Friday, October 4, 2013

History that is junk

We've been meaning to revisit the controversy over Diana West's book and its treatment by David Horowitz. While it is unfortunate that Ms. West isn't a better writer--and that she fell into the trap constructed by Ronald Radosh by responding to every nitpicking detail of his 7,000 word 'review' of her book--M. Stanton Evans (himself slandered by Radosh when he wrote a book on Joseph McCarthy) defends the lady, quite ably;
Having delved into these matters a bit, I think I recognize the process that's in motion:  the circling of rhetorical wagons around a long accepted narrative about the Second World War and the Cold War conflict that followed.
This narrative  sets the limits of permissible comment about American Cold War policy, bounded on the one side by Roosevelt and [Harry] Hopkins, representing generally speaking  the forces of good (appeasing Moscow, e.g. , only in order to win the war with Hitler), and on the other by Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, the supposed epitome of evil.  Between these boundaries, variations are allowed, but woe betide the writer who goes beyond them. Ms. West has transgressed in both directions, sharply criticizing Roosevelt/ Hopkins and speaking kindly of Joe McCarthy.
The latter transgression even abhorred by self-described conservatives like Michael Medved on his popular nationwide radio program. Psychologists could entertain themselves endlessly debating the reasons for the self-delusion, but Evans is more practical. He just recites the facts he's relentlessly dug up from primary sources;
Soviet agents, Communists and fellow travelers held official posts, or served at choke points of intelligence data, and from these positions were able to exert pro-Soviet leverage on U.S. and other allied policy.  Though ignored in many conventional histories, the evidence to support this view is overwhelming.
It is for instance abundantly plain, from multiple sources of Cold War intel, that Communist/pro-Soviet penetration of the government under FDR was massive, numbering in the many hundreds.  These pro-Red incursions started in the New Deal era of the 1930s, then accelerated in the war years when the Soviets were our allies and safeguards against Communist infiltration were all but nonexistent.
Mr. Evans then goes into detail; Harry Dexter White (#2 man at the Treasury Dept) collaborating with Stalin's NKVD agent to provoke the Japanese into attacking his own country at Pearl Harbor, as well as undermining the anti-Communist Chiang Kai-Shek in favor of the Chinese Communists-in concert with Solomon Adler and John Stewart Service--and;
In the State Department, while Alger Hiss would become the most notorious Soviet agent of the war years, he was far from going solo. According to a long concealed but now recovered report compiled by security officers of the State Department, there were at war's end no fewer than 20 identified agents such as Hiss on the payroll, plus 13 identified Communists and 90 other suspects and sympathizers serving with him.
Like the FBI report saying "nearly every department" of the Federal government was infiltrated by Communist apparatchiks, these staggering numbers from the State Department security force look suspiciously like the description of a de facto "occupation" given in Ms. West's supposedly unhinged essay.
There is much more for the interested reader to discover for him or her self. Whether Diana West is, or is not, a gifted writer is irrelevant, as she too has facts that need to be faced up to;
Granted, getting at the primary data takes some digging, as many relevant records have been buried, censored or omitted from official archives.  Presidential secrecy orders, disappearing papers, folders missing from the files, two manipulated grand juries (that we know of) used to cover up the extent and nature of the penetration ; all these methods and more were employed in the 1940s to keep the shocking story from Congress and the public.  And, sad to relate, in some considerable measure the cover up continues now, in court histories that neglect  archival data to repeat once more the standard narrative of the war years.
Diana West's important book is a valiant effort to break through this wall of secrecy and selective silence.  Her work in some respects touches on matters beyond my ken-such as Soviet treatment of American POWs-- where I am not competent to judge .  But on issues where our researches coincide-and these are many-I find her knowledgeable and on target, far more so than the conventional histories compared to which she is said to be found wanting . As the above suggests, her notion of wartime Washington as an "occupied" city, and the data that back it up, are especially cogent.
One of the books West cites in her research, Tim Tzouliadis's The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia, being a good place to start in evaluating the controversy.

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