Author’s Note: This is my response to a recent three-part series by Jeff Lipkes devoted to my book American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character at American Thinker. It is an open letter to the writer.
This marks the second time in one year that American Thinker has refused to publish my own defense of my work as written.
Dear Jeff Lipkes,
When you asked me to answer questions for an article about American Betrayal and the attacks on the Right it has provoked, you told me: “I have a Ph.D. in history, but my interests are late 19th and early 20th c. British politics and culture, and, though I’ve taught courses on 20th c. Europe, have no expertise in the subject of your book.”
Not holding that Ph.D. in history against you, I, of course, agreed. Having been through the lengthy, three-part essay you have produced on the subject, however, I see once again that Drs. will be Drs. You tag the series “Diana and Ron” — Have you left no sense of decency??? (that’s a joke) — but a better title might have been “Another Ph.D. into the Breach to Avenge the Conventional Wisdom So Grievously Trespassed by “American Betrayal,” Alas.
That, of course, is the prerogative of the academic brotherhood (or siblinghood, if you’re one of those). After all, I have written a book that explores the 1930s and 1940s and beyond without including the conventional markers that make such excursions familiar before they begin. For example, American Betrayal, as you lament, fails to focus on Hitler, instead discussing him in relation to Stalin. And while American Betrayal reflects on what Stalin’s famine in the Ukraine, “normalization” of US-USSR relations, the Katyn Forest Massacre, etc., meant for Washington, you’re right, there is not a word about Kristallnacht. Nazi crime and Communist crime, meanwhile, are discussed together as I probe the origins of the double standard that condemned Nazism but whitewashed Communism — and which inspired the democracies to fight and revile bloody dictator Hitler, but embrace and apologize for bloody dictator Stalin. Maybe worst of all, I don’t quote a single British cabbie of the Blitz, one of whom you introduce from unsourced nowhere by way of vernacular reproach to re-assert the approved template. Readers (children), there was only one real enemy (besides Japan) in World War II, and that was Hitler’s Germany — or, to quote your taxi driver, “the bloody `un.”
I disagree. Veering completely outside the lines, my book explores the dirty intelligence war the Soviet dictatorship was waging against Britain and the US (covertly prosecuted in London and Washington by British and American traitors) all the while simultaneously fighting Hitler in military alliance with both democracies. I do recognize that this concept overwhelms the conventional template, conventional reactions, too. Your cabbie, for example, has a counterpart in American Betrayal in a British railway officer of the same period. On speaking with a passenger, returning British POW James Allan, a man broken by the torture and abuse he endured in the prisons of Our Great Soviet Ally, this railway officer was “obviously very reluctant to believe my story,” as Allan later wrote in his book No Citation. The source of this prevalent disbelief about facts of Soviet crime are much discussed in American Betrayal, even though admittedly this pushes the context of events far past “the bloody ‘un.”
Allan’s superiors believed his story (and his wounds), by the way. Allan received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross, for what he endured at the hands of his Soviet captors. So comprehensive was the Allied effort to whitewash “Uncle Joe” Stalin, however, that Allan’s medal came to him literally with “no citation” — no official write-up of his heroism — and he was prohibited from publishing the story of his captivity until two years after the war ended. Why? The answer — the question — is just not likely to be found in the lore we all “know.”
I guess what I’m saying, Jeff, is that I expected a tad more engagement from you with what I actually wrote. I note that you are critical of core arguments I advance in American Betrayal but that you neglect to offer readers any quoted inkling of how or what I actually wrote to make these arguments. That is quite a feat: a word here and there, but virtually no passages quoted from the book in a 12,000-word-essay about the book. I guess you didn’t have room.
I notice other omissions, too. In your opening list of American Betrayal‘s supporters and detractors, you “forgot” to include American Betrayal’s most famous supporter of all: Vladimir Bukovsky, co-founder of the Soviet dissident movement, and, later, storied explorer of Soviet archives, thousands of pages of which he personally copied and smuggled into the West. With Pavel Stroilov (a younger Russian student and smuggler of Soviet archives), Bukovsky has co-written not one but two essays in support of American Betrayal. These are: “Why Academics Hate Diana West” and “West’s `American Betrayal’ Will Make History.” Since Bukovsky spent 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals, it does make me wonder what someone has to do to get noticed.
