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Inside the League: : The Shocking Expose of How Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League by Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson (Dodd, Mead: $19.95; 352 pp., illustrated)

September 28, 1986| Larry Ceplair | Ceplair is the author of "Under the Shadowof War: Fascism, Anti-Facism, and Marxists, 1917-1939" (Columbia University Press, forthcoming)

Although this book covers a topic that should be of grave concern to anyone seriously devoted to the issues of human rights in the world and the content of American values, the authors have not given it the treatment it merits. The title is misleading, the subtitle naive, and the narrative structure dubious. Their disconnected, anecdotal, and largely undocumented indictment of the World Anti-Communist League does not support their claim that the league is "an instrument for the practice of unconventional warfare--assassinations, death squads, sabotage--throughout the world."

They do, however, provide enough names, affiliations, and suggestive juxtapositions of people and places to indicate that the league is a ramshackle lean-to under which the anti-Communist killers of the world occasionally meet. Since the Andersons have no documented information about the structure of the league, its funding or its power relations, they are reduced to detailing the activities of those groups whose members and leaders have attended league affairs or been associated with league members.

There is, though, no reason for the reader to believe that if the league had never existed, "terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American death squads" would have committed fewer atrocities, the Taiwanese and Argentinians would not have trained anti-Communists, South Korea would not have armed them, the Unification Church would not have funded them, and the American Right would not have provided them its imprimatur.

The authors do illustrate, in explicitly gory terms, the nature of right-wing anti-communism in the world. It is brutal, bloody, vicious, widespread, and undemocratic as regards both its means and its ends. In addition, its agents are supported by citizens and politicians who either deliberately or foolishly have blinded themselves to the operational framework of the fight against communism.

At the head of this purblind crusade, as the authors indicate in the soundest portion of their book, is the Reagan Administration, whose words and deeds have done nothing to fetter the right-wing terrorists of Latin America in their homicidal rampages. On the contrary, the authors demonstrate, these terrorists have been aided and abetted by the activities of retired American military and intelligence personnel under the leadership of retired Maj. Gen. John Singlaub. Closely connected to the Reagan White House and adeptly tapping the financial resources of private anti-Communists, Singlaub has, according to the authors, revamped the American branch of the league (United States Council for World Freedom) and is in the process of making it and the league into "the vanguard of global anti-communist activism."

Part of the authors' purpose is to save the anti-communist cause from the league and to rescue "mainstream conservatives" from their innocence and ignorance, but the authors reveal their own naivete when they argue that anti-communism is a "legitimate political cause."

A purely negative cause like anti-communism cannot be fully legitimate since it allows, in principle, the use of "lesser evils" to oppose the greater one. If the record of organized anti-communism were better than it is, this might seem an idle, purely theoretical objection. But the fact is that anti-communism has involved at its best a denial of basic civil liberties to its enemies; at its more frequent worst, it has harbored and advanced the programs of the most disreputable elements of the 20th Century: Italian Fascists, German Nazis, American white supremacists, and radical nationalists, fundamentalists and racists of every stripe.

By their very nature, enterprises of the scope and purpose of the World Anti-Communist League are difficult to document. Since the bulk of the league's operational personnel is engaged in illegal activity, secrecy and shadiness predominate. Authors who have the patience and skill to track clues and patterns and then construct plausible scenarios provide a valuable service. They must, however, be disciplined and avoid trafficking in absurd notions, as the Andersons do halfway through their book when they give serious consideration (and three pages) to the idea that the Soviet Union, or some other Communist government, may be employing the league "as the ultimate agent provocateur ."

If one follows their reasoning, it becomes possible to speculate that Adolf Hitler may have been an agent of the Comintern and that Josef Stalin was really working for the FBI.

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