Reds Under The Beds: Diana West Can't Sleep

Diana West comes charging in at a furious gallop unfurling the banner of treason in her recent book American Betrayal. The Secret Assault on our Nation's Character. She arrives late to the subject of Soviet infiltration of the United States. But she brings attitude, wearing her outrage on her sleeve as she recounts the duplicitous activities of key American communists and sympathizers who allegedly transformed U.S. policy to conform with Stalin's ambitions. Despite her hyperbolic, exclamation point, italicized febrile style, the awful truth appears to materialize, like a photographic image in a pan of developing fluid. Yes, yes.... it is true! she constantly exclaims.

And to her credit she explores key events and individuals beyond the declassified evidence available since 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. She notes books and articles from the 1940s and 1950s that identified espionage rings and traitorous federal officials at the heart of U.S. policy who operated in the thrall of Soviet communism. She is horrified by treasonous behavior and draws conclusions from parallel events, such as FDR's commitment to Russia which she says altered the course of World War II and the chilling aftermath.

West never slows down divulging her selected evidence of manipulation of U.S. policy by Stalin's agents of influence, such as efforts to induce the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor; the call for Germany's "unconditional surrender" that she says prevented a negotiated accommodation with "good Germans"; the Chinese repudiation of Chiang Kai-shek in favor of Mao; and the White House-favored decision by the U.S. military to abandon Churchill's Mediterranean Strategy that -- West asserts -- could have cut off the advancing Red Army before it rolled into Germany.

The U.S. and the Allies launched the so-called Second Front via France that Stalin demanded to keep Russia in the war which set the table for the Red Army to make a meal of Eastern Europe. Whether the result of manipulation by Soviet spies in Washington or military exigency, the result was the imprisonment of 200 million people until 1991, and the U.S.-supported repatriation of two million refugees and 22,000 Americans into the hellish Soviet gulag.

The unvarnished truth, which has to overcome West's incandescent style and conspiracy-theory template, is difficult for Americans to accept -- that the United States government was infiltrated by American communist traitors committed to implement Stalin's goals. To tell the public FDR, the aristocratic leader who allegedly saved U.S. from the Great Depression, was committed to the advancement of a murderous communist regime is uncomfortable in the extreme. And West collates the scattered evidence from newly declassified information that she says identifies FDR confidant Harry Hopkins the Kingfish on the Soviet spy pyramid.

While West has been receiving some rapturous reviews, mostly from conservative sources, scholars are nitpicking her hyperbole and her facts, or at least her interpretation of the data. Ronald Radosh, a former communist who switched sides and is today a well known conservative writer and an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute, calls West "McCarthy on Steroids" in his scathing review on Front Page.Com

Radosh's evisceration of West churns up contradictory facts. But it is also an example of academic barriers often erected by Cold War scholars who mean well but often downplay the consequences of revelations in order to avoid the pitfalls of overreaction that could taint their conclusions. However, since the lid was blown off the secret cauldron of Soviet penetration of the U.S. after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the startling verification of named Soviet agents in the U.S. government in 1996, efforts by researchers to dampen the dramatic impact on our society have prevented public understanding of a dramatic period in our recent history.

But the drama actually begins in 1990 with the publication of KGB: The Inside Story by KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky and Cambridge intelligence expert Christopher Andrew, that opened the Pandora's Box of Soviet infamy while the USSR was still breathing. Gordievsky, who began working as a double agent for Great Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in 1968, was caught in 1985 by the KGB and interrogated. SIS lifted him out of the USSR to the UK. He insisted they allow him to write a book on his knowledge of Soviet perfidy and together they chose Andrew, at that time the only credible scholar in the field of intelligence. Today, Andrew is the undisputed dean of intelligence scholarship worldwide, and Gordievsky has been knighted for his service to Britain.

As recounted in their book, and cited by West as the foundation of her thesis, Harry Hopkins -- FDR's confidant, advisor, and policy czar, who actually resided in the White House during World War II -- was the Big Enchilada among American agents of influence working for the USSR. Gordievsky recounts attending a lecture early in his career by Iskhak Akhmerov, the KGB's top "illegal" spy in the U.S. during the 1940s (In espionage parlance, "illegals" do not have legal cover if caught). According to Gordievsky, Akhmerov spoke for a long period about Hopkins, calling him the top Soviet asset in the US. Yet, Gordievsky and Andrew tiptoe around this allegation by representing that Hopkins was a naïve devotee who only courted Stalin to ensure victory over Hitler's Germany.

Although I know Andrew well, and have met Gordievsky twice, I now doubt their characterization of Hopkins -- also embraced by Radosh and the scholarly community. I now support West's conclusions after rereading KGB: The Inside Story account 23 years later. It does not ring true that Hopkins was an innocent dupe dedicated solely to defeating the Nazis. Hopkins comes over in history as crafty, secretive and no one's fool, hardly the personality traits of a naïve fellow traveler. And his fingerprints are on the large majority of pro-Soviet policies implemented by the Roosevelt administration. West deserves respect for cutting through the dross that obscures the evidence about Hopkins, and for screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. was the victim of a successful Soviet intelligence operation.

