One of the ugly ironies in the Right’s depiction of President Barack Obama as Hitler and health reform as a plan for Nazi-style euthanasia is that the owner of the Washington Times, which has pushed this line of attack, has had longstanding ties with World War II-era Nazis, neo-Nazis and rightist “death squads.”
Indeed, the Washington Times founder and funder, Sun Myung Moon, built his international religious-business-media empire in collaboration with Japanese fascist war criminals and with operational assistance from ex-Nazi SS officer Klaus Barbie, the so-called “Butcher of Lyon.”
The 89-year-old Moon also has had close ties to later generations of neo-Nazis and right-wing murderers, especially in Latin America where Moon-related organizations threw in their lot with brutal military dictators including some involved in cocaine trafficking.
Yet, in the 1970s and 1980s, Moon emerged as a major financier for the American Right. He sponsored lavish conservative conferences, slipped millions of dollars into the pockets of right-wing activists, supported prominent Republicans and – in 1982 – launched the Washington Times, which has been a prime propaganda vehicle for right-wing causes ever since.
Though the prominence of Moon and his Washington Times has diminished in recent years with the emergence of an even richer media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, and his flagship Fox News, Moon's newspaper has continued launching key propaganda themes and serving as a clearinghouse for right-wing disinformation campaigns.
For instance, as the New York Times has noted, the absurd idea of linking the Obama administration to Nazi euthanasia surfaced only weeks after the Nov. 4, 2008, election when a Washington Times editorial brought up the Nazis’ Aktion T4 program in which “children and adults with disabilities, and anyone anywhere in the Third Reich was subject to execution who was blind, deaf, senile, retarded, or had any significant neurological condition.”
Citing the supposedly pro-euthanasia inclinations of the incoming Obama administration, the Washington Times editorial said, “it will be up to everyone who sees the current climate as a budding T4 program to win the hearts and minds of deniers,” especially regarding abortion rights.
“That won't be a final solution to end the deaths, but it may stanch them and stop the forward progression of extermination (there is no other word for it) from prenatal to postnatal to child to adult that is so seductively ‘rational’ - and horrifying.”
On Feb. 11, the Washington Times returned to the Aktion T4 theme, with an editorial accompanied by a file photo of Adolf Hitler. This time Moon’s editors denounced the Obama administration’s plans for achieving some efficiencies in health-care delivery, such as computerizing records to avoid duplication and to reduce chances of life-threatening misdiagnoses.
Though this concept has been supported by many Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Washington Times took the word “efficiency” from Obama supporters and linked it to the Nazis via a quote from the Aktion T-4 program: "It must be made clear to anyone suffering from an incurable disease that the useless dissipation of costly medications drawn from the public store cannot be justified."
The Times editorial stated: “This notion is fully in the spirit of the [Democratic] partisans of efficiency, but came from a program instituted in Hitler's Germany called Aktion T-4. ... This was the Nazi version of efficiency, a pitiless expulsion of the ‘unproductive’ members of society in the most expeditious way possible.”
Soon, anti-Obama protestors were showing up at rallies with Obama pictured with a Hitler mustache. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh likened Obama’s logo for health care reform to a Nazi symbol. A swastika was painted on the office sign of a Democratic member of Congress. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin famously ranted about how Obama’s health reform would create a “death panel” for her parents and her son with Down Syndrome.
Yet, beyond the absurdity of this psy-war style attack on Obama and health reform is the inconvenient fact that the Washington Times’ founder – Sun Myung Moon – has a long record of collaborating with violent fascists in Nazi-style slaughters of countless thousands of innocent people for their perceived political beliefs.
While bemoaning imaginary Obama-organized “death panels,” the Washington Times and its founder have worked hand in glove with very real “death squads.” The collaboration has been central to Moon’s ability to expand the reach of his Unification Church and his own personal power.
