Kengor Writes . . .
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of The Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania. These essays are republished from The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an on-line publication of Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Homage to a Cold War Prophet
Both my country and I lost a great friend and freedom fighter this week: Herb Meyer, an unsung hero of the Cold War. He received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal for his November 1983 memo predicting a Soviet collapse and victory for the United States. “If present trends continue,” wrote Meyer, “we’re going to win the Cold War.”
Meyer’s bosses, Bill Casey and Ronald Reagan, were all ears. In that endeavor, Meyer was the indispensable man to his beloved mentor and CIA director, Bill Casey.
Sad as I was to hear of his death, it was no surprise. I had been praying for Herb and dreading the news for months, ever since a terrible bike accident last September 25 left this brilliant man, of excellent mind and body, and barely into his 70s, unconscious and incapacitated. Herb’s son, Tom, of whom he was so proud, told me months ago that his dad’s life effectively ended that day. I feared that was the case.
The piece that The American Spectator published from Herb in July 2018 might have been his last, one of many articles he penned in rare moments of down-time when he wasn’t flying everywhere giving lectures on the state of intelligence and the world.
Herb liked to note that he got his start writing obituaries. They were so good that wags would tell him they regretted they hadn’t died when Herb was writing obituaries. I always regretted the day I would write Herb’s obituary, because I knew it wouldn’t be adequate. Besides, he used to rib me that I’d be writing his biography one day. I’d ask about some historical gem or try to yank some secret from his CIA days, only to have him (half) joke: “I’ll tell you when you write my biography.”
I told him that, no, he needed to do that — that is, write his story. He told me he didn’t have the time to start memoirs. I told him he’d better, before it’s too late. I’m sure he figured he had plenty of time. He didn’t.
I have written tributes to Herb in the past, at The American Spectator, in other sources, in my books on Reagan and the Cold War, for which his insights were invaluable. There were countless occasions when he would email or call in response to articles I wrote. I’ve missed that witty correspondence over the last 10 months. It will be hard to reconcile myself to the fact that those communications are permanently finished, and that he’s no longer available to tap for information. That’s what happens when we lose great minds like Herb’s — storehouses, irreplaceable repositories of information. He often told my students that our biggest problem as a nation and culture, in America and the West, is that we’ve forgotten what we already knew.
To that end, I want here to disclose something historically significant, compliments of Herb, and which I’ve long known I could fully divulge only upon his death, though I figured that wouldn’t come for many years.
It was from Herb that I learned that we had learned — specifically, Bill Casey, Ronald Reagan, and a very small group around Casey and Reagan — that the Soviets were behind the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, and that Casey and this tight-knit crew reached that dramatic conclusion in an extraordinarily classified CIA report that still has not been released.
It took time for me to extract that information from Herb. Going back through my notes these last couple days, I found my first record in an August 6, 2007, email, in which he responded to my inquiry about the shooting of the pope: “Yeah, I know a lot about this subject. I was in it up to my elbows.” That was the limit to what he could put in writing. He told me to call to discuss. He was traveling the next three weeks. We finally connected on August 31, from his home.
“Look, I know what happened with the pope,” he told me, again tight lipped.
That began many days of digging before it was clear to Herb that I had figured out what happened with the pope. Still, because of the extreme secrecy, he would not confirm anything by email or phone.
Finally, that changed on February 5, 2009, when Herb was on our campus of Grove City College, at my invitation, to give our third annual Ronald Reagan Lecture. It was a typical freezing Western Pennsylvania February day. We were about to hop into my conversion van to drive from a private dinner of about 30 people, held at a dining room that the college refers to as “Old MAP,” on our way to the pre-lecture reception at 5:45 at Pew auditorium. It was only the two of us.
By this point, we had become friends. Amid numerous emails and phone calls, I didn’t badger him about what he knew on John Paul II. If he wanted to tell me, he would. I left it in the hands of Herb, and perhaps Providence.
With a grin, Herb suddenly noted that we had not resolved the “pope issue.” As we stepped into the car, I smiled and said I was quite aware of that. I told him that I was confident I had figured it out, laying out the pieces of the puzzle I had been assembling. He nodded with an impressed “Hmm.” As we pulled out to drive across campus, Herb said to me flatly: “The Russians did it.”
He had heard my argument and knew that I knew — or at least as much as I could know without confirmation from one of the individuals who personally read the CIA report that Herb had read over 20 years ago. He also knew that the Italian Parliament had recently come to the same conclusion in an official report.
