Yesterday I pointed out some of the people who have read Diana West’s book American Betrayal and recommended it to others — in contrast to the many folks who have condemned the book while admitting they haven’t read it.
Interestingly enough, except for the original scathing review by Ronald Radosh at Front Page Magazine, all the negative reviews I have seen are by people who have not read the book, whereas all the positive reviews I have seen are by people who have read it.
Funny about that.
What Diana West has done is to dynamite her way through several miles of bedrock. On the other side of the tunnel there is a vista of a new past. Of course folks are baffled. Few people have the capacity to take this in. Her book is among the most well documented I have ever read. It is written in an unusual style viewed from the perspective of the historian—but it probably couldn’t have been done any other way.
A commenter at Gates of Vienna named QiPo has also read the book:
I devoured each and every word of “American Betrayal” during which I was compelled to put the book down so that I could catch my breath again and again! It is magnificent! For those who have read Chambers’ “Witness”, Posner’s “Why America Slept”, Pacepa’s “Disinformation”, Grimes and Vertefeuille’s “Circle of Treason”, or Evans and Romerstein’s “Stalin’s Secret Agents”, Ms. West’s book allows you to play connect the dots with world events in a way that clearly rips away the lies of the statist-progressives both in our past and for today. My years of intense historical studies since 9/11 were confirmed by her immaculate scholarship and well reasoned conclusions.
Paul Fein, another commenter at Gates of Vienna, is not only reading the book, but supplements his appreciation of it with his own observations based on decades of experience in military intelligence. He says, “My only serious complaint about Diana West’s book so far is that she is far too optimistic”:
I have only just started reading Diana West’s book so what I write now may not be exactly what I will think once I am finished. However, I am already finding the criticisms of book surprisingly (well, actually not surprising at all) off topic. The basics thesis of the book, as is made abundantly clear in the introduction, is about the corrupting influence of Soviet penetration of the major institutions of the West, in particular the government and other institutions of the United States. Her point is that at some point the penetration becomes so great that the policy makers must indulge in self-deception in order to avoid admitting their own failures to stop the corruption. Eventually, self-deception becomes so ingrained that the policy makers’ abilities to rationally or even moderately objectively look at the world are, in effect, short-circuited. She even uses the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes to make her point. It is not simply that no one dares to admit that the Emperor has no clothes. Rational thinking has degenerated to the point, that the policy makers in their minds really do not see the clothes. Diana West even says something I had been saying to nearly everyone I trained at work since at least the late 1980’s that in the real world the child who cries out “The Emperor is naked” is punished or at least given re-education. These arguments about whether this or that fact is 100% correct or slightly off or whatever misses the point of her argument. She only needs to prove that there was enough Soviet penetration to corrupt the system and especially the thinking of the players in the system. It is quite proper to correct any and all errors, great and small; but we should also not lose sight of the intent of the book.
I worked in military intelligence within the Department of Defense for nearly 33 years as a collector and as an analyst going all the way back to service in Vietnam (another war we lost for no good reason). I find reading this book difficult, not because I think it is a bad book; but because after reading even a few sentences, my mind strays to so many things that I experienced or learned that confirm her thesis and I become so angry that I put the book down and rage “at the gods,” sometimes for an hour or two. It was during one of these rages that I decided to write this comment and share with your readers a couple of incidents that might have some bearing on Diana West’s thesis. While some of this is may not be common knowledge, I can assure you that none of this will in anyway disclose classified information. These are just things that I have experienced or picked up in a career in which I took my oath of office to defend the Constitution against “all enemies foreign or domestic” very seriously.
I have not reached the point where West discusses the career of Harry Dexter White. White was not a member of the Communist Party, but he was a Soviet spy while he was either Assistant Secretary of the Treasury or Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. (I am writing this comment “off the top of my head”; and so where I am not certain of the details, I will try to avoid error by using wording that indicates that uncertainty.) Perhaps West mentions these two interesting events. First is the Morgenthau plan. Morgenthau was Treasury Secretary and is credited with the plan which proposed that Germany should be completely de-industrialized, i.e. reduced to an agricultural country, and divided into, I believe, 5 independent countries. While the plan carries Morgenthau’s name, it is not at all clear how and who originated the plan and how the plan was developed. What is clear, however, is that the one country that would gain most from a strategic viewpoint from this plan was the Soviet Union. For centuries, Russia had been held back from expanding her influence in East Central Europe by first the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then a united Germany. The defeat of Austria in WWI eliminated the traditional obstacle to Russian expansion. The Morgenthau Plan would have permanently eliminated Germany. As it was, the Morgenthau Plan would have undermined any anti-Hitler, anti-Nazi resistance movement since the very existence of the German state, as opposed to its mere defeat and occupation, was now at stake. I cannot state for certain that the Morgenthau plan was the brain-child of White, but he was positioned to influence its content. I also find it very interesting that such a strategic plan would originate from the Treasury Department, rather than State or Army.