In 1954, Moon founded his South Korean-based church around the notion that he is a new messiah sent to earth to correct the mistakes of Jesus Christ. Part of Moon’s service to the world was to have sexual intercourse with many women who would then spread Moon’s “blessing” by having sex with other men. In later years, Moon conveyed his “blessing” less directly, by matching couples in mass weddings and regulating their sexual activities.
In the early days of his church, Moon’s bizarre sexual rituals caused him some embarrassing legal problems, but the practice of passing around women did help the Unification Church recruit young men, including some with connections to South Korea's intelligence services.
Kim Jong-Pil, a rising star in South Korea’s intelligence community, became closely associated with Moon's church during this phase. In the early 1960s, Kim Jong-Pil also founded the KCIA, which centralized Seoul's internal and external intelligence activities, and he was responsible for bilateral talks with Japan, Korea’s historic enemy.
That put Kim Jong-Pil in touch with Japanese rightists Yoshio Kodama and Ryoichi Sasakawa, who once hailed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as "the perfect fascist."
Kodama and Sasakawa were jailed as fascist war criminals at the end of World War II, but a few years later, both were freed by U.S. military intelligence officials who wanted their help in throttling disruptions by leftist students and labor unions.
Kodama and Sasakawa became power-brokers in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, while they also grew rich from their association with the yakuza, a shadowy organized crime syndicate, according to the book, Yakuza, by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro.
Kim Jong-Pil's contacts with these right-wing leaders proved invaluable to the Unification Church, which had made only a few converts in Japan. Immediately after Kim Jong-Pil opened the door to Kodama and Sasakawa in late 1962, 50 leaders of an ultra-nationalist Japanese Buddhist sect converted en masse to the Unification Church, according to Kaplan and Dubro.
"Sasakawa became an advisor to Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Japanese branch of the Unification Church" and collaborated with Moon in building far-right anti-communist organizations in Asia, Kaplan and Dubro wrote.
The church's growth spurt did not escape the notice of U.S. intelligence officers in the field. One CIA report, dated Feb. 26, 1963, stated that "Kim Jong-Pil organized the Unification Church while he was director of the ROK [Republic of Korea] Central Intelligence Agency, and has been using the church, which had a membership of 27,000, as a political tool."
Moon's church was active in the Asian People's Anti-Communist League, a fiercely right-wing group founded by the governments of South Korea and Taiwan. In 1966, the group expanded into the World Anti-Communist League, an international alliance that brought together traditional conservatives with former Nazis, overt racialists and Latin American “death squad” operatives.
Authors Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson wrote in their 1986 book, Inside the League, that Sun Myung Moon was one of five indispensable Asian leaders who made the World Anti-Communist League possible.
The five were Taiwan’s dictator Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea’s dictator Park Chung Hee, yakuza gangsters Ryoichi Sasakawa and Yoshio Kodama, and Moon, “an evangelist who planned to take over the world through the doctrine of ‘Heavenly Deception,’” the Andersons wrote.
WACL became a well-financed worldwide organization after a secret meeting between Sasakawa and Moon, along with two Kodama representatives, on a lake in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. The purpose of the meeting was to create an anti-communist organization that “would further Moon’s global crusade and lend the Japanese yakuza leaders a respectable new façade,” the Andersons wrote.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. John K. Singlaub, a former WACL president, told me that “the Japanese [WACL] chapter was taken over almost entirely by Moonies.”
Mixing organized crime and political extremism, of course, has a long tradition throughout the world. Violent political movements often have blended with criminal operations as a way to arrange covert funding, move operatives or acquire weapons.
Drug smuggling has proven to be a particularly effective way to fill the coffers of extremist movements, especially those that find ways to insinuate themselves into more legitimate operations of sympathetic governments or intelligence services.
In the quarter century after World War II, remnants of fascist movements managed to do just that. Many surviving Nazis and fascists got a new lease on political life with the start of the Cold War as they helped both Western democracies and right-wing dictatorships battle international communism.