“The Soviets did it,” he told me. “They shot the pope.” That was the conclusion of the CIA’s investigation. He quickly added that I could not quote him.
Herb then told me about the moment they all learned the truth for the first time. He was in a room with a handful people: Bill Casey, Bob Gates, Jim McMahon — a CIA establishmentarian who, Herb noted, was “stunned” by the reality that the Kremlin could have been so vicious as to try to murder the pope. Herb reiterated that the finding is contained in a still-classified report, located somewhere, and that he had “never, ever seen anything that classified.” Herb quipped of the report’s sensitivity: “The last thing I saw, we were burning out the eyes of the girl who typed it.”
Herb would continue to tell me more on later occasions. Most notable, he said it was the Soviet GRU, military intelligence, that carried out the hit on the pope. It was not a KGB job.
“That’s what threw off everyone,” Herb said, “because everyone looking into whether the Soviets did it looked at the KGB, and pinged their KGB contacts for information, but found nothing. In fact, the KGB knew nothing because it wasn’t involved.”
I ultimately weaved together this information for my 2017 book, A Pope and a President, carefully not mentioning Herb Meyer as my key source. Intensely interested parties wanted to know who told me about the CIA finding of Soviet culpability. Most figured it was Bill Clark, Reagan’s closest aide, who was like a grandfather to me (I was his biographer). It wasn’t Clark. It was Herb Meyer.
One wonders what other gems Herb was keeping to himself, maybe for those elusive memoirs one day. We’ll never know.
The last time I saw Herb was at my good friend Bo DiMuccio’s house, when Herb returned to Grove City for our 10th annual Reagan Lecture. A group of us smoked cigars, had drinks, and talked about life and the world. The conversation continued to the front porch of the house where Herb was staying in Grove City, though Herb was tired out and went to bed early. It was a special night. It was the last.
Herb Meyer: Cold War prophet; agent of victory in the epic defeat of an Evil Empire; man of great stories; knowledge; and secrets. And a really good guy. Requiescat in pace.
What Lenin Said about Christians and Socialism
“If someone calls it socialism,” said Rev. William Barber at the August meeting of the Democratic National Committee, “then we must compel them to acknowledge that the Bible must then promote socialism, because Jesus offered free health care to everyone, and he never charged a leper a co-pay.”
Barber’s statement brought secular progressives to their feet in thunderous applause. That included DNC chair Tom Perez, who says that democratic socialists like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represent “the future of our party.” That’s a party once headed by men like John F. Kennedy, who warned of the “fanaticism and fury” — the “ruthless, godless tyranny” — of the “Communist conspiracy.”
Describing the U.S. Constitution and the Bible as “socialist documents,” the Rev. Barber exhorted the faithful: “If you want to have a moral debate, bring it on, baby!”
A moral debate on socialism and Christianity, pastor? Sure, let’s have it.
But there’s no need to pick on Rev. Barber. He’s interchangeable with any number of “social justice” proponents on the Religious Left. His statement actually pales to what was published in the Jesuit-run America magazine a few weeks ago — a stunning piece titled “The Catholic Case for Communism.” The column, which was written by an America staff writer named Dean Dettloff, came with a defense and explanation by America’s editor-in-chief, Fr. Matt Malone, S.J., called “Why we published an essay sympathetic to Communism.”
The spectacle prompted one reader to comment, “What will America publish next, ‘The Catholic Case for Atheism’? or ‘The Catholic Case for Satanism’?”
That’s no laughing matter. The Roman Catholic Church in the 1937 encyclical Divini Redemptoris referred to Communism as a “satanic scourge,” a “truly diabolical” instrument of the “sons of darkness.”
Can you imagine a publication in 2019 defending such an ideology? What did Communism produce in the interim, between 1937 and 2019? Only 100 million corpses or so.
But back to this democratic-socialism infatuation by many on the modern Religious Left. I dealt with this not long ago in a recent piece laying out at length what the Catholic Church has taught about socialism and even its alleged more “democratic” variants. Here, too, this article could run thousands of words with endless examples, including some from the very founders of socialism, Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, and past democratic socialists and Social Democrats refuting this stuff. Socialism is, in Marxist theory, the final transitionary step to Communism.
Here today, I’ll offer merely a snapshot from Vladimir Lenin himself — who, for the record, was a Social Democrat. Yes, you heard that right. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union began life in 1898 as the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. In 1903, at the party’s 2nd Congress, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin split their Bolshevik faction from their rival Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were self-professed Social Democrats.