The second incident can definitely be traced back to White. At the end of WWII the U.S. allocated a large sum of gold to be shipped to China to stabilize the currency there. The man in charge of overseeing the shipment — Harry Dexter White. Somehow, the gold was never shipped. Chinese currency had been inflated during the war, and prices skyrocketed. Chinese inflation rivaled that of the Weimar Republic. While one may argue (very weakly in my opinion) that the inflation did not benefit the Mao’s forces, there can be no doubt that it undermined Chiang Kai-Shek’s government. The inflation issue even came up in a Chinese history or government class I took in about 1990, when inflation was becoming a problem in China. The professor, hardly a right-winger, flat out stated that the Communist Chinese government was in 1990 terrified of a new inflation since they had come to power on the failure of the Republic’s money.
I read someplace that at one point in his career Alger Hiss turned down the offer to be the number 2 man at the State Department. Instead he took the job of Assistant Secretary for Administration (or whatever the exact title of the job was at the time). Why take the unglamorous job? How did Stalin come to power? His rivals had the glamorous jobs, the “powerful” jobs. Stalin was essentially only the top bureaucrat within the Communist Party. It took him about 10 years; but when he decided to move on his rivals, his people were in all the right places. Am I saying that Alger Hiss was putting Communists into all the right places in the State Department? He surely protected several Communists. That was bad of course, but let’s return to Diana West’s thesis. He was in position to promote people with the “right understanding” of the Soviet Union. People who understood that “Yes, they are Communist, but [fill in the blank].” People who are sophisticated. People who know how the world really works. You know the type. Lenin called them “useful idiots.” Spies can be purged. Bureaucrats are forever (or as close to forever as is possible on Earth). The useful idiocracy then develops an incestuous relationship with academia. This means that the effects of Alger Hiss are with us even now.
In the late 1970s or very early 1980s I took a class at the Defense Intelligence School (or it might have become the Defense Intelligence College at the time). The title of the class was Soviet Intelligence and Security Services. Even though the instructor has long since passed on, I will not mention his name because that might still be something sensitive even now. Let me just call him “Mr. Smith.” Mr. Smith had been very high in the counter-intelligence of America. In fact he had been very close to James Angleton, a legend in counter-intelligence. His was one of the most remarkable classes I have ever had. To say it was eye-opening would be the crudest of understatements. It was one of the few classes I have ever had (and I have spent years and years in the classroom on both sides of the desk) in which every session was like a semester in any other class. On the first day of class he pointed something out about academia. It is that Diana West thesis again. He asked us how many schools offering a Ph.D. in Soviet Studies requires a course on the KGB. Answer at that time — zero, nada, null, zilch. How many schools offered a regularly scheduled course on the KGB as an elective? Not a course each semester or even each year. Just something regular enough so that a Ph.D. student could at least study the KGB in the classroom once before completing the degree. Answer at that time — zero, nada, null, zilch. Now in the late 70s most professors would have agreed that the Soviet Union was at least something like a police state. Yet even with a Ph.D. in Soviet Studies, these so-called experts in the Soviet Union had never even studied the police organization of the police state. I look back on my degrees in Political Science and International Relations, and I just shake my head at how utterly naive and uninformed the vast majority of my professors had been. They really did not understand what the Soviet Union was all about. One of the reasons I retired was that I was tired of working with all the “best and brightest” that were coming into my profession. There is no one quite so stupid as a high IQ, over-credentialed fool.
