The Consequences of Betrayal

In one of his speeches Prime Minister Tony Blair made the statement that he had every confidence in British Intelligence regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. As highly regarded as it is, British Intelligence is certainly not infallible. Whether by mistake or deliberate betrayal, failures in the intelligence system can have long and far-reaching consequences.

Consider two major betrayals by British Intelligence during World War II, and their impact even today in the Balkans:

Following World War II, a covert plan to overthrow the pro-Soviet Albanian regime of Enver Hoxha was initiated by the United States and Great Britain. The liberation of Albania was to be achieved by backing anti-communist and royalist forces within the country and by recruiting separate groups of Albanian refugees and expatriates from Egypt, Italy, and Greece, training them in Cyprus, Malta, and the Federal Republic of West Germany and infiltrating them into Albania.

The elaborate plan to free Albania was so sensitive and so highly secret that liaison between the American and British groups was entrusted to only one person. Unfortunately, that person was none other than MI6’s Kim Philby, the notorious Soviet spy who passed details of the infiltration plan to Moscow. As a result of this perfidy, all of the ex-pat infiltrators were killed as well as thousands of their family members living in Albania.

“The British and CIA involvement in Albania from 1949-1953 was not the first covert operation of the Cold War. In Italy, for example, the CIA passed out money to influence the 1948 elections. But Albania was the first time that armed saboteurs were infiltrated into a sovereign country during peacetime, without the approval of Congress, Parliament, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, or President Harry Truman.” (U.S. Policy/Albania, Betrayed, by Nicholas Bethell. New York Times Books, 1984). The book by Nicholas Bethell , a Conservative member of the House of Lords who lives in London, is the story of this paramilitary operation, which was an unmitigated disaster.

Today, Albania is still one of the poorest nations in the Balkans. Under communist dictator Enver Hoxha, communist ideology was so strict that even the shirt on one’s back was considered state property . To make matters worse, Albania now has also become the staging area for the Albania’s Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) and other Albanian “liberation” armies that confront the countries of FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Montenegro, and Greece, with the goal to further “liberate” chunks of land from these respective countries.

Not only did Kim Philby betray the Albanian initiative to free the country from the communist yoke, he was also behind the betrayal of Draza Mihailovich, leader of Serbia’s nationalist military forces, the Chetniks, who were fighting not only the Nazis and their Croatian allies, but Tito’s communist Partisans as well.  In the largest rescue of Americans behind enemy lines, Mihailovich’s Serb forces rescued over 500 downed American pilots, at great sacrifice to themselves, but Philby’s agents in the Cairo offices of British Intelligence fed disinformation to both the American and British leadership which portrayed the Chetnik leader as collaborating with the Nazis. As a result, the Allies switched their support from Mihailovich to the communist leader Josip Broz Tito.

Two years after his death, U.S. President Harry Truman, under the advisement of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, posthumously awarded General Mihailovich the Legion of Merit, the highest combat award our nation can bestow upon a foreign national. Another twist in the history of betrayal and deceit is that at the insistence of the U.S. Department of State the award was kept secret for over 20 years so as not to offend Tito. The following citation accompanied the award:

“LEGION OF MERIT – CHIEF COMMANDER”

“General Dragoljub Mihailovich distinguished himself in an outstanding manner as Commander-in-Chief of the Yugoslavian Army Forces and later as Minister of War by organizing and leading important resistance forces against the enemy which occupied Yugoslavia, from December 1941 to December 1944. Through the undaunted efforts of his troops, many United States airmen were rescued and returned safely to enemy control. General Mihailovich and his forces, although lacking adequate supplies, and fighting under extreme hardships, contributed materially to the Allied cause, and were instrumental in obtaining a final Allied victory.” March 29, 1948. Harry S. Truman.

Unfortunately, we are still seeing the tragic results of inept and treacherous policies in the Balkans which have culminated in the Balkans being turned over to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorists. As for Kim Philby, the mastermind behind this on-going tragedy, upon being discovered as a double agent, he fled to Moscow where he lived comfortably as a retired KGB colonel until his death.

Read more by Stella L. Jatras