A Fledgling Alliance
March 26, 2013
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A Fledgling Alliance
They converged in the bleak scrublands of southeastern Angola. Rebel Leader Jonas Savimbi played host to the others: spokesmen for the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, the Afghan mujahedin and the hill tribes opposing the Communist regime in Laos. For two days they talked and socialized in Jamba, stronghold of Savimbi’s well-armed and organized movement against Angola’s Marxist government, and stood shoulder to shoulder with the American who had brought them together: Lewis Lehrman, millionaire Republican leader of a lobby called Citizens for America. The group announced the formation of an alliance, Democratic International, to support “the fight for independence from Soviet colonialism.”
The catalyst of the new alliance had even larger purposes in mind. The growth of anti-Soviet guerrilla movements, said Lehrman, is part of “the second stage of the American Revolution, (which was) always intended by the founders to be a world revolution.” Lehrman dramatized his notion by presenting each of the four rebel leaders with a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
The conferees applauded when Lehrman read words from President Reagan: “Around the world we see people joining together . . . to free their nations from outside domination and an alien ideology . . . Their goals are % our goals.” Lehrman did not point out that this letter was not from Reagan to the new allies, but from Reagan to “Dear Lew.”
Some governments affected by the rebel movements were even more cautious than Reagan. Pakistan blocked Afghan rebel leaders from traveling to the meeting from Pakistani base camps. Mujahedin Colonel Ghulam Wardak flew to Africa from Washington, where he is recovering from battle wounds. Nervous Thai authorities, according to a Lehrman aide, created “tremendous problems” before allowing Laotian Guerrilla Leader Pa Kao Her to fly to the conference from Bangkok. But South Africa, which supports Savimbi, allowed participants to fly from Johannesburg.
The rebel leaders professed a common goal, and agreed to exchange intelligence and advisers. Although all are against the Soviets, the four could not express an anti-Communist stance in their communique because rebel forces in both Laos and Afghanistan are supported by Communist China. The likely next step will be the opening of a Democratic International office in Washington. Upshot: a new lobby to urge Congress to support the Nicaraguan contras and other anti-Communist guerrillas.