THE MYSTERIOUS RAMSEY CLARK: STALINIST DUPE OR RULING-CLASS SPOOK?
by Manny Goldstein
Take a close look and there is something downright suspicious about former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, now the darling of certain sectors of the radical left. His journey has taken him from the heights of federal power to outer orbits of the political fringe. In the process, he has seemingly transformed from a shill for the most corrupt elements of the US elites to a shill for any foreign despot who claims to oppose the US elites.
Who is Ramsey Clark really working for?
Dynasty of Mediocrity
Ramsey Clark was born to power. In 1945, the Clark family made its leap from Dallas to DC when Ramsey's dad Tom Clark, a lobbyist for Texas oil interests, was appointed Attorney General by President Harry Truman. In his Texas days, the politically ambitious elder Clark was cultivated as a useful connection by New Orleans mafia kingpin Carlos Marcello, and many feared Clark's new job would afford organized crime access to higher levels of power.
AG Clark was repeatedly mired in corruption scandals. In 1945, he was accused of taking a bribe to fix a war profiteering case. In 1947, after he had four convicted Chicago mob bosses sprung from prison before their terms were complete, Congress appointed a committee to investigate—and was effectively roadblocked by Tom's refusal to hand over parole records.
Truman admitted to a biographer that "Tom Clark was my biggest mistake." But he insisted: "It isn't so much that he's a bad man. It's just that he's such a dumb son of a bitch."
AG Tom Clark played along with the post-war anti-communist hysteria, approving federal wiretaps on Alger Hiss, the State Department official accused being a Soviet mole. In 1949, he moved over to the Supreme Court. Carlos Marcello biographer John Davis asserts that the kingpin continued to funnel money to Clark when he sat on the high court.
Tom stepped down from the high court when young Ramsey was appointed attorney general by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. Ramsey was likely appointed precisely because he was Tom's son. And not because LBJ was impressed with Tom, but just the opposite: Johnson knew that Ramsey's appointment would maneuver Tom into stepping down. This cleared the way for the appointment of Thurgood Marshall, a comparative moral and intellectual titan who was strategic to the White House's effort to buy peace with the civil rights movement.
AG Ramsey got into a famous showdown with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover when he attempted to block the Director's wiretaps of Martin Luther King Jr.—apparently the first stirrings of Ramsey's conscience. Hoover, considering Clark a spineless "jellyfish," went over his head and ordered the wiretaps without the AG's approval. However, Clark later told Curt Gentry, author of a critical biography of Hoover, that the FBI director had "very strong human qualities" and "was not at all evil by any means. He really believed deeply in integrity, as he defined it, as he saw it."
Despite his unwillingness to approve the snooping on King (who, after all, had been a guest at the Kennedy White House), Clark was complicit with Hoover's COINTELPRO. Following the 1967 riots in Newark and Detroit, he directed the FBI to investigate whether the unrest was the result of some "scheme or conspiracy." He instructed Hoover to develop "sources or informants in black nationalist organizations, SNCC and other less publicized groups." The result was Hoover's extensive "ghetto informant program."
In 1968, Clark prosecuted Dr. Benjamin Spock for advocating draft resistance. "As late as 1968, while campaigning for Lyndon Johnson in Wisconsin, Clark was shouting at anti-war protesters to take their grievances to Hanoi rather than Washington," wrote John B. Judis in a 1991 expose on Clark in The New Republic.
Clark also dutifully backed the official findings that Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan each acted alone in the assassination of the Kennedy brothers.
But when the trailing LBJ dropped out of the race and the Democrats lost the White House in '68, Clark was iced from the farewell luncheon. The humiliated White House isolated him as King's Resurrection City protesters occupied the DC mall and Republican candidate Richard Nixon baited the AG for undermining "law and order." He had become a convenient whipping boy for both parties.
An embittered casualty of the '60s, Clark assumed a leftist posture after leaving the Justice Department. He became the lawyer for anti-war protestor Philip Berrigan, headed a private probe into the FBI killings of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and travelled to Vietnam to condemn the bombing.
In a 1974 bid for Senate in New York, he played the centrist in the Democratic primary, with Bella Abzug on the left and Daniel Moynihan on the right. Moynihan won. Clark, now 46, appeared to burn his bridges with the establishment at this point.
In June 1980, with America mesmerized by the Iran hostage crisis, he joined a forum on "Crimes of America" in Tehra—-the first of many such junkets. The '80s saw him globetrotting to schmooze with any dictator who happened to be on the White House shit-list. After the US bombing of Libya in 1986, he met with Col. Moammar Qadaffi in Tripoli. He went to Grenada to advise Bernard and Phyllis Coard, leaders of the clique accused of murdering Maurice Bishop, who were facing treason charges.
