Tuesday, December 17, 2013
"American Betrayal" ... A Review
There has been a very important book written recently that has not gotten anywhere near the press or attention it deserves, "American Betrayal - The Secret Assault On Our Nation's Character" by Diana West.
It is a fascinating, well written and controversial book that has been attacked, oddly enough, by a number of Red Diaper babies turned conservatives like Ron Radosh and David Horowitz...who were both contemporaries and pals back in the good old days of the Communist Youth League summer camps, when they too were apologists for Stalin.
Given that these men, particularly Horowitz, are known for being quite frank about their own past and being resolutely anti-communist, that's somewhat puzzling, but the reason becomes evident when you examine what this book is actually about.
David Horowitz, whom I know very slightly and have tremendous respect for originally had one of his writers post a positive review of the book. He then yanked it, (obviously after Radosh go hold of him) on the strange grounds that his writer employee 'didn't have the understanding of West's source material' even though West included a fairly complete set of notes, references and sources. David Horowitz then posted on FrontPage what amounted to a 7,000 word screed by Radosh entitled “McCarthy on Steroids”, which was referenced in a few other attacks.Horowitz,in a revealing aside said "she shouldn't have written the book". Why? Surely it can't be simply because he and Radosh disagreed with her on a few things, or because some of the material had been written about elsewhere. No, there's something deeper here.
After all, if you read something like "American Betrayal" and had to reflect that you were very much part of the dark side back then...
Diana West responded with a three part rebuttal carried on Breitbart that I will let the reader peruse and make up his or her own mind on. Horowitz replied, you can easily find his responses online and this has evolved into something of a back and forth.
Frankly, I'm more interested in telling you what I thought of the book. Full disclosure...I have enjoyed Diana West's writing for quite some time and this is a great piece of work, but as you'll see, I too have my disagreements with her.
"American Betrayal", briefly, is a meticulously sourced history of the Soviet penetration into American life and culture and especially records the influence Soviet sympathizers and actual Soviet agents enjoyed in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Even more importantly to my mind is the parallel she draws between the pro-Soviet influence in that time and the influence of Islamists in the Bush and the Obama Administrations today, something I've written about frequently on these pages and which I think is a great deal more dangerous than we realize.
The Soviet's use of Gramscian warfare - named after Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, one of Lenin's favorite communist strategists - started with the establishment of the Comintern in 1919, a Soviet institution designed to bring every communist party worldwide under Soviet control and domination for the purpose of exporting the Bolshevik revolution to the West. Gramsci's strategy, which Lenin and the Comintern adopted, was to do this covertly by penetrating and corrupting a nation's cultural, educational, political and labor institutions from within and dominating them, while marshaling the members under 'party discipline', which meant essentially following Soviet orders without question.
Anyone seeking to know more about this then we once did now has the tools of the Venona papers, an Army intelligence project started to intercept and translate Soviet cables to their agents here in America and the records of the Soviet archives, which scholars enjoyed brief access to during Boris Yeltsin's tenure as Russian president.
West documents how the Roosevelt administration was totally penetrated. One of FDR's first moves as president in 1933 was to pioneer the formal recognition of the USSR in spite of the show trials, the terror famines and the ruthless nature of Stalin's regime.
Soviet agents like Alger Hiss, Owen Latimore, Harry Dexter White, virtually the entire staff of the influential wartime Office of War Information (OWI) and a number of others tended to occupy key advisory posts behind the scenes rather than high profile spots in the administration, with one possible exception...FDR's 'co-president' Harry Hopkins, who controlled much of the access to the president especially in later years and was at best a Soviet sympathizer, at worst a possible Soviet agent.
Especially of interest is how Hopkins, who was in charge of U.S. aid to our allies in WWII via the Lend-Lease program put the Soviets at the top priority for U.S. arms shipments, even ahead of the British or our own forces. The Russians, who were happily trading with Hitler until the Nazi invasion of June 1940 received the equivalent over $300 billion in military aid from the U.S. in today's money, much of which they later used to occupy eastern Europe. West presents evidence that this aid may even have included nuclear materials, although other sources suggest that the evidence is mixed.
When at one point J.Edgar Hoover told Hopkins that an FBI investigation had discovered that Russian diplomat (and Comintern agent) Vasily Zarubin had made a payment to U.S. Communist Party official Steve Nelson to help place espionage agents ‘in industries engaged in secret war production', Hopkins actually warned the Soviet embassy in Washington DC about the investigation and the FBI's knowledge of the relationship between Nelson and Zarubin, according to documents from the KGB archives smuggled out by [former Soviet intelligence officer Vasili Mitrokhin.Hoover never trusted Hopkins again.
One of the chief contentions Diana West makes is that the entire Second Front and the D-Day invasion in Normandy was essentially a betrayal of American interests by communist agents and sympathizers in DC designed to allow the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe. As evidence for this, she cites the winding down of our front in Italy, Allied insistence on 'unconditional surrender' and our failure to utilize supposed anti-Nazi movements in Germany led by figures like the Abwehr's head Admiral Canaris.
