American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character
(Diana West, June 6)
Transcript available below
About the speaker
Diana West’s work has appeared in many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, and The Washington Post Magazine, and her fiction has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. She has made numerous television and radio appearances, and was recently featured in the Glenn Beck TV documentaries “The Project” and “Rumors of War III.” Her weekly newspaper column is syndicated by Universal Uclick, and West also serves as Washington Correspondent for the European weekly newspaper Dispatch International. West is one of 19 co-authors (including Frank Gaffney, Andrew C. McCarthy and James Woolsey) of Shariah: The Threat to America, a publication of the Center for Security Policy.
American Betrayal shatters the approved histories of an era that begins with FDR’s first inauguration, when “happy days” are supposed to be here again, and ends when we “win” the Cold War. It is here, amid the rubble, where Diana West focuses on the World War II–Cold War deal with the devil in which America surrendered her principles in exchange for a series of Big Lies whose preservation soon became the basis of our leaders’ own self-preservation. It was this moral surrender to deception and self-deception, West argues, that sent us down the long road to moral relativism, “political correctness,” and other cultural ills that have left us unable to ask the hard questions: Does our silence on the crimes of Communism explain our silence on the totalitarian nature of Islamism? Is Uncle Sam once again betraying America?
Thank you for that very gracious introduction. Generous, Katie. I’m very glad to be here with everyone tonight on the 69th anniversary of D-Day and also the 64th anniversary of the publication of 1984, which are two events that seem related more and more.
This is the first formal presentation on my book. It’s brand new. It came out a week ago and it’s a very… I suppose one word might be long book, comprehensive and ambitious and so what I’m trying to put into a short address is just kind of the essence. And I would like to begin by explaining the mechanism of this book: American Betrayal.
It came to me that this was probably a good idea… I received an email the other day after I sat through and participated in a 3 hour one-on-one interview on the radio. That was a show called X-Squared and the host was game so we just went on the three hour show, talking about the findings in my book and I got this email from someone who claimed to have listened to the entire show and he said explained himself and he said, “Essentially, you are saying that all” – in capital letters – “all of post-1930 American geopolitical World War II and history as it has been presented is fiction.”
And this was one of those moments where you know you think you’ve been talking for three hours, you have been writing four hundred pages, you have 961 footnotes and you say “Yes, that’s the bottom line.” And I am looking here at Arnaud de Borchgrave, a great Cold Warrior himself, my first boss at The Washington Times, and himself a Soviet expert so I am on my mettle for this but… This is how it came about.
We know the history of these events, the Cold War, World War II in particular like the back of our hands. We have thousands, tens of thousands of books, and movies, and documentaries and so on… how could I now be claiming to essentially be rewriting that story that we all know so well? It goes back to the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union when we had archives in Moscow open briefly, selectively, and scholars rush in and begin copying things furiously. I suppose they all knew that this couldn’t last and they were right. They began amassing this public archive of Soviet secret cables. In Washington, after this began happening in Moscow, we had the very famous release of the Venona Cables or rather 2900 of the Venona Cables. The Venona Cables are the cables that were copied by Western Union beginning in 1939 on government order when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany entered into their pact of 1939 and it was just sort of just start copying them. No one was reading them. No one could read them. They were of course in code. And by the time you get to about 1943 we had our alliance with Soviet Russia and somebody had the bright idea that if we started to decipher these cables we might better learn how to be a better ally of the Soviet Union, that we might learn what they really wanted and make them feel better about everything.
So they began to break these codes and suddenly realized that these diplomats in Washington were actually spies and that these cables were reporting on the doings of nests and cells and piles of American traitors working for Stalin and that is the significance of the Venona papers. So this history was coming out of the archives at the time the US decided that the Soviet Union had dissolved. It was no longer the main adversary and everyone’s attention went elsewhere but the scholars kept working. What they amassed I came to realize, and this was sort of a very strange moment – I’m not a historian and I don’t claim to be a historian. I’m a journalist. I told my editor at Saint Martins that I invented a new genre, however. I think it’s called investigative history. That’s what I ended up feeling like I was doing. I learned that the significance, the implications of this incredible archive that was being amassed almost as a boutique specialty now by intelligence historians over the past couple of decades had never been incorporated into our historical understanding of these same events. So in other words the underside of World War II, of the Cold War remained over here and the general histories went on being written with very little – yes, some new information of course and new letters and so on but no reckoning of this intelligence war that the Soviet Union was actually waging against us the entire time we believed we were allies.
