Harry Dexter White: senior Treasury official, Soviet agent and agent of influence
One question I continue to be asked is what motive could possibly have driven the tiny band of anti-American-Betrayal extremists in their “disinformation campaign”–Jed Babbin’s phrase–against the book (debunked here) and their “mugging”–M. Stanton Evans’ term–of me (recently re-imagined by J.R. Nyquist as “a bungled mugging in which the mugger was seriously injured by blows from the victim’s purse”).
Having received input from Old Leftists, psychologists, intelligence professionals, and others on what still remains a subject of wide and intense consideration, I can say the various theories are fascinating but, naturally, inconclusive.
I would like to address a different vector of criticism that I have to date left mainly unanswered, except for a tangential attempt to unravel this (see also “Harry Hopkins, Diana West and Me” by M. Stanton Evans.) This critique comes from John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, highly regarded experts on Moscow-directed spying in America through their studies of key areas of the intelligence archives made available by the US and Russian governments: notably, the Venona archive, 2,900 intercepted WWII-era Soviet diplomatic (including KGB and GRU) cables declassified by the US government beginning in 1995, and the “Vassiliev Notebooks,” a collection of KGB documents copied into notebooks by Alexander Vassiliev, working in Moscow under the auspices of post-Soviet Russian intelligence, beginning in early 1994.
When it comes to that area of espionage known as influence, however; when it comes to the creation and manipulation of Big Lies (discussed by Robert Conquest); the subtle shading and unsubtle shaping of policy to Communism’s advantage (explained by Whittaker Chambers and, recently, further documented by M. Stanton Evans and the late Herbert Romerstein); when it comes to the subversion of the culture itself–all of which is the fixed focus of my own interest and mutli-sourced exploration in American Betrayal –Haynes and Klehr have recently made a staggering admission.
This admission comes in their letter-entry in what amounted to a backdoor symposium on American Betrayal in the January issue of The New Criterion (overall discussed here), which opens with a caveat: “…it would be mistaken to believe our work aligns us with Diana West’s conclusions or arguments.”
Aside from the wafting chill, I’m not certain what they are trying to convey. Their published compendia of document caches are invaluable tools for researchers, whether the results of such research end up in “alignment” with Haynes and Klehr or not. Then again, what does being in alignment–a regrettably party-line concept–with the “work” of Haynes and Klehr actually mean? If by “work,” they mean their collections of historical cables and other documents, it is difficult to imagine what alignment might look like. If they mean the cables, etc., plus their own subjective analyses, there is little to fear of confusion given that areas of interpretative divergence are made quite clear in American Betrayal.
After all, American Betrayal is one long, documented repudiation of the conventional wisdom as rewritten and continually taught by mainstream historians on the subjects of FDR, WWII, Joseph McCarthy, Soviet infiltration (“occupation “), the Cold War, and more. In this academic mainstream, of course, we find Soviet espionage experts Haynes and Klehr.
That said, there is still a place or two where American Betrayal veers into what might be construed as “alignment” with Haynes and Klehr and Vassiliev. This is not a matter of joy; it’s a matter of the record. For example, there is their ultimate conclusion at the end of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America.
It was no witch hunt that led American counterintelligence officials to investigate government employees and others with access to sensitive information for Communist ties after they became cognizant of the extent of Soviet espionage and the crucial role played in it by the CPUSA, but a rational response to the extent to which the Communist Party had become an appendage of Soviet intelligence. And, as the documents in Vassiliev’s notebooks make plain, they only knew the half of it.
I approvingly cite this passage in American Betrayal. Unless the gentlemen wish to withdraw it, mirabile dictu, I think we have “alignment” with my “arguments,” which this passage, among many other sources, figures into. My “conclusions”–that this same record demands apologies for wrongly demonized American anti-Communists, including Joseph McCarthy–notably diverges from their own. To take another example, American Betrayal‘s “arguments” make good use of the Haynes, Klehr and Vassiliev tally, based just on the Vassiliev notebooks, of the “remarkable number of Americans [who] assisted Soviet agencies,” a number they compute asexceeding five hundred. To be sure, my “conclusion”–that this high density and strategic placement of American covertly agents working for Stalin is best understood as a veritable Soviet army of “occupation” inside Washington power centers–is undoubtedly where we diverge again.
