Moonies vs the Reds
Shame and confusion were present from the beginning, when the barmaid in the Duke of York said 'Two large vodkas?' as I approached the bar, and I had stammering to confess that my companion wanted only a half of bitter shandy. He was a Moonie named Mark Brann, and we had arranged to meet so that I could get a free trip round the Far East, to attend the 'World Media Conference Journalists' Fact-Finding Tour', and so that he could find even one English journalist prepared to have anything to do with this half-million-dollar jamboree.
The purpose of the tour, he explained, would be to study Soviet aggression in the Far East. To this end we would visit five countries in 14 days — Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, and be granted audience with the president or prime minister in all these countries. What did I know about the pro- blem? Well, urn, yes, I didn't actually know very much about the Far East, had never been nearer to it than Ismailia, in fact, but, uh, I had studied Soviet aggression in the Baltic very closely, and the submarines there had convinced me of the gravity of the Soviet threat world-wide, and I was eager to study it in other places, like Bangkok. The deal was made.
When later I met the other fact-finders, I realised that it was quite in order for a serious anti-communist to study Soviet ag- gression anywhere in the world, providing the hotels were good enough. We gathered in the conference room of the Siam Inter- continental on the evening of the first day. There were 90 fact-finders, of whom about half were Americans. The rest were mostly Japanese and Europeans, watched over by about ten Moonie sheepdogs (their number varied as the tour progressed). The sheep- dog is an estimable animal: energetic, in- telligent, and dedicated, if a little narrow in its interests. Though we approached our guardians at first with the clumsy wariness of nervous sheep, we soon came to trust them, and then to depend on them — and in at least one case to borrow from them large sums of money to replace what had been spent in the stews of Bangkok in the first four days of fact-finding.
The tour's organiser, Larry Moffitt, we had already met in the confusion of check- ing in — a gangly russet man in his thirties With the wide lipless grin of a reformed hippy, and the quivery eagerness of a sheep- dog on duty. Freckles and dedication gave hint a boyish air; certainty of purpose gave him a moral edge on most of us. Moffitt's especial charge was the figurehead of the tour, a 76-year-old retired American am- bassador, Douglas MacArthur II, whom he described in Tokyo as being 'like his famous uncle, a bridge between East and West'. That first day I had seen the golden Buddha, the emerald Buddha, the reclining Buddha, and innumerable minor idols, yet Ambassador MacArthur, in his good grey suit and matching hearing aid, seemed quite the oldest artefact in Thailand. Much anti- communist incense was to be burned before the ambassador as the tour progressed.
It's unclear what the Moonies gained from this. Now that the Reverend God himself is in an American jail, they need respectable publicity. And to an extent they deserve it. They tried to sell us politics, not religion. But oh! What politics!
The first day of the tour was given over to 'ideological orientation'. We had been promised a talk by Dr Parris Chang, a Taiwanese billed as a columnist for Newsweek, on the 'ideological front lines of Asia,' but when I reached the conference hall there was instead Larry Moffit giving a lecture, with slides, on the dialectic. He had reached the chicken and the egg: on the left of the screen was a totalitarian egg hat- ching, as appeared from the caption, by a dialectical process, in which the egg was the thesis, the embryo the antithesis, and the chicken the synthesis. On the right of the screen was a freedom-loving — perhaps even authoritarian — egg, outwardly in- distinguishable, but hatching according to the theories of the Reverend God. (These I have forgotten.) There followed a discus- sion of Engels's view on the dialectic: but by the time Larry started talking about the `negation of a negation', I felt very strange indeed. Chills and sweats crawled all over my body: my vision floated as in a fever. These might have been the symptoms of an incipient conversion to Marxism, so I thought it best to make my excuses and leave.
Dr Parris Chang appeared the next day, as we drove in air-conditioned coaches to the nearest ideological front line — on the Thai-Cambodian border. Thailand had been most beautiful: sunburnt pink earth, clay-coloured sluggish rivers trembling as fish moved beneath the surface, temples with patterned roofs of green and yellow ochre, and always in the distance trees glit- tering like spilt emeralds in the hazeless air. The border country was a dull confusion of waterless khaki scrub and grey tapioca fields.
The road crossed a broad flat-bottomed ditch. There were a light tank, two jeeps armed with machine guns, and three soldiers resting outside a bunker. Our escorts changed: we had reached Cam-
Auberon Waugh is on holiday. bodia. Fortunately, the Communist hordes were still some distance off, fighting the Khmer Rouge, so we could visit the head- quarters of the freedom-loving KPNLF (the Kampuchean People's National Liberation Front) which represents the Lon Nol fac- tion that overthrew Prince Sihanouk with American encouragement, and which was in turn defeated by the Khmer Rouge.
The camp seemed prosperous: well-built timber houses roofed with thatch or cor- rugated iron. Twenty thousand people were said to live here. We were received by a general, dressed exactly as a warlord should be in pressed green slacks, a bush shirt with a designer's label on it, and well-polished pale leather boots. His belt buckle was large and silver: his wristwatch seemed even larger. The obligatory sunglasses were tasteful (Dunhill, perhaps). There was a brief ceremony. Ambassador MacArthur handed over 'sports equipment' (two basketballs) as a token of our esteem, and a `press conference' began.