And what did Lenin say about religion? “Religion is opium for the people,” wrote Lenin in December 1905, echoing his hero, Karl Marx. “Religion is a sort of spiritual booze.” That was a mild assessment from a man who wrote that “there is nothing more abominable than religion,” and “all worship of a divinity is a necrophilia.” Yes, necrophilia.
Sticking to this 1905 statement, Lenin saw socialism as incompatible with religious belief: “Everyone must be absolutely free to . . . be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule.” He declared: “Complete separation of Church and State is what the socialist proletariat demands of the modern state and the modern church.” Sounding like a 21st-century secular progressive in America, Lenin insisted that “religion must be declared a private affair.”
Of course, once Lenin and his Bolsheviks took over a decade later, they refused to tolerate religion even as a private affair. In fact, even in that 1905 letter, Lenin conceded as much: “We demand that religion be held a private affair so far as the state is concerned. But by no means can we consider religion a private affair so far as our Party is concerned.” In his Soviet state, the Party was the supreme, infallible authority, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union would relentlessly pursue what Mikhail Gorbachev called “a wholesale war on religion.”
Lenin continued, stating that in order “to combat the religious fog . . . we founded our association, the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, precisely for such a struggle against every religious bamboozling of the workers.” Lenin wanted a political system “cleansed of medieval mildew.” He wanted to halt “the religious humbugging of mankind.”
Other examples from Lenin? I could go on and on. These are tame examples taken from a decade prior to when Lenin came to power and began murdering by the thousands. This is the restrained Lenin. Still, one can see the absolute repudiation of religion vis-à-vis Communism, socialism, and democratic socialism.
Four years later, in May of 1909, Lenin repeated: “Religion is the opium of the people — this dictum by Marx is the cornerstone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion.” Here, Lenin was writing explicitly on behalf of fellow “Social-Democrats.” What he wrote is worth quoting at length, given what our Christian “democratic socialist” brethren now assert:
“It is the absolute duty of Social-Democrats to make a public statement of their attitude towards religion. Social-Democracy bases its whole world-outlook on scientific socialism, i.e., Marxism. The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism — a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion. . . . Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches, and each and every religious organization, as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class . . .
“Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion. . . . We must combat religion — that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion.
“This combat must be waged in order to reverse religion’s hold on the ‘backward sections of the town proletariat’” — that is, the town idiots.
Could a pastor (perhaps the Rev. Barber) or a priest who subscribes to America magazine be a fellow Social-Democrat and member of the Party? Apparently, even in Lenin’s day, a peculiar priest or two must have occasionally considered hooking up with Lenin and his Social-Democrats. Lenin himself reflected on the absurd thought:
“The question is often brought up whether a priest can be a member of the Social-Democratic Party or not, and this question is usually answered in an unqualified affirmative, the experience of the European Social-Democratic parties being cited as evidence. But this experience was the result, not only of the application of the Marxist doctrine to the workers’ movement, but also of the special historical conditions in Western Europe which are absent in Russia . . . so that an unqualified affirmative answer in this case is incorrect.
“It cannot be asserted once and for all that priests cannot be members of the Social-Democratic Party; but neither can the reverse rule be laid down. If a priest comes to us to take part in our common political work and conscientiously performs Party duties, without opposing the program of the Party, he may be allowed to join the ranks of the Social-Democrats; for the contradiction between the spirit and principles of our program and the religious convictions of the priest would in such circumstances be something that concerned him alone, his own private contradiction. . . . But, of course, such a case might be a rare exception even in Western Europe, while in Russia it is altogether improbable. And if, for example, a priest joined the Social-Democratic Party and made it his chief and almost sole work actively to propagate religious views in the Party, it would unquestionably have to expel him from its ranks.”
If a left-wing priest were foolish enough to join the Party, Lenin and the boys would accept his help (Lenin is infamous for allegedly referring to such people as “useful idiots”). But if the strange priest ever tried to share his faith with the comrades, well, he would be shown the door and the boot.
Lenin knew better. So, too, did Marx: “Communism begins where atheism begins,” he asserted.
Once the Bolsheviks took over Russia, atheism was required of Party officials. Any lingering religious sentiment by the Party member must be purged. This was likewise true for the American Communist apparatchiks. “Many workers join the Communist Party who still have some religious scruples, or religious ideas,” conceded William Z. Foster, head of the Communist Party U.S.A., in testimony to Congress:
“. . . but a worker who will join the Communist Party, who understands the elementary principles of the Communist Party, must necessarily be in the process of liquidating his religious beliefs and, if he still has any lingerings when he joins the Party, he will soon get rid of them.”
