Monday, September 22, 2008

Spying and dirty tricks in America

Last night I watched Jennet Conant talk on CSPAN about her new book The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. I knew that Churchill put pressure on Roosevelt to get support against the Germans, but I didn’t know that he developed this spy ring to provide information to the British and to engage in dirty tricks to undermine those who were opposed to America’s coming to Britain’s aid. At the beginning of the war, America was overwhelmingly opposed to our going to Britain’s aid, but thanks largely to these spies, called “the Irregulars” that was turned around.

Of course Roosevelt was not the only one who wanted to go to the aid of the British. Many in Washington did. Conant, perhaps a colorful person in her own right, uses a quote from Chaucer to describe what these Irregular spies did in Washington: “He fell upon her and would have raped her were she not acquiescent.”

Conant describes these spies, especially Dahl as being charming and unpredictable. She seemed especially taken with Dahl whom she describes as very tall and good looking and extremely dashing in his uniform. An image of Dana Andrews staring at a portrait of Gene Tierney in the movie Laura came to mind.

At the same time Conant was discussing her book on the charming British spies who only wanted to get America to help them against the Germans, others were discussing the confession of Morton Sobell. He was one of the coconspirators in the Rosenberg trial. The Rosenberg’s were sentenced to death and Sobell was sentenced to something like 30 years. He served about 18 of them, if I recall correctly. He is 91 now and ever since the trial in the early 50s he has maintained his innocence – and the innocence of the Rosenbergs. The Rosenberg sons subsequently devoted their lives to exonerating their parents. But Sobell’s confession has changed all that – or has it? This is an article by Sam Roberts, entitled “I Spy a Belated Confession,” posted by The New York Times on 9-12-08. The article includes a podcast you can listen to as well as a transcript of the podcast. In it he describes how he “tricked” a confession out of Sobell, a Rosenberg co-conspirator. Julius Rosenberg really was a spy.

A more thorough treatment of this matter appears in Ronald Radosh’s article “The End of a Lie,” appearing in Front Page Magazine on 9/22/08.

Radosh’s article is especially significant because he was the coauthor of The Rosenberg File. He has suffered a good deal of abuse from the Left and feels Sobell’s confession is the final proof that what he has been arguing is correct. An earlier article, perhaps his first after the Sobell confession is entitle “Case Closed: The Rosenberg’s were Soviet spies.” There is some triumphalism in that title:,0,3237904.story

In the 9-22 article, “The End of a Lie,” Radosh describes some Leftist responses to the Sobell confession. I have been concerned about what the Left has been saying about Taheri, accusing him of a “smear campaign” against Obama, but Radosh went through that as well, perhaps even more so. He writes of the left that “they went on the warpath against my 1983 book The Rosenberg File (reissued in 1997), seeking to portray my historical research and analysis as a right-wing smear polemic, and to condemn it as fraudulent history.”

Apparently, no one from the Left has apologized to Radosh. I’m not sure that is something they do. I remember a discussion I had with some Leftists after reading Joseph McCarthy, Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator, by Arthur Herman, 2000. Herman was inspired to reexamine McCarthy after reading Haynes and Klehr’s Venona, Decoding Soviet Espionage in America and some other documentation along that line. I argued, “Hey, McCarthy was right after all. There were spies where he said there were.” That of course was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The “discussion” was much more heated than the one I’ve been engaged in over the Obama/Zebari/Taheri scandal.

I first learned of Arthur Herman’s book on McCarthy from an article in the NYROB. As I recall, the author of the review quotes some important Leftist saying something along the lines of, “I don’t care if the new evidence exonerates McCarthy. McCarthyism was horrible. If it turns out we were wrong, then in those days it was right to be wrong.”

The Left is strongly opposed to Liberal-Democratic ideals. They have their own ideals, and I suspect they have yet to forgive the U.S. for not losing the Cold War. The enemy of their enemy is their friend, and since 9/11 we have seen the extreme Left side with the Islamists on many occasions. This Left tells us we deserve what happened on 9/11. We had it coming for what we did to the Arabs. We had it coming for suppressing the wretched of the earth. We had it coming.

We have seen Islamists borrow the language of Leftist harangues against America. Modern Leftists and Islamists look as though they dress in the same closet.

Which causes me, as long as I’m on the present subject, to wonder whether the Left is attacking America just in words or whether they are offering tangible support to the Islamists working against us. Is it outrageous me to say that. Think of Bill Ayers and Barnardine Dhorn. They haven’t repented and Obama called Ayers “highly respected.”

Those of us who have studied Islamist ideology believe it is widespread in the Middle East. Those who are committed to a Leftist construction of the world cannot accept Islamist ideology as an important consideration. For these Leftists there is only the Oppressed and the Oppressors. When they give token opposition to Islamism, they say all we have to worry about are a few Jihadists. All the rest, all those telling us they don’t advocate violence, are Moderates. We Right-Wingers, they never tire of telling us, have blown the Middle-East problem way out of proportion.

What about these Islamists and their spying and dirty tricks? Is that anything to worry about? Well, if you are a Leftist you won’t worry, but for the rest of us we should worry about a certain sort of spying on the part of the Islamists or their sympathizers: 1) access to materials that might be used as biological, chemical, or explosive weapons that might be used in the U.S., and 2) access to locations where Islamists might cause the most damage and loss of life.

We are not dealing with handsome, suave British Irregular spies and dirty tricksters. Jennet Conant tells us that it was British dirty tricks that eliminated Henry Wallace as a person of influence. Most of us would read that and think it was a good thing that he was eliminated from the American political scene. But what is going on now isn’t like that. Our society is nearly as open as when the “Irregulars” were plying their trade. We are nearly as accessible to spying and dirty tricks as we were then. Perhaps Homeland Security and Anti-Terrorist-Task Forces have made us a bit safer, but when I read of and experience what they are doing, I sense a hint of the Keystone cops.

I suspect I would be safe in wagering that between his 9/17 article and his 9/22 article not one Leftist apologized to Radosh. In fact, I doubt that I could get anyone to bet with me. The Left keeps on without a pause, hopping over obstructions, shoving aside the errors and the dead, moving on toward their idealized paradise described by such people as Bernardine Dhorn as a new and better Communism.

Will the American common man be up to dealing with this? I recall that Hamilton and Adams had no confidence in the common man. It was Thomas Jefferson who argued that the common man could be trusted. Well, can he? Someone once asked Cho En Lai what he thought of the French Revolution and he replied that it was too soon to tell. Perhaps it is too soon to tell about the American Revolution as well.

Lawrence Helm

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