John Dietrich is an expert on Soviet penetration of the United States government before, during, and after World War Two. He is the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (see the ad on our sidebar), and has contributed several comments over the past few months to the discussion at Gates of Vienna about American Betrayal. The essay below is his response to the unpleasant ad-hominem attacks mounted against Ms. West by Conrad Black, among others.
Soviet Influence: Myth vs. Reality
by John Dietrich
Diana West’s book American Betrayal has generated a great deal of heat. Her critics, many of whom proudly proclaim they have not read her book, resort to name-calling. Conrad Black has called West and her supporters “pernicious, destructive, fatuous idiots.” Her book is filled with, “yellow journalism conspiracy theories,” “unhinged theories,” and “counterfactual speculations.” She is “McCarthy’s heiress.” Her supporters “hurl the vitriol of the silly and the deranged.”
I suppose that this is different than the vitriol hurled by the serious and stable.
The intensity of the attacks on West reveal that she has struck a nerve. I differ with some of her conclusions, but I would not think of calling her an idiot. I disagree with almost everything Conrad Black claims, and the harshest thing I can say about him is that he is allowing his emotions to distort his findings.
These events bring to mind a quote from Margaret Thatcher: “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
Diana West’s book is significant. Vladimir Bukovsky has stated that it will make history.
American Betrayal contends that the U.S. government was thoroughly infiltrated by Soviet agents. These agents guided U.S. policy in a pro-Soviet direction, resulting in the Soviet Union being the major victor of World War II. Congressman Martin Dies even concluded, “We lost World War II.”
Diana West’s critics believe she has exaggerated the extent of Communist infiltration. In fact, West only scratches the surface of this infiltration. There is much that we don’t know and will never know. Many records are still classified and many have been destroyed. What would she have come up with if she had the backing of a major university, a research staff and access to sealed archives? Still, there is enough open-source information to help us come to logical conclusions that are the exact opposite of the conventional history promoted by “professionals” such as Conrad Black.
Black criticizes West for her claim that Harry Hopkins was a Soviet agent. He concedes that this is not original with West, but is “in fact, not true.”
How can Black make this assertion? We have been told this about the innocence of the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White and numerous others. Hopkins may or may not have been a Soviet agent. He certainly acted as if he was. This is the crux of the opposition to West. She would argue that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of officials in the Roosevelt administration who may or may not have been, Soviet agents. These officials formulated policies that benefitted the Soviet Union at the expense of the United States.
This brings me to one of my minor disagreements with Diana West. She believes that FDR and many of his followers were “duped.” I believe that FDR followed a consistent policy toward the Soviet Union from 1933 until his death. FDR’s more blatantly pro-Soviet policies are excused because his was misinformed or was in ill health. I agree with Jean Francois Revel’s statement: “One of the abiding myths of the twentieth century is that many Western intellectuals sympathized with the Soviet Union because they were unaware of the true nature of the regime established by the Bolsheviks.” Roosevelt had the greatest admiration for the Soviet system, yet he supposedly formulated many of his policies because, “the greatest Anglo-American fear had been that the Soviet Union might again cut a deal with Nazi Germany.” This appears to be inconsistent.
The conventional interpretation of American policy is that the Roosevelt administration followed the best course of action. The West got what it possibly could under the circumstances. The war ended and “we” rebuilt Western Europe and Japan. It was unfortunate that the Soviets chose not to join us in building a better world.
The reality is much different. The U.S. government contributed to the destruction of the two major powers that were containing the Soviet Union. The Roosevelt and Truman administrations followed policies the nearly led to France and Italy falling to Communism by 1947. These policies included U.S. involvement in the slave trade and an attempt to recreate the Ukrainian famine in the heart of Europe. They were included in the Morgenthau Plan devised by Harry Dexter White, a Soviet agent.
The Treaty of Portsmouth was abrogated, allowing the Soviet Union to fulfill Czarist claims in the Far East at the expense of our ally China. This contributed to the outbreak of the Korean War, the takeover of China by the Communists and even the Vietnam conflict. In light of the hostility created by wartime propaganda, a negotiated peace with Japan was out of the question. However, if Japan had been allowed to retain Manchuria and Korea following the war, the history of our age would have been completely different.
Black refers to Serhii Plokhy’s statement that the Soviets, “treated American POW’s fairly well.” One of the first acts of the Red Army upon entering Germany was to butcher 50 French and Belgian POWs at Nemmersdorf. The Soviets believed that all POWs were traitors. Stalin’s own son, a prisoner of the Germans, may have committed suicide as a result of this Soviet policy. Soviet treatment of U.S, POWs is more complex than can be dismissed with the statement, “the Soviets treated American POWs fairly well.”
I suggest that Plokhy read Nigel Cawthorne’s The Iron Cage.
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.