Monday, April 11, 2005

US-Vatican hotline

pv vivekanand

IT is known from developments on the ground that in the 1980s, the US used Christians in Eastern Europe to fight communism and it is widely accepted that the late Pope John Paul II played a major role in encouraging the revolt that eventually led to the near-total collapse of communist countries around the world. But the truth is  that the US and the Vatican had a secret alliance from the time John Paul became pope and Washington and the Vatican worked closely together to plan the strategy that actually led to the collapse of communism by the mid-90s.
According to confidential documents that have been leaked after the death of Pope John Paul this month and appearing on various internet sites, a secret "hot line" of communication was set up between Washington and the Holy See after the Polish-born pope took over the helm of the Roman Catholic Church on Oct. 22, 1978. This channel was established by Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski who served as President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, who found in John Paul, a fellow Pole, a perfect ally in the battle against communism.
Brzezinski is known for having devised the Cold War strategy to fight the Soviet Union and other communist countries by using Christians in Eastern Europe and Latin America and Muslims in Asia and the Middle East (He was the one who brought in Arab countries to support and finance the mujahedeen war against the Red Army in Afghanistan during the 1980s).
The documents reveal that Brzezinski first met the pope in 1976 when the latter was Polish Archbishop Karol Wojtyla and visited to the US to deliver a series of lectures at Harvard University.
Brzezinski, who was then a professor at Harvard, was very impressed by Wojtyla and invited him for tea. That was the most important event in the US-orchestrated campaign against communism since it was during the meeting over tea that the first step was taken towards establishing an American-Vatican alliance against communism.
Brzezinski and Archbishop Wojtyla remained in continued contact through correspondence, and then in 1977 Brzezinski took over as Carter's national security adviser and Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978, setting the ground for the secret alliance to take off.
The announcement that Wojtyla was to be the next pope was the moment that Brzezinsky was waiting for. He got Carter excited about how the US could use the Roman Catholic Church and convinced the president that the new pope was the perfect man for the job.
For the first time in history, a 30-member delegation representing the US attended the ceremony where Wojtyla underwent the investiture as Pope John Paul II on Oct.22, 1978; the delegation included the speaker of the House of Representatives, Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neil and Brzezinski himself – both Roman Catholics — Senator Edward Muskie and Representatives Clement Zablocki and Barbara Mikulski, all Carter loyalists and all of Polish origin.
“’It’s the beginning of the end for communism," exulted Ms Mikulski said at a lunch at the US embassy in Rome after the investiture, clearly indicating how the the newfound US-Vatican alliance was to be used.
A glimpse into the alliance and how it worked was offered by James M. Rentschler, a former US ambassador and staff member of Carter's National Security Council under Brzenzski.
The key man from the Roman Catholic Church in the alliance was none other than Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, whose power and influence at the Vatican was second only to the pope himself. Casaroli was Pope John Paul II's first secretary of state (foreign minister).
Brzezinski and Casarole established the private channel between the White House and the Holy See — the so-called Vatican hot line.
That channel was used by Carter and John Paul II for what Rentschler described in 1998 (twenty years later) as "a personal correspondence of extraordinary breadth …an unprecedented exchange between an American Baptist president and a Polish-born Roman Catholic pontiff. “
The Carter-Pope correspondence, some 40 letters, remain classified and confidential under the official secrets act of the US. But, according to Rentschler, the letters covered almost everything on the international scene and highly sensitive issues such as arms control, human rights, famine relief, popular unrest behind in communist countries, Soviet activities in Afghanistan, the fate of Catholic missionaries in China, Cuban links with Africa, the Middle East peace process, hostage-taking and terrorism.
While it is difficult to perceive how John Paul saw himself being used o fight communism, one thing is clear: He wanted to fight communism himself and the alliance with the US was perfect for him too.
What followed was the increased number of visits that the Pope launched into communist countries — those behind the Iron Curtain — and speeches to the faithful Christians there. His speeches prompted the faithful to defy party orders and rise up against their regimes — that was the most signficant and indeed the strongest contribution that the late pope made to the collapse of communism.
Carter left office in January 1980 after losing re-election to Ronald Reagan. However, the "hot line" set up by Brzeniski and Casaroli had already done its job, since the Pope had already made up his mind to work against communism for the rest of his life. And he did so, and we the results today.
According to the documents, the US intelligence agencies worked in parallel to the pope's efforts by engaging secret agitators to rouse the people and encourage them to rise up against their atheistic oppressors and also inflamed Muslims in communist countries.
Brzezinski remained in contact with the late pope throughout. But, it is unlikely that he had to do any "follow -up" work and/or suggest new "ideas" in the anti-communism battle. The Pope was already an effective planner and fighter himself by the time the Carter administration left office, and the collapse of communism was already signalled although it took more than 12 years for the Soviet Union to break up.