People date the Cold War very famously to the post-war, post-World War II period but when I was looking at this information and trying to really understand it in with the benefit of much hindsight of course, it struck me that the Cold War had begun much earlier than 1945 or ‘46 as is commonly dated. I think it actually- we could give a nice solid date to 1933. You could actually go back further to the original rise of the Soviet Union after the Russian revolution because of course the Soviet Union at that point was very open in declaring world revolution and intelligence wars on every country in the world in order to make them go Communist. But November 16, 1933 I discovered or I decided was a very important date for us, for America, because that was the date on which FDR recognized the Soviet Union. This was reversing the policies of four American presidents and six secretaries of state who had determined that you could not normalize relations with a revolutionary entity that was determined to overthrow you and indeed the agreement that was signed on November 16, 1933 was essentially a list of promises that the Soviet Union… It’s only one page that was actually predicated – the normalization of relations. The Soviet Union basically was promising, signing its name on a piece of paper, saying it would not support secret cadres within the country to overthrow the government, support such cadres, be engaged, even think about such a terrible thought. Well of course this was already under way and it only increased exponentially with this new arrangement, this new normalization and I would also add something else to that date which is significant I find. In November of ‘33 it’s just some months really after the end of what we now know as the terror famine in Ukraine where five or six million people of course were starved to death by Stalin. So we have five, six million people murdered by a government and we are recognizing and normalizing relations with. The parallels just come to mind – my mind – that this would be akin to a country deciding to normalize relations with Hitler after having killed six million people in his own country, six million Jews, and deciding oh that’s a good time to normalize relations. I mean this is the kind of beginning we had to this relationship, which I find very morally compromising to the United States. And indeed see this whole relationship as the corruption in many ways of our republic because I think it forced lying into the public sphere in ways that had never been. It required an institutional face on lies that I don’t think existed in American history before the state beginning with that piece of paper which was a lie right from the start. And if it was proven to be- If it was understood that way, then that required an action to be taken by the Roosevelt administration to either suspend the agreement when they were discovering the espionage – it was apparent very quickly – or to negate it entirely… to renegotiate… something. No, this was the basis of the relationship. And the papers that were signed, the agreements, the arms controls agreements, detente, you know all of these things followed from this same corrupt moment of lying. And I think that this becomes a very significant change in terms of our willingness to compromise, to cover up. And what I do in the book is I track what I see as increasing complicity by the United States in Soviet lies later in the war with actual war crimes. Katyn Forest, for example: when we get to the discovery of the massacre of 20,000 Poles by the Germans by the Nazi Army they discovered in 1943 this massacre scene of 20,000 Poles and they could tell… Well, they had not done it. They had done of course other signal atrocities themselves by this point but they had not done this and they wanted the world to recognize that one of the great allies, the Soviet Union fighting them, was responsible for this atrocity. And here you see Britain, Churchill, you see Roosevelt, deciding whether they knew it or not, whether they confessed it to themselves or not, deciding to cover-up this atrocity and move forward and then by the end of the war with the war crime of repatriation when British and American forces forcibly returned some 2 million Soviet claimed nationals to Stalin to end up in the gulag or a firing squad… Participation… So in other words what I’m tracking not on purpose this is just the way the story presented itself to me as I took this second look back was increasing complicity on our part. Now I would say that I never set out to write this story. I was not looking for a line of research that would essentially overturn our whole understanding of this signal formative event really of the century, certainly our century. I actually had set out to understand Islam and how it was that it was possible for us as a society to ignore the facts about Islam. This is something that I’ve been dealing with on a professional daily basis as a reporter as a columnist since 9/11 in terms of trying to first study jihad, trying to study Sharia, learning about the culture of Dhimmitude which of course is the culture of those Christians and Jews who are suppressed and repressed in an Islamic sphere. These became quite… and this is how we met originally. This became a subject of great interest to me and probably most of my columns deal with Islamization of the West, Islamization of the Western mind. I’m very interested in the reaction of Westerners to this repressive ideology, this press of law, and the way denial is usually the response of our elites, almost invariably. So when I started this book it was actually… it had a different title. It was actually a different project and I actually called it “The Hollow Center.” So you can see where I was thinking. I was thinking we weren’t able to muster the courage. But there was something else that struck me. It was more than just courage. It was almost a perversion of logic because if you get hit on 9/11 and your government tells you Islam is a religion of peace and then everyone in the public square runs around finding facts that support this ideological statement, something is wrong. There’s not a cause and effect. There’s not a logical process. There’s something funny going on and what I actually wrote my proposal and all that about was to find if there was a historical precedent for this in our past. Could I go back and figure out how we had actually come to this. And