This is why religious people generally have historically understood Communism and socialism to be antithetical to religion: the Communists and socialists told us they were.
I know that some Religious Left Christians will take issue with this article focusing on the likes of Lenin and William Z. Foster. Fair enough. But that’s my focus here in this article (just one of numerous I’ve written on socialism and Communism), and it isn’t irrelevant. These things have been thought about for a long time. This isn’t new.
This is crucial history that the modern Religious Left surely doesn’t know, no doubt because it was never learned. Our universities have failed to teach this material, instead criticizing anti-communism and anti-socialism. We are now reaping what we’ve sown. You know you’re in spiritual darkness when not even the religious can be counted on to refute the anti-religiousness of Communism and socialism.
The Last of the Bailey Brothers of World War II
Five years ago, for Memorial Day 2014, I wrote about the five Bailey brothers of World War II. This year, I’m writing about them maybe for the last time.
Yes, there were no less than five Baileys who served in WWII. That fact is known to those who attend the annual Memorial Day parade in Mercer, Pennsylvania. The parade is pure Americana: local rotary club, high-school bands, church groups, veterans of wars.
The veterans marching today largely wear the camouflage of distant regions like Iraq and Afghanistan, or uniforms from Vietnam and Korea. Veterans from World War II, unfortunately, are a dwindling sight. I wonder if we’ll see any this year.
One exhibit has long been part of the procession: a classy old car with a placard announcing the “Five Bailey Brothers.”
Back in 2013, after several years of watching the Bailey car ride by, I took the time to track down the last surviving brother: Dick. I was pleasantly surprised to learn he lived in my town — Grove City. I called and asked if he’d give me some time to hear and write about him and his family. He agreed.
Born Christmas Eve 1922, Dick served in World War II along with his brothers Fred, Alphonse (known as “Fonnie”), Jim, and John. All five volunteered after Pearl Harbor and were dispatched into enemy territory. “All had combat,” says Dick — in Europe, the Pacific, Northern Africa; land, sea, air.
Fred was shot and taken prisoner by the Nazis. “The Germans didn’t treat him well,” Dick told me. “Fred said it was horrible. . . . He was only 110 pounds when he came home.” He won a purple heart.
Dick was in the Army Air Corps. He and his brother John were in the war the longest. Dick served on six Pacific islands. In the Schouten Islands, the Japanese bombed almost every night, typically two hours at a time, throughout Dick’s eight-month stay. “You didn’t sleep very much,” remembered Dick.
In all, Dick served continuously from December 1942 until January 1946: “I was never home the whole time until January 1946.”
I asked Dick about the moment he finally got home. It was the winter of 1946. For weeks, he sojourned from the other side of the earth, only to encounter a terrific snowstorm as he neared Western Pennsylvania.
He took the train from Pittsburgh to Grove City. Unbeknownst to Dick, his parents had moved to the nearby little town of Harrisville. Dick arrived very late, consigned to a 24-hour diner by a foot-and-a-half of snow. His parents had no idea he was headed home. Amazingly, they hadn’t heard from him in years, and he hadn’t heard from them — such were the dreadful lines of communication and secrecy. Dick hadn’t been in touch with his brothers either. For all he knew, they might all be dead. He had no clue.
Dick also had no clue of his parents’ new address. At the diner, he saw an old buddy, who informed him where his parents were living. With this useful new information, Dick made his way. He showed up at his parents’ house at 5:00 A.M. His half-asleep mother scurried to the door and saw her son for the first time in four years. She cried, he cried.
Dick’s parents then informed him of something he yearned to know: all of his brothers had survived. He was the last one they were waiting on.
Unfortunately, all of Dick’s brothers now lived elsewhere, two of them newlyweds. His two sisters had also gotten married. In 1942, Dick had left a happy, vibrant home of nine. The war had emptied the Bailey household. But at least all were alive.
Dick would go on to outlive them all.
Over the last couple of years, I was curious about Dick’s situation. I often drove by and looked toward his house, the one with the giant flagpole in the front yard, with Old Glory always raised high. He lived across the street from the fire hall, between two churches. Lately, the house looked like it might be vacant. It turns out it was.
A few months ago, I unexpectedly got an email from Dick’s grandson, Kody, noting that his grandfather had passed away a few days shy of his 95th birthday.
And so, with Dick Bailey’s passing, so ends an era. The five Bailey brothers are all gone, and there will no longer be a car in the Mercer Memorial Day Parade with a Bailey boy wearing World War II badges. They have left us, but they leave us with the eternal hope that the entire Bailey family is united again at last. *