendulum, at least from our side, just as the Stalin revelations helped to sober the Soviets. When the immorality of one’s own side becomes too obvious to ignore, the hawks/ideologues find it harder to operate.
But these brief periods of calm are the exception. Given the normal biases of the normal citizen when it comes to judging the behaviour of foreigners it is only too easy to find the material to inflame the passions needed to get the pendulum moving again.
We all know about Stalin’s cynical breaking of the agreements on the future of Poland. It would never occur to our healthily biased ideologue that others migh tview our cynical disregard of the Geneva agreements on Vietnam in the same way.We all know about the suffering of Soviet dissidents. When Asian anti-communist regimes imprison or execute their dissidents we hardly bother to notice, let alone register a protest. We know that in Eastern Europe anti-Nazi patriots were often pushed aside in favour of Nazi collaborators when it suited Soviet interests. Most in the West are hardly aware of, let alone upset by, the fact that we did the same in almost every country of Asia after the war. On the contrary, our ideologues even manage to find something sinister in the way left wing Asians organized resistance movements against the invading Japanese; it proved that long ago the Asian communists were already willing to resort to that sinister weapon called ‘guerilla war’.
When the far less successful European resistance leaders emerged from their hiding places after the war we had no difficulty in seeing them as worthy leaders of their countries. In Asia we imprisoned the same people, or gladly provided the weapons for their elimination. Today, almost thirty years after the war, we have continued the same killing under the justification of an even more perverted logic called the bloodbath theory. We believe we can bomb villages and force men to live like savages in the jungle for decades and when they finally emerge to seek a savage revenge we use this to prove the need for our prior and greater, savagery or for more killing elsewhere. In any other field but foreign affairs such logic would be discredited by a child of six. But our diplomats and ideologues never saw any fallacy in using it to justify the napalming of more Vietnamese villages.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS ARE TOO IMPORTANT to be left to the diplomats and the ideologues. We see this in their anguished outcry when a non-diplomat and a non-ideologue called Kissinger takes control of U.S. foreign affairs. For all his faults, Kissinger at least had the intelligence to realize that foreign affairs involves talking to the other side. He has done that, and in the process has begun to roll back the cold war confrontation Two Bloc mentality. For the diplomats, diplomacy hasbeen the art of devising reasons to avoid any contact or exchange of ideas withthe ideological enemy. That is what our foreign policy used to be about. That is why a million or more people had to die in Indochina.
Professional diplomats are like stockbrokers. Their main role should be performing certain services in exchange for payment from their clients. We need diplomats and embassies overseas to handle the mechanics of our relations with other peoples-to issue visas, attend conferences, administer treaties, and so on. But to assume that a man who has spent his time doing this is automatically qualified to make judgments on foreign policy is as foolish as assuming that a life of shuffling buy-and-sell orders gives an insight to the true value of BHP shares. Like the diplomat,the stockbroker is under strong pressure to tell his client what he thinks the client wants to hear. Diplomats will always tell governments that the status quo they want to support is worth supporting and that the status quo they oppose is worth opposing. During the ‘fifties and ‘sixties the list of our ambassadors in Asia who had reported favourably on the popularity of the local strongman just before his overthrow was too long to be funny. On one famous occasion the report was delayed in the mails and arrived in Canberra after the coup. (The ambassador involved went on to better things and ended up as head of the department.) Conversely our hired experts have consistently underestimated the durability of the communist regimes and movements they dislike. Wishful thinking is one name for it. In share dealing it results in bankruptcy. In diplomacy it is seen as proof that you had your heart in the right place and deserve promotion.
BEFORE I FINISH I want to put on record something that happened when I was leaving External Affairs. During my last few months in Moscow several of the Russians I had known had been put under great KGB pressure to work’ against me. I know because I was told by one of them. I do not want to go into the details; it is something most diplomats working in Moscow have to suffer even if in most cases they are never fully made aware of it. In my case it was the final push needed to persuade me to leave the diplomatic service. I had devoted two years to trying to understand the Russian people and their system. I may not have likedthat system but I was certainty prepared to accept that many Russians liked it. That was a big advance on the cold war thinking of most Western diplomats in Moscow. But the only result was that the other side now saw me as a tool for theirparticular cold war. There were better things to do in life than be regarded as a pawn for both sides in this stupid game.
Back in Canberra and preparing to leave I decided to tell the External Affairs administration what had happened in Moscow. I wanted them to know how even our unimportant Embassy was a target for the KGB. Also at the back of my mind was the sloppy thought that I would like them to know part of the reason for my wanting to leave. In any case the move backfired completely. Someone inExternal Affairs panicked, because before I had even left the service I had an ASIO stunt pulled on me to find out whether I was in the secret pay of the Russians. The evidence that it was a stunt was overwhelming-a White Russian ASIO operative pretending over the telephone to be a Soviet diplomat but who gave himself away by using pre-revolutionary vocabulary; the ASIO flap when Ireported the incident and finessed them by suggesting a direct follow up with theSoviet Embassy on the basis of the call being genuine.
The fact that some incompetent ASIO operatives had tried to find out whether I was a Russian spy does not worry me particularly. What upset me was BA’s role in the affair. I had put nine years of hard work and slow education into trying to understand the real nature of conflict between the communist and anti-communist worlds. Now I found myself in that nether-nether world between thetwo, where the stupidities and biases of both sides become obvious. But neither side could understand, let alone tolerate, the man who tried to operate from this position. And having been treated as an enemy by both sides I had nothing to lose from behaving as an enemy. It was this, more than my still naïve outrage over the growing Vietnam tragedy, that pushed me into the anti-Vietnam protest movement. As in foreign affairs, every action has its equal reaction. I shouldthank the men who finally stung me into action.