I ended up finding more and more reasons to look at the ideological correlations between Islam and Communism and the impact on Westerners and I would just like to read a quotation from one of the- I call them truth tellers in my book. My book is very dark, just as a warning, it’s a very dark tale. It will disillusion you, I predict. My own worldview certainly is quite shaken and changed by the research but I did find many standup Americans and non-Americans who had an attachment to truth and an honorable and at all cost to their own careers and their own livelihoods just stuck to the facts. One of them was a man named Jay B. Matthews. He would write this very interesting statement back in 1938 about red-baiting. And this was again this ideological issue. He said that “Red-baiting was the best trick ever invented short of a firing squad of making short work of anybody who dares to object to Communist theories and practices. If he is not effectively silenced, he is at least thoroughly discredited among the vast flock of citizens who enjoy thinking of themselves as liberals.” Well, this sounds very familiar to me in terms of the word Islamophobe, which is another one of those words designed to stop debate, stop the conversation, make everyone’s eyes spin in their heads and you know you go home. And… this more and more became the way I went back through the layers of history, trying to understand this situation where I was surprised that in 1938 this phenomenon was being discussed in such articulate terms and seemed to match so precisely our own experience today and I began to discover – this was very amazing to me – that during World War II, the US government embarked on a campaign to whitewash Communism that is uncannily similar to our current situation where the US government has been whitewashing Islam. It wasn’t an accident then and it’s not an accident now. So we go back to this notion of penetration and infiltration that I mentioned back at the very beginning. The Soviet Union had this intelligence war going against us throughout certainly 1933 forward and well into our alliance and what we have now that we know because of the archives the scholars have amassed over 500 names, 500 identified agents of the Soviet Union functioning in various places in politics in Washington, CIA, State Department, White House, Congress, Justice, I mean across the board, all over. This isn’t just one Aldrich Ames. We all know how much damage one Aldrich Ames can do or five magnificent Cambridge spies like Kim Philby. This is hundreds and some of them were so highly placed. There was Laughlin Currie in the White House. He was one of President Roosevelt’s top aides. He was in charge of China. China turned red thanks to Laughlin Currie’s work in part. You had Franz Neumann, another identified agent, sitting on the German desk at OSS. Well, the anti-Hitler German resistance had no chance of getting through to OSS in terms of trying to reach out and figuring out a way to get rid of Hitler early. With someone like that at the desk… Laughlin Currie was also involved with that at the White House. You had Duncan Lee, top aide to Wild Bill Donovan, the first head of intelligence then known as OSS later CIA. And Alger Hiss at the State Department who would preside over the formation of the United Nations – global government anyone? And also did tremendous damage at Yalta which we now know thanks to Stanton Evans new book Stalin’s Secret Agents where he goes through new archives on Hiss. The other thing that I found striking parallels: You had U.S. government purging anti-Communists from the halls of power. We have been going through in the past year in Washington purges – actually it started under the Bush Administration. Purges of counterjihad officials, people who want to lecture on jihad, they’re called anti-Islamic. And then we have lies about Islam’s compatibility with democracy. Another government program very similar to our various democracy projects and this notion that… don’t think about Islamic law, Islam, some construct of Islam that the government tells us about is compatible with democracy. They even had what you might call Communist outreach, in a sense. As when Communists were no longer prohibited from very sensitive signals intelligence jobs and so on as a matter of outreach. I mean I don’t think they used that word at the time but it was the same idea. Now with more immediate and immediately disastrous repercussions you also can see… I lay out in great detail what I see as the Soviet influence on American World War II strategy and this is something that I think is very, very shocking to people who tend to look back, and I certainly did, all my life, – look back on World War II as the good war, as sort of a morally resplendent moment in American history where we were on the side of the angels, no if ands or buts, and yet when you go back with the benefit of the intelligence archives you get a different look at what was really going on and this has not been done and I would argue that the reason this has not been done has to do with this subversion of the American mind. There’s almost an instant conditioning that keeps people away from this material. It’s verboten. I mean you go to the local bookstore today. You see the latest biography of Eisenhower: nothing. No concept of Verona, no concept of Soviet archives. The same is true of the latest Yalta books, the latest cold war books. I mean it’s very bizarre. But it is constant and the point of this was that we end up looking back at a World War II where Nazism was destroyed but in its place we see a greater totalitarianism rise. We see a greater monster even than Hitler. And of course in the Pacific we have the rise of Red China. So we end up at the end of the Communist century with 100 million people killed by Communist regimes. And today just as a little reference, a point of reference, we have a Republican congress that can’t muster the votes to repeal and defund Socialized medicine. So who really won these wars? You know who really was riding success here? And I think when you see the influence artists… because another problem when with the way we tend to look at our intelligence history is… We tend to think of espionage as the filching of secrets. We tend to think of espionage as you know telling battle plans. And of course that is part of it. But the much more dangerous, poisonous… and I think we can look now and start