Some Nazi leaders faced war-crimes tribunals after World War II, but others managed to make their escapes along “rat lines” to Spain or South America or they finagled intelligence relationships with the victorious powers, especially the United States.
Argentina became a natural haven given the pre-war alliance that existed between the European fascists and prominent Argentine military leaders, such as Juan Peron. The fleeing Nazis also found like-minded right-wing politicians and military officers across Latin America who already used repression to keep down the indigenous populations and the legions of the poor.
In the post-World War II years, some Nazi war criminals chose reclusive lives, but others, such as former SS officer Klaus Barbie, sold their intelligence skills to less-sophisticated security services in countries like Bolivia or Paraguay.
Other Nazis on the lam trafficked in narcotics. Often the lines crossed between intelligence operations and criminal conspiracies.
Auguste Ricord, a French war criminal who had collaborated with the Gestapo, set up shop in Paraguay and opened up the French Connection heroin channels to American Mafia drug kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr., who controlled much of the heroin traffic into the United States. Columns by Jack Anderson identified Ricord’s accomplices as some of Paraguay’s top military officers.
Another French Connection mobster, Christian David, relied on protection of Argentine authorities. While trafficking in heroin, David also “took on assignments for Argentina’s terrorist organization, the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance,” Henrik Kruger wrote in The Great Heroin Coup.
During President Nixon’s “war on drugs,” U.S. authorities smashed the famous French Connection and won extraditions of Ricord and David in 1972 to face justice in the United States.
By the time the French Connection was severed, however, powerful Mafia drug lords had forged strong ties to South America’s military leaders. An infrastructure for the multi-billion-dollar drug trade, servicing the insatiable U.S. market, was in place.
Trafficante-connected groups recruited displaced anti-Castro Cubans, who had landed in Miami, needed work and possessed useful intelligence skills gained from the CIA’s training for the Bay of Pigs and other clandestine operations. Heroin from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia soon filled the void left by the broken French Connection.
During this time of transition, Sun Myung Moon brought his Unification Church to South America. Moon especially sank down roots in Uruguay during the 12-year reign of right-wing military dictators who seized power in 1973.
He also cultivated close relations with military dictators in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, reportedly ingratiating himself with the juntas by helping the regimes buy weapons and by channeling money to allied right-wing organizations.
“Relationships nurtured with right-wing Latin Americans in the [World Anti-Communist] League led to acceptance of the [Unification] Church’s political and propaganda operations throughout Latin America,” the Andersons wrote in Inside the League.
“As an international money laundry, ... the Church tapped into the capital flight havens of Latin America. Escaping the scrutiny of American and European investigators, the Church could now funnel money into banks in Honduras, Uruguay and Brazil, where official oversight was lax or nonexistent.”
In 1980, Moon made more friends in South America when a right-wing alliance of Bolivian military officers and drug dealers organized what became known as the Cocaine Coup. WACL associates, such as Alfredo Candia, coordinated the arrival of some of the paramilitary operatives from Argentina and Europe who would help out in the violent putsch.
In Bolivia, Nazi fugitive Klaus Barbie had been working as a Bolivian intelligence officer under the name Altmann. After drawing up plans for the putsch, Barbie contacted Argentine intelligence for help. One of the first Argentine intelligence officers who arrived was Lt. Alfred Mario Mingolla.
"Before our departure, we received a dossier on” Barbie, Mingolla later told German investigative reporter Kai Hermann. "There it stated that he was of great use to Argentina because he played an important role in all of Latin America in the fight against communism. From the dossier, it was also clear that Altmann worked for the Americans."
As the coup took shape, Bolivian Col. Luis Arce-Gomez, the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, recruited neo-fascist terrorists such as Italian Stefano della Chiaie who had been working with the Argentine death squads. [See Cocaine Politics by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall]
Barbie started a secret lodge, called Thule. During meetings, he lectured to his followers underneath swastikas by candlelight.
