In the mid-1980s, Senator John McCain, was on the Advisory Board of the United States Council for World Freedom, the American affiliate of the World Anti-Communist League. McCain was at that time a member of the House of Representatives, and he voted for financial aid for the Contra rebels..
According to the Associated Press:
"The U.S. Council for World Freedom aided rebels trying to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua. That landed the group in the middle of theand in legal trouble with the , which revoked the charitable organization's tax exemption."
At the time, the "leftist government of Nicaragua" was the democratically-elected government of Nicaragua.
In the 1970s, the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) brought together conservatives, fascists, and representatives of right-wing death squads. WACL announced it had rid itself of unsavory elements, but in reality only a handful of overtly antisemitic and neonazi participants were ousted.
Anticommunist activist Geoffrey Stewart-Smith, who led his British affiliate out of WACL, declared in 1974 that despite a publicized housecleaning, "The World Anti-Communist League is largely a collection of Nazis, Fascists, anti-Semites, sellers of forgeries, vicious racialists, and corrupt self-seekers. It has evolved into an anti-Semitic international."
In the 1980s the United States affiliate of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) was the United States Council for World Freedom (USCWF).
View USCWF Documents (pdf)
Retired General John "Jack" Singlaub was one of the principal cheerleaders and fundraisers for the Contras, and had close ties to the Oliver North covert operation on behalf of President Reagan. The congressional Iran-Contra investigative committee never pursued Singlaub's leadership role in the World Anti-Communist League.
Along with Singlaub, leaders of the WACL's U.S. affiliate included Stephan Possony, Lev Dobriansky, Fred Schlafly, and Jay Parker. The advisory board inluded Hon. John S. McCain, III, U.S. Congressman; Howard Phillips, President, The Conservative Caucus; and Dr. George Roche III, President, Hillsdale College.
In 1978 Washington Post reporter Paul W. Valentine wrote an expose headlined: "The Fascist Specter Behind the World Anti-Red League." In 1980 WACL chairman Roger Pearson was forced to resign based on these and other allegations.
In 1984 the issue surfaced again when nationally-syndicated columnist Jack Anderson revealed that one Latin American affiliate of WACL (the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation or CAL) was notorious for its link to death squads.
Singlaub told the AP that by 1984 he had cleaned up WACL. However some researchers disputed that claim.
Scott Anderson & Jon Lee Anderson (no relation to Jack), for example, wrote in 1986:
"Perhaps what is most wrong with the World Anti-Communist League is what it hides behind and what it has rejected. In the name of anti-communism, it has embraced those responsible for death squads, apartheid, torture, and the extermination of European Jewry. Along the way, it has repudiated democratic government as a viable alternative, either to govern or to combat communism."
Their book, Inside the League: The Shocking Exposé of How Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League, recounted an array of members and supporters of WACL that suggested while Singlaub purged the most overt racists and antisemites, the League was still a safe haven for objectionable bigots and authoritarians, as long as they were sufficiently discrete and remained staunch anti-communists.
In their "Acknowledgments and Disacknowledgments" for the book, the Anderson brothers noted that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had refused to allow the Andersons access to the ADL's extensive archives on antisemitic groups. The ADL, "...which had at first denounced the anti-Semitic elements in the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation, inexplicably declined to furnish us with their material." (p. xx)
During the 1980s the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) shifted to the political right and played partisan politics with reporters seeking information and assessments regarding WACL and antisemitism. Writing in 1992, Sheldon Englemeyer, a syndicated columnist, covered the controversy in "ADL's supposed shift to the right: Is it no longer a 'clear voice?'"
According to Englemeyer:
"Then there is the matter of Gen. John Singlaub. When he emerged as a leading player in the Iran-contra scandal, Jewish organizations noted that he was the head of the World Anti-Communist League. WACL has a long history of association with anti-Semites, former Nazis, neo-Nazis and the like.
"At the time, the Reagan administration was making a serious effort to win Jewish communal support for the contras. The president himself suggested to a visiting delegation of Jewish organizational leaders that Sandinista control of Nicaragua posed a threat to Israel's supply lines. The furor over Singlaub and WACL was a clear threat to this effort (which never had a chance to succeed in any case). Of all the Jewish organizations, only the ADL came to Gen. Singlaub's defense."
The idea for the book Inside the League came when Jon Lee Anderson was researching a series of columns on Latin American death squads for Jack Anderson, (Jon Lee's employer but not his relative). Enlisting the aid of his brother Scott, the two first began tracing the connections between the death squads but soon were unravelling networks and alliances that involved terrorists, Nazi collaborators, racists, assassins, anti-Jewish bigots, and right-wing anti- communist American politicians. The one factor all had in common was their involvement with the World Anti-Communist League.
The Latin American death squads, for instance, were found to be linked through an umbrella group of Central and South American rightists called the Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation (CAL). CAL in turn was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), lead by a retired U.S. Major General, John Singlaub. At the time, Singlaub boasted WACL was the coordinating body for raising private aid for the Contras, a task supported explicitly by the Reagan White House which sent government officials and glowing letters of support to WACL meetings.
A list of persons involved over the years with WACL is printed on the back cover of Inside the League. Among the more notable: Yaroslav Stetsko, a Nazi collaborator who in July 1941 presided over the extermination of 7,000 Jews; Stefano delle Chiaie, a fugitive Italian terrorist wanted for robbery, kidnapping and murder; Mario Sandoval Alarcon, architect of the Guatemalan death squads; Chirila Ciuntu, a Romanian fascist who participated in a 1941 massacre of Jews; Ray Cline, former deputy director of the CIA; Jess Helms, Republican Senator from North Carolina; Fred Schlafly, Phyllis' husband; General Jorge Rafael Videla, former Argentine dictator, imprisoned for mass-murder; and Roger Pearson, a scientific racist whose books on racial superiority are still distributed today by American neo-Nazi groups.
