Saturday, August 28, 2010

The spy who came in from the cold, became a best-selling author, and spoke out against the evils of his time

John Le Carre, author of dozens of cloak-and-dagger thrillers, told the Sunday Telegraph's Seven magazine that the British intelligence agencies for whom he worked in the 1950s and 1960s -- MI5 and MI6 -- carried out numerous assassinations in the name of fighting the Cold War.

"Certainly we did some very bad things," he said. "We did a lot of direct action. Assassinations. Although I was never involved."

But of course we were never as bad as they were:

Le Carre argued that the operations carried out by Western intelligence agencies were a far cry from the "unaccountable" killings by their Soviet Bloc adversaries.

"Even when quite ruthless operations are being contemplated ... the process of democratic consultation was still relatively intact and decent humanitarian instincts came into play," he said. "Totalitarian states killed with impunity and no one was held accountable. That didn't happen in the West."

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Not only did we win, but we played nicer. We're awesome.

(Actually, I like Le Carré a great deal. I've read almost all of his novels, all of them up to the last few. While I prefer the realist Le Carré of the Cold War to the moralist Le Carré of recent years -- and it's that moralism, wrapped up in righteous outrage, that has turned me off his recent work -- I admire him for speaking out with indignation against the excesses and abuses of the West, not least with respect to Africa, as well as against the madness of recent U.S. foreign and military policy, notably the Iraq War. When he speaks, it seems to me, he ought to be taken seriously.)

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