Another omission: You fail to inform readers that there are nearly 1,000 endnotes in American Betrayal even as you strongly lament the absence of a “scholarly apparatus” (“bibliography” to us plebes). How come? While we’re addressing scholarli apparati and what real “historians are taught” to do, the name is “Spaatz,” not “Spatz”; the name is “Wedemeyer,” not “Wedermeyer”; Pavel Sudaplatov was not a defector; Eisenhower referenced the Aegean, not the Adriatic (more below); and you truncated George C. Marshall’s stunning 1957 quotation about his division of labor with Harry Hopkins on behalf of FDR. The correct quotation is: “Hopkins’s job with the president was to represent the Russian interests. My job was to represent the American interests.”
Seeing how much the absence of a bibliography meant to you, I note also that you forget to mention, as I replied to a question, that my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, imposed space limitations that prevented me from including a bibliography in the first place!
Odd. But it does set a pattern of omission.
Take your discussion of my discussion of that not-so-small intelligence army of Soviet “occupation” in Washington, which, by the onset of World War II, had covertly embedded some 500 agents and agents of influence (at least) inside the federal government and related institutions. (Some of these agents reached the levers of power as top aides to the President, Cabinet Secretaries, the director of OSS, precursor to the CIA, and the like.)
Oh, I forgot — you don’t discuss my discussion! Instead, you dismiss this rather elaborately developed thesis by rapping my repeated use of the “occupied” phrase as “bound to irritate Cold War historians.”
I agree with you there, of course. But soothing the Keepers of the Conventional Wisdom has never been one of my priorities. Call my “occupied” discussion a “metaphor out of control” if you like, but without arguments explaining why, all you’ll get are huzzahs in the faculty lounge.
To be sure, you said some very nice things, too — and I am glad you liked Chapter 4.
Still, I do wonder why you say that readers of American Betrayal will have “no clue” that the British were the original recipients of Lend Lease aid. “No clue?” That would be true only if readers skip, for example, p. 134, where I recount how Lend Lease became law in March 1941, giving the president exclusive powers to lend, lease or transfer war materiel that would go first to Great Britain; China, too. (See also pp. 135-137 for theories on Lend Lease’s origins, including Edward Jay Epstein’s explanation of how Soviet agent Armand Hammer was toeing the Moscow line by lobbying US law-makers in 1940 on lending/leasing war aid to Britain.) That said, unravelling the dark mysteries of Soviet Lend Lease — how and why it could be, for instance, that Soviet supply was given first priority over British and even American supply — is indeed American Betrayal’s preoccupation, and I freely acknowledge that this is an exercise not to be found on the conventional wisdom checklist.
Naturally, I appreciate your score-keeping on a number of Ronald Radosh’s egregious fabrications and distortions as cobbled together in his epically disgraceful “McCarthy on Steroids.” As you also might have thought to mention while revisiting the controversy, I wrote a detailed rebuttal to Radosh, 22,000 words published first at Breitbart News and later as a book and e-book titled: The Rebuttal: Defending American Betrayal from the Book-Burners.
I certainly don’t want to tucker anyone out, least of all myself, so I will highlight only one key area of substance where a response seems appropriate: your treatment of my treatment of the “second front” — the ostensible subject of your 5,000-word second installment. Once again, I find that your approach seems less about engaging with what I wrote and the historical record, than with restating the conventional wisdom.
Again, restating the conventional wisdom is fine with me. It’s what academics do. But there is one paragraph of yours I would like you to reconsider for fairness and accuracy.
Part of my discussion of the so-called second front (Normandy really numbered around the 9th front) includes testimonies from the 1940s from significant American military figures, who, along with British strategists, strongly supported an Allied assault in Italy or southern Europe rather than or in addition to the invasion of northern France we know as D-Day.
This becomes a point of interest in American Betrayal‘s quite non-conventional “second front” investigation: my search for indicators that covert Soviet influence might have played a role in the debate’s final outcome. This is not to suggest that Soviet influence was the only influence; this is not to suggest that the “debate between the British and US general staffs” you reference was not conducted in good faith. But logic compels us to open our minds to the possibility that covert Soviet pressure was perhaps a crucial factor, particularly given the curious leading role that a former social worker and possible-Soviet-asset named Harry Hopkins played in this military debate.
After all, we now have evidence that Soviet influence operators affected the run-up to Pearl Harbor (“Operation Snow”), the formation and execution of Lend-Lease, the control and dissemination of US war information by Soviet agents on many desks of government’s Office of War Information; the destruction of anti-Communist allies including Chiang Kai-shek and Draza Mihailovich, the drafting of and also execution of much of the Morgenthau Plan (as JCS 1067), agreements at Yalta and many other milestones of the war. It is practically impossible to imagine that Soviet intelligence wouldn’t have tried to steer the debate over the climactic US-British military assault in the direction of Moscow’s best interests.