On June 17, 1980, in nearly public planning for the coup, six of Bolivia's biggest traffickers met with the military conspirators to hammer out a financial deal for future protection of the cocaine trade. A La Paz businessman said the coming putsch should be called the "Cocaine Coup," a name that would stick. [See Cocaine Politics]
Less than three weeks later, on July 6 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, U.S. undercover drug enforcement agent Michael Levine said he met with a Bolivian trafficker named Hugo Hurtado-Candia. Over drinks, Hurtado outlined plans for the "new government" in which his niece Sonia Atala, a major cocaine supplier, will "be in a very strong position." [See Levine’s Big White Lie]
On July 17, the Cocaine Coup began, spearheaded by Barbie and his neo-fascist goon squad which was dubbed the “Fiancés of Death.”
"The masked thugs were not Bolivians; they spoke Spanish with German, French and Italian accents," Levine wrote. "Their uniforms bore neither national identification nor any markings, although many of them wore Nazi swastika armbands and insignias."
The slaughter was fierce. When the putschists stormed the national labor headquarters, they wounded labor leader Marcelo Quiroga, who had led the effort to indict former military dictator Hugo Banzer on drug and corruption charges.
Quiroga "was dragged off to police headquarters to be the object of a game played by some of the torture experts imported from Argentina's dreaded Mechanic School of the Navy," Levine wrote.
"These experts applied their 'science' to Quiroga as a lesson to the Bolivians, who were a little backward in such matters. They kept Quiroga alive and suffering for hours. His castrated, tortured body was found days later in a place called 'The valley of the Moon' in southern La Paz."
To DEA agent Levine back in Buenos Aires, it was soon clear "that the primary goal of the revolution was the protection and control of Bolivia's cocaine industry. All major drug traffickers in prison were released, after which they joined the neo-Nazis in their rampage.
“Government buildings were invaded and trafficker files were either carried off or burned. Government employees were tortured and shot, the women tied and repeatedly raped by the paramilitaries and the freed traffickers."
The fascists celebrated with swastikas and shouts of "Heil Hitler!" Hermann reported. Col. Arce-Gomez, a central-casting image of a bemedaled, pot-bellied Latin dictator, grabbed broad powers as Interior Minister. Gen. Luis Garcia Meza was installed as Bolivia's new president.
The victory also put into power a right-wing military dictatorship indebted to the drug lords. Bolivia became South America’s first narco-state.
One of the first well-wishers arriving in La Paz to congratulate the new government was Moon’s top lieutenant (and former KCIA officer) Bo Hi Pak. The Moon organization published a photo of Pak meeting with the new strongman, General Garcia Meza.
After the visit to the mountainous capital, Pak declared, “I have erected a throne for Father Moon in the world’s highest city.”
According to later Bolivian government and newspaper reports, a Moon representative invested about $4 million in preparations for the coup. Bolivia’s WACL representatives also played key roles, and CAUSA, one of Moon’s anti-communist organizations, listed as members nearly all the leading Bolivian coup-makers.
Soon, Colonel Luis Arce-Gomez, a coup organizer and the cousin of cocaine kingpin Roberto Suarez, went into partnership with big narco-traffickers, including Trafficante’s Cuban-American smugglers. Nazi war criminal Barbie and his young neo-fascist followers found new work protecting Bolivia’s major cocaine barons and transporting drugs to the Colombian border.
“The paramilitary units – conceived by Barbie as a new type of SS – sold themselves to the cocaine barons,” German journalist Hermann wrote. “The attraction of fast money in the cocaine trade was stronger than the idea of a national socialist revolution in Latin America.”
A month after the Cocaine Coup, General Garcia Meza participated in the Fourth Congress of the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, an arm of the World Anti-Communist League. Also attending that Fourth Congress was WACL president Woo Jae Sung, a leading Moon disciple.
