Cold War Stalwarts Honored

Article excerpt


In a city that loves award ceremonies, a recent event honoring the developers of America's first armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was unusual for its secrecy and attendees.

The celebration, on the top floor of a nondescript Vienna office building, was invitation-only and brought together about 70 former spies, Special Forces operators and security business leaders over wine and cheese. Some of them didn't want their attendance revealed.

The awards, according to the program, honor individuals and groups which, since 1945, have fought for freedom, participatory government and against fascism, communism, moral relativity, economic corruption and terrorism in all their forms.

Held annually since 2006, the ceremony was organized by the Honourable Company of Freedom Fighters, a group started by Duane R. Dewey Clarridge, an ex-CIA officer who is still in the intelligence and security field. Best known for helping create the anti-communist Contras, a Central American paramilitary force, in the 1980s, Mr. Clarridge became entangled in the Iran-Contra affair in which the Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran and illegally used some of the proceeds to fund the Contras. Mr. Clarridge was charged with perjury for misleading investigators about when he knew that a shipment from Israel to Iran contained missiles instead of oil-drilling spare parts. He was pardoned by later President George H.W. Bush.

Mr. Clarridge said he decided to form Freedom Fighters on a trip in 2005 to Nicaragua to recognize people such as ex-Contra leaders Adolfo Calero and Eden Pastora who, Mr. Clarridge said, had never been honored by the U.S. government for their role in defeating the Sandinistas and forcing them to hold free elections in 1991, which the Sandinistas lost. The leftist group returned to political power in 2006 - for the first time through elections.

There was never a thank-you or a piece of paper expressing the country's gratitude, Mr. Clarridge said.

The awards ceremony started with attendees reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

In keeping with the Cold War flavor, former National Security Council staffer Oliver North, another central figure in Iran-Contra, was honored with a U.S. flag that had flown above the Capitol.

The list of past honorees reads like a parade of heavyweights from the Reagan administration and includes people who remain controversial in the U.S. foreign-policy community.

In the first group awarded the medal in 2006 were 31 Contras, including Mr. Calero.

In 2007, President Reagan's CIA director, the late William J. Casey, and national security adviser, William P. Clark, were honored. The 2008 honoree was Adolf Tolkachev, who provided the CIA with detailed information about Soviet military systems, which Mr. Clarridge said helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet bloc. …