Moscow’s best interests, by the way, were to ensure that the mass of US and British forces stormed northwest Europe, not south-central Europe. It’s easy to see why: The Red Army needed Germany and points East free of US and British troops in order to expand its evil empire into Europe.
The outcome of the “second front” debate would set the stage for what we know as the Cold War, as certain commentators ruefully noted in the war’s aftermath. Hanson W. Baldwin, the respected military analyst and war correspondent whose book Great Mistakes of the War I discuss at length in American Betrayal, would write the following in 1949/1950: “Today, some of the principal architects of our policy understand their mistakes; and many of our great military figures of the war now freely admit that the British were right and we were wrong. For we forgot that all wars have objectives and all victories conditions; we forgot that winning the peace is equally as important as winning the war; we forgot that politico-military is a compound word.”
It seems fair to say we have now forgotten that we ever forgot.
With that Soviet intelligence army of “occupation” in mind, however, American Betrayal wonders whether it really was just a matter of “forgetting.” That is, were we helped along in any way? Did Soviet influence operations — “disinformation,” for example — play a role in helping Stalin get the “second front” he wanted? I don’t pretend to have the definitive answers, but American Betrayal considers an array of evidence, patterns of behavior, that suggest this might have been the case. I focus particularly on Hopkins’ role, but I note, Jeff, that in the second installment you devote to the “second front” you neglect to mention Hopkins.
Oh well. It’s a free country.
But the following is something else again.
What West misses is the extent to which the decision was the result of a debate between the British and US general staffs, and had nothing to do initially with concerns over the fate of Eastern Europeans. ….
Really? Is that what I “missed”? Could I also have been examining what else might have been going on? Never mind. It’s not that important. What’s important here is accuracy and fairness.
You next assert, categorically, what “the U.S. wanted” and what “geography dictated,” concluding with a quotation (unsourced as usual, Mr. Scholarly Apparatus) from Eisenhower.
“I need big ports,” Eisenhower repeated, and a Balkan invasion would have been a logistical nightmare. The Italian campaign offered a discouraging preview.
West has located an interesting quotation from Eisenhower indicating his interest at one point in an invasion across the Adriatic [sic] — he had not yet been appointed to head OVERLORD — and she acknowledges the difficulties supplying troops in the Balkans, quoting General Wedermeyer [sic]. Of those she cites in support of her case, Spatz [sic] simply wanted airfields in the Po Valley and Clark, heading the 5th Army in Italy, naturally resented the downgrading of the Med and the diversion of men and materiel to ANVIL. The most criticized U.S. senior commander, notorious for permitting the German 10th Army to escape northward while he took Rome, defying orders from Alexander, he’s probably not the most reliable source for strategic advice. Nor is Churchill, “a public menace” in his meddling with British war plans, according to Brooke, though “a super-human being.” The notion that Italy and the Balkans represent a “soft underbelly” speaks for itself.
Q: What is the fun of debating if you don’t let the other guy have his say?
Here is “the interesting quotation” I “located” — what Eisenhower actually said as quoted in American Betrayal, p. 264:
“Italy was the correct place in which to deploy our main forces and the objective should be the Valley of the Po. In no other area could we so well threaten the whole German structure including France, the Balkans and the Reich itself. Here also our air would be closer to vital objectives in Germany.”
Italy was the correct place to deploy? In no other area could we so well threaten “the whole German structure”? Ike wasn’t disavowing OVERLORD — neither would Churchill, for that matter — but he sure sounded gung ho for the Churchillian option, right down to Aegean action.
“The next best method of harrying the enemy,” Eisenhower continued, “was to undertake operations in the Aegean . . . From here the Balkans could be kept aflame, Ploesti would be threatened and the Dardanelles might be opened.”
Remember what you wrote, Jeff: “West has located an interesting quotation from Eisenhower indicating his interest at one point in an invasion across the Adriatic [sic].”
This quite “interesting quotation” comes from a presentation on the Mediterranean war then raging that Eisenhower made to the combined US and GB military chiefs at the Cairo Conference in late 1943. I “located” it not on a postcard to Mamie, or some such ephemera as your vague remark suggests, but in the State Department FRUS, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943.
In a few weeks time, Eisenhower would be tapped to lead the invasion of Normandy. I don’t doubt he called for big ports, as you say. However, his recommendation for Italy/Aegean action is a significant part of the evolving “second front” debate as observed in American Betrayal. It would vanish from the lore, too, not even figuring in Ike’s 1948 war memoir, Crusade in Europe. The State Department papers that contain these remarks were not published until 1961. So far, I’ve been unable to find them reproduced in standard Ike biographies and war histories.
