There were "freedom fighters" representing several armed insurgencies, wealthy Texans, representatives of Soldier of Fortune magazine and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and ultra-right politicians from Guatemala and Paraguay -- all rubbing shoulders in a new luxury hotel in north Dallas.
The occasion was last week's 18th annual conference of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), which was founded by the governments of Taiwan and South Korea and has tried in recent years to rid itself of members who espoused anti-Semitic and fascist views.
The four-day conference ended with an "International Freedom Fighters Dinner" featuring greetings from President Reagan, "Freedom Fighter of the Year" medals for insurgents from Nicaragua and Afghanistan, a special citation for a Dallas woman who gave $65,000 toward a helicopter for the Nicaraguan contras, and the unveiling of a bust of Reagan made by a Cambodian who dreamed that "he would meet an old white man [Reagan] who would help" his country's resistance movement.
"I commend you all for your part in this noble cause," the Reagan letter read. "Our combined efforts are moving the tide of history toward world freedom."
Representatives of eight anti-Marxist resistance movements attended, but most of the attention was focused on the Nicaraguans, led by political leader Adolfo Calero and military commander Enrique Bermudez.
Also in the spotlight was the WACL chairman, retired Army major general John Singlaub, cashiered by President Jimmy Carter for criticizing the proposed withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea in the late 1970s.
During the past year, Singlaub has been active in raising private funds to help the Nicaraguan opposition to the leftist Sandinista government. Ellen Garwood, who helped pay for the helicopter, said: "God in his mysterious way has put Gen. Singlaub in communism's way, and the general is saying, 'They shall not pass.' "
Participants at the conference could buy WACL "Freedom Fighter" T-shirts and FDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Force) shoulder patches, and pick up literature describing a planned Captive Nations Park in San Antonio, which is to fly flags at half staff and include a replica of the Statue of Liberty gagged, with a tear in her eye and her torch at her feet.
Bert Hurlbut, a key WACL financial supporter, said that his minister from Austin was on hand broadcasting the proceedings over "Straight Talk Radio." And participants were abuzz at the arrival of two other media personalities: Mike Wallace of CBS' "60 Minutes," and producer George Crile, both of Westmoreland libel trial fame.
The gathering featured moments of genuine emotion and impassioned rhetoric. A woman representing resistance forces in Mozambique said she was upset that Reagan is scheduled to meet and "shake the bloody hand" of Marxist Mozambican leader Samora Machel.
An Afghan fighter, who had lost a hand to a Soviet mine, and the Nicaraguan, who had lost a leg and was awarded the medal at the dinner, told their stories many times.
Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who played the Cambodian reporter in the movie "The Killing Fields," said that the genocide of his people by the communists was too grisly to be portrayed on film "because no one could stand to watch it."
Assembled resistance leaders had many opportunities to make public relations points. Calero, for instance, said several times that his award winner, Hubert R. Rodriguez, known as Sierra Three, lost a leg only after a flesh wound became infected because the FDN had no medical-evacuation helicopters.
Congress has approved $27 million in humanitarian aid for the contras, but none is to be used for helicopters. So Singlaub said that he has agreed to try raising new private aid for trucks and helicopters for the Nicaraguans.
There were undercurrents of controversy, as well, at the meeting. The representative of Angolan resistance leader Jonas Savimbi walked out, one participant said, because of the presence of Holden Roberto, head of a now-inactive Angolan opposition group.
Tom Posey, of Civilian Military Assistance, who said he was at the convention as an "observer," said that too many groups were trying to take credit for aiding the contras.
"We don't have to preach to the choir," he said of his Alabama group that has worked in jungle hospitals in Central America. "We're the infantry troops. We're the doers."
Dr. Woo Jae Seung, the WACL secretary general from South Korea, and Singlaub said they did not know that Mario Sandoval Alarcon of Guatemala had been invited to the conference. Sandoval is a presidential candidate of the National Liberation Movement, which has described itself as the "party of organized violence."
The South American chapter in which Sandoval was active was expelled a few years ago because its members made anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi statements. Singlaub said he assumed the new chapter had cleared Sandoval to attend.
As the delegates wrapped up their work with a joint communique supporting anti-Marxist insurgencies worldwide, Singlaub said he hoped that individual chapters would work to raise money to help the insurgents. But he said he had not reviewed any regional "action plans."
Several representatives of the resistance groups said they appreciated the moral support, but need money to buy guns. As Mario Calero, an FDN official, told a French television team: "We need money without any strings attached, without any 'humanitarian' baloney."