As the drug lords consolidated their power in Bolivia, the Moon organization expanded its presence, too. Hermann reported that in early 1981, war criminal Barbie and Moon leader Thomas Ward were seen together in apparent prayer.
On May 31, 1981, Moon representatives sponsored a CAUSA reception at the Sheraton Hotel’s Hall of Freedom in La Paz. Moon’s lieutenant Bo Hi Pak and Bolivian strongman Garcia Meza led a prayer for President Reagan’s recovery from an assassination attempt.
In his speech, Bo Hi Pak declared, “God had chosen the Bolivian people in the heart of South America as the ones to conquer communism.”
But by late 1981, the cocaine taint of Bolivia’s military junta was so deep and the corruption so pervasive that U.S.-Bolivian relations were stretched to the breaking point. “The Moon sect disappeared overnight from Bolivia as clandestinely as they had arrived,” Hermann reported.
The Cocaine Coup leaders soon found themselves on the run, too. Interior Minister Arce-Gomez was eventually extradited to Miami and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Drug lord Roberto Suarez got a 15-year prison term. General Garcia Meza became a fugitive from a 30-year sentence imposed on him in Bolivia for abuse of power, corruption and murder.
SS veteran Barbie was returned to France to face a life sentence for war crimes. He died in 1992.
But Moon’s organization suffered few negative repercussions from its role in the Cocaine Coup. By the early 1980s, flush with seemingly unlimited funds, Moon had moved on to promoting himself with the new Republican administration in Washington.
A guest at Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration, Moon made his organization useful to the new President and to Vice President George H.W. Bush, who would later become a paid speaker for Moon's organization. Where Moon got his cash was a mystery that few American conservatives were eager to solve it.
“Some Moonie-watchers even believe that some of the business enterprises are actually covers for drug trafficking,” wrote Scott and Jon Lee Anderson.
While Moon’s representatives have refused to detail how they’ve sustained their far-flung activities – including many businesses that insiders say lose money – Moon’s spokesmen have angrily denied recurring allegations about profiteering off illegal trafficking in weapons and drugs.
In a typical response to a gun-running question by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, Moon’s representative Ricardo DeSena responded, “I deny categorically these accusations and also the barbarities that are said about drugs and brainwashing.” [Clarin, July 7, 1996]
Without doubt, however, Moon’s organization has had a long record of association with organized crime figures, including fascists.
Besides collaborating with Sasakawa and the Japanese yakuza and the Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia, Moon’s organization developed close ties with the Honduran military and the Nicaraguan contra movement, which were permeated with drug smugglers and human rights violators.
Moon’s organization also used its political clout in Washington to intimidate or discredit government officials and journalists who tried to investigate these criminal activities. In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and congressional investigators began probing the evidence of contra-connected drug trafficking, they came under attacks from Moon’s Washington Times.
An Associated Press story that I co-wrote with Brian Barger about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras was denigrated in an April 11, 1986, front-page Washington Times article with the headline: “Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy.”
When Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, uncovered additional evidence of contra-drug trafficking, the Washington Times denounced him, too. The newspaper published articles depicting Kerry’s probe as a wasteful political witch hunt. “Kerry’s anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain,” announced the headline of one Times article on Aug. 13, 1986.
Despite the attacks, Kerry’s contra-drug investigation eventually concluded that a number of contra units were implicated in the cocaine trade.
“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers,” Kerry’s investigation stated in a report issued April 13, 1989.
Beyond the drug connections, Moon’s organization protected Nazi-like practices of right-wing militaries in Latin America. When journalists and human rights organizations reported on atrocities, the Washington Times rallied to the defense of the alleged torturers and “death squads.” [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
Despite this grisly history, Moon’s Washington Times is now leading the right-wing pack in associating President Obama and his health-care reform with the Nazis. It is a measure of how little most Americans know about the Washington Times’ own Nazi and neo-Nazi connections that this strange propaganda theme can work so well.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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This story was published on August 17, 2009.