Maryanna Colwell (US peace orgs), 1993

It was Maryanna who put me in touch with Lindsay Mattison, who gave me a great deal of important information and contacts. Later I knew her as a sociologist in Berkeley.

Metta Spencer: – Now you contrasted the 2 organizations you had to do with, the other day. When you were talking about how it’s a good thing this one organization got into something later because the other organization had been in it from the first and you couldn’t get rid of the…

Maryanna Colwell:- Yes, I think that’s right, I’d just like to qualify that by it’s at least possible that the institute for Soviet-American Relations has made some changes since their initial period. But what has happened with the Center for Development Policy (officially, the International Center for Development Policy) is that they have come into Soviet work in the last 2+ years when things were opening up enormously. So that their original contacts were with academics who had never previously had the opportunity to come to the United States, and politicians who were in the same roll. It’s my impression from what I have read and what I have heard that they were able to leap frog over a series of bureaucrats whose jobs it was essentially to be the persons who related to Americans who wanted to relate to Soviets.

M.S.- Olga Medvedkova calls them “abroadables.” She was in the category of people who were abroadables. People who are allowed to travel and are trusted not to jump ship when they travel abroad. Well, many of them are the sons and daughters of diplomats.

M.C. – Many of the people we’ve been in touch with at the International Center are certainly considered reliable by their government or they wouldn’t have been sent abroad. But, there was a level of access in terms of how close you got to the Central Committee and how close you got to the heads of the National Academy of Sciences and how close you got to Gorbachev’s staff, which in another era none of those folks were engaged in talking to Americans. It wasn’t that they weren’t reliable or that they couldn’t have if they wanted to, but that wasn’t what people at that level were doing. They were just like our people on our National Security Council and other high level people.

M.S. – But these are not new people as such, these are just people….

M.C. – They are people who have gained more power and influence since Gorbachev came in, I think that’s probably true.

M.S. – Ideologically they are more progressive in our sense of the word?

M.C. – Yes and may even be more progressive than Gorbachev, but they are people who have nevertheless kept their nose clean. Who then, whatever bureaucracy they were, so that they have risen to a high level of influence. One of the person’s names I have forgotten but I can recover for you, and I’m not sure that this particular portion would be anything you’d want to put in public print, but what this person, who we knew was a political scientist, who’d been head of the kind of institute in Moscow that was meant to analyze election returns. He had done some analysis of election returns before the first major election processes took place when everybody got a big shock, because all the party hacks that they had expected to be normally reelected were not reelected and it was the beginning of this process we’re seeing now of the end of the communist party in the Soviet Union.

M.S. – So he was analyzing real election returns, not polls?

M.C. – Well he had done some polls but he was analyzing prior election returns and making some predictions and he was wrong as many people are and he happened to be coming to this country on a sort of study tour type thing and sort of jokingly—and it wasn’t all joke—we said, Jesus Christ, you’re not going back to Moscow anytime soon because you were wrong! He sort of said he was just as happy he wasn’t going back right now with egg on his face. But of course they didn’t have the level of polls and the range of information about public opinion and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the same thing was true in Nicaragua. I think that’s one of the reasons why people didn’t predict the Chamorro victory among Liberals here in this country.

M.S. – They didn’t have polls?

M.C. – They had polls but people wouldn’t say it. The people didn’t speak the truth because it’s the same business when one group is in power— it doesn’t really matter who’s taking the poll, you don’t necessarily say things to people. We get some of that in this country but it’s 10 times over in other countries where they have much more repressive governments, whether they’re repressive governments to the left or the right.

Spencer: So this thing is the Centre for …

Colwell: International Center for Development Policy, yes. It’s here in Washington. 713 Eighth Street. Been in business for 12 years. Founder is Lindsay Mattison. We have kind of a co-director position right now with Amb. Robert White, who had been in El Salvador, as President and Lindsay is Ex. Director. That has gone on 3 years now. They don’t call themselves co-directors, but they certainly are both influential. Lindsay is the administrative, fundraising head and the most significant person as far as the board members are concerned, but that’s not entirely true because we do have some board members who have joined the board in the last 2—3 years for whom Bob White is the main attraction. If he had not been as courageous as he has about resigning in El Salvador when the administration was doing things he did not approve — and speaking out against the death squads and bringing to light our ties to the oligarchs in Miami, and all those kinds of things. Many people didn’t know anything about the International Center prior to those kinds of interventions. Some were attracted to the organization because of Bob White’s role.

Spencer: Left-liberal?

Colwell. Oh, absolutely. But also pragmatic. We have dealt with some people that many of the ideologically pure organizations here in Washington probably would not deal with. We had a couple of cases where we were able to get information on the drug running that was being done to support the contras, and the mercenaries, and they were on our payroll for a while.

Spencer: Is this connected with the Christic?

Colwell. No. For a short period of time (and I’d like to say, this is off the record, Metta) [passage deleted here]. But Christic I have a lot of admiration for. When I was doing foundation work, I gave them their first foundation grant when they were working on the Kerr-McGee, Silkwood case. But the Center was the one who supplied the investigators for a lot of the investigation by Senator Carey into the drug connection having to do with the Iran-Contra affair. At that time, the Republicans were in control of the Senate and his committee couldn’t get control of the money to hire investigators. I think there is a lot of material there that hasn’t come out.

Spencer: Will it surface?

Colwell: I don’t know. If someone happened to bring out a publication when concern with a related issue was hot …

Spencer: The Christic Institute lost its case, so I assumed that that killed the whole effort.

Colwell: It was dead on the HIll before that because Senator Carey and Rep. Markey gave up on it before then. They had other fish to fry and it wasn’t a hot issue. People were dreadfully tired of the Iran-Contra thing. But over time, some political scientists and historians will be put together in a more coherent fashion, but nobody on the hill will touch it now.

Spencer: Who are some of the other people on the Board of the Internatioanl Center?

Colwell: Mixed. Chairman of the Board is a retired woman psychiatrist from a well-to-do family. We have several business people. A person in Miami who is trying to fight off the repressive effects of some people in the Latino community. A man from San Diego who owns a string of little newspapers and who writes columns for them. It gives him an outlet and the capacity to do a lot of traveling. We have had former senators and representatives. Now have Mike Barnes from Maryland, a representative. And there is another former congressman on the Board now, a former ambassador. William Sullivan. And attorney on the Board, who worked during Iran-Contra time as a staff director doing investigation. A woman who is a staff director who is connected and a major donor. A couple of people whose principal interest is their friendship with the Ex Director.

Spencer: It sponsors exchange visits, and what else?

Colwell: It doesn’t conform to what you’d usually consider an exchange. It often happens in a kind of reverse way than most exchange things would happen. For years we have provided a place on the Hill for persons who were essentially exiled, excluded from their own countries, in opposition to some kind of repressive government. We have given them the possibility of making connections on the Hill, the appropriate staff working with the Senators or Representatives concerned with issues that affect their country. Our first president was Raul _______, who is now Minister of Foreign Affairs under Cory Aquino. He was here in exile because he had been here making a speech and he learned from friends that Marcos was going to have him incarcerated if he returned, so he stayed and taught at Harvard and met lots of people here. When he came to Washington he was encapsulated in the Filipino Community here and eager to do something to bring Marcos to the attention to people in government, but didn’t have the means to do so. Our staff made it possible for him to testify to certain congressional committees.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books