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The hard truth about the Cold War

bookWe Americans like to sidle around the truth nowadays, which we do by labeling ourselves relativists. Like Pontius Pilate, we ask “What is truth?” with the implication being that truth exists only in the eye of the beholder. In the political realm, this preference for opinion rather than facts means that many of us debate our positions by covering our ears, closing our eyes, and shouting at one another.


So when truth does come shambling along to whap us upside the head, we’re inevitably shocked. The truth may set us free, but often our first reaction to a violent encounter with facts and objective reality is confusion, pain, and denial.

To read Diana West’s well-documented American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character (ISBN 978-0-312-6078-2, 403 pages, $26.99) is to be pummeled by truth. At times I literally had to force myself to keep plowing through her account of communist infiltration of the American government from the 1930s to the end of the Cold War, the massive web of lies and deceits created by American agents of the Soviet Union, the enormous damage done by those agents both here and abroad. The truth, as the adage runs, hurts, and in this case I felt mentally bruised and bleeding on concluding the book.

What West had done in American Betrayal is to take all the data, the facts, the truth if you will, that have surfaced in the last 30 years — government records from the Great Depression onwards, the Verona files of the former Soviet Union in which the perfidy of certain Americans was laid bare, the books and biographies regarding prominent figures, particularly in the Roosevelt administration — and to lay out this information like a courtroom prosecutor before which we the American people sit as jury and judge. Her arguments shred our preconceived notions of twentieth century history. 

Limitations of space for this review require sharing only a few of the issues raised by West. For those who have ever wondered why the United States entered World War II more focused on getting supplies to Russia — a fact which our government largely concealed at the time — than to supplying our own troops on Corregidor and other beleaguered outposts in the Pacific, the reason becomes clear: the Roosevelt administration, led by the president’s closest confidant Harry Hopkins, was rife with communists and their fellow travelers desperate to save the Soviet Union. (When asked by his biographer in 1957 about Hopkins, George Marshall, himself a Hopkins protégé, replied with inadvertent honesty: “Hopkins’s job with the president was to represent the Russian interests. My job was to represent the American interests.”) 

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As West demonstrates, the Soviets dominated our European war strategy, suckered us into a “second front” (What was Africa? What was Italy?), and essentially ended the war as the new master of all of Eastern Europe. With the help of men like Hopkins, the Russians also obtained both the information and the supplies to build their own nuclear bombs. Finally, at war’s end they held as many as 25,000 American servicemen as prisoners, working as slaves in the gulag. 

The Soviets got away with all these things in large part through the influence of American agents in our own government. That government, including the administrations of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, knew about this influence, but chose to ignore it because they were either sympathizers or felt that telling the truth to the American people might cost them credibility and elections. We know now that key government officials were aware of this treachery because we have the names of people who told them the truth: Jones, Muggeridge, Lyons, Utley and Kravchenko, Bentley and Chambers, and scores of other Americans, all of whom came to the government in the wide-eyed, innocent belief that their information would lead to action against communist traitors rather than to their own suppression. 

These Soviet-American infiltrators similarly influenced domestic policy, so much so that by 1953, Norman Thomas, the “perennial Socialist candidate for president,” could write, “Here in America more measures once praised or denounced as socialist have been adopted than once I should have thought possible short of a Socialist victory at the polls.”  

But American Betrayal serves a greater purpose than a corrective to our history. It is a painful reminder that we remain in the clutches of lies and innuendo. In 1936, witnessing first-hand the twisted versions events issuing from both the communists and the fascists then fighting in Spain, George Orwell remarked that “history ended in 1936,” that “I saw…history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’” Today, as West points out, this replacement of facts by fiction, of reality by unreality, continues apace in the propaganda of our government and in the reporting of news in our media, which is nearly always tainted, whether from the left or the right, with political opinions. The fruits of our delusions may be seen in nearly every aspect of our foreign policy today, particularly in our Islamic and Middle Eastern policies, in our economic practices of spending more money than we have or can ever repay, and in our cultural policies of social engineering through propaganda, through deluded theories regarding human nature, and through threats against those who don’t want to get in line with all the other zombies.

American Betrayal is an account of 80 years of American misdirection and lies. By writing this book, West has helped, in her words directed toward the rest of us, “to break open the conspiracies of silence, which have endured through too many lifetimes.” She has encouraged us to turn a gimlet eye on the promises of government and the proclamations of the media.

Highly recommended. 

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