That, to me, is one of the places where the book delves into sheer speculation. To my mind, when you look at things like the topography of Northern Italy and the geopolitics of the time, using Italy as a springboard to Central and Eastern Europe poses a number of problems. Italy's Alpine areas provide an easily defensible redoubt for troops trying to halt a forcing of the passes into central Europe against hostile troops, as everyone from the Romans on has found out. With modern artillery and machine guns controlling the high ground, it's a place where a relatively small force can bottle up a much larger army and inflict heavy losses for quite some time...especially with air cover. And if, as West suggests, it brought German bases closer for Allied bombers, it also did the reverse for the Luftwaffe, as well as putting our troops within fighter plane range. Forcing a passage through Northern Italy would have been no cakewalk,and might very well have been a stalemate that would have prolonged the war.An amphibious landing from Italy on the Dalmatian Coast presents similar problems because of the rugged mountainous terrain.
For all the carnage of D-Day, once the initial breakthrough was made, the relatively flat topography of France and the long border with Germany made the outcome of WWII only a matter of time.
As for the anti-Nazi groups in Germany, frankly, they were mainly concerned with saving their own hides. For the most part, they were fine with Hitler's excesses as long as he was winning the war, but the reverses of 1944 got some of them thinking. The essential idea was that the U.S. and Britain would make a separate peace with the Germans after they deposed Hitler, leaving the Wehrmacht intact and able to concentrate exclusively on the Soviets. The problem with this is that the anti-Hitler groups never made any particular headway and were a dicey proposition at best, not to mention how American public opinion would have dealt with us making a separate peace with the folks who were in charge of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belson.
Another thing Ms. West doesn't consider adequately, in my opinion, is the actual nature of the relationship between Stalin and the allies.
In spite of their status as 'allies', Stalin was an extremely petulant and unreliable partner. The allies never really knew whether Stalin was going to be the one to make a separate peace with Germany as Russia did in WWI, with tremendous implications for a longer war and much greater allied casualties. Yes, there are historians who speculate that Stalin could not have done that, but a lot of experts said the same thing about Russia in 1915, and there's no telling exactly what someone like Stalin might have done.According to Winston Churchill's history of WWII, Stalin actually hinted at doing just that on several occasions. Also, at that time, the allies fully expected to have to invade the Japanese home islands after Germany's defeat.There was no expectation of a Japanese surrender. The estimates of allied casualties in that invasion were at least one million, based on battles like Saipan and Okinawa, where suicide attacks were common.Also, there were still undefeated Japanese armies in places like Manchuria, Korea and Vietnam.I respectfully disagree with Diana West that given what was known at the time, these were a false narrative or negligible concerns.
While Stalin received a lot of things he should never have gotten and a lot of it was due to communist influence and/or sympathizers in the White House, much of it was probably a bribe to keep the USSR in the war to help defeat the Wehrmacht, and with the expectation the Soviets would declare war on Japan after the victory over the Nazis. Should the allies, and the U.S. in particular have kept Stalin on a much tighter rein and insisted that the Soviets declare war on Japan a lot earlier than a few days before the war ended? Should Roosevelt have been a lot more suspicious of Stalin's intentions? Undoubtedly.
But then again, you also have to look at the total picture. Unlike another wartime president I'm familiar with who was faced with a devastating attack on our country, FDR had no problem identifying who our enemies were,and that they were evil. After Pearl Harbor, he didn't tell the American people that Bushido was a creed of peace, that it was only a few fanatics who had attacked us and that we were in a great War on Aviation. Instead, he inspired the nation as a leader and commander in chief, something none of the men whom ran against him as president could have done as well.
He secured our borders, deported or interned anyone who looked, talked or smelled like a security risk, put the FBI to work rounding up spies and saboteurs and put the country's industry on a war footing.He didn't handcuff our military in the name of politically correct 'hearts and minds'. He admitted no outcome except total victory,even as he called on Americans for the sacrifice it would take. You can disagree with a number of his wartime actions and policies. But that was no small accomplishment.
Which leads me to another thing that I think needs to be considered.
By 1944, FDR was an extremely sick man who was easily maneuvered by Harry Hopkins and his top State Department adviser Alger Hiss.It was Hiss, a Soviet agent, who was Roosevelt's main adviser at Yalta. Even FDR's most laudatory biographers agree that during this period, he had severely diminished energy, mental and physical capacity. One can either take the position that FDR was a Soviet dupe or that he was simply not in a sufficient mental or physical position to deal with Stalin and his willing, treasonous helpers in the Roosevelt Administration at that point. I personally think the second scenario is more accurate, and one of the harshest critics of West's book, the aforementioned Ron Radosh supports that unintentionally by relating a statement FDR reportedly made to Anna Rosenberg Hoffman, his unofficial adviser on labor matters two weeks before his death when he said, “Averell [Harriman] is right: we can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of his promises he made at Yalta.” If in fact he said this, the implication that FDR had belatedly woken up to how he had been misled is clear. But by then, it was too late,and Roosevelt never even took the obvious step of briefing Harry Truman on any thoughts or conclusions he had along those lines before his death, let alone telling Truman about the A-bomb.