Thanks (?) for doing your bit for keeping them quiet.
You next write: “Of those she cites in support of her case, Spatz [sic] simply wanted airfields in the Po Valley.”
No, Jeff. Here is the quotation, this time from the memoirs of Eisenhower aide, Capt. Harry Butcher. And by the way, that’s Gen. Carl Spaatz (not “Spatz”), who in January 1944 would become US commander of strategic bombing in Europe after serving as deputy commander of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, including the 12th Air Force in Africa and the 15th Air Force and the Royal Air Force in Italy.
From American Betrayal, p. 263:
Spaatz didn’t think OVERLORD was necessary or desirable. He said it would be a much better investment to build up forces in Italy to push the Germans across the Po, taking and using airfields as we come to them, thus shortening the bombing run into Germany. He foresaw the possibility of getting the ground forces into Austria and Vienna, where additional fields would afford shuttle service for bombing attack against the heart of German industry, which has moved into this heretofore practically safe area. …
Not so “simply,” after all. Spaatz wanted somewhat more than airfields in the “Po Valley.”
You may not have noticed, but in this same section, American Betrayal mentions in passing another top US air force commander, Gen. Ira Eaker, who supported an Adriatic operation. I went back to the source (Baldwin, p. 38) to review the anecdote, an excerpt of which I include here:
… when asked his opinion in the meeting, Eaker said that from the air point of view it would be easier to support a trans-Adriatic operation than the invasion of southern France. The bases, he pointed out, already had been established in Italy, and our planes could operate in support of the Trieste move from these bases. But the southern France operation would have to be supported from new bases in Corsica.
Eaker aside, I do not understand your decision not to strive for greater accuracy in representing the opinions of those mentioned above. Does the conventional wisdom — that there existed no logical and no really American argument in favor of the Italy/southern option, and that Churchill was merely trying to advance imperial interests (never mind advancing Stalin’s empire!) — suffer from exposure to them? Do they raise a question, maybe two, as to what (or who) might have ended this debate, and, of equal interest in American Betrayal, why the discussion is mainly forgotten now? We may not be able to answer these questions completely, but that’s no reason not ask them. On the other hand, what does reducing such remarks to unrecognizable form accomplish? My own guess is the obstacle-free way back to the conventional wisdom.
“Her unfamiliarity with military history,” you write, “leads her to overemphasize the role of Communist agents in influencing strategic decisions.”
If that’s the problem, why keep readers in the dark about what I actually wrote?
I will note finally and briefly that your dismissal of Gen. Mark Clark and Churchill both as cited in American Betrayal as unreliable sources is not at all the same thing as engaging with their arguments or experiences. Nor, I would add, is it very scholarly.
Worse, though, it deprives readers of one of the most amazing revelations to cast doubt on the supposedly “inevitable” (now conventional) wisdom of the decision to withdraw men and materiel from Italy to invade northern France (OVERLORD) and, coup-de-grace-style as far as Gen. Clark was concerned, southern France (ANVIL).
From American Betrayal, p. 267:
Still, it’s important to note, as Clark does, that the disappearance of Allied men and matériel from Italy seemed completely incomprehensible to another professional military man, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, top commander of German forces in Italy.
Clark writes that Kesselring’s intelligence section “was completely mystified in coming weeks when our great forward drive failed to take full advantage of its chance to destroy the beaten and disorganized German Army in Italy.”
Clark continued, “It was some time before the Germans understood what had happened to the American troops in Italy; for weeks the Counterintelligence Corps, under the able direction of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen J. Spingarn, was catching enemy agents who had orders to find out ‘where in hell’ were various Allied divisions that were being sent to France” (emphasis added).
Historian Dennis J. Dunn offers a crystallizing description of the seemingly incomprehensible Great Switcheroo in progress. “It is paradoxical that the Americans were insisting on a withdrawal from the Continent in order to reinvade the Continent from another angle.”
It is this “paradox” that, once envisioned, I came to find fascinating. I put it under the bright light of scrutiny in American Betrayal, to see what might take shape, but according to your reading, Jeff, there is not only nothing to see there, there is no reason to look, either.
“The role played by Communist agents of influence in aborting a Balkan invasion was minimal,” you conclude.
It must be nice to be so sure of things, even when the record is fragmentary at best. I note also that you approach the future with the same certainty, even sanguinity. As you build to your conclusion in Part 3, you write: “Like Communism, Multiculturalism is doomed because it will repel the intelligent and inquisitive among the next generation …”
The conventional wisdom, if that’s what it is, can be very comforting. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to pry from the mental grasp.
But I can try.