Another story from that class, if I may. Mr. Smith knew many people in world outside the intelligence profession, in particular many authors. Herbert Romerstein is (or perhaps now was) the author of many books on the Soviet threat, and he was with us for a couple of class sessions. One incident he discussed has always stayed with me. There may be some of your readers who remember the “Days of Rage” at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. One of the more notable accomplishments of those days was the trial of the Chicago Seven, radicals who were put on trial for their activities in Chicago. The trial was particularly notable (back to that old thesis thing again) because it was one of the turning points in American jurisprudence. The trial became a joke, lawlessness and subversion were trivialized. For those who remember the Days of Rage, have you ever wondered how that many “students” managed to get to Chicago? Who organized their lodging? Who organized their transportation? What about their meals? Who paid for all this? The answer—the Communist Party of the USA. Mr. Romerstein told us that he had a conversation with one of the Chicago Seven some years after the Convention. I don’t remember which one, let’s call him Chicago 3. In the conversation, Chicago 3 said (as best I can remember), “Boy, did we use the Communists!! They did all the work and paid for everything, and we got all the glory.” Romerstein replied, “No, Chicago 3, the Communists used you.” Useful idiots come in all shapes and sizes.
Final story from that class. One of the students during a session on the McCarthy era asked how many agents had actually infiltrated the American government. “Was it 100s, a thousand?” Mr. Smith’s reply, “Goodness no.” (Again, not actual quotations. Just trying to reproduce the meaning of the conversation.) “Well then, how many? 50?” “Not more than a couple dozen. Fifty would be a disaster.” Remember, this is a class in which every student has the clearances to discuss this topic at all but the most compartmented of levels. Certainly, we could have been given a general idea of the true level of penetration. Also, remember that Mr. Smith had been a counter-intelligence agent for many years and had reached the highest levels of the profession. I had the opportunity after the class to speak with Mr. Smith several times. I never got even a hint of an impression that he was less than totally honest in what he said. We now know that there were at least 500+ Soviet agents operating in the U.S. government, 10 times what Mr. Smith called a disaster. This is just what we know. The most successful agents are the ones we don’t even know exist.
Another historical bit of trivia. Roosevelt’s Vice-President 1941-1945 was Henry A. Wallace, often described as “liberal.” That’s putting it mildly. Of course, he was replaced by Truman for the 1944 election. What if Wallace had remained Roosevelt’s Vice-President in 1945? Sometime after WWII, Wallace admitted that he had planned to make Alger Hiss his Secretary of State and Harry Dexter White his Secretary of the Treasury. This is not to say that Wallace knew of Hiss’s and White’s Communist connections. Rather is it just another illustration of the West thesis. Like the Social Revolutionaries in Russia/Soviet Union at the end of WWI, Wallace could not conceive of a “threat from the left.” Yes, indeed, “useful idiots” come in all shapes and sizes.
Finally, here is an example of just plain moral corruption that infects the bureaucracy (actually all human institutions) when you allow the disease of expediency, lying, twisting the truth, etc. to fester. I attended an after-work party of some sort. I really do not remember the reason for the party. The only thing I remember about the party was a flag-rank officer (general/admiral) surrounded by a bunch of officer of lesser rank within his service. The lesser officers were trying to get some “face-time” while the flag-rank officer was passing on his wisdom. As a civilian I had no real interest in that particular bureaucratic game, but I wanted to watch the interaction. (No, I will not identify the officer even by service.) One of the pearls of wisdom he passed on was the following. “If I had a chance to the position of [flag-rank officer X who had one more star and a “more important” position than the speaker] or my present position, I would choose my present position. [Flag-rank officer X] gets to see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs maybe once a week. I see the Chairman every day. Therefore, I am in a better position to protect the interests of [the service of the flag-rank officer passing on his wisdom].” I was livid. Not a mention about protecting the Constitution or the USA. His first interest was in his service. Perhaps even that is giving him too much credit. I think his first interest was getting another star. To get that star, he needed to protect the interests of his service. He got the star.