The truth may very well have elements of both scenarios.These things are seldom all of a piece. Certainly FDR's active interference with Rep.Martin Dies' and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) investigations of communist penetration in our government, FDR's continued reliance on Harry Hopkins as 'co-president', his continued acceptance of obvious Soviet sympathizers as advisers and his apparent belief in a policy of convergence, that the Soviets would gain some territory at the Wests' expense and become more democratic while the West would lose some territory and become more socialistic suggest that in some respects at least, FDR was perhaps a lot more pro-Soviet than most Americans realize.
That in itself is one of the more controversial elements of "American Betrayal".And it's worth reading.
Another extremely valuable part of "American Betrayal" documents the media's role in whitewashing the evil of the Soviet Empire,beginning in Chapter 6:
Who stole our history?
Because stolen it was, diverted from its natural course and re- channeled to the point where the beaten path became a shortcut from reality to deception. This, I believe, is confirmed every single time one of those gigantic corrections of the false record, flagged by scholars shouting “Eu- reka!,” fails to enter our general histories, fails to capture popular imagination, fails to become part of our popular understanding, and fails to occur to us as a mainstream thought. Like a skiff on a dry creek bed, these corrections go nowhere.
West chronicles, among other things, the failure of western media to report on Stalin's show rials, the murder of millions of Russians in the name of collectivization, or the Soviet induced famine in the Ukraine,where an estimated 5 million people may have perished after all seed grain, livestock and literally anything the Soviets could carted away that was edible was removed and the the borders were closed.
She tells the full story of how the Katyn Forest Massacre of 22,000 Polish nationals in 1940 by the Soviets after their invasion of Eastern Poland was covered up by western media and the Roosevelt Administration,who swallowed Stalin's lies about the Nazi's having done it even after Stalin refused a request by the Polish government in exile to have the International Red Cross examine the site of the mass graves, which were found by the Wehrmacht in 1943 during the invasion of Russia.
And most shamefully, she reveals how something like two million Russian and East European prisoners who begged for asylum in the West were forcibly repatriated to Stalin's clutches after the German surrender and ended up in Soviet gulags, where most of them perished under unimaginable conditions.
And amazingly, after their complicity with Hitler, after their policy of state genocide and mass murder, the Soviets were allowed to participate in the Nuremberg war crimes trials - with their chief judge being the same person whom had overseen Stalin's show trials.
The forced repatriations, the gifting of Eastern Europe to Stalin and allowing Stalin's pet 'judge' to participate in the Nuremberg trials all happened (along with many other questionable actions) on President Harry Truman's watch. Imagine,if you will,how the post war history would have been different if Truman had been more cautious about the postwar dismantling of our military, had given Stalin a polite but firm ultimatum to get his troops out of Eastern Europe and Northern Korea when we had the bomb and they didn't, and had cut the Soviet Union out of participating in the UN. For all of the good the Marshall Plan accomplished, in the end Truman's appeasement of Stalin still doomed millions to communist slavery for decades and gave the Soviets the time they needed - with help from folks like the Rosenbergs - to develop the atomic bomb. None of it need have happened.But it happened, in part because the Truman administration was riddled with the same Roosevelt holdovers like Alger Hiss who were either outright Soviet Agents or Soviet sympathizers. The rot went so deep that according to a 1949 FBI memo, General Omar Bradley,then Army chief of staff, instructed the Army personnel running the Venona Project to keep it secret and not to reveal it to any members of the Truman Administration, not even the president.
West's argument in the book - and hence the title - is that this appeasement of what President Reagan aptly called the Evil Empire affected our national character adversely. Certainly, it led to the enslavement of Eastern Europe and decades of Cold War with a huge expense in treasure and American lives. There's a great deal of truth in that, and FDR's 1933 recognition of the Soviet Union helped the process along immensely. But it's also worth remembering that even prior to 1933, the Soviets were busy at work infiltrating American institutions. Men like Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss did not suddenly materialize out of thin air:
“The fact is, the implications of normalizing relations with the thoroughly abnormal USSR didn’t just reward and legitimize a regime of rampantly metastasizing criminality. Because the Communist regime was so openly and ideologically dedicated to our destruction, the act of recognition defied reason and the demands of self-preservation. Recognition and all that came with it, including alliance, would soon become the enemy of reason and self-preservation. In this way, as Dennis J. Dunn points out, we see a double standard in American foreign policy evolve, and, I would add, in American thinking more generally. It was here that we abandoned the lodestars of good and evil, the clarity of black and white. Closing our eyes, we dove head first into a weltering morass of exquisitely enervating and agonizing grays.”
And documenting that is one of the most important aspects of West's book. While one can disagree with some of her conclusions about WWII, there's no mistaking that she documents quite well how the Soviets used Gramscian warfare against the United States to subvert academia, our media, our culture and our political institutions.And the linkage she establishes with what's happening with the Islamist penetration in DC today is important, even if she merely touches on it.
That, and West's accessible style makes this book a must read.