End the Fratricide

The community of prominent conservatives who deeply understand and thoughtfully articulate the nature of the threat we face from our Islamist enemies and the supremacist doctrine they call shariah has long been too small for the nation’s good.

In particular, the number who have recognized the danger posed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s “civilization jihad” in America – with its extensive, subversive penetration of our government and civil society – and been willing to raise the alarm about it has been wholly inadequate to the danger we face.

Sadly, that small, but formidable, community has been riven in recent weeks due to, of all things, an ugly fight over the depiction of an earlier threat from another subversive totalitarian foe: Soviet communism. The book in question is American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, published earlier this year by one of the anti-Islamist cohort’s most insightful and courageous members – nationally syndicated columnist Diana West.

Ms. West’s latest oeuvre started out as an inquiry into how Islamists have successfully gotten “inside the wire” of the White House and other federal agencies, our civil society institutions, and culture. She wanted in particular to consider their impact on U.S. policy and the lengths to which government officials are going to obscure these realities. In the course of researching American Betrayal, however, the intrepid journalist in Diana West prompted her to explore whether such a betrayal was unprecedented, or whether it had actually happened to us before.

It turns out that there is indeed a precedent for today’s deep, stealthy penetration and subversion of our civil society institutions and governing agencies. As American Betrayal chronicles, beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s normalization of relations with the USSR in November 1933 – which was predicated upon Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov’s written pledge not to use the opening to subvert the United States, successive American administrations of both parties were subjected to successful Kremlin influence operations and lied about them.

Ms. West systematically lays bare (including in over 900 endnotes) the evidence that supports her conclusions about: the large number of Soviet spies and agents of influence that worked in FDR’s four administrations – including a number at the highest levels; the impact they had on policy in the run-up to and during World War II; and the horrific consequences for this country, its vital interests, and the world that resulted. 

I was struck by the fact that Diana West employs a first-person narration to describe her exploration of these subjects, repeatedly acknowledging what may appear to some to be the subjective nature of her findings, even as she persuasively makes the case for them. She also notes again and again where her findings deviate from much of academic orthodoxy, and then offers compelling reasons why her thesis is correct and the conventional wisdom wrong.

Regrettably, several prominent conservatives have taken strong exception to American Betrayal. Former communist and historian Ronald Radosh has mounted what he calls a “takedown” of Diana West as well as her book. On August 7th, a scathing critique by Radosh was published by the highly regarded David Horowitz Freedom Center’s FrontPage Magazine. Radosh and a number of like-minded critics, including David Horowitz himself, have aggressively challenged not only Ms. West’s analysis, but her scholarship and, in some cases, her integrity, competence, and psychological health as well.

Diana West has mounted a vigorous defense, including publishing at Breitbart.com a voluminous and point-by-point rebuttal in three-parts (which can be read here, here, and here). It shreds much of the Radosh critique. Her response exposes the reviewer’s apparent serial confusion about the contents of American Betrayal and powerfully contests the factual basis for Radosh’s criticism of what actually is in it.

Suffice it to say that we need a serious national debate between knowledgeable people about the extent of communist penetration of the U.S. government in years past, if only as a catalyst for illuminating a very similar problem in our own time: Islamists emulating (and arguably surpassing) their sometime Soviet mentors and allies in seditious subversion here at home.

It is not a good thing, however, to have that debate marred by personal attacks that are all-too-often not merely unjustified but outrageous. Ms. West seems to me to have received by far the worst of such calumnies. I am privileged to call her a friend and valued colleague and categorically reject the venomous ad hominem attacks to which she has been subjected. It is all the more upsetting that they have come from people who I would guess agree with her on the vast majority of her observations in American Betrayal.

Out of understandable frustration and anger, Diana West has responded by chiding David Horowitz for totalitarian-style suppression of free speech insofar as he removed from FrontPage Magazine an earlier favorable review of American Betrayal, then published in its stead Radosh’s seriously flawed screed. I have had the privilege of working closely with David for many years, have watched him courageously and tenaciously take on freedom’s enemies, at home and abroad, and know him to be neither a totalitarian nor an enemy of free speech. 

Far from it; as a man who previously was a leader in the radical Left, David Horowitz knows well the threat posed by totalitarians and other “book-burners.” He has devoted three decades of his life to fighting them and their agendas. It is regrettable that he has done and written things that have left him in any way open to charges of engaging in such practices.

I believe that it is past time for all those who recognize the real menace posed by the Islamists and the shariah-directed goal of world conquest to put behind us such fratricidal attacks. The substance of American Betrayal can and should be debated, by those on the right and everybody else. What should not continue are scurrilous assaults on its author, most especially from people who ought to recognize her book for what it is: an important exercise in, and defense of, freedom of speech.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. formerly acted as an Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan. He is President of the Center for Security Policy (www.SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for the Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio. 


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