Even though I am now a retired, cynical elderly man, I still get furious at what I see. I could go on for pages and pages of anecdotes, but my point is that I sincerely doubt that I will find anything to fault Diana West’s thesis regarding the corrupting influence of Soviet activities in the USA. In fact, without having finished the book I believe she probably understates the problem. I feel like I am watching the death of a beloved relative. I know the inevitable result of the disease that is killing her. I have known of the disease for many years and have had time to prepare for her death. I even know pretty much when the death will occur. Nonetheless, as she takes her final breaths, the sense of loss is overwhelming. This is how I feel every day. There is not a day that passes that I do not have tears in my eyes as I see my country take its last breaths. Nearly every night I lie awake wondering what more I could have done that might have made a difference. The reality is that nothing I could have done would have made any difference. Any more than I could have saved the beloved relative, could I have saved or even slowed the progression of the disease that has infected America and Europe. The disease had already metastasized by the end of WWII. Just one symptom of the metastasized disease—after fighting national SOCIALISM for 5 years, the Brits elect their own socialist government before the war was even over. I am sure the owner’s of the nationalized industries must of been wondering what kind of freedom they had been defending. 1984 is not a dark satire of the Soviet Union. It is a projection of British socialism, as most regular readers of this site already know. Another symptom of the disease — the U.S. had fewer servicemen on active duty in 1950 when the Korean War began, than when Pearl Harbor was bombed. So much for the hard-nosed realist Harry Truman’s understanding of the realities of the world. I could go on and on; but you get my point, I hope. My only serious complaint about Diana West’s book so far is that she is far too optimistic.
I have spent many hours reading many an interesting post and many an interesting comment on this website. I admire the persistence and energy of everyone who contributes to this site. The fight must be fought. The enemy must be resisted. Nonetheless, I think the game is already lost. I refer to G. K. Chesterton’s book, “The Man Who Was Thursday.” Thursday is the pseudonym of an artist who has joined the leadership committee of a radical anarchist organization. There are seven members of the committee, each having a pseudonym for a day of the week. Thursday has infiltrated the committee as a police spy. At one point he is pursued by another committee member, let’s say it was the member who was Friday. After Friday has caught up with Thursday, they soon realize that they are both police spies. Thursday says to Friday (again not an exact quote), “I will fight this anarchist evil unto the death even though I believe we will lose.” Friday replies, “I will fight this anarchist evil unto the death even though I KNOW we will lose.” A masterful summary of the position in which all the decent people of this world find themselves, even if they do not yet realize it. This is what gives me nightmares. This is why I fight back tears nearly everyday for my children and grandchildren and for all the children and grandchildren of even the most useless of “useful idiots.” If I cannot live in the United States as she should be, then there is no place on this Earth that I wish to live. (Not a suicide note. Just a statement of what is at stake, at least for me.)
Finally, a summary of relevant material from Ms. West’s book by Dr. Andrew Bostom:
An Unambiguous Example of Harry Hopkins’s Pro-Soviet Perfidy, Revealed
Diana West’s American Betrayal enumerates an impressive litany of FDR “co-President” Harry Hopkins’s pro-Soviet activities. Here is a partial listing: his excessive largesse toward the USSR via Lend-Lease, which he oversaw, even to the point, arguably, of sacrificing American and British military needs; his relentless dedication to Stalin’s “Second Front” demands, opposing at least equally viable military alternatives less “advantageous” to Soviet expansionist designs in Eastern Europe, as originally laid out in the secret August, 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany; his dismissal of the 1940 Soviet Katyn massacres of 22,000 Polish civilians, soldiers, and officers; his labeling of Soviet defector to the U.S., Victor Kravchenko (author of the memoir, “I Chose Freedom”), a “deserter,” while pressing FDR to deport Kravchenko back to the USSR, where he faced certain execution; and, according to one very credible American witness, his apparent role in the facilitation of uranium shipments to the Soviets—after such shipments were embargoed.
This incomplete litany far transcends the controversy over whether Hopkins was Soviet “agent 19”—a case made, separately, by intelligence historians Eduard Mark, and Herbert Romerstein, but contended by the intelligence historian team of Haynes and Klehr.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence West presents of Hopkins’ traitorous perfidy is conveyed by reproducing a personal and confidential letter FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote to Hopkins and FDR (dated May 7, 1943), and chronicling what followed via revelations from a KGB archive. But what is of equal importance, in terms of West’s discussions of the glaring omissions in our historical understanding is a striking example of how established academics—in this instance, Christopher Andrew, insert their own a priori judgments in attempting to exculpate Hopkins of having consciously abetted Soviet anti-US espionage. More remarkable is Andrew’s omission of objective evidence—the direct contents of Hoover’s letter to Hopkins—making explicit what Hopkins had been told about Soviet “embassy member” Zarubin/Zubilin, i.e., that he was a Comintern agent.
What follows is Diana West’s own full elucidation of this telling episode, which elaborates on its summary portrayal by Christopher Andrew, from pp. 187-190 of American Betrayal…
Read the rest at Andy Bostom’s place.