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Road to Moscow: Bill Clinton’s Early Activism from Fulbright to Moscow

Friday, November 4, 2016 11:27
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Road to Moscow

Bill Clinton’s Early Activism from Fulbright to Moscow
Original FReeper research | 08/22/2007 |By Fedora
(h/t Ellis Baxter)
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). Read More at Free Republic

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