WACL also served as an international umbrella group for several Eastern European emigre groups founded and lead by wartime Nazi collaborators, according to Russ Bellant, in The Coors Connection.
Bellant chronicled why it was a problem that the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN) was the Eastern European branch of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL):
The ABN was founded in 1943 in alliance with Hitler's war on the eastern front. It was composed of political and paramilitary units that had aided Hitler's occupation of the region, including forces from the Ukraine, the Baltic region, Hungary, Byelorussia, and Bulgaria. Some ABN leaders were implicated in war crimes. The leadership of the ABN did not change dramatically after World War II, nor did the group's expressions of national socialist ideology....
Bellant reports that according to "an ABN publication," an advisor to Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, Laszlo Pasztor spoke at one ABN meeting as a representative of a "Hungarian organization." The same issue of ABN Correspondence has a full-page obituary for an official of a Nazi puppet government during WWII."
As the Anderson brothers wrote: "We have examined the World Anti-Communist League...because it is the one organization in which representatives of virtually every right-wing extremist movement that has practiced unconventional warfare are to be found. The League is the one constant in this netherworld; whether looking at Croation terrorists, Norwegian neo-Nazis, Japanese war criminals, or American ultra- rightists...." (p. x, Author's Note).
The Scott brothers explain: "As defined by a League member who advocates its use, unconventional warfare includes 'in addition to terrorism, subversion and guerilla warfare, such covert and non-military activities as sabotage, economic warfare, support to resistance groups, black and gray psychological operations, disinformation activities, and political warfare.' "Certainly the Nazi forces of World War Two and the rightist death squads of El Salvador and Guatemala today are among this century's most accomplished practitioners of this unconventional warfare," wrote the Andersons.
They note that many historians have made the comparison before them, but point out "What has not been as well publicized is that the Salvadoran rightist killing peasants today learned his methods from the Nazis and their collaborators in Europe, and that he didn't receive this knowledge through the reading of books but through careful tutoring" through the network established by the World Anti-Communist League. It is this group that President Reagan has praised for playing "a leadership role in drawing attention to the gallant struggle now being waged by the true freedom fighters of our day."
Singlaub did expel several groups from WACL but whether or not this cleaned up the group is a matter of perspective. McCain says he resigned from the USCWF Advisory Board in 1984, but he attended related events after that. There is no doubt that several of noxious groups had been expelled from WACL by the time McCain was invited to join the Advisory Board of the USCWF in 1981. When McCain asked to be removed from the Advisory Board, it was following the Jack Anderson revelations about the death squads in 1984. So at issue is the nature of WACL and the USCWF between 1981 and 1984.
Holly Sklar followed the continued affiliations of WACL member groups in her book, Washington's War on Nicauragua:
"When President Reagan sent "warm greetings" to the 1984 WACL conference in San Diego, Mario Sandoval was there. So was contra leader Adolfo Calero, along with assorted racists and fascists from around the world....
" 'If I have to get rid of half of Guatemala, so the other half can live in peace, I'll do it,' declared Mario Sandoval during his failed 1985 bid for the Guatemalan presidency. He attended the September 1985 WACL conference in Dallas, along with contra leaders Adolfo Calero and Enrique Bermudez and contra donor Ellen Garwood of Texas. Tom Posey's Civilian Military Assistance mercenaries provided security." (p. 84)
Author Russ Bellant notes in The Coors Connection, that the U.S. Council for World Freedom, the U.S. branch of WACL, brought unsavory "elements to the U.S. for WACL's annual meetings in 1984 and 1985."
Included was a delegate who served five years in prison for attempting to assassinate Charles DeGaulle, persons who led Nazi SS units or collaborationist puppet governments during World War II, and architects of mass murder in Latin America. Those meetings served to build support for the...Contras as well as UNITA and RENAMO, both allies of South Africa" that were acting as anti-communist rebel forces.
Both the US Council for World Freedom and World Anti-Communist League helped nurture the U.S. government relationship with militant Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Soviet Union and its allies in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. This played an important role in the cascading series of unintended consequences that resulted in the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the creation and rise of the al Qaeda terrorist network and its imitators around the world.
Anderson, Scott, and Jon Lee Anderson. (1986). Inside the League: The Shocking Exposé of How Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc.
Bellant, Russ. (1991 ). Old Nazis, the New Right and the Reagan Administration: The Role of Domestic Fascist Networks in the Republican Party and Their Effect on U.S. Cold War Policies. Boston, MA: South End Press and Political Research Associates.
Bellant, Russ. (1991 ). The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism. Boston: South End Press and Political Research Associates.
Englemeyer, Sheldon. "ADL's supposed shift to the right: Is it no longer a 'clear voice?'" Syndicated column distributed in 1992.
King, Dennis and Chip Berlet, "The A.D.L. Under Fire: It's Shift to Right Has Led to Scandal," The New York Times, May 28, 1993, p. A29 (Op-Ed).
King, Dennis and Chip Berlet, "ADLgate," Tikkun, pp. 31-36, 100-102.
Sklar, Holly. Washington's War on Nicaragua, (Boston: South End Press, 1988),
Valentine, Paul W."The Fascist Specter Behind the World Anti-Red League," Washington Post, 5/28/1978.
Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey. Memorandum "The Hidden Face of the World Anti-Communist League," dated March 1974 on file at PRA.