But that’s a good thing. Adherence to an orthodoxy is not the goal–at least not for me.
In full context, they write:
We appreciate Andrew C. McCarthy’s kind words about our research into Communist espionage, but it would be mistaken to believe our work aligns us with Diana West’s conclusions or arguments. West’s American Betrayal makes serious historical interpretative errors that incorrectly attribute American military and diplomatic policy decisions to a coordinated plot by Soviet intelligence.
Notice they do not claim American Betrayal makes serious historical errors. According to H & K, American Betrayal makes serious interpretative errors. If you are wondering who sets the standard of interpretation, who deems what is in alignment or out, what is “incorrect” or correct, so am I. (Shades of “she should not have written this book.”) Meanwhile, I would like to stress that it is not, as these gentlemen claim, “a” Soviet plot that American Betrayal is concerned with, but rathermuch Soviet plotting. Also, it was not only “coordinated” by Soviet intelligence, it was also assisted, loosely overseen, or just welcomed by Moscow Center. (The book also delves into much covering up or otherwise camouflaging the varied Soviet plotting by many American officials–hence, American Betrayal).
Of course, it is the academic establishment that sets these orthodoxies. It is this same establishment that Vladimir Bukovsky and Pavel Stroilov skewered in their first of two defenses of American Betrayal called “Why Academics Hate Diana West.” (The second is titled: West’s `American Betrayal’ Will Make History.“) It is this same establishment that separately inspired this unforgettably picturesque comment from Dutch Arabist Prof. Hans Jansen:
The polemics against your Betrayal have a familiar smell: The masters of the guild get angry when someone less worthy than they are ventures into the orchard in which only they are privileged to harvest. The harvest the outsider brought in, they ritually burn.
Onto Haynes’ and Klehr’s staggering statement:
In our more than twenty years of archivally based research on Soviet espionage in America, we have uncovered ample documentation of Soviet intelligence obtaining American technical, military, and diplomatic information but very little indicating successful policy manipulation.
If this were an admission of failure, we might well ask ourselves why these scholars would so publicly and needlessly damage their own brand. But it is not an admission of failure. It is a statement meant to fall like a coup de grace on American Betrayal, making its “interpretative errors” manifest. As in: If in more than twenty years, Haynes and Klehr themselves haven’t uncovered “documentation” of Soviet influence on US policy-making, then, basically, there wasn’t any. End of story.
Rather than plumb the depths of my own incredulousness over this statement, I will simply recommend to Haynes and Klehr, besides American Betrayal, Evans and Romerstein’s Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’sGovernment, which, among many, many revelations of Soviet influence on US policy-making, lays out new “documentation” attesting to Alger Hiss’s profound and malign influence over US policy-making at the Yalta Conference; also, John Dietrich’s The Morgenthau Plan—named for the postwar vision of Germany that was in itself a supreme triumph of Communist influence on US policy-making, as the book’s subtitle suggests: “Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy.” Indeed, it was some recent study of the Morgenthau Diary, that remakable chronicle of Soviet agent Harry Dexter White’s “influence” on Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., which inspired me to write this post in the first place.
In introductory comments to Morgenthau Diary excerpts published by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in the 1960s, Anthony Kubek wrote:
What makes this a unique chapter in American history is that Dr. White and several of his colleagues, the actual architects of vital national policies during those crucial years, were subsequently identified in Congressional hearings as participants in a network of Communist espionage in the very shadow of the Washington Monument. Two of them, Frank Coe and Solomon Adler, have been for some years working for the Chinese Communists in Asia. From the Morgenthau Diaries we can glean many details of extensive political espionage operations by this group, especially in the area of policy subversion. (Emphasis added.)
Haynes’ and Klehr’s testament notwithstanding, there is much, much more to espionage than spying, or, “obtaining American technical, military, and diplomatic information.” The power to influence policy has always been the ultimate purpose of the Communist Party’s infiltration. It was much more dangerous, and, as events have proved, much more difficult to detect, than espionage, which beside it is trivial, though the two go hand in hand.
By the way, those last two sentences were written by Whittaker Chambers.