Things started to smell really fishy in 1989, when Clark represented ultra-right cult- master Lyndon LaRouche and six cohorts on conspiracy and mail fraud charges. The LaRouchies had been bilking their naive followers of their savings by getting them to cough up their credit card numbers. Clark (who had been silent when the real COINTELPRO was conducted under his watch at the Justice Department) now charged that the LaRouche case was an "outgrowth" of COINTELPRO. He said the case was manufactured by LaRouche's "powerful enemies within the establishment" who targeted the cult because of its crusade "to combat the traffic in so-called 'recreational drugs'...and the practice of usury."
Clark was echoing the standard line of the LaRouche organization, which paradoxically pleads government persecution while boasting of its connections to the intelligence establishment (uniquely merging paranoia with delusions of grandeur). In fact, the cult has exchanged information with the FBI, and farmed out its "intelligence" services to Panama's Gen. Manuel Noriega. LaRouche's 1970s campaigns for a "War on Drugs" and space-based missile defense eerily predicted Reagan-era programs.
Clark couldn't keep his client from a conviction and brief prison term. But Clark's relationship with LaRouche went beyond legal representation to actual advocacy. Researcher Chip Berlet, a watchdog on radical right groups, told Judis that Clark's brief was a "political polemic."
In June 1990, a LaRouche front organization, the Schiller Institute, flew Clark to a cult-organized conference in Copenhagen. His speech there claimed the US government had moved against LaRouche because he was "a danger to the system," and decried that he was a victim of "vilification." The speech was printed in full by the LaRouchie New Federalist propaganda rag.
Clark also represented PLO leaders in a suit brought by the family of Leon Klinghoffer, the elderly vacationer who was shot and thrown overboard from the hijacked Achille Lauro cruise-ship by renegade Palestinian terrorists in 1986.
Another Clark client was Karl Linnas, an ex-Nazi concentration camp guard in Estonia (where he had overseen the murder of some 12,000 resistence fighters and Jews), who was being deported from the US to the USSR to face war crimes charges. Clark again lost the case, but again went to bat for his client in the public arena, questioning the need to prosecute Nazis "forty years after some god-awful crime they're alleged to have committed."
The Devil's Pact
In August 1990, two months after his return from the LaRouche conference in Copenhagen, with US troops mobilizing to Saudi Arabia, Clark accepted an invitation to lead the National Coalition to Stop US Intervention in the Middle East. This invitation had been extended by members of an orthodox Stalinist sect, the Workers World Party (WWP). Clark had finally found a new home. The Clark-WWP alliance has lasted to this day.
A brief look at the doctrinaire sect's history: WWP is the brainchild of Sam Marcy, intellectual guru at the party's helm until his death in 1998. In 1956, Marcy led the faction in the Socialist Workers Party that supported the Soviet invasion of Hungary, attacking the popular uprising and general strike there as "counter- revolutionary." In 1959, the Marcy clique broke from the Trotskyist SWP to found the more Stalinist WWP. The new group wasted little time in cheering on the brutal Chinese repression of the indigenous culture in Tibet that year (which sent the Dalai Lama and 80,000 refugees fleeing into exile).
Vying with SWP and other parties for top dog position on the radical left, WWP always maintained a front group to suck in neophytes. During the Vietnam era this was Youth Against War & Fascism (YAWF). In the Reagan-Bush era it was People's Anti-War Mobilization (PAM)—which would be the operative group in the National Coalition in 1990.
With glasnost, WWP supported the Kremlin hard-liners who resisted Gorbachev's reforms and disarmament moves. Insisting that China remained a "workers state," WWP supported Deng Xiaoping in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, again attacking the protesting students and workers as "counter-revolutionaries." In 1991, WWP supported the KGB coup against Gorbachev.
Yet WWP also wooed the Democratic party, supporting Jesse Jackson's presidential bid in 1984. In New York, WWP made alliances with the left wing of the Democrats to establish a foothold in key trade unions.
WWP cadre Gavriella Gemma became a secretary in Clark's New York law office in 1977. In his New Republic piece, Judis suggests that Clark fell under her spell and was won over to the WWP. When David McReynolds of the War Resisters League met with Clark in 1990 to warn him that WWP was "using him," Clark refused to listen, constantly referring to what "Gavriella said."
With Clark as the figurehead and PAM/WWP at the helm, the National Coalition provoked a split in the movement against Operation Desert Storm through its refusal to condemn Saddam Hussein or Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The other established anti-war groups (War Resisters League, CISPES, SANE/Freeze, National Organization for Women, etc.) formed the rival National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, which condemned both Bush and Saddam. Soft-peddling their pro-Saddam line, WWP's National Coalition won endorsements from celebrities like Spike Lee and Casey Kasem, sucking in numbers even after the split. The two groups held separate marches on Washington in January 1991, allowing the media to portray a divided movement.