The heat was frightful even in the shade. The general spoke in faltering English of the 'national liberation struggle' and of his `cadres' in the countryside, armed by the Chinese. In the background a soldier in black pyjamas flitted between two patches of shade. Was it to this that the Americans had come in South-East Asia? A camp in the middle of nowhere, where the weapons, the language, and even the clothing of the ordinary soldiers had all been borrowed from the Vietcong, and Ambassador MacArthur handed out basketballs to demonstrate American goodwill? The fact- finders lapped it up, at any rate. One of them, greatly daring, asked the general what he would do with the Khmer Rouge after the final victory. Would the Chinese still back them?
No. He thought not: 'You must remember that the years from '75 to '78 in Kampuchea were ... very bad ... not a good image for China.' He smiled, having found the right mass-medial word. There was a round of applause, and the fact- finders hastened away to take each other's photographs with the guerrillas. I wandered off down paths of beaten yellowy earth bet- ween thorn fences till I found some real faces to remind me why the years from '75 to '78 had not produced a good image for China. They were being photographed too.
The visit had exhilarated the fact-finders. Did you see the bunkers? The slit trenches? Did you finger a rifle? Did you photograph a baby? Dr Parris Chang, in an uplifted state, approached me as an Englishman and started to upbraid the British Government for selling out Hong Kong. Perhaps he ex- pected me to agree with him. At any rate, when I said that I would rather hand over the colony without a war than after one, if these were the alternatives, he made some sneering remark about the Falklands, and spurned me for the rest of the fact-finding tour. It seems that this camp has since been overrun by the Vietnamese.
My secret came into the open in Tokyo, after a particularly brain-damaging speech by Ambassador MacArthur, during which his nasal echoing voice came more and more to resemble a persistent fault in the public address system, while all the phrases we had grown to know so well came out even more slowly than on the previous oc- casion. 'Not merely peace ... but ... peace ... with freedom' (which meant: not mere- ly peace, but peace with a couple of small wars on your frontier). 'I have served in many countries and places all over the world' (where am I today?) and 'I can safe- ly say on behalf of each and every one of us that we have learned a great deal here' (wake up, it's nearly finished).
As we retired, numbed, from the debris of this banquet (Japanese steak and orange juice: there were trade negotiations in progress) Larry Moffitt pronounced my sentence: 'I guess you're only fairly anti- communist after all'. This was, if true, a brave thing for him to say. Merely to speak to me might be to risk contamination with some sort of ideological 'AIDS'. One of the Germans had earlier claimed to protect himself against tropical diseases by washing the affected parts thoroughly in Scotch whisky after every occasion of sin. Larry Moffitt's defences against ideological con- tagion were even more frighteningly effec- tive.
These sexual analogies are deliberate, for the political libido of the Far Right is curiously inflamed. To confess yourself an 'anti-communist' in this specialised sense is like being received into the 'Homintern': the world may not approve, but the world will never understand how good it feels. For the Moonies the matter is further com- plicated because anti-communism is fun- damental to their religion. It is not just a gravy train, as it was for most of the fact- finders: nor is it a matter of patriotism, as it was for the Thais, the Taiwanese, and the South Koreans, all of whom feel with some justice threatened by large communist ar- mies on their borders. Not even this gives them as much in common as a dedicated anti-communist might think. Though the Germans, with the curious magnetism of their race, managed to attract a pimp while walking through the shopping centre of Taipei (he sprang from the shadows with a gold watch on his wrist, crying 'Ma sa gi?'), the Thai and Taiwanese economies do not have very much else in common. And listening to the Taiwanese extolling the vir- tues of planning, state health care and free education, one wonders if their American supporters have ever listened to the Chinese idea of capitalism. It certainly isn't rugged individualism. And it works impressively.
For the Americans in our party, anti- communism, in so far as it was an ideology at all, seemed merely a sublimation of na- tionalism; perhaps this explains the failures of American imperialism. Looking at the successes of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, no one can doubt that America has much to offer its protectorates, yet when it is called anti-communism, American im- perialism is justified by what it can exclude, not by what it has to offer. It is a curiously negative vision, quite lacking in self- confidence, on which to build an empire.
F. D. Roosevelt said of a Latin American dictator: 'He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.' The anti- communists would say: 'He may be a son of a bitch, but at least he's not their son of a bitch.' The first attitude may not win friends, but the second doesn't even in- fluence people for very long (vide His Ex- cellency President Marcos).
All this made conversation with Larry Moffitt rather difficult for me: for he was not merely an American, but a Moonie, for whom anti-communism was a fundamental religious experience. To grasp the truth of anti-communism was to recognise the ex-' istence and nature of evil. Conversely, to be only 'fairly anti-communist' was like being a concentration camp guard who was kind to children in his spare time. The more I tried to explain my hesitant European sen- sibility, the more extreme and contemp- tuous Larry's attitude became. The Filipino opposition was dismissed as 'gutless' (I thought of the dog trotting along a roadside with a human foot in its mouth): the American missiles in Europe could be withdrawn at any moment (`The will of Congress is waving like a flag'). When I ob- jected that this would leave us with the French deterrent at least, he replied: 'Two bombs! That's nothing! What can two bombs do?' This in a Tokyo hotel.
It seemed unfair to continue. We were both very tired. I resolved to find Larry the next morning, when we were to fly to Seoul, and then to discover what he really thought, for the Conquistador streak he had displayed the previous night seemed wholly out of character. But when I explained my problem to another sheepdog at the airport, she replied: 'You want to talk to him again? You mean you've changed your mind?'