Countering Subversion: Lessons from History
Author and columnist
September 6, 2013
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center – Room HVC 201
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.
Good afternoon. Thank you. It fell to me to discuss the historical angle here on subversion, which is a very broad and deep field as I found in a book I recently published called American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on our Nation’s Character and in terms of trying to understand the lessons that we might learn from our past experiences with ideological subversion we look to the Cold War era and before it, the period World War II, and the 1930s, which is when we actually see the dense incursion by American proxies of the Soviet Union, Americans working for Stalin as agents and agents of influence, enter into [the] federal government. We can now confirm this not in terms of not just scores or dozens we have hundreds identified at this point, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and many confirming peoples coming out of the KGB archives both in Moscow and the American copies of KGB cables known as the Venona cables, which were World War II-era cables that also identify much of what these people were doing. We only have about 2900 of those released from the American archive out of reportedly two million. And those 2900 are only… some of them are only partly decrypted and they still include names that are still coded so we do not have a complete picture of the density of the subversion but we do have an idea that it was strategic and massive and indeed as I was doing my research came to think of it as a veritable army as de facto occupation in terms of influence on the American policy-making chain and I think that’s where… for me as a journalist and I write a weekly column and I’ve been covering these matters since… since of course since 9/11. This is where the parallels start to become very pronounced and striking in terms of comparing it to influence… Islamic influence, Muslim Brotherhood front group influence, on [the] U.S. policy-making chain today. And so this is how I ended up writing a book that I never set out to write. I actually was more interested in the current situation but when I found out there was such precedent in our past, that’s when I really did this very deep rabbit hole punt for answers and for more information about comparisons. One point I heard raised earlier in the last panel I’d like to just mention in passing. There actually is great precedent for fear of offending the Russians in our past. We definitely deal with this on a daily basis at least for the political world in terms of fear of offending Islam. That’s a mantra. But I was quite struck and quite fascinated to discover this was a motivational watchword that indeed was a tool I would argue of appeasement of the Soviet Union particularly during [the] World War II period. Fear of offending the Russians was very much on the minds of our policymakers, our military strategists, and so on. We do actually have even [a] parallel with that. In terms of lessons learned however, which I leave as my topic today. I would say we flunked our first experience with subversion and this is disturbing because even back in the day… and I’m talking about a period of… that we would identify as Cold War, early Cold War and World War II. And the reason that it’s so disturbing given our current situation is that we did have at the head of the FBI at the time, a stalwart anti-Communist who truly understood Communist subversion. Since 9/11 we have never had such a man at the top of the FBI. We do not have anyone who has had any kind of deep understanding of Islam, war, the threat that Islamic law and jihad and so on pose to our form of liberty. So we already are starting off at a very grave disadvantage today. That is something different from before. So why do I say we flunked? I actually say we lost. And I make a very controversial argument in my book that we lost and we don’t even know it. Which is part of where we come in with my subtitle which is the Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character. I uncovered what strikes me as a false or rather dissected… a false iterative we have come to embrace as a reality that has been imposed on the events as they happened. And the thing that was so striking to me while I was doing this is that as a daily journalist again, I feel like we’re going through this again. We’re having a false narrative imposed on us just as a few generations ago this was done to us before. For example, we think we won the Cold War. We declared victory after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And yet out our college campuses are outposts of Marx. And right here above us the majority in the House, the Republican, Conservative majority so they say… They can’t even get the votes together to vote to defund Socialized medicine. What does that mean? I mean they don’t talk about it as Socialized medicine. We don’t talk about this notion of Cold War at home, that somehow we lost to get our campuses to this point. I mean that’s sort of nothing we even think about. We don’t connect these dots. And so this is part of the reason I started coming out with this new idea about what actually went through and how actually we should be [unintelligible] through fields of victory or defeat, ideological victory versus ideological defeat. And I would say we’re certainly looking at a situation where the debate is very empty and I think that this is another parallel we have with our past. It is just a fact that during World War II we had the federal government whitewashing Communism in many very similar ways to the way the federal government has whitewashed Islam in the post-9/11 era, striking categories of similarities. For example, books even outside of the federal government’s purview, the publishing industry voluntarily decided not to publish anti-Communist books to through the duration of the war. So again you’re losing context about what is going in further in the future. How did this happen and what’s happening today? One of the striking things for me in terms of reworking this material was to stop thinking about the 20th century as the battle between the free world and communism. It suddenly became clear to me… I was thinking from my own vantage point of the struggle between the forces of concealment and the forces of exposure. What did they conceal? The Communist conspiracy in America. I’m going to say that without quotation marks. This was going on, directed by Moscow, again we have this confirmation now of hundreds of agents. We