WWP went to extreme lengths to maintain control of the National Coalition. At an April 1991 protest in New York City, WWP thugs attacked a Lower East Side squatter contingent and ejected them from the rally for refusing to take down their unapproved homemade banners. WWPers then called in the police and had the squatters arrested (SHADOW April/May 1991).
In November 1990, Clark flew to Baghdad to meet with Saddam, who allowed him to return with a few hostages. In February, with the bombs falling, Clark was in Basra, Iraq's southern port, witnessing the destruction. But his consistent failure to complain about Saddam's regime made it clear he was there at its invitation.
With Clark's name-recognition and homespun, avuncular image, WWP had the opportunity to form a new front group to win over naive liberals. This was the International Action Center (IAC), which remains the top vehicle for Clark's ego and WWP's play for hegemony over the fragmented remnants of the left.
IAC/WWP's politics went from bad to worse as Yugoslavia descended into chaos. It soon became obvious that Clark's legal work now closely followed the WWP line. In 1992, Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, was served with federal subpoenas when he touched down in New York for UN meetings. The National Organization for Women and the Center for Constitutional Rights, acting on behalf of Bosnian refugee women, were charging him with ordering mass rape and war crimes. Clark, of course, immediately came forward to represent Karadzic. Clark also made junkets to Serb-occupied Bosnia to schmooze with Karadzic (as did various Russian neo-fascists like Vladimir Zhirinovsky).
International Action Center leaflets engaged in blatant historical revisionism over Serb war crimes, portraying them as lies perpetrated by an imperialist conspiracy.
"What about all those reports of 'Serbian atrocities'?" asked an IAC leaflet in 1993, and then answered its own question: "Before the bombs can be dropped the lies must be told." It then went on to cite fabricated atrocities which the Kuwaiti regime's paid PR hacks had attributed to the Iraqi occupation forces, without offering a shred of evidence that the reports of Serb rape camps and "ethnic cleansing" were similarly fabricated. Note the subtly evil propaganda. Opposing NATO bombing is one thing. Calling the reports of mass rape and ethnic cleansing "lies" is quite another. This "anti-war" propaganda is on the same repugnant level as right-wing Holocaust Revisionism.
IAC/WWP embraces what is now called in Europe the "Red-Brown Alliance"—the notion of a left-fascist alliance against the West. This alliance is most advanced in Russia where neo-Stalinists and neo-Czarists have joined to oppose Yeltsin (seen as a stooge of the West). In an echo of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact, former communists and anarchists in Russia now work with figures like Zhirinovsky, who have themselves sought alliances with German neo-Nazis. Like Clark and WWP, these Russian extremists have avidly rooted for the Serb armies throughout the wars in former Yugoslavia.
The "Red-Brown Alliance" was seen on the streets of New York during the 1999 NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia, when Clark led rallies which brought WWP communists together with right-wing nationalists and Orthodox priests from the Serb immigrant community. Serbian flags were proudly waved at these New York rallies, while meetings at IAC's 14th Street offices degenerated into mass chants of "Serbia! Serbia! Serbia!" This at a time when Serbian police and paramilitaries were forcing 800,000 Albanian refugees to flee their homes in Kosovo at gunpoint. Again, WRL and other anti-war groups broke away to form their own coalition that rejected both NATO's bombing and Serbian aggression against the Kosovo Albanians. But this time it was only IAC/WWP which held a national rally in DC.
In October 1999, Clark met with Yugoslavia's President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, and said everything the dictator wanted to hear. Milosevic, by then facing war crimes charges before the UN tribunal, called his guest "brave, objective, and moral."
The case against Radovan Karadzic languished since the UN launched war crimes charges against him, forcing him into hiding in Serbia. Clark, meanwhile, represented a Rwandan Hutu militiaman fighting his extradition from the US back to Rwanda to face genocide charges. The WWP line simultaneously (and predictably) tilted to the genocidal Hutu militias as the UN wrote up war crime charges against their leaders for ordering the slaughter of half a million Tutsi civilians in 1994.
What is Ramsey Clark: dupe, kook or spook? Has a well-intentioned but none-too-bright Clark been duped by the WWP cadre? Or has his reasoning become unhinged for reasons of personal psychology? Or, is he a deep-cover spook, whose real Devil's pact is with sinister elements of the US intelligence community, his mission to divide and discredit any resistance to Washington's war moves?
Alexander, Robert J.
International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documented Analysis of the Movement
Duke University 1991
Davis, John H.
Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy
J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets
"The Strange Case of Ramsey Clark"
The New Republic, April 22, 1991
Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism
The Beast Reawakens: Resurgent Fascism & Right-Wing Extremism in the US & Europe
"The Long and Lonely Journey of Ramsey Clark"
The New York Times, June 14, 1999
Yalof, David Alistair
Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Nominees
University of Chicago 1999
This article first ran in The Shadow, cerca 1999