to understand really having even greater impact… much of the time anyway… is the influence artists, the influence operations. And now we know for example that there was Soviet operations ongoing that actually brought the United States and Japan to war, operating in Tokyo, operating in Washington. We have Harry Dexter White, very senior assistant to the Treasury Secretary at the time. He left his office at the Treasury went across to the Old Ebbit Grill in Downtown Washington, still there of course… met with his old Soviet handler. Got language written in Moscow to insert into the U.S. Cable flow. It went in. It was the ultimatum. That was a very brilliant thing. In Tokyo you had very similar operations run by a very famous Soviet agent named Richard Sorge. This was going on but our history books have not taken it into account yet. And I think a lot of the reason is because once you start taking it into account, once you return to the question of was Harry Hopkin’s Roosevelt’s top aide for years – he lived in the White House’s private quarters for three years and seven months during World War II – was he a Soviet agent? This is the question we should be asking. And we should be asking what does that say though about the Roosevelt administration? [What does that] say about the Roosevelt years? He is continually ranked as one of the top American Presidents today, usually in the top three or four. If he was a dupe of a Soviet agent, a Soviet asset, what does that say about the era of liberalism which is really socialism that he ushered in? So in other words all of these things become clear… they start looking very different. It starts looking as if we have been lied to. Big lies… you know the big lie, Stalin originates the big lie. Hitler uses the big lie but I was utterly appalled and much chagrined and ashamed to find out that America uses the big lie too on us the people and again this is an anniversary of D-Day, I am not at all impugning the heroism and sacrifice of our people and of our troops. My father in fact I will mention was a veteran of the Normandy invasion, so D-Day plus two, sixty-nine years ago. He was twenty years old and waiting to go over and his fighting war would actually begin at the battle of Saint-Lô a little bit later. But this is kind of where we are with a big can of worms that needs to be opened and looked at because the implications for today are profound. I would just like to mention that there’s a very interesting- actually an excellent little book I used quite a lot, a very slim book but it was packed. It was written by Hanson Baldwin who was a very famous military correspondent of the war. He worked for the New York Times. …Pulitzer Prize winner and all that. He wrote this book called Great Mistakes of the War. And when I first got hold of it my first thought was “What mistakes?” because you know it’s been presented to us, we’ve learned about it in terms of being a mistake not free of course but you know what could be the great mistakes? The mistakes he lists are all mental mistakes. They’re all… for example, one, that the Soviet Union had abandoned its policy of world revolution. That’s his first mistake of the war. That’s a very staggering thought if that is the military correspondent’s assessment of our first problem. The second great mistake was that Uncle Joe, Stalin, Uncle Joe of course being the nickname for Stalin, was a good fellow. [He] was someone we could get along with. This again is propaganda. This is- It’s not military strategy. It’s propaganda. How did that happen? We go back to the agents. We go back to the Office of War Information. We had total censorship. It was riddled with Soviet spies. I’ve got a long list which I took from every intelligence historian I could find who had gone through the archives and named various people from OWI where there’s Hanes and Claire or Stanton Evans or Herbert Blair Blomerstine. You get this list as long as your arm of the people who were controlling war information who were Soviet agents. So this is how these things happen. So we were told… We the people were told the Soviet Union had abandoned world revolution. Uncle Joe is a great guy. Does that sound familiar in terms of what we’re being told about Islam and its compatibility with democracy, that we can get along, what’s the difference between our systems, you know jihad is personal struggle not global conquest. This is kind of… again, we were looking at the fruits of subversion then and [it] softened us up, made us receptive, [to] the fruits of subversion now. I’ll just close by mentioning that… Stanton Evans, I mentioned him earlier. I could not have written this book without his book in 2007 “Blacklisted by History,” which is his excellent re-reporting the Joseph McCarthy story. He actually assembled a whole new archive… Well, old documents. He managed to spend years pulling them altogether because the archives, our archives, are absolutely ransacked. There are so many documents missing. But he pulled together a pretty complete archive to write this book. And he was very generous with me. I ended up having some questions and I reached him while I was researching and I was asking him about something and he told me, “What always happens to him is that when he is doing this kind of work that when you go away from your documents and come back it’s always a little different.” And even when I finished the book, thinking about tonight’s address I sort of felt the kaleidoscope shifting again and things started to look just a little different and I realized that you know it was our government that held these secrets so tight for so long, our government that did not want us to know the story. And I actually don’t believe we would have gotten Venona if the fluke of the Soviet opening had not happened and Yeltsin had not started putting out documents. The narrative was interrupted and with my daily work being more in tune with the whole Islamic era right now I realized we are living through the writing of another false narrative and that we are potentially the truth tellers but we are definitely on the margins of this sort of march. And it’s very sobering but it’s always good to know what you’re up against… But I think that again, the [important thing] is the poison fruits of subversion from within and that is in the end our greatest enemy. We have to look at what happened in the past and also try to see how it is happening to us again.