Radosh cites key Cold War scholars to tear apart West's view. I know and like Radosh and almost all of the experts he refers to, and agree they are excellent researchers and writers. But they are all restricted by their profession not to dramatize their findings. Diane West is not a scholar, but she certainly has the right to connect dots and come to conclusions, even if she is unable to present historical detail on a scholarly level. And while Radosh rightfully criticizes West for her academic mistakes and conclusions, this does not mean that she is wrong in portraying the reality that the U.S. was duped into pro-Soviet policies that extended in scope beyond the military objective to keep Stalin in the war.

West also focuses on the 1996 Venona Conference, which I attended, that instigated the current investigation of Soviet operatives in the FDR administration. Held at the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, the CIA and NSA released intercepted cable traffic from Moscow to its American agents from as early as 1939 up to 1962. As the conference proceeded, a group of six or seven men (including Rosenberg accomplice Morton Sobell) began interrupting the proceedings, proclaiming that information from Venona was bogus because some of the facts were not true. I recognized the technique: by discrediting one detail, the goal was to discredit everything else. And the dissidents were successful in running off the media, already pre-conditioned not to report on Venona, once again obscuring the evidence that Americans were spying and influencing U.S. policy on behalf of Moscow. Radosh's reaction to West's book reminds me of that episode. His criticisms are valid in detail but lacking in general perspective. He trivializes the reality that communist agents were indeed infiltrating the U.S. government, while focusing on the opinion that West is a nut case for claiming Hopkins was one too. He calls her belief that Soviet agents influenced policy by saying pro-Soviet decisions were necessitated by conditions of war. Actually, it was both, but like West, Radosh cannot seem to manage a broad view.

By 1946, codebreaker Meredith Gardner was able to discern patterns in the cables that proved the messages were going to American agents working for the Soviets in the U.S. government. As of today, approximately 400 agents have been identified -- far more than Senator Joseph McCarthy's famous "list" of 105. And only ten percent of the Venona files have been decrypted.

West mines Venona, the testimony of "Red spy queen" Elizabeth Bentley -- who confessed her work for the communist underground to the FBI in 1945 -- and the book Blacklisted by History by M. Stanton Evans, a re-examination of the McCarthy era using Venona and hundreds of other recently declassified documents from the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. And West lambastes the Truman administration for not revealing data from Venona that would have exonerated McCarthy and informed the nation that Soviet agents had indeed infiltrated key departments of the FDR administration.

Again, Radosh dissects this assertion with evidence Truman did not know about Venona, although there is contrariwise opinion cited by West that Radosh says is bogus. Radosh says there weren't specific references in the decoded decrypts to utilize until 1955. Even so, the President could have demanded that code breakers work harder and faster -- the modus operandi the public expected from Truman. Instead the country was unnecessarily torn apart by the McCarthy episode.

The Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Laurence Duggan, and 397 more American agents have been confirmed and verified as Soviet agents. West claims Harry Hopkins has been outed too in Venona, but Radosh and other scholars say this identification is bogus. But the Soviets also ran important agents of influence with great attention to the security of their identities. In essence, whether or not Hopkins is ever identified in Venona, he remains, as the cops say, a person of interest.

West's intensity is what is needed for Americans to grasp that our culture has been hijacked. For example, the national media and our major universities continue to ignore the Left's political agenda in which traditional American beliefs have been gradually undermined and replaced with utopian theoretical doctrines born in Marxism and other esoteric ideologies: political correctness, multiculturalism and an incessant condemnation of religion. Our culture today reads like the Comintern handbook, thanks largely to the gullibility of the American Left which swallowed propaganda dished up by communist agents of influence. And that is why the Left should never be taken seriously. Any individual or group that did not turn away in disgust from the murderous evil of the Soviet Union due to the belief that it was a better system than ours is beneath contempt. Yet it happened, and Diana West wants everyone to know how it happened -- a far greater service than picking nits over insignificant details. The results of covering up the truth about the penetration of U.S. society -- even if Soviet agents did not play the significant role West proclaims -- has been moral equivalence, utopian schemes, the undermining of national heroes, the fracturing of shared values and a constant clatter criticizing the inadequacies of freedom. Ironically or not, these stabs at our values match Soviet Cold War propaganda by reminding Americans we are racist, chauvinistic, and imperialistic.

Today, worn down by leftist claptrap, we are no longer proud and confident, our belief in ourselves run down by propaganda that highlights our inadequacies. We have accepted that our society is a failure in need of progressive improvement because we cannot live up to the utopian perfection peddled by the communists. Anne Applebaum, oddly of the Washington Post, who writes books on the reality of the Soviet empire, recently said in Iron Curtain, her latest offering, how East Germany's Walter Ulbricht exerted Soviet control: "The skill was to put their supporters into broadcasting and the press, the arts, the unions, youth organizations, universities, and voluntary associations down to the level of chess clubs... critics of any aspect of Communism were defined as fascists." Sound familiar?

Bernie Reeves, a magazine editor and publisher, is founder of the Raleigh Spy Conference, established in 2003 to interpret declassified information from the 1930s through the Cold War:

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