know it existed, years ago people knew it existed, but whether they were witnesses who broke with the Communist movement and came forward like a Whittaker Chambers whose name is still famous today or the great investigators upstairs, you know, decades ago that would include Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Pat McCarran on the other side of the aisle and others also in the House. They were demonized. They were destroyed and then [unintelligible] over them. So this is why I maintain we have not ever really come to grips with this penetration as a nation. What it did to us not just in the policy-making chain but also in the culture. Where did religion go? Where did god go? The impact on our character… Where did moral relativism come from? Where did the ends justify the means come from? Where did lying, institutional lying, come from? These are some of the things I’m working through. It becomes clear to me… recently especially, that this is kind of a verboten subject. We’re not supposed to examine the impact of the subversion. And I would say [that this is] true today about the Islamic influence on the policy-making chain. We only have to think back to last summer when Representative Michelle Bachmann and four House Conservatives, her colleagues in the House, joined together – I think Newt Gingrich called them the national security five – and asked a question. They didn’t call for hearings the way their forebears would have in the 1940s and ‘50s. They did not set up hearings. They don’t have a House Committee on Unamerican Activities to do so. They asked the Inspector General to examine evidence of Muslim Brotherhood penetration of the policy-making chain in State, at Defense, at the Justice Department, and so, on a couple of other big agencies… Homeland Security, the White House, Office of [the] National Security Director. And she was demonized to a point of political neutralization. She was called McCarthyite. So again we go back to this notion of what was going on really. If we can now say that there was incredible penetration of the federal government under Roosevelt, that the investigators who are now symbolized by McCarthy. There were others but he is now the demon symbol. They had something to investigate. How can we still be using McCarthyism to stop the investigation or stop even thinking about what’s going on but this is what happened during our time. So I would argue our lesson here is that we really have to start getting our facts straight and putting things back into a more logical context. We have this new confirmation through the archives. I would put ‘new’ in quotations marks for some [unintelligible]. Truly it confirms declassified FBI files, and congressional investigations, and witness testimony that we had half a century ago but now we have it sort of wrapped up. And I would just like to close with something that was I found very striking… back in… You know we think of these things as having been brought forward after World War II you know with the great witnesses such as Whittaker Chambers, another one, Elizabeth Bentley, had been a Communist courier as well. [She] came to the FBI and gave 140 names of Soviet assets and agents – very useful – but that wasn’t until the end of 1945 and the famous Hiss Chambers hearings are 1948 and then you go into the McCarthy era and the other people in the 1950s. 1944… [In] 1944… a man named John Richter, who is a third term Governor of Ohio, [a] Republican governor, would become a noted Senator actually later on, but he was running for Vice President against… at this point of course it was Roosevelt running for his fourth term and he on the ticket. Richter was on a ticket with Thomas Dewey and he actually brought up during the October, right before the election date, he brought up Communist penetration of the Roosevelt administration and it was his whistlestop tour. And he talked about radicals and communists boring from within. He was able to talk about a list of about 1100 names [that] had been compiled in the House Unamerican Activities Committee before the war or by about 1941 or so… and those names included Alger – you know noted spies I’m going to mention – Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Harold Glasser, Lauchlin Currie who worked directly for Roosevelt in the White House and he was explaining that this was a fifth column with impact on our policymaking and anyhow he couldn’t… They obviously lost and they got nowhere with this whole incredibly shocking speech that he gave repeatedly across the country, this incredible information before we had all this investigation really that came in the post-war period. I’d just like to mention one thing because this is where I think we are today. He was discussing this and putting it in the context of… you know what was going on in America and it didn’t get anywhere. And I would argue it has to do with the fact that after all these years of American whitewashing communism, you know ‘Uncle Joe’ being promoted, Stalin, the great murderer, Uncle Joe being promoted. The Soviets were being promoted as democrats. Communism was being promoted as compatible with democracy. These are some of the things we hear today, frequently, about you know all vectors of jihad and Islam is compatible. We’re getting the same kind of treatment conditioning and at a certain point I think with the years of incessant propaganda we do become as… There’s a great military analyst named Hanson Baldwin. He said, “we become victims of our own propaganda. Enemy infiltration as described by Bricker didn’t make sense to the American people, couldn’t make sense to the American people.” It was as if he was talking about a fifth column but the hostility of this fifth column or the purpose of this fifth column was so foreign to the American people they couldn’t probably understand what he was talking about and I’m sure he would be demonized or at least dismissed as a crazy person or someone extreme and this is where we are today because… You know many of us in this room who deal with Islam, jihad issues, Islamic law issues and so on understand that the public square does not entertain these notions. You have to do it on the sides. And so once again the American people are without context… cannot possibly make informed decisions and cannot even entertain this as a realistic proposition because of the same silence and I see that as a real correlation with what we went through in the past and as I noted to begin with we didn’t do very well that first time around and you know I already think we’re doing worse today and on that happy note I will close. Thank you very much.