Confessions of a fellow traveler

Rich Oppel

October 15, 1992|By Rich Oppel

DEAR Rep. Robert Dornan:

I confess that I was in Moscow in 1990, and I think I had contact with the KGB.

In case I declare for public office, I want all of this to be out on the table now.

Perhaps this early disclosure and my patriotic contrition will soften later attacks from Orange County, Calif., and the political descendants of the Bush-Quayle administration who recognize this as a vital issue.

In November 1989, the Baltic states of the Soviet Union were in revolt. People protested in the streets, and once puppet-like parliaments were giving lip to the Kremlin.

So, my wife, Carol, and I booked a trip to the U.S.S.R. for June 1990. The cover we used was that this would be a wonderful opportunity for our children, then 21 and 17, to see people struggling for their freedom.

I wrote at the time that we felt that they would later have a better appreciation for American democracy, and the price that we all had paid to win and sustain it, if they saw people who actually had to risk their lives and jobs to say what they thought.

You can see through this, Bob. We lefties frequently conceal our darkest intentions in patriotic terms.

Sophisticated observers, including you and Rush Limbaugh, must look at the hard evidence that lies behind mere words.

We slipped into Leningrad aboard Finn Air. Our first apparent contact with the KGB was at the airport, where our son now acknowledges that he saw a fellow in a leather jacket taking pictures of us. I was busy fighting a guy at the door for control of our suitcases.

In Tallinn, Riga and Moscow, we had further contacts with the secret police. We think.

The people at the Intourist bureaus were very suspicious about the movement of a ragged American editor and his family, and kept filling out forms about our movements, and insisting they take control of our passports. We now think they were KGB.

The key lady on our floor in the Moscow hotel kept making notes, when she wasn't snoozing at her desk, about our movements in and out of the place. We think she was KGB.

Your colleague in Congress, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, decorated Navy pilot in Vietnam, says Bill Clinton's 1970 trip to Moscow and his participation in anti-war protests in London will kill him politically.

"In some countries, if something like this came out, he would be tried as a traitor."

How right you are, Duke. Where you travel and who you see may get your head lopped off in China, Haiti and Iraq. I never protested against the Vietnam War, although as it ground on I concluded it was a bad war superintended foolishly by American politicians and fought bravely by young Americans.

But I think for too long we've allowed Americans to protest political ideas, and to travel to countries our government doesn't like.

It's time for a change.

I'm voting for Dornan, Bush and that other guy, Hussein.

Rich Oppel is editor of the Charlotte Observer.

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