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Herbie

May 10th, 2013 - 3:56 pm

Another great man leaves us, Herb Romerstein.  He was a scholar and a civil servant, a dedicated patriot, a tireless anti-communist, and a mensch and a half.  He labored for years for the House of Representatives (Internal Security staff) and then for the Reagan administration at USIA, where he did exceptional work on Soviet disinformation.  As Paul Kengor noted, Herbie was the institutional memory on Communist subversion in and against the United States, and he knew whereof he spoke, having been a member of the Communist Party.  And he and the late Eric Breindel produced an invaluable analysis of the Venona documents, which famously proved the scope and efficacy of Soviet espionage in this country.

I had the great pleasure of working with Herbie in the mid-1980s when we were editors of a collection of documents captured by U.S. military forces in Grenada.  The Grenada Documents was a joint venture of the Departments of State and Defense, as was the larger project of assembling the enormous pile of captured documents, which was, and is, housed in the National Archives of the United States.

It was dirty work.  Every day an Army officer called me from the island to tell us about the day’s shipment:  where the documents had been found, what they comprised, and which ones he judged most important.  They arrived in wooden boxes, after being fumigated to protect us against unwanted encounters with spiders and scorpions.  But there was no protection against dirt, and there was plenty of Grenadian soil in those documents.  We were filthy by midday, and the equals of Charlie Brown’s pal Pigpen by evening.  You can judge for yourself if it was worth it;  as usual in such matters, the establishment intellectuals and “reporters” weren’t much interested in the harsh treatment of the poor Grenadians by their own leaders, following the lead of Soviet and, above all, Cuban intelligence officers.  I believe that the Grenada documents provide an invaluable view of life within the Soviet Empire, and almost all of them are in (very tasty) English.

It couldn’t have happened without Herbie.  He didn’t mind getting dirty.  And he loved the work, as I did.  One document in particular especially delighted us.  It was a report from the ambassador to Moscow.  The Grenadians had been begging for agricultural aid from the Kremlin, but it never came.  Finally, at a diplomatic reception, the ambassador was approached by his Bulgarian counterpart, who said (these are not his exact words) “you’ve been asking our Soviet comrades for help with agriculture.  But they have found that their methods do not work well in your part of the world.  Thus whatever assistance you receive will fail.  Thus you will receive that assistance from Bulgaria, and not from our Soviet comrades.  That way, we will be blamed for the failure.”

How good is that?  Herbie and I celebrated in our chilly room down in the bowels of the Pentagon.  What a find!  I don’t know of any other piece of paper that so thoroughly documents the cynicism of the Soviets, and the failure of their system.  After all, the Bulgarian ambassador could very well have said that Soviet agricultural methods didn’t work anywhere;  it had nothing to do with Grenada’s perfect climate, as Herbie happily chortled.

So that was Herbie.  He leaves us countless happy memories and the products of a life well spent.  Plus a large family, whose mourning we will share in the days ahead.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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thanks for your service. but the report isn't about the invasion, it's about the regime. their own documents...
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
thanks for your service. the report isn't about the invasion, it's about the regime...their own documents.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hopefully some of the current generation of anti-capitalists grow up quickly and become political converts like Mr. Romerstein.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't count on it. What the grand parents were in favour of, the grandchildren are hostile to.

It goes both ways. Compare the Ayatollah Khomeini and his grandson that spoke well of the Son of the Shah of Iran. Plus, didn't they appear in public together?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I write from Ann Arbor, Michigan under a slightly different username. I have not posted a comment in perhaps two years. And yet ... this tab appears every single time I open my browser. Every new posting is delicious and thought-provoking. Thank you. I am imagining that there are thousands upon thousands of folks like me who recognize great content and come here often but do not have all that much to add. I hope Mr. Ledeen is aware of our existence and understands how much we appreciate his great work ...
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
many thanks. i'm grateful. proud. pleased.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
A note about Soviet agricultural methods: In his book, "Eat the Rich", P.J. O'Rourke wrote that the Soviets produced an annual average of 105 million tons of grain between 1986 to 1990, yet they had to import an additional 27 million tons of grain per year. Why? Because, wrote P.J. O'Rourke, as much as 60 percent(!) of their grain was lost in moving it from "field to face". Had the Grenadians used Soviet agricultural methods, they would have probably experienced famine. Since the fall of the USSR, P.J. O'Rourke wrote that Russia has been producing an average of 69 million tons of grain annually, yet Russia is now a net grain exporter.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
A hell of a flashback for me, Mister Ledeen. I served in the invasion (Operation "Urgent Fury") with the 2/82. Almost 30 years now.

I will have to read that report (813 pages! Yikes!). In particular, as I remember the utterances of the press at the time bore little resemblance to the situation(s) on the ground. It'd be refreshing to read an honest and detailed analysis of the event.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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