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Home, sweet home

June 14th, 2009 - 11:03 pm

The suspected Cuban spy in the State Department was lobbying to become the US envoy to Northern Ireland according to the Telegraph, perhaps aiming to tilt US policy toward the IRA. But the fun wouldn’t end there. At the conclusion of his service to Cuba, accused spy Kendall Myers planned to “sail home” to Cuba in order to become “a real and present danger” to the United States. His worst was yet to come. The Telegraph reports:

Kendall Myers, 72, who appeared in federal court in Washington on Wednesday charged with spying for Havana for nearly 30 years, had a fascination with Northern Ireland. The Daily Telegraph has established that as well as seeking the envoy’s post, which carried the rank of ambassador, Mr Myers travelled to the British Isles and met British and Irish officials, senior Northern Ireland politicians and intelligence officers. …

Michael Harvey, prosecuting, described Mr Myers as a man of means who had inherited money from his family and owned a family compound in Nova Scotia. The couple owned a 37-foot sailing boat, kept charts of Cuban waters and told an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence official that they planned to “sail home” to Cuba. Mr Harvey said that if they reached the communist state they would pose “a real and present danger to the United States”.

His external appearance was anything but threatening. Former colleagues of Myers at State described him as a likeable person who was quick with a nautical story.

Mr Myers was a beloved figure in the State Department. “He seemed like an absent-minded professor with a scholarly view of the world rather than being involved in espionage,” said one former colleague.

“Kendall was anti-Bush but 90 per cent of the people in this building are too. He seemed to have a romantic view of the world and he wasn’t interested in promotion. He cared more about what he did rather than where he was. “He was kind, he always helped people out and he had lots of friends. He was like a jovial character out of an English book, always having a fun sailing story. …

In his doctoral thesis, he argued that Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasing the Nazis was correct. Years later, he would tell students of his admiration for Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess – members of the “Cambridge ring” who betrayed Britain by spying for the Soviets.

What makes a man like that tick? Philby, Maclean and Burgess will endure in memory, long after their specific deeds of espionage are forgotten, as cribs to the decipherment of betrayal. They were archetypes. Indeed, the atmosphere around Philby, for example, seems made of the same stuff that surrounded Myers. The New Criterion, looking back on the Cambridge spies, almost catches the elusive spirit which motivated the three British traitors. What motivated them wasn’t money. Nor was it an illusory conception of what Communism offered. All three were well aware of the rivers of blood which Stalin had shed. It didn’t matter. None of the Cambridge men were the credulous “useful fools” so typical of the lower reaches of leftist intellectual circles. On the contrary, the three seemed to move in a planes so high they were above the morality of mere mortals. What common men would regard as suffering and pain, value as friendship or loyalty, and judge as for good or evil were things to be regarded differently from their Olympian height. They stood above the tragic and the monstrous;  those acts were to them beautiful or merely amusing according to their passing fancy and only their fancy.

Well-connected, and educated in the best schools, they were able to take privilege for granted. Burgess and Maclean were thought in chic social circles to be amusingly louche, and many witnesses attest to Philby’s charm, and the stutter that went with it. All three rose to positions either in the British Secret Service or the Foreign Office with access to information valuable to the Soviet Union. In a position to know the facts about Stalinist terror and Gulag, they nonetheless made themselves willing accomplices in Communist crime. The charming Philby had much blood on his hands. He informed the Soviets of an impending high-level defector in Istanbul, and they caught the man and shot him. He gave away clandestine Allied operations in Albania, the Baltic, and Ukraine, leading to the deaths of scores of patriots and agents. Somewhere in the psychological depths where each of these traitors had to answer to himself, deception and self-deception were bewilderingly entangled.

The key to understanding men like Philby is to realize that they can only be answerable to themselves. And such license is not available in a world of rights and all-men-being-equal. They were by definition the elite. And to indulge this destiny, men such as they can only work for an entity that unlike the United States and Britain, is totally unconfined by pedestrian notions like right or wrong; beyond oversight committees and petty lawyers; some confessor to whom it is possible to confide the monstrous thoughts and receive approval. And where else to find it but in the temple of power: the organs of the Party.

The New Criterion notes that “in his own memoirs, My Silent War, published in English in 1968, Philby contradictorily asserted that he had accepted the Soviet invitation to become their spy out of a lust for power : ‘One does not look twice at an offer of enrolment in an elite force.’” Indeed. It was elite in a way that the average man can never understand. Not in the sense of its members being able to run farther or shoot straighter than the members of other secret services; but elite in that it was totally amoral. The KGB was the only home for a certain type of heathen. The kind of heady brew that Philby needed was one his own stodgy country could never supply. Perhaps Myers was being completely sincere when he planned, at the end of employment, to “sail home” to Cuba. Communism was never about crafting a Worker’s Paradise; it was always about creating a place of unlimited power for those who craved it: not the toiler’s Home, but the second rate intellectual’s.


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